In writing about Judaism, Norman Solomon has observed that the English language, which evolved in a very Christian atmosphere, is not value-neutral. Most scholars would agree that words are embedded in worldviews. To use a colloquial expression, they carry the "baggage" of social prejudices and articulate the perceptions on gender, race, religion, and age that have been part of popular culture at various time periods. It is not just that we project stereotypes on what we study, but we also use categories from our natal traditions to understand other cultures. At least initially we observe phenomena that our culture thinks of as important; later our observations and insights are processed through our language which almost always convey approximations at best. Concepts refracted through the lenses of other languages and cultures may take a life of their own; thus when systems of Buddhist meditation were explained in the Chinese language with words connected with Taoist literature, the Chan (and eventually Zen) forms of mediation evolved. As all of us know, issues such as monotheism or sacred books that have been traditionally thought of as central to the study of religion in the Judaeo-Christian traditions in the western modern world, or for that matter, the construction of "religion" itself, have proved problematic when projected on to other religious cultures.

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