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Archive for the ‘Eastern Faiths’ Category

Pilgrimage Statistics

Cumulative Days Riding:  171                       Cumulative Days Blogging: 156

Today’s Mileage: 5                                                    Total Trip Mileage: 1139

National Day of Prayer in United States: National Day of Prayer is held on the first Thursday of May each year, inviting Americans of all faiths to pray for the country and its leaders.

Is that a sacred scripture or a weapon?

Greetings fellow pilgrims!  I am reminded today why one of my favorite statements about technology and electronics is” “just when you think it is your friend it turns on you!”  I rode the bike this afternoon and dictated my posting concerning today as the National Day of Prayer.  Then when I sat down to transcribe it I found that the tape was blank!  For some reason it did not record so I will have to try and recreate it from memory.  Here goes…

I hope that everyone has taken a moment during the day to offer a prayer in whatever way is appropriate according to your belief system.  I feel the need to add this qualifier (“in whatever way”) because sadly the events of the day have been marred by controversy.  I say sadly because our community, nation and world can use all the help we can muster to set aside our differences and come together to face our growing shared problems (terrorism, global climate change, dwindling resources, conflict and war).  However, even something as promising as a call for all people to turn toward the divine for help and guidance has become a derisive issue.

Two issues seem to provide fuel for this controversy.  One centers on the issue of whether it is appropriate to have an “official” day of prayer; the second is a question of what constitutes an appropriate prayer.

Private Prayer... Freedom of Expression

A recent court decision, which is being appealed, sided with the argument of those individuals who believe it is inappropriate to have an officially sanctioned day of prayer as this represents the government sanctioning religion in general. Whether this religion is practiced by a majority of the people does not matter as the backers of this legal challenge believe it breaches the separation of church and state.  These individuals will often point out that existing laws that are written in inclusionary manners are often ignored or actively flaunted by elected officials who use their proclamations of faith for political gain.

Not just for Christians!

Personally, I do not see a problem with the government sanctioning a day of prayer as long as there is no official prayer and individuals of differing faiths or no faith at all are not subjected to exclusionary prayers.  An exclusionary prayer is one that proclaims or insinuates that there is only one valid path, valid name, valid experience associated with the divine.  Such prayers may outright condemn as false or heretical any and all other paths and names for the divine or divine experiences.

Recently at a local county council meeting atheists, secular humanists, and two groups of Buddhist were made (they were given no warning and/or before the fact choice) to sit through an “in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior” opening prayer that specifically targeted with condemnation abortion providers and gays.  The council member who delivered the meetings opening prayer offered no apology when a person in attendance complained. How do you think the Buddhists in attendance (community members, taxpaying citizens, who were there to request the county’s recognition of Buddha’s birthday) felt?  Were they made to feel uncomfortable and excluded simply because a “devout Christian” did not want to miss an opportunity to preach his message, which happened to be one of hate and exclusion in this case.

 Just this last week I sat through a graduation ceremony for a local state supported university.  While most of the individuals in attendance were likely Christians, the opening and closing invocations, which were given by a member of the school’s board of trustees, ended with proclamations about Jesus Christ.  In addition, the US Senator who was the commencement speaker also worked into his talk mention of Jesus Christ. Curiously, he finished his talk by sending off the graduates into the world with the advice to “make lots of money!”  No call to rise up and transcend our needs and desires for the greater good of the people and nation.  No challenge to aim for Mars, cure cancer, help clean up politics, just a call to produce and consume!

 I am living in the Bible Belt so I recognize the importance of faith and religion in people’s lives. It is an important part of my personal life.   However, it is troubling and unsettling to see individuals who represent all of the people of the county, state, country (elected officials and University board of trustee members) act as if there is no valid diversity of beliefs and faiths.  It seems to me the least they can do is to use a pluralistic inclusionary invocation at public meetings. If someone in attendance wants to mutter the name Jesus Christ under their breath while their neighbor mutters Buddha or Goddess, or just takes a deep breath and relaxes, how does this deny anyone their “right” to their faith?  Does it matter at all that I have the right to sit in a public meeting (this is not a church service or revival) without having to hear someone “proclaiming their faith” in ways that insinuate that I, my children and my fellow church members are somehow misguided, wrong and “going to hell.”  Again, I am not attending their church or revival, I am not speaking about the ten commandment signs they place in their yards, I am speaking about a tax payer funded meeting, conducting “official business” where I have to just sit and bite my tongue, I guess because I am in the minority! 

It is my understanding that the reason we have a constitution is to protect the minorities, as the majority can vote in the leaders who write the laws.  Therefore the courts and the constitution are there to protect the non-dominant races, faiths, sexual orientations, ethnic groups, and political groups.

Back in the Fall I blogged about the importance of great teachers, most being guided by profound deep faith in the divine.  I included Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Billy Graham.  Rev. Graham’s son Franklin Graham has placed himself in the center of the ongoing controversy about today’s day of prayer.  It seems that he was invited to speak at the Pentagon but this invitation was later withdrawn because of some very negative things he said in an interview about the Islamic faith.

While Franklin certainly has every right to free speech he needs to recognize, as I have taught my sons, that the things we say have consequences.  You can’t go saying negative things about a major religious tradition which will be part of an ecumenical Day of Prayer, with the purpose to “bring together” the community, and expect to be welcomed.  To add insult to injury he now claims that this is all part of some systematic affront toward white Evangelical Christians by President Obama.

In a Tuesday USA Today interview he was reported to have said: “Muslims do not worship the same ‘God the Father’ I worship.”  He also took a swipe at Hinduism, saying, “No elephant with 100 arms can do anything for me.  None of their 9,000 gods is going to lead me to salvation.  We are fooling ourselves if we think we can have some big kumbaya service and all hold hands and it’s all going to get better in this world.  It’s not going to get better.” 

Hindu Deity Ganesha

Is it any wonder why the organizers of the Pentagon service uninvited Franklin Graham?  He proclaims to know what Muslins believe and then displays his lack of knowledge about the Hindu deities (Genesha has an elephant head but only four arms; Vishnu is often pictured with multiple sets of arms).  Again I have no problem with Franklin Graham offering whatever form of Christian prayer he chooses at private gatherings or public religious gatherings, but not at officially government sanctioned event that are undertaken to bring together our diverse communities of faith.

One final point; as I stood in the locker room at my gym this morning Franklin came onto CNN, which was playing on the locker room TV and made a timid statement that he can only be expected to pray in the way he was taught to pray and in the way he believes.  He may believe this to be the truth, but if we accept this reasoning and logic then a lot of people who had in the past to change, adapt and adjust might have been “off the hook.”  If a racist Southern sheriff could have just said “that was the way I was raised” as an argument for why he should not be expected to follow the new civil rights laws, or people opposed to women’s new found right to vote refusing to give them a ballot because they still believe in “the old way.”  There are many loving, devout Evangelical Christians who can sit in a meeting and hear a non-denominational prayer without feeling that their faith has be slighted. They might even listen to a prayer by a Hindu or Muslim and see the similarity in all forms of prayer.  If Franklin Graham wants to limit himself to exclusive Christian prayers then I suggest he stick with his church and his revivals.  If he wants to be accepted into the larger faith community than I suggest he learn how to speak to the heart of all faith and religions, free of any denominational or specific faith trappings.

Hindu Deity Vishnu

Just a quick aside, when I served as the Chaplin for my son’s Boy Scout troop I often lead prayers that called on the boys to look within themselves and toward the divine for strength and answers.  It was not a Taoist prayer, or a Unitarian Universalist prayer, it was an inclusive upbeat non-denominational prayer.  I did it! I challenge Rev. Franklin Graham to do the same!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 145                                      Days Blogged: 129 

New Mileage: 4                                                   Total Trip Mileage: 1010

Helen Wilmans

As I ride the bike this evening I ponder the sense of enjoyment and discovery that comes about even on a virtual bike journey.  In exploring the significance of the SeaBreeze church in Daytona Beach I came across the history of the town which mentioned Helen Post, her “School of Mental Science” and paper entitled “Freedom.”  As I explored the significance of Mrs. Post I uncovered a story of a strong willed self-made women embedded in the spirituality of the late 1800s who apparently became a victim of political intrigue.

First let us review the spiritual landscape in the United States in the late 1880s. The US represented a melting pots of spiritual and philosophical ideas, some new, some old repackaged ideas, and some foreign.  At this time a number of spiritual “movements” were under way that including: the Mind-cure movement; health mysticism; and Mental Science.  By the early 1900s these had come together to form what was termed the “New Thought” Movement.  Many authors trace the beginnings of this movement to Phineas Quimby, a rural doctor who lived in northern Maine in the early 1800s.  He explored the ideas and methods of mesmerism (e.g., later to be called hypnotism) and develop a theory about the relationship of the mind to both physical and mental problems.  He was rumored to have the ability to cure a wide range of physical problems and influenced a number of his patients to follow in his footsteps carrying the ideas of his “healing ministry” to other parts of the country.

The New Thought movement consisted of a loosely allied group of religious denominations, secular organizations, authors, philosophers and lay individuals who share: “a set of metaphysical beliefs concerning the effects of positive thinking, the law of attraction (that our thoughts are made manifest in the material realm), healing, life force, creative visualization and personal power.”  In general, they interpreted “God” as a supreme, universal, everlasting, divinity that dwells in each person.  That all human beings are divine and that loving, teaching and healing each other was the highest spiritual principle.

William James, one of the first American Psychologists noted that the primary sources of this movement’s ideas included: the Christian Gospels; Emerson’s transcendental movement; Spiritualisms law of attraction; optimism about science and evolution; Hinduism’s beliefs in a Universal Godhead; America’s Freedom of Religion; and American materialism.  With the growing literacy of the population after the Civil War and the rise of feminist sentiments more people, especially women, turned to self-help book and religions that included female ministers, like Christian Scientists, for guidance.

Unity Church

Into this mixture entered Helen Wilmans, a poor downtrodden farm wife who after twenty years left her husband and move to San Francisco to fulfill her dream of becoming a “literary women.”  Working in a local paper she developed her journalistic skills and steadily raised her standard of living.  She wrote her life story in a book titled “The Conquest of Poverty” and then began a very successful paper called The Women’s World.  During this time she became deeply involved in the mental science movement with its message of positive thinking and self-help, she also began a “healing” ministry, with testimonials of cures for a wide range of aliments.  She married Col. C.C. Post and had attained a wealthy status.  At this point she and her husband moved to the small settlement of Sea Breeze on the east coast of Florida.  She had envisioned the creation of a settlement named “City Beautiful” where everyone would plant flowers and create an idyllic and serene environment.  She started a School of Mental Science and a monthly magazine entitled Freedom.  The success of her endeavor grew and when she decided to start her City Beautiful six miles up the beach from Sea Breeze the Postal Office moved to better serve the needs of her magazine.

This is where the intrigue began, because a powerful and revengeful backer of settlement of Sea Breeze took offense at the removal of the Post office.  He blamed Helen for this turn of events.  He was reportedly a close personal friend of the powerful Senator Goodall of Maine.  Quickly a new post office opened in Sea Breeze named after the powerful senator. This politically connected individual was then elected mayor of Sea Breeze.  A short time later, without any warning, a post office fraud order was place on Helen to cease all of her business dealings.  This was reportedly done with no public hearing or warning.  She was accused of advertising in her publications for “cure by absent treatment” which was deemed to be a fraudulent and impossible cure by the judge overseeing the case.  Helen and her husband exhausted their financial resources fighting the accusation and although it was reported that the US Supreme Court eventually reversed the decision against her, she was left impoverished, her business ruined and her spirit broken.  Shortly after this her husband died and she followed him within a year.

While her books were, and still are today, available her influence in the New Thought movement faded with her passing.  The movement itself eventually resulted in the establishment of the Christian Scientist denomination, the Unity Church of Practical Christianity and the Religious Science. With the coming of the Great Depression and World War II the New thought movement faded into the background of the American spiritual and religious landscape.  However, many of its main tenets found new life in the last thirty years within the “self-help” movement, positive thinking movement, New Age Spirituality, the explosion of Eastern religion thought systems (e.g., Zen, Taoism, Buddhism), and even within a number of recent forms of psychotherapy (e.g., RET, TA, Gestalt).

I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into our countries spiritual history and the sad story of a jealous business man who used political connections to destroy a spiritual pilgrim.  Tomorrow we continue our trip up the Florida coast toward St. Augustine.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 142                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 126

Today’s Mileage: 0                                          Total Trip Mileage: 996

Leaving prayers at the center!

Greetings everyone!  I am writing today’s blog from atop Little Scaly Mountain near Highlands North Carolina.  I am acting as a chaperone for a group of church teens who are attending a Youth Conference at the Mountain Retreat and Learning Center.

I had intended to blog on a Pilgrimage site in Daytona Beach yesterday, but sometimes life’s demands conspire against us.  Meetings and preparation for this trip occupied my day and my chaperone duties occupied the entire evening.  In addition, there is something about cold fresh mountain air that draws me into a state of deep sleep.

 Mountain Dining Hall Banner: “To embrace the diversity of life, creating an environment to energize people to work for positive change.”

“The Mountain” as we Unitarian Universalists of the South Eastern US call our church affiliated retreat center is literally housed on the top of a mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountain range.  From the fire tower at night you can see lights from South Carolina and Georgia

Mountain Dining Hall Plaque: “We drink from wells we did not dig.  We are warmed by fires we did not build.”

I just left the “morning gathering” where the 100+ High School aged teens sang songs and prepared for a series of workshops that will occupy much of their day.  I retreated to the “library” where the energy and noise levels are more conducive to my writing today’s blog.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Energizing for Generations to come”

Meditation Rock!

I am one of those people where the solitude and serenity of nature is a powerful influence on my spirituality.  Nothing relaxes and inspires me like a walk through nature.  The Mountain has been a special place of spiritual renewal for me since I first discovered it, on a church retreat, some sixteen years ago.  I have acted as my church’s ambassador to the Mountain, given workshop and presentations for group retreats, accompanied church youth here for conferences, and most often just “dropped in” and stayed to hike, meditated, relax and create. The center is open to individual and groups of any faith or secular group.  The mountain embraces diversity and promotes positive and just social change.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Living Simply and Sustainably”

The Mountain has been a place I have come to: let go of painful relationships, write poetry, find inspirational images for my artwork, sort out my life goals, relax while visiting various waterfalls, walking the surrounding mountains and the labyrinth and reconnecting with nature.  One of my favorite stories was the time I visited during the winter.  I arrived and the staff announced that they were all going away for three day.  They left food in the Dining Hall fridge for me to eat.  I spent two days and three nights alone on the mountain top.  The serenity and sense of solitude, especially at night, as the wind blew and ice crystals danced in the noon light was profound.  I ended up discovering that I was not entirely alone, as I found rabbit tracks in the fresh snow!

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Embracing Diversity”

The Labyrinth at the base of the mountain contains an alter stone at its center where people leave offerings and mementos.  Among the items are two stones, one bears a painted yin-yang symbol the other the sacred Hindu symbol “Om.”  On the bottom of each stone is the name of my sons. I have carried them with me in my thoughts and prayers as I walked this sacred path.  I left each stone there that they might draw strength and serenity from these sacred mountains.

Mountain Dining Hall Flag: “Being Just”

Before I leave today’s blog, it is nearing lunch time and I must rejoin my teens, I wanted to share with you a piece from the book: “Everyday Tao” by Deng Ming-Dao.  He writes about the mountains by saying:  “The ancient teachers took their students to the mountains, so that they could find inspiration in the high, sweeping vistas.  Each of them could take pleasure in the fresh air scented with pine and herbs.  None of them could fail to clear the mind of the toil and considerations of daily life.  From ancient times to the present, the mountains have been the best places to learn about Tao.  In the isolation of the mountains, with the voices of the throng stilled, the whispers of Tao could finally be heard.  This is what the ancients called the mountain spirit.”

Sunrise from the Fire Tower!

I am breathing in and relishing that mountain spirit.  I feel its presence refreshing and recharging my own spirit.  But it is now time that return to “the throng” with its infectious teen energy and youthful joy.  It is all part of the yin-yang dance of life!  Have a wonderful day!  I will return to our virtual journey and Daytona Beach tomorrow.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 141                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 123

Today’s Mileage: 5                                          Total Trip Mileage: 991

As I ride the bike and write today’s blog it’s snowing outside, large white flakes are slowly drifting to the ground.  It paints a beautiful scene, although it is not yet “sticking” it is melting on contact with the ground.

Yesterday I took a walk along a local river, studying the rocks and shoreline clutter.  I shared with you several “poems” I wrote on the walk.  My partner Susan commented on the fact that my words did not meet the classification of poetry as they do not rhyme.  I noted that I sometimes call these pieces my “musings.” It is not in my nature to spend time trying to label or classify my creative efforts.  The important thing to me is the process of being aware, perceptive and receptive to my surroundings.  I attempt to capture these perceptions in words and images as a form of celebration and as a way of leaving “bread crumbs” along the path, perhaps enticing others to follow and explore on their own.

The Spirit Tree!

The snow continues to fall outside my window.  This leads me to ponder the spiritual significance of snow.  I know personally I’ve always found it to have a very calming and tranquil effect on me.  I suspect it’s because the snow covers everything, leaving the landscape smooth and pristine.  In addition, the damping effects of snow seems to not only soften life’s sharp edges, but also it quiets and settles the mind.  Several weeks ago we had a five inch snowfall.  Looking outside, everything had a “Wonderland” appearance.  It covered all the flat surfaces and left faint raised impressions of anything buried beneath it.  Often the identity of the object was a mystery, like looking at a blanket and seeing the “lumps” indicating the present of some mystery object.  Of course, the snow may not produce such a positive and peaceful feeling if you know you are going to have to shovel it!

Water hose under the blanket.

I did an internet search on the “spiritual significance of snow.”  I come up with fewer hits than I had expected.  Many of the references were for people named Snow or the significance of the fairy tale Snow White.  I did find several sites speaking of the meaning of snow from a Jewish perspective. The Rabbi Simon Jacobson noted that water was a symbol of divine knowledge, it’s “falling’ represents the   transmission from the Divine.  He noted that rain represented the “continual flow” from the Divine, which carries the risk of overwhelming the recipients.  Ice, however, as a compact and solid form of water, freezes the “flow” and makes the Divine wisdom easier for humans to comprehend.  Snow, he noted, is in an intermediate transitional state which allows the flow of information to descend so that it will not be overwhelming.  He also noted that snow is special because it contains both water and a “nucleus particle” of Earth that acts as a seed for the ice crystal.  Therefore, snow represents a combination of water and earth; it is half heaven and half earth!

An inviting scene!

 Several internet sites spoke of the Christian perspective on snow.  They noted that the whiteness and freshness of snow symbolizes purity and freedom from sin, and that after repenting for their sins, a person is described as being “white as snow.”  Snow is often associated with heavenly beings who are usually wearing white robes.  It was pointed out that the snowflake with its individual uniqueness is often used as an object lesson for children of the unique nature of each human being who has been created by God.  One author did note that in ancient times being “white as snow” could have dangerous and frightening connotations associated with leprosy.

I reviewed a book entitled: “Everyday Tao,” by Deng Ming-Dao.  His book of Taoist wisdom noted that:  “Water is powerful.  Although it can be soothing, comforting, and cleansing, it can also be enormous, mighty, and overpowering.  Its nature is constant. It is true to itself in any extreme.”  The author also discussed the importance of the color white:  “White is the symbol for purity.  In ceremonies, it is the color of spirituality. Since the ancients taught that we are already pure, they laugh at teachers who advocated penitence and self mortification as spiritual methods.  They said: we are already holy.  Why struggle to become something we already are?”

Buddha wearing winter's finest.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 140                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 122

Today’s Mileage: 8                                          Total Trip Mileage: 986

Product of a Process!

Today was the first day of my Spring Break.  As I drove back from the University I found myself taking an exit that lead, not back to my house, but to a small park along a local river.  I have walked along this river in the past, found inspiration in the river scenes and the sounds of water.  As I walked I was visited by the following words:

Convoluted Stone

It looks like

  Dirty gray blue clay

    Ripples and waves

      Frozen on its surface

        It stands as a testament

         To water and time

This Taoist stone

Shaped by a millennium

  Of flood waters

    The falls upriver

      Works on its siblings

        As a half dozen geese

          Silently flow past

This natural monument

 

In Taoist artwork a common and powerful image is the convoluted stone, full of holes and hollows eroded by water, whose shape never repeats itself.  Its reference always is to the truth of Tao as a reality whose essence is a never ceasing, perpetual, seamless process.

 

Offerings

I travelled to the river

    With nothing

        To offer the ducks

But someone

    Has left bread crusts

        Scattered about the shore

The ducks gave me

    Their verbal blessing

        As I made my offering

I believe the ducks

    Receive offerings like God

        It’s the process that counts  

 

 Mollusks

Delicate

 Symmetrical

  Pearly white

   Pairs

    Joined at the apex

Have tiny fairies

 Dropped their wings

  To swim

   In the swirling pool?

No

It’s the handiwork

 Of raccoons

  Remains of their

   Late night snack

    At some junior clams

     Expense

 

I hope you enjoyed these poetic offerings, as the geese enjoyed the bread and I’m assuming the raccoons enjoyed their snack.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Days Riding: 139                            Consecutive Days Blogging: 121

Today’s Mileage: 10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 978

Sacred Colors!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, today we have the opportunity to wish our Hindu friends a happy Holi Day!  This holiday is celebrated in India and around the world wherever ex-patriots from India have gathered.  It is best known to the non-Hindu world for rituals which involve the throwing of a colored powders or the squirting of colored water on the various celebrants like a giant water and/or powder fight.  I heard about a Holi gathering at Stanford University which started with only a few dozen participants several years ago and has now swollen into thousands of celebrants, many of them non-Hindus who wish to join in the festivities.

A Joyful Mess!

The origins of the holiday speak directly to some of Hinduism’s sacred stories.  The Holi Holiday story starts by noting that the King of the Demons had been granted the gift of apparent immortality.  For it was said to be impossible to kill him: “during day or night, inside or outside his house, not on earth or in sky, and neither by a man or animal.” Consequently the Demon King grew arrogant and attacked the heavens and the earth and demanded that people stop worshiping the Gods and start worshiping him.  The story goes that his own son, Prahlada , was a devote of the Lord Vishnu and in spite of several threats, and attempts by his father to have him killed, continued to resist his father’s orders.  Finally the Demon King ordered Prahlada to sit on a fire pyre in the lap of his sister Holika.  His sister could not die by fire because she possessed a shawl which would prevent fire from affecting her. The son followed his father’s orders and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe.  When the fire started everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew off of Holika and covered Prahlada.  Holika then burned to death while Prahlada survived unharmed.  The burning/destruction of Holika is commemorated with this festival.  The story goes on to note that Lord Vishnu later came to earth in the form of a Narasimna (half human and half lion being) and killed the Demon King at dusk (which was neither day or night, on the steps of his house (which was neither inside the house or outside) by restraining the demon king on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth).

So we have a holiday that: celebrates the death of a demoness and the eventual defeat of the Demon King;   glorifies the Lord Vishnu; and serves as an example of a devoted follower who because of his faith was saved from death.  The rituals of the of holiday appear to vary somewhat but typically involve food preparations that began days in advance as various kinds of snack items are typically served to the festivals guests, the night before a bonfire (the Holi Fire) is lit which is said to represent the burning of evil.  It was noted that in the United Kingdom coconuts are often thrown into the fire and then pulled out and broken open.  The burnt husks are said to represent the demoness who died in the fire the white inside represents faithful Prahlada who was alive and unaffected.

I noted in a discussion with a friend that I am struck by the wide variations in sacred stories and rituals within a month we will have major festivals in three of the world’s religions.  These holidays commemorate the destruction of evil, the birth of a prophet, and the death and the rebirth of a Savior.  Clearly the substance and form of these celebrations vary considerably, however, from a functional standpoint they meet many of the very same needs. They bring together the respective communities with rituals involving food, joy and laughter.  These festivals grant the celebrants a sense of purpose, of guidance and a connection with the divine.

Some people might say that a story with a Demon King and a half human God, and rituals involving colored powders sounds strange and unbelievable.  However I would caution these people in their statements of disbelief, that for many people in the world would find it odd to have children running about the spring grass collecting colored eggs deposited by a rabbit, or enacting the tortuous death and resurrection of a savior God.  

I would like to comment on an incident that points to a need for caution when we look at other faith belief systems.  I was visiting a national bookstore chain and I came across a display of books produced by the bookstore chain entitled “Mythology of the World.”  There were dozens of volumes including everything from Babylonian, Australian Aborigines, Native Americans, Greeks, Buddhists, to Hindu.  After studying the selection I was puzzled and asked myself: “Where is the Jewish and Christian mythology?” Where is the volume that talks about: parting the Red Sea, burning bushes, loaves and fishes, a God rising from the dead.  I shook my head, disappointed by the book chain’s apparent slight to so many of the world faiths. To call their faith beliefs Myths and not sacred stories is an affront to these believers.  These stories are based on faith and passed down through word-of-mouth and sacred scripture, no different from the stories of the Judo-Christian traditions.

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 Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 130                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 112

Today’s Mileage:  5                                             Total Trip Mileage: 913

Today I decided to give myself a break.  We are approaching two more pilgrimage sites and I have received several comments worth blog postings so I decided to reprint one of my most popular early posting.  My friendship circle has expanded significantly since the first month of the stationarypilgrim journey so many of you did not get a chance to read this posting.  We were preparing to visit the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple of South Florida and I wrote: “I would like to share with you my personal experiences with the Hindu faith.  I have never travelled to India, but I have been lucky to have crossed paths with Hindu beliefs and practices and to have been changed forever by these encounters.” 

 paramahansa     How does a young man from the plains of the Dakotas come to experience Hinduism and its teachings?  The answer is in California!  During my time in the US Navy I was stationed in southern California, a fascinating place for a wide-eyed youth.   Every other street corner was inhabited by a new religion or cultural group! 

     I developed a deep friendship with a fellow sailor who had grown up in the LA area.  He looked every bit the part of a beach bum surfer, but he was a vegetarian and a Hindu convert.  He attended the Self-Realization Fellowship in LA.  At his suggestion I read the book Autobiography of Yoga, by Paramahansa Yogananda.  This opened up a fascinating new world of religious thought.  I began to read the teachings of various sects of Hinduism. 

AYCover070503_NoBorder      This caused me to wonder about what other belief systems existed in the world which the nuns who directed my Catholic education had failed to mention.  While intrigued by the fellowship’s teachings, especially the pluralistic nature of Hindu beliefs, I did not join the movement.  I was a pilgrim on a new and fascinating journey, checking out the different paths and only sampling their offerings!

       Change was in my future, as I returned from my first tour overseas.  While in Thailand, I became acquainted with Buddhism and began to wonder about meditation.  I got a call from my friend asking if I wanted to learn Transcendental Meditation.  “Sure why not!”  No three words have ever changed my life to the degree these three did (“I do” comes close, but in a totally different way)!

 home_mmy Maharishi Yogi founder of TM

      With no preparation, no afterthought, I entered a simple suburban home and a dimly lit room. I stood before a flickering candle and the portrait of a bearded foreign face and entered a new world!  My first meditation produced what is called a Monist mystical experience, a mind blowing state of nothingness and bliss (see yesterday’s posting for more on mystical experiences).  I walked out of that house profoundly changed forever! 

      I meditated religiously twice a day for seven years.  My anxieties and fears dissolved away, my awe and appreciation for the world around me deepened, and my growing compassion and concern for others pointed me in the direction of a helping profession.  I do not view meditation as a “cure all” that works for everyone. Rather, it is a valuable tool on a path to physical, mental, spiritual health and happiness.  Meditation became an integral part of my journey and reverberates within me still today!

 “We are all part of the One Spirit. When you experience the true meaning of religion, which is to know God, you will realize that He is your Self, and that He exists equally and impartially in all beings.”
                                      –Paramahansa Yogananda

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