Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christianity. Show all posts

Troubled History Of Paganism And Christianity



If many contemporary Pagans see Hinduism as a closely related religion that they respect and appreciate, the same cannot be said of Christianity. 


Christianity is frequently denounced as an antinatural, antifemale, sexually and culturally repressive, guilt-ridden, and authoritarian religion that has fostered intolerance, hypocrisy, and persecution throughout the world in the popular discourse of modern Paganism, as found in Pagan magazines, websites, and Internet discussion venues. 


For these reasons, Christianity is seen as completely alien to the worldview of Pagan religions, both ancient and modern, in which nature, including human sexuality, is regarded as sacred rather than shameful, and a wide range of religious activities and affiliations is tolerated, as was the case in ancient Greece and Rome. 


  • Though an educated Christian may disagree to Christianity being described as antinatural, antisexual, and dictatorial, this is the common view among modern Pagans. 
  • As a result, there is a strong belief that Christianity and Paganism are essentially opposed value systems. In his book Pagans and Christians:
    •  The Personal Spiritual Experience, Gus DiZerega presented a thorough examination of the historical history of Pagan and Christian enmity as well as some innovative ideas for developing mutual respect and tolerance. 
    • Another problem that inflames Neopagan hatred against Christianity is the history of Christian repression of Pagan faiths in ancient and medieval periods, which has continued far into the contemporary day. 
    • Many Christians in Europe and North America have grown accustomed to seeing Christianity as the source of morality, culture, and civilization, and the suppression and replacement of Pagan and Indigenous religions by the triumphant expansion of Christianity as a necessary, or at the very least forgivable, stage in cultural evolution. 


Pagans today hold a nearly diametrically opposed view of Western history, seeing Christianity as the destroyer of peoples, cultures, and spiritual traditions, as well as the promoter of intolerance, zealotry, and persecution, including witch burning in Europe and North America. 


The fate of Prussia, a medieval Baltic state that once existed on the Baltic Sea coast between modern Poland and Lithuania, will serve as an example of the type of historical situation that modern Pagans find particularly instructive and disturbing in regard to the role of Christianity in European history, raising suspicions and criticisms that are applicable to the impact of Christianity on Prussia is most recognized today as a military, Germanic kingdom established by Frederick I in 1701, which subsequently became Kaliningrad under Soviet control after WWII. Prussia has a pre-Germanic past, which is less widely recognized.


  • It was formerly home to Baltic tribes whose language, culture, and religion were closely linked to those of Baltic peoples in Lithuania and Latvia. 
  • The Prussian language is now extinct, but scholars have little doubt that it was a part of the Baltic subgroup of the Indo-European language family based on the few surviving texts. 

It is also documented that the Baltic Prussians followed a polytheistic Indo-European religion similar to that of the Lithuanian and Latvian pagan peoples. 


  • In the thirteenth century, Germanic crusaders, sometimes known as Teutonic Knights, invaded Prussia, robbing the native Baltic Prussians of their land, culture, and religion. 
  • They reduced the population to serfdom and imposed a dual policy of progressive Germanization in terms of language and culture, as well as Christianization in terms of religion. 
  • The Prussians never recovered their independence from their German Christian rulers, and their language, culture, and religion wilted and died out. 

What occurred in Prussia may be classified as cultural genocide by contemporary standards, the intentional elimination of an entire civilization via the use of military force and other methods. 


  • Many Neopagans are irritated by the fact that Christian authorities have never expressed clear and unambiguous regret for their previous acts against Pagan religious groups in Europe. 
  • The Catholic Church published "Reflections on the Shoah" in 1998, under the authority of Pope John Paul II, as an apology for previous damages done to Jewish people by the church throughout the centuries. 
  • The Vatican issued “Memory and Reconciliation: 
    • The Church and the Faults of the Past” in 2002, a more broad apology for “mistakes and failings,” including religious violence, committed in the past by the Church's "sons and daughters." 


However, neither the pope nor other prominent Christians have ever expressed regret for the harm done to Pagan peoples and faiths by church operations in the past, much alone recognized the importance of Indigenous European religious traditions that were almost extinct due to the church's efforts. 


  • The church's right to continue "proclaiming the revealed truth entrusted to her" was explicitly stated in the 2000 Vatican apology, a reference that is both instructive and disturbing in regard to the role of Christianity in European history, raising suspicions and criticisms that are also applicable to the impact of Christianity on other parts of the world. 
  • Prussia is most recognized today as a military, Germanic kingdom established by Frederick I in 1701, which subsequently became Kaliningrad under Soviet control after WWII. Prussia has a pre-Germanic past, which is less widely recognized. 
  • It was formerly home to Baltic tribes whose language, culture, and religion were closely linked to those of Baltic peoples in Lithuania and Latvia. 
  • The negative perception of Christianity among modern Pagans is exacerbated by their awareness of Christian missionaries' ongoing efforts to replace native religious traditions with Christianity in every corner of the globe, a goal declared not only by the pope but also by many leaders of Evangelical churches and other Christian sects.
  • The statements made by Catholic Church officials and other Christian leaders about their ambitions for world Christianization, for Pagans keeping a critical eye on such developments, flatly contradict the calls for dialogue, tolerance, and religious understanding made by church leaders and theologians, and they add to contemporary Pagans' sense of distrust and disappointment. 
  • The issue of Christian hostility toward Pagan religions is not only historical or academic for Pagans living in regions dominated by very conservative forms of Christianity, such as the Bible Belt region of the American South. 


It is also a present-day social reality that they must be constantly aware of. 


  • Because of her connection with a local Wicca organization, Shari Eicher, an English teacher at Scotland High School in Laurinburg, North Carolina, was ordered to leave the school premises and was permanently prohibited from teaching. 
  • Eicher was disciplined not because she tried to promote Wicca in her courses, as one would assume, but because her parents were concerned about an Internet page supporting her local Wicca group. 
  • Despite the complete absence of evidence to back such an accusation, the website was regarded as an attempt to entice and abuse local youngsters since it included some nudity. 
  • Eicher had informed school officials of her religious membership many months before to the event, and she had seemed to be a good teacher up until the time of the issue, which ended her teaching career. 


  • Despite the legal safeguards that are intended to protect a person from persecution or discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation in the United States and other nations, her story highlights the dangers of public Paganism. 
  • Despite the fact that Shari Eicher's accusations of child corruption were never proved, the controversy surrounding her Wiccan identity was enough to put an end to her teaching career. Neopagan membership has ramifications that are not confined to the Bible Belt or even the United States as a whole. 


Ralph Morse, a theatre teacher at Shenfield High School in Essex, was engaged in a similar affair in England in April 2000. He was fired from his job when a story in a major newspaper exposed his Wicca connection and his nomination to a senior role in the Pagan Federation, a Pagan support organization headquartered in the United Kingdom with branches in other nations. 


  • Several participants and spectators expressed their suspicions about Morse's religious practices in their remarks. The school's head teacher, John Fairhurst, issued a statement saying the school was "appalled" to be connected with the Pagan Federation and that the school "wish[ed] it to be known that we totally and unequivocally reject their world of witchcraft and sorcery." 
  • “Of course, a teacher's private actions are his private activities,” he added. There is no question, however, that this man's personal interests are interfering with the school... The employee in question has been placed on leave awaiting an inquiry into the scope of his activities and the potential conflicts of interest that may emerge from his extracurricular activities and his professional role.” According to Fairhurst, the school offered religious instruction in such a manner that “we want and expect our pupils to resist the deadly temptations of the occult.” 
  • “We should be preaching Christianity, not things that lead into witchcraft and magic,” said Father Leslie Knight, the local Roman Catholic parish priest. 
  • “Paganism puts you up to a supernatural force that cannot be controlled,” said Doug Harris, a spokesperson for the Fundamentalist Christian Reach Out Trust. It's risky to encourage teenagers” (The Independent April 9, 2000). 

It's worth noting that Morse's particular damage was never mentioned. 

The fact that Morse was associated with a Pagan group was enough for the headmaster and Morse's other critics to strip him of his livelihood and career. 

Shari Eicher's and Ralph Morse's situations are far from uncommon. 


Many more stories like these may be found in newspaper archives or on websites devoted to contemporary Paganism and Wicca, as well as religious freedom and tolerance. 


  • It's not surprising, therefore, that many modern Pagans feel compelled to keep their religious connections and activities hidden in order to escape prejudice, persecution, and, if not death, at the very least, financial ruin, as occurred to Eicher and Morse. 
  • With one significant exception, the tense connection that exists between Christianity and Paganism in North America and Europe is comparable to that which occurs between other minority faiths and Christianity. 

As faiths of the Other, the Orient, and the East, Asian religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, which were introduced to Europe or North America from beyond the physical and historical limits of the West, have an exotic allure. 


  • These faiths are not implicated as major elements in Western history because they are rooted in remote places in terms of place, time, and culture, and therefore offer no challenge to the conventional understanding of the West as a Christian civilization, as implied in the name Christendom. 
  • When it comes to Pagan faiths, things are a little different. As the forerunners and previous rivals of Christianity within Europe, they serve as a clear reminder—and maybe a painful one for some Christians—that Christianity was not the first nor the only religion on the continent. 
  • There were once alternative religious faiths of great antiquity and popularity in Europe, rooted in local language, tradition, and culture, that were only dislodged from popular affection by centuries of effort on the part of the church and its allies, including the use of military force, coerced conversions, and brutal suppression of religious freedom. 


The use of force and coercion against European Pagans by popes and crusaders, kings and emperors, and other active promoters of Christianization are not the proudest chapters of Christian history, and any discussion of the European past's Pagan religions automatically raises the specter of these morally dubious and even shameful historical episodes. 


  • As a result, the history of pagan faiths in Europe is something of a skeleton in Christian memory that many would like to ignore. With their loud statements of anger over previous Christian persecution of Pagan faiths, the emergence of Neopagan religious groups threatens to pull this uncomfortable skeleton out of the closet and into broad public view—and not on the terms that church leaders would like.
  • Reborn and reconstructed Paganism is a thorn in the side of those modern Christians who like to think of Europe as an essentially Christian region, just as the original Pagan religions of Europe were an impediment to the plans of ancient and medieval church leaders for a completely Christianized Europe. 
  • The same may be said about North America, especially the United States. Conservative Christian Americans are unlikely to rejoice at the development of Wicca and other pagan faiths in the country they see as a "Christian nation" or a "new Jerusalem," much better in quality and intensity of Christianity than the Old World of Europe. 


In the past, Christian writers had little trouble justifying the tactics used to eradicate paganism in Europe using the “ends-justifies-the-means” argument. 


  • Paganism was barbaric, false, and inferior; Christianity was civilized, truthful, and superior; and therefore, the replacement of the lesser religion by the greater was right, helpful, and entirely justified, if not necessary. 

  • This triumphalist interpretation of global history, in which the gradual Christianization of the whole globe is seen as the right order of things, remains a comforting narrative for many Christians today, bolstering their religious faith and identity. 



The development of Neopagan faiths shows that this worldview is not shared by everyone in North America, Europe, or other parts of the globe. 

Given the profound divisions and historical grudges that exist between Pagans and Christians, it seems that there will be an increase in confrontations between Christians and the growing number of Neopagans in both Europe and North America. 

The capacity of religious and political leaders to develop innovative solutions that respect the rights of both faith groups will determine how such disputes play out.


You may also want to read more about Paganism here.

Be sure to check out my writings on Religion here.


Online Resources


Adherents.com

Top Twenty Religions in the United States, showing “Wicca/Pagan/

Druid” at 307,000 members as of 2001, based on American Religious Identity

Survey (ARIS) conducted in 2001 by sociologists Barry A. Kosmin, Seymour P.

Lachman, and associates at the Graduate School of the City University of New

York. At http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#religions

More about ARIS survey and data at http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/aris_index.htm.


Circle Sanctuary. 

Broad, inclusive, umbrella organization and support network for

Pagan religions. At http://www.circlesanctuary.org.


Covenant of the Goddess. 

Wiccan organization. At http://www.cog.org.


Fellowship of Isis. 

Eclectic, primarily goddess-oriented Pagan organization. 

At http://www.fellowshipofisis.com.


Lady Liberty League. 

Legal advocacy branch of Circle Sanctuary. 

At http://www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty.


Pagan Federation. 

UK-based, broad, inclusive Pagan organization and support network. At http://www.paganfed.org.


Religious Tolerance.Org. 

Interreligious interfaith organization for religious tolerance. At http://www.religioustolerance.org.


Witchvox

Wiccan and Pagan site. At http://www.witchvox.com.


World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER). 

Lithuania-based umbrella organization for ethnic religions and Reconstructionist Paganism. 

At http://www.wcer.org.


Wren’s Nest. 

Wiccan and Pagans news site, branch of Witchvox, including news items gleaned from the mainstream press. 

At http://www.witchvox.com/xwrensnest.html.


POP YOGA! Yoga in Popular Western Culture

 

Yoga has explicitly entered mainstream culture in the United States. Every few years, Yoga Journal conducts a survey to gauge the importance of yoga. This is self-serving—the paper wants to know if it has a suitable audience—and the survey model is skewed because it stands to profit from the results. Nonetheless, the findings are eye-opening: according to Yoga Journal's 2012 poll, 20.4 million American adults practice yoga, they spend $10.3 billion a year on "yoga lessons and merchandise, including supplies, clothes, holidays, and newspapers," and 44.4 percent of non-practicing Americans are interested in giving it a shot. In my own research into the cultural past of yoga in the United States, I look at how yoga has been marketed as "Eastern" and mystical; as non-Hindu, universal, and scientific; and as a health-promoting activity.

This 150-year process has aided Americans in envisioning yoga as a secular discipline that has been gendered, culturally classified, and socially classified in a specific manner, free of any religious practices or convictions. This categorization entails both buy-in and push-back, and in this segment, I look at three examples of buy-in and push-back, as well as the resulting tensions and dialogues. Examining the popularity of yoga pants, Christian Yoga, and the Hindu American Foundation's (HAF) protests can demonstrate how mass culture and faith intersect to build pockets of unity and tension.


A pair of yoga pants



In the United States, yoga reveals the blurred boundaries between religious and secular practices (and in fact calls into question the many ways in which religion is defined). Yoga is debatable as to whether it belongs to any faith or whether it may be done by all. These issues will be addressed in the second and third sections of this series. But first, I'd like to look at how many of you might have discovered yoga—the cozy yoga pants that many of us wear even though we aren't practicing yoga.

The material and visual exploration of yoga pants reveals how they reify gender, age, and race categories and normativities. In other words, while yoga is not readily classified as religious or secular, it is more accessible to white/Euro-American, upper middle-class people, and yoga's visual culture in the United States represents and reproduces this construction of yoga. The easiest way to explain this phenomenon is to look at yoga pants in popular culture.

What is the ethnicity and ethnicity of most people portrayed wearing yoga pants if you do a short Google search for “yoga pants” and click on “images”? What part of the body is the subject of most of these photos? How many of these photos really feature someone doing yoga? If you see any pictures that are identical or different in terms of race and gender? What are the costliest and least expensive yoga pants, and how much do they cost? Now, just for kicks, look up “male yoga pants” on Google. What are some of the similarities and variations you find in terms of pant styles, body representation, and pricing? When I do this search, I find that most of the photographs are of white, slender women, with an emphasis on the lower half of her body. These trousers are also short and can cost anything from $14 to $120.

Many of the men's trousers, on the other hand, are loose, but the pictures also depict white, very healthy, athletic men, and the price range is close. Lululemon has been the brand most associated with yoga pants in recent years, owing to their appeal and affordability. It does not make men's yoga pants, but it does market men's kung fu pants. Its yoga pants for women range in price from $88 to $118. As women protested about their pricey yoga pants pilling, Chip Wilson, co-founder of Lululemon, said, "Frankly, those women's bodies just don't fit for it." They don't suit the bodies of those ladies. It's all of the rubbing on the elbows, how much friction is applied over time, and how much they need it.”

As a result, a Lululemon client would have not only a lot of discretionary money, but also a thigh gap. Lululemon would not make trousers bigger than a size 12, according to Wilson, since plus-size clothing needs 30% more fabric. “It's a money loser, for sure,” he said, trying to be sympathetic. I understand their situation, but it's difficult.” Women of color have begun to feature in Lululemon's catalogs in recent years, but the visuals and staff in each of the company's shops make it plain that the target buyer is a white, thigh-gap-thin woman who can afford to spend at least $200 on yoga jeans, top, and bra.

Lululemon's ads (aimed solely at slim women) and high costs aren't the only things that make the brand notorious. Some also questioned its success due to alleged unfair labor practices. Lululemon began manufacturing in a nonunion shop in Vancouver, Canada, in 1998, although it has since shifted all its production abroad, mostly to China. “Third-world children should be able to work in factories because it provides them with much-needed wages,” Chip Wilson is quoted as saying at a business conference in Vancouver. Furthermore, he claims that "ninety-five percent of the factories I've seen in the Orient are much stronger than factories in North America."

“Many people in China come from the western provinces, and their ambition is to work seven days a week for 16 hours a day in order to have enough money to go home with and start a company in five years.” “In Canada, for example, 99 percent of our factory workers are Chinese woman sewers,” he said. They would be furious if you worked them eight-hour days. They'll ask, "What are you doing?" if you just work them five days a week for eight hours. I'm not interested in working with you.' If you just work them for so long, they'll leave at 4 p.m., walk across the street to another warehouse, and work for another six hours. This is in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.” Wilson made no mention of salaries, working conditions, unions, or benefits in his speech. Such marketing policies have sparked controversy, and Lululemon has received negative press as a result.

They also pose a threat to the yoga culture, which is known for being socially and politically liberal. The fact that their favorite yoga pants are made by a self-described libertarian whose labor policies may be construed as abusive has opened the door for other brands. Lululemon does not own the yoga pants market—as our Google search revealed, yoga pants can be purchased for $14, making them affordable to a wide range of people, and since they are comfortable, many women of all ages, styles, and sizes choose to wear them. However, this is not without its own collection of issues about women's bodies. Yoga pants are always too tight, and schools are enacting legislation prohibiting them.

In 2014, officials at Devils Lake High School in North Dakota held a girls-only assembly to clarify the current dress code, during which they demonstrated footage from Pretty Woman to highlight how women can be treated differently based on their clothing choices. This is not the case at Devils Lake High School. Yoga pants and leggings were banned at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in 2015 unless they were protected with skirt or trousers, as the school believed students should dress more professionally; however, the students were not persuaded. Female students have been advised that their casual attire is a distraction to male students and instructors, and they have responded by demonstrating. “Hundreds of students signed a petition, and some marched—one holding a banner that demanded ‘are my jeans dropping your test scores?'” after a middle school in Evanston, Illinois, outlawed leggings and yoga pants.

To oppose the surveillance and sexualization of girls' bodies, several students launched the hashtag #iammorethanadistraction. Given how disputed female bodies have long been, the controversy over yoga pants is unsurprising, but it does highlight how popular yoga and exercise accessories have been in the United States. Yoga can be done in any outfit—I've seen women in saris do asanas (poses) that I could only imagine. Yoga skirts, on the other hand, have been the staple yoga attire for American women in the last fifteen years. It's almost as if the material and sensation of yoga pants psychologically prepares us for yoga practice and healthier health—or maybe only to be relaxed.

However, we struggle with the objectification/sexualization of the female body in American popular culture, as well as the need to keep the body sacred, as well as reminders that it must be healthy, slender, and shapely. This conversation has found a new home in yoga pants. It's not so much a question about who should and shouldn't wear yoga pants as it is about who should and shouldn't do yoga—and how.

Yoga by Christians


Yoga and Christianity have a long history together. Swami Vivekananda and raja yoga came to the United States thanks to the Unitarians, who founded the World Parliament of Religion in 1893.

They held the International Congress of Religious Liberals twenty-seven years later, and it was through that conference that Paramahansa Yogananda and kriya yoga were brought to the United States. Yogananda, following in the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda, refers to Christian scripture and uses Christian imagery in his Autobiography of a Yogi to position kriya yoga as an interdisciplinary activity. Both Vivekananda and Yogananda came to the United States to collect funds for their ventures in India, and they had to make yoga appealing to Christians and their values while being nonthreatening. Pranayama (yogic breathing) is a form of yoga.

 

Yoga, especially pranayama (yogic breathing), was a complement to Christian activity rather than a replacement.

Yoga practice in the United States began to move away from pranayama and toward asanas (yogic poses/postures) in the 1940s and 1950s, signaling a shift away from pranayama and toward asanas (yogic poses/postures). Yoga began to make its way into American living rooms in the 1950s and 1960s, thanks to books and regular television shows. Yoga was now a pagan discipline because of market forces. Hindu yogis, on the other hand, tended to advocate yoga as a discipline that was "ident with all of the world's great religions." In the summer of 1971, the second annual Yoga Ecumenical Retreat was held at Annhurst, a Catholic Women's College, where nuns, priests, monks, rabbis, and "long haired young people" all came together to practice yoga based on Swami Satchidananda's teachings.

Sister Maria explained, "Deep prayer often entails transcending the body and the senses." “Yoga is a huge support in this regard. It aids in the relaxation of the body and mind, as well as the integration of the entire person.” Sister Rose Margaret Delaney considered yoga to be a practice for prayer rather than prayer itself: “I don't use a mantra. She explained, "I meditate on the Gospel of the day and use Yoga to prepare myself for prayer." Christians are still using their biblical origins to reformulate yoga today. Many Christians participate in yoga courses at gyms or yoga centers, but others are turned off by the overtly Hindu comparisons, meditation, and chanting. Parishioners at Washington, DC's New Community Church sing "Sha-LOM," not "OM" or "AUM."

Many Christian yoga classes, including Sister Rose Margaret Delaney's, repeat Bible verses during those poses to keep their minds on God and Jesus Christ rather than Isvara, the Hindu Lord of Yoga. The Sun Salutation, or Suryanamaskara, is a twelve-step sequence of asanas and pranayamas. “Sun,” S-U-N, is replaced with “Son,” S-O-N, in many Christian yoga courses. As a result, when they do the twelve steps, it is to prove devotion to Jesus rather than Surya. The teaching of Christian yoga is known as "Yogadevotion" at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Minnesota, and while some participants are suspicious, one of the pastors, John Keller, is positive because "it attracts future converts into the church's doors"; "about a quarter of Yogadevotion students are not churchgoers."

This blending in practices does not sit well for everyone. Many Christian yoga critics are troubled by the combination of Christianity and yoga. According to one critic, using yoga to entice people to church is not harmless, but rather "dancing with the devil." A increasing number of books are advising Christians against combining yoga with Christian practice. “Yoga originated in India as part of the paganism practiced there,” writes Dave Hunt in his book Yoga and the Body of Christ, and argues that yoga is one way the West is being invaded.

Laurette Willis, the founder of “PraiseMoves,” a Christian alternative to yoga, which, along with “Fitness to His Witness,” is a trademarked system of exercise for good health, plus the blessing of Jesus, offers perhaps the most innovative and interesting critique of Christian yoga. Willis, a former "New Age" believer who came to faith in 1987, grew up doing yoga with her mum, but says, "From experience, I can tell that yoga is a risky exercise for the Christian and takes seekers away from God rather than to Him." Willis, like Hindu opponents of Christian yoga, claims that yoga and Hinduism are inextricably linked because all "yoga postures are sacrifices to the 330 million Hindu gods."

Christian yoga, on the other hand, is a "oxymoron" for Willis, who defines syncretism as "an effort to combine contradictory belief, religions, or doctrines." Willis also developed the proprietary "PraiseMoves," which is not Christian yoga but a "Christ-centered approach to the discipline of yoga," as an alternative to Christian and Hindu yoga. Willis claims that, while the class appears to be yoga and is structured similarly to many yoga classes in the United States and India, it is not. Since she's "discovered there's not an unlimited amount of ways the human body can move," she admits that some of the PraiseMoves postures mirror yoga postures, and she tells us that these postures were formed by God, and that PraiseMoves is "a way to untwist these advantageous postures back to glorify God."

Willis' trademarked methodology claims to strip yoga of its Hindu jargon, revealing a fundamentally Christian tradition. The irony of this controversy over yoga in popular culture is that when Indian yogis first arrived in America, they courted Christian yogis. Many Christians today do not see yoga as a conflict; they happily practice it in gyms, church basements, retirement homes, and community centers. Yoga refers to a wider audience because it is non-Hindu, universal, and empirical, as well as a discipline that is sure to improve one's fitness.

Christians like Dave Hunt and Laurette Willis, on the other hand, demonstrate that combining religious, spiritual, or international beliefs and traditions can lead to controversy and discomfort in this region. What effect does yoga have on Christianity? Can it strengthen or weaken Christian commitment? Is it causing Christians to become less religious, or is it allowing Christians to dive further into their faith? Not only Christians debate the purity and roots of yoga; Hindus have also followed this line of investigation in unique ways.

"Take back yoga" and the Hindu American Foundation

Although Christians question whether to practice yoga, a Hindu activist organization claims that yoga is expressly Hindu and launched a "Take Back Yoga Campaign" in 2009.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), a Hindu advocacy or lobbying organization, identifies itself as an advocacy group that provides a radical Hindu American voice. The Foundation engages and educates public policymakers, academics, the media, and the public about Hinduism and global problems affecting Hindus, such as religious liberty, misrepresentation of Hinduism, hate speech, hate crimes, and human rights. HAF stands squarely against hate, injustice, slander, and fear by upholding the Hindu and American ideologies of empathy, equality, and pluralism.

In the last decade, HAF has been involved in several scandals. It objected Wendy Doniger's book The Hindus' National Book Award nomination, claiming it was biased and misleading, and it is the first to speak out when a garment manufacturer or designer uses Hindu iconography in "inappropriate" ways. Most prominently, prior to the "Take Back Yoga" movement, HAF filed a lawsuit challenging the methods used to write about Hindu culture and tradition in California social sciences textbooks. The lawsuit was dismissed in court, but the fight over textbook material in California continues, and the HAF has launched #donteraseindia to raise awareness. The "Take Back Yoga" movement is credited with putting HAF on the map of mass culture.

It all began with a blog post on the HAF blog in 2009 called "Let's Take Yoga Back." Sheetal Shah, a young Hindu-American student, laments in this post that the yoga taught in this country lacks the Hindu mark. She is particularly disappointed that Yoga Journal does not promote yoga using the term "Hindu," that there are no Hindus in her yoga courses, and that she was able to find several yoga teachers but none who were clearly Hindu. How do we preserve and encourage yoga's Hindu origins if most yoga studios don't have Hindu students, let alone Hindu yoga instructors, she writes? Our Hindu forefathers recognized the advantages of yoga and spread the word to the rest of the world. The West recognized yoga, fell in love with it, transformed it into a physical and “spiritual” art, removing all metaphysical connotation, and declared themselves experts. While many non-Hindu Americans are enthusiastic about yoga, the majority of Hindu Americans seem to have ignored its value in uniting their mind, body, and spirit, and have given up their understanding and possession of this life-changing activity.

As a Hindu American, I implore you to restore yoga by reclaiming your expertise in its teaching. I strongly advise you to enroll in a beginner's yoga class at a local studio and to invite your girls, siblings, parents, and friends to join you. Many of our nearby Hindu temples offer free yoga classes taught by Hindu teachers, and some of you might even be attending them... bring a friend or family member with you next week. If you practice basic asanas at home, take an advanced yoga class at a studio to take your practice to the next stage.

HAF responded to Shah's call with gusto. Following Shah's blog post, HAF published a position paper on yoga's Hindu roots in 2009: Yoga is an important aspect of Hindu belief and practice, according to the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). However, regardless of religious religion, the science of yoga and the enormous rewards it provides are for the good of all mankind. Hinduism is a set of pluralistic doctrines and lifestyles that recognizes the presence of other philosophical and religious practices. As a non-proselytizing religion, Hinduism never forces yoga practitioners to profess allegiance or convert. Yoga is a path to personal enlightenment for those who seek it. In the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog, HAF co-founder and board member Aseem Shukla engaged pop guru Deepak Chopra in a dispute about yoga's ownership beginning in April 2010.

 

Underneath Shukla's grievances, one senses the indignation of an inventor who found Coca-Cola or Teflon but failed to patent it, wrote Chopra. Isn't that a petty reason for painting such a bleak picture? When most Indians consider the enormous success of yoga in the United States, they may grin at the glitzy facets of the phenomenon, but they believe something positive is happening overall. Shukla frowns in disapproval at the same scene. Shukla retorted that, while Chopra profits financially from Hinduism (which he refers to as Vedic knowledge) and claims to be an Advaita Vedantin, he does not credit the religion in any of his platforms.

This debate drew the attention of many Hindu bloggers, anti-yoga Christian blogs, and non-Hindu yoga blogs, with each viewpoint siding with Shukla or Chopra, depending on whether they preferred or required Hindu yoga. The New York Times and CNN have published articles highlighting the key actors in this movement as the controversy gained national exposure. Although many people have strong feelings on who owns yoga, the HAF has specifically taken measures to frame the discussion. While it claims that everyone can learn yoga and profit from it, it is adamant that the Hindu origins of yoga be recognized.

The questions become, “Is yoga Hindu?” or “To which religion does yoga belong?” when boiled down and distilled, as Internet discussions sometimes are. Scholars can disagree about the Jain or Buddhist legacies of yoga, or even argue that yoga is more European and imperial than Hindu, but in the end, none of this matter in a postcolonial world where religions are divided. Labels have repercussions in mainstream culture, and the increasing popularity of yoga among Hindu South Asian Americans, combined with the fact that it has been turned into a problem by HAF, has given yoga's name, history, and ownership religion, sociopolitical, and economic implications. The bigger question is why "ownership" is still a concern.

We live in a world where trademarks, copyrights, and phantom mortgages enable people to become billionaires. Religion, culture, and even basic fitness are all impacted by inequality and an environment that prioritizes financial stability and dominance above all else. So, it was only a matter of time before yoga became a battleground for names and histories. Aseem Shukla was referred to as a "fundamentalist" by Deepak Chopra.

Non-Hindu yoga instructors who liberally use "OM" in their teaching are often opposed to the HAF movement, and it is easier to label them as fundamentalists and ignore them than to hold an open discussion about the causes, implications, and advantages of colonization, as well as racial exploitation and power contours. To put it another way, I don't believe we should or should dismiss the debate about yoga's location or possession. Rather, I believe it is a good time for us to reconsider our assumptions about Hindus and Hinduism.

White Europeans and Euro-Americans can appropriate aspects of colonized societies and enforce their beliefs on colonized peoples, some of which have come to Europe and the United States, as a result of slavery, patriarchy, and racism. However, when there are little repercussions for this appropriation and subjugation, as groups respond, they react in ways that seem to perpetuate patriarchal ideals of distinction and roots of faith and common culture. Simultaneously, we should consider other Hindu practices that middle-class Hindus in India and the United States have attempted to neglect and abandon.

Tolerance, karma, dharma, and Brahman are listed as core tenets of Hinduism on the HAF website, but Tantra, sacrifice, possession, mosque bombings, female feticide, or dowry burnings are not mentioned. These are just as important to Hinduism as yoga. Since the Protestant British religious borders never made sense in India, yoga, Tantra, and even Hindu worship spaces defy categorization, belonging, and neat histories, it was perhaps unavoidable that they would defy categorization, belonging, and neat histories. HAF, on the other hand, has opted to focus on meditation, demonstrating once again how yoga has become a part of the religious and cultural landscape of the United States.

conclusion The three references presented in this chapter demonstrate that yoga is a contentious topic in modern America, with debates raging about the manufacture of yoga pants, the bodies of women wearing yoga pants, who can/should perform yoga, and the roots and identity of yoga. These debates demonstrate how blurry and sometimes subjective the line between religious and secular is, and how necessary it is to publicly explore this messiness.

Is yoga a religious exercise or a secular one, and how have yoga pants found their way into our daily secular wardrobes?

Also, how does looking at race, gender, and class reveal how yoga has been sold and created exclusively for one category of people in this country?

Why is it necessary to examine the intersections of mainstream culture, female sexualization, and yoga pants to better understand broader conflicts in American popular culture?

Finally, how and when do sects collide? Is this a US-only phenomenon or a worldwide phenomenon? Finally, who owns culture, and how can we draw the distinction between cultural exploitation and appreciation?

Why do you think yoga is so common in America?

What reasons do you believe are influencing its popularity?

In today's America, is yoga a religious or secular activity? When it comes to yoga, is the line between sacred and secular blurry?

What do you make of some Hindus' claim that yoga should not be segregated from its place in Hindu god worship?

What function do gender, race, and class play in the construction and practice of yoga, as well as other aspects of mainstream culture in the United States?

Is yoga practiced in your neighborhood?

Look for yoga-related advertisements or announcements. Is it promoted as a spiritual practice or a form of physical activity? To whom is it marketed?



Bibliography:

 

 1. “New Study Finds More Than 20 Million Yogis in U.S.,” www.yogajournal.com/uncategorized/new-study-finds-20-million-yogis-u-s.

2. Harry Bradford. “Lululemon’s Founder Blames Yoga Pants Problem on Women’s Bodies,” www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/lululemon-foundersome-wo_n_4221668.html.

3. “Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson Resigns from Board,” Financial Times, February 2, 2015, www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5d16fdd8-aaf2-11e4-81bc-00144feab7de.html#axzz4Eljmiko3.

4. Scott Deveau, “Yoga Mogul Has Critics in a Knot,” The Tyee, February 17, 2015, http://thetyee.ca/News/2005/02/17/LuluCritics.

5. Lindsay Ellis, “Yoga Pants Too Distracting for Boys? A N.D. School Cracks Down on Girls,” Christian Science Monitor, October 1, 2014, www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2014/1001/Yoga-pants-too-distracting-for-boys-A-N.D.-schoolcracks-down-on-girls-video. 350

6. Ellis. “Yoga Pants Too Distracting for Boys?”

7. According to Patanjali there are eight limbs of yoga: yama (moral principles), niyama (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (pure contemplation) (Yoga Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller [Bantam, 1998], 52). Only two of the eight, breath control and postures, are overtly popular in the practice of modern Hatha yoga (though there are allusions to yama), partially due to the influence of those that brought new exposure to yoga starting in the nineteenth century. Further, it seems that both pranayama and asana were latched onto by modern yoga “exporters,” for they were easiest to translate into a modern ethos—one that focused on health, control, and ecumenism.

8. Edward B. Fiske, “Priests and Nuns Discover Yoga Enhances Grasp of Faith,” New York Times, July 2, 1971, 35, 55.

9. Phuong Ly, “Churches, Synagogues Mingle Yoga with Beliefs,” Washington Post, January 1, 2006, C1.

10. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, “Stretching for Jesus,” Time Magazine, August 29, 2005.

11. Trayce Gano, “Contemplative Emerging Church Deception: Christian Yoga, Innocent Activity or Dancing With the Devil?”http://emerging-church .blogspot.com/2007/02/christian-yoga-innocent-activity-or.html.

12. Dave Hunt, Yoga and the Body of Christ: What Position Should Christians Hold? (Bend, OR: Berean Call, 2006), 23.

13. Laurette Willis. “Why a Christian alternative to Yoga?” http:// praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga.

14. “Hindu American Foundation,” https://plus.google.com/HafsiteOrg /about.

15. Sheetal Shah, “Let’s Take Yoga Back,” www.hinducurrents.com/articles /19969/lets-take-yoga-back

16. “Yoga beyond Asana: Hindu Thought in Practice,” www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-hindu-origins

17. “Shukla and Chopra: The Great Yoga Debate,” OnFaith, April 30, 2010,www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2010/04/30/shukla-and-chopra-the-great-yogadebate/4379.

 


A Comparison of Prayer and Meditation

 


"God, give me the serenity to embrace what I cannot change, the confidence to change what I can, and the patience to realize the difference," says a common prayer associated with the Christian faith. If I use the prayer, I simply mean, "Grant me the serenity to embrace what I can't change, the confidence to change what I can, and the patience to choose between the two." About the fact that many people believe Buddhists should not make such demands verbally, I have no reservations about this adapted form of the "serenity prayer" because it has so many Buddhist parallels.

Three questions will be addressed in this article. The first is that the common perception that prayer is incompatible with Buddhism's nontheistic nature is correct. The second argument, which is founded on a negative response to the first, asks whether a nontheistic faith prays, if prayer implies a receiver or listener. Finally, the most speculative and abstract question is whether there is any distinction between praying theists and praying nontheists in terms of religious experience. One iteration of the above-mentioned serenity prayer refers to "God," and the other does not.

Theological contradictions between Buddhism and Christianity are reflected in the differences in type. However, the more intriguing question is whether this linguistic change had any effect on the people praying's perceptions or the outcomes of their prayers. Is it true that this serenity prayer has a different influence on me, a Buddhist, than it does on a Christian, everything others being equal? Although observational experiments to see if discrepancies exist are potentially difficult to come up with, I wouldn't be surprised if these theological opposites mask common experiences and outcomes. Since Buddhism and Christianity seem to be such disparate faiths, a thorough examination is needed.

What seems to be a straightforward distinction one minute can turn out to be a startling resemblance the next. There are a lot of crossovers. Buddhism seems to deny the presence of the ego, while Christianity does not; however, some Buddhists speak of the "big I," and Christian teachings also speak of the need to "lose the self" before finding it. Christianity is a theistic faith, positing a god independent from mankind, and Buddhism is one of the world's only nontheistic religions, rejecting the existence (or, more precisely, the relevance) of any transcendent, external supreme being who created the world and bestows redemption on foes.

But then we hear about Pure Land Buddhism, in which it is recommended that one focus entirely on Buddha Amida's Other Power to ensure rebirth in the Pure Land. This is how it works. On the surface, it seems that a philosophical continental division exists between and, a theological divide that makes the word "Buddhist prayer" an oxymoron and can make Buddhists unable to say anything like the serenity prayer. Because of the religious differences between theistic and nontheistic faiths, it is commonly taught in world religions introductory courses that Christians pray while Buddhists meditate. Prayer is spoken, full of thoughts, and addressed to another person, while meditation is not.

However, this distinction only says half of the tale. Many people associate Buddhist meditation with nonverbal silence meditation, but Buddhist practice requires many verbal utterances. Furthermore, many Tibetan Buddhists openly use the term "prayer" while speaking English. For example, in September, after terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Dalai Lama held a "prayer service" for the many victims. It's not shocking that a Buddhist would feel perfectly relaxed saying the serenity prayer without the word "God" at the start and believe it to be powerful and meaningful.

It's also not uncommon for Christians to turn themselves over to a wordless effort to adhere to God's will when praying. Clearly, something more is going on than a contrast between Christians praying to a personal god in words and Buddhists observing the breath wordlessly and impersonally. The study of prayer and meditation is one of the most interesting aspects of comparative Buddhist-Christian studies. Crossovers aren't more frequent in other comparative Buddhist-Christian studies, either.

Still more shocking, several Buddhist religious utterances seem to evoke appearance, as if one were speaking to the "other." Take, for example, the following theological proverb:

Keep me safe in your love's treasury. Protect me from the terrifying sufferings of life, such as birth, old age, illness, death, and so on, and truly cleanse me of all my defilements, you who are the refuge.

If this prayer is clearly introduced to a student and asked to describe its source on an exam in an introductory religious studies course, the average student might mistakenly believe that it is not Buddhist and instead comes from the Christian tradition. Given the plain language of address, implicating a being distinct from oneself, and the petitionary's argument, even anyone with a basic understanding of religious practices might conclude that this is a Christian prayer. The stock phrase "sufferings of life birth, old age, illness, death, and so on" might provide a hint to anyone familiar with Buddhi expression conventions.

These are the first four of the eight forms of suffering detailed in the Truth, as defined by the Buddha in his first sermon, and are widely used in Buddhist liturgies. Perhaps even more m than a Buddhist prayer that seems to posit a being to whom one may p is the fact that the being to whom one has just petitioned for very real and essential benefits dissolves "a state of radiant void by non-conceptualization a few lines later in the liturgy What is the point of such ostensibly insignificant things? "If the god being invoked does not really exist as such, and this is from a Buddhist liturgy rather than a population in which different super-human deities are invoked, it is theistic.

This is from an esoteric and evolved tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, which is metaphysically nontheistic and non-dualistic. Such comments lead me to believe that if one did not already know Buddhism is a nontheistic tradition, one could never tell from reading Buddhist liturgies, including those dealing with sophisticated meditation techniques. On the opposite, those liturgies are packed with sacrifices, donations, blessing requests, and a variety of other blessings, at least in the Vajrayana tradition.

Despite religious distinctions, the structure used in such liturgies is at least superficially like many familiar Christian forms to the deity. What is the reason for this? What really is going on? Given the similarities of the linguistic styles, are the inner psychological perceptions of the prayer and the meditator relatively comparable, or are they relatively separate due to identical differences? There are at least three distinct modes of Buddhist verbal utterances, or "prayers," and the doctrine and religious practice associated with these different styles may help answer the question of how different prayer and meditation are.

The first form of Buddhist prayer, which is unfamiliar to many outsiders, entails praying for many people. The second form of prayer entails expressing dreams or desires, in which only one hope is answered. The third, most enigmatic kind of o utterance is found in Tibetan "deity yoga" liturgies, such as the o above. In a non-dualistic, non-theistic philosophical sense, forms of address resemble a theological fallacy. There must be a psychological interpretation that justifies using certain ways as a "skillful way" to promote transition, resulting in these non-theistic cousins being quite like their theistic cousins.

The first degree of investigation should focus on the nature of any of the beings to which Buddhists regularly "pray." In this case, I will say that both the modes and spirituality of Buddhism and Christianity are reasonably identical. Prayers are directed to beings that are distinct from others to whom one requests different boons and rewards. Even the most strict and uncompromising forms of Buddhi on supreme non-theism have always acknowledged that super-human entities, invisible to ordinary human eyes, exist and can be petitioned, just as believers in deities petition their invisible deities.

Buddhists claim that pleas to those deities will have an impact on circumstances, just as theists believe that their prayers have an impact. Furthermore, Buddhists have long held the belief that certain spirits exist. These rituals and values are not the product of a later degeneration from a pure early type of Buddhism. Early Buddhists would not have been able to tell stories about the historical Buddha being encouraged to preach his dharma by numerous divine beings who assured him that his preaching would be successful, despite his initial skepticism that everyone would understand his teachings. Only new Buddhist converts from North America have difficulty identifying these entities.

North American Buddhists tend to believe that beings they can't see through their eyes, beings who seem to have empirical life, don't exist in any way, and that this is what "theism" means. However, Buddhist non-theism is traditionally concerned with the actual non-existence of certain entities, rather than their conditional non-existence. Such entities live at the level of relative t, and there is no reason why a Buddhist should not pray, confess wrongdoings, or give worship, thanksgiving, and liturgies to t in the same way as a Christian would.

They can also pray for many of the same things, such as the redemption of bad luck, health, money, and well-being in general. The ultimate enlightenment or redemption for which a Buddhist cannot pray but a Christian can is more ultimate enlightenment or salvation. Since enlightenment is a question of clearing away mystery and uncovering one's primordial pure and enlightened condition, there is no chance of vicarious enlightenment Buddhism and no god can confer it. Regardless, my experience is that Christians agree that human recognition of salvation is needed, and that God does not "save" people at random or indiscriminately.

Buddhists, too, hope that the barriers to enlightenment will be lessened. What does it mean when Buddhists claim that the spirits they pray to "exist"? The meaning of "life" differs significantly from what a Christian would say to God. However, that is not dissimilar to a Christian's belief in the presence of saints or angels. Deities, according to Buddhism, live in the same manner as humans do. We believe we are very real to ourselves, but research reveals that there is no substantial, enduring, or permanent self.

Similarly, deities can be encountered, but there is little evidence to support the idea of a fully external, independently functioning god. All, instead, is made up of a matrix of interdependence and hence devoid of intrinsic reality. However, this does not imply that problems are completely absent. In reality, nihilistic conceptions of emptiness are thought to be incredibly psychologically harmful. What matters to us is that those creatures live independently of us regular, uneducated humans.

We don't make them up any more than we make our own relative life up. They live as much as we believe we do, and they may be of assistance or a hindrance to us. Declaring that saints, demons, and occupants of ancient Buddhist worlds do not exist is simply a matter of mistaken unenlightenment for someone who still trusts in his or her own ego, as do all unenlightened entities. In a Buddhist context, however, such entities should not exist without the wisdom of an enlightened being who can see them for what they are: nonexistent as separate beings.

As a result, they are denied God's absolute freedom, as Christians believe. It seems that, at least in terms of human beings and angels, they are similar. They do not exist independently of God or human beings, much as the countless nonhuman, n beings that inhabit the conventional Buddhist world do not exist independently of God or human beings. Perhaps when we can no longer bear our own void, our own sense of inherent meaning, can we recognize that deities do not inherently exist. Before then, we can only hope the Buddhists do.

There's no reason to believe that a Buddhist praying to God or the saints for general well-being or divine guidance has a different inner perspective than a Christian praying to God or the saints for support. Only the m type of Buddhist prayer is offered to certain comparatively current beings. Buddhists often recite optimistic statements for a variety of reasons, including the well-being of all living beings, the realization of a great teacher's vision, or our own desire to achieve insight and compassion.

Since it represents values or aspirations for which we are working, this form of utterance is often referred to as. The serenity prayer will be an aspiration in Bud, without the single word "God," which helps to understand why it is so unproblematic for Buddhists. The fam aspiration prayer is a common Buddhist practice that dates back to early Buddhism. The plea is sometimes referred to as the Four Immeasurables or the Four Divine Abodes (a literal translation of the Pali), and it goes like this: May all living beings experience pleasure and the root of happiness, and may they be free of misery and the root of suffering. Will they not be excluded from the great joy that is free of pain.

These four feelings, also known as friendliness, sympathy, sympathetic pleasure, and equanimity, are thought to be enlightened or helpful. Such universal desires include the need to advance down the road and eventually achieve enlightenment. For instance, must I not be divided from the ideal guru in any of my births. So bask in the glory of dharma. Can I quickly attain the condition of Vajradhara [ultimate enlightenment] by perfecting the virtues of the paths and levels. The "dedication to merit" is another variation of this theme.

This is a common practice in Buddhism, particularly in the types of Buddhism that are least open to dealings with superhuman, non-empirical entities. This utterance is considered to be an integral manifestation of egolessness, or the absence of a lasting substantive self, since it transfers any merit acquired by divine practice or good action from oneself to all human beings. By this merit, anyone will achieve omniscience. May it be victorious over the adversary, misconduct. May I liberate all things from the stormy seas of birth, old age, illness, and death, from the ocean of samsara. So what really is going on with these desires?

These expectations aren't directed at more boring beings that receive more mundane demands. In reality, there is no "you" to whom they are addressed; the desire and beneficiary of the wishes conveyed in the aspiration or dedication are made by a "I." Buddhists do not believe in an all-powerful being capable of achieving these goals without human effort (and Christians are unlikely to believe that these goals will be achieved without human collaboration with the divine). But, what's the big deal? Why bother with a bot if there's no one to whom these requests can be directed? In particular, religious nontheists from monotheistic backgrounds have expressed reservations about these goals.

They were both apprehensive about the serenity prayer. Their dissatisfaction stems from the fact that, in their opinion, these declarations may not be "valid," because no being could hear or react to a merit commitment, the Four Immeasurables, or the serenity prayer. We can actually run into a fundamental psychological divide at this stage, which is why there are so many theological directions to choose from. Some people can't stand any kind of tradition or something that isn't fully factual and logical.

Buddhist aspiration prayers, for example, seem "superstitious" to them because they cannot possibly magically turn the world's misery mystery. They'd also argue that such change involves hard work in the universe, not prayer or even yoga meditations that are exclusively focused on the breath and body. They argue that these are luxuries that a struggling planet cannot afford. Others, on the other hand, would emphasize the impact that utterances like the Four Immeasurable have on the individual who says or thinks them.

Everything else happens in prayer and religious practice, well-crafted prayers and liturgies have a strong, demonstrable effect on those who attend. Such prayers are for and for the religious matter, the individual who recalls aspirations like the Four Immeasurables on a daily basis and fervently, longingly imagines that he or she will be able to truly carry out these aspirations. Contemplating the Four Immeasurables will assist one in becoming an entity capable of manifesting them. Such utterances are not solely about or about a supposed spectator, the nonexistent or unresponsive God who does not snap his or her fingers and make the aspirations come true, phenomonologically speaking.

If this is the case, prayer is effective regardless of whether or not an actual being refers to it. This is something Buddhists have long understood, which explains why Buddhists who believe the Buddha has passed completely without hearing or responding to petitions venerate, bow, and make offerings. Buddhists understand and conclude that these actions can result in a positive effect on their state of mind and behavior.

Such reasons for the efficacy of prayer are frequently denigrated in a monotheistic society where people are more concerned with the presence of God than with the therapeutic effects of religious rituals. However, since we are so concerned with process, with what works to improve and transform spiritually, the effect of a practice on the religious topic is extremely important to Buddhists. We are more likely to come to values embodied in the aspiration with the prayer than without it.

Though, in the Buddhist scheme of things, it is extremely strong. It is preferable to wish them happiness rather than adversity. However, certain considerations of the motives for praying are not entirely theistic. Often theists reflect that it doesn't matter to the Lord of the Universe whether people eat pork and shellfish on Saturday or Sunday, or whether they pray consistently, properly, and at the appropriate times. It is clarified why such rituals are carried out not because God needs them, but because people do. People need them to establish identity, discipline, and a sense of connection to the origins of life.

People pray, they explain, and it is beneficial to them. Many theists believe that praying is a method of spiritual cultivation that changes the person who prays. Though prayer is indeed a significant aspect of the experience of praying more, any thoughtful theist should be repulsed by the image of God as a tyrant who becomes so enraged at people who do not pray properly, sufficiently, or on time that he or she punishes them with misery. Even in this sense, one might argue that prayer is solely for the good of faith and people. People should pray, but God does not need to hear them.

As a result, nontheistic meditation and supe experiences turn out to be more similar. While a distinction exists between theistic and nontheistic versions of prayer, I will say that the perception of the one who utters the prayer and its consequence are more identical than distinct. Expressions like the one cited earlier, "Keep me with the treasury of your devotion," are far more mystifying in the nontheistic sense of Buddhism than comparatively present entities that can support or impede us, or expressions of t of Buddhist meditators. Protect me from the terrifying sufferings of life, such as birth, old age, illness, death, and so on, for you are the shelter.

These terms are spoken to a visualized being who reflects mate truth and one's own true self. As previously said, later in the liturgy, the being dissolves light and space, but whatever existence this being is referred to is not a conventionally existing, stable being. Visualization activity entails visualizing oneself as this being, which is much more enigmatic to outsiders. When one says, "Keep me with your affection," one is not discussing a being apart from itself. In a strange way, one is addressing oneself in these rituals, one's real being, not, of course, one's private ego. Even in liturgies where one does not identify with the being visualized,

Except in liturgies where one does not identify with the being visualized, the being inevitably dissolves into light, which then dissolves into oneself, most commonly into one's heart base, stressing ultimate theological nonduality.

The metaphysics or theology that underpins these activities is much too complex to thoroughly comprehend in this way. In a nutshell, there are two things to consider. To begin, anything that may possibly be called upon to show that there is no duality of self and that these liturgies use ult truth is used. Second, and even most importantly, the glorious b depicted in these liturgies represents who we really are under our cramped, sense of selfhood trapped behind our skin and feeling to be painfully separated from the rest of existence. Any traditional category can be used to address the issue of certain beings' existential status.

They vanish "by non-conceptualization into the condition of radiant emptiness," which is what the liturgy means when it states they dissolve "like all else, even selves that are not separate from these creatures." As a result, they behave in the same manner that the Christian god is said to exist, though the assumption that they do not exist is still incorrect. This "status" may not have a Western counterpart, in my opinion.

I'm more interested in the praxis here, in the personal, seemingly dualistic vocabulary of address used in these visualizations. Why will such prayerful language be used in such a nontheistic setting? Visualization and its accompanying linguistic liturgies are a "skillful met something designed to catapult the practitioner into recognition of truth as quickly as possible." As a result, such activities are consistent with the simple Buddhist belief that our most fundamental dilemma and the source of all pain is denial of the reality. We prefer to dismiss things, including ourselves, as mundane, insignificant, and unworthy of our respect.

These liturgies and visualizations have instilled in us the assurance that this is not the case. They act as a constant reminder to awaken to the world's and our own magnificent sacredness. The following is an example of how a typical anal could describe the process: A tiger cub has been bred as a lamb, and it bleats and feeds as if it were a lamb. It drinks blood one day and realizes it is a tiger, not a sheep. The visualizations and liturgies are the blood, but it seems that a bite is insufficient to turn our identity from duality to nonduality. A skillful way of transforming our identity from duality to nonduality is to taste things over and over before we have the flavor of things.

Even if we know better, having done so many times, we are convinced that our traditional conviction in duality is incorrect. These analyses do not seem to be able to completely correct our mistaken vi facet of our relative being that is called into action in this form of " efficacy of speech, particularly poetic, passionate, intimate words of language simply appeals to a different dimension of our being than rational language, and is much more successful in guiding our powerful emotion toward awakening than rational language.

Putting all of this together—the apparent reality of abstract, literary, passionate, and intimate language; and the eff emotions for consciousness transformation—results in the skillful means already mentioned many times. The only reason for such activities is that they are efficient. "Praying to the lord is not a matter of supplicating anything outside point of using a dualistic form, visualizing the deity outside of us, is duality," says Chagdud Tulku, Rinpoche. He goes on to say that if the deity's essence is emptiness, then There seems to be a discrepancy here. How do we say that there is no god, just a manifestation of our own nature?

Only once we grasp the inseparability between absolute and partial reality would this make sense. In the most fundamental basis, our essence is buddha, and we are deities. However, we are bound by relative truth because of this. We must walk on our relative feet, on a street, in order to make the jump to our absolute existence. Since objective reality is so inaccessible to our regular, sequential mind, we must work with the mind in slowly subtle steps before we gain acceptance.

Prayer is a crucial component of the operation. And where the religious distinctions between Bu Christianity are stark and uncompromising, the modes are more similar than dissimilar. What is the difference between a Buddhist visualization and a Christian prayer? Empirical answers to this topic are both likely and plausible. When I do this kind of liturgy, I am aware that I am not an invisible savior, just as I am sure most Christians are aware that "s there" hears their prayers.

Does it sound any different if the analytical, linguistic component of the psyche shuts off, as it often does? One would ask what prevents a Buddhist practitioner from taking the practices literally and turning into an egomaniac, which would be the polar opposite of what was meant.

More importantly, they are mystical techniques that are only accessible to those that have been sufficiently trained, both philosophically and in terms of prior meditation practices. This plans are crucial, because providing individuals with access to sp procedures that they are not prepared to learn and properly execute does no one any good. Many people oppose religious esotericism, but there is no other choice in this situation. It can't be any other way because the psychological and spiritual forces being tapped are so subtle and strong.