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.