Friday, July 5, 2013

Finding Meaning in Life & Cultural Value in Niles

There is a Buddhist temple not far from our house with two large statues in front – one of a red faced angry revengeful figure 
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and the other of a beautiful peaceful woman dressed in white.  These do not represent ‘gods’ but represent instead the potential within each of us to make daily choices about how we will deal with others. 
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In fact within a single day there are times that we are like the angry red-faced guy and times that we do kindnesses for others. The figures serve as a visual reminder of the choices open to us all the time.  

In Niles we have several varieties of Buddhists: Thai,Japanese, Cambodian,and the newest is the Chinese Buddhist church that I spoke of above. Some Chinese Buddhist temples also include elements and figures from the Taoist tradition - which I suspect is true for the figures above.

The Buddhists speak of of seeking a middle way – avoiding the excessed of overindulgence and self seeking and avoiding the extreme renunciation of all things “of this world”.  They advocate a process of practicing mindfulness – of developing a calm demeanor by learning to rid the mind of excess ‘noise’. 
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Living in multicultural Fremont I have frequent encounters with people of many traditions and belief systems. Knowing individuals and being open to talk is my way to learn – For me its about listening and asking questions.  I am not being ‘converted’ to their belief system... but I can find much of value to learn from each.

Monday is the start of the season of Ramadan, a month long time set aside for spiritual renewal for Muslims.   Fasting is expected of all adult Muslims, except those who are ill, traveling, pregnant, or diabetic.   Fasting of food and beverages is continuous from  dawn until sunset for the entire month.

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Food and drink is served daily, before sunrise and after sunset.  According to Islam, the rewards of keeping true to Ramadan result in a practical refocusing of your life.  I recall the pride that my Muslim students felt in meeting the daily challenge.

Interesting Christian article on Ramadan:  “Christians need a Ramadan”
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Ramadan is measured by the lunar calendar from one new moon to the next – this results in the season slowly shifting through the calendar year – This year will be particularly trying in the Northern Hemisphere because it is occurring during the season of maximum heat. (Remember... no drinking of water during daylight hours).  Now is the time to send electronic ecards to your Muslim friends ( just do a Google search for Ramadan cards - then click "images"...

We also have a major Sikh Gurdwara (temple) not far from our house.  The Sikh people are  from the Punjab region of northwestern India and have roots in the Hindu tradition – but they are monotheists like Christians and Muslims.

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They base their religion on a holy book, which in read in every service. They are noted for requiring all men to perform 5 duties: Five Ks: uncut hair (Kesh); an iron/steel bracelet (kara); a Kirpan, a sword tucked in a gatra strap; Kachehra, a cotton undergarment; and a Kanga, a small wooden comb. Baptized male Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban, while baptized female Sikhs can choose to wear a turban.  Since the men keep their hair for a lifetime, they need to turban to keep it covered.

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 One thing I especially admire about the Sikhs is their open generosity of maintaining an open dining room with a selection of freshly prepared spicy Sikh dishes offered free to everyone.  You take a metal tray with compartments, pass through a cafeteria line get “chai” tea to drink and then sit on the floor and eat with the Naan bread as a scoop.  I once went over to register voters and was treated with great hospitality and kindness. The food was delicious.

Judy and I are active members of a Christian community church in Niles formed by the merger of a United Church of Christ church and a Disciples of Christ church.

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It has been a healthy practice to join two congregations – while we agree very well on theological issues there are church practices that differ and these have had to be ironed out... no great conflict but it still requires careful give and take. 

To understand us better- take a look at our statement of belief :

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Many churches of different denominations, in America and around the world, are aligning themselves with the principles of the Christian Progressive Movement.  We strongly identify with that tradition.  To find out what Progressive Christians believe visit:  Click on "About us"... then take a look at the 8 points.  These are not requirements, but a growing number of churches are moving toward the new areas of focus.

We have no Jewish synagogues, Hindu temples,  or Taoist centers  in the Niles area - but they are located elsewhere in Fremont.