Tag Archives: religion

Cut: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision

We highly recommend that you watch this critically acclaimed documentary film, especially if you are considering whether you should get your child (or yourself) circumcised. If you were circumcised as an infant, you’ll certainly find it pretty interesting as well.

85% of the world’s population is NOT circumcised. Besides Israel, the US is the only country where circumcision is routinely performed on male infants, even if they do not belong to a religious community that considers it an essential ritual.

Daddy, is yoga Hindu?

NY Times report on the Hindu American Foundation reclaiming project.

Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga’s Soul

By PAUL VITELLO
Published: November 27, 2010

Yoga is practiced by about 15 million people in the United States, for reasons almost as numerous — from the physical benefits mapped in brain scans to the less tangible rewards that New Age journals call spiritual centering. Religion, for the most part, has nothing to do with it.

But a group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.

The campaign, labeled “Take Back Yoga,” does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.

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Through the Eastern Gate

Anyone seen it?  Website with trailer

Chöd drum, Sister Yeshe in Dehradun, tibetan buddhism
Chöd drum, Dehradun

WHAT moves young, educated people to give up their lives in material security for a spiritual quest that is characterized by uncertainty?
Through the Eastern Gate is a documentary film about the aspirations, practices and ways of life of three young Westerners who follow three different eastern spiritual traditions.

pranayama, south india, tantric yoga, spiritual search
Hatha yoga, South India

In the idyllic rural setting of South India we get to know Ronela – a Finn who dedicated her life to traditional Tantric yoga. In Dehradun, in the North Indian foothills of the Himalayas, we meet Sister Yeshe – a young Australian nun who practices Tibetan Buddhism. And in Turkey we finally follow Aziz – a Californian Sufi dervish…

whirling aziz, istanbul, turkey, spiritual seeker, documentary
whirling Aziz, Istanbul

WSJ: Words and our reality

WSJ:  New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world

Discussed on Mental Floss, here are some snippets from the original Wall Street Journal article by LERA BORODITSKY

“These questions touch on all the major controversies in the study of mind, with important implications for politics, law and religion. Yet very little empirical work had been done on these questions until recently. The idea that language might shape thought was for a long time considered untestable at best and more often simply crazy and wrong. Now, a flurry of new cognitive science research is showing that in fact, language does profoundly influence how we see the world.”

“It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think.”

Read full article

NY Times: on the 2010 Kumbh Mela

Taking a Sacred Plunge, One Wave of Humanity at a Time

By JIM YARDLEY and HARI KUMAR
Published: April 14, 2010

HARIDWAR, India — Over the bridge they came, Hindu holy men by the tens of thousands, the most devout naked and dusted with sacramental powder, marching toward the bathing pool in the Ganges where the water is considered holiest on this most propitious of days.

Shouting and singing, waving tridents or spears, the naked mystics, or naga sadhus, were granted the first plunge.

Then came the gurus and swamis, wrapped in saffron robes, a few shaded by beaded parasols. One swami was delivered into the water on the shoulders of his disciples. For 20 minutes, they frolicked, as other pilgrims watched from nearby rooftops.

And then time was up. The police tweeted their whistles and began nudging the group out of the sacred water. There were still untold thousands of holy men waiting to take a dip.

Wednesday was the culmination of the Hindu religious festival known as the Kumbh Mela, a staggering outpouring of humanity that also represents a staggering logistical challenge.

Since January, tens of millions of pilgrims have arrived in this city by train, plane, bus or foot for the privilege of bathing in the Ganges on certain auspicious dates. On Wednesday alone, 10 million people were estimated to have entered the water. The crowds are so massive that safety is a serious concern.

Not least is the challenge of managing the rival sects of holy men, the self-described defenders of the Hindu religion for whom the Kumbh Mela is both a sacred ritual and a demonstration of their status.

In years past, they have bickered with each other, or with the government, arguing over issues like which group should be allowed to bathe first or whether their photographs could be taken during the holy dip.

“They are very egoistic,” said Anand Bardhan, the administrator overseeing the Kumbh. “One moment they suddenly become angry and the next moment they will shower lots of affection. You need to understand their nature.”

This year, the police assigned a special officer as a liaison to the various sects who helped negotiate a consensus on the bathing schedule. The first in the water this year were followers of the order known as the Niranjani.

But tragedy struck Wednesday morning. The police say the Juna sect was beginning its procession toward the Ganges when one of their vehicles hit several people in the crowds. People panicked and stampeded. Seven people were killed, though it is unclear if they died from the accident or the stampede.

Leaders of the Juna canceled their procession, instead choosing to bathe at a different spot on the Ganges, and blamed the authorities for failing to adequately clear their route to the river.

Mahant Hari Giri, general secretary of the Juna, said that leaders decided it would be inappropriate to resume their march through the city but that the group had not boycotted the ritual, as some had reported.

“It was not possible to take the whole procession,” he said. “But we have not boycotted the holy bath. We did take a dip in the Ganges.”

The Kumbh Mela derives from Hindu mythology, which holds that gods and demons struggled over a pitcher, or kumbh, containing the drink of immortality. As the gods raced toward heaven, drops of the sacred nectar spilled out onto four locations on the river: Allahabad, Ujjaink, Nashik and Haridwar. Today, the Kumbh Mela is held every three years, rotating among the four cities, meaning that each hosts every 12 years.

Tucked in the foothills of the Himalayas, Haridwar is a challenging place to host tens of millions of people. The Kumbh Mela is conducted in the middle of the city, and many pilgrims insist on taking their dip in the holiest spot, known as Har Ki Pauri, which is roughly the size of three Olympic swimming pools.

Authorities estimated that roughly 100,000 people an hour entered the water at Har Ki Pauri on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many pilgrims believe that a dip in this spot on the appointed day will allow them to break the cycle of reincarnation.

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Political Schmitickel (a bunch of political blogs)

[posted by danbean]

I was trying unsuccessfully to write an article about political blogs, but then I came to the stark realization that I just use them to pass the time when I’m not doing something I’m really passionate about. To be sure it’s good to have a few topical things to chat about when I head into the coffee shop, but suffice it to say if my local proprietor was at all interested in trikonasana, string bass pickups or pranayama, I could probably opt out of the Times, Counterpunch, Clusterfuck Nation and all the others entirely.

One thing that loses my interest during political discussions in general is that sooner or later people take a side, like a sports team, while real-world dynamic are much more subtle and complex. Left-wingers berate the buffoonery of the Christian right but often won’t acknowledge the reality of fanatical Islam. Right wingers become single issue voters on things such as abortion while their candidate sends thousands to the grave as adults. ‘Centrists’ – really a euphemism for conservatives – end up trying to look like the former while behaving like the latter.

In fact as a casual reader, centrism as a school of thought is truly useless and probably why the Democrats lost so many elections in the last bunch of years. You had George Bush saying exactly what he intended to do (and fucking up when he tried to do it most of the time) but then you had Al Gore and John Kerry offering these limp-dicked illusions, not wanting to offend the ‘conservatives’ but wanting support of the left. No one ever comes out and says “I think religion is bullshit. Practice whatever you want but you can’t be part of the Enlightenment and take that shit seriously. So if I’m elected president I will do everything in my power to protect my constituents not only from religious fanaticism, but even the most basic trace elements that permeate the culture from special interest groups (read: Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, etc.).”

Even Barack Obama had to bend over backward to prove what a good Christian he is. In the context of contemporary politics it’s easy to understand, but for a thinking individual it’s yucky to swallow. And he had to have that homophobic reverend dude invocate his inauguration scene. One wonders what other gestures he will offer to appease those on the ‘other’ side of the platform… as if their failed ideas bear any merit.

Anyway at this point I wonder what sites like Counterpunch.org have to offer me anymore, since I can’t really swallow Alexander Cockburn’s comparison of Obama’s inauguration address to… Nixon’s….

Reading the times and keeping up with world affairs at the modest level that I do makes me fairly happy we have a robust democracy, that while threatened continues to exist and offer us a few means to peacefully ‘kill the king’. I think Obama’s presidency is something to at least tentatively be happy about while we reassert our ability as a people to make interesting and progressive movements in our society.

In the meantime I’ll check in periodically to Clusterfuck Nation, but mainly so I can feel vindicated that the fucko rich bitches driving recklessly on the Upper East Side in their SUVs really ARE a part of the problem. I check in with my boy John Robb so I can say, “See! Even a center-right military man thinks the economy is totally fucked!” (sites like his have predicted the financial collapse way ahead of schedule).

So as pointless and meandering as this post is, it is a lot more fun to read than what I was going to stick you with. I’m glad today to have a nice warm house and an outlet for my neat little bursts of vitriolic anger from time to time.

Good Night to All and Namaste