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Religious and Spiritual Practices Around the World

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Religious and Spiritual Practices Around the World - Page Text Content

S: Religions Around the World

FC: Religions | Around the World

1: Section 1: Food & Religion Section 2: Meditation Section 3: Out of the Ordinary

2: Anyone growing up in Wisconsin is familiar with the traditional "Friday fish fry." Although the popular dinner tradition can seem anything but a meal of sacrifice, the concept of eating fish on Friday is rooted in the Christian recognition of Lent as a period of fasting and abstinence. There is symbolism in the food rituals that are part of many religions. Followers of Buddhism and Hinduism follow vegetarian diets in the belief that humans should not cause animals pain. Food (and rituals surrounding food) has long been a part of the fabrics that make up world religions. Whether it is fish on Friday or unleavened bread at Passover, the foods we eat (or choose not to eat) are greatly influenced by religious affiliation and tradition. | Food | & | Religion

3: Buddhists believe in moderation. While many avoid including meat in their diets with the perception that foods of the earth are purest, some Buddhists do eat meat. Those who strictly follow a meatless diet practice vegetarianism. | Buddhism

4: There are three main reasons why Buddhists prefer a vegetarian diet: karma, suffering, and rebirth. Buddhists believe that eating meat promotes the suffering of animals, which would bring them bad karma. They also believe in rebirth, meaning any animal could have been a human in a past life. | Why Vegetarianism?

5: The Five Contemplations | Buddha's teachings instruct his followers to consider each of these five contemplations before eating. | 1. Where did this food come from? 2. Do I deserve this food? 3. Is eating this food an act of greed or temptation? 4. Can this food be used to heal me? 5. Will this food provide me with proper nutrition so I may continue my journey towards enlightenment?

6: "Holy cow!" Have you ever wondered where this saying originated? Its roots are in Hinduism, where the cow is the most sacred animal. The 900 million followers of this religion believe every animal is of great value. | Hinduism

7: Followers of Hinduism eat diets free of meat, fish, and alcohol. Although the beef of a cow cannot be eaten, its milk is believed to be pure and consumable. Hindus believe in occasional fasting, as it promotes spiritual development.

8: Islam is the world's second largest religion. Its followers, called Muslims, believe eating is solely for good health; failure to properly consume food decreases spiritual awareness. Periods of fasting are believed to cleanse the body of evil. | Islam

9: Because Muslims believe in eating purely to maintain good health, they avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and other stimulants. Pork and certain types of poultry are also restricted. | The Five Pillars | In order to please their God, Allah, and increase their spirituality, Muslims must follow the Five Pillars: Testimony of Faith Prayer Almsgiving Fasting Pilgrimage The fourth pillar, Fasting (Sawm), demonstrates a significant part of Islam's food culture. It is believed that by taking part in regular fasts, Muslims are displaying their submission to Allah.

10: Judaism is one of the most well-known religions in today's society. Many Jews adhere to kosher laws which are based on teachings from the Torah. With 5.2 million Jews living in the United States today, it is important to recognize their culinary culture and customs. | Judaism

11: Food and diet are important defining factors of the Jewish religion. Food restrictions include shellfish and leavened bread, as well as pork. Land animals whose hooves are not cloven and who do not chew their cud (partially digested food from the first stomach that is regurgitated to the mouth) are considered to be impure. It is not permissible to consume meat and dairy in the same meal, and slaughtered meats typically follow kosher guidelines.

12: What is Kosher Slaughtering? | You've probably heard the term before, but have you ever pondered its meaning? In Hebrew, "kosher" means "fit". This tradition has recently regained its popularity due to a renewed interest in Jewish food traditions. Jews believe that slaughtering meat according to kosher laws discourages overconsumption of resources. In order to meet kosher standards, animals must be slaughtered in a specific way. The laws of Judaism state that the throat of the animal is required to be cut in a precise manner that can only be learned through practice. After cutting the throat, the blood must be drained carefully from the body. | Over 70% of kosher food consumers in the U.S. are not strict followers of Judaism. | Fact

13: The recent reintroduction of kosher slaughtering has spiked a controversy. From the perspectives of those outside the Jewish religion, these slaughtering practices appear to be inhumane and gruesome. In 2004, plant workers at Agriprocessors (America's largest processor of kosher meat, pictured above) were arrested for questionable actions, such as cutting the trachea out of live cows. This, among many other disputes regarding animal welfare, have caused kosher food production to be closely intertwined with poor animal and worker safety. | Controversy

14: This relgion/social movement developed in the 1930's and aimed to achieve justice for the impoverished black citizens of Jamaica. Its followers, called Rastas, promoted resistance against unjust structures of society. Best known for its beliefs regarding marijuana use, this belief system is controversial yet intriguing. | Rastafarianism

15: Rastas practice vegetarianism, as they believe pigs and shellfish to be unclean scavengers. They avoid salts, preservatives, and condiments with the notion that foods grown using chemical aids are unnatural. While herbal drinks are common beverages of Rastafarianism, alcohol, coffee, and soft drinks are prohibited. | Rastas also believe in the use of marijuana for both religious and medicinal purposes. According to followers, texts in the Bible state that the use of marijuana and other herbs can bring one closer to God. | Bob Marley (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981) continues to remain a well-known follower of Rastafarianism, as well as a cultural icon.

16: Today, about 75 percent of Americans claim to follow the Christian religion - however, this doesn't mean they all practice the same customs and traditions. Christianity has three main branches: Eastern Orthodox, Catholicism, and Protestant. While all of these religions believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, they each have characteristics which define them and set them apart from each other. | Christianity

17: Eastern Orthodox | Dietary restrictions include meat and fish on certain occasions; otherwise, no restrictions are apparent. Eastern Orthodox Christians believe in fasting at times in order to gain spirituality and awareness. | Protestant | Protestants believe God made everything in nature for human pleasure, and therefore have no food restrictions. They acknowledge gluttony and drunkenness as sins that are entirely in each person's control. | Catholicism | Originally, Catholics abstained from all animal products (including dairy) throughout Lent. However, this fasting ritual became dangerous for those who performed strenuous manual labor, causing the tradition to evolve into avoiding meat every Friday of Lent and Ash Wednesday.

18: Dietary cultures differ from religion to religion, acting as both a defining factor and a symbol of one's beliefs. Restricting certain foods is a way to prove to one's self that temptation can be resisted. While the customs cover a broad range of diversity, they are tied together by one evident purpose: | Religious principles of eating increase a person's devout awareness, helping one become closer to achieving supreme spirituality | All in All...

19: "God comes to the hungry | in the form of food." | - Mahatma Ghandi

20: Meditation

21: Meditation is a stress-relieving practice used to enhance one's mind-body connection. Numerous forms, such as Buddhist meditation, Hatha Yoga, and Tai Chi, can be found in nearly all religious cultures. As well as having spiritual benefits, meditation is physically healthy; it has been found to boost the immune system and provide organs with sufficient amounts of oxygen. The practice of meditation plays a significant part of many world religions, making it a concept well worth learning about.

22: Buddhist Meditation

23: The main goal of Buddhist meditation is to still the mind. While some Buddhists meditate alone, others often take part in group practices. Group meditations allow participants to feel as though they are part of a community, tied together by faith. While meditation methods of other religions aim to become closer to the divine being whom they worship, a Buddhist's primary aspiration is to better themselves as a person. The two most common types are Mindfulness of Breathing (anapana satii) and Loving Kindness Meditation (metta bhavana).

24: "The purpose of Buddhist meditation...is to gain more than an intellectual understanding of the truth, to liberate ourselves from the delusion and thereby put an end to both ignorance and craving." - Francis Story

25: Mindfulness of Breathing | anapana sati | Mindfulness of Breathing meditation is done by sitting in a quiet room with crossed legs, a straight back, and closed eyes. Posture is extremely important when engaging in this practice. | Once in the correct posture, one is to put all their focus on breathing. The in and out movements of each breath can be emphasized by counting each inhale. The goal is to shun all intrusive thoughts that may attempt to disturb the meditation. Superior inner peace is achieved once all concentration is devoted to breathing.

26: Loving Kindness Meditation | metta bhavana | Loving Kindness Meditation is meant to promote positive attitude changes. Using the concept of appropriate posture from Mindfulness of Breathing, one should close their eyes and sit in a quiet setting, turning all focus onto themselves. Next, one is to repeat to themselves several phrases of optimistic wishes. Here are some examples: | May I be well and happy. | May I be peaceful and calm. | May my mind be free from hatred.

27: After repeating these phrases, the participant must choose three specific people: someone they love, someone with whom they have a dislike. Then, just as they previously repeated phrases to wish themselves well, they are to do the same for each chosen person. The purpose of this is to develop a strong ability to be forgiving - both towards one's self and towards others. It is meant to rid one of all resentment, transform their mind, and provide them with an improved, optimistic attitude.

28: Hatha Yoga

29: The ancient spiritual practices of Hatha Yoga were originally performed in India as part of the Hindu culture. The "Hatha Yoga Pradipika," a text of the 15th century, lays out tcrucial guidelines for this practice and provides information on body cleansing techniques. According to Hindu beliefs, this type of yoga helps one to further advance on the path towards enlightenment. Gurus, or spiritual teachers, lead participants in performing asanas (postures) and pranayama (energy control), which help one to both improve physical wellness and become closer to Brahma (the supreme god of Hinduism). Today, Hatha Yoga has gained popularity in the United States as a form of exercise and can be found at almost any gym or fitness center nationwide.

30: "When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath." - Hatha Yoga Pradipika

31: Asanas | Mountain (Tadasana) | Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) | Lotus (Padmasana) | Hero Pose (Virasana) | Bow (Dhanurasana) | "Asanas are the abode in which our body and mind reach out to our higher self." - Anonymous | Cow's Face (Gomukhasana)

32: Hatha Yoga combines the mind-clearing concept of Buddhist meditation with physical activities. In the Hindu culture, the main purpose of Hatha Yoga is to prepare one for deep meditation, in which they will remain in the same position for extensive amounts of time. It is also intended to improve one's overall wellbeing, as this is essential in completing the journey to enlightenment.

33: Tai Chi

34: “We all have inner demons to fight. We call these demons ‘fear’, and ‘hatred’, and ‘anger’. If you don’t conquer them, then a life of a hundred years is a tragedy. If you do, a life of a single day can be a triumph.” - Yip Man

35: Tai Chi is a form of meditation rooted in Taoism. Like yoga, it fuses physical attributes with mental and spiritual aspects, focusing primarily on flexibility and serenity. | Those who perform Tai Chi aspire to achieve a serene attitude while diminishing egocentricity. The idea of compassion and benevolence should ideally transfer from Tai Chi practice to one's everyday life. | The exercises performed in Tai Chi are designed to develop a full range of motion, especially in the waist and spine. They provide a deep stretch that reaches tendons, joints, connective tissue, and internal organs. | Physical Attributes | Spiritual Attributes | "Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, Mastering yourself is true power." - Lao-Tzu

36: Out of the | O | R | D | i | N | a | R | y | A few religious practices that make you wonder

37: Labyrinths | By definition, a labyrinth is a single path used as a tool for spiritual development. | The most famous labyrinth is located in the Chartres Cathedral in France. It was built during the Middle Ages to provide a new way for Christians to make their pilgrimages. Those of the Christian faith desired to travel to Jerusalem, which symbolized the Kingdom of Heaven and the center of the world. To compensate, they would travel to cathedrals, such as the Chartres Cathedral, and walk the labyrinths. Once they made their journey to the center of the labyrinth, they would exit by retracing their steps. The departure from the labyrinth symbolized an exit from the spiritual world.

38: Labyrinths | In India, Hindu mothers use labyrinths during childbirth. These labyrinths are called "yantras"; they hang on the wall in the birthing room so the mother can follow the path with her eyes. As a woman's eyes follow the sharp turns of the path, her brain waves change from "thinking" waves to "meditative" waves. Her blood pressure and heart rate are lowered, and she is able to relax the birth canal during contractions. | Finger labyrinths can be made out of virtually anything; clay, paper, and wood are the most common materials used. These labyrinths provide comfort, spiritual benefits, and meditation anytime, anywhere. Tracing the path with your finger while concentrating on breathing and clearing your mind is an effective way to meditate and increase spiritual awareness.

39: Labyrinths | While Labyrinths represent one's journey to supreme spirituality, they also represent the voyage of life. As you walk (or trace your finger/eyes) down the path, it seems as though you are getting closer to the center, which is your goal. Then the path turns, and you end up further away from the center; if you continue, you find that another turn will take you closer to the center again. This pattern continues until you finally achieve your goal of reaching the center. Many people find this soothing because it relates to both life and spiritual journeys. There are points in life when we feel like we are nearing our goal, until one wrong turn sets us back. But, if we continue down our path, we find that we eventually do achieve what we aspired to do. | "Labyrinths are temples that enhance and balance and bring a sense of the sacred – a place where we can confirm our unity with the cosmos, awaken our vital force and elevate our consciousness." - Manly P. Hall

40: Wedding Vase | Wedding vases have long been a tradition for Hindus and American Indians. A wedding vase has a bowl-shaped base with two spouts protruding from the top. The vase is usually made by the parents of the groom a couple weeks before the wedding. Once the vase is finished, the groom and his family make their way to the bride's house. The bride gathers everything she will need in order to move into a home with her husband. These belongings typically include clothing, cooking utensils, a mattress, and most importantly, her wedding dress. After receiving advice from their in-laws about how to sustain a successful marriage, the couple performs the wedding vase ritual. Indian holy water is poured into the vase and given to the bride, who is to drink out of one of the spouts. Next, she'll hand the vase to her husband, who will drink from the opposite spout. This ritual symbolizes the bride and the groom uniting as one, and the wedding vase is cherished throughout the marriage.

41: Devadasi | It's almost impossible to believe that something as horrifying as sex slavery exists - it's even harder to believe that some girls choose this life. India is home to the Devadasi, a group of girls who sell their bodies for sex in the name of the Hindu goddess Yellamma. While some girls prefer to live this way, the majority are forced by their parents. | In India, having a daughter is viewed as a misfortune. For this reason, many families believe it is in their best interest to dedicate their daughter to the goddess Yellamma. | "Prostitutes of God"

42: Girls who are chosen to become a Devadasi dread the day they hit puberty. Once a young girl reaches this point in her life, she is given a dedication ceremony. She is dressed in tribal wear and prayers are chanted. A landlord takes over her and provides income to her family. Then, a man pays a certain fee for her virginity, marking the beginning of her life as a Devadasi and the end of her life as a normal girl. | Devadasi girls don't dare exceed the boundaries of their town - wherever they go, they are shunned. Many despise them for their work. The most common clients the girls receive are agriculture workers and truck drivers; these clients are frequently infected with HIV among other sexually transmitted diseases, exposing the girls to danger and death.

43: Margaret Lompa KM Global 2012

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  • Title: Religious and Spiritual Practices Around the World
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