World Religions Paper One
Summarise each religion based on the Problem-Solution-Technique-Exemplars framework
Paper 1 is about connecting the basic introductory concepts you learned in class with the text given in the exam. In other words, you need to be able to effectively summarise the key teachings and rituals of each religious tradition you learn, so that you can define any key terms that are used to describe each religion’s view of the human condition, their proposed solution to the condition, and the techniques and exemplars to reach such a solution. Each religion has its own, specific terms for these, and you need to be able to both define and explain these.
In this sense, the best preparation for Paper 1 is to make notes for each of your 5 religions, with subheadings “Problem”, “Solution”, “Techniques”, and “Exemplars”, using both the terms from each religion and their definitions. In his book, Prothero does this quite well.
Problem: Dukkha (the painful, suffering reality associated with Tahna (craving), intimately connected to the continuous cycle of Samsara (rebirth), and our inability to see the world clearly because of maya (illusion))
Solution: Nirvana (end of craving, ceasing to exist), or in Mahayana Buddhism, becoming a Bodhisattva
Technique: Eightfold Noble Path, Three Jewels, Wisdom and Compassion
Exemplars: Arhats, Bodhisattvas, and Lamas
It is, of course, equally important that you know what each of these terms mean, but I think this is a good skeleton to build on in your notes - you can try to define each term, and build on the problem, solution, and technique of each religious tradition, until you are satisfied that you will be able to identify these inside the scriptures of each religious tradition.
Read some of the sacred texts of each religious tradition
Though an overemphasis on textual traditions in religions may be a Western, Christian bias, since your exams are going to be based on some textual analysis, this is good practice for Paper 1. At least read a few of the famous excerpts from different texts in the 5 religious traditions you are assigned. While you read them, try to identify a key teaching in that religion, and ask yourself questions about the text.
For instance, if you wind up reading a famous part of the Bible for Christianity, (say John 8:1-11 about the forgiving of the adulterous woman), you might identify the key Christian teaching of forgiveness, and the key belief that humans have a means of salvation in Christ. Then, you can ask yourself, “what does this passage say about Salvation?”
Similarly, if you read this excerpt (below) from Dhammapada for Buddhism, you should be able to identify the Buddhist teaching on the nature of Dukkha, and how it is caused. You can then ask yourself, “what is the Buddhist teaching on suffering, and what are the techniques used to remove suffering?”, or something along these lines.
(209. He who gives himself to vanity, and does not give himself to
meditation, forgetting the real aim (of life) and grasping at
pleasure, will in time envy him who has exerted himself in meditation.
210. Let no man ever look for what is pleasant, or what is unpleasant.
Not to see what is pleasant is pain, and it is pain to see what is
211. Let, therefore, no man love anything; loss of the beloved is
evil. Those who love nothing and hate nothing, have no fetters.)
Reading the texts and asking yourself questions about the basic points of each tradition will ensure not only that you are well prepared for Paper 1, but also hopefully build in you, a better appreciation for, and a stronger grasp of, the religious tradition as a whole.