Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category
Heart and Soul recently invited 3 scholars to talk about the Gita: Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University; Julius Lipner, Professor of Hinduism and the Comparative Study of Religion and Fellow of Clare Hall at the University of Cambridge; and Jessica Frazier, Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies and Lecturer in Religious Studies at Regent’s College, London.
The result is a very accessible 30 minute discussion on a text beloved by seekers and Yogis throughout the world. Audio below:
I’m in the middle of reading William Dalrymple’s beautiful book on Spirituality in Modern India, viewed through the lives of amazing individuals he encountered through his years of travels in South Asia. In one chapter about Sufis in Sindh, he recounts the 18th century Sufi master Abdul Latif, a spiritual seeker at home in the company of people of other faiths. Sadly Latif’s modern-day Sufi descendants, are being hounded by Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan.
(Ratif) … set off wandering through Sind and Rajasthan in the company of Hindu sadhus and Nath Yogis, a sect of ash-smeared Shaivite mystics who invented hatha yoga in the twelfth century …
(Ratif) … reflects on the three footloose years he spent wandering the deserts with these yogis, visiting both Hindu and Muslim pilgrimage sites. For Latif, there is no distinction between the different faiths: the divisions, as he sees them, are between the bigoted and orthodox, on one hand, and itinerant and free-thinking mystics on the other.
From the Sur Ramkali chapter of Risalo, by Shah Abdul Latif:
Yogis are many, but I love these wandering sadhus.
Smeared with dust, they eat little,
Never saving a grain in their begging bowls.
No Food in their packs, they carry only hunger,
No desire to eat have they,
Thirst they pour and drink.
These ascetics have conquered their desires.
In their wildemess they found the destination
For which they searched so long.
On the path of truth, They found it lay within.
Hearing the call,
Before the birth of Islam
They severed all ties,
And became one with their guru, Gorakhnath
Now, sitting by the side of the road, I look for them.
Remembering these sargrasis, tears well up.
They were so very kind to me.
They radiated brightness.
Yogis are many, but it is these wandering sadhus that I love
- Journey Into Buddhism Trilogy (the Yatra Trilogy): Just stumbled upon these gorgeous (travel) documentaries from writer/director John Bush. The cinematography is mesmerizing, and you’ll learn about Buddhism as practiced across several Asian countries. Highly recommended!
- The New Atheists’ Narrow Worldview:
Having lived in Cambodia and China, and traveled in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Africa, I have come to appreciate how religion functions quite differently in the developing world—where the majority of believers actually live. The Four Horsemen, their fans, and their enemies all fail to factor in their own prosperity when they think about the uses and abuses of religion.
Harris and his colleagues think that religion is mostly concerned with two jobs—explaining nature and guiding morality. Their suggestion that science does these jobs better is pretty convincing. As Harris puts it, “I am arguing that science can, in principle, help us understand what we should do and should want—and, therefore, what other people should do and should want in order to live the best lives possible.” I agree with Harris here and even spilled significant ink myself, back in 2001, to show that Stephen Jay Gould’s popular science/religion diplomacy of “nonoverlapping magisteria” (what many call the fact/value distinction) is incoherent. The horsemen’s mistake is not their claim that science can guide morality. Rather, they’re wrong in imagining that the primary job of religion is morality. Like cosmology, ethics is barely relevant in non-Western religions. It is certainly not the main function or lure of devotional life. Science could take over the “morality job” tomorrow in the developing world, and very few religious practitioners would even notice.
Buddhism, for example, is about finding a form of psychological happiness that goes beyond the usual pursuit of fleeting pleasures. With introspection and discipline, Buddhism and other contemplative traditions attempt to find a state of well-being that is outside the usual game of desire fulfillment. Buddhism aligns metaphysically with the new atheism and psychologically with the humanistic traditions. Many of the new atheists have recognized that Buddhism doesn’t quite be long with the other religious targets, and they reserve a vague respect for its philosophical core. I’m glad. They’re right to do so. But two days in any Buddhist country will painfully demonstrate to its Western fans that Buddhism is an elaborate, supernatural, devotional religion as well.
… Religion is not really a path to morality, nor can it substitute for a scientific understanding of nature. Its chief virtue is as a “coping mechanism” for our troubles. Powerless people turn to religion and find a sense of relief, which helps them psychologically to stay afloat. Those who wish to abolish religion seek to pull away the life preserver, mistakenly blaming the device for the drowning.
- A Workout Ate My Marriage: There have to yogis and yoginis in a similar boat as the couples described in this WSJ article.
With exercise intruding ever-more frequently on intimacy, counselors are proposing a new wedding vow: For fitter or for fatter. “Exercise is getting more and more couples into my office,” says Karen Gail Lewis, a Cincinnati marriage and family therapist. Newlyweds have long recognized the risks of potential sickness, infidelity and ill fortune. But few foresee themselves becoming an exercise widow. After all, the idea that one’s beloved will take the occasional jog sounds appealing—until two miles a day becomes 10 miles, not counting the 20-mile runs on weekends.
- What is spiritual materialism?: This old lecture, reminded me a of a recent Dharma talk (by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron), which I highlighted earlier.
- The Calling: I loved the bits that I watched from this recent Independents Lens documentary. Looking forward to the DVD:
- Voluntary Simplicity and the tyranny of choice: Social scientists have conducted numerous studies that suggest consumers get overwhelmed by too much choice. While I welcome a large-scale adoption of simpler lifestyles, I haven’t detected a shift in that direction.
At the same time the anti-globalisation and green movements have stirred a consumer backlash against a surfeit of choice. Campaigns urge shoppers to buy locally grown fruit in season, and to shun cherries in winter or green beans flown in from Kenya. A “voluntary simplicity” movement calls on households to do away with excess consumer choice and lead a low-consumption, eco-friendly life. Courses promise to help people shed the distractions and stresses of the consumerist world and journey towards their inner wholeness. Short of turning the lawn over to organic vegetables and selling the car, books with such titles as “The Power of Less: The fine art of limiting yourself to the essential…in business and in life” or “Living Simply: Choosing less in a world of more” suggest practical ideas for cutting down on the effort of decision-making. The advice seems to boil down to shopping less often, keeping less stuff, watching less TV and sending fewer e-mails.
- Young Nuns find Habits Are The New Radical: If you travel through Buddhist countries in Asia, it’s not unusual to come across young men and women who have taken up monastic vows, many do so only for a few years. There are still places where monastic life as a rite of passage is not unusual at all.
For the most part, these are grim days for Catholic nuns. Convents are closing, nuns are aging and there are relatively few new recruits. But something startling is happening in Nashville, Tenn. The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia are seeing a boom in new young sisters: Twenty-seven joined this year and 90 entered over the past five years.
- Metta Forest Monastery: I really began to understand Buddhist Forest Monasteries while reading Jack Kornfield’s 1980′s classic Living Buddhist Masters. Reading this recent article on Gratitude, I stumbled upon a forest monastery in San Diego County, California!
Metta Forest Monastery is a meditation monastery in the lineage of the Thai Forest Tradition. Founded in 1990 by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco, it is currently headed by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Ajaan Geoff). The monastery is situated near Valley Center, California, at the end of a road in an avocado orchard surrounded by the mountains and chaparral of northern San Diego County. It provides the opportunity for men to ordain as bhikkhus and to train in line with the Dhamma-Vinaya as maintained in the Theravada tradition. It also welcomes interested lay men and lay women to visit and practice the Buddha’s teachings.
… First-time visitors are allowed to stay for periods of up to two weeks. All visitors are asked to observe the eight precepts and to participate fully in the daily schedule of the monastery. This includes two group meditation periods (early morning and evening); two short work periods, morning and late afternoon; one communal meal mid-morning; after-meal clean up; a short period for questions and answers before the afternoon work period; and the rest of the day free to meditate. Each visitor is assigned an individual sitting platform and walking path in the orchard, and is free to divide the time for walking, sitting, and resting as he/she sees fit