Holy Daze: Paryushana Parva (Throughout Sept 2012) – Jainism

September 19th, 2012 No comments
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Paryushana is considered one of the most important and sacred festivals of the Indian religious tradition, Jainism. Now, if you’re not familiar with the Jains, and you happen to be interested in subjects like this, I highly recommend doing some reading on this very interesting sacred path. In all my studies, I’ve found the Jains to be one of the most fascinating of traditions. The core of their beliefs is one of a path of non-violence (ahimsa) toward all living beings (and when they say all living beings, they literally mean it).

Back to the matter at hand – Paryushana, (meaning “coming together”) is a time for heightening awareness of both the physical and spiritual aspects of the self. One of the central ritual observances is fasting, which depending on the Jain’s devotion and strength, can last anywhere from one day to one month, and can include abstaining completely from food or taking only one meal a day. Fasting is believed to help purify the soul by discovering one’s faults and seeking forgiveness for transgressions. It is also a time to take stock of how one’s actions have affected all living beings.

Other rituals can include the reading of scriptures, and observing vows of silence. Periodic meditation may also be carried out (different paths within the Jain tradition, observe different rituals at different times – it’s a bit confusing, so stay with me). It’s also important to point out that the laity and monastics will engage to different degrees in these rituals.

The culmination of this festival is to ask forgiveness for any wrongdoings that one may have intentionally or unintentionally committed upon another living being (and for some Jains this includes the microscopic organisms that are naked to the human eye – I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned all living beings). Jains express to one another, “Micchami Dukkadam” (If I have caused you offence or wrongdoing, intentional or unintentional, by thought word or deed, I ask your forgiveness).

There’s much more to this festival than what I could possibly provide in this post, so check out the short video below showcasing some upbeat celebrations during Paryushana Parva. I’ve also included a short animated informational video about Jainism. The animation leaves much to be desired, but it does an adequate job of providing you with a primer of the Jain tradition.

A final important note: The swastika, while considered a symbol of evil and persecution for many in the West, is a very sacred symbol for the Jains. So, please refrain from sending me comments about the inclusion of this symbol in my post.

I hope to post more about the fascinating sacred path of the Jains in the future!

Cheers! M. xo

Paryushan Parva 2011 – Bhavya Aarti:

Jainism:

Image Source: Wikipedia

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My thoughts on the chaos surrounding “Innocence of Muslims”

September 16th, 2012 No comments
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard or seen the violence that has erupted in the Middle East over the video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”.  The video has been branded by some as inflammatory, while others have justified its existence using the tried and true ‘freedom of expression’ argument.  Before I could weigh in, I decided to watch the controversial film.  It was a daunting task, to say the least.

The video is of extremely poor production quality.  It’s crudely dubbed (and then overdubbed).  Ultimately, it’s an absurd piece of film that I have no idea why anyone would waste their time watching.  In fact, but for the violence that has ensued, I’m skeptical that the video would have made even the tiniest blip on Internet.

Now, having said that, I can appreciate how some Muslims would find it offensive.  At the same time, I could also see how this could easily be overdubbed (again) to offend Christians.  If one were to mute the video, the prophet depicted could easily be mistaken for Jesus.  Perhaps then, the original intention of the film was not what it ultimately became.  It’s clear that the video was re-imagined to include opinions better left unsaid.

Ultimately, I believe the film is inflammatory – but it’s important to bear in mind that this is a piece of absurd fiction that is seemingly the ignorant opinion of a small group of people.  Unfortunately, freedom of expression is a valid argument here.  Those of us who think that this expression just plain sucks have the right to counter-expression.  Our opposition to this kind of garbage should never, however, include violence.  Certainly, the producers of this film should be ashamed, but those who have responded with violence should be more ashamed.  One of the points expressed in the film is the misguided notion of the violence inherent in Islam, and as far as I can tell those who have responded with such violence are only giving relevancy to the film and doing a huge disservice to their faith.  Had there not been such violence, this film would have slipped into obscurity and the fires of bigotry directed toward Muslims and the West would not have been inflamed further.

IMO, violence is never an appropriate solution when responding to bigotry and ignorance.

Peace.

M.xo

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What would the Bible look like in Lego? Like This!

September 13th, 2012 No comments
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I’m always on the look out for fun and unique twists on the presentation of religious stories, myths and teachings.  The Brick Testament definitely falls into this category.  Here, you’ll find the stories of the Bible told through Lego.  The site even provides a rating system for those who may find the content of the Bible objectionable or not suitable for minors.  Ratings include ‘N’ for nudity, “V’ for violence, ‘S’ for sexual content, and ‘C’ for cursing.

Kudos to the Rev. Brendan Powell Smith for this very engaging and entertaining site.  Now swoop on over and check it out!  While you’re there, stop by The Brick Bible Shop to purchase greeting cards, books and posters.

The Brick Testament:  http://www.bricktestament.com/home.html

M. xo

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Holy Daze: Rosh Hashanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

August 29th, 2012 No comments
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I’ve decided to start a regular series of posts showcasing upcoming religious holidays. I’ll be entitling this series, Holy Daze, because clearly these observances are sacred, and I’m hoping to dazzle you with new and enlightening stories, myths and rituals. Of course, I will only be able to give a snapshot into these sacred celebrations, but I’ll provide links and fun resources for you to find out more information. Let’s get started by talking about the upcoming “Jewish New Year”.

Rosh HaShanah (September 16- 18, 2012) – Judaism

Rosh HaShanah is one of the High Holy Days in Judaism. It occurs on the first and second days of Tishri (the seventh month of the Jewish year). In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah literally means “the first of the year”, and is commonly regarded as the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection, resolution and renewal. The main ritual of Rosh HaShanah is the blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn) which symbolizes both a trumpet call of a coronation of a king and a call to repentance, particularly those of man’s first sin. Other special observances include eating apples dipped in honey to symbolize wishes for a sweet year ahead and casting bits of bread from one’s pocket into a nearby stream to symbolize the casting away of old sins.

Check out these music videos that explain and celebrate Rosh HaShanah in a hip-hoppin’, rockin’ way:

Rosh Hashana Rock Anthem:

Shofar Callin':

Suggested further reading:

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/index.shtml

http://www.chabad.org/

 

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Sikhs: The Way of the Disciples

August 8th, 2012 3 comments
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This past Sunday, another mass shooting spree occurred in the States. The target this time was a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Speculation that this attack may have been a case of mistaken identity began to run rampant in the news. Reporters, bloggers and the like suggested that the gunman may have believed that he was attacking a Muslim house of worship. This, they said, was because many Americans thought Sikhs were Muslims. Of course, there is no way of knowing the shooter’s motivations as he was killed by police. As an aside, I find it curious that the media were quick to suggest this attack was meant for Muslims. With no evidence to suggest otherwise, this is clearly another case of media scaremongering.

I’ll admit that my feathers have been ruffled with this latest attack on a religious group. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I have little tolerance for religious intolerance (I know, a bit oxymoronic, right?). I’m also concerned that in the Information Age (you know, an era where information is available at the tips of one’s fingers) that so few people bother to educate themselves about the world around them. While I agree the Internet isn’t always the most reliable source; a little critical thinking can certainly weed out the bad from the good information. But, I digress…

The point of this post (aside from a bit of squawking) is to introduce you to the Way of the Disciples (Sikhs).

Being a Sikh means being a disciple of the Guru. There are ten Gurus in the Sikh sacred story, beginning with Guru Nanak. The succeeding Gurus are all believed to have carried the spiritual light of Nanak and God’s word. Writings about Nanak in Sikh sacred texts, known as Adi Granth, suggest that he was influenced by both a Muslim and Hindu spiritual upbringing.

As with any religion, there is both unity and division within the community; however, there are some core central beliefs at the foundation of the Sikh world meaning. Like other monotheistic belief systems, God is central. Sikhs, however, recognize God (Nam) as the same One worshipped by many different belief systems and known by many different names. God is considered formless, timeless, and beyond human conception. Sikhism does not claim the only path to God, nor does it work toward converting others. Part of the Sikh world view is freedom of religion, which may come from the fact that Sikhism has blended many ideas from different faiths.

Sikhs engage in various ritual and worship. Daily worship entails reading and meditation on the sacred word found in the Adi Granth. Worship at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) centers around the Holy Book (Granth Sahib). Before worship, a ritual bath is performed. Following, offerings before the Holy Book are made. There are no ordained leaders in the gurdwara, thus each Sikh is free to perform the rituals of worship.

Women hold a high degree of respect in the faith. It is believed Guru Nanak once said this about the status of women, “Why denounce her, who even gives birth to kings?” As such, women are given equal status with men in services and ceremonies. Further, Sikhs welcome all faiths and cultures to their house of worship.

Sikhs may be most identifiable by the turbans (dastar) worn by men. This is worn because one of the prohibitions in Sikhism is the cutting of hair. Devout Sikh men may have unshorn hair and beards. They may also be identified by a sword or dagger (kirpan) worn, which is symbolic of a willingness to protect the weak and fight for justice. A metal bracelet (kara) is worn as a constant reminder that one is a servant of God and should conduct oneself befittingly.

There is much more to the Sikh religion than what I have provided. My hope is this brief introduction might encourage you to learn more about this blended belief system. Certainly, there are similarities to other religions; however it’s important to recognize the differences. It is short-sighted (IMO) to lump together all peoples who may look similar, share similar beliefs, or who come from the same part of the world. Ignorance that perpetuates fear, anger, and confusion can lead people to commit horrible acts. It’s time to stop the madness.

Peace.

M. xo

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Happy Ramadan!

July 21st, 2012 No comments
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Today is the start of the Islamic holy season known as Ramadan.  It occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which follows a lunar cycle.  It is believed that during this period the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation.

Muslims who participate in this holy time abstain from ingesting anything into the body for one month from sunrise to sunset.  This includes food, drink, smoke and sexual relations.  It is a time of deep reflection and spiritual self-purification through prayer and meditation.  Additionally, one is required to refrain from evil thoughts toward others, such as thoughts of harm, lust or jealousy.  Through these ritual practices Muslims seek to gain an appreciation for the material gifts from God, regain self-control from bad habits, and deepen empathy for the hungry and deprived of the world.

Despite this seemingly disciplined and stringent ritual, Ramadan is also filled with much joy.  The nights are a time for the community to come together to share in food, prayer and one another’s company.   The end of Ramadan, or the breaking of the fast, is a celebration of grand proportions.

To all my Muslim friends I extend a Happy Ramadan!

M. xo

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What’s in a Name?

July 5th, 2012 1 comment
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It’s a common question posed to me – “What’s the significance of the name Black Chicken?”  Often, this question is accompanied by chuckles and a perplexed expression.  I typically do not offer any explanation aside from the name being an inside joke, which is in part, true.  So, today I thought I’d let the cat out of the bag the bird out of the cage.

The term Black Chicken was coined many years ago when I was hanging out with friends.  I had developed a bad case of hiccups — you know the kind that just won’t stop no matter what you do.  One of my friends told me that he could get rid of my hiccups — guaranteed — then promptly shouted, “White Horses!”  To my surprise, my hiccups disappeared.  My hiccup-curing friend told me that it had never failed for him.  And you know what – I’ve done this many times since, and it works.

After mulling it over, I realized that it was the very absurdity of his actions that probably caused a physiological response similar to that of which one experiences when surprised.  I began to think of whether I could use this element of surprise in other ways.  One evening while I was out with friends playing a game of pool, I thought I’d test the theory.  As one of my opponents steady to shoot, I calmly walked by and said, “Black Chicken” (Black because it was my favourite colour, and Chicken because I was egging my opponent on).  He missed his shot and asked me what the heck my muttering was all about.  I shrugged and told him it was the power of the Black Chicken.  Eventually, the practice of muttering “Black Chicken” while one’s opponent was concentrating on their next move, became an inside jinxing joke among my circle of friends.

Years later, when I was looking for a Web domain name I found that Black Chicken was available.  Since, the moniker had a personal connection for me, I chose the domain name.  I began using the domain in my emails and for various online projects, and came to discover that people remembered the name simply because it was so odd.

Around this time, I also discovered that black chickens were actually real and not just a figment of my imagination!  I learned some curiously interesting facts and myths about black chickens.  I discovered that black chickens were fundamental parts of folklore from Italy, Bulgaria, China and various parts of the southern United States.  In present day, black chickens are considered a delicacy in parts of Asia for their black meat, bones and feathers.  Additionally, a breed of black chickens called Silkies are considered some of the most docile of poultry.

When I started this blog, I decided to keep the Black Chicken name because all that I had learned seemed to fit quite well with my on-line presence.  Black Chickens are:  gentle, unusual, valuable, abhorrent, and memorable.  That’s how I see my blogging.  I will always try and be gentle about the unusual topics I choose to write about, and at times you may value my opinion or you may abhor it.  Above all, I will strive to leave a memorable impression on those who flutter into my coop.

That’s it in an nutshell eggshell.  I wish I could confess of more profound origins, like it being my spirit animal (which actually would be quite befitting), but I can’t.  It’s really that simple.

M. xo

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Kids Who Love Zeppelin! Hail to the Non-Beliebers!!!

June 7th, 2012 No comments
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There is hope for the future… the future of Rock ‘n’ Roll!!!!!!

3 Year old sings Led Zeppelin!

Led Zeppelin Baby

Baby Headbanging to Some Led Zeppelin!!!

Kid Loves Led Zeppelin

M. xo

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Religious Tolerance

May 31st, 2012 3 comments
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I felt compelled to write this post because frankly I’m appalled by the declining health of religious tolerance in Canada.  Biases, generalizations, and ignorance are  insidiously penetrating the oft-lauded integrity of Canada as a nation of tolerance and acceptance.  Islamophobia is on the rise across the nation, and this is indeed troubling.  While headlines detailing the intolerance toward Muslims largely originates from down south, make no mistake, it is slowly infiltrating Canadian society – and in my opinion, we need to put a stop to it.  Adopting a misguided view of a particular religious group (and one of the fastest growing religious populations) will threaten the very essence of our Canadian values.

I believe the best solution to intolerance is education.  The fact is that many, many people barely know much about ‘other’ religions.  Most of the information we come by is garnered from sensational media headlines.  If you’re educating yourself about various religions through the media, then you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  I’m not suggesting that the media doesn’t hold some value in bringing issues to light; however, the media is rarely ever objective.  There’s always an angle, and usually that’s to increase readership/viewership and ultimately revenue.

So, where can one start to learn more about various religions and in particular religious tolerance?  There’s a wonderful site that I’ve been visiting for several years now that provides a wide range of information on almost any religion imaginable.  The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance tries “… to explain accurately the full diversity of religious beliefs, world views, and systems of morality, ethics, and values.”  There are over 6,000 essays available to read and the site covers religions ranging from Buddhism to Zoroastrianism.  Practically any religion you might have questions about can be found on this site.  In addition, the site tries to present all viewpoints on controversial religious topics.

As a final note, while I am huge proponent of religious tolerance – I also want to stress that this doesn’t mean that I think you should accept other people’s beliefs as valid or that you have to practice a belief different than your own.  It also doesn’t mean that you have to believe your religion is equal to that of another’s (it’s fine if you want to believe that your religion is superior to others).  What religious tolerance means is that you respect the right of other religions to exist and that their practitioners should be free from discrimination.  Oh, and this also includes people who are generally considered NOT religious.  Atheists, agnostics and humanists have the right to religious freedom too – including the option to not participate.
 

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Comic Book Religion

April 15th, 2012 1 comment
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I’m always fascinated with the infinite ways in which religion is intertwined into pretty well any aspect of life — and indeed, afterlife. Recently, I stumbled across this curious Web site called, Comic Book Religion.  Over 25,000 comic book characters and their religious affiliation are available to browse.

I have to admit, that I know little about comics; however, I do surround myself with geeks, freaks and assorted fan boys/girls.  I’ve been exposed to comic books through one channel or another for my entire life.  Yet, I’d never really given thought to whether any of the heroes or villains I’d heard about had anything at all to do with anything remotely religious.

Now, with just a few clicks, I can find out that Spider-Man was Protestant; The Thing, Jewish; and Green Arrow an agnostic.  And now you can, too!

http://comicbookreligion.com/

M. xo

 

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