From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Descartes: God is, therefore I am


(Descartes Tutoring Christina)
When people talk about Descartes, they often refer to his famous phrase:  Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).  If they fancy themselves somewhat reasonable, they might pat themselves on the back for concluding that life would be nothing without reason.  They might even add that God doesn’t necessarily exist. 

Would that be true?

Not according to Descartes.  For Descartes (an alleged Catholic whom some say was responsible for converting Queen-regnant Christina of Sweden during the months that he personally tutored her), cogito ergo sum was a way of “proving” God’s existence – not just the man in the mirror’s.  In other words, Descartes didn’t exist because he was able to think.  Just the reverse…  His
thoughts arose from an intuitive perception of his own, and God’s, existence.

How so?

In his Fifth Meditation, Descartes explained what later became known as the “ontological argument” for God’s existence.  According to Wikipedia, the logic used by Descartes was this:  What I clearly and distinctly perceive to be contained in the idea of something is true of that thing.  I clearly and distinctly perceive that necessary existence is contained in the idea of God.  ERGO…  God exists.  In Meditations 3 – 6, he sums it up this way:  The perfection of God logically requires existence in the way that a mountain logically implies a valley.

As for his own (perhaps less than perfect) existence?  In his Discourse on the Method, Descartes reasons
that doubt itself cannot exist unless there is an entity that is doing the doubting.  Therefore, when he began to doubt even his own existence, he realized that there must be a “someone” who is doubting that Descartes
exists.  That “someone” he surmised to be Descartes (since these were, after all, Descartes' thoughts).

Thus, a new phrase was born: I doubt, therefore I am.  (Good news for Apostle Thomas…)

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Descartes
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_of_Sweden
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discourse_on_the_Method

Copyright March 31, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vincent van Gogh: God in a picture


(The Potato Eaters by Van Gogh)
Just as Mark Twain had warned, “Never let schooling interfere with your education” – Van Gogh might as well have added, “And never let seminary interfere with your religion…” 

That’s because Van Gogh never let any “official” antipathy to his religious zeal stifle it – he simply found a different, more profound, way of expressing it.  He became a visual artist whose pictures were worth a thousand sermons.

According to Wikipedia, Van Gogh’s family of origin had long gravitated toward both art and theology.  His grandfather, also Vincent van Gogh, had graduated from the University of Leiden with a degree in theology.  His father, Theodorus van Gogh, was a Dutch Reformed minister.  Three of his uncles were art dealers, and his grandfather’s great-uncle (yet another Vincent van Gogh) was a well-known sculptor.  Van Gogh himself at first worked as an art dealer, and was quite successful at it until a thwarted romance interfered.  He was also becoming increasingly at odds with the commoditization of art.

As his personal anguish increased, so did his religious fervor.  He then decided to pursue another family vocation - ministry.  Van Gogh became a Methodist minister’s assistant for a short while – with the ardent intention of “preaching the Gospel everywhere.”  He afterwards worked at a bookshop, and spent much of his “free” time there translating biblical passages into three other languages.  His family then sent him to Amsterdam to “officially” study theology.  After failing the entrance exam, Van Gogh then went on to a
three-month Protestant missionary school near Brussels.  He failed this latter course of study, as well.

Seeking what he considered to be an authentic Christian ministry, Van Gogh next began evangelizing within the poverty-stricken, coal-mining Borinage region of Belgium.  He chose to live as the miners did, and slept “on straw in a small hut in the back of the baker’s house…”  He was then dismissed from this temporary missionary post by church authorities who accused him of “undermining the dignity of the priesthood” by living in this manner.

These so-called failures did not sit well with Van Gogh’s minister father, who began seriously questioning his son’s sanity.  Van Gogh, however, was on the verge of discovering his true spiritual vocation.  He began turning back to art – this time on the creative end of the paintbrush.  One of his earliest works, The Potato Eaters, was directly inspired by his Borinage experience.

According to Kathleen Powers Erickson, this painting reflects Van Gogh’s “commitment to religious themes and his appreciation for true piety.”  Erickson reports that the figures in this painting were deliberately portrayed in the somber colors of a “very dusty, unpeeled potato” – and that “the sharing of their meager repast alludes to the Eucharist.”  She also reports that the lamp above their table “was Van Gogh’s symbol of love and recalls the light of the gospel which he once brought into the huts of the peasants and the miners.”

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Potato_Eaters
http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/09/25/schooling-vs-education/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh#cite_ref-20
http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=752

Copyright March 30, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors Day: Why scry?


(Photo by Gryffindor)
The very term “smoke and mirrors” implies illusion.  Quantum physics, Buddhism and Hinduism all warn against getting too ensnared by that which we think is real. 

Other disciplines, however, seek truth through illusion.  Illusions are deliberately conjured up, and then focused upon, in order to determine the message within.  One formal practice of this is scrying. 

Accoring to scryingmirror.com, the word “scrying” is rooted in the English word “descry.”  “Descry” means “to make out dimly” or “to reveal.”  “Scrying” itself is defined as “the ancient art of divination for the purpose of clairvoyance.”  Merriam-Webster defines “divination” as anything from foreseeing the future with the aid of supernatural powers to “unusual insight” and “intuitive perception.”  It defines “clairvoyance” as “the power or faculty of discerning objects not present to the senses.”

It therefore seems as if physics, religions and scrying share this same basic premise:  Truth goes way beyond ordinary human sensory perceptions.

According to Wikipedia, “scrying” (aka “seeing” or “peeping”) is “a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium…”  The medium is usually a shiny object such as glass, crystal, stone, water, smoke, or a mirror.  Various concentration techniques are used to encourage the perception of reflected visions.  These visions are then meditated upon in order to better interpret their often-symbolic meanings.    

Scrying spans many traditions such as pre-Islamic Persia (Cup of Jamshid) and the Latter Day Saints
(Joseph Smith’s brown stone).  Nostradamus with his “magic mirror” bowl of water is another well-known example.

Resources

http://www.scryingmirror.com/whatis.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrying


Copyright March 29, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zarathustra: Thus spake Freddie Mercury


19th Century Parsis
Freddie Mercury was a lot closer to the teachings of Zarathustra than Nietzsche ever was.  That’s because Mercury grew up with these teachings, whereas Nietzsche simply used them as a front
for his own diametrically-opposed philosophy.

Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara into a Parsi family originally from the Gujarat region of India.  According to Wikipedia, the modern Parsis (aka Parsees) descended from a group of Zoroastrian Persians who fled Iran in the 10th century due to religious persecution.  A hotly-contended, and non-legally-binding,
1909 ruling states that Parsis must either be fully descended from the original Zoroastrian Persian immigrants and still profess faith in
that religion, or be Iranians who profess the Zoroastrian religion, or be the children of Parsi fathers by “alien mothers who have been duly and properly admitted into the religion.”  Many believe that this ruling is in violation of some basic equality tenets.

Zoroastrianism, based upon actual teachings of the ancient Persian prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek), has also been called the “Good Religion.”  According to Ali A. Jaferey, Zarathustra presented a “progressive monotheism.”   Ahura Mazda is the “creator, sustainer, and promoter of the universe,” and has fashioned a joyous world which is guided by the “Primal Principles of Life.”  These are presented in Zarathustra’s Gathas (scriptural poetic verses) - and include discernment, righteousness, benevolent order, tranquility, divine intuition, and conscience.  In fact, Zarathustra named this religion “Good Conscience.”

A far cry from Nietzsche’s “death of God” and “superhuman” immorality… 

And Freddie Mercury?  May he rest in the blessed peace of which Zarathustra spake.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddie_Mercury#CITEREF.22Linda_B.222000
http://www.zoroastrian.org/articles/The_Good_Religion_and_Zoroastrianism.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thus_Spoke_Zarathustra

Copyright March 28, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ostara: Grimm no longer


Ostara (Johannes Gehrts, 1884)
Ostara (Eostre) might have remained completely mysterious had Saint Bede the Venerable (673 – 735 CE) not referenced her in his famed history of chronology, De Temporum Ratione (The Reckoning of Time).

However, Bede did not give much detail about her.  According to A. E. Hunt-Anschutz, this is all Bede wrote:  Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month.  End of story. 

Enter Grimm.  Brother Grimm.  Not a monk like Bede, but half of the Brothers Grimm.

It seems that when Jacob Grimm (1785 – 1863) was not poring over tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, and Rumpelstiltskin with his brother Wilhelm, he was avidly studying the evolution of Germanic languages.  Grimm was particularly fascinated by the way that phonics changed over time, and some of his findings have been instrumental in linguistics ever since.

It’s no wonder, then, that Jacob Grimm also made mention of Eostre.  However, it is now thought that his descriptions of her were more fairy tale than historical fact.  It is Grimm that linked her ancient name to the Old High German adverb “ostar.”  Hunt-Anschutz tells us that “ostar” expressed “movement toward the rising sun.”

Assuming that this linkage to this verb “ostar” was correct, it still doesn’t necessarily account for these romantic-sounding conclusions that Grimm comes to in his work, Teutonic Mythology:  Ostara, Eostre seems therefore to have been a divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted to the resurrection day of the Christian’s god.

Grimm’s was not the only imaginative view of Eostre.  Over the years, she has morphed from being Grimm’s
regal goddess to being the Easter Bunny’s buddy.

Maybe not the perfect fairy-tale ending, but Ostara’s story is far from over…  

Resources

http://www.manygods.org.uk/articles/essays/Eostre.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%92ostre
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bede
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Grimm
http://tribes.tribe.net/darkgoddesses/thread/f89feab5-dcb7-4527-9615-63ee726ea305

Copyright March 27, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Archangel Gabriel: Interfaith Messenger


Icon of Gabriel (c. 1387-1395 CE)
What better way for the three major Abrahamic religions to connect with one another than through Archangel Gabriel the Divine Messenger?

Although there has been some question within Judaism as to whether Daniel was a prophet (since his messages were more for the future than for the present), there is little question as to whether he interpreted divine messages.  The Book of Daniel (which is included in the Writings section rather than the Prophets section of the Tanakh) tells of two encounters that Daniel had with Archangel Gabriel.  In Daniel 8:15-27 and in Daniel 9:20-25, Gabriel comes to assist Daniel with the interpretation of intensely complex messages (messages which are still being grappled with today).

In Islam, Daniel is regarded as a prophet.  However, Islam’s overall connection with Gabriel is said to come directly through Muhammad and the Qur’an.  Al-Hadith commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih IV, pages 356-357, tells of the angel’s visit to Muhammad in the Cave of Hira.  According to harvardhouse.com:  Muslims believe that each word in the Qur’an was given to Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel.

In the Christian Annunciation, Archangel Gabriel plays a dual role.  In Luke 1:5-23, Gabriel arrives to bring the childless elderly couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah, some astonishing news.  They are to soon have a child named John, who “will be great in the sight of the Lord.”  This son would come to be known as John the Baptist.  Then, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel appeared again – but this time to Mary.  Gabriel said to her:  Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.

Resources

http://www.jewfaq.org/prophet.htm
http://www.harvardhouse.com/Setup_Islam_and_Christianity.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annunciation

Copyright March 26, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Friday, March 25, 2011

Aretha Franklin: Gospel genealogy


Aretha's Birthplace (By: T. R. Machnitzki)
A child was born unto Baptist minister C. L. Franklin and his wife Barbara on March 25, 1942.  This had all the makings of a script writ in heaven for the baby who was destined to set the Gospel world on fire.

Clarence LaVaughn Franklin began his ministry at age 16.  After being a circuit preacher for over a decade, he settled in at the New Salem Baptist Church in Memphis,Tennessee.  In 1936 he married Barbara Siggers, who gave birth to Aretha in Memphis.  When Aretha was two, her father was called to the Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York – and when she was four, he was
called to the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Two years later, Aretha’s parents separated, and Barbara moved back to Buffalo with her oldest child.  Aretha remained in Detroit, and was primarily raised by her father’s mother, Rachel.  Aretha visited with her mother in both Detroit and Buffalo until Barbara’s death from a heart attack at age 34.  Aretha was only ten at the time.

The music connection kept her going.  At a young age, she had begun singing at church and playing piano by ear.  She then began regularly singing solos at the New Bethel Baptist Church. 

Meanwhile, C. L. Franklin was expanding his mission all over the country.  He began recording his sermons and doing Sunday radio shows.  Two of his well-known titles were “Dry Bones in the Valley” and “The Eagle Stirreth Her Nest.”  He was said to have a “Million Dollar Voice” due to his speaking and singing engagements.  During the 1950s and 1960s, he was also actively involved in the civil rights movement.  His close friends and associates included Martin Luther King, Jr., Albertina Walker, Mahalia Jackson,

C. L. recognized Aretha’s gifts and included her in many of his engagements and tours.  Aretha was also mentored by the aforementioned Gospel greats who visited her father’s home frequently.  She released her first album in 1961, and by 1965 was being prophetically called the “Queen of Soul.”  The rest is known as superstardom-history – a history rooted in her great Gospel heritage.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aretha_Franklin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._L._Franklin
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Ward
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertina_Walker
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahalia_Jackson

Copyright March 25, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: Back to the Light


(Ascent of the Blessed)
Neither diamonds nor spotlights could match the glow of Elizabeth Taylor’s near death experiences (NDEs).

The most compelling of these NDEs came during surgery in the 1950s.  While Elizabeth was being pronounced dead on the operating table, she was actually feeling more alive than ever.  During an interview with America’s AIDS Magazine, Taylor recalled:  I went to that tunnel, saw the white light, and Mike [Todd].  I said, Oh Mike you’re where I want to be…  She further elaborated upon this experience during an interview with Diane Sawyer.  Elizabeth described this other realm as so beautiful, warm and welcoming that it was very difficult for her to return to earth.  When she was finally able to once again appreciate the blessings of this world, she heartily thanked God for them.

These types of NDE “side effects” are quite common.  Based upon personal experience and research findings, Matthew Dovel also reports post-NDE increases in these areas:  empathy, telepathy, precognition, remote viewing, clairaudience, and clairvoyance.  In addition, Dovel reports stronger rapports with children and animals, but not with machinery.  In fact, watches have often quit within days of post-NDE wearing.

Elizabeth also talked about her ability to communicate with the animal world.  As she explained to America’s
AIDS Magazine:  I have a little dog, Sugar, and I know she has a soul.  We communicate and she understands every word I’m saying to her.

Taylor also shared her primary post-NDE response:  Not poor me, but, What am I to learn from this lesson?  NDEs had made her quite fearless about death, since she had already “been there, done that.”  DenDen reports that - when asked in 2004 if she were afraid of death - Taylor replied:  No. I consult with God, my maker.  And I don’t have a lot of problems to work out.  I’m pretty squared away. 

Resources

http://www.aumag.org/coverstory/feb03cover.html
http://www.mylastbreath.com/side_effects_of_nde.htm
http://forums.denden.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22827
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/remembering-elizabeth-taylor-13202173

Copyright March 24, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Holi colors: Their potent effects


(Nature's Own Holi)
Colors and Holi go hand in hand.  Whether the red shades of gulal (dry powders), or the green shades of rang (wet pastes), colors are a way of honoring the spiritual love between Krishna and Radha. 

Holi colors are integrally related to the material world also.
According to holifestival.org, the hues of Holi were originally part and parcel of the flowers that bloomed each spring.  Dyes were extracted from these medicinal plants, and were then healthfully applied to the skin.  Unfortunately, nature’s own colors are now being replaced by industrial concoctions that contain many harmful chemicals.

According to results from studies done by Toxic Links and Vatavaran (two Delhi-based environmental groups), the following toxic chemicals were found in many of today’s Holi colorants (associated health risks are listed within the parentheses):  lead oxide (renal failure); copper sulphate (eye allergy); aluminum bromide (carcinogenic); Prussian blue and Gentian violet (dermatitis); and heavy metals (asthma, skin and eye diseases).

Fortunately, there are still ways of either making or buying healthful Holi colorants.  Many companies are now specializing in eco-friendly Holi products.  It is also relatively simple to extract colors from common kitchen products.  Henna leaves can be used for an orange/red paste.  Yellow powder can be made from a mixture of turmeric and chick-peas.  Beets will yield a deep pink.

Even more fortunately, colors - in and of themselves – can be markedly therapeutic.  According to therapycolor.com, color therapy was popular in ancient Egypt, Greece and China.  It was specifically mentioned in documents such as the Nei Ching (2000 year-old Chinese book of medicine), The Canon of Medicine (1000 year-old Arabian book by Avicenna), and The Theory of Color (Goethe’s 1810 German research study).

In 1933, Indian scientist Dinshah Ghadiali published a book,The Spectro Chrometry Encyclopedia, which laid the foundation for modern color therapy.  According to Wikipedia, Ghadiali believed that “colors represent chemical potencies in higher octaves of vibration… and for each organism and system of the body there is a particular color that stimulates and another that inhibits the work of that organ or system.”

There seems to be much innate wisdom in the association of colors with Holi-ness.  If God’s own palette of plants and sunshine were to once again prevail, the Holi colors could be quite healing for body, mind, heart and soul.

Resources

http://festivals.iloveindia.com/holi/holi-gulal.html
http://www.holifestival.org/eco-friendly-holi.html
http://www.therapycolor.com/HistoryOfColorTherapy/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holi
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromotherapy


Copyright March 23, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nowruz: Talibanned no longer


(King Jamshid)
On March 20, 2002, then-President George W. Bush sent Nowruz Greeting to Afghans. 

In this official letter, Bush stated:  Throughout their history, Afghans have observed Nowruz.  But the Taliban had forbidden Afghans from following this treasured part of their heritage.  Next week, for the first time in many years, Afghans will be free once more to celebrate this time-honored tradition.

Just what is this “time-honored tradition” of Nowruz, and why are the Taliban so against it?

According to Wikipedia, the Taliban banned Nowruz because they considered it an “ancient pagan holiday centered on fire worship.”  (The Ayotollahs in Iran felt similarly about Nowruz, and also tried to ban it.)

It is said that Zoroaster (Zarathustra) himself (Persian prophet and philosopher, circa 18th to 10th centuries BCE) stressed the importance of celebrating Nowruz.  The Shahnameh (circa 1000 CE) credits King and High Priest Jamshid with originating Nowruz.  According to Persian legend, Jamshid was the fourth king of the world who also had control of angels and demons.  The name “Jamshid” is linguistically associated with the proto-Iranian words for “bright, shining, radiant.”  The name
“Nowruz” – which now means “New Day” – once meant “New Light.”  Nowruz (Nouwruz in Afghanistan) has recently been recognized by the U.N. General Assembly, and is a public holiday in at least ten countries.  It occurs at the time of the vernal equinox.

In Afghanistan, Nouwruz is traditionally celebrated for a two-week period.  Nouwruz customs include the following:  Haft Mewa (fruit salad with seven dried fruits); Samanak (wheat-germ dish); Mela-e
Gul-e Surkh (Red Flower – tulip – Festival); Buzkashi (horseback competition); and Jashn-e Dehqan (Festival of Farmers)

In honor of Nowruz 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released this overall statement:  May this new year be filled with a renewed sense of hope and a new commitment to the human rights and fundamental freedoms that are our universal birthright.

Resources

http://usembassy-israel.org.il/publish/peace/archives/2002/march/032109.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowruz
http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/20/iran.new.year/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamshid
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahnameh

Copyright March 22, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 


Monday, March 21, 2011

Hola Mohalla: Wishing Sikhs a happier New Year


(Preparing Langar at the Golden Temple in Amritsar)
In the wake of post-9/11 anti-Sikh discrimination throughout the world, it is especially important to better understand our Sikh brothers and sisters.

The Nanakshahi calendar was adopted by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee in 1998.  This topical-solar calendar is named after the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.  Year one, 1469 CE, is the year of Guru Nanak’s birth; therefore, the Gregorian 2011 CE is Nanakshahi 542.  New Year’s Day annually falls on Guru Nanak’s birthday, which is the Gregorian March 14.

Hola Mohalla is a week-long festival around the time of the Sikh New Year.  The tenth and final human Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, originated this event.  Because he was also a warrior who was highly skilled in horsemanship and combat, the name “Hola Mohalla” derives from military terminology.  According to M. S. Ahluwalia, it involves “an organized procession in the form of an army column…”  According to Sikhchic.com, it has also been a day of “fun and games.”

At the time, Guru Gobind Singh was fighting against the injustices of political oppression, religious intolerance and the caste system.  His Khalsa initiation ritual included these words:  From now on, you have become casteless…  In your new order, the lowest will rank with the highest and each will be to the other a bhai (brother)…  Women shall be the equal of men in every way…  My Khalsa shall always defend the poor…  He considered himself of equal footing with the rest of the Khalsa (Pure Ones), and even asked some members whom he had initiated to initiate him in turn.

Therefore, a key part of Hola Mohalla tradition includes the langar (free kitchen).  The langar, originally instituted by Guru Nanak, symbolizes equality for all.  People of all castes, colors, creeds, genders, and ages eating together was revolutionary in 16th-century India (and, in many places around the world, still is today).  This communal sharing is a living expression of the Oneness that is extolled in the Guru Granth Sahib. 

Langars continue to be a routine part of Sikh life.  At Gurdwaras, food is typically served twice a day, every
day.  All are welcome.  There are also open-air langars.  According to Wikipedia, some dining halls in Delhi
“prepare between 50,000 and 70,000 meals per day.”  The work is done by Sewadars (volunteers), and the
food is all donated. 

This Sikh prayer shows the priority that is placed on these compassionate efforts:  May the hot plates of the langars remain ever in service.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanakshahi_calendar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hola_Mohalla
http://www.sikhspectrum.com/112006/denise.htm
http://www.sikhspectrum.com/112004/hola.htm
http://www.sikhchic.com/article-detail.php?id=119&cat=5


Copyright March 21, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Purimfest 1946: Haunted by Haman


“Purimfest 1946!” was practically the last barb tossed by Nazi war criminal Julius Streicher before he was hanged at Nuremberg.


Death Cap Toadstool (Photo by Archenzo) 
Streicher had been a widespread disseminator of anti-Semitic propaganda long before World War II had even begun.  His publishing company had released a children’s book, Der Giftpilz (The Toadstool) - which compared Jews to attractive, yet poisonous, mushrooms.  Story upon story within this book was stereotypically designed to teach children hatred for the Jews.  Some of the book’s main themes include ways to
distinguish Jews from others, reasons to be on guard against Jews in various professions, false quotations from the Talmud,
and blame for everything from communism to the crucifixion.

For example, one excerpt from the book reads as follows:  Many Jews are bow-legged and flat footed.  They often have a low, slanting forehead, a receding forehead.  Many criminals have such a receding forehead.  The Jews are criminals too.  Their hair is usually dark and often curly like a Negro’s.  Their ears are very large and they look like the handles of a coffee cup.

Centuries before, here are the words from another book – the
Book of Esther.  These words were spoken by Haman, another
virulent anti-Semite, to the ancient Persian king:  There is a nation scattered and separated among the nations throughout your empire.  Their laws are different than everyone else’s, they do not obey the king’s laws, and it does not pay for the king to tolerate their existence.  If it pleases the king, let a
law be written that they be destroyed…

This is the very same logic that was used by the Nazi regime.  Haman whispering into the king’s ear might as well have been Streicher whispering into the ears of children across the land – children who then stood a much better chance of growing up to be full-fledged Nazi supporters.

Much has been written about Streicher’s final Purimfest barb.  Commentaries have often focused upon whether the ten Nazi war criminals who were hanged at Nuremberg were, in fact, the ten sons of Haman whom Esther condemned.  This we might never know for sure.  However, what we do know is that hanging alone can never extinguish hatred.

Haman is long dead, as are Streicher and his nine (plus many more) cohorts.  However, the poisonous toadstool of prejudice is still very much alive.  According to Wikipedia, contemporary U.S. Nazi leader, Gary Lauck, has produced an English translation of Streicher’s Toadstool publication, and is now looking to market it in many different languages.

How “successful” his endeavor might become will depend upon how well the lessons of Purim have truly been learned.  In the end, it’s not about victory over the Persians. It’s about victory over our own lower selves.

Resources

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2008/03/purim-fest-1946.html
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/holiday9.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Giftpilz
http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/purim/esther3.html
http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/story3.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Streicher

Copyright March 20, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Magha Puja: Paying it forward

To many, enlightenment seems like the be-all and end-all of human existence.  Those stereotypic images of blissed-out cave-meditators are hard to shake.

Enlightened beings, however, often see things differently.  For them, enlightenment is instead a new beginning.  It is the first step of a very long journey that they intend to share with others.  Such an Enlightened One was the Buddha.  He practically went straight from the Bodhi tree to Sarnath, where he immediately began sharing his awakening with
five holy men.  He and his disciples then taught the Dharma throughout India for the next 45 years.

Magha Puja celebrates the sharing of this Buddhist wisdom.  According to Wikipedia, it marks the four auspicious occasions that occurred nine months after the Buddha’s enlightenment.  These “four auspicious occasions” were as follows:  the unscheduled synchronistic arrival of 1250 Sangha visitors; the fact that – unbeknownst to one another - they were all Arhantas ordained by the Buddha himself; the giving to them by the Buddha of the three ovadhapatimokha principles (cease from all evil, do what is good, and cleanse the mind); and the occurrence of all this on a full-moon day.

In Thailand, these ovadhapatimokha teachings have been deemed so important that they are referred to as the “Heart of Buddhism.”  On the full-moon evening of the third lunar month of Makha (Magha), Thailand temples hold candlelight processions.  Monks and congregants walk three times around in a circle – once for the Buddha, once for the Dharma, and once for the Sangha.  Renunciation and meditation is also practiced.  Buddhist precepts are emphasized.

Magha Puja is officially celebrated in Laos and Cambodia, as well. Buddhists there also go to temple and perform “merit-making activites.”  The beauty of this holiday is that it not only honors enlightenment – but especially honors the compassionate sharing of it.

Resources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magha_Puja
http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/footsteps.htm


Copyright March 19, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved