Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Roots Of Jainism Religion

Roots Of Jainism Religion Cover The followers of this religion believe that its roots within India are even older than the Brahmanism (Hinduism) which they believe came with the people ( the Aryans ) migrating from other parts of the world (near the Caspian Sea ). The naked statues resembling the Jain monks amongst the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization, do substantiate some of the claims. However, there is no conclusive evidence that most of the concepts in Hinduism came from outside India. In fact, even the Aryan invasion theory has not yet been proven . In those days, people from other parts of the world came to India in a gradual manner. India offered milder climatic conditions and where, agriculture was better developed than several other places in the neighbouring countries. Gradually, these people adopted the life style prevalent in India and that is how, it is a country made up of different kinds of people and in real sense, it is a melting pot.
Jainism lays heavy emphasis on non-violence (ahimsa) and the believers of this religion, whether a monk or a householder, follow a very strict, well disciplined life. In fact, the householders are supposed to evolve to the monkhood in the later stages of life as was the case with the Hinduism in the Vedic era.

The first Tirthankar, Rishabhdev flourished prior to the Indus Valley Civilization and has been referred to as Lord Vishnu in the Puraanas. This name is also mentioned in the Vedas. This shows the inseparability of the two religions in the earlier times. His sons, Bharat and Bahubali (his 57 feet high statue at Shravanabelgo in Karnataka is quite famous) are well known in the Indian history.
The ancient Indian script, Braahmi, is believed to be named after his (Rishabhdev's) daughter. He was followed by 23 other Tirthankars who did not necessarily follow in a continuous manner, one after another. Their names are:
1. Rishabha
2. Ajita
3. Sambhava
4. Abhinandana
5. Sumati
6. Padmaprabha
The Jains believe that the Indus Valley
7. Supaarshva
Civilization flourished during the times
8. Chandraprabha
between the third and the ninth
9. Pushpadanta
10. Shitalnatha
The Aryans arrived into India
11. Shreyaamsha
12. Vaasupujya
13. Vimala
14. Ananta
15. Dharma
16. Shanti
17. Kuntha
18. Aara
19. Mallinaatha
The Aryanization of India complete
20. Munisuvrata
21. Nami
22. Nemi
23. Paarshvanath
24. Mahavira
The birth places of the 13th, 19 - 21, and 24th Tirthankaras were in Bihar ; and on the hills of Parasnath (Shikharjee), 20 out of 24 Tirthankaras obtained nirvana. Lord Mahavira obtained nirvana at Pawapuri in Bihar.

Magadha was the center of Jainism in the written history of India. Starting with Bimbisar, the kings of the Nanda dynasty and the early Maurya dynasty were believers of Jainism, according to the Jain literature.The Hindus consider them to be the believers in the Hinduism. Lord Mahavira gave his first sermon on the Vipula Peak at Rajgir. He was born at Vaishali in a noble family. They practised democracy in Vaishali, and some of the remains of the glories of those days, is still preserved in a museum there. It includes, potteries, coins, and other pieces of art. The 23rd and the 24th Tirthankaras had tremendous impact on Hinduism which had degenerated because of (a) the practice of the untouchability of the shudras, (b) the animal sacrifices in the yajnas, and (c) the dominance by the brahmin caste in the religious matters. Both these Tirthankaras were kshatrias and were princes. Lord Mahavira was given a name - Vardhamana, which means rising or growing, by his parents because the family saw its prosperity after his birth. They were strict followers of the 23rd Tirthankara who had lived around 250 years before Lord Mahavira. Vardhamana renounced the world at the age of 30, became ascetic and then spiritually advanced through the stages of Arhat to Kevalin or Jina (conqueror of the self). In the Pali Buddhist texts, he is referred to as the Niggantha Nataputta. After leaving home, for twelve years, he devoted himself to self discipline and practised severest penance and austerities. He preached for the next 30 years, i.e. until the age of 72 when he obtained nirvana. His first sermon was at Mount Vipula, one of the five hills surrounding Rajgir. His first disciple was Indrabhuti Gautama. The female ascetics of the order were headed by Chandana and the male laity, by Shrenika also called Bimbisara, the emperor of Magadha. In his teachings, women had equal role to play. They were not looked down upon.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Illustrated World Religions A Guide To Our Wisdom Traditions

The Illustrated World Religions A Guide To Our Wisdom Traditions Cover

Book: The Illustrated World Religions A Guide To Our Wisdom Traditions by Huston Smith

This book has deep respect for the wisdom traditions and Huston Smith has lived this. A practicing Methodist, Smith had discussions with the Vendanta Society, does Hatha Yoga, and prays five times a day like the Muslims. His perspective is not one looking for divisions within a religion, but as an outsider wanting to understand the experiences. For example, in discussing Islam, he talks about the Sufis, but not about the division between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

In lucid and captivating prose, Smith, the dean of world religionists, conducts readers on a whirlwind tour of the beliefs, practices and experiences of the world's religious traditions. Smith explores the major features of these religions by combining his own worlds with passages from the sacred texts of each. In addition, beautifully arresting images of icons, religious Practitioners, sacred texts and sacred art accompany Smith's lyrical writing. The words and images of this book continually remind us that the world's faiths are not stagnant pools of decaying values but dynamic and vibrant waters from which their practitioners daily drink. The book also brings within range of our American hearing the voices of a wide variety of people for whom religion is the central fact of social and cultural life. If one buys only one of the number of recent introductions to World Religions, this should be it.

This book is less about details, facts, and religious holidays, and more about the underlying meaning and unique insight of each religion. E.g., in discussing Hinduism he looks at "What people really want", about a wearing out of the material world. In the chapter of Judaism he discusses meaning in history and justice.

The illustrations complement the text with a symbolic sense of the culture and beliefs. Looking at a sculpture of a very sensual Shiva with consorts helps one realize that the Hindu view of pleasure may be different than your own. The Buddhist and Taoism paintings project a sense of peace. The photographs of the worshippers are very respectful.

Huston has obviously done a great deal of research in the area of World religions. This work is an interesting and informative guide to Understanding why people believe what they believe. In each section he gives a brief discussion of the history of each system of belief (for instance, he talks about Siddhartha's life in the section about Bhuddism). He then continues to discuss the main points, or fundamental beliefs, of each religion. In these discussions, Huston is concise and incredibly informative. Again, it's very obvious that he's done his homework. I found all of these sections very illuminating.

All of the major branches of religion are repressented here (both oriental and occidental thought). That doesn't necesarilly mean that all of the offshoots of any particular religion are repressented --that would probably lead to a much larger, more cumbersome work. With this in mind, Huston's book is an excellent source of information on the various world religions. I would recomend the book to anybody with an interest in religion. It is an excellent tool to help you understand the world, and is well worth the read.

Buy Huston Smith's book: The Illustrated World Religions A Guide To Our Wisdom Traditions

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The Butterfly And The Buddha

The Butterfly And The Buddha Image
Once upon a time, someone found the chrysalis of a butterfly. Soon a small opening appeared. The person sat and watched the butterfly for hours as it struggled to squeeze its body through the tiny hole. Then it stopped unable to go any further.

Deciding to help the butterfly, a pair of scissors were used to snip off the end of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The person continued to watch it, expecting that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body in flight. It did not happen. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around like a caterpillar. It was never able to fly.

What the person in kindness and haste did not understand: The butterfly's struggle to get through the restricting cocoon was a way of forcing the fluid from the body into the wings so that it would be ready for flight once it emerged.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. Going through life without obstacles to overcome would cripple us. We would not become as strong as we could nor fly as happily as we might. So if we struggle, rather than asking someone or something to remove everything we dislike, it will be to our benefit for a long time to come.


Australian 16-year-old sailor Jessica Watson walks to her boat after a final shower on land as she prepares to depart... SYDNEY - She steered her bright pink yacht out of Sydney Harbor on Sunday to start her bid to become the youngest person to sail solo and unassisted around the world. SLIDESHOW

While the author of this famous story is unknown, like any good tale, it has different levels of meaning. For meditation instructor Piya Tan, it has a profound connection to the Buddha's teaching on self-reliance in personal development.


Piya Tan (The Minding Centre, Singapore)For me the story of the butterfly is a powerful reminder of how Buddhist meditation gently allows us to evolve and grow in a cocoon of calm and stillness so that we can accept ourselves just as we are. This may sound simplistic, even trite. The point is, how many of us really accept ourselves as we really are? We do not even know ourselves.

How do we end up like the maimed butterfly? We maim ourselves emotionally. We stunt our spiritual growth when we measure ourselves against others, or when we blindly allow our lives to be dictated by others. When what controls us is outside ourselves, we do not have self-control. Our happiness and unhappiness are defined and decided by others. In other words, we can never be really happy as a choice.

We must constantly ask ourselves what we are thinking, or saying, or doing: "Am I happy doing this?" If we are, we must then ask, "Am I hurting myself doing this; am I hurting others; am I hurting the environment?" If "no" in all three counts, then that's fine. If there is even one "yes," we need to ask why, and adjust our actions accordingly.

On the other hand, when we ask, "Am I happy doing this?" And the answer is "no," we need to ask ourselves again, "Why so? Why am I not happy?"

Occasionally, try to visualize ourselves having achieved our life's goal (following the guidelines just listed). Then we work our way backwards: What must be done to attain this goal? What must we do before that, and so on, until we arrive where we are now. We are then better aware of what we need to do with our lives.

If we have done all we can, and things still do not seem to work our way, then we need to reflect on the butterfly story. We are still evolving in our karmic cocoon; let things be for a while. Do what needs to be done for the present. And keep asking ourselves: What do I do next? Don't think, just feel, be at peace with ourselves because we will hear the answer soon enough.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Power Of The Dharma An Introduction To Hinduism And Vedic Culture

The Power Of The Dharma An Introduction To Hinduism And Vedic Culture Cover

Book: The Power Of The Dharma An Introduction To Hinduism And Vedic Culture by Stephen Knapp

The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture offers a concise and easy-to-understand overview of the essential principles and customs of the Hindu tradition. It also provides many insights into the depth and value of the timeless wisdom of Vedic spirituality and reveals why the Dharmic path has survived for thousands of years.

Seems some have issues about what is lacking in here, or not in-depth or complete enough. I went ahead and chose this book anyway, as it was titled as an "Introduction", after my first visit to the Vedic Temple here. This book served my needs totally. I did not want right now to have a full comprehensive book, simply one that would explain many of the aspects of this, and an explantation of the celebrations and deities. This makes it easy to understand, clear, and not too much information as to lose you starting out. If this is your intent, buy the book.

Author Stephen Knapp reveals why the Dharma is presently enjoying a renaissance among an increasing number of people who want to explore its teachings and see what its many techniques of self-discovery have to offer. In The Power of the Dharma, you will find:

* quotes by noteworthy people on the unique qualities of Hinduism;
* essential principles of the Vedic spiritual path;
* particular traits, customs, and explanations of Hindu worship;
* descriptions of the main yoga systems;
* significance and legends of the colorful Hindu festivals;
* benefits of Ayurveda, Vastu, Vedic astrology, and gemology;
* important insights of Dharmic life and how to begin.

The Dharmic path can provide you the means for attaining your own spiritual realizations and experiences. This is the power of Dharma’s universal teachings which have something to offer everyone!

The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture is authentic and easy-to-understand. Stephen Knapp has been praticing vedic culture for more than 40 years and contributing significanlty to preserve and protect this highest knowledge that is universal. So, this is a practical book also. This book has truly inspired me and has brought some positive changes within me.
I read a lot of books on self help, personality development, leadership (all time best-sellers) and I've to tell you that to be honest they are all mundane. I'm already feeling that I wasted all these years looking into all other books except Vedic Knowledge. Anyway, I'm glad now that I've realized the value of it after a lot of research.

Stephen Knapp has studied the major Vedic texts of India and practiced yoga and the Eastern teachings for nearly forty years. He has traveled throughout India and has authored several well-received books on Vedic culture and regularly gives lectures. Knapp is also the president of the Vedic Friends Association.

Buy Stephen Knapp's book: The Power Of The Dharma An Introduction To Hinduism And Vedic Culture

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Han Buddhism Development

Han Buddhism Development Cover Buddhism during the Han Dynasty was regarded as having its basis in magic in much the same way as Taoism and it first took root among members of the royal family and aristocracy. During the Three Kingdom Period Buddhism was studied as an independent subject. Luoyang in North China became a major center where there was a focus on the translation of the scriptures while in South China Buddhism thrived in a tolerant atmosphere.

The Jin Dynasty witnessed the popularization among ordinary people. In 401 Kumarajiva was invited to Chang'an from the Western Region that lay to the west to Yumenguan Pass and together with 3,000 scholars translated 74 sutras. Obviously, this was an event of great importance to spread of Buddhism.

During the Jin Dynasty a new class emerged; that of the scholar-bureaucrats. They brought together the established, popular metaphysics and Buddhist doctrines. In the north of China there were quite a few reputed monks while in the south many scholar-bureaucrats were well versed in Buddhism. The royal families were passionate toward Buddhism and granted monks and nuns considerable privileges. The number of temples mushroomed to 1768 and with them as many as 24,000 monks and nuns. Monks were to become a new class in China and Buddhism took a firm hold on the country.

Buddhism reached its zenith during the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Emperor Wen of Sui ordered the restoration of temples and statues of Buddha that had been destroyed during Northern Zhou. Tang Emperors claimed they were descendents of Lao Zi, the creator of Taoism and paid homage to Taoism but in practice they recognized the importance of Buddhism. An Institute was set up to translate Buddhist sutras in the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in the capital city of Chang'an (today's Xian). Xuan Zang was the most reputed monk at this time, and it was his journey to India that was the model for the Ming novel The Journey to the West (also known as the Monkey King).

Hui Neng (638-713), the sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism, should not be ignored. His famous verses, "Originally there was no Bodhi-tree, nor stand of a bright mirror. The mirror was originally clean and pure; where can it be stained by dust?" These words have otherwise been translated as: "The Tree of Perfect Wisdom was originally no tree. Nor had the bright mirror any frame. Buddha-nature is forever clear and pure. Where is there any dust?" These lines have become the first thing to pop into the mind when people think of Zen. In 730 Hui Neng's disciples won debates with other sects and Zen was strengthened in China. Zen was introduced to Korea in the 8th Century and to Japan at the end of the 12th Century.

Buddhism penetrated daily life and had a substantial impact in architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature.

However, Buddhism was forbidden in 845 due to social and economical reasons. Over 4600 temples were demolished and 260, 500 monks and nuns were forced to give up their religion.

The combination of Buddhism and Confucianism led to the formation of Li Xue, the Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming dynasties. This tradition was inherited by the Qing Dynasty and Zen became synonymous with Han Buddhism.

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Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Mysterious Great Sage Buddha Statue

The Mysterious Great Sage Buddha Statue Image
Maha Muni: Great Sage Buddha statue being covered in gold leaf

There is a legend that once when the Buddha went to teach among the people of northern Burma, a local king requested him to leave an image of himself for the benefit of the people. Then, it is said, the Buddha sat for a week of meditation under a Bodhi tree while Sakka, the king of the "devas", created a life-like image of great beauty. Pleased with the image, the Buddha decided to imbue it with his spiritual essence for a period of five thousand years.

It is debatable, but according to ancient tradition, only five likenesses of the Buddha were said to have been made during his lifetime: two were in India, two in paradise (somewhere in space, the celestial world where Sakka holds sway), and the fifth is the "Maha Muni" ("Great Sage") statue.

Archaeologists believe the image was probably cast during the reign of King Chandra Surya (whose name is a combination of two heavenly bodies, the Moon and Sun), who ascended the throne in AD 146, more than 600 years after the Buddha actually passed away. Little is known of the "Maha Muni" over the next 1,500 years. It was stolen, moved around by various kings and was once buried beneath a crumbling temple in the jungle.

Brought to Mandalay in 1784 and placed within a specially built shrine, it is the most venerated Buddha image in all of Burma. The statue, 4 meters tall and originally cast in some baser metal, is now entirely coated in a two-inch thick layer of gold leaf. So much gold leaf has been applied by so many different hands that the figure has developed an irregular outline. Many thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine each day and a great festival in early February draws hundreds of thousands.

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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Grimoire Of Chaos Magick

Grimoire Of Chaos Magick Cover

Book: Grimoire Of Chaos Magick by Julian Wilde

The purpose of this book/manual is solely to aid the reader in his/her unfolding/developing/inner growth/individuation. This magickal process must inevitably be accompanied by some pain, doubt and disillusionment. We have endured
(but so far SURVIVED!) years of conditioning and repression and to break free from this protective but limiting shell is an act of courage and perhaps for some of us, an act of desperation.

Modern life, as lived by most of us, seems to conspire against our being 'awake'. The robotic self, originally evolved as a necessary/defensive element of human Consciousness, has now become almost too efficient, assuming more and more
authority and allowing us to sleep far more than is 'good' for us, for instance, to drive a car adequaely whilst engaged in conversation. Difficulties arise when the robot begins to operate where/when it is not necessary/appropriate, undermining free will and narrowing our choice of alternative attitudes/decisions/actions.

It is the author's sincere wish that this manual will be of help on your journey. All concepts/rituals/practiques/belief-patterns contained herein are presented as working models only, awaiting your personal touch to be Experiences, explored, understood, altered and ultimately transcended. The book may at first glance appear to contain much that is theoretical/conceptual and a lesser amount of hard, sharply-defined Practical work. This is not so - what you bring to the exercises by way or attitude/approach has great bearing on the ultimate results. It is perhaps worth repeating that the chaos-activity presented here is deliberately open-ended, purposely susceptible to adaption/transformation. This book is merely your ticket and programme for the great game - YOU are the main action...

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