religion

The History and Origins of Christmas

Elliot’s Note about this article

this article is not meant to be exhaustive; the history of Christmas is an enormous subject with lots of cultural history from the civilizations throughout recorded time.

Christmas is primarily a christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. However; it is speculated that the date of the 25th of December was chosen because it is exactly 9 months before the day of his conception, on March 25th which is the Spring Equinox. There is some evidence to suggest Jesus was actually born in December; however the sources aren’t very good[1]. Some believe that the celestial event of the star of Bethlehem, which could have been in June; or perhaps October[2]. The evidence isn’t clear, in my opinion. Generally Jesus is considered to have been born between 6-4 BCE because King Herod died in 4 BC.

When and Where was Jesus Born?

Jesus was most likely born in Bethlehem, a town in the West Bank in the Judean Hills of Jerusalem; currently this is contested by Israel and Palestine and not a good place to visit due to the Isaeli/Palestinian conflict (12/2023)[5]. The Church of the Nativity, built in the 4th century, is one of the oldest continuously used churches in the world founded by St. Justin Martyr, a 2nd-century Christian apologist.

I believe that it is likely that Jesus was born in Nazareth, his hometown, and that the journey to Bethlehem was added later to satisfy the Old Testament prediction which fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), which is currently debated by scholars. I don’t think there is enough evidence to truly know this. This account only exists in the book of Matthew and is supported by the gospel of Luke. Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread” in Hebrew, was known for its fertile land, which ensured bountiful harvests.

It is likely that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. According to modern biblical scholars; there are two competing theories as to why this date was chosen for Christmas:

First, The “Calculation hypothesis” suggests that this date was calculated as nine months after March 25th, believed to be the day of Jesus’ conception.

Second, which I believe, the “History of Religions” hypothesis, proposes that the Church chose December 25th to coincide with Roman pagan festivals, particularly the birthday of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), a popular deity during the later Roman Empire.

There is no definitive evidence of the day of Jesus’ birth, although it is possible that it was December 25th.

A Strange Coincidence?

The festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the “birthday” of the unconquered sun, was celebrated on December 25th. This date later became significant in Christianity as it was chosen as the date to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. The choice of this date for Christmas is often seen as a way to Christianize or replace the popular pagan festival. The worship of Sol Invictus may have influenced early Christian practices. The use of solar imagery in Christian iconography, as well as the adoption of December 25th for Christmas, are examples of possible intersections between the two traditions. After Constantine the Great embraced Christianity, the significance of Sol Invictus began to wane, although the cult continued for some time. Its legacy, however, can be seen in various aspects of Roman culture that persisted even after the adoption of Christianity as the empire’s state religion. The worship of Sol Invictus was established in Rome by Emperor Aurelian[6] in 274 AD, although the concept of a sun god was not new and had been a part of Roman religion in various forms. This particular cult combined aspects of earlier Roman sun gods like Sol with elements from other deities, especially from Eastern religions.

It is most likely that this holiday was created as a way to merge traditional paganism with the up-and-coming tenets and celebratory practices of Christians; but that’s just my opinion.

Christmas Trees, Decoration, and Lights

Evergreen Christmas Trees

have a fascinating history. Humans have worshipped, or appreciated trees for a very long time. The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the Devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime.

In Germany placing a Yule tree at an entrance or inside the house during the midwinter holidays became popular in the 16th century, because of the garden of Eden mythos. It said believed that Protestant reformer Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to a tree, inspired by the starlit sky as he walked home one winter night. The Christmas tree symbolizes life and rebirth in the midst of winter. Early trees were adorned with fruits, nuts, and later, candles. The custom spread throughout Europe and was brought to America by German immigrants. It became enormously popular in the 19th century, especially in England after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were depicted in a published illustration with their decorated Christmas tree. Thanks Europe!

The Rise in popularity of Victorian Christmas Traditions

Henry Cole invented the Christmas Card in 1843

At the dawn of the 19th century, Christmas was hardly celebrated – at least, not in a way we would recognize today. It was Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the V&A, who introduced the idea of the Christmas card in 1843. Cole commissioned the artist J.C. Horsley to design a festive scene for his seasonal greeting cards and had 1000 printed (you can see the first cards here) – those he didn’t use himself were sold to the public. Later in the century, improvements to the chromolithographic printing process made buying and sending Christmas cards affordable for everyone.[10] Increased prosperity across Britain saw a rising market for mass-produced toys, decorations and novelty items such as the Christmas cracker. Inspired by bon bons (French sweets wrapped in paper) he saw during a trip to Paris, sweetshop owner Tom Smith first invented the cracker in the 1840s. It wasn’t until the 1860s, when Smith perfected its explosive ‘bang’ that the Christmas cracker as we know it today became a popular seasonal staple. Along with a joke, gifts inside could range from small trinkets such as whistles and miniature dolls to more substantial items like jewellery. The Victorian age placed great importance on family, so it follows that Christmas was celebrated at home. This creates a logical depiction of how and why we celebrate Christmas in the nuclear and extended family; the presents are stylistically very similar to what evolved during the Victorian era of Great Britain.

Lights at Christmas

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while many German Americans continued to use apples, nuts and marzipan cookies. Stringed popcorn was added to trees’ decoration after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.[8]

The earliest lights were candles in the 17th century. This posed significant fire hazards and many tools were adopted to keep homes from burning down. Then, in 1882, Edward Johnson, Thomas Edison’s associate invented the first string of Christmas lights in red, white, and blue; three years after Edison invented the light bulb. Grover Cleveland displayed an electric lit Christmas tree in the White House in 1895, but adoption was still low due to the cost of lights. Once the cost of lights went down, they were widely adopted across the US and numerous technological advancements in lighting led to LED lights. Now, lights symbolize joy, celebration, and the bringing of light during the darkest time of the year. The story of Christmas lights is a testament to how technological advancements can transform cultural practices and create new traditions that last for generations.

Conclusion

From ancient Egypt to Bethlehem to modern America, from the birth of Jesus to celebrating the garden of Eden in Germany to making LED shows with high-tech lightning on giant evergreen trees; this is the history and evolution of the wonderful holiday we know as Christmas. Celebrate away humans! (if you have questions or additions, comment!)

References
  1. Wikipedia – Jesus’ Date of Birth
  2. LiveScience – When was Jesus Born?
  3. Britannica – Biography of Jesus
  4. Wikipedia – Chronology of Jesus
  5. Smart Traveller – Israel and Palestine Occupied Territories
  6. Wikipedia – Emperor Aurelian
  7. Britannica – Christmas Tree
  8. History.com – History of Christmas Trees
  9. National Geographic – History of Christmas Trees
  10. vam.ac.uk – Victorian Christmas Traditions
  11. Wikipedia – Sir Henry Cole
  12. The First Christmas Cards

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Aristotle’s Ethics, Karma, and the Philosophy of the Good

Aristotle lived from 384 B.C.E. to 322 B.C.E. He is widely regarded as one of the best philosophers of all time; up there with Plato and Socrates of Ancient Greece. For the sake of riling you up, I’m going to say that Socrates was the best philosopher in all aspects except one; his hubris. Socrates never wrote anything down. It is a shame that he did not make a greater contribution to the human race through a story, or some kind of literature for children. Just my two cents.

Modern Psychology

In modern psychology, the pursuit of knowledge is linked to a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and personal growth, which are key components of well-being and happiness. This is often referred to as “eudaimonic happiness,” and contrasts to “hedonic happiness,” which is based on pleasure and avoidance of pain. Happiness is probably a good goal for a human to have; and suffering seems to be an important way to get there. Our lives seem to be very balanced in how we view our successes and in contrast our suffering; perhaps a balance of both is what we are really looking for in our journey on Earth.

Socrates’ Skeptical View of Virtue

Socrates famously asserted that an unexamined life is not worth living, suggesting that understanding and knowledge are essential to a meaningful, ethical, and thus happy life. In Socrates view, true happiness comes from self-awareness and the continuous quest for knowledge.

Aristotle claims that there is a way to achieve this happiness. Happiness is achieved through pursuit of excellence and goodness. “Aristotle follows Socrates and Plato in taking the virtues to be central to a well-lived life. Like Plato, he regards the ethical virtues (justice, courage, temperance and so on) as complex rational, emotional and social skills.[3]” Ethics and morals are what make human societies possible.

Aristotle goes on to talk more specifically about how to create goodness, through fine art, construction, horsemanship, military strategy, flute playing, and home construction. He does have one more line that I think is very relevant to today’s society: “the end is some product over and above the mere exercise of the art; and in the arts whose ends are certain things beside the practice of the arts themselves, these products are essentially superior in value to the activities”. I think this can apply to construction in a big way, especially home building.

Aristotle’s views of desire intersect intriguingly with the concept of Maya in Hinduism; the illusion of perception. Aristotle goes further to say that all desire is futile and vain; the end must be the best good, ideally the supreme good (all caps), a concept we also see in the Hinduism; Moksha, or release from Samsara in death in the ultimate goal of life in Hinduism.

Ethics and Religion

Max Brückner  (1836–1919
Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-…

In all of the religions on planet Earth, there are a few similarities in terms of the realms of reality and the afterlife. There is always some kind of hell: Naraka[5] in Jainism Buddhism and Hinduism, the Fields of Punishment in Ancient Greece, The 9 circles of hell in Dante’s inferno; in Islam, Jahannam is believed to be a space below the Earth, with physical, psychological, and spiritual punishments. There is also, always (except for Judaism), some kind of heaven: however it is usually dystopic. (except in the case of Christianity) In the eastern religions, the heavenly realms are chaotic; there is a titan/demigod realm in Buddhism where beings are very powerful and also conflict jealously with each other. Elysian fields, the Hall of Valhalla in Asgard, Tir na nOg in Celtic mythology, the Field of Reeds (Aaru) in Egyptian mythology, and the final abode of Jannah in Islam.

There is always a heavenly realm that humans enter from creating a good, or purposeful life; there is also the existence of a realm of great suffering that is granted to the wicked and immoral. All of these myths and legends and stories and religions can be applied to modern psychology through the lens of the Hero’s Journey and comparative mythology. They are a map to consciousness and what it is like to be a human being; they are all applicable to our lives in various ways, once we learn to look inwards.

A Map for Happiness

What we get out of all this is that religion, and more importantly the stories within are the ultimate guide to mental equilibrium in the contemporary world. The ethics embedded in religion, such as The 10 commandments are meant to provide us with a way for living a happy and fulfilled life. It teaches us how to interact with each other in a net-positive way, or a way that can benefit all of society, including ourselves. More and more research is being conducted and developed regarding interactions between humans as creating more overall satisfaction in life. We are indeed social animals that prefer to interact with each other in person. “we anticipate that an explicit recognition of the interactionist perspective will foster greater attention to the complexities of happiness, particularly in the domain of human sociality, which involves especially rich and potent webs of interaction”[19]. Some of this new research is very exciting for helping humanity to get more satisfaction out of life.

In the end, Karma and a good, productive life can’t be expressed for you; you have to create it.

Philosophical Concept list:

  1. phronesis – pactical wisdom
  2. arete – virtue
  3. eudaimonia – true happiness
  4. agape – unconditional love
  5. the Hero’s Journey – The continuous quest for knowledge
  6. ethical universalism
References:
  1. Wikipedia – Nicomachean Ethics
  2. MIT – Nicomachean Ethics
  3. Stanford.edu – Aristotle’s Ethics
  4. National Library of Medicine – On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being
  5. Wikipedia – Naraka
  6. The ARC of the Hero’s Journey
  7. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – the Upanishads
  8. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Daoism
  9. Oxford Bibliographies – Upanishads
  10. OLL – Upanishads
  11. Britannica – Upanishads
  12. Open Stax – Daoism
  13. Stanford Encyclopedia – Daoism
  14. Oxford Bibliographies – religious traditions of China
  15. Hawaii.edu – Journal of Daoist studies
  16. Introduction to the Special Theme “Daoist Philosophy and Philosophical Daoism: Conceptual Distinctions”
  17. The Perseus Project – Aristotle
  18. Wikipedia – Jannaham
  19. The Human Journal of Well-Being – Happiness: An Interactionist Perspective
  20. study.com – Hubris in Greek Mythology

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Hawai’i’s Colorful History

Hawaii is a land of epic beauty. At one point the nature here was completely untouched by humans and only lost birds and plants inhabited the island chain. It is a very young cluster of islands, the oldest of which were formed five to six million years ago and is unusual because it is a hotspot far away from the tectonic plate boundary (~2,000 miles away).

The early history of the settlement of the Hawaiian Islands is relatively unknown, but by combining myth, logic, and the current scientific analyses we can get a good idea of how the island populations evolved and migrated and also how plant and animals species developed and assimilated alongside humans. Hawaii’s modern identity is a reflection of this unique, layered, and multifaceted history. Shaped by colonization and assimilation into the Western European cultures and the United States, Hawaii is a unique blend of native and invasive species, and layers of settlement of Polynesians, westerners, and labor forces from around the world.

Polynesian Mythology of Hawaii

The Polynesian’s have a rich mythology surrounding the formation and settlement of the islands of Hawaii, but it is important to note that these myths evolved over time and were heavily influenced by the arrival of Christianity in the 18th century. They have a pantheon of gods and goddesses, but the some of major deities are Kane, Kanaloa, Lono, Ku, Maui, and Pele. Hawaiian mythology also focused heavily on mana, or the interconnection between all beings and the natural world, similar to the concept of a ‘holy spirit’.

Kane Tiki Statue

The primary creation myth involves Kane Milohai is the god of creation. Kane is associated with the sun, fresh water, agriculture, forests, and procreation. His origin story is part of the best known creation myth, the Kumulipo chant, where the primordial first beings known as the Po’ele emerged from darkness to create other beings and gods; the world was created gradually, starting with the most basic of organisms and moved onto more complexity with insects, animals, birds, and eventually humans. In the myth, Kane and Kamala descended from the heavens to create and this led to the separation between the Earth and the sky or Papa and Wakea. It represents the division between the divine masculine and feminine and the creation of fertile ground where life could flourish. Kane is not only the creator god, but represents Hawaiian values, especially fertility.

Maui Depiction

Another creation myth involves Maui, known for his strength and supernatural abilities. One day, Maui set out on a fishing expedition with his brothers. They cast their lines into the ocean, but Maui’s line, baited with a sacred bird, got caught on something unimaginably massive beneath the water. As Maui and his brothers struggled to reel in their catch, it became apparent that they had hooked the land itself. With his incredible strength, Maui transformed into a giant and exerted all his power to pull up the land from the ocean depths. The land rose out of the water, and as Maui’s efforts continued, the individual Hawaiian Islands began to take shape. As the islands emerged, Maui used his knowledge of the natural world to shape and mold them, creating the mountains, valleys, and lush landscapes that make up the Hawaiian archipelago. He also shaped the rivers and waterways, ensuring that life could flourish on the newly formed islands.

Pele

A final example of the beautiful Hawaiian cultural myth is the story of Pele, who is said to have created the Hawaiian Islands. Halemaʻumaʻu in the Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawaii is where she is known to reside and is the goddess of volcanos and fire. Many Hawaiians believe that there is a family of gods that inhabit Kilauea and Pele is one of the sisters that controls the flow of lava. Legend told that Pele herself journeyed on her canoe from the island of Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. When on her journey to Hawaii from Tahiti, it was said she tried to create her fires on different islands, but her sister, Nāmaka, was chasing her, wanting to put an end to her. In the end, the two sisters fought each other and Pele was killed. With this happening, her body was destroyed but her spirit lives in Halemaʻumaʻu on Kilauea. They say, “Her body is the lava and steam that comes from the volcano. She can also change form, appearing as a white dog, old woman, or beautiful young woman.”

The gods each had specific roles in the creation and maintenance of the world. Lono was one of the original gods of the universe and was known as the god of music, peace, and agriculture and would bring rain during the 4 month rainy season which was also a season of peace for Hawaiians. Ku was a feather god that demanded human sacrifice and represented war, politics, and sorcery. Kanaloa is a squid or octopus goddess that complimented Kane and was considered the counter-opposite to the creator-sun god, representing shadow, underworld, magic, and the ocean.

Menehune,

In myth, the Polynesian’s were not the first islanders. The Menehune are a mythical race of dwarves, or little people, that were believed to be responsible for many of the various ancient structures on Hawaii. While the Menehune are generally considered benevolent beings, they are also known for their mischievous behavior. According to legends, the Menehune live in remote and hidden areas of the Hawaiian Islands, such as deep in the forests or in secluded valleys. These secretive locations are believed to be the reason why they are rarely seen by humans. They are said to play tricks on humans, sometimes helping them and at other times causing disruptions, sometimes shooting arrows to cause people to fall in love. The Menehune are renowned for their skill in construction and craftsmanship and are said to have built various structures, such as fishponds, temples, and houses, that were considered too advanced for the time. These feats of engineering have often been attributed to the Menehune’s supernatural abilities. There is ongoing debate among scholars about the origin and authenticity of the Menehune legends. Some believe that the Menehune are purely mythical, while others suggest they might be based on stories of indigenous peoples who inhabited the islands before the arrival of Polynesians.

600 year old petroglyphs on Maui

Unrecorded Histories of Hawaii

The first people known to have settle Hawaii were Polynesian, likely from the Marquesas Islands which were colonized by Polynesians around 800 AD. Islanders from Tahiti then arrived in Hawaii in a second wave, about 200 years later. The Kapu system was thus developed in a strict social hierarchy in Hawaiian society. At the top were the ali’i (nobility), followed by the kahuna (priests), maka’ainana (commoners), and kauwa (outcasts or slaves). Each group had specific rules and obligations, and there was little mobility between classes.

With them, polynesian settlers brought coconuts, bananas, taro, sweet potato, and breadfruit. They also brought and raised pigs, chicken, dogs, and the pacific rat.

Archaeologists believe that the settlers began arriving on the southern end of the big island of Hawaii and travelled northwards to colonize the rest of the islands. It is estimated that before European settlers arrived, there was close to a million inhabitants of the islands.

Hawaiian Villages

A typical Hawaiian city included many buildings:

  • Heiau, temple to the gods
  • Hale aliʻi, the house of the chief
  • Hale pahu, the house of the sacred hula instruments
  • Hale papaʻa, the house of royal storage
  • Hale ulana, the house of the weaver
  • Hale mua, the men’s eating house
  • Hale ʻaina, the women’s eating house
  • Hale waʻa, the house of the canoe
  • Hale lawaiʻa, the house of fishing
  • Hale noho, the living house
  • Imu, the communal earth oven

The Hawaiians believed that the earth belonged to the gods; one does not own land. However, the Ali’i were managers of the land; when chiefs would die, dwellings and lands would change hands between managers.

The Kapu System

“Ancient Hawaiʻi was a caste society developed from Polynesians.” A Tahitian priest named Pā‘ao is said to have brought a new order to the islands around 1200. The new order included new laws and a new social structure that separated the people into classes. The aliʻi nui was the king, with his ʻaha kuhina just below them; the makaʻāinana (commoners) next with the kauā below them as the lowest ranking social caste.

There were several classes in the Kapu caste system:

  • the Ali’i
  • Kahuna
  • Maka’ainana
  • Kauwa

The rigidity of the kapu system might have come from a second wave of migrations in 1000–1300 from which different religions and systems were shared between Hawaiʻi and the Society Islands. Hawaiʻi would have been influenced by the Tahitian chiefs, the kapu system would have become stricter, and the social structure would have changed. Human sacrifice would have become a part of their new religious observance, and the aliʻi would have gained more power over the counsel of experts on the islands.

Ali’i were the traditional nobility of the Hawaiian Islands that were organized in a feudal way. There were eleven classes of Ali’i including ruling chiefs, prominent kahunas, advisors, and priests. Aliʻi nui were supreme ruling chiefs of the main islands, but there were several other types of chiefs with specific taboos.

The Kahuna was a wise person, or shaman, but the term really means a subject matter expert. Forty types of kahuna are listed in the book Tales from the Night Rainbow, including Hula Kahunas (hula dances included storytelling), Kahuna La’au Lapa’au (doctors and healers), and Kahuna Kilo (prophets).

The Maka’ainana were simply commoners and were subject to the taboos and rules of the Ali’i.

The Kauwa was a broad and demeaning term to describe the class of slaves, outcasts, and servants to the Ali’i. (I’ve previously written a long and extensive article of the negative aspects of the Hindu caste system, which you might find interesting.)

Cook depicted in a Nathaniel Dance-Hollandportrait, c. 1775

The Arrival of James Cook and Historical Records

Hawaii was isolated from the rest of the world for over 500 years until James Cook arrived from Britain in 1778. Cook arrived in Kaua’i in Waimea, Hawaii in 1778 and named the group of islands the sandwich islands, after the earl of sandwich (for whom sandwich were also named). Cook continued to travel around North America, then returned to the islands to restock his supplies.

in January 1779 Cook anchored in Kealakekua Bay after about 8 weeks of circling the islands; during Makahiki, the Hawaiian new year and harvest festival devoted to the god Lono. Coincidentally the form of Cook’s ship, HMS Resolution, or more particularly the mast formation, sails and rigging, resembled certain significant artifacts that formed part of the season of worship.[4][62]

Similarly, Cook’s clockwise route around the island of Hawaii before making landfall resembled the processions that took place in a clockwise direction around the island during the Lono festivals. It has been argued (most extensively by Marshall Sahlins) that such coincidences were the reasons for Cook’s (and to a limited extent, his crew’s) initial deification by some Hawaiians who treated Cook as an incarnation of Lono.[63]

After a month of exploiting his status as a deity, Cook left the Hawaiian islands only to have foremast broken. He returned to the islands to a tense atmosphere of questioning Hawaiians after a crew member of the HMS Resolution died; obviously the Hawaiians questioned how a deity could die. Cook also stole wood from a burial site. In the night of February 13th, an unknown group of Hawaiians stole one of the two longboats of the Resolution. The Hawaiians had become “insolent” so Cook’s obvious response was to kidnap and ransom the King of Hawaii, Kalaniʻōpuʻu.

On 14 February 1779, Cook marched through the village to retrieve the king. Cook took the king (aliʻi nui) by his own hand and led him away. One of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s favourite wives, Kanekapolei, and two chiefs approached the group as they were heading to the boats. They pleaded with the king not to go. An old kahuna (priest), chanting rapidly while holding out a coconut, attempted to distract Cook and his men as a large crowd began to form at the shore. At this point, the king began to understand that Cook was his enemy.[66][failed verification] As Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head by the villagers and then stabbed to death as he fell on his face in the surf.[67] He was first struck on the head with a club by a chief named Kalaimanokahoʻowaha or Kanaʻina (namesake of Charles Kana’ina) and then stabbed by one of the king’s attendants, Nuaa.[68][69] The Hawaiians carried his body away towards the back of the town, still visible to the ship through their spyglass. Four marines, Corporal James Thomas, Private Theophilus Hinks, Private Thomas Fatchett and Private John Allen, were also killed and two others were wounded in the confrontation.[68][70]

King Kamehameha I and the Birth of the Kingdom of Hawaii

Kamehameha was raised in the royal Hawaiian court and was given the prominent religious position as guardian of the Hawaiian god of war. He rose to higher prominence from several religious rituals and gained the support of 5 Kona chieftains and two uncles who bypassed the throne for their nephews, Kamehameha and Kīwalaʻō (who was to be the next great chief). Kīwalaʻō’s half brother received no land nor title and took out his rage on Kamehameha. The Battle of Mokuʻōhai ensued in 1782; the battleground was just to the south of Kealakekua Bay during which Kīwalaʻō was knocked down by a sling stone, and the injured Kameʻeiamoku was able to slit his throat with a shark-tooth dagger. Kamahameha recovered Kīwalaʻō feather cloak giving Kamehameha religious, political, and divine authority in the eyes of Hawaiians. This is known as a key turning point in Hawaii’s history and marks the beginning of the unification of the islands.

In 1790 Kamehameha’s army invaded Maui with the assistance of John Young and Isaac Davis. Using cannons from the Fair American, they defeated Maui’s army led by Kalanikūpule at the bloody Battle of Kepaniwai while the aliʻi Kahekili II was on Oahu.

Keōua Kūʻahuʻula, who came to rule the districts of Kaʻū and Puna, took advantage of Kamehameha’s absence in Maui and began raiding the west coast of Hawaii. He also advanced against the district of Hilo, deposing his uncle Keawemaʻuhili.[28][26] When Kamehameha returned, Keōua escaped to the Kīlauea volcano, which erupted. Many warriors died from the poisonous gas emitted from the volcano.

When the Puʻukoholā Heiau was completed in 1791, Kamehameha invited Keōua to meet with him. Keōua may have been dispirited by his recent losses. He may have mutilated himself before landing so as to render himself an inappropriate sacrificial victim. As he stepped on shore, one of Kamehameha’s chiefs threw a spear at him. By some accounts, he dodged it but was then cut down by musket fire. Caught by surprise, Keōua’s bodyguards were killed. With Keōua dead, and his supporters captured or slain, Kamehameha became King of Hawaiʻi island.[29]

In 1791, Kahekili and his brother Kāʻeokūlani reconquered Maui and also acquired cannons. In April or May 1791, Kahekili tried to invade the island of Hawaiʻi, but was defeated in a naval battle called Kepuwahaʻulaʻula near Waipiʻo. Kamehameha had to wait for the civil war that broke out in 1793 after the death of Kahekili to finally win control of Maui.[27]

In summer 1795, Kamehameha set sail with an armada of 960 war canoes and 10,000 soldiers. He quickly secured the lightly defended islands of Maui and Molokaʻi at the Battle of Kawela and later Oahu.

The Battle of Nuʻuanu was a fierce and brutal conflict, with warriors on both sides using traditional Hawaiian weapons like spears and clubs, along with firearms and cannons acquired from European contacts. The turning point of the battle occurred when Kamehameha’s forces managed to drive the Oahu warriors to the edge of the cliff. With nowhere to escape, many of the Oahu warriors either jumped off the cliffs to their deaths or were pushed off by Kamehameha’s warriors.

In the spring of 1796, he attempted to continue with his forces to Kauaʻi but he lost many of his canoes in the strong winds and rough seas of the Kaʻieʻie Waho channel. He returned to Hawaii to pacify the rebellion of Nāmakehā (brother of Kaʻiana) in Hilo and ruled from Hawaii for the next six years as he consolidated his conquests and prepare for a second invasion of Kauaʻi.[32] At Hilo, Kamehameha I commissioned the building a large fleet of 800 (according to Kamakau) double-hulled war canoes called peleleu along with Western schooners, and he also stockpile large number of guns, canons and ammunition. He took his peleleu to Maui where he stayed from 1802 to 1803 and then to Oʻahu in late 1803 or early 1804. While in Oʻahu, a large percentage of his force was killed by the maʻi ʻokuʻu epidemic, which was thought to be either cholera or bubonic plague. Kamehameha I contracted the illness but survived. The second invasion of Kauaʻi was postponed.

In April 1810, Kamehameha I negotiated the peaceful unification of the islands with Kauaʻi. He also created a unified legal system and collected taxes to promote trade with Europe and the United States.

After about 1812, Kamehameha returned from Oahu and spent the last years of his life at Kamakahonu, a compound he built in Kailua-Kona.[38][39]

When Kamehameha died on May 8 or 14, 1819,[41][42][43] his body was hidden by his trusted friends, Hoapili and Hoʻolulu, in the ancient custom called hūnākele (literally, “to hide in secret”). The mana, or power of a person, was considered to be sacred. As per the ancient custom, his body was buried in a hidden location because of his mana. His final resting place remains unknown. And yes, Goku’s signature energy attack is named after the Hawaiian king because the creator, Akira Toriyama’s wife suggested it.

Kamehameha I was succeeded by his son, Kamehameha II (Liholiho). Liholiho’s reign was relatively short, marked by his involvement in the abolition of traditional Hawaiian religious practices in favor of Christianity, a decision influenced by the influence of Christian missionaries.

After Kamehameha II’s death in 1824, his younger brother, Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli), ascended the throne. Kamehameha III’s reign was characterized by the formalization of Hawaii’s legal system, the issuance of the Hawaiian Constitution of 1840, and continued efforts to modernize the kingdom’s government and economy.

Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho) succeeded Kamehameha III in 1855. His reign saw further attempts at modernization and political reforms. He also established the Queen’s Medical Center, a prominent medical institution in Hawaii.

Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa) took the throne in 1863 and is known for his strong and somewhat autocratic rule. He attempted to strengthen the monarchy’s power, although some of his proposed constitutional reforms were not enacted during his lifetime.

After Kamehameha V’s death, King Lunalilo was elected as king by the Hawaiian legislature in 1873. His reign was brief, as he died in 1874 without naming an heir. David Kalākaua, who was elected by the Hawaiian legislature, succeeded Lunalilo. Kalākaua’s reign was marked by the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1875, which allowed Hawaiian sugar to be exported to the U.S. duty-free. Kalākaua’s sister, Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him in 1891 as the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. Her reign was marked by political tensions and efforts to regain some of the monarchy’s authority that had been eroded over time.

Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy

The monarchy’s power had been steadily diminishing due to foreign influence, economic interests, and internal political struggles. In 1893, Liliʻuokalani’s attempt to promulgate a new constitution and regain power led to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by a group of American and European businessmen and diplomats, with the support of U.S. troops.

Foreign influence dominated the islands because of interests in the islands fertility and ability to produce agriculture. Sugar cane had been introduced to the islands by the Polynesians; European and American merchants established sugar plantations taking advantage of the native Hawaiian workforce and the fertility of the islands. The Kamehameha dynasty was also intrinsic in developing the sugar plantations to promote trade development.

The combination of the growth of christianity and the sugar cane industry led foreign interests to dominate the Hawaiian economy.

On January 20, 1887, the United States began leasing Pearl Harbor. Shortly after, the Hawaiian Patriotic League began the revolution of 1887; they drafted a constitution that greatly lessened the powers of the Hawaiian monarchy and forced the chief, Kalākaua to sign it. In July 1889, there was a small scale rebellion, and Minister Merrill landed Marines to protect Americans; the State Department explicitly approved his action. Kalākaua died in San Francisco on January 20th, 1891.

Liliʻuokalani assumed the throne in the middle of an economic crisis. Her proposed 1893 Constitution would have extended suffrage by reducing some property requirements. It would have disenfranchised many non-citizen Europeans and Americans. The Queen toured several islands on horseback, talking to the people about her ideas and receiving overwhelming support, including a lengthy petition in support of a new constitution. However, when the Queen informed her cabinet of her plans, they withheld their support, uncomfortable with what they expected her opponent’s likely response to be.[153]

Liliʻuokalani’s attempt to promulgate a new constitution on January 14, 1893, was the precipitating event leading to the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii three days later.[154] The conspirators’ stated goals were to depose the queen, overthrow the monarchy, and seek Hawaii’s annexation to the U.S.[155][156] The conspirators were five American, one English and one German national.[157]

The overthrow began on January 17, 1893. While the queen was on house arrest, a military coup took over the capital and intimidate royalist defenders, even though a shot wasn’t fired. This was the effective end of the monarchy.

Between 1893 and 1898 annexation became an increasingly popular idea.

In March 1897, William McKinley, a Republican expansionist, succeeded Democrat Grover Cleveland as U.S. president. He prepared a treaty of annexation but it lacked the needed 2/3 majority in the Senate given Democratic opposition.

McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution annexing Hawaii on July 7, 1898, creating the Territory of Hawaii. On 22 February 1900 the Hawaiian Organic Act established a territorial government. Annexation opponents held that this was illegal, claiming the Queen was the only legitimate ruler. McKinley appointed Sanford B. Dole as territorial governor. The territorial legislature convened for the first time on February 20, 1901. Hawaiians formed the Hawaiian Independent Party, under the leadership of Robert Wilcox, Hawaii’s first congressional delegate.

Sugarcane plantations by this time had grown so large and powerful that the owners dominated the industry of Hawaii and were known as “the big five”. During the Democratic Revolution of 1954, the unions inflicted a decisive blow against the giants, and when the sugar industry declined after Hawaii became a state in 1959, so did each of the Big Five companies. There was also intense competition from overseas, leading to the decline of the Hawaiian sugar industry. The last sugar plantation closed in 2016, ending the sugarcane industry in Hawaii.

The Evolution of Ecology in Hawaii

Born among volcanoes in the north central Pacific about 4 million years ago, the Hawaiian rainforest became assembled from spores of algae, fungi, lichens, bryophytes, ferns and from seeds of about 275 flowering plants that over the millennia evolved into ca. 1000 endemic species. There was a time before human existence on the islands, when only birds and flora lived on the island due to dispersal or migratory patterns over the ocean.

The isolation of the islands resulted in Adaptive Radiation, meaning that a single ancestor gave birds to multitudes of species adapted to the various microclimates and ecologies of the islands. This led to an incredible number of unique species on the islands, also known as endemism.

The Polynesians were the first to introduce various agricultural species and brought with them the first invasive and non-native species present on the islands today. The later European explorers compounded this issue with disease and the introduction of more non-native and invasive species. Only recently have conservation efforts been made to preserve native species and remove invasive ones.

Major Invasive species in Hawaii

Miconia
  • Miconia (Miconia calvescens): Miconia is a highly invasive plant species in Hawaii. It forms dense thickets that outcompete native vegetation and disrupt the natural ecosystem.
  • Coqui Frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui): The coqui frog is a small, nocturnal frog that is native to Puerto Rico but has become invasive in Hawaii. Its loud calls have caused noise pollution and ecological disruption.
  • Little Fire Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata): This invasive ant species has a painful sting and can negatively impact native insect populations. It is a significant nuisance for residents and threatens agriculture.
  • Kahili Ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum): Kahili ginger is an invasive plant that has spread throughout Hawaiian forests. It displaces native species and changes the structure of forest ecosystems.
  • Yellow Ginger (Hedychium flavescens): Yellow ginger, another invasive ginger species, is known for its rapid spread in Hawaii. It can outcompete native plants and alter the composition of natural habitats.
  • Australian Tree Fern (Sphaeropteris cooperi): This invasive fern species can form dense thickets and compete with native vegetation in Hawaii’s forests and understory.
  • Africanized Honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata): This aggressive strain of honeybee is considered invasive in Hawaii and has had an impact on local bee populations.
  • Christmas Berry (Schinus terebinthifolius): Christmas berry is a small tree with invasive tendencies. It has invaded a variety of habitats in Hawaii, including forests and coastal areas.
  • Feral Pigs (Sus scrofa): Feral pigs are a significant invasive species in Hawaii. They damage native ecosystems by rooting in the soil, uprooting plants, and spreading invasive seeds.
  • Axis Deer (Axis axis): Axis deer were introduced to Hawaii for hunting purposes. They have become invasive and cause damage to agriculture and natural habitats.
  • Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum): Strawberry guava is an invasive plant that forms dense thickets, outcompeting native vegetation.
  • Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer): This invasive bird species has established itself in Hawaii, affecting native bird populations and agricultural crops.
  • Invasive Algae (e.g., Gracilaria salicornia and Acanthophora spicifera): Various invasive algae species have proliferated in Hawaii’s coral reefs, impacting native marine life and altering reef ecosystems.

Major Native species Endemic to Hawaii

Hawaiian Goose

Hawaiian Monk Seal (Monachus schauinslandi): The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the world’s most endangered seal species. It is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and faces threats from human disturbance, entanglement in marine debris, and habitat loss.

Hawaiian Nēnē (Branta sandvicensis): The nēnē, or Hawaiian goose, is the world’s rarest goose and is endemic to Hawaii. It faces threats from habitat destruction, predation, and collisions with vehicles.

Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis): The ʻalalā, or Hawaiian crow, is critically endangered and is extinct in the wild. Conservation efforts aim to reintroduce captive-bred birds into their native habitat on the Big Island.

Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus): This endemic bat species is threatened by habitat destruction and disturbances, particularly in its roosting sites.

Hawaiian Petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis): The Hawaiian petrel is a seabird that faces threats from introduced predators and habitat degradation, particularly in its nesting areas.

Hawaiian tree snail

Hawaiian Tree Snails (Achatinella spp.): Many species of Hawaiian tree snails are critically endangered or extinct due to habitat loss, invasive predators, and disease.

Hawaiian Silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense): Silverswords are a group of plants endemic to Hawaii. Several species are endangered due to habitat destruction and damage caused by introduced herbivores.

Puaiohi (Myadestes palmeri): The puaiohi is a critically endangered thrush endemic to Kauai. It is threatened by habitat destruction and invasive species.

‘Ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha): a species of flowering evergreen tree in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae, that is endemic to the six largest islands of Hawaiʻi. It is a member of the diverse Metrosideros genus, which are widespread over the southwest Pacific. It is the state tree of Hawai‘i.[4]

Manfern (Cibotium): a genus of 11 species of tropical tree ferns

False staghorn fern (Dicranopteris linearis): one of the most widely distributed ferns of the wet Old Worldtropics and adjacent regions, including Polynesia and the Pacific.[3]

References
  1. Earth@home.org – the Geologic History of Hawaii
  2. Wikipedia.org – History of Hawaii
  3. bg.copernicus.org – Origin of Hawaiian Rainforest
  4. TheSupernaturalFoxSisters.com – The Mysterious Menehune of Hawaii
  5. Punahou Buletin – Kamahameha I
  6. Chat GPT

Hawai’i’s Colorful History Read More »

Halloween : Origins and Traditions

Halloween marks the end of the harvest season and beginning of the darker half of the year, but its original nature is far more sacrificial and superstitious and also multicultural! Although many of the traditions that we now celebrate come from ancient Ireland, there are several cultures that have contributed to what is now celebrated as Halloween.

Celtic – Samhain Festivities

Halloween as we know it today mostly comes from a Celtic tradition and known as Samhain; a three day festival called ‘the feast of the dead’ where they would celebrate the harvest, build massive bonfires, dress up in costumes, feast, drink, and participate in divination and fortune telling.

Samhain, also known as the origin of Halloween, was a powerful and special demon of Hell and was one of the 66 Seals. He could only rise when summoned by two powerful witches through three blood sacrifices over three days, with the last sacrifice day on the final harvest, Halloween.

There are many rituals associated with Samhain today. These include dancing, feasting, taking walks, and building altars to honor ancestors. There are many parts to the altars Wiccans build. To symbolize the end of the harvest, they include apples, pumpkins, and several other fall crops. Neolithic passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise at the time of Samhain, so this was a very important festival for the ancient inhabitants of Ireland.

Mexican – Dia De Los Muertos

This holiday actually arrives the couple of days after the traditional Samhain on November 1st and 2nd. The tradition is far more joyful and colorful than the Western Christian counterpart and focuses on humor and celebrations of the departed rather than mourning.

Traditions connected with the holiday include honoring the deceased using calaveras and aztec marigold flowers known as cempazúchitl, building home altars called ofrendas with the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these items as gifts for the deceased.

According to colonial period records, the Aztec empire was formed in A.D. 1427, only about a century before the arrival of Spanish . But the celebration that Mexicans now call Día de los Muertos almost certainly existed many centuries earlier, perhaps originating with the Toltec people of central Mexico. So the Toltec people may have been the first to celebrate this wonderful holiday. Mictecacihuatl is the “lady of the dead” and is said to watch over the bones of the dead and swallow the stars during the day.

Mictecacihuatl

The goddess of the underworld and the dead is often depicted with flayed skin and a gaping, skeletal jaw – was linked to both death and resurrection. According to one myth, Mictecacihuatl and her husband collected bones so that they might be returned to the land of the living and restored by the gods. 

The Aztecs appeased these fearsome underworld gods by burying their dead with food and precious objects. 

Archaeologists and historians know relatively little about the details of the month-long celebration of Mictecacihuatl, but say it likely involved burning incense, song and dance, and blood sacrifice – customary practices in many Aztec rituals.

Western Christian (Roman) – Halloween

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, or All Saints Evening is a celebration of saints, martyrs, and the departed. One theory holds that many Halloween traditions were influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, which are believed to have pagan roots;[12][13][14][15] some go further and suggest that Samhain may have been Christianized as All Hallow’s Day, along with its eve, by the early Church.[16] Celebrated in Ireland and Scotland for centuries, Irish and Scottish migrants brought Halloween customs to North America in the 19th century, which is where most scholars believe the tradition evolved.

For some people, the Christian religious observances of All Hallows’ Eve, including attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead, remain popular, though many Christians have historically abstained from meat on All Hallows’ Eve, a tradition reflected in the eating of certain vegetarian foods on this vigil day.

These three days are collectively called Allhallowtide and are a time for honoring the saints and praying for recently-departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven.

The Allhallowtide custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls,[61] has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.[62] The custom dates back at least as far as the 15th century[63] and was found in parts of England, Wales, Flanders, Bavaria and Austria.[64] Groups of poor people, often children, would go door-to-door during Allhallowtide, collecting soul cakes, in exchange for praying for the dead, especially the souls of the givers’ friends and relatives. This was called “souling”.

By 800, there is evidence that churches in Ireland[54] and Northumbria were holding a feast commemorating all saints on 1 November.

Conclusions of the Origins of Halloween

It is very likely that the traditions of Samhain and Halloween merged organically and was again reinforced when the Aztec and Central American tradition of Dia De Los Muertos was discovered and integrated into modern society. However, one cannot argue that these three days seem to be a very important time for humanity to mourn the passing of the deceased, in their own respective ways. It is fascinating that these cultures developed somewhat similar traditions. To learn more, check out my references!

Thanks for reading.

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/samhain.shtml
  5. https://dayofthedead.holiday/history/
  6. https://theconversation.com/day-of-the-dead-from-aztec-goddess-worship-to-modern-mexican-celebration-124962
  7. https://www.halloweenexpress.com/samhain-and-the-connection-to-halloween/
  8. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/samhain

Halloween : Origins and Traditions Read More »

Sikhism symbol

Sikhism: The Fifth Largest Religion in the World

Sikhism: A Tradition Striving for Unity and Truth

Sikhism guru_nanak
Guru Nanak

Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world(one of the fastest growing, too) and originated in Northern India in 1469. Sikhis (meaning disciple or learner) are monotheistic, believe in the unity and equality of all mankind, engage in selfless service, and strive for the prosperity of all life. There are over 25 millions Sikhis in the world.

Sikhism originated in a guru tradition in 1469; Guru Nanak was the first to establish what because a religious tradition over the course of centuries. Ten gurus followed in Guru Nanak’s footsteps and after the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal guru and serves as a guide for Sikhi’s.

The Ten Sikhi Gurus (each represents a divine attribute) are:

  1. Guru Nanak – Humility
  2. Guru Angad – Obedience
  3. Guru Amar Das – Equality
  4. Guru Ram Das – Service
  5. Guru Arjan – Self-sacrifice
  6. Guru Hargobind – Justice
  7. Guru Har Rai – Mercy
  8. Guru Harkrishan – Purity
  9. Guru Tegh Bahadur – Tranquility
  10. Guru Gobind Singh – Royal Courage

A couple of the Sikhi gurus are also Bhakti saints giving Hinduism an interesting relationship with the origins of the Sikh religion. The goal of the Sikhi is unison with the divine and they believe that no one tradition has a monopoly on the divine and emphasizes the “five thieves” of god’s presence: lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit.

The Origins of Sikhism

Sikhism was created in the Punjab region, which is between India and Pakistan. In the time of the first Guru, Guru Nanak, there were two competing religions of the Muslims and Hindus. Legend says Nanak went into a river at 28, proclaimed there is no Hindu or Muslim, only god and that he continued to bring Sikhism into the world.

The 5th Guru, Arjan was a scholar and helped to build the Sikh religion by creating the first scripture. However, he was seen as a threat by the state and executed for his faith in 1606.

The 6th Guru, Hargobind eventually moved to militarize the community and the Sikhs learned to fight to preserve their faith. They became relatively peaceful until Tegh Bahadur, the 9th guru, was executed in 1675 by Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. The Moghal Empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.

The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a military group so that they could forever defend their faith.

The Sikhs continued to rebel against Muslim oppression and eventually became a state of their own. But then they were defeated by the British. Then they became peaceful for a while, until 1919 when there was a massacre of over 400 dead and 1,000 wounded by British soldiers who fired on a crowd of protesters. A few historians signify this event as the beginning of the decline of the British Empire in India.

The Sikhi god: Ik Onkar

Ik Onkar is the Sikhi word for god and means ‘all pervading spirit’. This spirit has no gender, is beyond time and space, is without form, beyond the comprehension of humans, but not completely unknowable. The spirit is visible sikhism_ik_onkareverywhere to the spiritually awakened through the heart or “inner eye”. The religion prescribes meditation to allow for communication between god and man.

The Opening Line of the Mool Mantar:

“There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”

The ultimate goal of a Sikh is to be completely united with god. They achieve this state of liberation (mukti) by focusing on god rather than themselves.

Maya: the Worldly Illusion

Maya is a spiritual concept that has evolved over time and crosses over nearly every eastern religion in one way or another. Literally, Maya means delusion, extraordinary illusions of power, the veil of perception, magic, and “unreality”.

These worldly illusions are viewed as a direct opponent of realizing god in this lifetime (the goal of the Sikh is to realize god). It is believed that the object of Maya, or object of the senses, lust, desire, attachment, ego, greed, and anger which are known as the 5 thieves and are believed to take away from the individual’s relationship with god by distracting and hurting the individual.

Once god is fully realized, the individual is considered jivanmukta and liberated in this lifetime, which is a belief also shared in Hinduism. After this liberation, the individual is ceaselessly united with Brahman (the supreme truth underlying all of reality, but hidden by it). Sikhs also believe in reincarnation and karma.

The Khalsa – the Nation of Sikhs

The Khalsa is the collective body of all Sikhs. The Khalsa was initiated on March 30 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. The word Khalsa means “sovereign”, “free”, or most often “pure”. Being initiated into the Khalsa is a type of baptism and males are entitled Singhs (lion) while females are titled Kaurs (princess).

The Khalsa is responsible for all executive, military, and civil authority in the Sikh society. They are considered the pinnacle of Sikhism and perform no rituals and believe in no superstitions. They only believe in god who is the master and creator of all, the only destroyer/creator.

A Sikh is defined as any human being who faithfully believes in one immortal being; ten gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, the teachings of the ten gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth guru.

Culture, Observations, and Rituals of Sikhism

Most Sikhs wake up early to meditate on the name of god. Then he/she bathes in a pool of nectar (I’m not really sure what this means, probably some type of sweet herbs and spices). Then he chants the name of the lord. All sins, misdeeds, and negativity is erased through this process. When the sun rises, the Sikh is to meditate on the name of god again. The idea of the Sikh’s existence is to worship god so that they can maintain a close relationship to god.

There are 5 K’s(panj kakaar) or articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are obligated to wear:

  1. Kesh – uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar (a style of turban)
  2. Kanga – a wooden comb, usually under the dastar
  3. Kachera – cotton undergarments worn by both sexes to symbolize chastity
  4. Kara – an iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
  5. Kirpan – an iron dagger of differing sizes. In the UK it is very small and in Punjab it can be up to three feet long.

Sikhs are also very interested in music, many instruments were supposedly created by gurus. These instruments include the Rebab, the dilruba, the taus, the jori, and the sarinda. They would often play drums or Nagaras while marching into battle.

The Modern Sikh and Sikh Statistics

There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide and 83% live in India. 76% live in Punjab where they form Modern_Sikh2/3rds of the populace. Sikhs were some of the first to migrate to Britain from India and were used in the Indian Civil service and so were spread out over the entire British empire. Many have spread throughout Europe and Northern America.

The caste system is still very prevalent within the Sikh religion, even though their gurus denounced the system. Untouchables, or Dalits still face harsh discrimination.

The first gurdwara (place of worship) was established in the United States in Stockton, California.

Discrimination against Sikhs has risen since the 9/11 attacks. They are said to be often confused with Arabic or Muslim Middle Eastern men because of their turbans and CNN suggested an increase in hate Crimes against Sikh men after the attacks. I’ll leave it to a few clips from CNN and other news to show you what I mean by discrimination (it involves racism and persecution because of ignorance).

  • The U.S. has the highest murder rate of affluent democracies. America had an extreme homicide rate of 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2008-2009, compared with a 1.43 rate in England and Wales and a 1.3 rate in Italy. Japan has 1/10 of the murders of the US. Don’t be surprised about how often this happens.
  • [September 24th, 2013] A Columbia University professor who wrote about hate crimes against Sikhs may have become a victim of one himself when 12 to 15 people attacked him while shouting anti-Muslim slurs, police said.
    Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh and a professor of international and public affairs, said the attackers were yelling “get Osama” and “terrorist” when they swarmed him Saturday night near Central Park in New York.
    “There were about 20 of them. A few surrounded me, and started punching me,” Singh said, according to the Sikh Coalition. He suffered injuries to his face, including displaced teeth and a possible fracture in his lower jaw. CNN ARTICLE
  • [August 5th, 2012] There was a shooting of 6 people in Wisconsin in a hate crime on August 5th 2012. ‘He said members described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm — which “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”.’The gunman started shooting in the parking lot, then entered into the temple and proceeded to open fire. Most of the victims were leaders of the church, men with turbans. CNN ARTICLE
  • [September 13th, 2015] A Sikh American man says he was taunted as a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” by another driver this week, and then beaten unconscious in his car. Police in the Chicago suburb of Darien are investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and a road rage incident that escalated into a violent attack, Chief Ernest Brown said. CNN ARTICLE
  • [January 6th, 2016] A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day. They have video of a light-skinned suspect between 16 and 18 with a red hoodie that waited outside for about 5 minutes for a man named Gill to be in the store alone. Once Gill (Sikh man without any Sikh attire on) was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later. Sikhs were anxious about heading back out into the community because of another attack that occurred on December 26th. FRENSO BEE ARTICLE
  • [March 2nd, 2016] Balwinder Jit Singh says a passenger beat him while calling him a terrorist and a suicide bomber last year in Inglewood. YAHOO NEWS ARTICLE

So this is very real, and its happening right now. This article from THE INTERCEPT talks about how Donald Trumps campaign makes it extremely hard on Sikh’s because hatred and violence are condoned. These are Americans that are discriminated against in our own country. And in lots of cases the police turn a blind eye, refuse to investigate, or whatever nonsense racism and ignorance they can make up. But this seems to happen a lot and we, as a nation, should not allow this kind of intolerance or ignorance. This is the 5th largest religion in the world!

 

References:
  1. Institute of Sikh Studies
  2. Sikhs dot-org
  3. BBC Religion
  4. Sikh Coalition
  5. Sikh Net
  6. Maya Wikipedia
  7. Sikhism Wikipedia
  8. Religion Facts

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The Idea of Evil Giovanni Domenico Ferretti, Cain and Abel, 1740

Evil and the Evolution of Morality

Evil and Humanity

Evil and morality are thought structures for defining good and bad actions. Definitions of evil vary according to the culture, time, and context of the people who are defining it. An absolute definition is illusive. Many describe it as a supernatural force in our world. Some say that it is led by satan, the opposite of god. In Catholicism, this would refer to lucifer’s betrayal of god and descent into hell. Evil ascribes a certain kind of ignorance, selfishness, neglect, ignorance, and amorality.

Logical Beliefs about how evil exists

There are four different logical possibilities regarding evil, one of which you will fall into. Moral relativism is the belief that morality is shared amongst a group of people, but relative to individuals. That means that each group of people believes themselves to be ethically or morally superior to the others; most philosophers question the idea of an objective morality. It holds that morality is flexible to the cultures that employ it. Most critics of this view claim that this creates a logical conundrum, whereby judgements of morality cannot be applied.

The second possible belief is moral absolutism, where you believe that particular actions are inherently right or wrong and that certain restrictions on behavior shouldn’t be violated. Immanuel Kant’s views on duty and rights can be placed into this category. For instance, if you believe that violence should never be used even in self-defense, than you are morally absolutist about violence being wrong.

Moral universalism, or moral objectivism is the meta-ethical position that some systems of ethics apply themselves universally to a like group of individuals. For instance, all humans should not steal. This is directly opposed to moral relativism or nihilism because it creates a common standard by which all beings should act. This is an Abrahamic belief, meaning it is shared amongst the biggest religions in the world: Christianity, Islam, and also Judaism. This is the view that the United Nations adopted in 1948 after WWII, in Paris.

Amorality is the disregard for morality. This is different from immoral, which refers to the subject views of the agent/doer. Any being that is not able to act with judgement is categorically amoral. Friedrich Nietzsche rejected morality by saying that he had to for non-moral reasons. Moral Nihilism is an offshoot of this, whereby someone would consider killing someone as neither moral or immoral, which is pretty much the direct opposite of moral objectivism.

Now, you understand probably where you fall, but it is important to remember that animals, most particularly domesticated animals with exposure to human values and behaviors can develop a sense of morality as well; just think about your dog or cat. You can also be certain that this exists within animal communities for the sake of well-being for the entire community, but evolving as a sort of natural phenomenon (think of a flock of bird, or school of fish that work together by instinct).

Morality as an Evolution for Social Species

So let’s explore how morality has evolved to become what it is today, certainly led by the virtuous altruism and nihilistic amoral exemplars from the human race.

Carl Jung talked a lot about evil as a shadow-side inherent in each human, but believed to be a separate force from themselves by each individual. People project their own shadows onto others; their insecurities, fears, stresses, etc. He believed the story of Jesus to be an account of God facing his own shadow side.

Morality is certainly an evolutionary lens of humanity; we invented its examination over the course of our evolution. Morality is system of ideas about right and wrong, originating with mythology and evolving most drastically with religion. Most scientists argue that human moral behaviors can be traced through animal behaviors and instincts. Many scientists argue that there is an intrinsic science behind morality, though social scientists general consider morality to be a construct.

Evidence suggests that all life on Earth has a single common ancestor, a small single-celled organism that lived 3.8-3.5 billion years ago. But as we learn more and more about horizontal gene transference, which is the primary mechanism of gene transfer within micro-organisms, we are starting to understand that this single common ancestry might have evolved differently than we currently hypothesize.

This has led to mammals and social societies within animal species with specific hierarchies where each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behavior and consequences for actions. Higher functioning primates like our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos often reciprocate social behaviors and remembers favors, favorites, preferences, empathy, attachment, bonding, and altruism. Vampire bats reciprocate by sharing blood regurgitation with their bat friends, or those in dire need of feeding. Certain monkeys and dogs refuse to act unless rewarded properly and fairly for their actions.

Chimpanzees lives in groups of about 50, forming complex societies with distinct and unique hierarchies. Paleolithic hominids (2.6 millions years ago to 10,000 years ago) lived in groups of a few hundred individuals. Malcolm Gladwell mentions that humans have a limit of about 50 close friends and 300 in their extended circle, which is of course aided by advancements in technology. As community size increased, morality evolved as a means of control, cohesion, and solidarity. As the number of individuals within communities increased, so did the complexity of these hierarchies and moral systems until things like religions, cults, and more complex societal functions began to emerge.

How are Human Morals Different?

Humans societies have two major differences that separate our societies from primate and higher functioning animal societies. We enforce our moral codes more strictly with punishments, rewards, and reputation building. Humans also have a degree of abstract reasoning and objective judgement that is not present in the animal kingdom.

Morality has evolved so far that it has created a sense of human altruism that is even greater than the urge to pass on genes in many instances. This theory of collective social mind that humans can infer or transfer to each other with high levels of intelligence is an evolution that is displayed in primates, but never as heavily or significantly as in humans. Neither is the altruism that humans display towards the collective.

Psychologists believe that religion may have evolved from morality and used supernatural principles and entities to keep the group cohesive and allow the collective to adapt to the ever evolving needs of the collective with enhanced chances for cohesive survival.

There are two primary expressions and emotions involved with morality: the first is disgust; the second is shame. Both of these contribute to a social punishment system that is very active in the world around us today, especially on the internet.

Religion, Morality, and Evil

Finally, here is a list for each religion, categorizing how it’s doctrine thinks about evil:

  • Hinduism – Dharma divides right from wrong with strict systems of morality based on actions.
  • Christianity – any thought or action against the will of God is immoral.
  • Judasim – evil comes into existence through the actions; humans are responsible for choices.
  • Islam – there is no concept of absolute evil. Evil is lack of good, or disrespect of Allah.
  • Buddism – Desire is the root of all evil, but more focused on suffering and ignorance.
  • Sikkhism – evil evolves depending on one’s location along the path to liberation.

Conclusion

Remember that I am doing my best to be impartial here; if you feel like something is missing please add a comment! Evil is certainly something that has evolved with humanity and continues to evolve today, though I did my best to steer clear of any news on the subject.

This wraps up my discussion on the idea of evil, morality, and the evolution of what is right and wrong. I’m hoping to write my next article about Aristotle his concept of “the good”, if you have anything you want me to mention or discuss, let me know!

References:

  1. Evolution of Morality
  2. Last Universal Ancestor
  3. BBC
  4. Morality in Islam

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Islam – The Fastest Growing Religion in the World

ISLAM:

The Religion of Muslims and Mohammed

Islam is a monotheistic religion that believes in the prophecy of Abraham through the Qur’an,which is considered to be the verbatim word of god (Allah), and Mohammed’s (600CE) example . Mohammed is considered to be the last prophet of god. Any adherent to the religion is called Muslim.

Practitioners believe god is all-powerful, incomparable, and that the purpose of their existence is to worship god. Muslim adherents believe their faith is a complete and universal truth passed down from Abraham, Noah, Adam Moses, and Jesus. They consider the Qur’an to be the final revelation of god and believe strongly in 5 pillars or concepts at the foundation of Islam.

Islam_Mosque

The Five Pillars:

  1. Faith – the creed of Islam recited under oath
  2. Prayer – also known as salat, these are rituals prayers during the day
  3. Zakat – alms giving and supporting the poor
  4. Fasting – performed usually during Ramadhan
  5. Pilgrimage to the mecca to follow in Abraham’s footstep ritualistically

There are two primary sects of the religion: Sunni(75-90%) and Shia(10-20%). 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, 25% in South Asia, 20% in the Middle East, and 15% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its followers comprise 23% of the world’s population.

Islam in the Modern World

Islam is one of the most submissive religions in the world. They recite oaths of submission to god’s will and believe the purpose of their existence is to worship god, which puts them in a state of complete surrender. This surrender leads to them feeling safe and at peace with their existence under god. They consider the Qur’an to be the true and unaltered word of god. They believe their holy books are the truth.68% and 80% of Shias lived in four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. Islam also has many laws that affect nearly every aspect of life for adherents. Islam has many very strict beliefs which has led to misinterpretation and misunderstanding over the past millennia, especially within the religion of Islam. One of these misunderstood concepts is the concept of Jihad.

Most Muslims are NOT Violent!

It is important to understand that even though people in America and the Western world think that Islam might be a violent religion, it is the exact opposite. 6.5% of the Muslims in the world felt that the attacks of 9/11 were justified and represents about 65 million Muslims; still a very large population, but a small percentage of the 1.65 billion muslims.

There are a few beliefs in Islam that when combined, create beliefs that create room for justify truly extremist acts such as 9/11, because of various verses in the Qur’an and different influential leaders promoting extremist action. There is absolutely an in-group that is created within the believers of Islam where the believers feel that they are special and correct in their beliefs, especially opposed to Christians, Jews, and other western religions.

The beliefs of Jihad, Predestination, and many of the literal interpretations of the Qur’an have led to an explosive anti-hero/terrorist movement in many of the sects that are highly devotional and in poorer countries with less education and rights. This has led to holy wars in the 1980s in Northern Africa and the Middle East and culminates in Osama Bin Laden’s declaration jihad against the United States and subsequent attacks on New York on September 11th. Bin Laden was a part of al-Quaeda whose goal was Islamic world domination, but this is an extremist group. The vast majority is Muslims are not members of al-Quaeda or ISIS and even the members of those groups are most likely deluded and heavily traumatized.

ISIS: An Evolution from Al-Quaeda

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a salafi jihadist militant and extremist group that has proclaimed itself the caliph recently, on June 29th 2014, which means religious, military, and political power of muslims worldwide. Of course, the vast majority of muslims want nothing to do with this, but the insurgence has spread recently into northern Africa and has gained momentum. The group has significant momentum since it is formed from the remaining members of al-Qaeda, but at this point the two have separated completely in ideologies and ISIS has become a unique entity in and of itself. The Syrian Civil war was an excuse for extremists to militarize in conjunction with Iraqi militants and jihadists fleeing the presence of the United States military.

Now the two forces of al-Qaeda and ISIS are competing for militant recruitment in places like Yemen and Syria. There is also a presence in the Philippines, Libya, Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Afganistan, and of course in Iraq.

The goal of the group is to found the Sunni Islamic State under the caliph who is believed to be the successor to Muhammed. This Salafi group promotes religious violence and regards all others as infidels or apostates. This is a waves of religious fundamentalism that enforces rituals with capital punishment and execution. The religion is their foundation for growing power of the religious state.

This is one of the most interesting sects of the religion, but represents a minority; though they are proficient at using social media to display their horrific actions. They are regarded by the western world as extremist terrorists and rightfully so. Even the majority of their own religion deem them to be deluded extremists.

Positive Aspects of the Islamic State

The vast majority of the adherents of Islam do not fit the profile I described above. In fact, the majority of the Muslims that I have met have been extremely kind and well-wishing, welcoming and neighborly. I even met a very peaceful guy from Yemen while I was in India whose family was involved in the Civil War. It is very sad for everyone to see this kind of violence and trauma and there is not much logic that can explain why it occurs.

Ritual Prayers

Salah or Salat must be performed five times a day with no exemptions. Salat is intended to focus the mind upon god and is seen as a personal communication with him of gratitude and worship. Lines of the Qur’an are recited in Arabaic. Mosques are places that are available for prayer, or as places or study, or learning.

Discipline

Both fasting, alms giving to the poor, and pilgrimages are required in the religion, yielding trials of great difficulty for adherents.

Home Life

The religion is primarily focused on life at home, though many religious texts sanctify the beating of women. There is special etiquette and diet including no meat, carrion, alcohol, or blood. Marriage in Islam is a civil acceptance where the groom is required to pay for the bride as a part of their contract.

Criticisms of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since its inception, for obvious reasons as the religion is a reformation from Judaism and Christianity. Early criticism came from Christians as radical heresy and later appeared more significantly from Judaism.

The majority of the criticisms are the morality of the life of Mohammed, issues relating the authenticity of the Qur’an and other questions of human rights, especially in regards to women. The questions of the founder’s authenticity and the authenticity of holy works are the criticisms of every major religion including christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Conclusion

Islam obviously has its own ups and downs as a religion, but its impact upon the civil rights of humans has to be mitigated if the religion will survive in the western world. However, much of the extremist propaganda is currently growing in northern Africa and the Middle East, of particulate note to the United States and Europe. This will be a religion whose ideals are dynamic and that changes drastically to fit the changing cultures of its proprietors.

 

I would love to hear about any experiences that you have had with the Islamic adherents that you have met or any other surprises you have gotten from adherents of the religion. Check back in a week to pagayogi.com for my next article on the ideals of Islam and how terrorism and heroism have intersected to form an ideology that is changing the world.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Islam Origins
  3. An Overview of Islam
  4. The Belief System of Islam
  5. Problems in Modern Islam
  6. The Biggest Problem in Islam
  7. Heavy Review of Islam
  8. 25 Deadly Terrorist Attacks
  9. FBI on Terrorism
  10. Islam and Violence

 

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Confucius – the Chinese Philosopher and Founder of Confucianism

“Study the past if you would define the future” – Confucius

Confucius and Confucianism

Confucius or ‘Kong Qui’ is a celebrated Chinese philosopher that lived in 500 BCE. His thoughts, philosophies and teachings were further developed at the end of his life into the religion of Confucianism which received official sanction shortly after his death. Much of the work commonly attributed to him is considered by scholars to actually be groups of people compiling teachings that he influenced, but only many years after Confucius’ death (you’ll notice this parallels virtually every other older religion). This implies that all of the Confucius quotes you’ve read are probably big groups of people compiling oral traditions that have been passed down for some time rather than original sayings from the sage.

Some scholars consider Confucius to be Socrates equivalent in the East, but this seems relatively unfounded due to the vast array of influences of Eastern spirituality at the time of Confucius. It is sure that Confucius had a profound effect upon the way people though about the home, of ideal government, family, proper social interactions, ancestor worship and respect for elders, and even helped to propagate an early version of the golden rule, but Socrates was unique to the West. Nonetheless, Confucius had a profound impact upon Asia, especially China, and his philosophical influences are still evidenced around the world.

The Life of Confucius

Confucius had a very interesting and elaborate life story, especially map of lu - Confucius Home Statefor someone who was supposedly born on September 28, 551 BCE in the Lu province near Qufu (see the picture on the right). Confucius’ father was named Hong He and was an officer in the military until he died when Confucius was three. He was raised by his mother in poverty; she died before she turned forty. He was educated at a common school about the 6 arts of rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. At 19 Confucius married and had a son one year later, and later two daughters, one of whom died during childhood. He was a member of the Shi class between the rich and the common and had a great deal of respect for tradition. Confucius’ mother died when he was 23 and he spent three years in morning, as tradition dictated.

Confucius had a successful political career for a time. This career ended in a political entanglement that forced him into exile. Confucius left with the political enemy and legitimate ruler of the state that was ousted by rebels. Confucius eventually left his ruling duke to travel and further expound his political beliefs in the courts in central and northeast China.

The old man returned home from his travels after many years of expounding his political beliefs but never seeing them taken seriously. After he returned, Confucius divulged his wisdom to disciples and would sometimes act as advisor for government officials occasionally advising on war and crime. He would eventually die at a reported age of 72. Confucius left behind a legacy that would be remembered throughout China and Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and would eventually spread to the west with the help of Jesuit priests.

Confucian Philosophy

The philosophy of Confucius is considered by many to be a religion. It is secular so I agree, but it is also a very powerful philosophy. Confucianism has its roots in ancient Chinese tradition and emphasizes the family. During his life, the sage discussed spirituality, the nature of god, and the afterlife. He emphasizes a mean between giving too much and too little when being generous, a reciprocity of actions where one acts as they would be acted upon, and traditional family values.

Confucius also believed in a strong sense of self, where one would cultivate ethics, morals, virtues, and most importantly knowledge. He believed in ruling by example with truth and honesty; if people were led this way, he argued, they would naturally incline themselves towards their superiors. In essence, Confucius’ philosophy was idealistic in a way that was similar to Plato, defining heavenly forms and bodies and using things like astrology to help guide his decisions.

Confucius’ most revolutionary philosophy is his lack of belief in the concept of Democracy because he didn’t believe in the ability of the masses of humanity to govern itself. He believed that people were not created equal therefore did not all have the right to govern themselves. Not everyone had a right of self-government.

The Legacy of Confucius

What did the ancient Chinese sage leave behind? Confucius was mourned shortly after his death in the town of Qufu and it became a place of pilgrimage. His birthday became a day of celebration of several hundred years until more recently China Confucius_Monumentdecided it represented its feudal state and banned the ceremony. In the 1990’s it re-allowed the ceremony and celebration. It is now considered to be a veneration of ancient Chinese tradition and culture.

Confucius’ descendants are repeatedly identified and honored by imperial governments. They lived a long and prosperous line that has been verified across several families today with a common Y chromosome. In China there remains a huge interest in the Confucian family tree. He is also often referenced in temples with Lao Tzu and Buddha.

References:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Bio
  3. Quotes Attributed to Confucius
  4. Stanford

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Tao, symbol of Taoism

Taoism Can Lead Humanity into the Future

The TaoThe Chinese Symbol for Taoism

Taoism, or the practice of recognizing the Tao also sometimes called the Dao, is an ancient Chinese religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the essence of nature or the Tao. The Tao is usually described as a way of life that is natural, primordial, or in alignment with ease, health, challenge, and comfort as a method of life. It embraces all aspects of life and invites its practitioners to enjoy the experiences fully. The Tao is at its essence paradoxical because of its dual nature, even describing it is futile because the concept is beyond words. It is an experience rather than a description; indeed the entire collection of work on the Tao is paradoxical. Taoism paved the way for Zen Buddhism and various other forms of Eastern spirituality to develop and thrive in the ancient Orient.

The Way of the Tao

The Tao is nameless, eternal, unchanging, and cannot be understood except through experience of the Tao. Words are not adequate to describe the concept by nature as the concept is itself nature. The Tao is a path. It is life. It is fundamental to the universe and all of humanity. The tradition comes from ancient China where it fused with Buddhism over time and countered the more traditional and strict Confucianism. Buddhism and Neo-Taosim are known to be closely related by most religions. What the Tao really means is the force behind all things, a universal god, or the unmoved mover of the universe.

 

The Teachers of Taoism

There are two primary teachers of Taoism, though both are acknowledged to be compilations of multiple authors over time. Lao Tse is the first and he is generally regarded as the founder, though he was a contemporary to another very well-known Taoist founder who helped to propagate the religion. The second teacher was Zhuangzi who wrote a text about the carefree nature of a Taoist teacher, named after himself. Both had a profound effect upon the Taoist tradition, but Zhuangzi was more instrumental in the actual applications of the philosophies outlined by Lao Tse.

Lao Tse or Laozi wrote a legendary book called the Dao Te Ching and is considered the philosophical founder of Taoism. Throughout history, his work has been embraced by anti-authoritarian movements. Recently, historians have established that the Tao Te Ching was actually written by many hands, but Alan Watts, a famous Zen Buddhist, cautioned against this thinking stating that skepticism was easier than reviewing a lack of data and evidence. Different Stories about Lao Tse exist in different cultures with their own flavor of the philosophical traditions of Taoism.

The Harmonic Philosophy of Tao

The Tao is the life-force that flows within all of the universe and all of matter. It is conscious, though incomprehensible to the human mind. It is therefore, not our responsibility, or even possible, to grasp the nature of the Tao. We can simply glimpse it. It is like looking through the window of a house that you can never enter.

Taoism believe strongly in the union and magnetism of opposites; The Yin Yang symbolizes this in light and dark opposition meeting in a common center. This is a metaphor for all of Taoism, showing that opposites are really the same and showing a path of living through balance of these opposing forces. For instance, rest and activity, work and family, sleep and waking, etc.

Taoism believes strongly in acting according to one’s nature and using guiding moral principles to achieve and maintain a peaceful and harmonious mind. This means living in harmony with the environment and the natural systems in place around you. Most Taoist teachers will also have a tinge of environmentalists simply because they are so in tune with their own environment.

Taoism and the Future of Humanity

 

At the beginning of the article, I made a bold claim that Taoism can and SHOULD lead humanity into the future. We care too much about how we look, if we are doing things right, about the state of the world we live in. We need to learn to let go and enjoy the experience in front of us with all of the difficulties and opportunities to grow that it brings. Taoist principles will allow humans to move back to a more natural state, rather than suburban living in concrete jungles and living in complete isolation from our natural environment. Symbiotic living is the only kind of living that exists in this world.

Taoist Rituals

Taoist rituals are meant to bring peace and harmony to the participant and the universe. They emphasize the nature of opposites and the union of all things. Many focus on purification. Priests often accept offerings on behalf of deities to balance the forces in the entire town or village. Many rituals also involve the priests partaking in meditation, chanting, playing instruments, and dancing. They also participate in fortune-telling and organization of sacred buildings and spaces according to the astrological significance and using Feng shui mathematical models to create harmony in their architecture and landscaping. All rituals emphasize order and balance.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on Taoism and modern implications for all of us humans! Please send any questions or additions in the comments, we can all learn from each other.

References

  1. Stanford Encyclopedia
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism
  3. http://personaltao.com/teachings/taoism/taoism-101/
  4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/taoism/
  5. http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Philosophy/Taichi/taoism.html

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