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Spiritual Masters of the World's Religions

Victoria Kennick, Arvind Sharma

Publication Year: 2012

Discusses the notion of a spiritual master and looks at examples in a variety of world religions. What is a spiritual master? Spiritual Masters of the World’s Religions offers an important contribution to religious studies by addressing that question in the context of such themes as charismatic authority, role models, symbolism, and categories of religious perception. The book contains essays by scholar-practitioners on the topic of spiritual masters in Judaic, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist traditions. It provides a full spectrum of exemplars, including founders, spiritual masters that highlight cultural themes, and problematic figures of modern times. To define spiritual master, the work of Max Weber, Mircea Eliade, Daniel Gold, and Bruce Lincoln are referenced to provide a balanced notion that includes both religionist and reductionist perspectives. This book takes readers from the past spiritual masters to the future of masters of any sort, posing food for thought about the future of master-disciple relationships in an emerging age of egalitarian sentiments.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

If the ultimate reality is infinite and eternal then it must be present right here. Why then do we need a master to gain access to it? The answer to this question is provided by another question: If gravity is one of the four forces that constitute the universe of matter-energy— ...

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Introduction: Defining Spiritual Master

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pp. 1-54

A Greek myth tells of Procrustes,1 who invited strangers to spend the night on his marvelous bed. They were enticed by the promise of a bed that exactly fit the size of every guest. The unknown terror of the bed was that Procrustes stretched short guests, and severed the feet of tall ones to make each guest fit the bed. ...

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1. Jewish Spiritual Masters

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pp. 55-72

When I recently told a rabbi that I was writing an essay on Jewish saints, he was somewhat puzzled. I am not surprised. When Jews think about saints, they usually think of Christianity. They think of the Catholic process of beatification and canonization by which the Church declares a person to be a saint. ...

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2. Christian Spiritual Masters

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pp. 73-90

A useful way to understand the basic meaning of words, even very common ones, is through their etymology. So I begin this chapter by looking at the derivation of the words spiritual and master. The latter comes from the Latin word magister, whose root mag also gives us the related adjective magnus, meaning “great” or “large.” ...

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3. Muslim Spiritual Masters

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pp. 91-110

According to Islam, Prophet Muḥammad is the perfect role model for Muslims of all times and places. While most Muslims seek to emulate the Prophet in the exoteric aspects of his personal and public life, the Ṣūfīs have been exceptionally attracted to his esoteric spiritual substance and portrait. ...

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4. Hindu Spiritual Masters

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pp. 111-126

The institution of the gurū occupies a key place in the Hindu scheme of things. In a famous verse from the Devībhāgavata Purāṇa (11.1.49) the gurū is identified successively with all the three gods of the Hindu trinity—Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva—and even described as the visible manifestation of the ultimate reality or Brahman. ...

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5. Sikh Spiritual Masters

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pp. 127-154

Although the central focus of Sikh faith is the One God—understood as formless, nameless, without any particular religion, pervading everywhere—the lineage of Gurūs is the definitive feature of Sikh history and spirituality. There were a total of ten extraordinarily enlightened and powerful Gurūs, ...

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6. Buddhist Spiritual Masters

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pp. 155-188

In the novel Siddhartha, Herman Hesse explores the paradoxical nature of Buddhist spiritual masters. The book, whose title bears a name attributed to Buddha in his youth, revolves around the key question: What would happen if Prince Siddhārtha, the future Buddha, met the mature, enlightened Gautama Buddha? ...

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7. Confucian Spiritual Masters

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pp. 189-224

For long, Confucianism has been misconstrued as an ethical, social, and political system that lacks a spiritual dimension. As a result of research worked out by scholars in the last few decades, this misconception has gradually been revised.1 ...

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8. Daoist Spiritual Masters

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pp. 225-240

What is a spiritual master? How does one become a spiritual master of Daoism? Within Daoist tradition these are not easy questions to answer. In Chinese culture the concept “spiritual master” does not exist. There are master carpenters, master tailors, and master shipwrights— but strictly speaking, no masters in spirituality. ...

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Concluding Remarks

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pp. 241-254

The preceding chapters provided an overview of the place of the spiritual master in Judaic, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Confucian, and Daoist traditions. One striking fact emerging from this survey is that the role of the spiritual master tends to involve both esoteric and exoteric dimensions of religion. ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-280

E-ISBN-13: 9781438444994
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438444970

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012