The study of what the believer believes concerning the origins of their religion makes up a great part of the student’s research. This includes the study of dominant traditions and the variations on these traditions in different sects of a religion.
There are beliefs in every religion concerning the methods by which events, distant in time, were preserved by the faithful across the history of their religion.
The Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches insist that there is an unbroken lineage of apostolic teachings passed down to us from the time of Jesus to the present.
In Islam, tracking lineage from Muhammad to the present is referred to as the process of Isnad and Sanad, which is a chain of transmission of orthodox texts and teachings considered as an irrefutable preservation from the past.
The term ‘sampradaya’ is one Hindu term among several others, which indicate the unbroken transmission of a discipline or teaching from Guru to devotee across the history of Hinduism.
The religions of Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism have similar ideas concerning the preservation of religious teachings based upon the Hindu ideals. In various sects of Buddhist tradition, lineage has been preserved from enlightened teacher to student.
Many of the major sects of Buddhism claim an unbroken lineage back to prominent individuals, and ultimately back to the Gautama Buddha.
We have only just begun to study in earnest the faith and beliefs of others, with an honest intention to learn the history of one religion in relation to another.
The freedom to seek out the history of any of the living traditions has been hard-won, as the inertia of tradition has constantly resisted the adherent’s inquiry into the distant past; the leaders and keepers of a religion work hard to preserve the orthodox interpretation of their sacred narrative. The true origins of all of our religions are obscure.
Religious controversy leads us to dismiss the origins of most religions except our own. Yet, the informed investigation into the history of religion presents us with legends and moralizing stories that were not meant as histories, and this discovery will unvaryingly inspire and attract the true student of religion. Further posts developing this topic are linked together under the category Origins.