Monday, May 22, 2017

Eliade, Tillich, Durkeim & Otto: Short Video Biographies

Who were some of the most important religious scholars?

Who developed the "concept of the Numinous?"

How did Eliade define the sacred and profane?

Who was a 20th century German Protestant scholar and wrote widely about theology?

See these short (most are less than two minutes) video clips about Rudolf Otto, Micera Eliade, Emile Durkheim, and Paul Tillich.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Making a Mandala: Five Monks, Five Days

Ever wonder how Buddhist monks make those elegant and intricate mandalas?  

Several years ago, a group of monks agreed to construct a mandala for the Arthur Ross Gallery at Asia Society Museum in New York. 

You can watch as the monks trace the outline of a cosmic chart. Next, according to the Asia Society , the monks begin a "drawing process,"which utilizes metal funnels known as chak-pur. Colored sand is scooped into these funnels and, using scrapers, monks add the sand to the design by means of a back-and-forth scraping motion over the ridges of the funnels." It's a pretty cool process. Ever wonder how Buddhist monks make those elegant and intricate mandalas?

 It's a pretty cool process.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Two Girls Debunk Religious Stereotypes

Here a young Muslim and a young Jew challenge the stereotypes that, as Upworthy (where I found the video) says, " have worked so hard to keep them apart."

Upworthy is right when they call this "an absolutely stunning performance." Thanks to Al Beeson for tweeting the link.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Religion for Breakfast: Awesome You Tube Channel

Studying Religion?

Religion Scholar Andrew Mark Henry, a PHD candidate at Boston University, reviews different aspects of early Christianity and religion in a terrific You Tube series called "Religion for Breakfast." 

In the clip below, Henry outlines Emperor Constantine's  role in the Council of Nicea. In another clip, he outlines Sigmund Freud's significant  influence on the study of religion.

Henry also tackles current issues in religion. In March, he reviewed Reza Aslan's CNN Believer series and even wrote an essay about it in the Religious News Service. Like many scholars, Henry criticized the series because it tended to exoticize" religion rather than create empathy.

Most of the videos are under 20 minutes and many run under ten which make them ideal for the classroom or as assignments for students to view at home.

I love the one about Freud and will definitely use it next year when we review important religious scholars at the beginning of the year.

Another one that I'll certainly use is about ritual. Henry tries to capture the purpose of rituals in this video and whether our practice or ritual necessarily means assent to its mythological meaning.

Friday, May 12, 2017

African Pantheons & Orishas: Crash Course

Wow! Crash Course addresses primal religion in Africa--the Yoruba and their Pantheon of Orishas.

The host, not John Green, reviews the twelve most popular orishas and outlines their powers.

This is a terrific addition to our study  of primal religions in the fall.  Thanks to Chris Murray for tweeting the link.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

William Dalyrmple & India's Sacred Culture

Studying Hinduism?  Want to understand the sacred culture of India?

You might consider some of the excellent travel articles about India by William Dalyrmple, the prolific travel writer and historian.

Dalrymple's books about India are a terrific resource. I especially like his book, Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India. His chapter in that book about a Jain nun provides a great introduction to Jainism in an engaging way. Dalrymple's travel articles about India for British newspapers like the Guardian and the Telegraph provide wonderful glimpses into different aspects of India's sacred culture.
  • In Journey to the Center of the World, Dalrymple considers the significance of the Ganges River.  Describing the Ganges, one of his sources notes:  "When a Westerner looks at the Ganges he sees only a river. But we Hindus, we see a goddess: something divine that comes down from heaven and brings life to our India."
  • In Treasure Among Tree Trunks,  Dalrymple examines the life of  the 18th-century painter Nainsukh.  He notes that "many of his works are now in the world’s leading museums, but murals influenced by his innovations can still be found on temple walls all over the Himalayan foothills."
  • In Pallava dynasty temples of Tamil Nadu, Dalrymple considers the 8th century Pallava kings who are known "for their brilliance as poets and patrons of the arts as they were for their success on the battlefield.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Jainism: Two Great Resources


Here's a terrific short introduction to Jainism from the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Jainism is an Indic religion and its founder, Nataputta Mahavira, was a contemporary of the Buddha. Jains believe in a soul, but no God. They also believe in non-violence or ahimsa and many Jains starve themselves when near death, a process called Sallekhana.

One of the best introductions to Jainism comes from the travel writer, William Dalrymple. He highlights the life  of a young Jain in his book, Nine Lives, in a chapter called, "A Nun's Tale."  You can read an excerpt of that chapter here at the New York Times. I usually assign it to my students when we cover Jainism.

Dalrymple follows Prasannamati Mataji in her monastery in the ancient pilgrimage town of Sravanabelagola in India.  He reviews the early history of Jainism and learns that Mataji gave away all her possessions and wealth and left her family to become a nun. Like Buddhist monks, Jains believe that attachments bring suffering.

We learn about Sallekhana when Matajii's friend gets ill with cancer. She begins to starve herself to death. Matajii insists that it is not suicide.  She tells Dalrymple,
“No, no: sallekhana is not suicide...We believe that death is not the end, and that life and death are complementary. So when you embrace sallekhana you are embracing a whole new life — it’s no more than going through from one room to another.” 
Sellekhana is not the only big difference between Jainism and Hinduism and Buddhism.  For example,  the Jain's understand karma differently.  Buddhists and Hindus see it as the fruit of their actions but Jains see it as "a fine material substance that physically attaches itself to the soul."

Eliade, Tillich, Durkeim & Otto: Short Video Biographies

Who were some of the most important religious scholars? Who developed the "concept of the Numinous?" How did Eliade define the...