Animals as Religious and Soteriological Beings

A Hindu Perspective

Authored by: Ellison Banks Findly

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415492447
eBook ISBN: 9780203803516
Adobe ISBN: 9781136634178


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The question raised for this essay is whether animals are religious beings, that is, whether we can know if animals have self-conscious experiences we can call “religious.” We respond to this from the Hindu perspective, by arguing that it’s impossible for us to know exactly what kinds of experiences animals have. We can, however, argue that animals are included in the overall Hindu understanding of soteriology, that is, the science of religious salvation by which all species in the system are guaranteed liberation from the imperfect world that we know through everyday, sense-based experience. To pursue this argument, we need to address what we mean by religious experience, notions of the uniqueness of human consciousness and the “other mind,” the evidence Hindus use to develop answers to these issues, as well as the anecdotal and systematic theories regarding animal behavior by which Hinduism includes animals in systems of soteriology.

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