As yoga spread as a form of physical fitness across America, some of its terms have become widely used by the general population. These arise in Sanskrit, one of three recorded languages that are believed to be close to a proto-Indo-European root of many of today’s languages that stretch across much of Asia and Europe.
Here are ten you may hear.
- Namaste. Often translated as “that of God in me greets that of God in you.”
- Karma. Action or doing, leading each individual to reap the consequences of his own actions, good and bad.
- Mantra. A word or phrase that is sounded repeatedly to aid concentration in meditation.
- Om. Also spelled Aum. The greatest of the mantras. Repeated properly, it produces great harmony in the body and the mind.
- Ahimsa. Non-injury.
- Chakra. One of seven points of subtle energy threaded along the spine, each one opening like a lotus and unleashing related awareness.
- Asana. Sitting or posture. Each of the physical exercises is known as an asana.
- Shanti. Peace.
- Ashram. A hermitage or dwelling place of a teacher and students.
- Jnana. Discernment or spiritual knowing.
It’s not just Cassia in What’s Left who wants to know about her father’s fascination with Tibetan Buddhism. It plays a big role in his movements in Pit-a-Pat-High Jinks and Subway Visions, too.
- Number of Tibetans in U.S.: Estimated at 9,000.
- Buddhists in U.S.: 3,860,000 (Pew Research Center, 2010). Other estimates range from 1.2 million to 8 million.
- Number of converts: 800,000.
- Buddhism in Indiana (scene of What’s Left): Includes the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and Kumbum Chamtse Ling Temple, both in Bloomington and founded by Thubten Norbu, brother of the Dalai Lama.
- Other major Tibetan Buddhist centers in U.S.: Barnet, Vermont; Berkeley, California; Boulder, Colorado; Chino Valley, Arizona; Red Feather Lakes, Colorado; Poolesville, Maryland; Portland, Oregon Seattle, Washington; Sedona, Arizona; Woodstock, New York.
- Population of Tibet: 6 million Tibetans, 7.5 million Chinese settlers.
- Estimated number of Tibetans killed by Chinese since 1949: 1.2 million.
- Number of monasteries destroyed: 6,000.
- The Dalai Lama: Its spiritual leader has more than 13 million Twitter followers.
- Most Tibetans fear the spirit world and its demons: They’re blamed for illness, bad luck, and misfortune.
Thanks to Cassia’s father in my novel What’s Left, she’s familiar with Buddhist teaching and practice.
Here are ten basics.
- Siddhartha Gautama: Historical figure who established the teachings in northern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Often referred to as the Buddha.
- Buddhas: Transcendent figures found throughout the universe. Gautama embodies one of them.
- Dharma: The law or the way taught by Gautama to overcome suffering or dukka (perhaps better rendered as stress or dissatisfaction). One translation has Dharma as the process itself.
- Reincarnation: The state of one’s next rebirth is determined by the fruits of an individual’s karma (actions) in the present life.
- Nirvana: An eternal state of perfect peace, bliss, and enlightenment, usually achieved through meditation and breaking the chain of further rebirth.
- Boddhisattvas: Figures who have attained nirvana but instead of going their immediately, compassionately reincarnate to assist others.
- Sutras: The scriptures (literally “stitchings”).
- Three major branches of Buddhism: Theravada, prominent in Indochina; Mahayana, the largest and most liberal branch; and Vajrayana, which emphasizes the magical and the occult.
- Tantra: Sacred texts in the Vajrayana branch describing secret methodologies and practices.
- Mandalas and tankas: Vajrayana visual images to aid meditation.
Gee, I didn’t even get to koans, those mind-boggling puzzles presented to Zen aspirants.
While monasteries with wider church support are a longstanding institution in Christian history, independent, self-sustaining faith-based communes have made their mark in America. Unlike a monastery, not all of them were celibate.
Here are ten.
- Ephrata Cloister. Pennsylvania, 1732-2008. Founded by Johann Conrad Beissel, the pietist group broke off from the German Baptist Brethren (or Dunker) denomination, which largely continues as today’s Church of the Brethren. It had the second printing press in the American colonies. Its celibate emphasis was gradually eliminated.
- Moravians. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1741), and Salem, North Carolina (1753). The denomination dates to Jan Hus (1369-1415), a Czech reformer years before Luther and Calvin led the Protestant Reformation. The American communities initially had common ownership of all property by the church, supervised housing for single men and single women, and likely other communal aspects.
- The Shakers. Founded by Mother Ann Lee, it settled in Watervliet, New York, 1774, and spread from Maine to Indiana and Kentucky. Best known of the communal movements, in part for its beautiful furniture and architecture. One village remains.
- Hebus Valley. Pennsylvania. Founded by George Rapp, 1824-1906. Christian theosophists and pietists.
- Hopedale Community. Massachusetts, Adin Ballou, 1842-1856. “Practical Christianity” with a Universalist base. Utopian ideals included temperance, abolitionism, women’s rights, and spiritualism. Attempted to be part of the surrounding community.
- Amana Colonies. Originated in Germany in 1714 and arrived in Iowa, 1855. Communal system ended in 1932.
- Bruderhof. An Anabaptist denomination arising from the Hutterites in Germany in 1920, it has communities in Paraguay, Europe, Australia, and the United States (from 1954). Its beliefs are similar to Mennonites – peace, simplicity, adult baptism, and so on. There are currently 17 communities in the U.S.
- Hare Krishnas. The best known of the ISKON (Krishna Consciousness) communities is New Vrindaban, West Virginia, settled in 1968.
- Friends Southwest House. McNeal, Arizona, opened in 1976. I didn’t even know of this Quaker community, much less of its long life.
- Eighteenth Avenue Peace House. Portland, Oregon, opened in 1986. Ecumenical Christian.
Any you’d add to the list?
Top Ten, Religion, Spirituality, History, Inspiration,
How do we make a living without seriously compromising our beliefs? The military-industrial complex has extensively penetrated nearly all facets of American society. Not even the universities are immune. And corporations, in their quest for ever higher short-term profits, incur other moral difficulties. Law? Medicine? And so on. Until we as Friends resolve this, we are likely to face either accelerated decline in membership or inability to maintain our testimonies, which are eroding too rapidly as it is.
Where do we turn? Retreat into farming? Farmers aren’t surviving. As the French novelist inquired more than a half-century ago: Where are the shoemakers in the Society of Friends nowadays?
Professionals, as hired guns: rootless, living by our wits: how fast can you dance, pardner?
curiosity / orderliness / focus