Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Diana Eck, is she too optimistic? At first, I didn't know what to think of her writing or her book. In the introduction and first chapter, I was a little bored and frankly didn't know where she was going with the tremendous amount of information she was pouring into my head as I read each page. I mean, every paragraph contains so many different names of people, so many dates, so many facts of this and that, and so many names of temples, churches, etc. It is a little hard to keep everything straight, but after reading the million of pages Dr. Rein assigned to the class (I am sticking by my comment that it was absurd) I must say that Eck is really growing on me. I enjoyed what interpretations she had to make, even if they were among the very few, and can see how certain things she concludes make sense, although I haven't personally witnessed these things happening.
However, before I elaborate on that issue, I would like to say something that I wanted to say in class on Monday, but there wasn't enough time. The issue of what is pluralism exactly came up in class and I was hoping it did because I particularly liked what she had to say about the matter. In my opinion and this is what I wanted to say in class, pluralism is what is illustrated in the following quote, "When I saw a hundred thousand people there, I could not believe that I had been asked to pray. For the first time, I felt America was my home," said by Dr. Singh who was asked to pray at the Lincoln Memorial. In pretty much all of the examples that Eck provides us with depicting people reaching out towards one another and thus the optimistic view of things, you have people engaging with each other and taking the time to get to know one another. The differences are acknowledged and put aside and people participate with each other just like Dr. Singh, a Sikh immigrant, was asked to participate in the commemoration of the March on Washington.
Ok, now going back to my first observation about what she was talking about in her Hinduism and Buddhist chapters. Crap, I can't find the part in the book where I thought she best described what I am talking about. I hate when you can't find something in a book because you didn't mark the place. Well, I will do my best in trying to explain what I want to talk about. With all of her examples of the Hindu and Buddhist temples being built everywhere in the United States, I just feel that the teachings of these temples have evolved and adapted into American Hinduism and Buddhism. Somewhere in these two chapters, I remember her saying that one Zen master (maybe it was someone else, I can't find it) possessed both qualites of American style and traditional Hindu practice. It was seen through her teachings that she had adapted to the world she now lived in, thus creating American Hinduism. I am having a lot of trouble explaining what I mean because I can't find what I am alluding to in the book. So, I apologize. I felt that Eck also showed this through the geographical location, landscape, and physicality of the buildings themselves that have been built all of the U.S. in almost every major city. Ok, I am going to try to find what I was looking for in the book and hopefully I can find it for class tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

So, haven't made a blog entry in quite a long time. I've been really busy lately, so I haven't gotten a chance to sit at my computer and blog away like some other people in the class. This is going to be a short entry though because I haven't really enjoyed some of the last couple of readings, so instead of comment on what we have read, I am going to talk about the books that we are going to start reading very soon. I started reading Diana Eck's novel, A New Religious America and I have glanced at the other two books, Betweeen Heaven and Earth and Soul Searching. Earlier in the semester, we read an article by Eck on religious diversity and The Pluralism Project and I found what she said was very true in that our country is no longer just a Christian-based nation, but rather one can go to California and find anything from a Jewish synagogue to a Catholic church to a mosque all in the relatively same area of the state. I personally felt that she took a simplistic approach to the problem because everyone trying to understand each other's religion and being ok with them is easier said than done. Another point I would like to make is that personally, I think the main problem associated with how America has transformed into this place of extreme religious diversity is the mass ignorance and unawareness of this important, yet not made important issue. I don't think if I went to my family and asked them about the religious diversity of America that they would really believe at first the extent to which America has become a region where people can actively practice their religions, both privately and publicly. To me this is great and all, but I would have rathered started with the other two books. I think that studying the relationships and individual religious worlds that people make with sacred figures would be fascinating because it's like you are getting into the person's mind who believes they have this special relationship with the Virgin Mary or Allah or whatever higher being they believe in. I can't wait to read that book; I hope it is as good as I think it will be. The last book, Soul Searching, is other one that I wish we could have read first because I really didn't think that religious spirituality played such a great role in teenagers lives as the author claims it to have. Many of my friends in high school never went to church as did I, so reading that kind of made me step back and evaluate my own life. By taking these religious courses, I hope to be able to make the decision of whether I want to lead a religious life or not and being happy with that decision. Just from glancing at this book, I think that it speaks to the searching that I am doing now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I found our discussion on Wednesday exactly what my last blog entry was about. It just made me realize even more that I tend to do exactly what Dr. Rein was talking about. Why do we privilege internal feelings and thoughts and tend to look for these inner aspects of people in order to understand their religion? I know that I do this and during class I was trying to figure out the reasons for me trying to analyze and understand someone's personal innermost feelings for the ultimate purpose of fully understanding their religion. For me personally, I place a greater emphasis on a person's feelings than their actions because I have always believed or maybe just followed the idea that people's thoughts and emotions govern the way they act. I don't know if I am going to be able to explain what I really mean and if I do, if it's in the best possible way, but here it goes. A person centers their focus on a particular thought, feeling, event, or anything they want to think about. It registers in whatever part of their brain, the brain interprets it, and comes to a conclusion or course of action. Now, I am no scientist (at least not yet), but this is how I view what happens in our brain just from taking some psychology courses. The brain lets the person know what to do and then that person does it. Therefore, it all comes back to the brain, to the internal rather than external part of human beings, to the feelings rather than actions of people. That may sound completely whack, but that's my take on it. So, I guess what my conclusion is is that if people understand where another person's feelings come from and what they are, then they will be able to connect on a level greater than if they just acknowledged the person's actions and reinacted them. People want to be connected to others on that deep spiritual, religious, and personal level that I don't think you would get if you just looked at the person's actions. That is why people look from the inside out and not from the outside in. And, to get that connection you have to go to the source of it all, which is feeling and emotion.

I must say that I liked Dr. Rein's quote from Wednesday and I think that it says everything about what we as a class are trying to do by taking this course.
"The impulse to study and understand religion comes from religion itself." - Dr. Rein