A-LEVEL RELIGIOUS STUDIES

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1 A-LEVEL RELIGIOUS STUDIES RST3G World Religions 1: Buddhism OR Hinduism OR Sikhism Report on the Examination 2060 June 2015 Version: 0.1

2 Further copies of this Report are available from aqa.org.uk Copyright 2015 AQA and its licensors. All rights reserved. AQA retains the copyright on all its publications. However, registered schools/colleges for AQA are permitted to copy material from this booklet for their own internal use, with the following important exception: AQA cannot give permission to schools/colleges to photocopy any material that is acknowledged to a third party even for internal use within the centre.

3 RST3G World Religions 1 General Comments The standard of entry was similar this year to last year. The majority of students (about 70%) were entered for Section A Buddhism with about 20% taking Hinduism and 10% taking Sikhism. Section A: Buddhism Question 1 Themes in Mahayana Buddhism 01 This was the most popular question on this section and students showed a very good understanding of the concept of the bodhisattva as a being who has attained enlightenment but postpones their final nibbana until all beings have also attained it. Many students referred to the bodhisattva vow, the arising of bodhicitta and progression through the ten stages and perfections, which ensured a good level of marks. The higher levels were given to those who gave examples of bodhisattvas and also clearly demonstrated how the idea of compassion was revealed though the bodhisattva path. Those who did not specifically address the idea of compassion as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism were not awarded the higher levels of marks. Some did not make specific reference to compassion as a distinct idea in Mahayana Buddhism. 02 Not all students understood or recognised the issue for evaluation in assessing the view that, Mahayana Buddhism is nothing more than compassion put into practice. The better answers argued the fundamental importance of compassion in Mahayana Buddhism and how it related to other teachings, but also argued that it was more than just compassion in practice due to the importance of other teachings such a sunyata and the practice of meditation. Question 2 Aspects of Buddhist philosophy 03 This question required an examination of the doctrine of dependent origination as expressed in the Tibetan wheel of life. Most students answered this very well but tended to include too much unnecessary detail which limited their time on other questions. 04 Many were able to argue against the view that the doctrine of dependent origination (paticcasamuppada) has little value for Buddhists today, by claiming its value in explaining causality and human suffering as well as providing an incentive for moral actions to generate good karma and aim for nibbana. However it could also be seen as having little value due to the complex and abstract nature of the teaching, which may not directly affect the life of ordinary lay Buddhists who simply adhere to the moral precepts. 3of 7

4 Question 3 Meditation 05 This was the least well-answered question on this section and many students did not know the specific form and stages of metta meditation and gave rather generalised responses to the part of the question which asked for an examination of the importance of metta meditation for Buddhists. Whilst some included its importance as part of the eightfold path not many referred to its value in helping Buddhists to overcome the unskilful mental states of anger and ill will. The value of the cultivation of loving kindness for human relationships and harmony in society was not always mentioned. 06 In response to the statement that, metta meditation is a secular rather than a religious practice, some students fully grasped the issue and included in their answer evidence from contemporary practices of mindfulness therapy and the natural humanistic inclination of human beings to wish for the wellbeing of others, regardless of religious faith. Question 4 Buddhist Ethics 07 This was a very popular question and very well-answered by most students. However the balance of the content in the answers was given to the first part of the question which required an outline of the five precepts. Higher level marks were awarded to those who examined the implications of the five precepts for Buddhists today. They provided contemporary examples of the issues of applying the precepts to such concerns as vegetarianism, abortion, pacifism and the use of right speech in social media, marketing and politics. 08 The evaluation of the view that the five precepts are more relevant to the individual than to society was well-answered by most students who provided balanced arguments and evidence to support and refute the statement. Those who recognised that the intentions and actions of the individual inevitably affect society as well as the purpose of the precepts in creating a stable and peaceful society gained higher level marks. 4of 7

5 Section B: Hinduism Question 5 Foundations of Hinduism 09 There were some excellent answers presented in examining the nature of the Vedas with relevant and thorough detail of the various kinds of scripture contained within them. Some students neglected to refer to the uses of the Vedas in Hindu life and worship which could have included the recitation of the Vedas in puja and rites of passage, as well as the study of Upanishads in the vanaprasta and sannyasin stages of life. 10 Most students answered this question well, with a balanced appraisal of the importance of the Vedas as the most important source for Hindu beliefs due to its status as shruti. The equal importance for some Hindus of the smriti texts was clearly recognised and evidenced with good examples to give a well-judged evaluation. Question 6 Hindu dharma 11 Most students were able to provide a basic understanding of the main concepts within the Sanatana Dharma but did not develop the points more fully. They needed to explain the function of dharma as a means of defining a right way of life in terms of duties and responsibilities to ensure the order, harmony and integrity of society against the forces of chaos and injustice. 12 In assessing in the view that Sanatana Dharma is no longer central to the Hindu way of life, some students argued that it would always be fundamental, as it was a universal and absolute moral law. Not many were able to offer a counter argument which could have included the greater reliance on varnashramadharma in dealing with the realities and practicalities of the Hindu way of life today, and that in contemporary Hindu society, moral relativism might more appropriate. Question 7 Hinduism and society in the modern world 13 Most students were able to provide a basic understanding of the main reforms attempted by Ram Mohun Roy and Dayananda Saraswati, but the higher level marks were given to those who provided accurate detail and specific examples of the reforms undertaken. 14 Some good debate was generated by the assessment of the view that, Ram Mohun Roy was more successful than Dayananda Saraswati in his attempts to reform Hinduism. The better answers chose a criteria for success in terms of long lasting effects on Hindu social life and a recognition of the role of each reformer in changing attitudes. 5of 7

6 Question 8 Hindu philosophy 15 This question was well-answered by most students, especially those who had a clear understanding of the relationship of these two concepts and their link to other key concepts in Hindu teaching, such as karma and moksha. 16 In the assessment of the view that samsara has little significance for Hindus in the 21st century, the better answers showed some independent thinking in their recognition of the context of sophisticated scientific theories for the nature of mind and psychological and sociological explanations of human suffering and inequality for an understanding of samsara. Section C: Sikhism Question 9 Sikh identity, marriage and family life. 17 Most students had a good knowledge of the three forms of identity of amritdhari, keshdhari and patit Sikhs, and were able to explain the various aspects of these forms. The better answers examined the nature of identity in more depth by showing how Sikh identity is a complex phenomenon, which can be expressed in personal, social and spiritual ways. 18 Some well-balanced assessments of the view that outward signs are essential to Sikh identity were presented, which supported the view that in Sikhism, outward signs have both historical antecedents and contemporary expressions, as well as the fact that Sikh identity goes beyond outward signs in its expression in personal faith and moral behaviour. Question 10 Key concepts and beliefs 19 This question, on the mul mantra, was not attempted by many students. Those that did attempt it showed a basic knowledge of the key characteristics of God expressed in the mul mantra. However, they did not always address the second part of the question which asked for an emanation of the importance of the mul mantra for Sikhs. This required an acknowledgement of the clear monotheism expressed within it and the place of the mul mantra as part of the daily prayers for Sikhs, and its fundamental importance as a statement of faith. 20 In response to the assessment of the view that the mul mantra is the most important source for a Sikh s faith in God, most were able to argue that its importance was paramount, but not many were able cite other sources for a Sikh s faith in God, such as the other scriptures and the inspiration and examples of the lives of the Gurus. 6of 7

7 Question 11 Sikh ethics and conduct 21 Most students were able to provide a basic understanding of the concepts of miri and piri but the answers varied in the detail and accuracy of the ways in which they were expressed in Sikhism. This required knowledge of incidents from the lives of the Gurus as examples and illustrations of how these concepts were put into practice. 22 The assessment of the view that, the concepts of miri and piri are irrelevant to Sikhs in the 21st century was not very well expressed by most students. Whilst they recognised that these concepts were relevant to particular historical events, they did not relate this to a contemporary context such as campaigning for social justice and the need for these principles in guiding moral decisions in the modern world. Question 12 Equality and sewa 23 Most students provided some good understanding and examples for the Gurus teachings on equality of gender but their knowledge of teachings on attitudes towards other religions was less sound and focused. 24 Some well-expressed views were presented in response to the view, it is impossible for Sikhs to achieve their ideals of equality in today s world. Some students were able to take a broad perspective and discuss the challenges to equality in a global context today, but also the progress made in this regard not just by Sikhs but by the wider community. However the better answers argued that the principle of equality was clearly asserted in Sikhism and it was social, political and cultural factors which prevented its full realisation. Mark Ranges and Award of Grades Grade boundaries and cumulative percentage grades are available on the Results Statistics page of the AQA Website. Converting Marks into UMS marks Convert raw marks into Uniform Mark Scale (UMS) marks by using the link below. UMS conversion calculator 7of 7

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