Tibetan Rapper & Tsampa-eaters

January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Are you a tsampa-eater?  If you are then you already know how significant this staple foodstuff is to Tibetan monks, sherpas, and pilgrims - as a center-piece to one's diet, as an offering to the gods, as a way to mark celebrations such as birthdays and weddings, as a way to assist the dead in their transition to the next life, as a unifying marker of Tibetan identity, etc.  But, if you're not familiar with this national food of Tibet then here's the perfect introduction... let Tibetan rapper Shapaley be your guide.



Tsampa is the most ubiquitous of all convenience foods in Tibet.  A mixture of roasted barley flour and yak butter, tsampa is considered by many to be a healthy energy booster, easily digestible, and a growing symbol of Tibetan national pride.  In fact, as historian Tsering Shakya explains in his essay "Whither the Tsampa Eaters," tsampa uniquely represents "Tibetan-ness" in the face of threat.  As Tibetans continue to fight against Chinese rule, the cry of "Rise up, all tsampa-eating Tibetans" can be heard from protesting monks more and more regularly.

Let me know if you find a restaurant in the Triad or Triangle of North Carolina where I can find some good tsampa.  In the meantime, here's a wonderful description of how its made.

Striking results from Class Survey

February 8, 2012

February 8, 2012

As a means for beginning our study and conversations regarding the Religious Traditions of the World I once again asked students to interview a classmate with the help of a series of pointed questions. The questions ranged from "What are some common perceptions of Muslims?" to "In your estimation must the President of the United States be a religious person?" Some of the results surprised me, but many of the responses mirrored comments from a similar survey I conducted two years ago.  Here are some of the results... (Does anything shock you about what you read?)

  • What religion do you feel you know the most about?  96.6% of respondents named some form of Christianity.
  • What religion do you feel you know the least about?  The most common responses were Buddhism, Daoism, and Hinduism.
  • Do you feel or claim any particular religious identity today?  93.1% said "yes" (Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Anglican, Quaker).
  • Have you ever practiced meditation?  Yes - 51.7% / No - 48.3%
  • Have you ever practiced yoga?  Yes - 62.1% / No - 38.9%
  • Have you ever fasted for any period of time?  Yes - 24.1% / No - 75.9%   

Difference Between Jesus & Religion

January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012

Update:  An op-ed by David Brooks, concerning Jefferson Bethke's video (see below), appeared in the New York Times recently. Titled "How to Fight The Man," Brooks' article relates that since Bethke's position has been critiqued by theologians he has "basically folded." In other words, Bethke seems to now recognize that his argument, while passionate and filled with self-confidence, was not based in Christian scripture or well-grounded. Brooks extends this reflection to other protests by young people when he suggests that arguments should not simply be based upon personal sentiments, but rather should be linked to and informed by established counter-traditions and schools of thought. Who are your intellectual dialogue partners? What sources do you draw upon when making an argument?

Original Post
Just over one week ago Jefferson Bethke posted a 4 minute video to YouTube in which he seeks to chart-out his understanding of the difference between Jesus and what he calls "false religion."  The video quickly went viral with over 14 million views in just a few days and began eliciting passionate reactions that vary from enthusiastic support to outright condemnation.  Through spoken word poetry Bethke argues that "religion is man centered" whereas "Jesus is God-centered."  Many of the critiques of Bethke's message though seem to center around the series of dualities that he sets up (here's one example of a critical response).  What do you think?



Check out this link to a Huffington Post article, which explores a bit of the controversy surrounding "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus."

Sunflowers heal Fukushima

August 21, 2011

August 21, 2011

The March 11th earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in northeastern Japan was one of the worst disasters in recorded history, but one Zen Buddhist monk is counting on the power of flowers to aid in the healing process.

Koyu Abe, head monk at the Joenji temple, some 50km from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has begun a program called "Hana ni Negaiwo"("Make a wish upon flowers") with the goal of planting 10 flowers for every one person living in Fukushima prefecture.  With roughly 2 million people still living in the radiation fall-out zone, Abe hopes to plant 20 million flowers by the end of the year.  The thinking is that flowers such as sunflowers and field mustard have the capacity to absorb some of the invisible radiation that continues to fall like silent snow.  As excessive radiation levels have been found in local beef, milk, water, and tea leaves any efforts to mitigate the destructive impact of radiation is quite welcome - enter Abe and 100+ volunteers who have grown 200,000 sunflowers at the temple while distributing millions of more seeds.

Check out this Reuters article by Antoni Slodkowski and Yuriko Nakao titled "Sunflowers melt Fukushima's nuclear snow," before watching the short video titled "Invisible Snow." You may never look at a humble sunflower the same way again.

Invisible Snow from Reuters  Tokyo Pictures on Vimeo.
    

HPU Registration Ideas for Fall 2011

March 27, 2011

March 27, 2011

Its that time of year again when High Point University students begin registering for their Fall 2011 classes.  If you, or a friend of yours, are interested in fulfilling your Religion General Education requirement, or if you're just interested in learning more about the religions and philosophies of East Asia, you might consider enrolling in one of the following courses:


  • REL 2036-01 Religions of East Asia  MWF 9:15 - 10:20am
  • REL 2036-02 Religions of East Asia  MWF 10:30 - 11:35am
  • REL 3031-01 Religions of Japan        MWF 2:40 - 3:45pm
Through these courses we'll explore the principles and practices associated with feng-shui, Tai-chi, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wu-wei, divination, meditation techniques, ancestor veneration, merit-making, shrine visitations, pilgrimages, inner alchemy, filial piety, etc.  (You can even get a sneak peak at one these courses by examining the syllabi linked to this webpage.)

Hope to see you in the fall!  Sign up early as seats are going fast! 

Another book review appears in CHOICE

March 9, 2011

March 9, 2011

Last November my first book review appeared in the journal CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Journals 48, no. 3 (Nov 2010).  Well, in the February edition of CHOICE (Vol. 48, no. 6) you'll find my recent review of the book The Dialogue Comes of Age: Christian Encounters with Other Traditions, by John B. Cobb, Jr. and Ward M. McAfee (Fortress Press, 2010).  

The book is a contribution to the theological discipline known as "theology of religions," which attempts to account for the value of non-Christian religions and to offer guidance to Christians living in a religious pluralistic world. The authors argue for mutual appreciation and openness, the pursuit of opportunities for inter-religious dialogue, and inter-religious efforts to build community and address common concerns. This might be a useful resource for anyone writing a research paper on Christian engagement with other world religions. The full review can be accessed by High Point University students thru Academic OneFile at Smith Library or thru this link.  
 
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