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February 15, 2013 6:00am
For too long, science and religion have seen themselves in opposition.
Yet, as Harvard-educated theologian Gary Kowalski
argues in Science and the Search for God
, many of the ills of the modern world, from the rise of fundamentalist intolerance to secular society's spiritual emptiness, stem from the mistaken view that science and faith are antagonists rather than natural allies. Both science and faith, the author suggests, now compel us to move beyond materialism toward an understanding of the world that includes the realities of consciousness and spirit.
Someone who understands deeply the consonance of science and religious practice is Glen Peter Kezwer, who is not only an accomplished physicist but an intensive meditator. Using modern scientific analysis, he shows in Meditation, Oneness, and Physics
that the descriptions of reality as put forth by quantum physics correlate with those altered states of consciousness achieved in meditation. He further describes how meditation can be incorporated into your own life to bring the benefits of good health, happiness, clear thinking, peace of mind, self-sufficiency, and fearlessness.
February 1, 2013 6:00am
Circle of faiths
After a twenty-year period as abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, Thomas Keating
moved to St. Benedict's Monastery
in Snowmass, Colorado, called by the late Fr. Theophane Boyd, the "Magic Monastery" because of the beauty of its surroundings, the peace inside its walls, and the extraordinary transformations that take place there.
During his time at Snowmass, Fr. Thomas was deeply involved in interreligious dialogue (see www.monasticdialog.com
). Over a twenty-year period, a series of interreligious dialogues took place at Snowmass, the proceedings of which were kept private so that the participants could explore freely the wealth of their own traditions and dialogue from the heart about the differences and similarities between their paths of wisdom. These dialogues have now been captured in The Common Heart
. Participants include Fr. Thomas, Roshi Bernie Glassman, Swami Atmarupananda, Dr. Ibrahim Gamard, Imam Bilal Hyde, Pema Chödrön, Rabbi Henoch Dov Hoffman, and others.
January 31, 2013 6:00am
Thomas Merton: Primum Mobile
In 1996, a group of monastics from the Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian traditions met at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to share their experiences of the monastic life. This meeting took place for two reasons. The first was Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, who resided at Gethsemani, and pioneered interreligious dialogue, when he met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1968. It was perhaps partly out of that curiosity and faithfulness to the idea of dialogue that the Vatican started an organization eventually called Monastic Interreligious Dialogue
(MID) in the mid-1970s to encourage continued dialogue between those faiths with monastic traditions (Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism), an effort that continues to this day.
Lantern has published a number of titles on interreligious dialogue, including Islam Is. . .
, The Common Heart
, The Attentive Voice, and two books about Swami Abhishiktananda/Henri Le Saux (God's Harp String
and Witness to the Fullness of Light
January 4, 2013 6:00am
For thirty years, Fr. Thomas Keating
, OCSO, has been reclaiming the Christian meditative tradition that he calls Centering Prayer.
It takes its roots from a number of sources: the ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert; Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures); The Cloud of Unknowing
; St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. With his fellow Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger and Fr. Basil Pennington, and through his organization, Contemplative Outreach, Thomas Keating has shown that contemporary Christianity can be an enlivening, mystical experience, both free of dogma and deeply personal.
The fundamental transformation of Centering Prayer occurs when you enter what Thomas Keating calls "the inner room," a concept taken from Matthew 6:6 ("But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you"—NIV.) When you enter the room, God, acting as a divine therapist, begins to peel away the layers of emotional programming that have kept you from intimacy with God and uncovers the authentic self that has been hidden or repressed. All of the resistances, pathologies, and prejudices you have about the divine and your own self are lovingly removed, leaving you able to enjoy what Paul the Apostle calls "the fruits and gifts of the Spirit."
December 24, 2012 6:00am
The Lamb of God
The radical premise of Christianity, too often forgotten in our anthropocentric age, is that it is the the world
, and not simply humankind, that is redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This means that the eschatalogical hope expressed by Isaiah that the wolf will dwell with the lamb and that the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord is not an idle wish that we might be nice to animals and nature. It is that all creatures and the earth itself will be transformed by lovingkindness into lovingkindness. Such a radical promise should challenge Christians to question whether the Biblical mandate of humankind's dominion over the animals and the earth should continue to lead to cruelty, exploitation, and indifference.
December 18, 2012 6:00am
To Heal the World
One of the great spiritual mandates of Judaism is "tikkun olam," which means "to heal the world."
From God's first injunction, "Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for food," (Gen. 1:29) the Hebrew Bible offers countless examples of how God intends a compassionate and caring attitude toward animals, our health, and the well-being of the planet. In Judaism and Vegetarianism
, professor emeritus in New York Richard Schwartz shows how respect for animals and the environment can revitalize one's Jewish faith, while in Judaism and Global Survival
he argues that a rediscovery of basic Jewish teachings and mandates, such as to seek peace and justice, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to act as co-workers with God in protecting and preserving the earth, can build a better world.
For more on Judaism and vegetarianism, click here
December 7, 2012 6:00am
In 1986, Jens Soering, a naive and arrogant undergraduate, made a terrible decision.
Under the spell of a disturbed young woman, he became implicated in the horrendous murders of her parents. Infatuated and poorly advised, Soering assumed that as a German citizen he could take the blame for the murders, be extradited, and serve a limited sentence in his home country. He was wrong. He was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder and placed in a maximum-security prison in Virginia. Twenty years later, and with little hope of parole or extradition, he continues to serve out a sentence for crimes he insists he did not commit.
Such a punishment might have destroyed him. However, a chance encounter with the work of Fr. Thomas Keating
enabled Soering to leave the cycles of despair, anger, and emotional turmoil he was going through and discover the transformative power and practice of Centering Prayer. In The Way of the Prisoner
, Soering explains just how he came to experience God's grace in the direst of circumstances and how that grace forced him to confront the past and recognize the beauty and redemptive hope possible in his current situation. A moving, true story that shocks and inspires, The Way of the Prisoner
illustrates how we can all transform our crosses and our prisons (literal or metaphorical) into hard earned wisdom.
September 7, 2012 6:00am
Edward Tabbitas: Can you hear him now?
For centuries, priests and initiates have claimed to be able to communicate with the world beyond death. The following two books explore this mysterious dimension.
is the memoir of how an ordinary man from Brooklyn, New York, came to terms with his psychic gifts. Rev. Edward Tabbitas's ability to detect the presence of those who have died emerged after the death of his beloved grandmother, when he was only seven years old. His gifts grew stronger as he matured, bringing him to accept the ever-present love that connects us all, no matter which side of the great divide we're on.
Although there's been a considerable amount of research conducted in the last twenty-five years on near-death experiences, comparatively little has been written on those that did not provide moments of peace or joyful revelation, but instead were terrifying or painful. The Uttermost Deep
is a wide-ranging survey and analysis of background material and case studies of those who have experienced painful near-death experiences. Religion scholar Gracia Fay Ellwood studies some of the constant themes that run through both good and bad near-death experiences, reveals their roots in their respective religious traditions, and attempts to shed light on their meaning through neurological, pharmacological, and psychological lenses.
August 10, 2012 6:05am
William Skudlarek: Engaged in the Discussion
Swami Abhishiktananda (1910–1973) was one of the pioneers of interreligious dialogue. A Benedictine monk named Henri Le Saux, Abhishiktananda was drawn to India and for twenty years lived the life of a Hindu renunciate (sanyasin
). He delved into the sacred scriptures of India with passion and conviction, all the while maintaining his Christian faith.
Lantern has published two books about his life and ideas—both collections of essays from people who knew him well and/or were inspired by him. God's Harp String
and Witness to the Fullness of Light
both explore his legacy and his wisdom.
Swami Abhishiktananda is also a major point of discussion in the first volume of Dilatato Corde
, the new journal from DIMMID, which formalizes the academic study of interreligious dialogue and also details the actual practice of dialogue from all over the world. Dilatato Corde and the two Abhishiktananda volumes are edited by Fr. William Skudlarek
, a monk Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, who has been particularly active in promoting the work of interreligious dialogue.
August 2, 2012 6:00am
Lorie Eve Dechar: Alchemist and Daoist
Although Lorie Eve Dechar's Five Spirits
is ostensibly a book about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, at its heart it's a book about human consciousness.
The book explores the question of how human beings create reality and how our creation of reality affects not only our health but also the way we feel, live, and interact with our environment. By melding the wisdom of the ancient Chinese with the insights of modern Western depth psychology and the understanding of Taoist and European alchemy, the book aims to help readers discover a new, more efficient, and integrated consciousness. Through this discovery, we'll find not only new ways to heal psychosomatic, psychological, and spiritual distress but also new possibilities for living, and new ways to relate to our bodies, our families, and communities, as well as to our planet.
One important key to this new consciousness is a revised relationship to the yin, or what the ancient Taoists referred to as the Mysterious Feminine. This attitude views the the divine not only as an invisible, unknowable mystery (up there and far away in heaven) but also as a knowable, embodied experience, a sacred illumination that exists here and now, as the life force that flows through our bodies, through nature and all of creation.
July 19, 2012 6:00am
Hsing Yun: Master of Buddhism
For over sixty years as the founder of Fo Guang Shan
, the Taiwanese Buddhist Venerable Master Hsing Yun
has been preaching what he calls "Humanistic Buddhism." This is a Buddhism stripped of superstition and ritualism and dedicated to making the religion relevant in everyday life and for everyday problems.
One of Hsing Yun's leading disciples is the Venerable Yifa
. In her book Safeguarding the Heart
(subsequently revised and retitled as The Tender Heart
), Yifa reflects on the terrible events of September 11, 2001, and what that day can teach us about the essential Buddhist teachings on suffering, cause and effect, and the meaning of life. With clarity and honesty, she attempts to answer the question of how we can and should respond when great violence enters our lives.
Yifa has also turned her attention to our culture of consumerism, commodification, and superficiality. In Authenticity
, Yifa looks at our thoughtlessness when it comes to food, stuff, communication, relationships, and thoughts and emotions, and offers practical and thoughtful techniques for living life more authentically and attentively. Her most recent work for Lantern, Discernment
, examines the quality of mind that analyzes and perceives accurately the nature of something and then forms a thoughtful and accurate judgment about it.
Buddhism has long held that all life forms are sacred and worthy of kind actions and explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. One would imagine that the first precept of Buddhism—"Do not kill,"—should apply to our treatment of animals as well as to our treatment of other human beings. Yet some Buddhists eat meat and meat eating is sometimes defended as consistent with Buddhist teaching. The Great Compassion
by practicing Buddhist Norm Phelps studies the sutras that command respect for all life and various schools of Buddhist thought to see if Buddhist practice demands vegetarianism, and comes up with some surprising answers.
July 5, 2012 6:00am
Ryuho Okawa: It's Happy Birthday to him
, founder of Happy Science, Kofuku-no-Kagaku in Japanese, has devoted his life to the exploration of the Truth and ways to happiness. He was born in 1956 in Tokushima, Japan and graduated from the University of Tokyo. In March 1981, he received his higher calling and awakened to the hidden part of his consciousness. His thinking has been influenced by many philosophies including Buddhism and the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and Emmanuel Swedenborg.
Mr. Okawa established the Institute in 1986 and for the past twenty-five years has been designing spiritual workshops for people from all walks of life, from teenagers to business executives. He is known for his wisdom, compassion, and commitment to educating people to think and act in spiritual and religious ways. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide and he has also produced successful feature length films (including animations) based on his works. The members of the Institute follow the path he teaches, ministering to people who need help by sharing his teachings.
In many of his books, Ryuho Okawa presents practical and immediate solutions to problems that affect all of us in one way or another throughout our lives: How can we be happy? How do we help our intimate relationships to grow and thrive rather than stagnate and die? How should we judge success materially or spiritually? What is the true meaning of life? How can we make ourselves mentally and spiritually stronger so that when adversity strikes we do not suffer so much? How can we be generous and compassionate without being taken advantage of or not achieving our goals? These questions are dealt with in the following books, which can be read as a series or as stand-alone titles. All offer bracing, thoughtful, gentle, and honest guidance on living a good life and being thoughtful, kind, loving, and generous.
June 21, 2012 6:00am
Krishna and Arjuna: Battlefield conversation
The Bhagavad Gita (the "Song of the Lord") is considered the most important work of ancient Sanskrit literature. It is also, with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the greatest works on yoga. Part of the enormous epic poem the Mahabharata, the Gita tells the story of Arjuna, a warrior prince, who on the eve of battle experiences doubt and fear at the fighting to come. His charioteer, however, is none other than Lord Krishna, who strengthens his heart to face his destiny.
The Bhagavad Gita as a Living Experience
offers the unique combination of an expert Indologist, Wilfried Huchzermeyer, who examines the literary and mythic meaning of the text, and a yoga instructor, Jutta Zimmermann, who reveals the Gita's deep wisdom about yoga in all its four major forms (karma [action], jnana [knowledge], bhakti [devotion], dyana [meditation]) and shows how its wisdom can provide universal guidance for all humanity.
February 3, 2012 4:11pm
Jesus disrupting the animal sacrifice business
One of the big problems that people have with the idea that Jesus was a vegetarian is the "fish stories" in the New Testament -- stories in which Jesus distributes fish as food to people, or in one case actually eats fish. If Jesus was a vegetarian, then what are these stories doing in the New Testament?
We can get an important clue as to what they are doing in the New Testament if we take a quick look at what their effect is and has been. From the point of view of a meat-eater, these fish stories are very convenient. Jesus ate fish, therefore eating meat must be all right.