The following text is from Irving Hexham's Concise Dictionary of Religion, first published by InterVarsity Press, Carol Stream, USA, 1994, second edition, Regent College Press, Vancouver, 1999.
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Copyright © Irving Hexham 1994, 1998
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For further information about the book and the sources used to compile this text see the PREFACE.
Cross-references are indicated by the use of CAPITAL LETTERS.
VADGALAI: followers of RAMUNUJA who emphasized that human effort is the condition of divine GRACE. Their view became known as the "Monkey Principle" from the fact that a young monkey clings to its mother as she moves about. Thus it is through striving for SALVATION and by fulfillment of VEDIC religious duties that one attains LIBERATION.
VAISESIKA: one of the six schools of HINDU PHILOSOPHY which expounded an atomistic interpretation of the UNIVERSE. Around the tenth century it merged with the NYYA School to promote a FORM of THEISM based on METAPHYSICS and taught that GOD is the BEING who combines and separates the atoms of the universe.
VAISNAVISM: the CULT of VISHNU which emphasizes BHAKTI and the WORSHIP of GODS like KRISHNA. It is credited with producing the BHAGAVAD-GITA and an extensive devotional literature rich in MYTH and SYMBOLISM. Its chief rival in the HINDU TRADITION is SAIVISM which arose around the same period of time--300 B.C. to 300 A.D.
VAISYA: the lowest of the three TWICE BORN within the CASTE system of HINDUISM. They are the acceptable workers, traders and merchants and from whose labors the members of the other castes live.
VAJRAYNA: the final phase in the development of Indian MAHYNA BUDDHISM which aimed at attaining success and power in this world rather than NIRVNA in the far distant future. As a result it concentrated on MAGIC, MIRACLES and OCCULT knowledge. It was eventually carried to Tibet where it became the dominant FORM of Buddhism.
VALENTINE (3rd century): a legendary CHRISTIAN MARTYR after whom Valentine's Day is named.
VALENTINUS (2nd century): gnostic philosopher who taught that the masculine principle of the UNIVERSE unites with the feminine to produce mind thus creating a DIALECTICAL process which created everything.
VALHALLA: the ancient Scandinavian realm of dead heroes.
VALID: a term in logic signifying an argument where the conclusion necessarily follows from the premise. In more general terms, valid can mean true or correct.
VALLABHA, (1480-1535 ?): a BRAHMIN who helped found the VALLABHCRYA branch of HINDUISM. He promoted his own version of NON-DUALISM arguing that MY is GOD's creative activity and not a pure illusion as AKARA has suggested. His theology was PANENTHEISTIC with an emphasis on God's GRACE and BHAKTI as means of attaining LIBERATION. He promoted the WORSHIP of KRISHNA and his consort Rdh arguing that the union of lovers reflects the MYSTICAL union of the SOUL with God.
VALUE: the quality of a thing which makes it a subject of desire. Something with is esteemed and worth having. Many theories of value exist which seek to explain why certain things, BELIEFS, and actions have value.
VARANSI: one of the Seven SACRED cities in India revered by both HINDUISM and BUDDHISM.
VARANSI: the Four TRADITIONAL CASTES, or classes, in Indian society. The word literally means "color" indicating the RACIAL origin of the caste system.
VARUNA : a GOD in HINDUISM who first appears in the early VEDAS as a Sky God later to become the all seeing deity.
VASUBANDHU (4th century): a HNYNA BUDDHIST scholar and writer who was said to have CONVERTED to the MAHYNA tradition through the arguments of his brother. Modern scholars believe that this TRADITIONAL story is probably propaganda.
VATICAN: the residence of the POPE in Rome which has the status of an independent City-State.
VATICAN COUNCIL: the First Vatican Council which was highly CONSERVATIVE and emphasized differences between ROMAN CATHOLICISM and PROTESTANT CHURCHES was held in Rome during 1869 and 1870 as the twentieth Ecumenical Council. The Council ended abruptly with the outbreak of war and the occupation of the City. The Second Vatican Council lasting from 1962 to 1965 was also held in Rome at the bidding of POPE John XXIII who attributed the idea to the inspiration of the HOLY SPIRIT. He defined its task as renewing the religious life of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and modernizing the teaching, discipline, and organization as a step towards unifying all CHRISTIANS. The far reaching decisions of the Council completely revolutionized the Roman Catholic Church, encouraging both the CHARISMATIC MOVEMENT and the Laity.
VATSIPUTRIYA: an UNORTHODOX School of BUDDHISM which emerged in the third century B.C. led by Vtsputra that is distinguished by its affirmation of the REALITY of the human person or SOUL and by its BELIEF in TRANSMIGRATION.
VAYU: the HINDU GOD of the wind.
VEDA: literally "knowledge" signifying the SACRED knowledge or REVELATION which has been "heard" according to the HINDU religious tradition. It began as ORAL TRADITION becoming a written tradition much later. The VEDAS are ancient revelations found in a series of HYMNS, RITUAL texts, and speculations composed over a period of a millennium beginning 1400 B.C. The earliest documents are probably from around the fifteenth century and were recorded by MUSLIM authors.
VEDANTA: one of the six classical schools of HINDU PHILOSOPHY and that which is best known in the West. The name literally means "the end of the VEDA." It is based on the UPANISHADS and interprets the RITUAL practices of the VEDAS in terms of symbolic meanings. There are three main schools of Vednta that of Advaita which promotes MONISM; Viidvaita or qualified NON-DUALISM and Dvaita which is a FORM of DUALISM. All three are similar to PLATONISM in aiming to go beyond the limits of EMPIRICAL observation to explore the NATURE of BRAHMAN. Both AKARA and RMNUJA taught forms of Vednta even though they presented sharply differing interpretations of the TRADITION. In the late nineteenth century various thinkers sought to create a synthesis between various aspects of Vednta and Western forms of IDEALISM while Vivekananda, RADHAKRISHNAN and SRI AUROBINDO adapted Vednta to the theory of EVOLUTION and Western SCIENCE.
VEDI: a sacrificial center in early HINDUISM.
VEDIC RELIGION: the religion of the ancient ARYAN invaders of India which is found in the G VEDA and other early Indian literature. It is similar to ancient Greek RELIGION being rich in MYTH and RITUAL involving GODS, SACRIFICE and heroic deeds. Life affirming and worldly and very different from later HINDUISM. Later Vedic religion tends towards MONOTHEISM and eventually develops through a series of textual reinterpretations through such works as the UPANISHADS into classical Hinduism which ignores and even reverses many earlier concerns.
VEGAN: an extreme VEGETARIAN who refuses to eat or use any animal products.
VEGETARIANISM: the refusal to eat meat. This is often justified on religious grounds derived from YOGIC RELIGION.
VERIFICATION: the process of determining the TRUTH of something, its conformity to FACTS or REALITY.
VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE: the position taken by the VIENNA CIRCLE and promoted by LOGICAL POSITIVISM that holds a statement is meaningful if and only if it can be verified EMPIRICALLY. A modified version of this states that a statement is meaningful if and only if it is in principle verifiable empirically.
VIA MEDIA: the middle way. A position promoted by seventeenth century Anglicans which saw ANGLICANISM as a moderate compromise between the extremes of ROMAN CATHOLICISM and PROTESTANTISM.
VIA NEGATIVA: the way of negation. A philosophic position which argues that because of the limitations of human language, we cannot really say anything positive about GOD but rather any statement about the divine BEING at best must say what God is not as a way of approximating the REALITY of the deity.
VICAR: a title for a Pastor or Minister in ANGLICANISM.
VICIOUS CIRCLE: the logical FALLACY which involves supporting an argument by circular reasoning where the conclusion has already been used to support a premise upon which the conclusion is based. Generally it means using a statement to support a second statement which is then taken without further evidence as proof of a third statement that says essentially the same thing as the first statement. For example: one might argue that the Beatles are better musicians than Bach because people who know about music prefer the Beatles. When asked who these people are who know about music, one is told it is people who listen to the Beatles. Usually such arguments are more complicated and confusing but the principle is the same.
VICO, Giovannia Battista (1668-1744): Italian ROMAN CATHOLIC philosopher and critic of Descartes who developed the first modern PHILOSOPHY of HISTORY in his Principles of a New Science (1725). He gave close attention to language and MYTH and insisted that historical periods must be seen as coherent wholes where the various aspects of SOCIETY affect each other. His work deeply influenced HERDER, HEGEL, MARX, CROCE and COLLINGWOOD.
VIENNA CIRCLE: a philosophical movement centered in the University of Vienna in the 1920s which sought to REFORM PHILOSOPHY in terms of the EMPIRICAL METHODOLOGY of modern SCIENCE. It promoted POSITIVISM and the VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE as ways of knowing the TRUTH eventually developing into the broader philosophical movement known as LOGICAL POSITIVISM. It is associated with the work of many philosophers and was influenced by both RUSSELL and WITTGENSTEIN. In the English speaking world it was promoted by AYER.
VIGIL: a religious service often lasting through the night and involving PRAYER and FASTING.
VIHARA: a BUDDHIST Monastery.
VINAYA-PITAKA: the first of Three SACRED books of BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES which is principally concerned with questions of DISCIPLINE and the rules of Monastic life.
VIRGIL (70-19 B.C.): Roman poet and scholar whose history of Rome, the Aeneid, was adopted as a basic text in education throughout the Roman Empire. His work exercised great influence over early CHRISTIAN thinkers who appreciated his high moral standards and PHILOSOPHY of HISTORY and is the most quoted classical author by Christian writers in the EARLY CHURCH.
VIRGIN BIRTH: the TRADITIONAL BELIEF that JESUS CHRIST was born of the VIRGIN MARY. Although the founders of many religions are often depicted as having a miraculous birth, the CHRISTIAN belief does seem quite unique in its particulars and is important for an ORTHODOX view of the INCARNATION.
VISHNU [Visnu - Sanskrit): HINDU term meaning Chief deity, Supreme Lord, second member of the Trinity which includes Brahm and iva.
VLADAMIR (956-1015): Russian King and PAGAN CONVERT to CHRISTIANITY who enforced his new RELIGION on all his subjects.
VOLTAIRE, [François Marie-Arouet] (1694-1778): French writer with a malicious wit who was exiled to London from 1726 to 1729 where he came into contact with the English ENLIGHTENMENT and developed a life long admiration of the English. His books are filled with hatred for ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY and a deep pessimism created by the EVIL he observed in human affairs. He accepted the TELEOLOGICAL argument and strongly supported DEISM.