Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 20, 2002
Understanding the Art of Buddhism
Internet puts world of religions, sects at your fingertips
3. Interfaith summer school teaches values
4. Sparing a thought for
5. Book Review: The
Deepest Spiritual Life
6. Temple/Center of the Week: Abbey of
1. Visions of Enlightenment: Understanding
the Art of Buddhism
Asia Museum... 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena
paintings, sculptures and ritual objects from India,
Tibet, China, Thailand and Japan.
29, 2002 - Jan. 12, 2003
10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Box office: 626-449-2742.
2. Internet puts world of
religions, sects at your fingertips
BILL BROADWAY Washington Post Service
the scores of new websites on religion, a few have emerged as
particularly useful to anyone interested in learning more about
different expressions of faith.
can thank people like Preston Hunter, a computer programmer
in Texas who developed Adherents.com, perhaps the most extensive
Internet bank of membership statistics, and Harry Plantinga,
a computer science professor in Michigan who spent thousands
of hours scanning texts to create the Christian Classics Ethereal
is a list of some informative and helpful sites developed by
individuals, institutions or organizations. All can be accessed
without a fee and without registering for membership.
site breaks down more than 4,200 religions, denominations and
other faith groups throughout the world by size and geographic
area. It also includes such facts as the religious affiliations
of U.S. presidents, actors and science fiction/fantasy writers.
Religion Data Archive (http://www.thearda.com)
Lilly Endowment project maps major religious affiliations by
state, county and metropolitan area using data from national
surveys and studies.
and Christian (http://www.blackandchristian.com)
by Harvard Divinity School graduate Jacqueline Trussel, this
two-year-old site provides news, histories and features about
black denominations, plus chat rooms and tips on preaching and
Classics Ethereal Library (http://www.ccel.org)
volunteer-run service presents hundreds of works in the public
domain -- meaning it's legal to download them -- as text or
MP3 audio files.
of sacred texts of world religions -- Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity
and the Baha'i faith among them -- plus such works as the Egyptian
Book of the Dead and Dead Sea Scrolls.
Iowa State University site offers dozens of links to religious
resources on the Internet. Similar services include the Internet
Resources in Religion and Society (http://www.users.drew.edu/epullen/).
Nashville-based First Amendment Center offers guidelines, updates
and curriculum packages on such issues as prayer in public school,
school-voucher programs and censorship.
for the Study of American Evangelicals (http://www.wheaton.edu/isae)
College in Illinois, the alma mater of the Rev. Billy Graham,
is considered by many the spiritual and intellectual center
of American evangelical Protestantism. History, resources and
news appear here, along with a glossary that clarifies such
terms as evangelicalism, fundamentalism and pentecostalism.
Saints Index (http://www.catholic-forum.com/)
number of entries on this site has increased rapidly with Pope
John Paul II's unprecedented rate of beatification pronouncements.
Profiles include portraits, biographical information, areas
of patronage and readings.
University's Pluralism Project has emerged in recent years as
a premier observer of America's rapidly changing religious landscape.
than a listing of sites and resources, this University of Virginia
project has originated 150 profiles of religious movements,
including recently formed sects and cults. This expansive resource
also houses the archives of the Society for the Scientific Study
Faith News (http://www.wfn.org)
interfaith group of two dozen U.S. denominations supports this
database of news releases on religious events, activities and
summer school teaches values
Lockwood... The Daily Telegram
is a gymnast. Meg loves to dance. Katie plays piano and Libby
is a basketball player. Susan came hoping to make crafts and
play games. Jacob came because his mom made him.
six children embarked on a journey Monday. They are pioneers
in the first Interfaith Summer School, which takes place in
the Twin Ports Baha’i Center in Superior this week.
Friday, students will have spent time with teachers from many
faiths — including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and
are going to meet people from all religions,” Marj Johnson
of the Baha’i community told the children. “You’ll
find we’re all alike.”
summer school is not based on religion, however. It’s
based on virtues.
we’re going to be talking about is values,” said
Joanne Blyler, a member of the Christian community. “No
matter what religion you are, there are values which are common
to all faiths.”
what the program is,” said Peggy Guello of Superior, who
signed her children up for the program. “That’s
what is so neat about it.”
included introductions, lemonade and the story of a conceited
raindrop. Jeff Ballou of the Baha’i community talked about
the virtues of unity and assertiveness, incorporating nature
into the theme.
groundwork for the course was laid. Unity, said Libby, “means
we all can work together.”
means we can be together but still be different,” said
the children each put together a collage of dreams and listened
to stories from former University of Minnesota Duluth professor
Robert Powless, known in the Native American community as “Dr.
Bob.” He told Chippewa stories of Winibozho — “the
flood story” and one entitled “Winibozho sets fire
to his rear.” Then he told a story from his own Oneida
tribe, that of the husk-face doll. The story dealt with the
virtue of humility and gave listeners a glimpse into the Oneida
imagine they are stories that are not often told to children
in Superior,” said Powless. “I think it’s
important, since every culture has its stories, that these get
shared more often then they do.” Stories, he said, light
up the imagination and make things memorable.
important for us to understand that all cultures passed down
values through their stories,” said Powless.
is why Koresh Lakhan of the Hindu community plans to illustrate
his lesson on loyalty with the story of an Indian hero who would
not enter heaven without his dog. Don Pearce of the Buddhist
community will use stories to illustrate compassion, the virtue
of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
were excited about the possibilities offered by the summer school.
Reierson of Duluth looked at the five-day course as a chance
for his youngest daughter to learn more about the stories and
mythologies of many religions.
guess it will give her a base from which to ask more questions,”
need to get to know each other better, understand our similarities
and celebrate our differences,” said Blyler, whose granddaughters
are in the class.
think it’s a real unique opportunity, a wonderful opportunity,”
said Guello. “It’s a really neat group of people
putting this forward.”
concept of holding an interfaith summer school started with
one of the common virtues — friendliness.
Baha’i center wanted to find a way to be of service to
the neighborhood,” said Johnson. They wanted to offer
something for children, but with a twist.
wanted to model people of all faiths working together,”
plans are in the works to hold interfaith summer school in both
Superior and Duluth next year.
a lot of interest,” said Johnson.
said he was happy to be part of the inaugural course.
my reservation in Wisconsin we’ve had every denomination,
every religious group in the continental U.S. come to save the
Oneida,” he said. “Because of that it’s easy
to have to pick up their stories. But I’m hoping some
of them picked up our stories as well.”
success of the Interfaith Summer School, he said, will be where
the stories go from here. That rests in the hands of six pioneers
— a dancer, a gymnast, a pianist, a basketball player,
an artist and an honest son.
even one or two of them will pass one of these stories along
to a brother, sister, friend,” said Powless, “then
maybe to some degree it has served its purpose.”
a thought for today
for the Day, BBC Radio 4's daily religious ponder, has again
secured its position as one of broadcasting's most controversial
spots. Could the latest quarrel point to a larger debate in
seeking to represent the major religions in the UK, contributors
to Thought for the Day are drawn from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism,
and Sikhism, as well as the variety of Christian denominations.
of there religions have common ground, most have some shared
values. But religions by their nature are not easily interchangeable,
and it is a risk acknowledged by the Daily Telegraph that in
seeking to please everyone, no-one may be pleased.
we include secular voices, we undermine the slot's distinctiveness
very few exceptions, what you get from rabbi, priest and mullah
alike is Religion Lite: doctrine so watered down as to be inoffensive
to all - or, rather, offensive only in its patronising banality,"
now the humanists and atheists are wading in to the debate.
Madeleine Pym, policy officer of the British Humanist Association,
says that the UK has now nominally accepted that non-religious
people do have a ethically valid set of values. This should
be reflected in Thought for the Day.
is a coherent and valuable system of non-religious ethical and
moral beliefs that goes back at least 2,500 years to the philosophers
of Ancient Greece, with which Humanism shares its origins.
beliefs are at least as valid as those of the major (and, let's
not forget, minor religions). And they are alive and well in
the views of modern philosophers and in the everyday moral perspective
of many of the 30-40% of non-religious people in this country."
Morgan, the series producer of Thought for the Day, has said
that opening it up to people non-religious voices could destroy
short strand is unique, offering a faith perspective within
a news programme. If we include secular voices, we undermine
the slot's very distinctiveness."
it does highlight the debate about what the relationship is
between religious beliefs and secular standards.
philosopher Professor Peter Simons, of Leeds University, says
there is widespread unease that matters of ethics are so "dictated
or influenced" by religious opinions.
a kind of default position which is a reflex that if people
are in a medical or ethical dilemma, they should go and see
a priest or a rabbi or an imam who will tell them the right
thing to do."
a humanist input into Thought for the Day could add this extra
dimension, he says, although he predicts that he or she would
not necessarily stick out from the religious contributors.
Colin Morris, a former head of religious broadcasting at the
BBC, likens claims that Thought for the Day discriminates against
atheists as being like saying the Proms discriminates against
ears are tuned to a different wavelength," he says.
is perhaps ironic that on the day the slot was being criticised
for being bland, regular contributor Anne Atkins made what many
listeners will have found a particularly moving broadcast about
the grief for the parents of the two missing Cambridgeshire
in tears herself, she tussled with a perennial thorn in the
sides of many believers and non-believers alike - namely how
can a caring God permit such suffering.
possible reasoning can reconcile us to the absence of two children?
What philosophy can teach parents to endure such a terrible
night of waiting? What theology could have given this morning's
hope or arguments ease the ongoing pain?
we naturally ask where was [God] through the night, and why
he does so little in the face of suffering... Sometimes there
aren't any answers, or the answers we get are worse than no
concluded: "[God] was there [with Jesus in the Garden of
Gethsemane]. He was there in the tears, and the watching and
the waiting through the long night. He was there in person,
in a frightened man clinging to hope and facing an uncertain
Morris says the slot is there either to challenge or to comfort.
Both sides in the debate will agree that it is certainly doing
at least that.
is for control of people's minds and against free thinking.
like any other religion is a matter of faith.
parable with a moral or ethical issue, embedded within a religious
context, remains a moral or ethical issue, nonetheless, and
as such is relevant to anyone with morals or ethics, be they
religious or not.
no one tell you who God is, they have no more idea than you
about "Today, I shall not inflict my beliefs or opinions
God said he would no longer interfere, why do we look to him
so much for help?
the world be a much nicer place if everyone wasn't on the make
but instead did things out of kindness for one and other?
use is religion if those who "believe" fight more
than those who don't?
us assume God is not there and try to build better world. In
this shrinking world it is not very easy to have so many religions
we seriously expect God to be in our lives, when we spend so
much time and devote so much effort, to shutting Him out?
pray for the safe return of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells
the darkest times; light a candle and enjoy its simple, silent
thought for today, as it is most days, is "Roll on tomorrow"!
do you make God laugh? Make a plan.
anyone ever known a fanatical atheist? Hopefully one day everyone
will see the benefits of humanism.
5. The Deepest Spiritual Life ...Susan
Susan Quinn is
a practicing Zen Buddhist and an active member of the Three
Treasures Zen Community in Vista, CA. She attends intensive
retreats three to four times a year, and has been an active
volunteer and board member of her Zen community. She has been
involved with Zen Buddhism for nine years, practicing shikantaza
and working with a certified teacher on koans. Currently she
is the shuso, or head trainee of her Zen community, a position
that recognizes her progress on the path, as well as her aspiration
to deepen her spiritual life. She is also a Jew, and practices
Jewish prayer and meditation.
DEEPEST SPIRITUAL LIFE: The Art of Combining Personal
Spiritual Practice with Religious Community reveals that many
mainstream religious communities are beginning to teach, guide
and support their congregants in both developing individual
meditative and prayer lives, as well as in following traditional
religious practices within a communal context. Religious leaders,
spiritual directors, meditation group leaders and congregants
describe in this book how religious community and individual
spiritual practices combine to enrich one's life with meaning,
love, compassion and an intimate connection with the Divine.
The voices of the many spiritual and religious leaders I interviewed
add substance to the narrative. In THE DEEPEST SPIRITUAL
LIFE, ideas and viewpoints are expressed in the words and
beliefs of 27 individuals representing a wide variety of religious
practices: Roman Catholic, United Methodist, Vineyard Christian
Fellowship, Buddhist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Quaker, Judaism,
Islam, Presbyterian, the Vedanta Society (Hindu) and Science
another approach, I weave my own experiences into the text,
sharing my personal shortcomings, frustrations, challenges and
successes. I've tried to share my own insights along with practical
and empathetic counsel, and worked to communicate in a manner
accessible not only to spiritual and religious practitioners
but to any dedicated and inquisitive layperson who is open to
the spiritual wealth of the journey.
Cloud Press, Ashland, OR, ISBN 1-883991-44-7, $16.95)
6. Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky
are Trappists, Cistercians, Benedictines, monks. Trappists are
a kind of Cistercian; Cistercians are a kind of Benedictine;
Benedictines are a kind of monk. It is a question of different
ways of being monks, of seeking silence, solitude, discipline
for the sake of living the gospel well, for the sake of growing
religions have monks. Around 300 AD Christians began to seek
solitude as a means of drawing closer to God and coming to love
their neighbor. Some lived by themselves, hermits. Some lived
in communities where silence and simplicity helped them focus
after 500 AD in central Italy, St. Benedict wrote a rule for
monks living in community. St. Benedict led his monks to God
by a searching obedience, fraternal charity and a balanced way
of life that, while exacting, remained within in the reach of
the average Christian. Eventually, this rule came to be followed
by most of the monasteries of the western Church. Those who
live according to the rule of St. Benedict are called Benedictines.
the rule of St. Benedict spread to different times, places and
situations, it gave rise to different interpretations and adaptations,
to different observances. In Burgundy, France, just before 1100,
the Cistercians accented poverty, work to support themselves,
separation from worldly affairs, a measure of common prayer
that left ample time for individual prayer and reading.
17th century reform spearheaded by the monastery of la Trappe
(hence the name "Trappist") aimed at recovering the
austerity of the early Cistercians and their interpretation
of the rule of St. Benedict. Mitigations in the areas of silence,
diet, manual labor, recreation, contact with the outside world
of the communities following the Trappist reform was Melleray
in western France. By 1848, Melleray was so flourishing that
overpopulation made a foundation necessary. Friendship with
the aged Bishop Flaget drew them to Kentucky. On December 21,
1848, 45 founders from Melleray settled at the Gethsemani, into
buildings and property purchased from the Sisters of Loretto.
Trappist Cistercian Order
there are 100 monasteries of Trappist monks and 67 of Trappistine
nuns. In the U.S. there are twelve of men and five of women.
Five of the U.S. houses were founded from Gethsemani: Holy Spirit
in Georgia, Holy Trinity in Utah, Mepkin in South Carolina,
Genesse in New York and New Claivaux in California. In addition,
Gethsemani has a daughterhouse in Chile.
communities of our order are bonded into affiliations rather
than provinces. This means that a community retains a certain
responsibility for any communities which it founds. Thus Gethsemani
maintains a special relationship with Melleray, from which it
was founded, and also with the houses founded from Gethsemani.
each house has considerable independence, the order as a whole
does have a rule (rule of St. Benedict) and constitutions. Every
three or four years, the abbots and abbesses gather to consider
matters of concern to the whole order. This assembly is the
general chapter. Between chapters, the abbot general and his
council handle the ordinary affairs of the order.
word "abbot" comes from Aramaic and means "father."
He is considered to hold the place of Christ in the community.
Elected by all those who have permanent vows, he is ultimately
responsible for the spiritual and temporal well-being of the
community and each member. Within the framework of the rule
of St. Benedict, the abbot works out with each monk his own
balance of common prayer, lectio divina an work. He assigns
each monk his particular tasks, generally after dialogue with
the individual. The monks are to be open enough with their abbot
that he can make these arrangements intelligently. Through his
administration, through talks with individuals and conferences
to the community, the abbot is spiritual guide and father for
do not engage in teaching or ministry outside the monastery.
We do have a thirty room retreat house which welcomes men and
women to share in our life to some extent.
from this, our apostolate is simply being monks, fulfilling
our particular role in the mystical body of Christ. This is
to say: our apostolate is to live the gospel in our particular
way for the sake of all our sisters and brothers. This includes
praying for them.
the only justification for our way of life is the fact that
the Holy Spirit seems to keep calling people to it. Is it unreasonable
for some to dedicate their lives more exclusively to loving,
serving, being attentive to God?
there is a witness value in this, reminding the others of God's
rights in their own life, this is a by-product of a life primarily
centered on God.
fundamental discipline is surrendering our will to God and submitting
ourselves to the guidance of another. This does not at all exclude
a personal search for the will of God but it does mean we bring
more important decisions to the superior for discernment.
pattern and regularity of the daily schedule can be a searching
discipline. When it is time for the office or other community
exercise, the monk goes.
a community of love with 65 other persons, year in, year out,
implies a willingness to sacrifice oneself.
our best effort to prayer, whether we feel like it or not, can
be costly. The relative lack of recognition for achievements
that comes from being hidden in a community goes far to tone
down excessive self-concern.
is encouraged. Community amounts to a network of friendships.
Yet these must be balanced with the need for solitude and with
our radical commitment to Christ.
are the real penances in Trappist life, moreso than fasting,
abstinence from meat (actually, the meals are well-balanced
and well-prepared), silence, vigils.
lauds, terce, sext, none, vespers and compline are the seven
"hours" of the liturgy of the hours or opus Dei (work
of God) as St. Benedict called it in his rule. They are common
prayer services, the prayer of the Church as well as the prayer
of our community. None of these "hours" actually lasts
an hour. All seven add up to two and a half or two and three-quarters
backbone of these services is the 150 psalms, sung or recited
according to a two week cycle. At each hour there is also a
hymn, reading from Scripture, prayer of the day and commemoration
of Our Lady. Some of the brothers recite a simple office of
Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Be to the
purpose of these seven times of prayer is to praise, thank and
petition God as a community and to foster prayer throughout
the day. The monks and others who pray the liturgy of the hours
do so on behalf of the Church and of all human-kind.
are welcome to join us for any of these services as well as
for the community Mass.
and Individual Prayer
the liturgy of the hours, the typical prayer of the monk or
nun is lectio divina (divine or holy reading). It consists of
a reading ordered to prayer. Material will be selected on the
basis of whether it is conducive to prayer. A bit of the text
is read, then reflected on in order to grasp its meaning in
itself and its meaning for us. This leads naturally to prayer:
praise, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, repentance, resolve.
At times, the monk is led to rest in God's loving presence with
few or no words.
reading allows the brother or sister to spend time with God
and builds up the habit of doing so. It nourishes faith in such
a way that they come to see and value things as God does and
to live from this vision.
earn our living by making cheese, fruitcake, and bourbon fudge.
The community has to be fed, clothed, housed. The needs of the
guests are cared for. Newcomers to the community must be initiated
into monastic living. Those with particular talents will probably
have a chance to use them. Thus we have musicians, artists,
to the needs of the community and the gifts of each monk, the
abbot assigns work. Work is seen as service and preference is
given work favorable to prayer.
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