Tag Archives: karma

Religious Tolerance: find the beauty in every religion

In more recent years, religions across the world have been on the decline. According to the Washington Post, in the 1950s those who identified with no religion was at about 2 percent of the entire population. In 1970, this percentage grew to 7 percent. Now, the percentage has swelled to almost 20 percent of the population.

According to Pew, 74 percent of those who don’t identify with a religion grew up without a religious belief.

17299_religiohusaffiliation2onlineo

It’s hard to locate the source of the problem. With the younger generations it seems religion and faith have taken a back seat. More children are being raised faithless in the United States than every before. The decline in religion dates to the 1990s when trust in religious institution became questionable. Scandal is no stranger to religion, including sexual scandals of church leaders and the church’s opposition of same-sex marriage.

1worldI’ve noticed the decline of religion in my life. My great-grandparents were straight off the boat Irish, strict Roman Catholics. Both my grandparents and my parents were raised Roman Catholic, but me? Well, I was raised Roman Catholic too, but not in the same sense they were. My upbringing was not strict. We did everything the normal Catholics did. My siblings and I have all been baptized, confessed, communed and confirmed. We used to always go to church on Sundays until there was some controversy with my mom’s favorite priest, and we stopped going after he left the parish.

Over the years I’ve grown apart from the religion I was raised in. Learning about other religions and understanding what others believe in has made me more accepting of other ideas. Maybe Catholicism isn’t the only important religion out there? Maybe I think there’s more than one God? Maybe I don’t even believe in God?

I have always been one to question religion and I think I always will. There will never be a way to really known and that’s why we have faith. As I’ve grown up, I’ve lost the faith I had in the Catholic church. I like to think that I’ve developed a syncretic religion that is all my own.

coexist1

Here is what I know…

  1. I love the Amish life of simplicity.
  2. I love the Taoist idea of the Tao. The feeling inside of you that cannot be described in words. The source and the driving force behind everything. When you have to make a decision and something instinctively tells you to make a certain decision, that’s the Tao working inside you. The Tao will always keep you on the path meant for you.
  3. I love that marriage is a central notion for Mormon life. They believe God ordered them to get marriage and have children. Mormons believe that the family continues on together to salvation after death and I hope that’s true.
  4. I love all of the ideas behind Sikhism. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to keep God in your mind, to live honestly, to work hard, to treat everyone as an equal and to be generous to the less fortunate. I think if we could all learn to live like the Sikhs the world would be a much happier place.
  5. I love the Wiccan quote “If you take the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible is the wind and the rain.” Like me, the Wiccans believe in the very world they see right before their eyes.
  6. The unity and push for equality that surrounds the Unitarian Universalists is beautiful. I hope one day all religions can be this accepting.
  7. I like that Scientology seeks to base their beliefs in something concrete.
  8. I love the Buddhist idea of reincarnation. For me, reincarnation is the explanation for déjà vu. Why do I feel like I have been here before? Because you have been. Why do I know exactly what he is about to say? Because you’ve heard it before.
  9. I simply love the Rastafarian dreadlocks.
  10. I love the Jain idea of bad karma accumulating on the human soul and that the human has to spend their life “chipping away” that karma. It gives us a reason to live for the good.
  11. I love the Bahá’í belief that greater good will prevail when humanity works together in unity for the benefit of not themselves, but others.
  12. I love that Zoroastrians pray facing the sun because it symbolizes God’s divine light.
  13. I love that Spiritualists believe that every soul lives past physical death and that all souls are reunited.
  14. I love that Santeria was born because the African slaves felt so strongly about their religion they refused to completely convert, but instead blended religions.
  15. I love that Atheists believe in humanity rather than a higher being and that they believe the real reward is living a good life now while you’re here to live it.
  16. I love Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith and that they are required to help the less fortunate.
  17. I love that Hasidic Jews live together in tight-knit communities where they really care about each other.
  18. I love the Shinto notion that there are kamis there to guide us. Everyone can use a helping hand now and then.
  19. I love that Candomblé doesn’t believe in good or bad. Just that one person should live their life in order to fulfill their own destiny as best they can.
  20. I love the creativity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
  21. I love that Confucianism teaches that human nature is “teachable, improvable, and perfectible.”
  22. Interfaith marriage is beautiful.

And let’s face it… I have nothing nice to say about the Westboro Baptist Church.

When you take a chance to open yourself to others beliefs you might be surprised. You might end up believing in something you weren’t raised to believe in. You might learn to tolerate others in a new way. There is something beautiful in every religion if you take the time to find it.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jains: achieving liberation through harmlessness

jj

Jainism, is an ancient Indian religion that centers on the idea of liberation through harmlessness. The aim of Jainism is to liberate the soul by avoiding bad karma. Jains are also highly concerned with the well being of all things living and non-living. The 2001 Census of India found that India has the largest population of Jains at 4.2 million. Jainism has two major sects: Digambara, “the sky clad,” and Svetambara, “the white clad.” Jainism has been declining since the growth of Hinduism in India

asdf

Jains do not believe in any type of God or spiritual being. Jains believe that every animal, plant and person contains a soul and that all souls are equal. For this reason, Jains are also strict vegetarians.

The Jains call the soul the jiva and they believe everything has a soul. Jiva means a conscious, living soul. Ajiva refers to the soul of non-living objects. They believe that the soul lasts forever and that souls are responsible for actions. Jains believe that every soul is individual in itself and that there are an infinite number of souls in the world. Souls don’t have bodies and they are infinite, meaning that they have infinite knowledge, infinite power, and infinite bliss. They are perfect beings.

mahaviraMahavira reformed and popularized Jainism. He was born in Vardhamana in 599 B.C.E. and was the son of King Siddhartha. After living as a prince for 30 years he decided to leave his royal palace to live as a sahana. Sahanas live an ascetic life and they reject worldly pleasures and comforts. Mahavira lived ascetically for 12 years and engaged in fasting and meditation until he finally reached enlightenment. The Agamas are the texts of Mahavira’s teachings.

Jains believe in the idea of reincarnation in the afterlife. The central concept in Jainism is to reach ultimate liberation and escape the cycle of rebirth. The Jain soul can only become liberated when it is detached from bad karma. Jains want their souls to live in bliss which is only possible if the bad karma ismed_gallery_2395_1452_159998 removed. Karma determines the quality of life. Jains have a different view on karma than most other religions. Jains believe that karma is like a physical substance that can actually build up on the soul. We attract karma through our bad actions. An accumulation can cause us to have bad thoughts, emotions, and vices. The goal of the Jain life it to “chip away” at this karma that has built up until the soul is liberated.

Three guiding principals called the “three jewels” rule the Jain life. The “three jewels” are: right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. Jains also have the Five Great Vows, sometimes called the mahavratas. The Five Great Vows are: non-violence, non-attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing and sexual restraint. The most important of these is the principle of non-violence called ahism because of their belief that everything has an individual soul.

mainpromo

For Jains, nothing is every created or destroyed. Everything changes forms, but exists forever. Jains believe that history is cyclical.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Buddhism: following in the enlightened footsteps of Siddhartha Gautama

What do Tiger Woods, Orlando Bloom and Steve Jobs all have in common? They’re all Buddhists!

36b28c8e8f4f615aa2cd8631d6ef200c

Buddhism focuses on spiritual development and is absent of worship to any God or deity. The goal of this religion is to reach nirvana by following a similar life path as Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, in his journey towards enlightenment in the 6th century BC. Nirvana is translated as “extinguish and is understood to mean a passing into another kind of existence.  The path to enlightenment is reached through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhism is over 2,500 years old and there are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhism focuses on the idea that nothing is permanent and that everything in life is always changing. Life is endless and always subject to the three states called tilakhana. These states are impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The three states are the sign of our existence which is endless. Buddhists believe that the major form of suffering in life is believing that a good thing can last. Nothing stays in a state of good or bad forever.

tumblr_ljebfrHAkg1qahnmzo1_500The Buddha was Siddhartha Gaurtama, a member of the royal family. Gaurtama lived a rich and privileged life and rarely left his enclosed area. When he did one day he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse and understood the suffering of the world He decided to become a monk and adopted extreme asceticism. After years of understanding that asceticism was not the answer, Gaurtama began following the idea of the “Middle Way”; living a life that is absent of both luxury and poverty. Gaurtama was enlightened and is now known as the Buddha which is translated to the “awakened one.”

The two largest schools of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Although there are a number of different Buddhist schools they all seek englightenment.

Most of the Buddha’s teachings are translated into The Four Noble Truths which are central to Buddhism. These are the truths the Buddha understood on his path to enlightenment through meditation:

  1. Dukkha: the truth is sufferingbuddhism
  2. Samudaya: the truth of the origin
  3. Nirodha: the truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. Magga: the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

Buddhism asks us to understand that suffering is a part of life and that the origin of that suffering is truth. In the third Noble Truth, the Buddha promists a cure for the suffering and the fourth Noble Truth is what fixes truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is a guideline of how to live ethically and free of suffering in pursuit of truth. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path Buddhists achieve a higher level of existence and can reach Nirvana. The eight parts of the Path are not steps that go in order, but instead principles that work together.

  1. right viewtumblr_m4jfup1pDQ1r0kx5qo1_1280
  2. right intention
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration

Another central concept in Buddhism is karma. The idea behind karma is that what we have done in our past lives can affect our current life in either a positive or negative manner. Buddhism usually explains this idea in relation to good and bad seeds. Good seeds lead good fruit while bad seeds yield bad fruit. Karma decides where the person is born in their next life. A life of good karma can lead to being born among the heavenly while bad karma can lead to rebirth as an animal or in hell. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to get out of the rebirth cycle. It is through our own actions that we determine which way we move in our next life. Motives should be based on: compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness and wisdom.

buddhist-temple2

Worship takes place at a Buddhist temple although you do not have to go to the temple to worship. Many Buddhists have a room at their home that is dedicated to worship. Temples are designed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, earth, water and wisdom. Usually worshipers sit barefoot on the floor facing an image of the Buddha.

Meditation is another central aspect of Buddhism. It is a mental and physical course of action that helps a person to separate their thoughts and feelings. Meditation is good therapy for mental and physical health. Meditation is the idea of simply being and not thing.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

– The Buddha

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sikhism: living the good life through service and charity

Sikhs_on_the_move!

Although you may not know much about Sikhs, this religious group was wrongly targeted by many Americans after the September 11th terrorist attack because of their use of turbans. The most recent attack on this group occurred last August when six Sikhs were killed in a Wisconsin shooting.

9ccc7004-c551-450d-8667-3f0e9677b6ca_500

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak in the 15th century in the Punjab region which is now India and Pakistan at a time when Hinduism and Islam were the dominant religions. Early Sikhs were persecuted for their beliefs, but today Sikhism is practiced by 30 million people worldwide and it is the fifth most popular organized religion. Most Sikhs live in India or England, but there are more than 700,000 practicing Sikhs in the United States.

Punjab_map.svgNine other gurus followed Guru Nanak who further shaped Sikhism into what it is today. The fifth guru, Guru Arjan, made Amritsar the capital of the Sikh world and assembled the first Sikh scripture called the Adi Granth. Guru Arjan was seen as a threat by the state and was executed for his beliefs in 1606. The sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, militarized the Sikh followers so that they would be prepared to resist oppression. Sikhs have fought many battles in order to preserve their faith. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, made the military structure more apparent by forming the Khalsa, a military group of men and women in 1699. The purpose of the Khalsa is to defend the faith. Guru Gobind Singh also created Sikh baptism and the 5 Ks which is are the characteristics that make up the Sikh appearance. This was the last guru. The Sikhs now treat their scripture as gurus and now called the scripture Guru Granth Sahib.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that stresses good actions over ritual. They believe that the way to lead a good life is to always keep God in your mind, to live honestly and work hard, to treat everyone as an equal and to be generous and serve the less fortunate. Sikhs believe religion is practiced by living in the world and coping with everyday problems. Sikhs believe in one God who no form or gender. They believe that everyone is equal before God and that everyone has direct access. Sikhism stresses service to others and living a good life. They believe that the three duties in life are to pray, work, and give:

  • Nam japna: always keep God in your mind
  • Kirt Karna: earn an honest living, seek to live in honesty, avoid crime, gambling, begging, and working in the alcohol and tobacco industry
  • Vand Chhakna: give charity and care for others, especially those who have less than you

To live a good life, Sikhs also stress the avoidance of the five vices that make people self-centered:

  • lust
  • greed
  • attachment to material objects
  • anger
  • pride

gurdwara

Sikhs worship in the Gurdwara, which means “residence of the Guru” or “the door that leads to the Guru.” The Gurdwara has four main purposes:

  • a place to learn spiritual wisdom
  • a place for Sikh ceremonies
  • a place where children learn about Sikhism
  • the place that functions as a community center that offers things like food and shelter to the needy in their community

Because Sikhs believe in one God with no physical form there are no statues or idols inside of the Gurdwara. The focal point of the service is the Guru Granth Sahib which is kept in its own room and brought down the main aisle during the procession before the worship. It is placed on a raised platform called the Manji Sahib which means “throne.” The Gurdwara also features four doors: the Door of Peace, the Door of Livelihood, the Door of Learning, and the Door of Grace. These four doors symbolize that all are welcome. Every Gurdwara is also attached to a Langar. The Langar is a kitchen that serves food to the community at no charge. There is a communal meal served at services that consists of vegetarian food. Sikhs are not required to be vegetarian, but these foods symbolize that all are welcome.

Naam-Simran-before-Langar

Before entering the Gurdwara, you must remove your shoes and cover your head. Upon entering you bow to the Guru Granth Sahib and touch your forehead to the floor as a sign of respect and place offerings like money or food in front of the scripture. These offerings are used later for the Langar. If you cannot offer anything, you must offer your thanks for charity. Once inside, everyone sits on the floor to create equal status and men and women sit on opposite sides. Sikhs do not have religious leaders. Every Gurdwara has a Granthi who organizes the daily service, but any Sikh can lead the daily worship. The only requirements are that they must be able to fluently speak Gurmukhi and must know how to properly handle the Guru Granth Sahib.

82758-004-5E1BE45DThe most important day is the Sikh New Year called Vaisakhi. This festival is celebrated on April 13th or 14th and it includes parades, dancing, and singing. Many Sikhs also choose to be baptized on this day.5ks

The Sikh baptism is called Amrit Sanskar. There is no age limit on baptism, but the person must be old enough to fully understand the commitment they are making. The ceremony takes place in the Gurdwara in front of five baptized Sikhs. Those being baptized must drink amrit which is a mixture of sugar and water. Everyone drinks from the same bowl and some is splashed on the eyes and hair. Everyone must recite the Mool Mantra which explains the fundamentals of Sikhism. The ceremony ends when the candidates eat karah parshad, a sweet tasting food made of semolia, sugar, and ghee. Once baptized, the Sikh takes on the 5 Ks as a symbol of their baptism and faith:

  • Kesh: uncut hair (regarded as s symbol of holiness and strength, shows adoption of the simple life and rejects pride in one’s appearance
  • Kara: a steel bracelet (a symbol of god having no beginning or end, a symbol that all Sikhs are linked to the Guru)
  • Kanga: a wooden comb (symbolizes a clean mind and body, helps to maintain the body which God has created
  • Kaccha: cotton underwear (a symbol of chastity)
  • Kirpan: steel sword (kept in a sheath and can be worn under clothing, symbolizes defense of the goof and week, the their struggle to maintain their beliefs and religion)

Another celebration is the Sikh marriage called the Anand Karaj. Both people entering the marriage must be of Sikh faith. The marriage takes place in the morning and any Sikh can perform the marriage. Sikhs practice monogamy, believe widows and widowers can remarry, and view the husband and wife as equals within the marriage. An example of a Sikh marriage:

Sikhs believe in a life cycle: birth, life, and rebirth. Other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism share this similar belief. Sikhs believe that your food deeds on earth determine your next life. This concept is called Karma. Karma decides your next life based on how well or how poorly you acted in your previous life.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,