Commemoration of the birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha forms an important but relatively small part of a remarkable emphasis on wide-ranging types of memorials that continue to be observed in modern Japan. However, celebrations in remembrance of death, including for all deceased ancestors who are regarded as Buddhas (hotoke) at the time of their passing marked by ritual burial, generally hold far greater significance than birth anniversaries. Buddha’s birthday is celebrated in Japan every year on 8 April.
“East is East and West is West, and ne’er the twain shall meet.” Well, no. Kipling got it wrong. The East and the West have been meeting for a long time. For most of the last few hundred years, the traffic has been mainly one way. The West has had a major impact on the East. India felt the full force of British imperialism with the British East India Company and the British Raj.
Like other Jewish musicians in later times, among them Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud, and Leonard Bernstein, Rossi confronted the problems, in his own time, of preserving his Jewish identity in a non-Jewish environment and of communicating with Jews and Christians in such a way as to be understood and appreciated by both.
You can’t understand jazz without its continual, creative religiosities. But to investigate this association is to encounter the scrambling of format and expectation in terms both musicological and religious. For while it is certainly true that jazz has strong roots in African-American Protestantism, not only do these roots twist in unexpected directions but there are other branches reaching into farther soils as well.
Buddhist moral psychology represents a distinctive contribution to contemporary moral discourses. Most Western ethicists neglect to problematize perception at all, and few suggest that ethical engagement begins with perception. But this is a central idea in Buddhist moral theory. Human perception is always perception-as. We see someone as a friend or as an enemy; as a stranger or as an acquaintance. We see objects as desirable or as repulsive. We see ourselves as helpers or as competitors, and our cognitive and action sets follow in train.
John Muir practically glowed with divine light in the early 1870s. “We almost thought he was Jesus Christ,” the landscape painter William Keith exclaimed to an interviewer. “We fairly worshipped him!”
Whether they be songs about angels or demons, Heaven or Hell, the theme of the afterlife has inspired countless musicians of varying genres and has embedded itself into the lyrics of many popular hits. Though their styles may be different, artists show that our collective questions and musings about the afterlife provide us with a common thread across humanity. Here are some of the songs that best represent this wide range of emotions that many people have about what lies beyond.
In the philosophy of religion ‘Wittgensteinianism’ is a distinctive position whose outlines are more or less unanimously agreed by both its defenders and detractors. By invoking a variety of concepts to which Wittgenstein gave currency – language games, forms of life, groundless believing, depth grammar, world pictures – the defenders aim to defuse rationalistic criticisms of religion by showing them to be, in the strict sense, impertinent.
How do violent Muslim groups justify, at least to themselves, their violence against fellow Muslims? One answer comes from Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which targets the state as well as both Muslim and Christian civilians. Boko Haram is infamous for holding two ideological stances: rejection of secular government and opposition to Western-style education.
John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which the famed saxophonist performed live only once, has the distinction of being one of jazz’s most widely celebrated yet imperfectly understood recordings. At its half-century, the devotional piece is seen as the culmination of Coltrane’s “dark night of the soul,” the sound of his heroic overcoming, and his personal entreaty to the divine.
As is well known, the death of Jesus was a problem. How do you explain that your elevated hero ended up dead on a Roman cross? Or, as Paul famously put it, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles.” Trying to reconstruct in any detail the historical realities which may (or may not) have generated the story of the Passion is extremely difficult.
I have ambivalent feelings about Easter. I am sure I am not alone in this attitude towards the greatest of events on the Christian calendar, especially among people who grew up, as I did, in intensely religious (and loving) families but who have long put their Christian beliefs behind them. As it happens, my family were Quakers and that religion does not mark out the church festivals. But I went to a school that had a great musical tradition and each year there was a performance of one of the Bach Passions, alternating the St Matthew with the St John.
There are scenes in the Bible that cause a visceral reaction for even the most disinterested reader. As we view the Garden of Gethsemane in our mind’s eye, we see one of Jesus’ closest companions, Judas Iscariot, leading a band of men. He smiles broadly, “Rabbi!,” greeting Jesus with a kiss. The kiss, that universal sign of intimacy and affection, lands on Jesus like a knife twisting in the back.
Easter, commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is historically the most important of all Christian festivals, even though in some Western countries it has largely lost the religious significance it retains amongst the Orthodox; nevertheless it merits discussion in a broader context not only because it is often a public as well as a religious holiday, or indeed because even Christians may be baffled by its apparently capricious incidence, but because the history of its calculation illustrates many complexities of time-reckoning.
I remember the Passover Seder as a very special time. My brothers and I got new clothes that we had to save specially until that evening; this heightened our sense of anticipation and symbolized the special nature of this holiday. I can still envision preparing for Passover in the Orthodox home of my childhood: I remember the frenzied work of emptying out all our cabinets, packing up the food we ate for the other 357 days of the year and lining all the cabinets, the stove, and the refrigerator with extra thick aluminum foil.
It is something of a truism to say the “life-styles determine death-styles.” Not only do anthropologists and other scholars see the value of this point, no less an authority than Metallica incorporated it into “Frantic” on their 2006 album, St. Anger. Whatever Metallica meant, it is generally understood that if we want to understand a community’s treatment of and attitude toward the dead, we should look first to the values and priorities which shape their daily life.