Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: spirituality
Monday, 05 July 2010 18:09

Tea break with Taipei's only Rabbi

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1918, Rabbi Dr E. F. Einhorn has witnessed huge global change throughout his 91 years.  He moved to Taipei in early 1975 where he has since served as Rabbi.

Belying his age, Rabbi Einhorn is the Chairman of Republicans Abroad Taiwan; Honorary Representative Asia and Pacific Region for the Polish Chamber of Commerce; and Honorary Secretary of State for Montana, USA, among several other roles.

Here Rabbi Einhorn discusses his role as Taipei's Rabbi and shares some insights on how he remains motivated after so many years of dedicated activity.


Wednesday, 09 January 2013 15:28

The Width and Depth of the Ocean within Me: In Memory of Yves Raguin

In 2012, we celebrated the centenary of the birth of Father Yves Raguin, founder of the Taipei Ricci Institute. Born in November 1912, Father Raguin died in December 1998 at Tien Educational Center in Taipei. After having studied theology in Paris and Sinology at Harvard, Yves Raguin lived in China, Vietnam, The Philippines and, for most of his career, Taiwan. He was a prolific author, mainly but not solely on comparative spirituality, and also a lexicographer who for many years directed the Ricci Dictionary project – the largest Chinese –foreign language dictionary in the world – and a beloved spiritual director.


The connection between his centenary anniversary and Pacific studies may seem an odd one, but there are several reasons for associating the Pacific with Fr Raguin's life and spirituality. First, there is the creation of the Taipei Ricci Institute in 1964-1966: Fr Raguin made the Institute a place of encounter, research and creativity till he left its direction in 1996 – and it is because of fidelity to his inspiration that the Institute later on shifted its focus towards Pacific studies. Second, Fr Raguin himself was no stranger to the Pacific world. Not only did his long stays in Vietnam and Taiwan make him a man of the Asia Pacific, but he also directed spiritual retreats and gave courses in The Philippines, Canada or Papua New Guinea among other places.


The main connection between the celebration of his birth and Pacific studies is that Yves Raguin focused all of his life on the quest for resonance and encounters between the different spiritual experiences that humankind has engaged in – and the spiritual style he slowly developed has oceanic undertones; pondering over his experiences may help us integrate the melodies and resonances we are gathering these days into the polyphony of world spirituality. I still remember Yves Raguin telling me one day, shortly before his death, how much he had always desired to see Chinese spiritual resources "fully integrated into humankind's spiritual computer." Yves Raguin used a typewriter all his life and never browsed the Internet. He had only a vague understanding of what a computer was like, but knew well enough the point relevant for his metaphor: a computer was a machine processing the data entered into it as an integrated whole, in which connections could be drawn in all directions.


Yves Raguin always placed the virtue of attentiveness at the core of any spiritual adventure. In "Contemplation East and West" he writes:


Contemplation is not a means of attention towards things beyond this world but rather an attention to things as they are. All things possess within themselves a mystery, and the more knowledge we have of these things, the more we realize the depth of the mystery within them. (...) If I practice what is called in Confucianism, investigation of things ge wu , I will be facing a mystery of things and I will be taken in by a kind of contemplation. It is the concrete awareness of the essential nature of things which puts me in silence before the mystery of this same nature. It is this essential nature of reality that science cannot grasp. This deep inner attitude described by the two terms serenity and a quiet being together with all things, has always been what wise women and men have been searching for in all parts of the world."

Elsewhere he notes:

Prayer is nothing but a simple awareness that in the beginning can be very painful. (The soul) feels cutoff from her normal activity and so, from herself. This barely perceptible presence forces the soul into deep solitude. She has no felt support outside this presence that draws her attention.

It seems to me that the primal role given to the "attention to the mystery of things' in spiritual development is what anchors Yves Raguin's spirituality within a multifaceted tradition open to what the writer Romain Rolland, in his correspondence with Sigmund Freud, called the "Oceanic feeling." Through this expression he was trying to encapsulate a feeling of infinity that palpitates beyond all structured religious belief. Nowadays, Rolland's "Oceanic feeling" has become no more than a footnote in the history of religious psychology. Freud was not very appreciative: "How foreign to me are the worlds in which you move! Mystique is as closed to me as music" he wrote to Rolland – who replied," I can hardly believe that mysticism and music are foreign to you. I rather think that you are afraid of them, as you wish to keep the instrument of critical reason unblemished."

Going one step beyond Rolland, one may say that, for the one who through attentiveness enters into the mystery of things as they are, the presence of the ultimate mystery in the soul is like the triumphant sound of the waves - and this "like" means two things at once: first, it speaks of the universal character of spiritual experience; and secondly, it recognizes the fact that no comparison can account for the way this mystery makes itself present within the depths of man. What the Oceanic feeling helps us understand is that joy arises in our soul always as something nascent. The joy that comes from the light of the day within the darkness of our depths is sung and evoked by the movement of an ocean everlasting and yet nascent, by the rhythm of the waves engraving and erasing their writings on the sand with a finger trembling and yet assured. Eventually, the Oceanic feeling makes us glimpse at the mystery of the birth of the divine within the soul: a gift eternally offered – and always new.

As an example of Yves coming into contact with this "oceanic experience", let us look at this passage from his spiritual diary in February 1979:

My internal being was enlightened, and an intimate touch of softness was entering into me. It was like a tenderness that was invading and attracting me, but without uprooting me from my humaneness. On the contrary, it was like the constant realization within me of a new incarnation. (...) Departing from Paris on January 5, I have given retreats in Thailand and in Papua New Guinea. I am now in the Philippines and in a few weeks I will be again in Taiwan. I can only say 'thanks" for all the love shown to me by the Lord during this trip around the world started in June. Everything has become very simple. This love of the Lord asks simply from me to be myself so as to let him be himself within me.

The deceiving simplicity of this paragraph should not hide the depth of meaning it opens: a given spiritual tradition – here, the western mystical tradition, with undertones coming from St Bernard, Meister Eckardt and St Ignatius - becomes somehow "globalized' by an operation of "rarefaction" or "distillation" that connects it not only to so-called Eastern spiritualities but to spiritual experiences as lived in many tongues, many customs and many settings. The experience here related is about the realization of what one is really called to be, in one's given tradition and calling, so as to let one's particularity become the creative humus in which other people will learn to similarly recognize what they are themselves called to be. Universality is not an "essence", but rather a process, awakened by the creative fidelity to what I come from and to what I am called to be. The ocean on which Yves Raguin tirelessly traveled was certainly that of the infinity of god – emptiness and plenitude – dwelling within our limited self; it was at the same time the ocean of the astounding variety of our human spiritual experiences, scattered like islands among the Sea of Unknowing. In his view, these two immensities were revealed and illuminated by one another. His writings and his example still encourage us to explore both the width and the depth of the Ocean that gave us birth and carries us beyond even our dreams.

Excerpt of a speech pronounced during the 2012 International Austronesian Conference in Taipei, November 27th


Tuesday, 13 November 2012 16:07

The Olive

There are many ways to tell a story. The concept for this one starts from the shelves of a supermarket, from a can of stuffed olives. This snack that makes a drink with friends more enjoyable is associated in the mind of the story teller with the country of our hero.

How trivial a beginning for a story that will bring on stage Saint Ignatius of Loyola!

Some time ago I asked a friend to design a poster for Saint Ignatius Day. He had the very good idea to draw the outline of a medieval knight and inside Jesus welcoming Ignatius still wearing his helmet as to show that his frame of mind was still the one of a knight. Leaving the vanities of the world, at the junction of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, taking seriously the call of the Lord, Ignatius is still a knight. “The Olive” tells us the story of a knight with big dreams, not only a dreamer but a fighter that against all odds decided to battle the French when the outcome of the fight was a certain defeat for the Spaniards. The bitter defeat left deep scars in our hero and that was the beginning of another story. All the vanities of our medieval knight were left behind on his sick bed. The closed world of the Middle Ages then vanished and Ignatius was thrown into spiritual warfare. In this other world, interior and spiritual, in this new era of culture with all the discoveries and openings of the Renaissance, Ignatius with the same singleness found his way. He was now led by God on a pilgrimage that brought him to the foundation of the Jesuit order. And the story is still going on. Let “The Olive” tell us what happened.

An animation written, produced and narrated by Jason Kapell of the Fairfield University Media Center.


Wednesday, 27 June 2012 13:36

The quiet strength of Ananda Marga

Dada Kaladharananda demonstrated yoga to us.

Ananda Marga is a global, spiritual and social organization which engages in Yoga and Tantra(密宗) founded in 1955 by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti (Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar). The mission of Ananda Marga is self-realization (individual emancipation) and service to humanity (collective welfare). Through its meditation centers and service projects around the world, Ananda Marga offers instruction in meditation, yoga and other self-development practices on a non-commercial basis, and responds to social emergencies (such as natural disaster relief) and long-term social needs. Dada Kaladharananda, who is in charge of the Ananda Marga Meditation Assoctiation in Taipei yoga house, told us they participate in lots of social activities in Taiwan, such as visiting more than 12 care centers for the elderly, schools for the mentally challenged, junior and senior high schools, Tucheng Juvenile detention home and also  Taipei Prison.

In Taiwan, Ananda Marga claims that 100.000 people have participated in their activities, although the  number of returning active members is around 1,000.


Friday, 22 June 2012 15:17

Taiwanese spirituality in photography

Photographing people's spirituality is not an easy task - first you need to gain trust of the people you want to photograph and often even that will not be enough, as spiritual practices are for many something too personal, or sometimes sacred, to be shown. I attempted nevertheless and made a collection that shows diversity of Taiwanese spiritual and religious life, and although it is not even close to fully show the abundance of spirituality on the island, it does provide a glimpse of it. I omitted some of the biggest religious groups in Taiwan in order to show spirituality in Taiwan in a new light. Further, I treat this collection as a beginning of a bigger and long lasting project of photographing religious and spiritual life in Taiwan.

02

Dada Kaladharananda showing a yoga posture in Ananda Marga center in Taipei

 

03
Professor Shi Mingzong – coach of Shida basketball team talks to his players
during a yoga session in Ananda Marga center in Taipei. His son also participates in exercises

  

04
Shida basketball team doing yoga exercises

 

05
Shida basketball team doing yoga exercises

 

06
Muslims during prayer time in Grand Mosque in Taipei

 

07
Fridays are the only days when muslims can come to the Grand Mosque
to buy halal meat imported from Australia and New Zeland

 

08
The canteen in Grand Mosque also offers halal zongzi

 

09
Relaxing in the mosque after prayer

 

10
Pilgrims to Baishatun kneeling for hours to receive Mazu’s blessing

 

11
Early morning during Baishatun Mazu pilgrimage

 

12
Mourners watch how a coffin with their deceased relative is being cremated. With assistance of a buddhist monk

 

13
A collection of flower essence in a New Age bookstore next to NTU main gate

 

14
A todler with his grandmother on the grounds of the neat Mormon temple in Taipei

 

15
Postcards with pictures from the LDS temple sold in a shop near the temple in Taipei

 

16
Wednesday bible reading and experience sharing group
in the Catholic Sacred Heart Church in Taipei - lead by American nun and the parish priest

17
Bible in front of one of the members of the Wednesday group

 

18

Eclectic public cemetery in Taipei

 

19
Jay Caffin – a spiritual healer who now lives and practices in Kaohsiung

 

Photography and editing by Witold Chudy (Photo no.1: Graves of Italian missionaries to Yunnan)

Photo no. 13 (flower essence) by Cerise Phiv


Wednesday, 29 December 2010 14:32

China's paradoxical religious revival

Is China really experiencing a religious revival?

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Also available in streaming on Youtube


Monday, 21 June 2010 16:40

Spiritual experience and interreligious dialogue

Religions are not only made of rituals, creeds and cultural expressions. They provide different paths for one’s spiritual experience and growth. For sure, spiritual experience can happen and develop outside religions but religions provide written traditions, guides and beliefs that lead one along the way. Religions are not only spiritual experiences, and spiritual experiences are not only religious in nature. But there is a strong connection between the two.

Different religions provide different kinds of religious experiences. The way the Absolute is conceived, the cultural context where these religions grew or still the styles of prayers and liturgy proper to different religious traditions shape the spiritual experiences that a given religion allows. But this does not mean that one religion would allow for only one type of spiritual path, nor that there is no communication possible among these paths. Actually, spiritual experiences are also determined by the psychological characteristics of the pilgrim, or maybe, even more basically, by human nature itself. Said otherwise, spiritual experiences are anthropologically determined.

In fact, studying spiritual experiences in their variety makes us able to investigate both things at the same time: (a) the nature of Man as an animal capable of praying, meditating, and investigating what he cannot see or touch; (b) and also, maybe, the nature of the Absolute itself, since dialogue among different spiritual traditions might reveal common insights. For using a crude comparison, the nature of Man and the nature of the Absolute are the hardware on which can play the various “software” of the spiritual paths. Spiritual experience, when lived and reflected upon, has much to tell us about the ‘hardware” of human and divine nature.

Seen in this light, religious dialogue, when anchored into dialogue among spiritualities, is also a way to explore our common human condition. It is an investigation, a way of growing into one’s spiritual identity, and not only a way of building more harmony and peace among religions. When seeing interreligious dialogue as the cross-fertilization of various spiritual experiences, a few interesting insights might occur to us. For instance, spiritual traditions put a special stress on some basic virtues that are anchored into our everyday experience and that prove to be fundamental for starting the spiritual path: the most important of these qualities is to be deeply attentive to Life within us, to the Other and to the world. This is the way to develop “pure attention”, which, in many traditions, has often been defined as the essence of prayer. “Attention” goes along a growing awareness of the richness of the our world and of the inner mystery of the things and beings that surround us.

All spiritual traditions also develop a paradoxical language that mixes metaphor of “summit’ and “abyss”, of fire and water, of awe and deep confidence. They try to subvert our ordinary categories and experiences so as to open us to the novelty of the Absolute. They make us see the spiritual path as a pilgrimage that we are called to undertake.

A third characteristic of spiritual cross-encounter is that all spiritual traditions develop ways of transcending the limits of the Self, so as to abolish the distance between “subject” and “object.” They want us not to concentrate on ourselves but rather to open us to a transforming reality. Becoming more familiar with the object of our quest and being progressively and deeply transformed by it is one and the same operation. In this respect, spirituality is a form of experimental knowledge. It aims at experiencing and revealing the inner world within the external one by making us dare to be transformed by the reality we investigate. Spiritual writings can thus be seen as “maps”, as itineraries. Among them, mystical writings are of a special quality, as they are personal testimonies on life-long experiences that have led their authors to the very limit of their humaneness. Mystics can be seen as “explorers” on the boundaries between human and divine nature.

Finally, there is a post-modern twist in the way inter-spiritual encounters are lived today: many people do not live only an experience of inter-religious dialogue but also of intra-religous dialogue; they can internally refer to various traditions (for instance aboriginal religions and Christianity), due to the fluidity of cultural contexts. This can enrich their own spiritual experience and the one of all Humankind. Spiritual pilgrims do not live their experience for themselves alone but for the community of which they are part - and ultimately for the whole of Humankind searching for its nature and destiny.

Photo by B.V.


Monday, 01 June 2009 20:12

A Spiritual Dialogue with Art

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'OPA’ means in Portuguese ’Prayer Through the Arts’. Originally founded in 1976 by a Jesuit from Paraguay, Fr. Iraguay, it is based in the city of Salvador (Bahia).
Visit OPA website



Monday, 11 August 2008 22:38

Do I really have to pray for my enemies?

I feel sorry for God. In any war the believers on both sides flood his ears begging for victory. God either has to please the side who wins and disappoint the side that loses or come up with some way that they both can win. What would happen if instead of praying for their side and against the other side both sides began to pray for each other? Praying for your enemy doesn’t mean praying that he will win but that he will no longer be your enemy, that there will be some peaceful solution without bloodshed or injustice.

Even the terrorists who are plaguing the world are men who pray, but their prayer seems to be for the annihilation of their enemies. If we too pray for their annihilation, there is sure to be bloodshed. Far better to pray for a change of heart, so the aim will no longer be injury and death, but some settlement that will bring us together in peace and toleration.

That would be a good beginning. But there won’t be real peace until we can all sit, stand or kneel and pray together, even if each one prays in his or her own words and gestures. The problem is that often our Gods themselves are enemies or they are the same God but with different names envisioned and reverenced quite differently. If we don’t have tolerance for one another’s Gods, how can we ever have peace and tolerance with one another?

Here is a fable I wrote about what happened on one particular World Prayer Day.
The World Prayer Day

Once upon a time there was a big international event. Its slogan was “the world that prays together stays together.” It was called “World Prayer Day” and at a single signal heard around the world, every citizen of the world began to pray.

Some people as a sign of reverence removed their shoes or hats. Others put on robes or covered their heads. Some knelt. Others prostrated themselves. Some stood motionless. Others rocked back and forth. Some extended or raised their arms. Others folded their arms or beat their breasts. Some closed their eyes. Others opened them wide. Some were perfectly silent. Others cried aloud. Some sang. Others wept. Some made petitions. Others dared say nothing. Some prayed for everybody. Others prayed only for themselves or prayed only for others. Some prayed that their enemies would live in peace. Others prayed that their enemies would die in defeat.

Thus, this act of common prayer that was intended to signify unity, in a sense, mocked unity by revealing all the practices and beliefs that keep men apart.

And yet the very diversities occurring simultaneously side by side in a moment of cooperative effort were the most powerful sign that there is really only one mankind and one divinity, a single humanity of a thousand tongues and a thousand cultures worshipping a single god of a billion sides and a billion faces.

There was no end to the variety of opinions voiced about the Prayer Day.

“For one day at least,” proclaimed one commentator, “the world is not talking about wars or violence or poverty or epidemics or even sports or the weather. But what does it all mean?”

“See,” someone said with a tone of despair, “how hopeless it is to expect peace when we can’t even agree on a common name for God.”

“See,” said others with a tone of triumph, “what hope there is since for five minutes at least even the bitterest of enemies were able to put down their arms to join their foes in a common effort.”

“God wins,” screamed one headline. “The event shows that nearly everyone believes in some sort of super-human, supernatural power that we revere as divine.”

“God loses,” claimed another. “What is left to believe? How can one God be so many things to so many people? There seem to be as many gods as there are individuals on earth. If every person is god, there is no god.”

“How wonderful,” declared others. “God is so infinite and omnipotent, no one can see the whole of him or her. Everyone sees only what is visible from his or her perspective.”

“There is no universal God who created mankind,” some complained. “Today’s exercise only showed that is we who create God to justify our existence or give us hope. The event shows that god is no more than a self-portrait of what we imagine we would look like if we had the qualities we are attributing to him or her. We either give God glorified quantities of the characteristics we most esteem in ourselves or we imagine what it would be like to enjoy the attributes we wish we had but know we don’t.”

“What nonsense,” someone else retorted, “If I had created myself, I would surely have done a better job.”

“You have it all wrong,” came the response, “If it was God who created you, He would certainly have done a better job.”

“No,” someone said in defense, “that just means that in God’s eyes, you are better than you think you are. If God created you the way you are, then things must not be as bad as they seem and there is a bright future for you after all, if you try your best to live as you believe He wants you to live.”

“It all just goes to show that we cannot understand God,” someone added. “This is a blessing, because if we could thoroughly understand God with our limited brain power, then God would be a pretty far from perfect creature.”

“Poor God,” some commiserated. “Today He had to listen to billions of people making billions of petitions, so many of which are impossible to grant. They request contradictory solutions to the same problems or for solutions that would not be good in the long run or solutions that infringe on the rights or welfare of others.”

“Poor mankind,” some commiserated. “They want God to be only what they want Him to be, afraid to look around the corner to see His other sides. God is in the calm and God is in the storm. God is in the fire. He is in the smoke that identifies the fire. He is in the water that extinguishes the fire. There is a time for justice and a time for mercy, a time for punishment and a time for pardon, time for hurting and a time for healing.”

There are lessons hidden here.

So long as everyone creates his or her own image of God,
there will be conflicts in the name of God.

So long as everyone wants God to do only what they themselves want,
there will be disappointment and ingratitude.

So long as everyone wants everyone else to be like himself or herself,
there will never be peace.

If you believe your religion is true,
then you needn’t be afraid to explore what others may see in it.

If God is omnipotent and infinite and provident and wise,
then there must be more to God and religion than meets your eyes.

“One flock and one shepherd” is a vision of hope for the future
only if it means we will one day all be united in one faith
that recognizes and respects the reality
that God created each one as a unique reflection of the divine.

Heaven is the ultimate adventure that takes us on a journey
to the sides of God now hidden from our eyes.
Heaven is the place where we will finally embrace and accept
the visions of God seen by others.

In the meantime, if men and women are to live in harmony,
there must be harmony between their gods.

If ever we can come to see the oneness of all gods,
then we will not have to renounce our own god.
We just need to see God reflected in the images of others.

It isn’t necessary to pray with the same words or bow the same way
in order to homage the one god of a billion sides and a billion faces.

God doesn’t require us to be men and women identical to each other,
only to be men and women united for each other.


(Photo: Liang Zhun)

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