Spirituality

Buddhism

Buddhism emerged as a result of Buddha’s quest for Enlightenment (6th Century BC).  There is no belief in deities or in a personal God.  Morality and wisdom are the way to attain elightenment.

Buddhism is focused on personal spiritual development, by striving for a deep understanding of the authentic nature of life.  All life is interconnected.  Therefore, compassion is natural and  significant.

Animals should be treated kindly, trying to harm as little as possible. Show love and kindness to all living creatures, treating the lifes of humans and animals with equal respect. Hurting or killing animals is wrong, because all beings are afraid of injury and death.  The buddhist view on birth control is that contraception is acceptable if it prevents conception, but that contraceptives that work by stopping the development of a fertilised egg are wrong and should not be used.  Buddhism is not a pro-family religion.  For this reason, having children is not a religious duty for Buddhists.

Theravada Buddhism focuses on attaining self-liberation through one’s own efforts, by abstaining “from all kinds of evil, to accumulate all that is good and to purify their mind”.  The Five Precepts are to undertake the rule of training to:

  • Refrain from harming any beings
  • Refrain from taking that which is not freely given
  • Refrain from sexual misconduct
  • Refrain from wrong speech; such as lying, malicious gossip or harsh speech
  • Refrain from drink alcohol and drug-taking, because it leads to carelessness

Buddhism extended its influence across Asia thanks to the work of many historical figures like Ashoka the Great, Indian king who ruled India from ca. 269 BC to 232 BC after a number of military conquests.  After witnessing the genocide generated by these wars, he converted to Buddhism and became a firm believer in ahimsa (non-violence), vegetarianism and tolerance.  He devoted the latter part of his life to spreading Buddhism across Asia.   He constructed hospitals for animals  and treated all Indians as equals regardless of their religious beliefs or caste. He even banned the killing of animals:

“I have enforced the law against killing certain animals and many others, but the greatest progress of righteousness among men comes from the exhortation in favor of non-injury to life and abstention from killing living beings.” – Asoka’s Edicts

The Shishi, Chinese guardian lions, have traditionally stood at the entrance of Chinese temples, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and were believed to have powerful protective benefits.  The lions are always created in pairs, with the male resting his paw upon the world and the female restraining a playful cub that is on its back. The Buddhist version of the Lion was originally introduced to Han China as the protector of dharma and these lions have been found in religious art as early as 208 BC.

In Zen Buddhism, humans can’t attain enlightenment by philosophising or thinking rationally, nor by studying scriptures, taking part in rituals or any other things that most individuals believe that religious people do.

Bodhidharma, founder of Zen Buddhism, was a Southern Indian monk that arrived to China during Emperor Wu of Liang’s reign (502-549 AD).  The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, one of the most important Mahāyāna Buddhist texts, is central to the Zen school of buddhism, being the most significant element of Bodhidharma’s teachings.  It stresses the importance of the inner enlightenment and self-realization do away with all duality, including distinctions and categories of discrimination.

One day, Bodhidharm­a went to a wooded area and sat to meditate.

“You must be a good archer to shoot so many birds.” said Bodhidharm­a after meeting a hunter carrying numerous dead birds.

“I am a good hunter. I have never missed a shot”.

“How many birds have you tried shooting with a single shot? It is more than two lives especially if one of them is carrying eggs inside her.” said Bodhidharm­a.

“Come to think of it I am a greater archer than I thought”.

Bodhidharm­a replied “I can save thousands of lives if I hit only one target .”

“Which target?” as­ked the hunter.

“You! My arrow is compassion­”

The hunter then bowed at the feet of Bodhidharm­a taking refuge in the Buddha.

Set in Lankā, the island fortress capital of Rāvana, the Lankāvatāra Sūtra recounts a teaching between Buddha and Mahāmati (“Great Wisdom”) and emphasises the idea that everything in this world is merely a manifestation of the mind.

“Meat-eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place, is unconditionally and once and for all prohibited for all.”

“Things are not what they seem. Nor are they otherwise…Deeds exist, but no doer can be found.”

In Mahayana Buddhism, the Prajñāpāramitā is a central concept, which suggests that all things and beings are empty of any independent existence.  It is  depicted as a female bodhisattva, an enlightened individual, in ancient statues that can be found in classical Javanese, Indian and Cambodian art.  The masterpiece of Indonesian Buddhist art is a statue of Prajñāpāramitā that was probably made in the likeness of Ken Dedes, queen of the Ancient kingdom of Singhasari in east Java.  The serene beauty of her expression and meditative position sitting on a lotus throne while she is performing a dharmachakra-mudra (gesture that symbolises turning the dharmachakra) is remarkable. Her head radiates a halo that suggests that she has reached the highest wisdom, the “perfection of wisdom”.

Ganapatya

Worshipped by Hindus and Jainists, Ganesha appears in Mahayana Buddhism, being revered as the Remover of Obstacles, patron of Letters during writing sessions, the deva of intellect and wisdom, patron of arts and sciences.

Ganesha is regarded as the supreme deity by Ganapatya hindus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2E_jENLv31A

Taoism

Taoists believe that happiness and peaceful coexistence can be achieved by following “The Tao”, “The Way”. The Tao is a concept that cannot be fully understood; it is the mysterious way of nature that is inherently female, being the mother of all things. The essential basis of Taoism evolves upon the supreme power of the female for creation and enlightened understanding. There is a positive attitude toward women in Taoism. Women should be treated with reverence and respect.  Masculine and feminine energies should be united.  Men are encouraged to embrace characteristics usually atrributed to women, and women may take on traditionally masculine roles.  The Tao Te Ching is the essential Taoist guide to living a full spiritual and ethical life.  Taoism disapproves of killing, stealing, lying and promiscuity, and promotes altruistic, helpful and kind behaviour:

“Cultivate the Tao within oneself; and one’s virtue will be perfected.
Cultivate it within the household, and one’s virtue will be abundant.
Cultivate it within the neighbourhood, and one’s virtue will be enduring.
Cultivate it within the nation, and one’s virtue will be overflowing.
Cultivate it within the entire world, and one’s virtue will be universal.”

Tao Te Ching 54

The ideal way for leaders to govern is by example and with minimal intervention:

“I take no action and the people are of themselves transformed.
I love tranquillity and the people are of themselves rectified.
I do not engage in affairs and the people of themselves become rich.
I have no desires and the people of themselves become simple.”

Tao Te Ching, 57

Diligent statesment are those who are respected by people. They achieve this by living virtuously in private, and while influencing people for the good.

Taoism holds nature as sacred.  For this reason, it recommends vegetarianism and the rescue of creatures should be the priority of any Taoist.

Xuan Wu, also known as The Dark Warrior, and commonly known as or Emperor Lord, is one of the most powerful Taoist deities.

Xuan Wu is particularly revered by martial arts practicioners and is the patron saint of Cantonese and Min Nan (Chinese dialects spoken in Southern Fujian) and the regions of Hebei, Manchuria and Mongolia.  He is depicted as a warrior wearing imperial robes.

A famous Taoist concept is the Fu Lu Shou, which refers to the concept of Fu (Good Fortune), Lu (Prosperity), and Shou (Longevity), denoting the elements of a good life. Statues of the Fu, Lu and Shou gods are found in many Chinese homes with offerings (fruit, glasses of water, etc).  Fu is traditionally arranged on the right and Shou on the left.  Fu is associated with Yang Chen, a governor of Daozhou risked his life by writing a memorial to the emperor to save the people from suffering.  Lu represents wealth and properity and its represented wearing mandarin clothes.  Shou is recognized by his high, domed forehead and for  carrying a peach. In Chinese mythology, peaches are a symbol of immortality.

Chan Chu

Chan Chu is a popular Chinese symbol for prosperity. It is usually depicted as a red eyed Bullfrog with three legs that is sitting on a bed of Chinese coins while holding a coin in the mouth. According to Chinese mythologies, it drives away evil, increases earnings, and protects and attracts wealth.  It should be placed in the home’s living room and specifically at the corner which is diagonally opposite to the entrance.

Hinduism

Hinduism,  the oldest living religion in the world, originated around the Indus Valley near the River Indus in Pakistan.  Hindus believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma.  Its followers do not eat beef, as the cow was the favorite animal of one of Hinduism’s central figures, Krishna.  Hinduism’s sacred texts recommend vegetarianism.  The Yajur Veda states: “You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether they be human, animals, or whatever.” 

Buddha is regarded as an avatar of the deity Vishnu by some Hindu traditions.

The Hindu concept of the  Tridevi meaning “three godesses”, refers to the veneration of three goddesses:  Saraswati, goddess of culture, learning and arts: Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and fertility; and Durga, goddess of power and love, spiritual fulfillment.

Thiruvalluvar was a Tamil philosopher whose contribution to literature is the Thirukkural, a remarkable work on ethics. The Thirukural is composed of poems covering three different subjects, virtue, wealth and love:

- How can he practice true compassion who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?

- Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless, nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.

- ‘Privation absolute’ is penance true;
‘Possession’ brings bewilderment anew.
To those who sev’rance seek from being’s varied strife,
Flesh is burthen sore; what then other bonds of life?
Who cling to things that cling and eager clasp,
Griefs cling to them with unrelaxing grasp.
Who thoroughly ‘renounce’ on highest height are set;
The rest bewildered, lie entangled in the net.

To be altogether destitute is the proper condition of those who perform austerities; if they possess anything, it will change (their resolution) and bring them back to their confused state. What means the addition of other things those who are attempting to cut off (future) births, when even their body is too much (for them). Sorrows will never let go their hold of those who give not up their hold of desire. Those who have entirely renounced (all things and all desire) have obtained (absorption into God); all others wander in confusion, entangled in the net of (many) births.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30oFBLF1_XY

Tara

In Mahayana Buddhism, Tara is a female Bodhisattva known as the “mother of liberation”. The most widely known forms of Tārā include:

Green Tārā, the Buddha of enlightened activity.

White Tārā, associated with compassion, longevity, healing and serenity

Yellow Tārā, known for wealth and prosperity.

Avalokiteśvara

Avalokiteśvara is a bodhisattva (enlightened being) who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. In Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapāni (“Holder of the Lotus”) or Lokeśvara (“Lord of the World”).

In Mahāyāna Buddhism, Avalokiteśvara  made a great vow to assist beings in times of difficulty, to assist them in becoming free from suffering.

Guanyin

Enlightened being venerated by Buddhists and Taoists, Guanyin is associated with compassion and vegetarianism.  In Mahayana Buddhism, gender is no obstacle to Enlightenment.   In China, it is said that fishermen used to pray to Mazu, Taoist Goddess of the sea and a manifestation of Guanyin, to ensure safe voyages.   Guanyin is not only the protector of travellers, but also the patron of women, children, the unfortunate, business owners and traders, being the Goddess of Luck and Fortune.  She is identified with Mary of Christianity (mother of Jesus) for being the patron of mothers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua6Z9tdWzS8

Catharic Christianity
Catharism is a Christian movement that emerged in Languedoc (France) in the 11th Century.  Most of its members were massacred and assasinated by the Catholic inquisition by the end of the 14th century.  They protested against the corruption of the Church.  The Catholic symbol of the cross was, to the Cathars, a negative symbol.  Some experts have considered them “Western Buddhists” because they believed in reincarnation.  In addition, Cathars were vegetarian, abstaining from meat eating.  Killing was considered abhorrent in Catharism. As a consequence, capital punishment and military conflicts were condemned by Cathars.  They regarded men and women as equal and had no objection to contraception.  The Cathars believed that the world had been created by an evil deity, Satan.  Essentially, they proclaimed that the God worshipped by orthodox Christianity was an imposter. Like in Buddhism, the aim of the believer was liberation from the limitation and corruption identified with material existence. The way to escape was to live an ascetic’s life, dedicated to standing apart as much as possible from the evil material world created by Satan.  They were anti- sacerdotal, as they rejected all kinds of oaths, as they believed that oaths only serve to further attached an individual to the world.  As a consequence, they also rejected marriage vows.  Concubinage was preferred to matrimonial intercourse and procreation was abhorrent.  Notable Catharts included Esclarmonde de Foix, a fervent advocate of Catharism, who was responsible for the establishment of many schools for girls and for hospitals.
Christian Mysticism

It refers to the mystical practices and believes that are part of the inner and spiritual life within Christian tradition, from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture.  Writers like Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Jesus have played an integral role in Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices.

Christianity’s central figure is Jesus of Nazareth, considered as the Son of God by Christians and a muslim prophet in Islam.  Many Buddhists regard Jesus as a bodhisattva,  an enlightened individual who dedicated his life to the welfare of living beings. A number of Christian leaders observe that vegetarianism is a sincere part of Christianity and have supported the view that Jesus of Nazareth was a vegetarian.  Epiphanius quotes the Gospel of the Ebionites where Jesus stated during his argument with the high priest “I am come to end the sacrifices and feasts of blood; and if ye cease not offering and eating of flesh and blood, the wrath of God shall not cease from you; even as it came to your fathers in the wilderness, who lusted for flesh, and did sat to their content, and were filled with rottenness, and the plague consumed them.”

Saint John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic and friar, known for his writings. His poetry and his spiritual studies are the summit of mystical literature. He was imprisoned and tortured.  “Now that I no longer desire all, I have it all without desire. If you purify your soul of attachment to and desire for things, you will understand them spiritually. If you deny your appetite for them, you will enjoy their truth, understanding what is certain in them.” St. John of the Cross

Saint Francis of Assisi was an Italian friar. Like Buddha and Bodhidharma, he grew up as a wealthy young man (he was the son of a cloth)  until he experienced had a vision that moved him to dedicate his life to his faith.  On a pilgrimage to Rome, he begged with the beggars  and decided to live on the streets, where he started preaching and amassed a following.  He is the patron saint of animals and nature.  “You have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men”.  Saint Francis of Assisi.

Saint Teresa of Jesus was a prominent Spanish mystic writer and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.  Her literary works have inspired many believers all over the world.  She influenced other writers like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. “As long as we are in this mortal life, nothing is more necessary for us than humility.” Saint Teresa of Jesus.

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux was an admirer of St. Teresa of Avila and she also became a nun who inspired millions, remaining the focus of much popular devotion.  Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin was born in Alençon (France) in 1873.  He was the daughter of Zélie Guérin, a lacemaker, and Louis Martin, a jeweler and watchmaker.

Saint Pancras was a Roman who converted to Christianity, and was assasinated for his faith during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian.  It is represented as a young man, dressed in Roman military attire.  He is considered the patron  of those afflicted by poverty. In Spain, his image in statue form can be found in many businesses and home.  He is offered parsley.

Bahai

Bahaism is one of the youngest of the world’s major religions. Founded by Bahaullah in Iran in 1863, its central theme is that humanity as a single race which should now be united in one global society.

“The earth is but one country, and humankind its citizens.”

Bahá’u’lláh

No group of living beings should regard itself as superior to any other.  Any practice that causes a group to be at a disadvantage is fundamentally immoral and wrong.  Prejudice and racial distinction are unnatural additions.  The members of Bahá’í faith are expected to work for the elimination of discrimination.  Bahá’ís hate racism but they do not disapprove of ethnic heritage and culture, except where it belittles others.  The significance of cultural diversity is essential to the development of the human race.  Abdul-Bahá illustrated this by stating that a garden that does not have a wide range of flowers is worthless.  Inequalities such as poverty are immoral and should be reduced,  by both charity and by government policy.

Bahá’í teaching has always been that women and men are equal.  All women deserve to have an education and should be given the opportunities needed to take advantage of that equality.

The Bahai faith encourages its members to maintain a vegetarian diet:

The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural food is that which grows out of the ground.
(‘Abdu’l-Baha, from Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, page 102)

Ahimsa

Ahimsa or non-violence is a principle that advocates a way of life based in not doing violence.

Mahatma Gandhi was a famous advocate of this doctrine, as it informed his policy of passive resistance, satyagraha (combining the Sanskrit terms for ‘truth’ and ‘holding firmly’) – which he adopted towards the British invaders during the events that led to India’s independence.

Literally, Ahimsa means to be without harm, to be harmless.  All human beings should refrain from violence to any living being in all aspects of life:

  • By not using cloth whose production hurts living creatures
  • By aiming to preserve life at all times
  • Animals must not be kept in captivity, starved, or mistreated.

Harm is inevitably done when we defend ourselves against attack, but humans should be vegetarian and must not do jobs that cause harm, for example:

  • those involving fires
  • those in which trees are cut
  • trading in silk, leather, pearls etc
  • selling weapons
  • circus work involving animals

Ahimsa followers should:

  • promote tolerance
  • give to charity
  • work for peace
  • protect the environment
  • work for kindness to animals


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