Saturday, 18. October 2008
Miracles - will they never cease?

The parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of the five thousand, the turning of water into wine - miracles. Miracles?

Yet Miracles have been part of human culture for thousands of years. From beliefs about the shin bone of a saint to ideas about the nature of creation and the laws of nature, miracles have been a measure of disputes within religion and between religion and rationality from St Augustine in the 4th century to David Hume in the 18th. They have also been used by the corrupt and the powerful to gain their perverse ends.

Miracles have been derided and proved to be fraudulent and yet, for many, the miraculous maintain a grip on our imagination, our language and our belief to this day.

Three Miracles of Saint Zenobius, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Melvyn Bragg asks: Miracles - will they never cease?
He is joined by:

  • Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture
  • Janet Soskice, Reader in Philosophical Theology at Cambridge University
  • Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London

Listen to this programme in full here (42 minutes):

Broadcast was on 25 September 2008 at BBC 4, 'In Our Time'.
Also available for RealPlayer.

See also:
Miracles by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Category: Music & Voices | Mysteries & Enigmas | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 11. October 2008
The Yogis of Tibet

Since the invasion of Tibet over 50 years ago, China has systematically destroyed the Tibetan culture. One of the most profound losses is the tradition of the great master yogis. The entire system which supported these fascinating mind masters has been inexorably eliminated.

In order to record these mystical practitioners for posterity, the filmmakers were given permission to film heretofore secret demonstrations and to conduct interviews on subject matter rarely discussed.

This profound historical, spiritual and educational film will someday be the last remnant of these amazing practitioners

'The Yogis of Tibet', 2003
Directed by Phil and Jo Borack, JEHM Films
Duration: 77 minutes

See also:
The official website: The Yogis of Tibet
Article: Filming The Yogis of Tibet by Jo Borack
Category: Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures |

Friday, 03. October 2008

Mudra: Cymbals mudra (rol mo bkrol ba'i phyag rgya)

Mudras is a selection of photos of "mudras" (Buddhist hand gestures) taken by photographer Dennis Cordell.

These portraits, shot in black and white, are of young monks at Gyud Zin monastery in Ladakh, India taken during the summer of 2006. Each monk is presenting a "mudra" which represents an offering to the Buddha. The delightful juxtaposition of the religious iconography with the boyishness of the young monks makes the portraits in this project wondrously expressive and heart-warming.

Mudra: Annointing with Perfume mudra (dri byugs pa'i phyag rgya)
Category: Meditation & Mind | Religion & Early Cultures |

Visualizing the Bible

Bible Cross-References

Click the picture for a larger view (2000x1200, 1.4MB)

Visualizing the Bible, awarded an Honorable Mention in Illustration, depicts all 1189 chapters of the Bible as a bar graph with the length of each bar proportional to the number of verses in the chapter. Above this, arcs represent 63,779 cross references between chapters; different colours denote varying distances between connected chapters.

Visualizing the Bible by Chris Harrison of Carnegie Mellon University and Christoph Römhild of North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Biblical Social Network (People and Places)

Click the picture for a larger view (2000x2000, 1.4MB)
Category: Religion & Early Cultures |

Sunday, 28. September 2008


Best ever within the range of the Thangkas is the Website of the Dharmapala Thangka Centre - School of Thangka Painting. All about Tibetan Iconography, the creation of a masterpiece Thangka, summary of all 77 Medical Thangkas and of course a large picture gallery. (English version)

A large and beautiful gallery: The Buddhist Art of Thanka by Nick Dudka.

Another one: Thangka Paintings created by monks in Kathmandu (Nepal) and Tibet by Exotic India.

Allen tibetischen Rollbildern (thang ka) ist eigen, dass sie dem Gläubigen Hilfsmittel sind auf seinem Weg zur Befreiung von Übel und Leiden, die ihn bedrängen. Thang kas werden deshalb auch "mthong grol", Befreiung durch Sehen genannt.

Thangka - eine gute Übersicht von TibetFocus. (German)

Der absolute Hammer im Bereich der Thangkas ist die Website des Dharmapala Thangka Centre - School of Thangka Painting. Hier erfährt man alles! Die ikono-grafischen Grundlagen, wie ein Thangka entsteht, die 77 Medizin Thangkas und natürlich hat es auch eine riesige Galerie.
(German version)


Category: Meditation & Mind | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 20. September 2008
Observing Ramadan


Muslim faithful throughout the world are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan. Observant Muslims participate in fasting (sawm), one of the five pillars of their faith, this entire Lunar month (this year it extends from September 1st to the 30th). Eating, drinking, smoking and sexual activity is prohibited from dawn until sunset, when the fast is broken with the evening meal called Iftar. Local customs define varying traditions, including differing types of food used to break the daily fast. The fasting is meant to teach a person patience, humility and sacrifice, to set aside time to ask forgiveness, practice self-restraint, and pray for guidance in the future.

News Stories in Photographs: Observing Ramadan (35 photos total) by The Big Picture.
Category: News & Stories | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 13. September 2008
Japanese Buddhist Art

Eye Candy:

The Planets and the Northern Constellation
Japanese, Kamakura period, 13th century
Panel; ink, color, and gold on silk

See remarkable holdings include statues, paintings, and ritual objects. Notable are the wooden image of Miroku, the Bodhisattva of the Future, by the late twelfth-century master sculptor Kaikei, the eighth-century icon of the Historical Buddha Preaching on Vulture Peak, and the exquisite twelfth-century paintings of Batô Kannon, the Horse-headed Bodhisattva of Compassion, and Bishamonten, Guardian of the North.

All pictures are zoomable for closer examination, perhaps works in IE only.

Website Collection Page: Japanese Buddhist Art by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Or choose The Interactive Tour.

White-robed Bodhisattva of Compassion
Japanese, Muromachi period, first half of the 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk
Category: Art & Visions | Religion & Early Cultures |

Sunday, 22. June 2008
Religions of the World: Hinduism

This video is part of the "Religions of the World" series, narrated by Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley. You do not have to see the other videos for this one to make sense.

Learn how and why Hinduism has survived to be one of the oldest and largest world religions with nearly one billion followers located mostly in India. Hinduism encompasses wide practices and traditions largely due to its great capacity to integrate the new with the old.

You will learn about the descendants of the Indus River Valley, who, around 1500 B.C.E., used Sanskrit to transcribe their daily rituals and customs. You will also discover Hinduism's impact on the literary world with its library of tens of thousands of sacred hymns and poems known as the Vedas, which means "truth" or "knowledge."

I would recommend this video for those wanting to understand a bit more about Hinduism.

Religions of the World: Hinduism by Schlessinger Media, 1999
Runtime: 47 minutes

Category: Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 21. June 2008
The Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism

Note to the second edition:

This is a revised and expanded edition of 'The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism.' The text is a compendium of excerpts and quotations from some 350 works by monks, nuns, professors, scholars and other laypersons from nine different countries, in their own words or in translation.


How to use the Glossary:

This book can be used in threeways: to find the definition of unfamiliar terms; to gain a broader understanding of specific Buddhist concepts; and also as an introduction to Buddhism. In the last instance, we suggest that readers begin with the entry on Parables, then move on to Practice, Obstacles to Cultivation and Ten Non-Seeking Practices.

Other entries of a more contemporary interest can be read with benefit by all. These include: Birth Control, Organ Transplants, Vegetarianism, Universe, Immortality.

The Seeker's Glossary of Buddhism
by Sutra Translation Committee of USA/Canada
STC of USA/Canada, 2nd ed 1998 | 999 pages | PDF | 4.8 MB

Also available at BuddhaNet and Urban Dharma.
Category: Books & Magazines | Religion & Early Cultures |

Sunday, 15. June 2008
A History of God

Theologian Karen Armstrong guides us along one of the most elusive and fascinating quests of all time - the search for God. This film is fine synopsis of Karen Armstrong's comprehensive book by the same title.

'A History of God' examines the concept of God in the three major monotheistic religions from the days of Abraham to modern times. Looking at the way that humans have perceived the idea of a supreme being throughout history and gathers interviews with representative's of several different religions to discuss the role that god plays in their lives.

The narration and commentary has been beauifully edited with a fine music score and excellent selected of visuals - paintings, photographs, and video of scenes in the Middle East - and the information gives a broad understanding of many of the world's religions. Recommended for those with open, questioning minds.

A History of God by History Channel, 2005
Runtime: 93 minutes

Category: Gods & Goddesses | Movies & TV | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 14. June 2008
Historical Atlas of the Celtic World

Pre-Christian Celts left no written records, so all the accounts we have of these people are from prejudiced Mediterranean writers.

The remarkable Celtic culture once encompassed most of western Europe; even after centuries of invasion and conquest it flourished in remote corners of the continent. This book is a beautifully illustrated survey of Celtic society, its history and belief, from its origins to the present day.

This book traces the development of Celtic religion and mythology, and describes the flowering of their unique metalwork, sculpture, and illumination. An expertly crafted view into the Celtic past, while emphasising the relevance of Celtic culture and identity today.


Coverage includes:
  • Celtic Origins: Pre-Celtic Europe, La Tène and Hallstatt cultures, archaeological evidence
  • The Celtic Peoples of Europe: The Celtic migration, Gauls, Bretons, the Galatians
  • Early Celtic Art: Origins, La Tène Period art, Iron Age Celtic art
  • Celtic Belief: The calendar, death and the afterlife, sacrifice, the bog men, gods and divinities
  • The Celtic Peoples of the British Isles: Britons, Irish, Picts and Scots, Welsh
  • The Roman Invasions: Caesar's conquest of Gaul, Romans in Britain
  • The Druids: Witchcraft, prophesy and divination, archaeological evidence
  • The Celtic Warrior: Celtic warfare, arms and armor, warrior chieftains, resisting the Romans
  • The Post-Roman Celtic World: Barbarian invasions, Anglos and Saxons, Arthur of the Britons
  • The Renaissance of Celtic Art: The High Celtic Period, Celtic Christian art, Pictish symbol stones
  • The Coming of Christianity: St. Patrick, the Celtic church, illuminated manuscripts, the Book of Kells
  • Celtic Mythology: Irish Celtic myth/the Mabinogion, Arthurian myth
  • The Celtic Legacy: Celtic revival art, the Celtic fringe.

Historical Atlas of the Celtic World by Angus Konstam.
Checkmark Books, 2001, 2003 | 192 Pages | PDF | 61.7 MB |
In addition to the text, there are many illustrations and photos of Celtic art throughout the book.

Category: Books & Magazines | Myths & Sagas | Religion & Early Cultures |

Tuesday, 03. June 2008
How To Become a Saint

Contrary to popular belief, saints weren’t altogether perfect people during their lifetimes - but it’s not good works alone that garner you a spot next to Francis of Assisi.

(Transcript of this video)

You Will Need:

  • An exemplary life
  • Miracles attributed to your intercession

Step 1: Die
Die. The Vatican usually requires a five-year waiting period after a person’s death even to begin the process toward sainthood. Even after death, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Step 2: "Cause" initiated
After five years, what is known as a “cause” may be initiated with the individual’s local bishop and then with the Vatican’s Congregation for Sainthood Causes.

Step 3: Postulator leads investigation
A postulator will lead the cause and serve in charge of the investigation of the deceased’s virtue and miracles attributed to him or her.

Step 4: Pope deems candidate "venerable"
If the pope recognizes the candidate as having heroic virtues, the pope may deem him or her “Venerable,” the first step toward sainthood.

Tip: Martyrdom, or dying for the faith, can also result in the venerable title.

Step 5: Two miracles required
In general, the verification of two miracles attributed to the intercession of the candidate is required for canonization.

Tip: The miracles can occur during the person’s lifetime or after he or she is dead.

Step 6: Pope beatifies candidate
After one miracle, the pope may beatify the candidate, the second step toward sainthood. The candidate is then called “Blessed.”

Step 7: Vatican verifies second miracle
If the Vatican verifies an additional miracle, canonization may follow.

Step 8: Intercede with God
Should you make it to sainthood, expect to be very busy for subsequent millennia. Catholics pray that saints intercede with God on their behalf. That’s running some heavy interference.

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II proclaimed 482 saints, more than all his predecessors over the previous 400 years combined.
Category: Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 31. May 2008
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism

This encyclopedia includes not only the teachings of Confucius but also a wealth of information about Chinese culture, music, ceremony, teachers, writings, emperors, and events that are integral to Confucianism.

In volume 1, the author explains much of the teachings and history of Confucianism, why it is important to know how this ideology influences the modern world, and whether or not it is a religion. This is followed by a list of the contents arranged by broad subject, such as "Astrology, Cosmology, and Mythology" and "Dynasties, Official Titles, and Rulers."

In volume 2, the back matter includes a "Chronology of Chinese Dynasties," Romanization tables from Wade-Giles to Pinyan and from Pinyan to Wade-Giles, a glossary of Chinese characters, a bibliography of works in Chinese and works in English, and the index.


Each entry includes numerous cross-references in bold type and a bibliography of works in English. The entries vary widely in length from short paragraphs to several pages and are complemented by many full-page and smaller black-and-white illustrations, photographs, and high-quality maps. The portraits of teachers and emperors are particularly interesting.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Confucianism
by Rodney Leon Taylor, Howard Y. F. Choy
Rosen Publishing Group, 2004-07 | 1000 pages | PDF | 22.7 MB

Traditional Chinese star atlas from 1607 on which the Mandate of Heaven was mapped:

Click the picture for a larger view
Category: Books & Magazines | Religion & Early Cultures |

Saturday, 24. May 2008
The Life of Hinduism

The Life of Hinduism brings together a series of essays - many recognized as classics in the field - that present Hinduism as a vibrant, truly "lived" religion.

Celebrating the diversity for which Hinduism is known, this volume begins its journey in the "new India" of Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, where global connections and local traditions rub shoulders daily.

Readers are then offered a glimpse into the multifaceted world of Hindu worship, life-cycle rites, festivals, performances, gurus, and castes.

The book's final sections deal with the Hinduism that is emerging in diasporic North America and with issues of identity that face Hindus in India and around the world: militancy versus tolerance and the struggle between owning one's own religion and sharing it with others.


The Life of Hinduism by John Stratton Hawley & Vasudha Narayanan
University of California Press, 2006 | 343 pages | PDF | 1.2 MB
Category: Books & Magazines | Religion & Early Cultures |

Thursday, 22. May 2008
Ancient China


The ancient Chinese believed that life carried on after death. People believed they would continue to do the things they had done in this life in the afterlife. Tombs were arranged with the objects that people would need in the afterlife - weapons, ritual vessels and personal ornaments.

They believed there was a very important link between the living and the dead. Your dead ancestors lived in the spirit world with the gods. They had the ability to influence the gods to bring good or bad luck to the people on earth. The people on earth could make offerings and hold ceremonies for their ancestors, to persuade them to bring good luck.

Tombs and Ancestors

Ancient China is divided into five 'chapters' which address themes or topics relevant to ancient China.

The site explores the fascinating civilization that developed between the Yellow and Yangzi rivers. The website presents information about life, beliefs and practices in ancient China using animation, 3D models and objects from The British Museum's collection. You can explore the tomb of a wealthy lord, learn about the legendary Pangu and Nuwa and much more.

Ancient China


Category: Religion & Early Cultures |

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