Hussain/Amore/Oxtoby, World Religions: Western Traditions 5e Instructor Resources
This video takes us to a temple in India. Unlike most Indian temples, which are dedicated to one particular god, this temple has many gods and therefore a large variety of worshippers and rituals. Priests assist the worshippers in offering prayers. The temple’s exterior is gleaming white, with an impressive architectural style and sculptures of various deities and religious scenes. Inside, worshippers encounter a number of statues of gods and shrines where rituals are performed. The video emphasizes both the freedom of individual Hindus with regard to their choice of deities and the responsibility of each Hindu to worship appropriately.
This video takes us to Allahabad, India, to witness the Ardh Kumbh Mela, an event lasting several weeks that takes place once every twelve years. Some form of the Kumbh Mela festival takes place once every three years in one of four cities, but the Allahabad event—most recently held in 2013—is the largest and most important. This Kumbh Mela festival is situated at the convergence of major rivers, a location with special mythic and religious significance. The practical demands of the modern event, which is estimated to be among the world’s largest gatherings of people, call for governmental assistance. Some fifty thousand tents and twenty-five thousand toilets are provided. Pilgrims devote a great deal of time and energy to attend the Kumbh Mela and cite a wide variety of benefits from doing so, all of them related in some way to enhancing their spiritual well-being.
The Saisho Homa prayer ritual is performed each year by the Buddhist community known as Shinnyo-en. It features a fire ritual, and it is aimed toward promoting world peace. Shinnyo Buddhism originated in Japan but is now practiced in various places around the world, including the United States. This performance of the Saisho Homa ritual took place in 2010 in Redwood City, California, the U.S. headquarters of Shinnyo-en. When watching this video, try to observe the wide variety of people involved, including the head priest leader of Shinnyo-en, Her Holiness Shinso Ito, along with other Shinnyo priests and some representatives of other religious traditions.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose given name is Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and, as this video makes clear, a political leader of the Tibetan people. In this interview, journalist Fareed Zakaria asks the Dalai Lama challenging questions about the role of Tibet on the world stage. The most pressing and arguably the most complicated aspect of this role involves the relationship between Tibet and China. Zakaria recalls statements the Dalai Lama made in the past about how China has “thrown Tibet into a hell on earth” and states that the Dalai Lama has pronounced that his “model of leadership had failed.” To this the Dalai Lama responds by grounding considerations of worldly matters in deeply rooted spiritual principles of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
On April 7, 2012, the first day of the important Jewish holiday Passover, CNN news anchor Randi Kaye discussed with Nadia Bilchik, CNN editorial producer, the history and symbolism of the holiday, in particular the traditional meal (the seder). As this conversation makes clear, Passover is a modern celebration with ties to ancient events that are of great significance for the Jewish tradition. The events are centered on the Exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, which scholars believe occurred over three thousand years ago. When watching this video, note how pervasive and wide-ranging are the symbolic meanings of the various items served in the Passover meal, each of which complements the overall symbolic significance of the holiday itself.
Few individuals in the history of the world have experienced such extremes of anonymity and fame as Confucius. When he died in 479 B.C.E., he and his teachings seemed to be destined for obscurity. And yet interest was revived to the point that Chinese culture was thoroughly Confucian for over two thousand years. With the communist revolution and its tumultuous impact on culture, Confucius appeared once again to be headed back to relative obscurity. But recently, for reasons explored in this video, all of that has started to change once again. According to the scholar Daniel A. Bell, who appears in the video, Confucius is the Chinese government’s obvious choice for providing China with effective principles. “Not many people believe in Marx anymore and there’s a need for an alternative source of ideological legitimacy, and they don’t want to become completely Westernized,” Bell notes. The alternative is Confucius and his teachings.
Daoist (or Taoist) religion includes many diverse elements. This video focuses on Daoist means of predicting and effecting “good fortune,” especially economic fortune. In doing so, it illustrates Daoism’s connection to Chinese astrology with its twelve zodiacal years, this being the Year of the Rabbit. The video features the perspectives of Master Joseph Wong, who explains various aspects of economic expectations during the Year of the Rabbit while also offering advice for enhancing prosperity. It might be easy for those outside the Daoist tradition to dismiss some of these elements as not being properly “religious.” But this would depend on a judgmental view of what ought to count for religion among Daoists—something that students and scholars of religious traditions should avoid lest their conclusions be narrow-minded or biased.
This video takes us to Nikko in central Japan to witness the semiannual ceremony in honor of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the revered shogun who was buried here in 1617. For the last three centuries, Nikko has been a spiritual center, drawing priests and warriors to its temples. The ceremony at Nikko provides a vivid example of various features of the Shinto religion, combining the serene beauty of the natural setting with landscaping and architecture, pageantry and ritual practice. The integration of nationalist with spiritual elements also is typical of Shinto.
Holy Week constitutes for many Christians the most important time of the year. It is an especially significant time in the city of Jerusalem. Along with being the site of foundational events of the Christian religion, Jerusalem is the sacred center of Judaism and one of the most important locales for Islam. This video takes us into the streets of Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week, giving us a firsthand look at pilgrims from around the globe in diverse types of dress and celebrating in a variety of ways. The video also makes note of the relevance of this period for Judaism and for the city officials, who must brace for the large crowds. Perhaps the most striking feature of this video is the display of celebration, capturing the emotions of this wide array of Christian visitors to the birthplace of their religion.
The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. This video accompanies a young Pakistani-American couple for whom the Hajj is both rewarding and a challenge. With more than two million Muslims participating, it is little wonder that the Hajj presents challenges. Along with simply being together in a crowded place, the pilgrims are required to perform the same religious duties. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Hajj is the sense of unity of the Muslim community. Note, for example, how the pilgrims’ dress lends itself to this theme of unity.
Ramadan is the most important month in the Muslim religious calendar. This video takes us to Istanbul, Turkey, where Ramadan is celebrated in colorful and festive ways. From the drumbeats at three o’clock in the morning that accompany the opening scene, this depiction of Ramadan makes clear its wide appeal. Amid the festive atmosphere, however, we glimpse the displays of devotion that for many Muslims are the truly significant aspects of Ramadan, “the sultan of the twelve months,” as one of the residents of Istanbul puts it. Prayer and other rituals, and perhaps most noticeable of all fasting during the daytime hours, mark the sacred nature of Islam’s most important month.
Santeria is a clear example of a hybrid religion, a joining together of originally independent traditions to form a distinctive new religion. Santeria also is notably diverse with regard to its functions, traversing the spectrum from the spiritual to the practical.This video takes us to Havana, giving us a rare look at the culture of Cuba through the eyes of participants in Santeria religion.
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., organizes an annual National Powwow. This video takes us to the 2007 event, the theme of which was “Honoring Warriors: Past and Present.” Almost one thousand Native Americans took part in the Powwow, gathering in Washington from places around the United States, Canada, and Latin America. Costumes and dances specific to each tribe contributed to the diverse cultural tapestry on display. The issues explored in the video revolve around the warrior traditions of Native American peoples, traditions that continue today with participation in the modern military.
The Apache Sunrise Dance is a traditional coming-of-age ceremony for girls. This video features the ceremony performed on behalf of—and primarily by—fourteen-year-old J.T., whose plans for the summer include preparation for this ceremony as well as playing in a basketball tournament. J.T.’s story provides a telling example of traditional ways overlapping with modern life on the Apache Indian Reservation, situated in Arizona. Many of the elements of the ceremony are clearly rooted in long-standing traditions. The medicine men who oversee the dance, for instance, must memorize elaborate chants that have been passed down by their ancestors. The preservation of these traditional ways amid the lifestyles and challenges of modern times brings joy to the older generations even if the younger people are dressed in T-shirts and jeans.
According to the technical definition, the Sikh gurdwara is any building that houses a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s most important sacred text. But as this video shows, the gurdwara is much more than that, providing for Sikhs a true home for the congregation, complete with facilities for sharing communal meals. The gurdwara is the center of Sikh worship practices, featuring prayer and recitation from the Guru Granth Sahib with musical accompaniment played by specialists. As the video makes clear, the Sikh sense of community is closely integrated with worship. Along with observing these aspects of Sikh worship and of being together as a congregation, note the important Sikh principles that are set forth. Also note the special attention paid to the situation of Sikhs living in North America.