Tag Archives: prayer

Shintoism: praying for helping hand from the spirits

mulanpraysIt’s largely debated that Disney princess Mulan was Shinto, a spiritual religion centered on communication with helpful spirits. While Mulan is Chinese, many aspects in the movie point to Shintoism. The movie even depicts the family’s personal shrine where she goes to pray to them for safety before she joins the war.

Shinto is an ethnic and spiritually bound Japanese religion that emphasizes the communication between living humans and spirits. The religion centers on the connection between present day Japan and ancient Japan. The name Shinto is derived from the Chinese characters for Shen meaning the divine being and Tao which means the way of the spirits. Ritual is central to the Shinto religion and visiting shrines is popular amongpriests-meiji-cc-chrisjfry followers especially around the Japanese New Year. There is no founder of the religion and there are no Gods to be worshiped. There is also no central text, although Shintoism does teach a set of ethical principles for worshipers. Shintoism is also very much a local religion. There is not much missionary work and the religion revolves around the idea of local worship. Followers might even have small shrines in their homes. Shinto has been viewed as a Japanese faith that has influenced culture for more than 2000 years.

Shintos call the spiritual beings they connect with kami. The work kami can be translated to “spirits” in English, but it is important to note that the Japanese version of the world also incorporates the spirits of landscapes, elements and nature. Shintos believe that kami are spirits that have passed on who are still interested in human beings and communicating with us. Kamis are not Gods, but they can be prayed to and should be treated with respect. Shintos believe that if kamis are 711308701_origproperly respected they can help us and bring us good benefits like A’s on final exams. Kamis have the ability to influence nature and human lives in order to bring us happiness.

There is no concept of sin in Shintoism and it is believed that all humans are basically good. Most followers of Shintoism are devoted to the emphasis of goodness in a man’s life.

One important aspect of Shintoism is purity. Shintos believe that all humans are born pure and that humans collect “badness” over time. The human can get rid of the impurity in their life through purifying rituals. The most common purifying agents are water and salt. The purification takes place at the beginning of the ceremony when the hands and face are washed. The priest then uses a haraigushi, a ‘purification’ want over the person completing the purification.  Many Shintos perform these purification in large groups, especially at the beginning of a new year.

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The Shinto shrine called a jinja is a sacred place where the kami live. Every town has its own kami and a shrine dedicated to it. There is always a Shinto shrine in town for public worship, but many Shintosshinto also have private shrines. Shrines do not have to be buildings, they can be anywhere, but they must be special to each kami. There is no obligation to visit the shrine. Shintos visit the shrines during festivals and whenever they feel that they should. Often they visit shrines during time of need to ask the kamis for assistance.

Shinto weddings do exist, however, they are very unpopular with only 20 percent of Shintos participating. The standard Shinto wedding is small, involving family and close friends. The bride wears a white kimono and a white scarf to symbolize purity. The wedding begins with a purification followed by prayers to the kami for the couple. The couple takes three sips from three different cups and read their commitments to each other.shinto_wedding_meiji_jingu_4093

The Shinto concept of baptism is called Hatsumiyamairi. The newborn is taken to the shrine by the grandmother and prayers are recited.

In Shintoism, death is seen as impure. Shinto funerals do not usually occur. The dead are handled by the laypeople who bury the body in a cemetery. Shrines and cemeteries will never be found near each other in Japan.

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Zoroastrianism: disappearing religion of Persian empire

Zoroastrianism, once the official religion of the Persian empire, is now one of the smallest religions in the world. The New York Times reported in 2006 that there were less than 190,000 Zoroastrians worldwide. Zoroastrianism is one of the monotheistic religions and has existed for more than 3,500 years. The religion was one of the most powerful religions for over 1,000 years. The central ideas of Zoroastrianism are summed up as “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds”

Zoroastrians believe in one God who they call Ahura Mazda which translated to the Wise Lord. They believe that he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, impossible for humans to conceive, unchanging, the creator of life and the source of all goodness. They believe that he created the world. Zoroastrians believe that God’s truth was revealed through Zoroaster.

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Zoroastrianism was founded by the Prophet Zoroaster in Iran during a time when most religions had multiple gods. Zoroaster was considered a family man. He was married and had three sons and three daughters. Zoroaster had a vision at tumblr_lsu0mdDVQu1qlziglo1_400age 30 while he performed a bathing ritual for pagan purification. He saw a shining being on the shore made of light. It was revealed to him as Vohu Manah which means the Good Mind. The vision transformed Zoroasters life and faith. He spent the rest of his life trying to teach others his new views.

The holy book is called the Avesta. This book contains the Gathas, which are 17 hymns that are thought to be written by Zoroaster. It also contains The Younger Avesta which is a book of commentaries on older writings that contains myths and stories.

The religion focuses on the idea of dualism. They believe in the existence and complete separation of good and evil. There are two types. Cosmic dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the universe while moral dualism focuses on the opposing forces in the mind. The cosmic dualism is a battle between good (Ahura Mazda) and evil (Angra Mainyu) in the zoroastrianism-was-the-religion-during-most-of-the-persian-empireuniverse. Examples of this are life and death, and day and night. One cannot exist without the other. Moral dualism is the battle between good and evil within man. Zoroastrians believe that humans all have free will and that we make choices to either follow evil (druj) or good (asha). Following druj will lead to a life of misery and condemn you to Hell while a life of asha leads to happiness and Heaven. Through every choice evil can be eliminated. Although these opposing forces exist, Zoroastrianism believes that humans are ultimately good and that good always wins over evil.

Fire is important to Zoroastrianism because they believe in the elements and that fire represents God’s light and wisdom

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Zoroastrian worship takes place in a Fire Temple called Agiary. They pray several times a day. Most Zoroastrians go through a purification process of washing the hands before prayer. Zoroastrians should pray while facing the sun because it is symbolic of divine light.

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When Zoroastrians turn seven they have a Navjote, or an initiation ceremony. During the initiation children receive a shirt, called a sudreh, and a cord, called a kusti. By this time children should already know the daily prayers and should engage in the ceremony rituals.

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Zoroastrian weddings have two stages. The two stages are the signing of the marriage contract and a service of feast and celebration that lasts between three and seven days. Both the bride and the groom dress in white to show purity.

Zoroastrians are world known for their ritual DSC_5002of “laying out the dead.” They believe that once someone stops breathing the body becomes impure because death is a work of evil. They do not believe in contaminating the world with dead bodies. Instead, Zoroastrians lay out the body in a tower called dokhma, which is translated as “Tower of Silence.” The bodies are then exposed to the sun and eaten by birds.

 

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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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