A-level Religious Studies

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1 A-level Religious Studies RSS09 World Religions 1: Buddhism OR Hinduism OR Sikhism Report on the Examination 2060 June 2014 Version: 1.0

2 Further copies of this Report are available from aqa.org.uk Copyright 2014 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 RSS09: World Religions 1 General comments There was an increased entry this year with a noticeable rise in the number taking the Hinduism option. Section A: Buddhism Question 1 Samsara and the three marks of existence 01 Most students had a good understanding of the various kinds of dukkha but were less able to explain how this belief might affect the Buddhist way of life. This would include attitudes to moral actions and their karmic consequences. Some did refer to the acceptance of suffering and need for compassion. Some students tried to be too inclusive of related Buddhist teachings such as samsara and karma and the causes of suffering which made their answers too lengthy and lose focus. 02 There were some good and well balanced arguments about the fundamental basis of suffering and its inclusion in many Buddhist teachings. In refutation of the statement, these referred to the importance of other concepts such as anatta and nibbana. Question 2 The Four Noble Truths 03 Most students presented good basic answers on the nature of tanha (craving) particularly those which identified the three types of craving, ie for sense pleasures, craving for existence and craving for non-existence. However there was a tendency to include too many related teachings about the causes and consequences of craving including all the realms in the Tibetan wheel of life which led to digression. The best answers understood that the implications for the Buddhist attitude to life would be the prioritising of moral values and recognition of the dangers of attachment. Many referred to the effect of becoming non-materialistic but there was occasionally some confusion between the dangers and value of an ascetic way of life. 04 This question appeared quite challenging for some students. It required some independent thinking in recognising that craving is fundamental to the human condition and has its positive aspects. However, there were some very well argued points about the whole purpose of the Buddhist dharma being to reduce craving and attain freedom as the arhats have already done. Some students noticed the implications of the word never in the question and sought to qualify this by saying that craving could be reduced rather than completely eliminated. 3 of 7

4 Question 3 The Eightfold Path 05 This was the least well answered question in this section because not many students understood that wisdom referred to both right view and right thought and intention. They also failed to examine in depth and detail the various components of right view as the acceptance and understanding of the Buddha s teachings and the relationship to right intention as the emotional basis of thought with its roots in non-greed and non-hatred. Furthermore, the role of wisdom was not fully explored as forming the rationale and purpose for the rest of the Eightfold Path. 06 The answers to this question were very variable but there were some excellent ones which gave some convincing arguments about the value and benefits of meditation for its own sake and the way it can clarify and calm the mind. Wisdom also can emerge from the meditation experience rather than being a pre-requisite for meditation to develop. Question 4 The Sangha 07 There were some excellent and detailed answers about the nature of lay life and the particular discipline of supporting the monastic sangha, observing moral precepts, right livelihood and making a commitment to Buddhist faith on festival and full moon days. Some answers were rather vague and uninformed about the actual responsibilities and obligations which are a distinctive part of the lay Buddhist s life. 08 Some well-balanced arguments were presented for the relative hardness of lay life as it attempts to deal with the temptations and challenges of worldly responsibilities whilst still adhering to moral precepts. Some claimed that the strict rules and discipline of monastic life were much harder than lay life due to the dedication and commitment it required. Section B: Hinduism Question 5 The Hindu concept of God 09 Some well-informed answers were presented about the qualities and particular features of Krishna and Ganesh but not all students addressed the importance of them. This required reference to the deities as manifestations of Brahman with direct involvement in human affairs who could inspire Hindus to higher goals in life. 10 This question was well answered by most students as they showed themselves able to argue equally for the meaning of personal deities for Hindus as well as the impersonal concepts of Brahman. 4 of 7

5 Question 6 Means to liberation in Hinduism 11 This question was not a popular one but the better answers examined the nature of atman in some depth as inner self, eternal and immortal essence of each living being and its relationship to the ultimate reality Brahman. Students also provided various interpretations of the atman s relationship to Brahman together with an awareness of the various understandings of self-realisation both as an experience of knowledge consciousness, bliss and as the merging and oneness with Brahman. Less developed answers tended to provide vague definitions and to make general assertions about each concept. 12 This was mostly well answered with students citing the priority given to living a good moral life as a Hindu following one s dhamma and engaging in worship of deities rather than the practice of yoga as a means to self-realisation. Some referred to the practice of karma yoga as a way of combining the Hindu way of life with the spiritual goal of self-realisation. Question 7 Worship in Hinduism 13 There were some excellent answers presented here where the students fully understood the importance of havan and yajna as purification rituals and as a contemporary form of an ancient practice of sacrifice in which the worshipper expressed the intention to offer selfless service and overcome egoism. However, some students provided more descriptive answers with insufficient attention to the importance of them. 14 Some thoughtful answers were presented in response to the claim that In Hinduism, there is no need for such worship to take place in temples as God is everywhere. Students were able to argue for the importance of the temple in Hindu worship as well as the various forms of worship such as meditation and the religious practices of sannyasins which do not require temples. Question 8 The Hindu way of life 15 Some excellent answers were presented which examined the importance of holy men in Hinduism. Not only did they identify and distinguish the different types of holy men such as sadhus, rishis and gurus but clearly explained their unique roles and importance in Hindu traditions and culture. 16 Some excellent arguments were presented here in opposition to the statement that In Hinduism, the path of the holy man is the best way of life. The role of the householder in supporting and upholding the Hindu way of life as well as contributing to family life and society was argued to be the best way of life for the benefits it gave to the wider society. However the emphasis and importance attached to renunciation and spiritual life in Hinduism was also recognised as best in a spiritual sense. 5 of 7

6 Section C: Sikhism Question 9 The Gurus 17 Most students had a sound and detailed knowledge of the contributions of Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur, and those who gained the higher levels were able to comment on the nature of their contribution to the Sikh teachings and scriptures on one hand and their development of the material and social foundations of Sikhism on the other. 18 Some students presented a well-judged response to the statement, Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur had only a limited effect on the development of Sikhism, in their understanding of the significant impact of Guru Nanak in founding the faith and Guru Gobind Singh in forming the Khalsa but were also able to argue clearly for the value of Guru Arjan s and Guru Tegh Bahadur s effects on Sikhism as each Guru has made a unique and essential contribution to the overall development of Sikhism. Question 10 Festivals 19 This question on festivals was reasonably well answered by those who attempted it but the higher levels were awarded to those with detailed and accurate knowledge of particular festivals to use as examples to demonstrate the significance of festivals for Sikhs. 20 Some quite thoughtful answers were presented in response to the statement, In Sikhism the public nature of the festivals is more important than their inner meaning. They explained that the public nature of such festivals as Vaisakhi reveals the inner meaning in a powerful way and that the public and private nature of festival celebrations went hand in hand. Others also argued that the public nature of festivals had become commercialised and enjoyed for the party like atmosphere rather than inner spiritual meaning. Question 11 The Guru Granth Sahib and the Gurdwara 21 The answers to this question varied greatly from those which described how the Guru Granth Sahib was used in the gurdwara to those which had a very deep and sound understanding of the nature of the authority of the Guru Granth Sahib as a living Guru. The treatment of the Guru Granth Sahib with respect and devotion was accepted as a way in which its authority was expressed. 6 of 7

7 22 Some good answers were presented in response to the statement An understanding of the Guru Granth Sahib is all that is needed to be a good Sikh. The realisation that a good Sikh could be defined in a variety of ways was noted as well as the fact that following the Sikh code of conduct and engaging in sewa was a vital part of being a good Sikh. However the argument that an understanding of the teachings in the Guru Granth Sahib would naturally lead to this way of life was well stated. Question 12 Diwan and langar 23 Answers to this question tended to be far too descriptive of the practice of worship (diwan) in the gurdwara rather than an examination of its nature and purpose, which could include being inspired by the Sikh Gurus and experiencing a sense of community and a connection with God through faith and devotion. 24 Most students found it easy to argue the case for the importance of performing sewa in everyday life but the better answers presented a counter argument that worship in the gurdwara was integral to the daily life of Sikhs and provided the inner faith and right motivation to perform sewa. 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 7 of 7

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