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Archive for the ‘Humanism’ Category

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  124                                              Days Blogged: 106

New Mileage: 6                                                                 Total Trip Mileage: 886

Often the synchronicity of events in my life makes me smile.  Yesterday I shared with you the nature of my inner guide.  I noted that this guide is embedded within a framework made up of several humanistic assumptions about life and that it represents a dynamic process that takes into account situational demands with a general goal of balance and growth.  Several phrases I find myself using in my teaching speak directly to wisdom generated by this process.  Statements such as: “One size does not fit all!; Never say never!; The ends do not justify the means!; Be certain, but humble!; Change is mandatory, growth is optional!”

Buddha of the Ten Forms of Wisdom

I mention this because I had reported that we were going to visit a religious theme park in Orlando today.  However, situational factors demand or at least suggest a change in these plans.  As I mounted my bike to ride, of course, virtually toward Orlando, I realized  we were going to pass by an important diversity pilgrimage site in Kissimmee.  This site is unique as it offers a cluster of shrines unlike any that I have uncovered on my widening search for pilgrimage and retreat locations.

Shrine to Buddha's Birth

I use the term Diversity Site to label retreat and pilgrimage locations that feature a faith which are commonly located in other parts of the world but found more rarely in the United States.  For example a small city near where I live houses a Vedic Hindu temple, A Coptic Christian church, and a Buddhist Ashram with one of the few female Buddhist monks in the US.  I would classify all three of these  Diversity Sites,as  they are places one can visit to learn of the teachings, traditions and rituals of a unique world wisdom tradition.  All three of these sites are embedded in a landscape featuring a multitude of Christian denominations, and each offers a unique educational opportunity.

Shrine to Buddha's Enlightenment

Nestled on the outskirts of Kissimmee Florida is the Wat Florida Dhammaram, a Theravada Buddhist temple and monastery affiliated with a Buddhist temple in Thailand.  The temple serves the local Buddhist community and has resident Buddhist monks.  The central temple complex houses a large bronze statue of Buddha and welcomes visitors of any faith.  What makes this site highly unique are the four separate shrines included within the temple compound.

 Many major world religions suggest that adherents of their faith travel to sites that played a central role in the development of the faith (e.g., Mecca for Islam, Jerusalem for Jewish and Christian followers).  For Buddhists there are four such sites, all located in present day India or Nepal.  The Wat Florida Dhammaram has constructed replicas of the sacred places of pilgrimage honoring Lord Buddha’s life.

Shrine to the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths

The shrine named Vihara Maha Mayadevil located in Lumbini Nepal commemorates Buddha’s birthplace. The shrine named Mahabodi Temple located in Bodgaya India commemorates Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.  The shrine named Dhamekha Stupa located in Sarnath India commemorates Buddha’s first teaching of the Four Noble Truths. The shrine named The Parinibbana Temple located in Kusinara India commemorates Buddha leaving his moral body and passing into Nirvana.

Shrine honoring the Buddha's entrance into Nirvana

While some people might argue that a visit to these shrines is not a substitute for a visit to the real thing, I suspect that time, distance and costs likely precludes many people from a pilgrimage to India and Nepal.   I would argue that if a visit to a shrine replica helps a person renew and/or strengthen their faith then it has served a critical function in that person’s life.  In line with my afore mentioned philosophy, I believe if kneeling before and offering incense to a replica helps the person find balance and grow in  commitment to their faith (both representing positive outcomes) then the pilgrimage process was a healthy and productive one!

If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail subscription by going to the upper right corner of this page For more information about the temple and it’s shrines please visit the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page.

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

 Consecutive Days Riding:  83                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 84 

 Today’s Mileage: 6                                              Total Trip Mileage: 687 

 Happy New Year to all my family and friends! I decided to let myself have a little reprieve today.  I will be riding the bike of course, but instead of composing my typical blog ramblings I have posted several quotes and beautiful images.  They are words and images to ponder as we prepare our resolutions for a new year.  I hope you enjoy both as the gifts they are… see you tomorrow! 

Awaken to the New Year and its Possibilities!

“Go back?” he thought.  “No good at all!  Go sideways?  Impossible!  Go forward?  Only thing to do!  On we go!”  So he got up, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit 

 “Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt of himself to enjoy them.”  G.K. Chesterton 

What mountains will we face in the New Year?

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”  C.S. Lewis 

“A friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.” Mahatma Gandhi

Embrace each new day as a gift!

“A good man is not a perfect man; a good man is an honest man, faithful, and unhesitatingly responsive to the voice of God in his life.”  John Fischer 

“Belief is truth held in the mind; faith is a fire in the heart.”  Joseph Fort Newton

How will you celebrate the beauty on your path?

“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Frederick Buechner 

“God’s heart is the most sensitive and tender of all. No act goes unnoticed, no matter how insignificant or small.” Richard J. Foster 

The days grow longer... the cycles of nature unfold!

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” The Dalai Lama 

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” “A good traveler has no fixed plan, and is not intent on arriving.” “If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be truly fulfilled.” “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”     Lao Tzu

Be kind to the children... no cruel jokes please!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 43                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 44

Today’s Mileage:  10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 365

 

Elusive target

Riding the bike today I struggle to choose a Blog topic.  I am reminded of a time with my two sons. We were wading along, knee deep in the water of a slow moving mountain creek.  We spoke little as each lost himself in the exploration of the water and the shoreline. Suddenly, my oldest son began to splash about, slapping the water in a vain attempt to catch one of the small, black water bugs that darted about the streams surface.  They were too elusive.  He would focus on one, miss his mark and then another would come along. It made for a humorous display as his efforts came up empty.  I am reminded of those efforts as I struggle to find a Blog topic. Each time I think I’ve captured one, I open my fingers and it’s gone!  Then I see another idea out of the corner of my eye.

Taiami trail

When this kind of frustration happens with a client, student or friend I always tell them to step back and look at “the bigger picture.”  When I do this I realize that among the swirl of topics are patterns.  Many of the topics are cued by ongoing world events, conflicts of a religious and/or political nature.  Some topics involve situations of personal relevance arising from my interactions with colleagues, family and friends.  Other topics involve my professional responsibilities as a teacher and a scientist.  When I step back from the swirl of darting ideas,  I see  unifying topics. The question is where do I focus my attention, my questions, my explanation and answers?  When talking about spirituality and religion, one can focus on the forms (content) of these beliefs. These varied forms include types of prayers, conceptualizations of God and the divine, religious ritual expressions and symbols, to name only a few.  One might also focus attention on the function (process) of religious and spiritual belief systems. 

Belief systems can appear very different in form and content while serving the same personal and group function and process, providing a sense of security, group cohesion during adversity and shared meaning.  There are those who ask the questions: What is the true name of God? What is the proper way to pray? Which are the valid sacred scriptures?  They seek the proper form. 

Palm trees along the trail.

I personally marvel at the diversity of religious beliefs in form and content.  I am dazzled by the colorful and mysterious displays of dancing and chanting, colorful vestments, burial ceremonies and symbols of ancient times.  Like walking through a garden, the last thing I would wish is to have all the flowers the same, all the trees bare the same colored leafs or pathways of only one type of stone. Those who seek to plant only one flower in our shared human garden, to eradicate all others by labeling them as weeds or intrusive foreign invaders, set themselves and all humanity upon a path of conflict and self-righteousness.  I will not engage you in an argument of which belief system has the true or proper form, but I will engage in a discussion of how belief systems may function against a unification of our human endeavors to grow, cooperate and survive!

If I may return for a moment to the story of my son and the water bugs.  After several failed attempts and a growing frustration, the capture attempts ceased.  My youngest son moved over from the shoreline and joined us. “What are you doing?” he asked.  “Trying to catch a water bug, it’s impossible!” exclaimed my oldest son.  The youngest looked down as he noticing for the first time the insects boaters, his arm darted forward barely disturbing the surface.  “You mean one of these!” he opened his hand to reveal a water bug paddling about in his palm!  Sometimes a clear mind and simple focus yields the rewards we seek.

 A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside. The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  31                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 32

Today’s Mileage: 7                                              Total Trip Mileage: 287

 stage6

Holidays and Holy Days on : November 9, 2009

Celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9th 1989.

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    I spoke yesterday about the importance of Pilgrimages of Remembrance and we visited a site that houses the memories of the Jewish community in south Florida.  It seems to me that sites of remembrance can exist on three levels:  First on a personal level for an individual or family, such as the roadside memorials that spring up after car accidents that claimed the  life of  a loved one or returning to a childhood home. Second, a site may be representative of a community’s shared memories, like the museum we visited yesterday or a local war memorial. And third a remembrance site may speak  a more universal message, to countries (as with Independence Hall in Philadelphia), a religion (like Mecca to Muslims) or to all of mankind.

thcanyon by R. Nance

Roadside Memorial

     The site we are visiting today represents this type of universal site.  It has a message for the whole world.  The occurence of the holocaust, while doubted by some, is accepted as one of the low points in human history.  It carries an important message and a warning of the extreme degree to which human motivations can turn against the welfare of other human beings. The aftermath of WWII left the world reeling not just because of the level of destruction visited on both the east and west, but because of the questions it raised about human nature and the source of evil.

     Is evil a separate entity that gained control over a nation and directed it to destroy other nations and peoples?  Is there a God, and if so how could he let so many innocent people die? How could a Christian nation (Germany) become this evil monster? Is evil  a dark side that resides within all of us, held in check by our better side?  Is evil a deviation of our human nature to love and care for others, that can be strongly influenced and hijacked by outside forces (political movements, religions and cults)?

washington dc

Washington DC Monuments.

    I don’t have answers to these questions, as most of them are better left to philosophers and theologians.  As a therapist I do witness people struggling with the choices between healthy and prosocial versus addictive and selfish choices.  I agree with Abraham Maslow the Humanistic Personality theorist that the “pull” of  deficiency needs (sustenance, safety, possession, ego, etc) is for many individuals stronger than the being needs (self-actualization).  Like the line for the Indigo Girls song Closer to Fine that states: “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” I believe  it is crucial that we as individuals and as a community and nation, ask the hard questions. How do we ensure that our better nature and needs predominate over those needs that subjugate, demean and lead ultimately to the destruction of other human beings?

     I believe this struggle between good and evil rages within all of us. I believe  it is a spiritual journey and struggle. I hope you find today’s visit to the Holocaust Memorial of Miami to be insightful.  It will jolt you, as it has me, to remember that  individual choices can and do contribute to larger movements.  Please ask yourself: do these movements represent and promote growth and connectedness or decay and separation from others?

     Now please visit the site by clicking on the Pilgrimage Site button at the top of the page.

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