Monday, January 31, 2011

Amazing Buddha Statues Around The World

Amazing Buddha Statues Around The World Image
Like every great religion, Buddhism has inspired some of the most beautiful and spectacular art in the world. Notably, the desire to make wholesome karma has taken the form of statues. They adorn Buddhist temples, hillsides, and peaks. Here are the Huffington Post's picks of 11 amazing and enormous Buddha statues from around the world.

- Monywa Buddhas, Burma
- Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong
- Hussain Sagar Buddha, Hyderabad, India
- Wat Mahathat Buddha Head, Ayutthaya, Thailand
- Wat Pho Reclining Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
- Gal Gal Viharaya, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
- Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok, Thailand
- Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichuan, China
- Bamiyan Buddha, Afghanistan (destroyed by Taliban)
- Wat Si Chum, Sukhothai, Thailand
- Wat Theppitak Punnaram, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand
- Korean Monastery Buddha
- Buddha in Mexico
- Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan
- Great Buddha of Kamakura, Japan

* 1,800-yr-old Buddha statue excavated
* What does a Buddha statue represent?
* Thailand donates 250 Buddha statues
* Buddha statue found in TN village
* De-busted meditative Buddha statue found near Sikkal
* "Buddha statues being kept in local museums"
* Thieves loot Lao city's Buddha statue heritage
* Japanese students try to save Laos Buddha statues
* Woman wants Buddha statues banned from Hope Valley nursing home

* Sri Lankan minister allegedly desecrated, decapitated, and urinated in front of Buddha statue

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Religion Magic And Spirituality

Religion Magic And Spirituality Image
If people want to hold to six-day creation, the value of chastity before marriage or other unlikely notions, it really isn't any of my business. Still there are a few ideas in the Pagan and magical scene that really piss me off when self-proclaimed teachers assert them, not just because they are plainly mistaken, but because they do, in my opinion, damage to the ability of students to get the most out of the work. Of course the main reason it pisses me off is that my own opinions differ sharply. So, since I have my little soapbox, I'll get up on it.

1: Religion, Magic and Spirituality.

As far as I can tell, the opposition to the concept of 'religion' among magical people is based on nothing more than personal emotional anger toward specific religious organizations, and perhaps toward one or two streams of specific religious doctrines. We hear that 'religion' involves rote and empty ritual, ossified doctrine and dogma, money-greedy materialism and power hungry hierarchy. This leads some folks - folks who are busy meditating, working with spirits, doing rituals and having opinions about the nature of things (i.e. doctrines) - to say that they don't do 'religion'.

I have come to make an important distinction between 'religion', 'a religion' and 'a religious organization'. 'Religion' is a scholastic category that assumes some degree of commonality between human styles of relating to the spiritual or metaphysical. Many sweeping statements are made about 'religion' (by me, occasionally) but it's very difficult to make generalizations of religions. It is so difficult to find commonalities, even of the things people object to. For instance, Hinduism generally does not mandate 'belief in' specific doctrines or models of metaphysics - hundreds of different models are contained within it. Modern evangelical Christianity has little or no ritual of any kind, unlike traditional styles of religion. Many tribe-based religions, such as Judaism or Zoroastrianism, actively reject converts, and do not proclaim that their way is for everyone.

'A religion' is a specific body of practice and doctrine intended to produce specific spiritual effects. If one has a unique and totally personalized spiritual practice, it might be more apt to call it 'spiritual practice'. In fact we could restate and say that 'a religion' is a specific set of spiritual practices, especially those shared among a group.

A 'religious organization' is created and managed to practice and promote a religion. It is a body of humans trying to run an organization, and is subject to the same problems as any arts or sports organization. Asshole behaviors never fail to occur occasionally, even among the wise. Centuries of power and privilege can lead to corruption.

Most of the complaints people have about 'religion' seem to actually be about 'religious organizations'. For instance, the Roman Catholic Church isn't a religion - it's a religious organization. It has financial officers and secretaries and owns a bunch of stuff that it manages. There are plenty of Catholics who aren't Roman - Catholic Christianity is 'a religion' in the way Hinduism is - an umbrella term that includes several specific religious traditions and a number of organizations. ADF isn't 'a religion' - we're an organization created to build and promote Pagan Druidry, or whatever we might call it this week.

So when a magician or witch takes up any orderly work of relating with the spirits, of doing regular meditation and trance, of group celebratory or worship ritual, she is doing some religion. Perhaps it might be possible for some folks to kind of duff at it, taking a little here and there as they please, and have that be sufficient for their spiritual support. But I think many Pagans are in it for the doing of it, and end up looking for a more focused spiritual practice - that is, a religion. So face it, if you're in a coven or worship group, or even if you just work alone at your home shrine, you're doing religion. You may not create a religious organization for it, though some level of organization is inevitable if a group continues, but what you're doing is religion in every sense.

A religion involves a body of skills that a person must work with. From simply knowing the prayers, small rites and symbolism of the path, to study of its texts and sources, to higher-order skills such as bigger or public ritual, meditation and trance, etc, religions require effort and attention on the part of their folk. That's because they are training systems, meant to allow the individual to develop their own spirituality.

The result of keeping a spiritual discipline is 'spirituality' in my opinion. Now, there are many kinds of spiritual discipline, and the kind of arty and formal ritual I like won't be everyone's cuppa. That's why there are many ways, but all involve at least a certain amount of focused work - even 'not-doing' is a method.

If ones keeps at a religion, and does it well, one will develop a personal spirituality. In every faith, even the most dogmatic, those who succeed in developing a personal spirituality will have their little touches, the things that make the path their own. In Pagan religions these can swing pretty wide, as folks alternate through periods of discipline and periods of expression.

That means we should stop bashing 'religion' as a category. Asserting that one is 'more evolved', or 'not of the herd' because one has replaced 'religion' with 'spirituality' is just a misunderstanding, in my opinion. It's not a matter of 'evolution' (whatever that means in that context), but rather of the growth that happens when you practice a skill. If you've reached a mature personal spirituality, don't look down on those who still enjoy the traditional work, or on beginners, or even on the imperfect organizations that exist to help other people find their way.

2: The Nature of Magic.

I've ranted about this, so I'll keep it short. Magic (or magick, if you still must...) is something you do. It isn't some quasi-substance or spirit that instills everything, it isn't another word for the Life in Everything. At least, never in the history of the art has it been used that way, until some fantasy-soaked modern kids started doing it. Now it's appearing in otherwise-not-awful pop magick books. Damn it!

Magic is a body of human skills, that allow us to work with spiritual powers under our own wills. It's a category of human art like science, or woodworking, and it has its methods and customs, its tips and tricks. Magic isn't something you 'attune to' - magic is something you do. Even in the above sentence, the 'attunement to' would be the magic part - so what is there to... never mind.

I can hardly think of a more misleading teaching than to refer to magic as some current in the world, rather than as a skill you use. It seems likely to lead students more toward lala-whatever-feels-nice country than to the actual effort that magic requires. I guess I just dislike completely redefining terms to suit some romantic notion.

OK, told ya it was cranky stuff...

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Religion Belief Linterdiction Du Burqpourrait Expdier Lislamicization

Religion Belief Linterdiction Du Burqpourrait Expdier Lislamicization Image
Banning the burqa may, in fact, speed up the process of the islamicization of France

62,448,977 in mainland France, divided by 3.7 to 4.1 million Muslims gives a percentage of the population of 6.57%, [thank you, Nigel].

It is a significant minority and rapidly expanding. One estimate puts the Muslim birthrate at three times that of the "indigenous" population. I use the term indigenous with care, as "indigenous" includes Muslims going back many generations.

Nevertheless, whichever way you wish to slice or dice it, it still creates a "problem" like the expanding population of Catholics in Northern Ireland. That is a problem for the Protestants, not initially for the Catholics but then becomes one for them in turn. In France, the strife in the banlieues [thank you, Pedant's Apprentice] is but one manifestation but it's not the only issue in France.

That of LA"iCIT'e has been around for centuries, at the centre of slaughter and helping spawn philosophers. The matter is not resolved but in the corridors of power, it is the guiding principle. Mixed in with this issue is the taking of citizenship and citizenship rights by so many Muslims and there's a pretty problem:

A parallel process of Muslim enfranchisement is accompanying [the] population surge. Nearly half of the... Muslims in France are already French citizens. The situation is similar for most of the... Muslims in Great Britain. Most recently, in 2000, Germany joined the countries where citizenship is granted according to birthplace instead of ancestry. The new German citizenship laws added already a half million voters to the rolls and have opened the road to citizenship to all other Muslims in Germany.

LA"iCIT'e is at the centre of Sarkozy's remarks. At pains to redefine the issue as one of oppression and an "affront" to human rights, he understandably wishes to steer the focus away from the religious aspect. Again, whichever way you cut it and I'm not taking sides on the matter, it is a divisive garment, the burqa and the human rights angle muddies the waters and dilutes the opposition to its banning, i.e. leftist thought in France.

It would be interesting to see if the wearing of the cross would follow that; I feel it would not in the forseeable future in what is, after all, a Catholic country and with the political implications with the papacy.

Opinion in France, as Sarkozy well knows, appears divided along political lines:

Cinq ans apr`es la loi de mars 2004 sur le voile `a l'ecole, le probl`eme de l'affichage de signes distinctifs religieux particuli`erement voyants et attentatoires `a la f'eminit'e - burqa ou niqab - suscite `a nouveau un vif d'ebat qui transcende largement le clivage droite-gauche.

Le Figaro doesn't seem to be carrying too much on the issue at all. Le Monde carried the Muslim side of the story. An interesting interview in Jakarta from 2004, throws some light on the official Muslim position:

ULIL: Can you estimate how many Muslims in France wear headscarfs?

AF: Statistic indicates that about 80% of Muslim women in France do not wear headscarfs. Hence, only 20% wear headscarfs. Syafiq Hasyim told us that some Muslim figures have said that the matter of headscarf is not an important religious matter. The French government asked the Muslim leaders in France about this and they said that it is not a big problem and that the most important is integration of the Muslim children. Hence, to them, it's not a fundamental matter.

ULIL: What do you mean by mentioning that secularism benefits the Muslim community?

SH: It is because they are led by the majority law system supporting secularism. If only they accept not laicite or secularism, there will be a chance for the French people to adopt the Catholic system, since their major religion is Catholicism.

In other words, the Muslim spokespeople will make all the right noises against the move but actually, they are not against la"icit'e per se, as it affords them the best chance of keeping the Catholic Church in check and not reasserting its position within France. The Muslim task of the islamicization of France can then proceed without great hindrance.

From all this, one can conclude that the burqa will be banned but rather than be the next step on the road to the reassertion of France's traditions, it will actually aid in the islamicization of the country.


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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Religion Belief

Religion Belief Image
"May we be completely free from all danger, may we be completely free from all grief, may we be completely free from poverty, may we have peace in heart and mind." - is what a banner reads among hundreds and thoudsands of Buddhist Monks and Nuns in the street of Yangon- the capital of Myanmar, who are coming out from pagodas and monastries demanding for justice, freedom and peace.

"They are extraordinary images: thousands of monks and nuns marching for democracy on the streets of Burma's cities. The shaved heads, the naked shoulders, the richly coloured cotton robes: all symbols of one of the most ascetic and enduring of monastic traditions in the world. The Buddhist sangha - the collective term for these monks - is the only institutional structure outside government control which has managed to survive four decades of military dictatorship." writes Madeleine Bunting in Guardian. According to report so far 3 monks are shot dead by the government force and hundreds are injured and arrested.

Religious and Spiritual moral standpoint has given rise to many changes in human history in terms of revolutionary changes and justice. At present time, the Buddhist Monks and Nuns of Myanmar is observing their resolute non-violent and peaceful protest against the undemocratic military junta government of Myanmar.

Christian Science Monitor article, Monks If You Love Freedom writes:

Revered for self-sacrifice, Buddhist monks in Burma are standing up to the guns of a selfish regime. But these holy men in saffron robes are serving more than a people's desire for freedom. The protests also serve as a reminder of religion's historic role in shaping the kind of moral concern for others that is the root of democracy.

Events in Burma are a model, repeated throughout history, of religious movements helping overthrow colonial powers and dictators. Protestant clergy helped spark the American Revolution, with one British commander complaining that "sedition flows copiously from the pulpits. The Vatican II changes of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s helped followers in many countries stand up to tyranny. Catholic nuns and priests were on the front line of a "people power" revolution in the Philippines that overthrew a dictator in 1986. Pope John Paul II helped his native Poland lead the way to free Eastern Europe of communism.

Soviet dissidents were spiritually nurtured by a few Russian Orthodox priests, helping bring about the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. In Indonesia, a 30-million-strong Islamic group called Nahdlatul Ulama gave moral support for the 1998 overthrow of dictator Suharto.

Myanmar (also known as Burma) is one of the poorest countries in Asia and has one of the WORLD'S WORST RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RECORDS. Myanmar's entire population is composed of 89 percent Buddhist and there are minority Muslims and Christian populations as well. Myanmar has been under military dictatorship almost continuously since 1962, but the origins of its current crisis can be traced back to a failed revolt in 1988.

My heart goes out in solidarity for spiritual brothers and sisters in their sacred saffron and pale pink robes. May we all join to pray for peace in Myanmar and may the peaceful, fearless protests bring its intended fruits to the people.

:: Sign-up here for an Online Petition in support of the Burmese people's aspiration for justice and freedom. (it'll be delivered to United Nations Security Council members and international media all week)

Blog reader Barbara comments beautifully,

My heart fell to my feet today. These peaceful demonstrating monks were only marching unarmed in the name of humanity. These blessed monks stand to gain nothing in this action, because they are all unattached to anything worldly and therefore have nothing to gain personally.

When will the huge egos of politicians let go of their personal ambitions and power mongering? I can't believe the military raided the monasteries, beat, and take other monks prisoners! We must keep these blessed souls in our prayers, for they are complying with their missions here on earth. These different forms of modern day Hitler's won't overcome "spirtuality" which is inborn in each soul's heart.

>> Read more

:: The Saffron Revolution?

:: Witnessing suffering and doing nothing:: Buddhism permeates all aspects of life

:: An Enlightened Politics"Can events in Burma help challenge the generalisation that religious belief can never play a positive role in politics? "

:: Religion and Politics, Saffron Style

:: Nuns join monks in Burma's Saffron Revolution

:: Eyewitness reports from bloggers inside Burma

:: Photographs from Rangoon

:: Timeline of turbulent Myanmar

:: Global voice roundup from Myanmar

:: News on Myanmar protests

photograph by Htein Win via Asia Exile blog of TimesOnline

May love, compassion and peace win over all. May peace be upon all who hunger for peace.[+] Please visit MysticSaint.Info For full multimedia experience and enjoy special music.


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