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Religion

종교 탐방

DOCTRINES AND DOGMAS
3 MAJOR THEMES AND MOTIFS  

3.10 Saint

 
 

The phenomenon of saintliness (i.e., the quality of holiness, involving a special relationship to the sacred sphere as well as moral perfection or exceptional teaching abilities) is widespread in the religions of the world, both ancient and contemporary. Various types of religious personages have been recognized as saints, both by popular acclaim and official pronouncement, and their influence on the religious masses (the broad spectrum of those holding various wide-ranging religious beliefs) has been, and is, of considerable significance. (see also  sacred and profane)

 

3.10.1 NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE

Saints are persons believed to be connected in a special manner with what is viewed as sacred reality--gods, spiritual powers, mythical realms, and other aspects of the sacred or holy. The existence of such persons has been a widespread phenomenon throughout the religions of the world. The religious person may have various relationships with the sacred: as seer, prophet, saviour, monk, nun, priest, priestess, or other such personage. In the case of each of these, however, a specific kind of relationship to the holy is involved. Seers, for example, have an inspirational vision of the future; prophets proclaim a revelation; saviours are entrusted with effecting redemption, liberation, or other salvatory conditions; monks and nuns lead religious lives in accordance with ascetic regulations that they generally observe as long as they live. Every one of these religious personages may simultaneously be, or become, a saint, but there is no necessary connection. Sainthood thus implies a special type of relationship to the holy, a relationship that is not automatically obtained by other religious personages through their performance of religious duties or offices.

The significance of saintly personages is generally based on real or alleged deeds and qualities that became apparent during their lifetimes and continue to exert influence after their deaths. The special character of their feats and qualities of living is believed to arise from an especially close association with a deity or sacred power. In addition to such a relationship, sainthood also requires the existence of a sacral institution that can grant such recognition, or of a popular cult that acknowledges and posits a belief in the saint's special qualities. In institutionalized religions, such as Roman Catholicism, there is a regularized process (called canonization) by which saints are officially recognized. Canonization requires, among other things, proof that the person in question wrought miracles during his or her lifetime. On the other hand, folk belief often recognizes the saintly powers of a living or dead person long before the institutional religion acknowledges him as a saint.

 

3.10.2 SAINTS IN EASTERN RELIGIONS

 

3.10.2.1 Confucianism and Taoism.

Confucianism is in the main ethically oriented. Confucius taught that right conduct was a means of acquiring ideal harmony with the Way (Tao) of Heaven and that the "holy rulers of primal times" were representative examples of such ideal conduct. In the oldest known Chinese historical work, the Shu Ching("Classic of History"), such a ruler, King T'ang (11th century BC), is described as one who "possessed the highest degree of virtue, and so it came to be that he acquired the bright authority of Heaven." Thus, in Confucianism, the saintliness of its holy men lay in ethical perfection, and through the practice of ethical ideals a contact with Heaven (T'ien) was established. Confucius himself serves as an example of a man who was first regarded as a saint because of his deep wisdom and conscientious observance of ethical precepts and was even considered to be "more than human." During the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Confucius was elevated to a new status: Emperor Kao Tsu offered sacrifice at the Confucian temple, and Emperor Wu proclaimed Confucianism the official ideology of China. The titles duke (AD 1) and king (739) were further tributes to "the perfect sage." During the T'ang dynasty (618-907), sacrifices were regularly offered in Confucian temples, and in 1906 Confucius was declared equal to the Lord of Heaven.

Taoism is oriented toward another kind of sanctity: the attainment of a passionless unity with the Absolute. Chuang-tzu (died c. 300 BC), a mystical Taoist sage, speaks of the "pure men of early times" in his work, the Chuang-tzuand characterizes them as such.

 

3.10.2.2 Shinto.

Shinto, the native Japanese religion, is concerned with the veneration of nature and with ancestor worship; it does not have saints according to the standards of ethical perfection or of exceptionally meritorious performance. According to Shinto belief, every person after his death becomes a kamia supernatural being who continues to have a part in the life of the community, nation, and family. Good men become good and beneficial kamis, bad men become pernicious ones. Being elevated to the status of a divine being is not a privilege peculiar to those with saintly qualities, for evil men also become kamis. There are in Shinto, however, venerated mythical saints--such as Okuni-nushi (Master of the Great Land) and Sukuma-Bikona (a dwarf deity)--who are considered to be the discoverers and patrons of medicine, magic, and the art of brewing rice. (see also  afterlife)

 

3.10.2.3 Buddhism.

Founded by Siddharta Gautama, Buddhism developed into three major forms in the course of its more than 2,500-year history: Theravada ("Way of the Elders"), also called in derogation Hinayana ("Lesser Vehicle"); Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle"); and, stemming from it, Vajrayana ("Vehicle of the Thunderbolt"). A belief in saints prevails in all three groups.

Theravada Buddhism, claiming strict adherence to the teachings of the Buddha, recognizes as saints (arhats) those who have attained Nirvana (the state of bliss) and hence salvation from samsara(the compulsory circle of rebirth) by their own efforts. The Buddha himself--having obtained Nirvana ("the destruction of greed, . . . hate, . . . and illusion")--is viewed as the first Buddhist saint. Disciples of the Buddha who reached Nirvana after him also are considered holy men. Furthermore, in early Buddhism, there were also women regarded as holy, including Prajapati, the Buddha's aunt and stepmother--whose repeated requests finally caused the Buddha to permit women to enter his order--and his wife Yashodhara.

Mahayana Buddhism, originating about the beginning of the Christian Era, rejected the Theravada belief that only monks may attain salvation. In Mahayana belief there is a path to redemption for all people, irrespective of their social standing. Salvation and the way to redemption are conceived in terms more liberal than those of Theravada. Mahayana Buddhists believe in an otherworldly paradise that allows for personal existence and in which dwell heavenly Buddhas (those who have attained Nirvana in previous worlds) and bodhisattvas ("Buddhas-to-be"). The heavenly Buddhas and bodhisattvas are believed to grant grace to sentient beings, so that salvation is no longer acquired by fleeing from the world and giving up worldly professions, but rather by faith (in the sense of trust) in the promise of a saviour deity. Thus, in Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas are viewed as the holy ones, the saints, who in compassion, attempt to aid others struggling for salvation. This concept is in striking contrast to the arhats of Theravada Buddhism, who follow the dying Buddha's last words, "Seek your own salvation with diligence." The basic altruistic concept of Mahayana then is that of the helping bodhisattva. Everyone should strive for this ideal in order to save as many fellowmen as possible as a bodhisattva and to bring them into the "Greater Vehicle" (Mahayana). Hence, the idea of faith in benevolent saints gains prominence in Mahayana Buddhism as a theistic religion of salvation. In Japanese Mahayana there are patron saints, such as Shotoku Taishi, the regent who supported the introduction and development of Buddhism in his country in about AD 600, after it had been introduced in AD 552.

Vajrayana Buddhism, embodying, among other views, Tantrism (a system of magical and esoteric practices), is mainly represented by Tibetan Buddhism. In addition to the innumerable saints of Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism also accepts as living saints those who are regarded as incarnations (tulkus) of saints, scholars of the past, deities, or demons. The Dalai Lamas, heads of the Tibetan hierarchy, are viewed as reincarnations of Chen-re-zi (the bodhisattva of mercy, Avalokiteshvara).

 

3.10.2.4 Jainism.

According to Jain teaching, there were 23 Tirthankaras (saintly prophets or proclaimers of salvation) before Mahavira Vardhamana, the 6th-century-BC Indian religious leader after whom Jainism was named. Today they are venerated as saints in temples containing their images. Veneration of the Holy Tirthankaras is viewed in terms of purifying the devotee morally, as these saints are but examples for the Jainas and not actually objects of a cult.

 

3.10.2.5 Hinduism.

Hinduism in a wider sense encompasses Brahmanism, a belief in the Universal Soul, Brahman; in a narrower sense it comprises the post-Buddhist, caste-ordered religious and cultural world of India. The Indian religions are by and large mystical in character; hence, even in early Hinduism ascetics were highly honoured. Mysticism generally starts with ascetic practices as a means of eliminating a desire for worldly existence. (see also  asceticism)

In later Hinduism, when the ascetics continued to be revered by the masses as sadhus (saints, or "good ones") and yogis (ascetic practitioners), the concept of the avatara(the idea of the incarnation of a divine being in human form) served to interpret the existence of holy men. By means of this concept it was, and still is, possible to consider living and dead saints as incarnations of a deity and also to incorporate saints of other religions into the Hindu world of belief. Thus Jesus Christ, for instance, is regarded as an avatara of the god Vishnu (Visnu), and the Hindu saint Ramakrishna is considered to be an avatara of the god Shiva.

 

3.10.3 SAINTS IN WESTERN RELIGIONS

 

3.10.3.1 Ancient Greek religion.

The ancient heroes of Greek religion may be regarded as saints. One basis for belief in heroes and the hero cult was the idea that the mighty dead continued to live and to be active as spiritual powers from the sites of their graves. Another source of the cult of heroes was the conception that gods were often lowered to the status of heroes. One of the best known heroes is Heracles, who became famous through his mighty deeds. In Greek religion the numinous (spiritual) qualities of a person lay in such heroic deeds. (see also  hero worship)

 

3.10.3.2 Zoroastrianism and Parsiism.

Zoroastrianism includes the veneration of Fravashis--i.e., preexistent souls that are good by nature, gods and goddesses of individual families and clans, and physical elements. According to Zoroastrian belief, humans are caught up in a great cosmic struggle between the forces of good, led by Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), and the forces of evil, led by Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman, the Evil Spirit. In the battle between Asha (Truth) and Druj (Lie) the Fravashis may correspond to the saints of Roman Catholicism, who can be called upon for aid in times of trouble. (see also  Parsiism, dualism)

 

3.10.3.3 Judaism.

The cult of saints in terms of veneration was not a part of the monotheistic religion of Israel. Saintliness, however, was an ideal that many hoped to exhibit. The model of a pious person is depicted in the righteous one of Psalm 5, "his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." In the Hellenistic period (c. 300 BC--c. AD 300), when many Jews were susceptible to foreign religious influences, the Hasidim (the "pious" ones) segregated themselves from the others, holding fast to the faith of their fathers. (see also  Hasidism)

The concept of the Hasidim gained new significance in the 18th century when Israel ben Eliezer, called Ba'al Shem Tov, or "Master of the Good Name," started the modern movement called Hasidism. As opposed to the Orthodox Israelite religion with its emphasis on rationalism, cultic piety, and legalism, Ba'al Shem Tov stood for a more mystically oriented form of Judaism.

 

3.10.3.4 Christianity.

Jesus and his disciples did not speak of saints; but during the period (1st to early 4th century) in which they were persecuted, Christians began to venerate the martyrs as saints. They believed that the martyrs, being sufferers "unto death" for Christ, were received directly into heaven and could therefore be effective as intercessors for the living. By the 3rd century the veneration of martyr saints was already common. (see also  adoration)

In the Nicene Creed (AD 325) the early church called itself the "communion of saints." Here, however, the word "saint" has the broader meaning of "believer" rather than being applied strictly to a holy person or numinous personality worthy of veneration. In the 10th century a procedure of canonization (official recognition of a public cult of a saint) was initiated by Pope John XV. Gradually, a fixed process was developed for canonization by the pope, requiring that the person must have led a life of heroic sanctity and performed at least two miracles.