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Posts Tagged ‘sacred stories’

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: 65                               Consecutive Days Blogging: 66

Today’s Mileage: 10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 572

The red line marks our progress.

Releasing offerings...

As I ride the bike today I feel a sense of joy!  Like the Hindu pilgrims who release small offerings on the sacred Ganges River where the currents carry them toward the distant sea, I feel that my blog postings represent a similar effort.  I find my inspiration in the world around me.  I am honored to receive glimpses of the Divine.  I release my thoughts and words like offerings on the great flow of information called the Internet!  Once released, these offerings may cross the paths of other pilgrims creating a connection between us.  If we are to see the end to divisive issues and beliefs,  it will only come about through a connection among people of all faiths: people who find common ground in compassion, love and inclusive beliefs of the divine. There are those individuals and groups who will always oppose our efforts at building such a community.  They believe that they only possess the truth and the light of the divine.  So be it.  It  is their choice!  We can find our inspiration in the great teacher the Dali Lama, who responds only with compassion and love to those who occupy his homeland!

Today I want to talk briefly about the beach!   My  virtual pilgrimage affords me the cherished opportunity to view scenes of nature through the camera lens of other travelling pilgrims.

Approaching Darkness...

I take in the scenes they have captured and experience a sense of awe at nature. Through these small windows I catch glimpses of the divine.  

Balancing between two worlds!

 I enjoy the beach, but not necessarily the beach of sand castles, towels and sun tan lotion.  Memories of such beaches hold a place in my heart, but I see the beach as a symbol for the Yin and Yang- Dance of Life.  For it is sandwiched between the mystery and experience of life represented by the ocean and the sea, and  the inland regions with its sacred maps, histories and symbols, all handed down by earlier travelers. This thin ribbon of sand, the beach, representing a balance between the two forms of “knowing”: through pure experience, and/or  through shared words  and symbols.

 
 

Perch from which to ponder... mysteries of the deep.

The sea: a world of rhythmic patterned waves, hiding a place of mystery, color, danger and intrigue.  You can stand at its edge, you can wade in as deep as you dare, you can snorkel and dive into its depths, or bob upon the surface.  It has dangers: sharks, stinging jelly fish, and poison shells. Walking along this ribbon of sand, you will often see hints of  mysteries in the shells, the kelp fronds, and the strange creatures that wash ashore.

 
 

There are danger on every path!

The land: sometimes dry other times marshy, covered with plants, offering shade and sustenance.  With paths travelled by others, with road signs, camping areas, and creatures which we have much in common as they breathe air and walk on two or four legs. The land has its dangers too: crocodiles, cougars, sharks in human form, and guides that will lead you astray.  Inland has  mysteries: dark forests and high mountain tops,  foreign landscapes and the sounds of night creatures.

Sands shift under our feet and over time!

There are three general approaches we can take as we walk through life.  Like the practioners of the more experiential faiths; some hear the call of the sea, live on the surface in bobbing crafts, harvest deep resources, toss aside the shore maps and all but lose their “land legs.”

Safe stepping stone or a warning?

Like the practioners of the “scriptural” religions some head inland, preferring dry soil and shade trees, staying on well marked paths and following the directions of guides.

A Community in Balance!

 Others prefer to straddle the two, finding a balance between the emotional sunsets and sunrises calling you to the sea, and the sense of certainty and comfort which comes from maps and with journeys shared with others.  I prefer the beach, with its exposed tree roots and washed up sea treasures, both point to mysteries of the divine.

 

Let the sun set on all that is NOT compassion and love!

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

 

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