Buddhism – A Brief Introduction

Hi Ladies,

I thought I’d give a brief introduction into the religion of Buddhism, I think it’s important to understand the different religions across the world you’ll come into counter with and as a young woman, it’s important to know the different religions for multiple reasons:

  1. You’re more educated of all the worldly religions, thus you’re more educated
  2. You’re empowered to choose what religion is “right” for you, if you decide to be religious
  3. You’re culturally accepting of other people’s behaviors and traditions if you know a little of their background

The way Buddhism was founded is actually pretty cool, there was this son of a very wealthy man in India, named Siddhartha Gautama.  Growing up and through young adulthood, Siddhartha lived a very flamboyant lifestyle, but he soon came to boredom of his indulgent life, and he began wandering the world searching for meaning—probably the meaning of life, as many of us do. Whilst wandering Siddhartha came across a dead body, a diseased stricken man and an ascetic (a person who practices strict self-discipline from abstaining from the normal pleasures of life). Through this life-changing encounter, he gave up his royal title as well as all of his material possessions to become a monk, and to seeking to further understand the world about him.

Would you do something like what Siddhartha did? Give up all of your materialistic possessions to lead a simple, possession free life?

One day, after a long time of searching, he finally comprehended how to be free from the suffering, and found salvation—through this enlightenment, he became known as Buddha, which means “Enlightened One”. He then lived the rest of his life travelling throughout India, teaching others.


Buddha taught The Four Noble Truths:

  1. The Truth of Suffering
  2. The Cause of Suffering
  3. The End of Suffering
  4. The Path that Leads to the End of Suffering

Buddha did not mean to intend a negative-connotation of the world, but a more realistic view of the world, and how to try to change it. Attaining to the idea that there is suffering in the world, there is a cause for it, but there is an end to suffering, and the cause will bring about its end. Buddha acknowledges that pleasure is unappeasable—a recurring problem, which can never be appeased. One will search and search for it, only to never be fully satisfied.

What do you think of Buddha’s theory of pleasure? Can it be attained and kept? On the other hand, once you attain pleasure, then you want more pleasure, flowing into a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, Buddha has a similar concept of happiness—stating that in the end, only aging, sickness, and death are definite.

I want to continue the story of Buddhism next week, and I hope that this week’s post makes you reflect and contemplate the purpose of life, as Buddha did so long ago. 

Cheers,

Delaney

Source: http://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm

PS check out www.onequay.org

Buddhism – The Eightfold Steps & Three Premises to End Suffering

Heyo Ladies!! 

I hope you enjoyed last weeks blog on Buddhism, so I’m going to continue where I left off: 

Buddha realized that suffering was caused primarily by unawareness and craving; we as humans hunger after gratification, selfish possessions, and immortality. I mean, right, don’t we all want that purse, or those shoes, or a double-caramel macchiato from the local coffee shop? Nevertheless, after we buy those cute heels, or that adorable bag, and drink that coffee we forget about it and move on to the next item on our want list. Thus, as Buddha says, these desires will never be satisfied, therefore desiring it and fulfilling these desires encapsulates us to suffering. Buddha also states that being unaware, and uninformed of the world around you trains your mind to become undeveloped, therefore you’re unable to grasp the true reality of things. Thus, these cravings we so desire cause envy, hate, anger, and greed, which are all derived from this ignorance.  

Once you’ve reached the third level of truth, the End of Suffering, you achieve the Nirvana, which is described as a magnificent state, free from the suffering surrounding us, you have reached a spiritual illumination. Phew, only one more step to go! The final stage of truth, is walking the path to the end of suffering, through this it’s known as the Eightfold Path

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thought
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

Then, there are three dividing premises the path is divided into:

  1. Good Moral Conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech)
  2. Meditation & Mental Development (Action, Livelihood, Effort)
  3. Wisdom & Insight (Mindfulness and Concentration)

These eight steps and three defined levels are steps one takes to transgress into a better individual.

So, even if you’re not Buddhist, what step would you consider yourself at? What do you think of the eight steps Buddha outline for self-enlightenment and a state of Nirvana? What about the three different premises? What do you think of Buddhism so far? How does it compare to what religion you were raised as, as well as your own personal beliefs on the meaning of life?

Next week, I’ll wrap the Buddhism segment up with a discussion on Karma. We hear it a lot, don’t do that, for you’ll have bad karma! What does Karma mean to you and amongst your friends? 

 Source: http://www.pbs.org/edens/thailand/buddhism.htm

Again, I hope you’re starting to think about some things in life :) 

- Delaney

PS, check it —> www.onequay.org

Santeria

Cuba has an interesting mix of religions in the country; whereas a lot of countries have a few main religions but they do not intermingle per say like how Cuba has incorporated multiple beliefs into one conviction. Before Columbus settled in Cuba in 1492, the Arawak and Taino native peoples of Cuba were polytheists, which is worshipping and believing in more than one god figure. Their gods, Zemi, reined many aspects of the cosmos; although similar to the Greek Gods, Zemi did not have individual characteristics (Corbett). 

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Santeria Gods

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Zemi carvings

Through their ritualistic religion, there were three aspects: 

  1. Sacred adoration and homage to the Zemi 
  2. Giving gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness as well as appealing requests in communal areas through dancing rituals
  3. Important community figures, such as the medicine man or priest, known as the Shaman, would provide consultation for guidance as well as curative healing through ceremonial dances and songs in the public. 

 

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Taino’s Zemi

The rituals were taken seriously and people would wear outfits decorated feathers and paint on themselves. The Zemi would be carved onto wood and placed on a stool for honor by the Shaman. Accompanied by traditional drum pounding; riddance of impurities in the body and soul occurred. After a sacred staple was provided, a poet would recite a historical lesson to the tribes (Corbett).

Though the Arawak and Taino religion is not wholeheartedly practiced anymore it plays an important role in the Cuban culture of religion. After Columbus conquered Cuba and brought over the slaves from Africa, a mixture of both Western African tribal religions (Yoruba) came about, then eventually the missionaries came and tried converting the Cubans to Catholicism (Van Dine); somewhat successful, but still, the people intermingled all three religions into what is know today as Santeria (Knight). Spanish for “the way of the saints”, originated from Africa, of the Yoruba tribe (Murphy). 

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Santeria is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity.

It is believed that each individual has a predefined destiny created by God, filled with the help and spirit of the Orishas. If the correct rituals are held accordingly, their defined destiny will be correctly accomplished. Catholicism plays a role in Santeria through their Saints (Religion):

  • Saint Barbara Shangó – justice and strength; associated with lightening, fire, artillery and sailing (Daniel).
  • Our Lady of Charity Ochún – being associated with water, sweets, money, and love (Our Lady).
  • Saint Lazarus Babalú-Ayé – allied with the sick and ill

Today, most people in Cuba associated themselves with Santeria religion. It is important to see how some people find peace within their soul through multiple angles. Religion is a tough topic and many people personally struggle finding an answer they’re satisfied with, so I encourage you to find peace within your soul. 

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Defining Religion

It’s hard to ‘define’ what religion is. Depending on whom one talks to, one will get varied and diverse answers, sometimes contradicting the previous. 

I am going to do my best to give the best ‘overall’ definition of all religions. By doing so, this may not fit with your definition of your religion or set of beliefs; however, this is meant to cover the entire worlds religions. As eventually, my goal is to touch on all the major religions, then do sub-topics and discussions. 

"Because it crosses so many different boundaries in human experience, religion is notoriously difficult to define. Many attempts have been made, however, and while every theory has its limitations, each perspective contributes to our understanding of this complex phenomenon." (WHY STUDY RELIGION)

So, here we go :)

A religion can be defined as: 

  • a code or law which the followers believe there is a supernatural ruler (or many rulers)
  • Belief in sacred ways 
  • Ritual traditions or ceremonies performed on or towards sacred objects
  • feelings, which can be aroused in during ritualistic and religious practices, but aren’t necessarily required to be aroused during those ceremonies. 
  • Methods of communications to supernatural power, whether it be ritualistic dances, ceremonies, devotions, prayers, feasts, holidays, celebrations, songs, sacrificial gifts. 
  • How one views the world, and goes about their daily lives. 
  • a group of people connected because of their similar beliefs.

"This is the definition of religion used here. It describes religious systems but not non-religious systems. It encompasses the features common in belief systems generally acknowledged as religions without focusing on specific characteristics unique to just a few." - Austin Cline

Although it’s tough to find a definition that pleases everybody, it’s best not to get too caught up in the big picture. There are so many religions out there that you need to understand each religion in order to better understand society & people. So, we will do this together, step by step; to understand the complex, but fascinating world of religions. Each one’s have their own offerings, and hopefully, by the end of each week, you will come out more educated, cultured and understanding — and maybe, even helping you discover what you believe in (which doesn’t have to be anything either). But to make a good decision, one must always be educated. 

Religion & Impact on History

Guten Tag Ladies!

Sorry, again, for the delay in posting. I’ve been travelling so internet is sketch, and honestly, I needed a break from being constantly connected. 

As I have been travelling around, and visiting many museums it occurred to me how prominent religion has on society, and culture of that society. I really had never thought about, nor comprehended (obviously) the impact that religion has on it’s people. I’m currently in Norway, visiting some friends and we went to a Viking Museum to learn about them (which is really fascinating; so much history) and they have been a society of people that has been around for thousands of years. Yet, Christianity, plays a huge roll in the formation of their history for the last thousand years. This is prominent in any society; whether you’re referring to the Aztecs, Chinese, or Filipinos; and this is also something to consider with how the history was recorded and written down and passed on for generations. 

There is a strong quote I always state when discussing current issues, and it is that, “History is only written by the victors” stated Winston Churchill, which is true. If you consider it, it’s true. The losers never had a chance to tell their side of the story. So, when reading history books, and going to museums, remember that though there are facts there, there is also a second side to the story; as there is to all stories. :)

Peace Out Ladies, and enjoy the day! 

Karma & Rebirth

Ok! So, what did you decide karma was for your personal beliefs? I thought a lot about karma and where I first heard it from, and it was actually with one of my best friends, Morgan, and her mother was talking about Karma one day picking us up from kindergarten. She said that if you do good things, good karma will come back one day to you, and vice versa. Essentially, she was right, and for a kindergartener that was a pretty easy concept to understand—don’t do bad things for it’ll come back to bite ya later! Essentially, karma is that positive acitons will bring about longterm happiness, and negative acts will do the opposite. Makes sense right? If you go about life being righteous and generous more likely that good things might happen to you (or so you hope). This doesn’t mean it has to be a higher-power who’s influencing the good & bad thigns happenening, but that other people will try to help you out if you’re always lending a helping hand. I’m sure you see it every day. For those people we also observe who lie, steal, and do other “bad” things will have a unhappy life in the longrun.

These actions are determined by five conditions:

  1.  Daily, recurrent actions
  2. Deliberate acitons for an intended purpose
  3. Having no regret of actions
  4. Action against extraordinary persons
  5. Action toward those who have previously helped

After death, there is a cycle of rebirth in the Buddhist religion, there are six phases that you can be born into, three positive & three negative. The three positive are relams of demigods, relam of gods, and relam of men. The relam of men is deemed to be highest form of rebirth—though it’s said that the realm of the demigods & gods have pleasure in ways we don’t understand, they also suffer from continuous resentment & desire. The three unfortunate relams are that of animals, ghosts, and hell. The relam of man is able to achieve Nirvana, whereas the othr relams cannot achieve that stage of pure enlightenment.

There! Now you have it, what do you think of the spiritual relams achieved through karma? How does karma influence your life? What other religions have themes similar to Buddhism?

I was very enlightened reading about Buddhism and the history whilst also learning about it’s practices. I think understanding them & their beliefs not only challenges my personal beliefs, but encourages fostering an understanding of others—and it’s a conversation starter amongst my friends!

 

Have a good week! 

 

~ Delaney

Cultural Death Ceremonies & Rituals

Last week I had a close family friend pass away, while talking to a girlfriend about their death, she mentioned that American’s are more rushed when it comes to dealing with death. Yes, you will cry, and mourn your loss, but it’s expected that you get over it pretty quickly. We’re programmed to say things in response to the news like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “what can I do to help?” but we don’t feel as those comments are truly heartening to the comfort & sympathy for others. More, or less it’s what you’re supposed to say, how you’re supposed to react.

My friends comment, made me think of how other cultures mourn, and celebrate death…yes, you may be thinking, how weird to celebrate death—but people do it. Of the few funerals I’ve been to, one sticks strongly to my memory, and it was a Celebration of Life, instead of a mourning of loss. People shared great memories of the deceased’s life and funny stories, yes there were tears, but a lot of them were from laughing from sharing all the good memories and funny moments together.

Growing up, a close girlfriend’s father passed away, she was Chinese, and their funeral was very different compare to the typical “American” funerals, which I had previously attended. The family wore white cloaks and hats to signify the death of somebody, unlike how Americans typically wear black to funerals. In Chinese culture, the color white signifies death, ancestral spirits, ghosts, and courage versus sadness (Symbolisms of Colour).

So, after doing some research, I decided to share other culture’s styles of mourning and celebrating deaths (Dorsey):

Mongolia: Air Sacrifice

Mongolians believe in the return of the soul, therefore lamas direct the entire ceremony because they keep the evil spirits away, protecting the family that is still living. Mongolians will place blue stones in the deceased persons bed to prevent evil spirits from entering. Only lama’s are allowed to touch the corpse, then a white silk veil is placed over the face of the corpse, and the naked body is laid by men on the right side of the yurt, and women on the left. While incenses are burning, food is left out to feed the spirits passing through. To remove the body, a hole is cut through a window to prevent evil spirits from slipping in while a door is open. Then, the body is laid in open ground surrounded by stones; the village dogs are released to consume the body—leaving the remains to the local predators.

Tibet: Sky Burial (Jhator)

The body is dismembered by a “rogyapa” and left outside to be consumed by nature. To the Buddhist in Tibet, the body is an empty, worthless shell after the spirit has departed.

Northwestern North America: Pit Burial

The indigenous tribe of the northwestern coast, the Haida, would simply cast their dead into a large pit behind the village. However, if the deceased was a chief, shaman, or warrior, the body was crushed until it fit into a luggage sized wooden box, which was then placed on top of the totem pole in the man’s tribe, where the spirits guided them to the next world.

Kiribati – Skull Burial

The deceased are laid out in front of their home for a minimum of three days, sometimes up to twelve days, depending on their status in the community. Friends and family will make a pudding from a local plant’s roots as an offering. After several months pass, the body is exhumed, and the skull is removed, oiled, polished, and offered tobacco and food. The skull is kept on a shelf in the home of the family, in the belief that it invites spirits into the islands.

Have you been to a funeral or a celebration of life? What did you think of it?

References

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Pope Francis

So, hopefully you have heard that a new Pope was elected to the Catholic Church. This is quite exciting, as it’s a big deal, the Pope can rule for quite a few years, and as I touched on it in the last blog, he is very influential, as his reign reaches 1.2 billion people world wide, only slightly less than China (who rules 1.3 billion people). Thus, Pope Francis, who used be known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was elected March 13, 2013.

 

Though some people are very excited and encouraged by Pope Francis, others are not as excited as there is accusations of bit of “dark” history in his past. Before one jumps to conclusions too quickly, something that you need to consider is the concept of “trust” with leaders of all types, be religiously affiliated or not. Additionally, I think because of this wide issue, I will do research and blog about trusting people in power of authority and leadership roles for next week :)

 

However, back to Pope Francis, as BBC states, he is known as being quite humble, as he encouraged his Argentinean people to include all, and he condemns governments that do no encourage social inclusion. Whilst living in Argentina, Pope Francis lived in a humble flat, and tries to travel as frugally as possible; Pope Francis also recycles the cardinal vest used by his predecessor.

 

Conversely BBC news also points out that many people who are more “progressive” or “laissez-faire” in their beliefs, disagree with the Pope’s statement that gays who adopt children are discriminating against them. Another topic that has risen to the surface of Pope Francis’ past is known as the Junta Years, where the Argentine dictatorship was in reign between 1976 – 1983, and his role is questionable. Supposedly, he was accused turning in two fellow priests to military officials because he declined to openly approve their social work performed. Another allegation that has risen is when he failed to follow up an appeal to help find a mother’s kidnapped baby. Essentially, these are saying that he refused and failed to submit proper paperwork required.

 

Although these issues can be confusing, as they seem contradictory, it is important to realize that the Pope was elected Pope for a reason. Moreover, the people who elected him did so on the basis that they deem him most appropriate for the context of the situation. Therefore, although he may have a dodgy past, for a reason that we might not always know, he is considered the best fit for the shoe—and you should make your own, personal opinion of that based off the facts available out there. I hope that this got you thinking, as it did me, not only about the Pope, and Catholic Church (in a sense of becoming more educated, not necessarily to convert to Catholicism). Yet also, in the thought provoking idea of trust, and the concept of groups trusting an individual who is in a position of power, and bya which metrics and virtues should be used to evaluate and judge them as a “worthy” individual for the job. 

What's all this Hub Bub About the Pope?

I figured, since there’s all this talk of the new Pope being elected and Pope Benedict XVI retiring, which hasn’t happened for the last 600 years, I would tie it into religion; since, after all, the Pope is Catholic, and Catholicism is a religion. Moreover, having experimented with Catholicism myself, I figured, why not?  Please remember, although I tried to make this blog as objective as possible, there is no doubt that I am biased, based on my own personal beliefs, religious upbringings, and culture of my personal country. Therefore, if you feel as though I have made an incorrect assumption, or falsely directed fact, please pull to my attention; or make a comment below. I want this to be a place where you can become educated to make and form your own opinion—not that of anybody or mine.

If you want to know how to become Pope, watch the video I posted below, which I think accurately portrays the complex process to being elected Pope. Although, some might portray that the Catholic Church as sexist, as they do not allow women to hold the position of the Papacy, others argue that there are distinct roles between Man and Woman to be held in the Church—which I will touch on next week. Until then, I will talk briefly about Catholicism, but mainly of why the selection of the Pope is important, even if you are not Catholic.

First off, you will be more educated in knowing how the Pope is elected, even if your Atheist—lacking belief in God(s); Agnostic—claiming neither faith, nor disbelief in a higher power; or a different religion—Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. You need to know the other side’s argument even better than yours to hold a good “discussion” or heated debate. Secondly, if you are currently finding a religious or spiritual calm in your heart, you might be genuinely curious for your own interests of how the Catholic Church works. Third, as discussed in the Global Perspectives blog, it is important to be understanding, accepting, and open to other’s cultures, which is also tied into other’s religions, or their abstinence of religion in their culture (as most cultures do have a religious aspect tied within it).

Therefore, knowing that the selection of the Pope affects about 1.2 billion people directly (1,200,000,000) (How Many…), and indirectly, a whole lot more! The Catholic Church has HUGE financial resources available to them, and ultimately, the Pope decides where this money is funneled (Bruni). In addition, according to The Economist, Catholic Church Institutions employ about one million people world wide—that’s almost equal to their followers! They also donate $10.2 billion dollars per year—though critics say that it’s not enough, as it’s only six percent of their estimated $170 billion yearly income (The Economist); however, these debatable ethical dilemmas aren’t for this blog—we can discuss that another day. 

Ultimately, its important to know why you should care about the selection of the new Pope, as he has MAJOR influence throughout the entire world, impacting people on a daily basis.  So I hope you learned something about the Church that you didn’t know today … and maybe it even sparked something in your soul, whether it be religiously affiliated with the Church or not.

~ Delaney

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How to Become Pope