World Religions in Practice - A ComparativeIntroduction
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World Religions in Practice introduces five of the world's great religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – and explores how they are lived and expressed in custom, ritual, and symbol. A major new textbook exploring the world's great religions through their customs, rituals and everyday practices – by focusing on this 'lived experience' it goes beyond many traditional introductions to religious studiesAdopts a directly comparative approach to develop a greater understanding of the nature of religionEach chapter engages with an individual theme, such as birth, death, food, pilgrimage and ethics, to illustrate how religious practices are expressedBroadens students' understanding by offering an impartial discussion of the similarities and differences between each religionIncludes chapter-by-chapter opening themes and summaries, and will be accompanied by a website at featuring additional resources and study questions.


Paul Gwynne lectures in comparative religion in the General Education Program of the University of New South Wales. He completed his doctoral studies in Rome and has taught theology and religious studies in Indonesia and at the Melbourne College of Divinity.


List of Boxes and Tables x

List of Figures xii

Note on Scriptural References xiv

Acknowledgements xv

Introduction 1

Part 1 Beyond Time and Space 25

1 IMAGE 27

The Second Commandment (Judaism) 28

Shirk (Islam) 32

Incarnate Son (Christianity) 37

Murti (Hinduism) 42

The Three Bodies (Buddhism) 46

Summary 50

2 BOOK 56

Shruti and Smriti (Hinduism) 57

The Three Baskets (Buddhism) 61

New Testament (Christianity) 65

Tanach (Judaism) 70

Qur’an (Islam) 74

Summary 79

Part II Within Time and Space 85


Dharma (Hinduism 88

Pancasila (Buddhism) 92

The Ten Words (Judaism) 96

A New Commandment (Christianity) 100

The Greater Jihad (Islam) 104

Summary 109

4 BIRTH 114

Baptism (Christianity) 115

B’rit Milah (Judaism) 119

Aqiqah (Islam) 124

Birth Samskaras (Hinduism) 127

The Buddhist Exception (Buddhism) 131

Summary 134

5 DEATH 140

The Wheel of Rebirth (Buddhism) 141

The Last Sacrifice (Hinduism) 145

Resurrection of the Body (Judaism) 149

Salat al-Jenazah (Islam) 154

First Fruits (Christianity) 159

Summary 164


Nikah (Islam) 173

Under the Huppah (Judaism) 177

Householder and Forest-Dweller (Hinduism) 182

Bride of Christ (Christianity) 187

The Renunciation (Buddhism) 193

Summary 196

7 FOOD 204

Ahimsa and Samadhi (Buddhism) 205

Blessed Leftovers (Hinduism) 209

Bread and Wine (Christianity) 214

Kosher (Judaism) 218

Halal (Islam) 222

Summary 226


The Veil of Modesty (Islam) 234

Kippah, Tefillin, and Tallit (Judaism) 238

The Thread and the Mark (Hinduism) 244

Vestments and Habits (Christianity) 248

The Three Robes (Buddhism) 253

Summary 256

Part III time and Space 261

9 DAY 263

Uposatha (Buddhism) 264

Tithi (Hinduism) 266

Sabbath (Judaism) 270

The Lord’s Day (Christianity) 275

Salat (Islam) 279

Summary 282

10 YEAR 288

Four Seasons (Christianity) 289

Full Moons and Monsoons (Buddhism) 295

Day of Brahma (Hinduism) 299

Harvests, History, and High Holy Days (Judaism) 305

Lunar Year (Islam) 311

Summary 316


Mosque (Islam) 322

Synagogue (Judaism) 327

Church (Christianity) 330

Mandir (Hinduism) 334

Temple Complex (Buddhism) 338

Summary 342

12 JOURNEY 349

The Sacred Ford (Hinduism) 350

Traces of Tathagata (Buddhism) 355

The Quest of the Magi (Christianity) 360

Aliyah (Judaism) 365

Hajj (Islam) 369

Summary 374

Conclusion 380

Glossary 385

Select Bibliography 402

Index 410


"An exciting and intriguing approach, taking central categories in religion and indicating how they show up in different religions pragmatically ... the table of contents inspired me to dive right in and read." Dr Darren J. N. Middleton, Texas Christian University

"This is an impressive accomplishment that presents a moving and engaging encounter with the religious traditions of the world." Kim Paffenroth, Iona College, USA

"A very efficient, dynamic and useful tool in an approach to the five major religions of the world." Alexandria Egler, St Francis College, USA

“In an age when religion is increasingly in the news, but often for all the wrong reasons, the need for a balanced, sympathetic and objective educational tool has never been greater. Paul Gwynne has provided an accessible introduction to religion. His approach is refreshingly obvious: it is through the understanding of what people are doing that we discover what they are thinking. Practices reveal belief; religions are as religions do.” Douglas Pratt, University of Waikato, New Zealand

"A thoughtful and accessible approach to the religions from a phenomenological point of view. The book promotes the desirable end of understanding and sympathy between religious practitioners, and is an attractive choice as an introductory textbook." George Sumner, University of Toronto

“A carefully crafted and comparative approach to major religions, often serving to separate human populations, as templates of how humankind in so many varied places has had such similar needs, desires and hope. Gwynne's book represents a very creative turn in this field.” Dr Majorie M Snipes, University of West Georgia

“This book treats the great traditions with a vividness and immediacy which have seldom if ever been equalled. Instead of placing the main emphasis on doctrines, beliefs and their claims to truth, Paul Gwynne selects those aspects of life where religions become practical and guides us an appreciation of each which is aesthetically pleasing as well as providing useful information. Surely one of the best ways to come to know a faith tradition different from one’s own is to live among its adherents. Reading this book is the next best thing. It should prove invaluable for educators and students as well as interested laypeople in a variety of professions.” John D’Arcy May, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin