Tag Archives: meditation

Baha’i: unity for the greater good of humanity

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Bahá’i one of the world’s youngest religions. There are 6 million Bahá’is in the world spread over 235 countries. The faith was born out of the Shi’ite branch of the Muslim faith.

bahafaceIt was founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 1863. Bahá’u’lláh is translated to the glory of God in Arabic. He was born in Mirza Husayn Ali, Iran in 1817 and he claims he is a messenger of God. His message to the people was that a final messenger of God would soon arrive and that this messenger would be the last in the line of God’s prophets.

Bahá’í religion believes that God intervenes in human life in order to communicate with his messengers. He is known to his people through the prophets. Bahá’is believe that there is only one God and that he is the same God of every religion only with a different name. God is perfect, all-knowing, and too complex for humans to understand.

Bahá’i includes some interesting teachings. Bahá’is believe that all souls live forever and that we are all form the same race. They believe that on day we will all be united. Although we are all different, Bahá’is believe that we are all equal. Bahá’ís believe that the final stage of evolution for humans is to recognize that we are one.

At the time of this religion, Iran was mainly Muslim. Bahá’í is open to all religions nineReligioussymbolsand believes that all religions have valid origins. All religion has the same foundation. They believe that God’s prophets bring humanity God’s message as fully as possible. They call these people the Manifestations of God. These people include:

  • Adam
  • Abraham
  • Moses
  • Krishna
  • Zoroaster
  • Buddha
  • Jesus Christ
  • Muhammad
  • The Báb
  • Bahá’u’ll’áh

Bahá’ís believe that all human souls are infinite. They believe that the soul does not live in the body. There is a connection between body and soul that cannot be explained in words and this connection begins at conception. Bahá’ís practice fasting for the soul. The practice of self-restraint brings them closer to God. Bahá’u’lláh created a 19-day period of fasting that happens before the Bahá’i New Year. Those who are elderly, very young or pregnant do not need to participate in the fasting.

A central idea that lies behind the religion is unity. Bahá’is believe that all people should work together for the greater good and benefit of others.

Pray

Prayer is very important to the Bahá’í life. They believe that prayer is a conversation with God and the inner spirit. They believe prayers should be short and happy. The aim of prayer is to become closer with God. Bahá’ís believe that that prayers should be said three times a day, in the morning, at noon and at night. Bahá’í also stresses the need for meditation. Bahá’ís should meditate at least once a day to think about life and about their actions for that day. They believe meditation can lead to deeper knowledge and spirituality. Bahá’ís believe that service to others if a form of worship. There are no rituals in Bahá’í. In fact, they believe that ritual leads to meaningless service.

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Marriage is viewed as a a marriage of both body and spirit. Arranged marriages are not allowed in the Bahá’í faith. Marriage must happen between two people who have spent time getting to know each other. Although divorce is not banned, they are strongly against it. The Bahá’í community is very child-centered. The parents and the community are both involved in the up bringing of children. Bahá’ís believe that the most important task in life is to have children and raise them. Bahá’ís give their children a sense of self-worth. Children are involved in all parts of family life, including family decision making. Bahá’ís are not allowed to discipline children physically or hurt them verbally.

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Anyone can become Bahá’í so long as they believe in Bahá’u’lláh and his teachings. Converts do not need to convert. They must only accept that their previous faith need reformation.

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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!

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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.

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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

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Taoism: the art of doing through non-action

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If you think you know don’t know anything about Taoism, think again. Ever heard of Tai Chi, the Yin Yang and Feng Shui; these are all elements of an ancient Chinese tradition that is rooted in philosophy and religion, dating back more than 2,000 years. In other words, Taoism, which sometimes appears in America as Daoism, is both a philosophy and a practice. It surrounds around the idea of living harmoniously with the “Tao.”

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People often have difficulty with the idea of the Tao because it is not something that can be described in words. The Tao is not a thing that can be perceived, but it exists in all things of the world. “Tao” simply means “the way.” In Taoism, The Tao is both the source and the driving force behind everything that exists, however the Tao is not a God is not worshiped. All things are unified and connected in the Tao. The Tao gives rise to all beings, but does not have a being. It guides all things on their way.

In summary, the Tao encompasses several concepts. The Tao is:

  • the source of creation
  • the ultimate
  • the inexpressible and indefinable
  • the unnameable
  • the natural universe as a whole
  • the way of nature as a whole

imagesA passage from the Tao Te Ching helps to describe the idea of the Tao:

“The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth;
The Named is the mother of all things.
……
There was something undifferentiated and yet complete,
Which existed before Heaven and Earth.
Soundless and formless it depends on nothing and does not change.
It operates everywhere and is free from danger.
It may be considered the mother of the universe.
I do not know its name; I call it Tao.
……
All things in the world come from being.
And being comes from non-being (form comes from formlessness).”

Tao Te Ching

This passage comes from most important text, the Tao Te Ching, which is filled with the teachings of Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher who is regarded by many as the founder of Taoism (although Taoism does not officially have a founder or a founding date). The true identity of Lao Tzu is unknown. Some historians say he lived during the 6th century BCE, while others argue that Lao Tzu is one name for multiple historical figures. The texts Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi create the foundation of Taoism.

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Taoism became first recognized as a religious system during the 4th and 3rd century BCE. It was the semi-official Chinese religion during the Tang dynasty. The popularity of Taoism declined during the Song dynasty due to the rise of Confucianism which became the official religion during that time. Taoism took another hit after the communism came to China. Taoists were banned and re-educated which caused the number of Taoists in China to be cut by 99% in ten years.

One major concept of Taoism is Wu Wei – the idea non-action, living instead with the true nature of the world. Wu Wei is sometimes confused with giving up or laziness, but the idea promotes letting life take its natural course.

Another major concept of Taoism is Yin Yang – the idea that natural, complementary forces are dependent on each other and work together to form harmony. Some examples of this idea are masculinity and feminism, dark and light, and action and inaction. Although these things are opposites, they work together.

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Taoism stresses the idea of becoming a good person who lives in harmony with the Tao, and therefore, in harmony with all things and people. Every decision a Taoist makes should be in accordance with the Tao and attempting to decide what will for best with the natural order of the world.

Taoist works in accordance with the moral behaviors of other religions. It disapproves of killing, stealing, lying and promiscuity. It promotes purity of body and spirit. To achieve purity Taoists partake in certain activities and follow a diet. Taoists often use meditation and breathing techniques as a way to create mental stillness and mindfulness to allow the person to better follow the Tao. A Taoist diet also abstains from alcohol, meat, beans and grains.

The end of life for a Taoist brings about the idea of immortality, but not in the sense of a physical body. Death is the final step in achieving unity with the universe because when Taoists die, they believe they become part of the Tao.

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