December 20, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 5: Hindu, Vedic, and Tantric Concepts of Love

Last time in Part 4 of this series, I talked about Buddhist and Daoist concepts about love. This time we will look at Indian traditions, and discuss the views of love in Hinduism, Vedic religions, and Tantra.

Whenever people look into the beliefs about love from various traditions, the culture of India inevitably comes up, especially its infamous text, the Kama Sutra (कामसूत्र). India has several native traditions that all have quite a bit to say about the idea of love - Hinduism, the Vedic religion, and Tantra. The Kama Sutra is part of both the Vedic and Hindu traditions, and is about much more than just love and sex, as it is incorrectly assumed in the West. Not only does this text include many aspects of love beyond the sexual, but the study of love in Indian culture goes much further and deeper than merely what is presented in this text.
November 27, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 4: Buddhist and Daoist Concepts

Last time in Part 3 of this series, I talked about how the mystical traditions classified love. This time, I'm going to look at the Buddhist and Daoist ideas.

As we make our way toward the Eastern traditions, especially those of China, the ideas about love become less and less about classification and types, and more about overarching themes and ideas. The first one we will look at, Buddhism, basically divides love into only two main categories. Whereas Daoism, the next one we will look at it, has no categories at all.

November 15, 2012

108: The Number of the Cosmos

The number 108 is considered special, sacred, and mystical by many cultures, especially Eastern cultures. It is common in Hinduism, Vedic teachings, Daoism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and many yoga practices. We will take a look at where this number shows up and try to understand why it is considered so important.
November 13, 2012

Prayer Beads

The use of prayer beads spans cultures and traditions the world over. It is one of the few religious symbols that is common across most major religions. What we call "prayer beads" can actually take three forms (one of which is not even made of beads):

  1. Necklace Prayer Beads - these are most common
  2. Wrist (Bracelet) Prayer Beads - these are smaller version of the necklace variety
  3. Prayer Rope - these are ropes or fabrics with knots tied in intervals, which serve the same purpose as beads.

November 12, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 3: Mystical Concepts

Last time in Part 2 of this series, I talked about how Greeks and Christians classified love. This time, I'm going to look at the mystical traditions, and how they view love.

Whereas the Greeks and Christians were fairly clear in how they classified types of love, other traditions weren't always so obliging. We're going to look at two of these. First, in this part, we will look at the Mystical Christian tradition which, though still Christianity, is different enough from "lay Christianity" to be considered a separate tradition. The second one, which we will look at in the next part, will be Daoism and its concepts of love.

November 8, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 2: Greek and Christian Love

Last time in Part 1 of this series, I talked about how to define love. This time, I'm going to look at the different types of love, how they can be classified, and how to tell the difference.

Love is a difficult thing to classify. On the one hand, we're usually not clear what causes it, which makes categorizing it difficult. On the other hand, there seem to be so many different kinds of love, and so many different people with a wide array of interpretations about it, that it can be dizzying trying to make sense of it all.

Fortunately for us, many people and many cultures have already attempted to classify love. We will look at some of the ones most relevant to this discussion, such as Greek, Christian, Daoist, Mystical, and Modern classifications of love.

November 6, 2012

The Nature of Love, Part 1: What is Love?

This is Part 1 of an 11 part series on love. In this first part, I will attempt to define love in the sense that I will be referring to it.

When pursuing any form of spiritual study, you will inevitably come across all sorts notions about "love". But what is love, really? Wikipedia defines it as "... an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment." Personally, I don't agree with this definition.

I don't think love is an emotion at all. Emotions can be fleeting. Anger can be upon you in a flash, but so can laughter. This doesn't sound like love to me. Love is not fleeting - it is persistent. In fact, love can be the hardest thing in the world to rid yourself of.
October 29, 2012

Just a Cracker?

A few weeks ago, I picked up my 10 year old son from school, and he told me about a great business idea he had.

"You know where a great place to open a doughnut shop would be?", he asked me.

"Where?", I replied.

"Next to a church. Because when people get out of Mass, they would be thinking, 'I'm really hungry, all they gave me to eat was one stupid cracker....hey, look! Doughnuts!' "

I laughed out loud! A couple of weeks later, I began to see the wisdom in his words, whether intended or not.

October 6, 2012

Lectio Divina of the Dao

Lectio Divina (Latin for "divine reading") is a traditional Catholic practice for studying scripture. It is normally performed in four steps, also called "four movements":

1. Lectio ("read")

2. Meditatio ("meditate")

3. Oratio ("pray")

4. Contemplatio ("contemplate")

Traditionally, these steps were performed in order. Lectio is simply reading the text, whichever text you wish. However, it is typically preceded by a period of calming the mind. This idea of calming the mind first comes from Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God."

August 17, 2012

The Gospel of St. John

"In the beginning was the Tao,
And the Tao was with God,
And the Tao was God.
... and the Tao was made flesh
And dwelt among us..."

~from The Gospel of St. John, translated from the Chinese
April 14, 2012

God and the Dao, Part I

When discussing a comparison of Daoism and Christianity, one question that inevitably comes up is "what is the relationship between God and the Dao?" One simple definition, if you subscribe to most New Age theories, is that they are one and the same, just two different words for the same thing. I disagree with this. It is both simplistic and inaccurate. It is easy to make this assumption, however, since in Christianity God is the most important thing. In Daoism, the various gods don't achieve the same level of importance. Not all Daoists even believe in all the gods (the Daoist gods are somewhat analogous to Catholic saints, though not exactly). What all Daoists do believe in is the Dao. Therefore, someone can't be blamed for initially assuming that God equates to the Dao.

March 27, 2012

Prayer and Selfishness

More and more lately, I've been realizing that many of the prayers people say actually sound quite selfish. What I mean by "selfish" is that people ask for things they want - not necessarily for themselves in every instance, but things they want nonetheless, even if they want them for others. As the saying goes, "it is better to give than to receive", but most of what I see is asking to receive, not give.