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Posts Tagged ‘buddha’

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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Greetings friends and fellow pilgrims.  I am still preparing for and adjusting to my son’s departure for Fort Lewis Washington.  As a going away gift I am having the book “365 Tao” bound as a hardback book.  He has read it in the past to the point of breaking the binding so I thought a hardback copy would serve him well,  I also had the book binder include several pages of my words of encouragement and what I call “Words of Wisdom.”  I thought my readers might enjoy see them, so here they are:

The following represents “Words of Wisdom” I have gleamed from my life experiences.  I hope that pondering them may help you recognize their possible relevance in your life.

 1)      “Shit happens” – our lives are a constant parade of events that we are required

                                             to adjust too,  how we adjust affects our level of happiness!

  TYPES OF SHIT:

a)      Just Happens” Shit – we have little or no choice in the event’s occurrence

  1. THROWNESS – conditions we are born with (gender, race, baldness, etc)
  2. “DROPPED OUT OF THE BLUE” Shit – largely unexpected or unforeseeable events and conditions (illness, accidents, acts of nature)

      Keys to adjustment for the “Just Happens Shit”:

  1. Acceptance and Accommodation – some people actually embrace the

            event as a way of adjusting (“bald is beautiful”)                                        

  1. Foster Coping Skills – prepare for the next “unexpected event”

            (buy insurance, build strong social support, foster spirituality, get training)

      Most Common Errors:

  1. “Fight the Shit” – this is the basis for many marketing efforts

                                   (hair loss treatments, diets, cosmetic surgery)

  1. “Fear the Shit” – worry about all the “what ifs” that could occur

 b)      Stepped in It” Shit – we have some responsibility for these events occurrence 

                                                       as they are influenced by our life choices

  1. CONSEQUENCES – conditions we create by our actions, they are not necessarily predictable, but likely outcomes of our actions (highly probable).  They may involve the consequences of ours and others people’s actions, we tend to not see these coming, although in “hind sight” we realize that they were highly probable. (cancer due to smoking)
  2. “SEE IT COMING” Shit – if you are observant and know how to recognize it, these are the situations/ relationships/ events that you can steer clear of/ avoid (getting in the car with a drunk, going out with a drug user, skipping classes, unprotected sex).

      Keys to adjustment for the “Stepped In It Shit”:

  1. Make Corrections – change the causal behaviors or attitudes that 

                                       lead to event (quit smoking, start exercising, 

                                       leave the relationship, training, etc.)            

     2. Learn From It – take a lesson away from the experience and then 

                                Implement changes to decrease the likelihood of   

                                future problems (choose relationships more wisely)

     3. “Fight It” – work to take control (now) over the things you still have

                         control over… manage the fallout! (apologize)

      Most Common Errors:

  1. Embracing the Shit – this “there is meaning in suffering” attitude 

                                        often leads to a lack of action (everyone dies!)

  1. Misinterpreting it – seeing it as “Just Happens Shit” and accepting it 

                                      as an unchangeable situation. (I said “I do!”)

      Note:  Situations often represent combinations of these categories.  An unwanted  

                pregnancy maybe experienced as a “Dropped out of the Blue” event, but in 

                hindsight it is a “See it Coming” Event.

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” – Douglas Adams

 2)       “Be Happy”           

–    Life is all about attitude! Attitude represents a filter or lens (like a pair of glasses) that we  

           view the world through.  Like a dirty lens, we often assume that what we perceive

           (through the lens) is the world and not a filtered image (anger is a dirty lens)

–          always remember that your lens needs polishing and cleaning… check it frequently!

3)      “Never Say Never”

–          We can only make predictions about the future, none of us can know what it holds!

       This attitude helps keeps us from committing to inflexible positions… keeps us from

       having to “eat our words” in the future… helps us keep our options open!

“Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God.” – Diana Robinson

4)     

“Be Certain, But Humble”

–          Strive to be certain about your beliefs (in yourself and your worldview).  Strive to have your life experiences fit your life view, but be humble about your beliefs because they are yours and do not necessarily fit the life experiences of other people. 

–          This is particularly important with respect to political and religious beliefs.

 5)      “Change is Mandatory, Growth is Optional!”

–          perhaps one of the most important overriding points about life is that it is a process!

–          it is always in the process of becoming something (something more or something less, but surely something different) our control over this process is sometimes limited

–          like it or not, planned and unplanned changes (shit) happens, it is what we do with these changes (resist/ignore/adjust to them) that is of paramount importance

–          how we respond dictates the general course our life follows (do we consistently make mountains out of mole hills… or see mountains –obstacles- as just speed bumps)

–          wise choices do not always lead to success (a lack of failure) but they always lead to  growth (improving our happiness and chances for success in the future)

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – Buddha

 6)      “Always strive for Balance”

–          Growth is a process of finding balance between our desires and needs (present and future) and the demands of life situations (rules and laws, other’s needs)

–          Buddha and the Taoists preached “the Middle Path” – don’t deny your needs but don’t give in to excesses – always treat others with compassion and care!

 7)      “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you have too or should!”

–          Life presents us with multiple possibilities and choices, we must choose wisely!

–          Not all choices are equal! Some choices represent unreasonable risks (You can see it coming shit) and     

            threaten to move us away from a balanced position.

–          Stupid people make stupid choices: 1) They couldn’t do what they tried to do (lacked skills to do it); 2) They

            didn’t see the potential risk (should not have done it); 3) They told themselves they “had to do it” (a dare,

            standing up to an insult, to look tough).

I hope that you found my words thought provoking and humorous… have a wonderful day!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 152                                         Days Blogged: 136 

New Mileage: 3                                                          Total Trip Mileage: 1049

The Don't Tread Rule!

As I ride the bike tonight I find myself thinking about the “Golden Rule.”  In western society it is most common presented as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule, in its various forms, is a feature of all of the major world religions.  I also know numerous atheists who embrace the rule, by choice not as a dictate by the divine, they are very moral and socially conscious people.  I have come across a number of social and spiritual world movements that propose using the golden rule as the basis or core principle to bring the diverse peoples of the world together.  As a youth I always figured that the golden rule was without question the best approach to take when dealing with people different from ourselves. When in doubt, follow the golden rule!

However, as I moved out into the world I grew more and more puzzled by the fact that we as individuals, communities and nations often perpetuated behaviors towards others that I would not want to experience myself.  I observed times when people in need, were excluded from aid because “they didn’t deserve our help.”  I observed (as recently as the Iraq War) and read in our history of times when we started and visited war on people and cultures (e.g., the Native Americans), because “it was us or them” or “it was our destiny” or “it was God’s will.”  I personally had doors slammed in my face because of my religion (something I was born into).  I stood by and watched as white cops talked about “our niggers” and sat in a sauna as old white men talk about “sending in the Klan to burn them out.”  I remember watching as white residents of non-flooded suburbs of New Orleans blocked the roads and turned back other citizens who were attempting to flee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

What man has visited upon man!

I came to realize that the golden rule was clearly an ideal, but one that many individuals, groups, communities and nations failed to achieve, and in some cases seemed to not even attempt.  In addition, I found it fascinating and disturbing that I would at times find people who insisted they were following the golden rule even when it seemed apparent to me that their efforts (the “do unto others” part) was creating suffering and distress in those on the receiving end of the behavior.

Rockwell had the right idea!

I believe this “distortion” of the golden rule occurs in part because of a potential short coming within the rule itself.  The rule comes in two general forms.  The positive form which in general states: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  While the negative form in general states: “Do not do unto others that which you would not want done to you.”  This second form is sometimes called the “Silver Rule.” 

Studying both of these forms we see that each has what can be called the Behavioral Command Component (do unto others or do not do) as well as a second Evaluative Component (you would have them do or you would not want done).  It is with this second component that a potentially destructive distortion can take place. For one needs to evaluate what behavior or actions is desired and wanted, however, both forms use an evaluation of needs and desires of the person initiating the behavior not the person receiving the behavior. This was highlighted for me during a discussion with a devote Christian who was commenting on his church’s effort to “bring Christ’s message” to the tribes of Southern India.  I asked if it was possible if these people were happy with their existing faith and that the missionary efforts might be upsetting a delicate balance in such locations. I asked him if it would not be better to follow the golden rule as we might find it disturbing if Hindu missionaries began showing up in our communities with requests that we abandon our long held beliefs. His response was: “Oh No, if I was a Godless heathen I would want to be saved.”

This leads me to what some people have called the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others that which they themselves desire.”  This rule presents us with a significant challenge, for to follow it we must listen and inquire about the other’s needs, and suppress our desire to tell them what it is that they need. This rule still contains the same Behavioral Command Component; however the Evaluative Component focuses on the needs of the receiver not the giver. 

It is my understanding that Christ and Buddha did not tell us to “go forth and do for others those things that make us feel good.”  I believe that both great teachers, and many other teachers, wanted us to address the needs of the needy not our well meaning but often egotistical needs.  I’m reminded of a sense of sadness I experienced as I listened to a missionary tell a crowd that his efforts had saved a quarter million South African souls during the summer.  Then he added: “We can’t feed them, we can’t give them jobs, we can’t offer them protection, but we saved their souls!” His statement was met with “Amen” and praise. I’m sure many of the people who were saved were thankful, but what about all those other needs.   Do you think if they were given a choice,  would “being saved”  be their top choice?  But then again, who are they to know what they really needed?

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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: 69                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 70

Today’s Mileage:  10                                         Total Trip Mileage: 609

 

The red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 18 :

Hijra – Islamic celebration of the emigration of Muhammad and his followers to Medina from Mecca in 622 c.e.

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As I ride the bike I think about the Islamic holy day being celebrated today.  The Hijra marks the escape of the Prophet Muhammad from his enemies in Mecca to the city of Medina.  From there he grew in strength until he returned to take control of Mecca the holiest city for the people of the Arabian Peninsula. The importance of this event is that the Islamic calendar marked the year of this move as the beginning -Year 1 of the calendar.  Today is the year 1430 AH (after Hijra).

We are of course, fast approaching the Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Christ.  The importance of which can be seen on the Gregorian calendar as all time is marked as either before or after the year of this event. Today’s date is 2009 AD.  This led me to wondering about other cultures and religions and their calendars.

 According to the Buddhist calendar, today is the year 2553 BE (Buddha Era).  With a few regional variations their calendar starts with a significant event in Buddha’s life.  This event is defined as Buddha’s parinirvana and represents the entering into the final Nirvana which occurs upon the death of the body of one who has attained complete awakening.  It implies a release from the cycles of rebirth.

According to the Jewish calendar, today would be the year 5769 AM (in the year of the world).  This calendar is numbered from the epoch (starting point or the first day of the zeroth year) that, by Rabbinical reckoning, is the date of the creation of the world by God and reported in Genesis.  

The Hindus have a calendar system that projects itself back millions of years to the beginning of the universe and move forward into shorter and shorter epochs. The epoch of the current era, also called the “dark ages,” of the Hindu calendar began some 5106 years ago.

The Chinese and Japanese calendars number their years to indicate the number of years from the accession of the current emperor, regarding the calendar year during which the accession occurred as the first year.  In both cultures the Emperor was seen as a representative of God on earth.  The Emperor’s actions helped to either gain the favor or disfavor of the Gods.

There are other calendars I have not included. What this short review highlights is that each calendar starts from an epoch, which is often chosen to commemorate an important historical, mythological or religious event. While the Gregorian calendar is now used through much of the world it can be argued that this use does not represent an acceptance of Christ’s birth as the most important historical event, but occurs because of convenience or convention.  Other faiths and cultures might very well argue for the superiority of their system.  Are there other alternatives?

 In an effort to be “scientific” and avoid an association with any historic or mythological event we might use the system embrace by much of the field of astronomy: The Julian Date.  It was originally developed by the Renaissance philologist Joseph Scaliger.  This system is multicultural: it combines a solar and lunar cycle that coincided on January 1, 4713 BCE.  This date is then used at year one of the calendar.  Meaning that today’s date is December 18, 6722 JD.

However you number it and whichever holiday you are celebrating I wish you and your loved one a happy holiday!

Rising or setting there is only one source!

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 59                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 60

Today’s Mileage: 10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 522

Red line marks our progress.

Holidays and Holy Days on December 8:

Bodhi Day – Buddhist celebration of the time when Prince Gautama took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment. Once this state was attained he became the Buddha (the enlightened one).  

Immaculate ConceptionCatholic Christian day of celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all of her life.

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As I ride this morning I want to wish a Happy Bodhi Day to all my family, friends, and fellow pilgrims. All of the world wisdom traditions (religions) have their major holidays.  Today represent one of the two most sacred days for followers of the Buddhist faith. 

Bodhi day is celebrated by the majority of Buddhists around the world to commemorate the day that Prince Gautama became The Buddha, “the enlightened one.”

Buddha at the moment of enlightenment surrounded by temptations, desires and demons

the "earth witness" hand jester

The sacred story states that Siddartha Gautama was a prince from a small kingdom in northern India.  After fleeing his palace in search of the true meaning of life, he spent seven years seeking answers with various Hindu holy men (Yogis). Having tried some of the most austere and demanding techniques of the Hindu faith, he is reported to have seated himself under a Bodi tree and committed to stay there until he found his answers.  It was here that he was confronted with all of the desires and temptations the world had to offer.  At one point while being tempted by the demon Mara, he reached his hand down to touch the earth as a means of grounding himself. At that moment he attained enlightenment.

He recognized the true nature of reality as summarized in the Four Noble Truths: Life is suffering; Desire leads to suffering; Cease desire and you cease suffering; the way to do this is through the Eight Fold Path.  He then spent the remainder of his life, close to fifty years, wandering India preaching his wisdom and teaching his followers. Some would go on to attain enlightenment (Buddha hood) themselves.

Buddha displaying the "transmission of teachings" hand jester

His was a radical message within the Hindu world, enlightenment (salvation) within a single lifetime, for everyone regardless of your caste, gender, race or place of origin.  Buddha did not speak of God or the afterlife, he did not see himself as divine, he focused his teaching on the present condition (suffering) and it’s causes (desire and ignorance). His followers turned his teachings into sacred scriptures (the Sutras) and spread his words to the far reaches of the ancient world, becoming the first of the great missionary wisdom traditions.  

How should we in the west approach such teachings which seem so inherently different, using symbolism and faces that appear so foreign? Huston Smith, the well known Comparative Religion scholar, in his book The World’s Religions, argues that it is critically important that we listen to the faith of others.  In our crowded modern world, which technology continues to shrink on a daily basis, he argues that “understanding is the only place where peace can find a home!”

Smith notes that understanding can lead to love, but the reverse is also true. Love brings understanding; the two are reciprocal. It is impossible to love and be compassionate toward another human being, something all of the wisdom traditions espouse, without listening to them! Furthermore: “We must have the graciousness to receive as well as to give, for there is no greater way to de-personalize another than to speak without listening.”  Many people would say that such “de-personalizing of others” is a core pathology of our current culture (e.g. angry talk show hosts, screaming mobs at town hall meetings).

“Where do we find the divine?” asked Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, interfaith pilgrim and author.  God speaks to us in three places he noted: in scriptures, in our deepest selves, and in the voice of the stranger.

When I listen to “the truths” of other faiths and peoples I remind myself that they hear the voice of the divine in their sacred scriptures, that they feel the presence of the divine in their deepest selves, and that they are a mirror for me to see and hear the divine in myself!

Buddha Sunset over Southern California

 The information on holy days and sacred holidays comes from http://www.interfaithcalendar.org.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 49                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 50

Today’s Mileage:  10                                        Total Trip Mileage: 429

Holidays and Holy Days on November 28:

Ascension of Abdu’l-BahaBaha’i celebration of the rising of the spirit of Abdu’l-Baha to the heavenly dwelling. 

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As I peddle my bike this morning the words of my partner Susan ring in my ears: “Keep the blog short today!”  Yesterday’s posting was longer than usual by necessity as I wanted to give a detailed explanation of my Pilgrim Symbol. This morning before climbing on the bike I spent time on the internet, reviewing comments to my blog and face book page. In addition, I looked for scenes along our virtual path as we near next pilgrimage site visit which we will visit tomorrow.

Fasting Buddha

A friend who frequently comments on my blog sent me an intriguing photo image of a rarely seen rendition of the Buddha.  It is entitled: The Fasting Buddha.  The image was accompanied with the following text:  Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without,” said Siddhartha, and they listened motionless as words flowed from his mouth, “believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”  It was followed by a thread leading to a gallery of photos by the photographer: Umair Ghani. I spent the next half hour enthralled and lost in the beauty, color, and “otherworldliness” of his images of southwest Asia, the people, their mosques and the dancing dervishes.

Smile of a dervish

Soft Beauties

I pulled myself back from this distant world, with the clock ticking overhead and the sun rising on a new day.  I navigated quickly to my face book page to check for any crucial messages or postings, concerning friends, students or family in need.  I stopped abruptly at a series of small images.  A friend, former student and colleague in the school of life, had posted some of her beautiful photography!  Without hesitating I joined her on this path, got lost in the soft hues of flowers and crossed a remarkable stone bridge. After thanking her for the wonderful artistic display, I replenished my coffee cup and mounted the bike.

The images I viewed, creations of a stranger and a friend, reminded me that often on our daily journey we catch glimpses and hints of other realities. If we take a moment to stop and follow this thin spider thread crossing our path, we may discover beautiful details of life we had never imaged.  These glimpses of the divine and its gifts are just a head turn, a step or a mouse click away.  Sadly most often we just push by, not even noticing that we have passed a brief but powerful pilgrimage journey.

Path to some where new!

Hints of Another

It was there a moment ago.

   A thin hair of spider filament.

I know I saw it! 

Was it torn away by some flying insect,

   did a gust of wind create too much tension,

       leave it fluttering like a flag?

It’s a lot like life,

    thin, fragile, fleeting.

You catch glimpses of it

    in a child’s face,

        in the passion of youth,

            in the wisdom of old age. 

You glance away and it is gone…

       but wait…

            just a step down the path…

                 is another.

I hope you enjoyed my poem, a product of a nature walk. A special thanks to Umair Ghani and Fran Smyth for the beautiful photographs.  More of Umair’s work can be seen at Photo.net. 

 

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