10 ways to control your anger - Professional expert’s advice

I am really emotional and excitable person. I think that there are two types of anger: constructive anger and a destructive one. In order to understand the anger phenomenon I decided to investigate the nature of anger, reasons of its appearing, key factors and anger management.

What does it mean this anger? Anger is a strong indignation feeling of our emotional sphere that is attended by self-control losing. Anger is a signal of our state. Glands produce an array of hormones that have a great and deep effect on all our body. The main participants of this process are adrenaline and cortisol. They activate cardiovascular system and consequently all organs. Adrenalin causes fast heart beating, rising blood pressure. These rich oxygenated blood streams to the places are responsible for reaction. Thus some extra energy is released.

There are 4 basic ways of anger expressions:

1. Straight and immediately (verbally or nonverbally) to show your anger. It gives an opportunity to free from the negative emotions.

2. To express anger in an indirect way. In this case usually suffer persons that are weaker, not dangerous and those ones who “come to hand”, usually they are our family and close relatives. Thus we hurt our dear ones. One of the best ways is to express your anger to the person who is the source of this very anger. If it is impossible- better find some compromise.

3. Restraining anger you “drive” it deep inside. So, negative emotions store will provoke a big stress sooner or later.

4. You may foresee situation of anger feeling, try not to expand this feeling but get to know the reason, understand and solve it. A Roman philosopher Seneca said: “When you are feeling of ascending “volcano”- stand still, not doing anything- not speaking, not moving.”

Anger is a normal and natural human feeling, especially nowadays as life is really fast and we have a huge amount of information to accumulate (in comparison with our previous generations). The range of anger is rather wide: from a slight annoyance to impetuous fury. Anger can be quick and long, lasting for years in form of bitterness, vengeance or hate. Anger can lead to health issues like depression, high blood pressure, hearth diseases, stresses, alcohol dependence and obesity. If you are anger- express it. If you feel discomfort from these “negative splashes”- then we can give some techniques how to manage your emotional anger:

  • 1. Take a deep and continuous breath. Count up to 50 or imagine your aggressor just naked, only in socks. This will help you to calm and smile.

  • 2. Have a walk. Look at high sky. Continue to breathe deep and easily. So you appraise the situation and calm down.

  • 3. Do some physical exercises. When you are angry- your body is very tensed and tough. If you stretch your muscles it will relax your body, as you will spill out all your negative energy into action. Your brains will get more oxygen and it assists to clear your thoughts.

  • 4. Write down all your thoughts. Write down that you are mad and why. Avoid being rational, logical or laconic. Write on paper all you are feeling this moment. Try to write all in details. The function of this technique is to shift all your anger out of your head on paper.

  • 5. Be grateful. Find someone to thank. Do you not forget about yourself. Thank that you have woken up today, thank that that the Sun is shining for you, that the sky is blue and the grass is green.

  • 6. Prayer. Ask God to be with you during this anger moment and lead you.

  • 7. Meditation. Close your eyes, look into solar plexus, and be all your anger, breathing deeply.

  • 8. Change of places. Move yourself on your enemy’s place. And look at situation from his point of view. Better look at the situation from the ceiling. Focus on details, especially on funny and absurd ones. Strive to forgive your enemy as well as forgive truly yourself.

  • 9. Go back to your childhood memories. Recollect state when you were angry. Hug this child and say: “All is ok. I am here. You are good child. I love you and I will not leave you.”

  • 10. Your values. What is the most significant thing in your life? Who are the most important people in your life? What kind of person do you want to be? Think and accept that point that you are living your life, and you are living your values. There is a good man inside you that wants to help you. I wish you good luck!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dalai Lama visits Philadelphia

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the smiling human face of Eastern spirituality for many in the West, brought his message of compassion and peace yesterday to Philadelphia.

He began his daylong visit at the Kalmyk Buddhist Temple in the Feltonville section, praying solemnly with monks, and ended it by blowing out a candle on a birthday cake at the Kimmel Center as the audience sang "Happy Birthday."

"Thank you. Thank you," he said, laughing and clasping his hands in a bow to the sold-out crowd. He turned 73 on July 6.

He was in the region at the invitation of the area's Kalmyk community, a population of immigrants of Mongolian Buddhist heritage who sent him word two years ago that they needed his help in reacquainting their young people with their religious and ethnic roots.

His core message to the Kalmyks - and everyone else in his audiences - was that ritual observance alone does not make a person a good Buddhist. "It is very, very essential to study Buddhist philosophy," he said, and to practice kindness and compassion.

The Dalai Lama arrived at Northeast Airport by helicopter from Bethlehem, Pa., where he had given five days of lectures at Lehigh University, and was greeted by a crowd of about 300 shortly after 9 a.m. outside the modest Kalmyk temple on East Courtland Street.

He acknowledged them with bows and smiles as he emerged from his limousine, and he accepted several traditional offerings of Buddhist images - which he returned - before entering the temple's lavishly decorated interior.

There, about two dozen monks in maroon-and-gold robes awaited him.

After prostrating himself three times before an image of the Buddha, he sat down on a mat surrounded by the monks and led them in prayer for about 10 minutes.

With their low voices filling the room, images of Buddhas gazing down from the red-and-gold walls, incense wafting through the air, and prayer wheels and mandalas and little bronze pagodas crowding the altar and tabletops, it was a timeless scene that could have been Tibet centuries ago.

After prayers, the Dalai Lama sat atop a high, cushioned seat and greeted the monks in Tibetan, asking them questions for about 10 more minutes and making jokes that sent them into bursts of laughter.

He then walked out of the temple and into the adjacent Kalmyk community center, where he greeted about 150 people.

The Buddhism practiced in Mongolia "is the same Tibetan Buddhism," he assured them, and told them that some of his finest teachers growing up in Tibet had been Mongols or Kalmyks. The latter are ethnic Mongols who migrated to Southern Russia about 400 years ago. About 2,000 live in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.

"Now it is very, very important to transmit our culture to the younger generation," he told them, but cautioned that traditional dance and music and participation in occasional Buddhist festivals were not enough.

He urged them to study the texts of Buddhism and practice meditation, and to "keep in close contact" with one another. "Cooperation is essential," he said.

He then shook hands with members in the front row and clasped shoulders as he exited the room. He even yanked playfully on the beard of a middle-aged Hindu Brahman from Center City, who gave his name as V. Sharad. "He pulled hard," said Sharad, who laughed.

The Dalai Lama then stood under a yellow canopy outside the temple and answered prepared questions for about 20 minutes before saying "thank you" in English and Russian and climbing into his limousine.

"He's awesome," said a 20-year-old woman from South Jersey who gave her name only as Olesya.

"It's an honor to be in his presence," said Zandan Urusow, 63, from Harleysville. "That's why we're here."

Although widely esteemed as one of the world's great spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama - who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 - is not without enemies.

His efforts to regain autonomy for his native Tibet, which he fled in 1959 after Chinese communist troops took control, have incensed Chinese leaders.

And his refusal to recognize a splinter sect of Tibetan Buddhism known as the Western Shugden Society has provoked angry demonstrations and pickets outside his public appearances.

About 50 pickets from the Shugden Society, some with bullhorns and signs that read "Dalai Lama, don't be a hypocrite," were waiting for him outside the Kimmel Center.

The program at the center began with about a half-hour of Mongolian songs and dances and Tibetan Buddhist chanting before he appeared on stage.

"Hello. Hello, everybody. I am very happy to be here once more in this famous city," he said, and recalled the last time he had been to Philadelphia, in 1990.

He had been taken to see "the Bell of Liberty," which had "some crack" in it, he said with a laugh.

He touched on some of the more esoteric features of Tibetan Buddhism, including the notion of "interdependence," or multiple factors, as the causes for events.

To illustrate his point, he chided President Bush for attacking Iraq because Saddam Hussein was pure evil "when, in reality, it was not that simple."

"The Buddhist view is interdependence," he said. "The Buddhist practice is compassion."

After some morning meetings today, he is scheduled to travel to New York and leave tomorrow for a festival in Colorado.

By David O’Reilly

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Buddhism is dying in Japan?

Here's an interesting article on the death of Buddhism in Japan. Until recently the Japanese have been connected to Buddhism mainly through funerals but even that tie is breaking:

But the move to funeral homes has sharply accelerated in the last decade. In 1999, 62 percent still held funerals at home or in temples, while 30 percent chose funeral homes, according to the Consumers' Association. But in 2007, the preferences were reversed, with 28 percent selecting funerals at home or in temples, and 61 percent opting for funeral homes.

In addition, an increasing number of Japanese are deciding to have their loved ones cremated without any funeral at all, said Noriyuki Ueda, an anthropologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and an expert on Buddhism.

The article seems to blame the finical practices of the temples, saying that the funeral cost is at the discretion of the family but pressuring them to give generously. But it sounds like the problem started when people became "funeral Buddhists" which sounds similar to the C& E Christians (Christmas and Easter). You know there's a break in a religion when the next generation isn't interested in continuing it.

So, what will replace it? I'm thinking that it's probably materialism and/or agnosticism. It's generally what you fall into when you are no longer rooted in a religion. They might even retain some of Buddhism teachings but not follow it's traditions, sort of inoculating them from following another religion, that's another path the younger generation follows. Just like those who call themselves Christians because they were raised as Christians but really don't belong to a church.

Posted by Michele McGinty

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buddhist Community Crosses Barriers

With long blond hair, steel-blue eyes, and a traditional Japanese yukata robe, Patrizio Pellouchoud blends right in.

Moving his arms rhythmically with more than 100 others, he celebrated the Buddhist holiday of Obon through folk dance, which he called a spiritual "way of looking back to look forward."

"It's fun, because nobody's telling you you're making a wrong move" he said.

Fifty years ago, Pellouchoud would have been the blond head in a sea of black-haired Japanese dancers, but the times are changing, said Emiko Katsumoto, 64, who attends the Berkeley Buddhist Temple.

"When I was a young girl, it was all Japanese," she said.

Now Pellouchoud, who attends service at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, is among a multi-ethnic array of dancers: black, white, Asian, Hispanic and mixtures in between.

Founded in 1911, the Berkeley Buddhist Temple has been an enduring fixture of the Japanese-American community in Berkeley, but it also contains a long history of a trend toward multi-ethnic inclusion.

In the 1960s, the Berkeley Buddhist Temple founded the Buddhist Study Center, which attracted UC Berkeley students and non-Japanese Berkeley locals, including Beat Generation poet Gary Snyder. The center published a Buddhist journal, Busei, which featured poetry by young, non-Japanese American Buddhists, said Reverend David Matsumoto of the temple.

Snyder's friendship with Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac was portrayed in the book "The Dharma Bums." Snyder was portrayed as Japhy, a Berkeley resident studying Buddhism.

Since then, temple members have noticed an increasing number of newer members are not fully Japanese and some are not even Japanese at all, said Emiko Katsumoto.

Matsumoto said Buddhism has an appeal that goes beyond racial boundaries.

"It's part of a spiritual movement beyond a purely materialistic world," he said.

He cites the growing number of so-called "nightstand Buddhists" in the United States, who are people who read and study Buddhist practices without necessarily identifying themselves as worshipping Buddhists.

"There's more of a willingness among Americans to sample (different religions)," he said.

Another element of racial diversification is an increase in inter-racial marriage within the community.

"I guess you could say I married into it," said Craig Griffin, 52, as he watched his mixed-race daughter prepare for the dance festival. "Berkeley is the miscegenation capital of the world," he joked.

The youngest generation of Japanese Buddhists at the temple is not only mixed-race, said Katsumoto, as she stood in the temple's library, many of them do not understand the Japanese language as well. The majority of the books at the temple's library are written in English.

"There are changes with our children; they're moving further out, merging into the mainstream," she said.

She pointed out that the current temple, erected in the '60s, was built with Christian-inspired pews, an organ and a piano. Matsumoto attributes the changes in language and religious custom to a "concession to American life."

The community has been adaptive to concession and change. Matsumoto pointed out that "Buddhism is a way of life that gives greater emphasis on an inclusive perspective."

Obon festival dancer Devyn Wells said she thought the beautiful part of the dance was how inclusive it was. Any audience member could join.

"The beauty of the dance is that you can just dive in," said Wells.

By Matthew Peters

Friday, July 11, 2008

Buddhist Relics Tour Heads to San Jose After Campbell Stop

Buddhists and non-Buddhists, believers and those who were a bit skeptical gathered at the Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center in Campbell over the holiday weekend to get a glimpse and maybe a blessing from the sacred relics.

The tour heads to San Jose this weekend, starting with opening ceremonies Friday night.

The collection of more than 1,000 relics, found among the cremation ashes of Buddhist masters, has been touring the world since 2001. The relics made a stop in Campbell on July 5 and July 6, which was also the 73rd birthday of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

The relics resemble small, round pearl-like crystals typically white in color, although some have reported they change color. They are thought to carry a spiritual quality with them, bringing health and wisdom to those they grace.

"The belief is that the compassion of Buddhist masters consciously created them at the time of death, which is an example of what they're trying to achieve their entire lives," said John Boley, a volunteer at the center.

Boley said a steady stream of visitors viewed the relics. The center offered blessings, in which the relics were gently placed on the crown of the heads of visitors. Dogs and cats were welcome to receive blessings as well.

"Everyone seemed to have that sensation. They moved a lot slower and were a lot less agitated," Boley said. "It's hard to describe the sensation, but you just feel it."

The balanced flow of visitors added to the already calming environment of the center, said Pat Prickett of Santa Clara. Prickett credited the relics along with soothing music and chants to the peaceful atmosphere.

Prickett said the relics are believed to also have some kind of healing power.

"I know a couple people who were having sickness in their lives, and they seemed to be healthier when they left than when they arrived," she said.

Boley said the relic tour is part of the Maitreya Project. After making their way around the world, the relics will end up enshrined in a 500-foot bronze statue of the Maitreya Buddha in Kushinagar, India. The project aims to bring the concept of loving-kindness to the world, a value embodied in Maitreya.

At the forefront of the project are the relics.

Campbell resident Donna Babuska volunteers at the center as its spiritual program coordinator. She said the relics have special meaning to her because two of them were derived from Buddhist masters she's studied.

"For me, it was very overwhelming because I feel Buddhism changed my life since I started studying it. I'm a more calm, open-hearted person," Babuska said. "Without the Buddha, all the things that have helped me change would have never happened.

"I've done other religions, but nothing really approaches the mind and the heart like Buddhism. It gets into the inner place, and it's not contrived."

Venues across the country may request the relic tour visit their location. Last year the tour stopped in San Francisco.

The relics will be on display in San Jose at the Chinese American Mutual Association, 1669 Flanigan Drive this weekend. The opening ceremony is at 7 p.m. Friday, and hours of the tour are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

By Chris Vongsarath

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Top 5 Almost Unknown Religions

Religion has existed since man’s first thought, and this list probably illustrates that it is unlikely to go away anytime soon. So here is a list of 5 religions that you (probably) never knew existed.

5 . Jainism

Jainism was founded in India over 2500 years ago. It survives today with approximately four million believers, called J. This polytheistic faith preaches that many gods exist alongside humans in a complex hierarchy. The Jain gods are symbolic of common human ideas. Similar to Buddhism, the goal of “Jain Life” is to achieve spiritual perfection and free the soul from the cycle of rebirth. Those who succeed in this endeavor are called jinas. Jain worship centers on icons and numerous Jain temples in India contain images of the 24 tirthankaras, revered spiritual leaders. Offerings are frequently made to these images as part of Jain ritual. Meditation and monasticism are also key features of Jainism.

4 . Aladura

Founded in the early 20th century, this religion is based around so-called “prophet healing” churches in Africa. It claims around one million adherents, mostly in Nigeria. Aladura is directly related to the Anglican movement of Christianity. It was founded as a response to missionary movements in Africa. The religion emphasizes divine healing and a strict moral code. Its practices mix Anglican traditions with African rituals. Many ritual objects are involved in the practice, and the faiths leaders are known as prophets who are entrusted with healing believers through rituals and prayer.

3 . Cao Dai

This Vietnamese religion combines elements of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Catholicism. It was founded in 1926 and claims up to 6 million adherents. Believers worship a vast array of saints, which includes such notable figures as Julius Caesar and Pericles. The ecclectic nature of Cao Dai complements its idealistic mission to create a more tolerant world. Adherents see all humans as sharing a divine heritage. The practicies of this faith are somewhat occult and derived from Taoist traditions. Believers hold seances in addition to group prayer and elaborate ritual ceremonies.

2 . Unification Church

Established in South Korea in 1954, the Unification Church ascribes to a unique interpretation of Christianity. Its 3 million believers praise the faith’s founder Sun Myung Moon, the religion’s founder, as the Messiah and ascribe to a doctrine known as the “Divine Principle”. This doctrine emphasizes duality in nature and the harmonious union of masculine and feminine. Subsequently, the aim of the Unification Church is to create “true families,” which is often achieved through mass weddings. These unions are also a means of fulfilling the faith’s version of God’s purpose, which is to experience joy and love through life. True joy and love can only be achieved by creating a perfect, sinless family. Only in this way does the Unification Church believe the Kingdom of God can be created. While there is no description of an afterlife, the faith preaches that the spirit will live for all eternity.

1 . Falun Gong

Falun Gong is a recent religious movement with roughly three million practitioners. It was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. It combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism with traditional Chinese folklore. Falun Gong aims to obtain mental and spiritual renewal through meditation. Adherents practice special exercises to awaken their center of spiritual energy and rid themselves of physical and spiritual ailments. The faith has received extensive criticism from the Chinese government, which initially saw the new cult as a threat. Outsiders also tend to ridicule Falun Gong’s contention that antagonistic space aliens are manipulating world leaders.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dalai Lama to speak at Lehigh University

The Dalai Lama is coming to Lehigh University in Bethlehem. He'll teach a series of classes Friday and Saturday on Tibetan Buddhism and give a public lecture Sunday on "Generating a Good Heart."

When tickets to hear the Buddhist monk with the rock star status went on sale March 20, all 5,000 were gone in 15 minutes.

Here's a look at the cause of the excitement: BACKGROUND The current Dalai Lama -- most recent in a lineage of 14 spiritual leaders of Tibetan Buddhism -- has lived in exile since 1959, nine years after the communist takeover of Tibet. He leads the Tibetan government in exile in India and in 1989 received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent effort to end Chinese occupation of his homeland. THE FASCINATION "The word has gotten out that there is something special about this man. He's very warm and seems to be 100-percent present to every person," said Dan Cozort, a religion professor at Dickinson College. "It turns out he's very smart, too."

Celebrities such as Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys' Adam Youch are Dalai Lama followers, and his life has been examined in major films starring Brad Pitt and directed by Martin Scorsese.

Tibetan Buddhists in the U.S. tend to be native-born, well-educated, middle-class people drawn to the emphasis on compassion, Cozort said. He also notes a big contingent of "nightstand Buddhists," who don't formally associate with Buddhism but help make the Dalai Lama's books best-sellers. THE OCCASION The Dalai Lama's visit to the U.S. marks the completion of the English translation of the sacred Tibetan Buddhist text, "The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment," which will be the subject of his teaching. Cozort helped with that translation. WHY LEHIGH? The university said it has long-standing ties through its faculty with the nearby Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., which oversaw the translation and is sponsoring the visit. THE CONTROVERSY A complex doctrinal dispute pits members of the Shugden stream of Tibetan Buddhism against the Dalai Lama. He has called their practice divisive. They say he represses their religious freedom. Demonstrations have marked his public appearances in recent years and will continue at Lehigh, a Shugden spokeswoman said.

By Mary Warner

Monday, July 07, 2008

London spirituality centre launches new programme

After a successful first season of events, London’s newest spirituality centre – Breathing Space@St Luke’s church, West Holloway – now has a second season of events in full swing.

Visitors from across London – and further afield – have already enjoyed events such as dancing the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer, drawing-as-meditation, and Soul Space contemplative services.

“We’ve been delighted by the response to Breathing Space so far,” says Dave Tomlinson, vicar of St Luke’s and the driving force behind the new spirituality centre.

“This second season of events will continue to resource the personal growth of Londoners, providing paths to connect with and explore their spiritual lives.”

Please click here for further details.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Utah Buddhists begin four-day prayer for compassion

The red-robed members of Salt Lake City's only Tibetan Buddhist temple walked two by two this evening around its westside Salt Lake City block, one carrying a large Buddha statue, another protecting it with an umbrella and all the others waving incense, while ringing bells. It was a ritual signifying the sacredness of their sanctuary and it was the opening ceremony of the 2nd Annual Prayers for Compassion event that the temple sponsors.

After the processional, the 40 or so members of the temple and interested guests prostrated themselves before the temple's shrine and laid a white scarf, a gesture of generosity, across the altar.

Sitting cross-legged on cushions before small wooden desks, they began to pray in the low bass voices, chanting ancient Tibetan texts.

The incantations launched three days of continuous praying for peace and compassion at the temple, known as Urgyen Samten Ling. They are also part of the annual celebration of the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of all Tibetans worldwide. The prayers end Sunday at 2 p.m. with a blessing of food and communion.

Longtime Buddhist practitioner Jerry Gardner, who earned the title Lama Thupten Dorje Gyaltsen through years of study, led the prayers. He and his wife, Jean LaSarre Gardner, have been practicing Buddhism for 30 years. He also teaches martial arts and theater at the University of Utah.

"It is meant to increase loving kindness in the world for all living beings in all realms," Gardner said.

His wife, Jean Gardner added: "It is a time to pull the community together, to find peace in themselves and let it spread to their families and across the world."

Temple officials keep track of the number of prayers said by counting on their rosaries - 108 beads equaled 100 mantras.

The Gardners established the temple in 1994, meeting in various downtown Salt Lake City locations. In 2004, the group, made up mostly of Westerners who practice Tibetan Buddhism, bought the old 1910 LDS 5th Ward building at 740 S. 300 West. Previously, it had been a Gothic night club and was painted almost entirely black. The Buddhists transformed it with touches of Tibet, red, green, white, orange and blue prayers flags and wall hangings, a giant wooden shrine bedecked with rows of gold-encased Buddha statues and ablaze with candles. Salt Lake's Tibetan community donated to it the throne-like seat that was built for the Dalai Lama in 2001, when he spoke at the University of Utah.

The Tibetans and Westerners who practice the same brand of Buddhism get along well, said Amber Robb, a member of the temple.

"Within the past two years our connection has grown stronger, especially with the turbulence last winter," Robb said, referring to the global protests of China's treatment of Tibetans during the months before the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. "We supported them in their time of loss and difficulty with silent meditation. We do not want to get too bogged down in politics."

Robb was among the robed participants indicating that she has taken vows, including a commitment to Buddhism and a promise to practice 10 virtuous acts. She and most other temple members have also a vowed to abstain from alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and inappropriate sexual conduct.

Only one among them, Kris Baker, who goes by Dorje, has taken full monastic vows, which requires celibacy. But Robb hopes to reach that goal someday, becoming the sangha's first nun.
Participants do not even have to be Buddhist, though, Gardner said.

"All we ask is that they follow the way of kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, wisdom and knowledge," he said. "It could just center them in their own belief system."

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Death and the psychology of dying

Many thanks to Dr. R.A.R. Perera (Island, 2.7.2008) for giving readers a glimpse into the psychological aspects of dying. Death as we often forget is the only certain thing in life and different religions, which try to provide the guidelines for living treat this certainty in different ways. For example, Buddhism deals with the phenomenon by teaching the Marananussati Bhavanava (the contemplation on the certainty of Death).

Theistic religions view this as a communion with the Maker. But as Dr. Perera has brought to our notice there are some common factors in the psychology of dying people which the near and dear have to understand and he has given some guidelines to follow which will help everyone (irrespective of religious beliefs)in this regard.

Other medical practitioners no doubt will have their own experiences on this crucial matter which let us hope they will share with us readers.

The Island Online

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Angels without God. Post-Atheist Spirituality

I have just finished reading a fascinating essay about Post-Atheist Spirituality which Phil Johnson flicked my way. There is something for everyone here:

  • Eastern Orthodoxy - How apophatic theology primes atheism
  • Atheism - Its unconscious religious impulses
  • Neo-Paganism - Why the author thinks its a dead end
  • Angelism - As the religiosity of post-modernity

So, have we stirred enough pots yet?

No? Ok, here are some excepts to kick start the conversation.

The interest in angels is symptomatic of the contemporary state of culture, simultaneously wanting and not wanting to be religious. The anatomy of the angelesque is at the same time an anatomy of Postmodern spirituality, which has escaped monotheistic religiosity but does not dare return to polytheism. The tortuous temptations of atheism and the tired insipidness of agnosticism having been overcome, Postmodern religiosity has left behind both the belief in the Almighty and the dis-belief in Him. What remains is communion with angels as pure spirits, representing a plurality of supersensible reasons and wills. Angelism is a sort of heavenly pluralism. It is the religion of Postmodernity, which affirms the multiplicity of equally valid and self-valuable spiritual pathways in place of a single truth and a single ruling canon. If the traditional religious outlook subordinated the diversity of the earthly world to the single will of its Creator, and if agnosticism celebrated the diversity of the earthly world as opposed to the presumably unitary and authoritarian Will beyond, the contemporary post-agnostic era has rediscovered the transcendental as the realm of pure difference.

Angelism is a new transcendental adventure of the Western spirit, seeking pluralism not only as an empirical phenomenon of cultural and political life, but as the ultimate revelation of the diversity of spiritual worlds. One could ask: if the idea of pluralism is so crucial to the contemporary West, why does it not return to polytheism, which worships nature's elements in their diversity? The answer is because neopaganism, which is presently making tentative inroads into religious practices, knows the locus and origins of the gods, whereas angelism is profoundly and principally ignorant about them. The difference between gods and angels, despite the grammatical plural which they share, is that angels are transparent and lonely, while gods rule the earth with glee and fury. Paganism sacralizes the originary forces of nature and can act in concert with ecological and neo-fascist movements. But it scarcely touches the nerve of the new religiosity, born of the death of God and not of His transformation into Pan or a Naiad. Polytheism cannot bring true satisfaction to the contemporary mind that quests for a trace of the Divine rather than its fleshy presence. The sumptuously carnal gods of paganism can satisfy only desparate fringe-groups and those who have fallen outside their own times, living in dreams about an 'archaic revolution' ­ that is, of a revolutionary return to the "Great Tradition." To adulate the gods of fire or earth is a bookish project. The direction of neopaganism is thus backwards, into the world of children's book illustrations and the primal polytheism that has long since been thought through and discarded. Paganism does not look ahead, beyond monotheism and atheism.

Angelism, by contrast, is a post-atheistic and post-agnostic phase of religiosity. Angels are not gods, they are merely emissaries, who have forgotten who sent them, or who conceal that knowledge. This mission without a cause endows angels with a certain absent-mindedness and an alienated look. The contemporary individual recognizes himself in angels because he, too, has severed his connection with the ground of tradition and is flying in who-knows-what direction. Having left all points of orientation behind him, seeing the exhausted earth disappearing in industrial fumes, he has no sign-posts to direct forward, toward the fading outline of the One Creator.

Agree? Disagree?

From Mattstone

Seeing the Light

Questions for Robert Thurman

As a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University and the first American to be ordained as a Tibetan monk, you don’t need to be reminded that the people of Tibet want to reclaim their country from China. Why won’t the Chinese give it back? The Chinese have been brainwashing their people into thinking that Tibet is an inalienable part of their territory. No Chinese people lived in Tibet before 1950. Zero. It’s absurd they claim that they were there.

We should point out that you’re a friend of the Dalai Lama and your new book is called “Why the Dalai Lama Matters.” Does he ever visit you at your apartment in Manhattan? He used to come to my house in the old days, but nowadays the State Department is all over him, so he stays in a high-security hotel. I get a handshake and a hug in the hall.

Why do you think President Hu of China keeps denouncing the Dalai Lama and has not met with him? Fear. The only reason I see is fear.

Do they actually need to meet? Can’t they just talk on the phone? They haven’t given the Dalai Lama the number. The Dalai Lama would definitely call.

What do you say to Tibetan dissidents who feel that the Dalai Lama needs to be more aggressive with Beijing? I think he’s been a bit too appeasement-oriented myself.

Yet, like him, you recommend autonomy for Tibet as opposed to complete independence, which would leave the country within Chinese borders. The Tibetans have been oppressed for almost 60 years. It’s not practical to demand independence at this time.

In a recent article Slavoj Zizek argued that the Tibetans are not necessarily a spiritual people — that we’ve created that myth out of a need to imagine an alternative to our crazy Western consumerism. Zizek is simply misinformed. It’s leftist propaganda meant to legitimize China’s aggression in Tibet.

As a Buddhist, how do you reconcile your pacifism with the roles your daughter Uma has played in films like Quentin Tarantino’s bloody “Kill Bill”? Quentin is kind of obsessed, he’s a wild guy. But he is very brilliant. We trust that his motive is to show people the foolishness of violence rather than to glorify it. I hope that’s true.

You initially discovered Buddhism after leaving your first wife, Christophe de Menil, of the art-collecting clan, and running off to India. Actually, she divorced me. She didn’t want to go with me to India to seek enlightenment.

Has Buddhism become more accepted in America since the early ’60s, when you first embraced it? People still think the Buddha was some weirdo who said, “Life is suffering.”

What do you think about when you meditate? Usually, some form of trying to excavate any kind of negative thing cycling in the mind and turn it toward the positive. For example, when I am annoyed with Dick Cheney, I meditate on how Dick Cheney was my mother in a previous life and nursed me at his breast.

You mean you fantasize about being breast-fed by Dick Cheney? It’s a fantasy of releasing fear and developing affection. It’s a way of coming back to feeling grateful toward him and seeing his positive side, finding the mother in Dick Cheney.

What would Freud say about that? Freud would freak out. He would say, “Well, you are seeking the oceanic feeling of the baby in the womb.” Infantile regression — that’s what he thought the quest for enlightenment was.

When I want to feel compassion for an unlikable person, I imagine him as someone’s adored son. Some lamas do that. They say that that’s easier for Americans, because often Americans have personality problems with their moms.

Do you consider yourself enlightened? Someone who goes around saying, “I’m enlightened,” is almost categorically not.