Tag Archives: soul

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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Spiritualism: physical beings connecting with the ever-present soul

You’ve seen them on the boardwalk and you’ve seen them on TV shows like “Long Island Medium,” but is there any truth in those who practice Spiritualism?

Possibly one of the most recognized Spiritualists is the star of Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo. She claims that spirits began coming to her when she was just four years old. For many years, Caputo says she struggled with anxiety until she became a student of Pat Longo, a spiritual healer/ teacher who taught her about her ability to communicate with spirits. Since that time, Caputo has gone on to build a career out of her unique abilities and now tours the United States providing people with spiritual readings. When she is not touring she lives with her family in Long Island.

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Spiritualism is a modernist movement that grew out of Hydesville, NY in 1848. Spiritualism centers on communication with the spirits of the dead. In the 19th century séances were performed to connect with these people. Today, we communicate with spirits through people who have a special skill set called mediums, like Theresa Caputo.

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There are three ways the mediums can receive messages. Clairvoyance which is seeing spirits. Clairaudience which is hearing spirits, and clairsentience which is sensing spirits in some other way.

Spiritualism does not have a sacred text. Although all Spiritualists have a variety of beliefs most believe in the following key ideas:Psychic-Reading-Mediumship-Readings-Perth-Wa

  • the spirit can communicate with the living
  • every human soul survives death of body and enters the spirit world
  • souls can communicate with the living through a medium
  • souls are interested in the material world
  • souls are aware and interested in the lives they have left behind
  • after death a soul can keep learning and improving itself

Specifically, the United States’ National Association of Spiritualist Churches has nine core principles:

  • belief in infinite intelligence
  • belief that nature is a physical and spiritual expression of infinite intelligence
  • a correct understanding of the expression of infinite intelligence and living in accordance with that expression constitutes true religion
  • communication with spirits is a fact
  • the highest morality is contained in the Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you do ye also unto them.”
  • every individual has moral responsibility and is responsible for their own happiness
  • reformation of the soul never stops
  • belief in the prophecy and healing contained in all sacred texts

The number of practicing Spiritualists is unknown, but the BBC reports that Spiritualism is the eight largest religion in the UK.

spiritualism-grangerThere are Spiritualist churches where Spiritualism is practiced. There is a service held every Sunday that usually consists of prayers, hymns, and a reading or talk from a medium who connects the physical world to the spiritual world.

Naturally, the validity of this practice is controversial and there are many skeptics of Spiritualism. Although many may not consider Spiritualism a religion, Spiritualism has “rituals, doctrinal components, belief in a transcendent realm and an experiential dimension,” according to the BBC. Spiritualists have two main churches, one in the United Kingdom called the Spiritualists’ National Union and in the United States called the National Association of Spiritualist Churches.

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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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Jains: achieving liberation through harmlessness

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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

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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.

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

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