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The Essential Guide to the Dharmic Religions

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Asia is the largest and most populated continent on the globe with an extensive variety of religions. As the birthplace of many religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, Jainism, Christianity, Sikhism, and Taoism, all major religions are practised across the continent and new customs are constantly developing.

Of the array of religions practised across Asia, the Dharmic religions are the oldest and most predominant and all include the concepts of dharma, karma, and reincarnation. The Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism are classified as Indian religions, all of which originated in South Asia.

Hinduism

Hinduism is the oldest religion in the Asia and with over 1 billion followers has the second largest number of practitioners in the region. In a demographic overview of the region, it is the most predominant religion in India with 80%, Nepal with 81%, and the island of Bali with 83.5%.

While Hinduism is primarily subdivided into 4 currents, i.e. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Smartism, and Shaktism, with the vast majority of practitioners being categorised into these 4 groups, there are many other denominations which form part of the religion. Predating recorded history, the religion is thought to have origins in the Indus Valley Civilisation and has no one founder.

Jainism

As an Indian religion, the majority of Jains can be found in India, but the numbers are steadily increasing around the world – much like the growing number of online pokies NZ players around the world. Having provided significant contributions and influence to the ethical, political, and economic spheres in India, Jains have a deep-seated tradition of scholarship and as a religious community have the highest degree of literacy in India.

Based on the teachings of Vardhaman Mahavir and 23 other Tirthankaras, the religion was historically confined to the Indian subcontinent which also houses the Jain libraries – the oldest libraries in the world.

Buddhism

With 12% of Asia’s population, Buddhism is the 3rd largest religion in Asia and the 4th largest religion in the world. Widely practised in Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, Tibet, Laos, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the largest concentration of Buddhists reside in China with 18.2%, Japan with 36.2%, Taiwan with 35%, Macau with 17%, North Korea with 13.8%, Nepal with 10.7%, Vietnam with 10%, Singapore with 33%, Hong Kong with 15%, and South Korea with 22.9%. Ahead of the rise of Islam in Mecca and Medina at the beginning of the 7th century, Buddhism was most dominant religion practised in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Sikhism

As the 5th largest organised religion in the world, Sikhism has approximately 30 million practitioners and this number is growing steadily across the world. Founded by Guru Nanak Dev in the 1500s, Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that professes its roots in the Punjab region which forms part of both India and Pakistan.

This system of religious philosophy was historically known as the Gurmat or the Sikh Darm and the term Sikhism comes from the word Sikh which in turn comes from the Sanskrit word śhiṣhya or “disciple”.