LITERARY PORTRAYALS OF RELIGIOUS AWAKENING THROUGH SUFFERING AND LOSS - BUDDHIST, DAOIST, AND CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVES
Arts and Humanities
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AbstractThe focus of this study is on portrayals of religious awakening in four short works of literature: a Chinese play, two Chinese short stories, and an American short story. In all of these works, the protagonists attain religious awakening, but only do so because they experience suffering and loss. The experience of suffering and loss in these works helps to bring about the protagonists’ willingness to leave the worldly life. This is because the experience of suffering and loss clears the minds of the protagonists and helps them to realize the bitter nature of worldly existence. In addition, these works portray worldly concepts from the perspective of a mystical, transcendent order of reality. Things that appear normal from a worldly perspective are abnormal from the mystical perspective, and vice versa. Thus, the wise may appear foolish, the sane crazy, and the successful materially destitute, to name a few examples. In these works, religious heroism (a characteristic of the protagonists) also appears unheroic because of this distorted perspective. Religious heroism may appear cowardly, for example, and religious success may appear to be a failure or a tragedy. These literary portrayals of religious awakening through suffering and loss may thus help to shed light on religious concepts common to Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity, and also on the differences between the worldly and mystical perspectives.