NEWS

FESTIVAL TIME- PERSPECTIVES OF VARIOUS FAITHS.
Followed by questions, answers and participant's comments.
Date: Thursday 26 th May 2022. Time: 7.30 pm by Zoom

On Thursday 26 th May 2022, the Crawley Inter Faith Network gathering via zoom examined the theme of festival time, from the perspectives of various faith communities, namely : Buddhism, Baháʼí, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. This section of the year sees a number of different religious celebrations taking place and the local places of worship were able to provide spokespersons to offer an explanation of the basic history, principles and traditions associated with the meaning and practicalities of their festival occasion.

Obon Ghost Festival – Nichiren Buddhism

Richard was able to proceed with the story of the Buddhist celebration of the Japanese Obon Ghost Festival. He explained that this festival is celebrated mainly among Buddhist groups in and around Japan. He provided a slide show to illustrate his presentation. The dates of the observance can be confusing. In some parts of Japan they are calculated according to the Gregorian Calendar and so the event falls between the 13 th and the 15 th day of the Seventh Month i.e. July, but in other parts of Japan where they calculate the dates according to the Lunisolar Calendar, it falls in August. Inevitably, throughout Japan, the celebration lasts for the best part of a month and spans July and August each year. The

Origins of Obon.

The largest of Buddhist festivals, Obon falls during the Japanese Summer holidays. Hence it is a popular event in which families gather to celebrate their ancestors with paper lanterns, special offerings and traditional dances. Obon was imported into Japan from China shortly after Buddhism itself in the 7 th century. It is based on a ghost story in the Heart Sutra, The ‘Ullambana’, from Buddhist scriptures. It concerns one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s senior disciples Maudgalyayana and his dead mother Shodai-nyo.

Merit transfer to relieve suffering.

On the 15 th day the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open. Taoists and Buddhists perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Ghost month is largely about the veneration of the dead where filial piety extends to
one’s ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during this month include preparing : ritual food offerings, burning incense and joss paper, papier-mâché models of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Elaborate meals are often served with empty seats reserved for the family’s deceased, treating them as if they are still living. It’s origins are contained in the ‘Ullambana’ or Heart Sutra in Mahayana Buddhist countries. In Theravada countries, the Pettavatthu – a Theravada Buddhist scripture, included in the minor collection of the Pali Canon’s Sutta Pitaka supports the idea of offering food to hungry ghosts. In the Theravada tradition it is as a form of merit transfer.

The problem with Anatman.
Of course, we all know that Buddhist Philosophy is firmly rooted in the concept of anatman or non-persistence which says that nothing survives death. Therefore in theory there are no ghosts or living relics in Buddhism. Richard mentioned a Japanese mentor from over thirty years ago, stressing to him that there are no ghosts in Buddhism !. For over 2000 years, learned monks have explained anatman in sutras, but in practice and in the Vinayas, the division of the Buddhist cannon containing the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community, or Sangha, shows that many Buddhists firmly believe in ghosts, spirits, relics and the importance of funerary rituals. I doubt there is
a country in the world as thoroughly infested with ghosts (Yurei) and ghost stories as Buddhist Japan. Towns like ‘Ubumegaya’ are even named after popular ghosts. It is difficult to imagine towns in England named after a local ghost.

Cultural Archaeology

A common feature of stupa relics, – stupa, in which the relics or remains of the Buddha, his disciples, and lay saints are interred, is belief that the body or spirit still lives, a living
presence or eternal samadhi a state of meditative consciousness. An inscription on a casket lid from Shinkot from the time of Menander, second century BCE, says the relic of the Blessed One – Shakyamuni, which is endowed with life was established. The earliest datable reverence of relics of the historical Buddha, describes them as a living entity and indeed the earliest reference to relics as living is also one of the oldest Buddhist inscriptions we have. We can tell how old the basis of stupa reverence is, from the Gilit Mulasarvastivadin-vinaya, one of the earliest Buddhist schools of India. It dates from a time before the introduction of monumental stupas when relics were simply buried.
The Vinaya recounts that Gautama, when visiting the burial site of his disciple Kasyapa, says of the local Brahmin farmer who waved from a field instead of stopping work : “Wrong is this Brahmin, Ananda. Had he approached I would have been honoured by him, indeed honour would have been done to him by two perfect Buddhas. Why is that? Because, Ananda, at this spot the undisturbed relics of the perfect Buddha Kasyapa are present.” So stupas are not exceptions. The Chinese sage Miao- lo said ‘A plant, a tree, a pebble, a speck of dust, each has the Buddha Nature and each is endowed with cause and effect and with the function to manifest and the wisdom to realise its Buddha nature.’ Relics had not just theoretical but also legal life. The relic preserved the living entity of the Buddha with rights to property and money, unaffected by the local sangha. So where did ghost month start?

Tale of Shodai-nyo

The 13th century Sage Nichiren described the origins of the Obon Festival in a
letter titled ‘On offerings for deceased ancestors’. Among the disciples of the Buddha was one called the ‘Venerable Maudgalyayana’. As the foremost in transcendental powers among the disciples, he ranked alongside Shariputra the foremost in wisdom. Maudgalyayana’s mother, because she was guilty of greed and stinginess was reborn in the realm of hungry spirits. Nichiren says “Her mouth open, her palms pressed together, begging for something to eat. She resembled a starving leech that has caught the scent of a human…………” One can imagine how heart rending a scene this must have been for Maudgalyayana”. (IIlustration of Maudgalyayana finding his mother – the picture illustrates a scene from Hell in which the mother is found by her son.)
The Rescue of Shodai- nyo

Maudgalyayana tried to give his mother rice but it burst into flames. Horrified, he went to Shakyamuni Buddha and asked him what to do. The Buddha said “No-one, neither the Gods of Heaven, Devils, Brahmins, Taoist Priests or Heavenly Kings nor Shakra or Brahma have the power to do so. Therefore on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you should bring together all the sage monks of the 10 directions, prepare offerings of food and drink representing 100 different flavours and present them for the purpose of rescuing your mother from her sufferings”. When Shodai-nyo was reborn in a tranquil heaven, Maudgalyayana danced for joy. The seventh month has since become a time for family gathering and remembering the dead, both happy and solemn. It is also important to transfer merit to the departed and help them become peaceful ghosts. In most of the East, angry spirits are considered troublesome or even dangerous.
Richard warned : ‘Never put your chopsticks up-right in your rice during Ghost Month’.


Celebrating Obon Today. Day One of the Festival :

The Thirteenth day of July / August (Illustration of the festival – visiting a family grave, -venue in a cemetery in Japan.) The festival continues the tradition, when families visit the burial place of their recently deceased relatives. On the first day, the 13 th of July, families visit the place of rest, often bringing paper lanterns. Some people clean their ancestors’ gravestones and markers before presenting offerings. The ritual is called ‘Ohaka Mairi’ using water to wash away any dirt or stains, -though leaving gifts at altars and temples is more popular. Through a ritual called ‘Mukae-bon’ families call out to their ancestors welcoming them back home. Sometimes communal fires or bonfires (‘Mukae-bi’) are lit outside peoples’ homes and are used to guide the spirits. At the home altar (Butsudan) or in the Buddhist temples, dishes for ancestors are placed, which can be supplemented with ‘ancestor money’ and symbols such as cucumber and eggplant. These represent ‘Shoryo- uma’ (soul horse) and Shoryo-ushi (soul cattle). The fast ‘soul horse’ brings the spirits of relatives quickly to the family home in this world and later the slow cattle return them to the hereafter. Timing is important for example in Northern Torchigi Prefecture, there is a custom called, ‘Kama no futa’. It is believed that it takes spirits exactly 13 days to arrive for the Obon celebrations. So they must leave on August 1st in order that they should not be late. To insure that the spirits make it on time, families set out their offerings of 13 special carbonated buns, one for each day of travel. (Illustration of the soul horse and soul cow made of cucumber and aubergine, a ‘Mukae-bi’ fire and paper ancestor money or Hell money, which is considered as negotiable currency in Hell).
Day Two.

Features; Street dancing. when traditional Obon folk dances, called Bon Odori are performed, though the exact style varies from region to region across Japan. The lyrics and messages of the songs also differ and are unique to an area’s culture and history. The dances are a reminder that when Maudgalyayana was able to release his mother, he danced for joy. Japanese Taiko drums are usually played while dances are performed through the streets or on a stage until late at night. There are also traditional Bon food stalls. Light summer kimonos called Yukata are typically worn. This celebration is normally held in parks, temples, shrines and other public areas where bystanders can join in the dancing. (illustration of the Bon Odori procession and dances especially children)
Day Three.
On day three the family spirits are escorted back to the afterlife. People use paper lanterns to bring their ancestor’s spirits back to the graveside through a fire ritual called ‘Okuri-bon’. Floating lanterns called ‘Toro Nagashi’ are also popular. These hold a candle and float on water. The Toro Nagashi are released on lakes, the ocean and rivers to help the ancestral spirits return to their world. The event is equally beautiful and spiritual for participants and bystanders alike. In some areas of Japan towards the end of the festival, gifts are placed on the altars by children for ‘Jizo’ the Bodhisattva, (in Mahayana Buddhism a Bodhisatva is a person who is able to reach Nirvana, but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings). Jizo is one who cares for deceased children in the afterlife. (Illustration of Toro Nagashi lanterns floating spirits back to the after life ready for another year.) Thank you.

Festival of Ridvan – Baháʼí.

Simon spoke about the festival of Ridvan, the greatest of all Baháʼí celebratory events in the Baháʼí calendar. He explained that Ridvan is also the holiest of Baháʼí activities. Because it is such a sacred time and a very significant occasion, it is important to state that there are no physical artefacts, illustrations or representations to display.
Historical Background.
The feast is celebrated from 21 st April to the 2 nd May and commemorates an event in 1863 when Bahá’u’lláh, the principal prophet of God in the Baha’i tradition, stayed at the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad. The garden which was originally situated near the River Tigris, is no longer in existence. However, it still plays an important part in the ritual of remembrance connected with the historical event. The word is pronounced ‘Ridwan’ which in Arabic means beauty or paradise, hence the name of this beautiful garden. It was a historical occurrence but also holds a deeply mystical sentiment in the eyes of all Baháʼí believers. It is where Bahá’u’lláh announced that he was the Promised One and inaugurated this festival, lasting twelve days. He was in Baghdad having been exiled there from Tehran, where he was born and grew up, following some political unrest caused by the movement he founded. He was again exiled to Istanbul in 1863. He made a declaration during this period, when he went to the garden to get ready to leave for the second period of exile. The exact wording of the declaration is not recorded, but there are accounts that tell of huge piles of roses and singing nightingales. You should imagine that it was Spring, in a lovely warm part of the world, the air heavy with a scent of roses. Witness records tell of the very warm weather and the aroma of the flowers.
The Celebration.
Baháʼís remember this occasion year on year. Rather than the total number of days that span this time, only three days of festivity are kept, the first, the ninth and the 12th day. Ceasing twelve days of work in order to observe the holiday might be considered excessive and so only three of the twelve days are kept. The first day was the day of Bahá’u’lláh’s arrival, the ninth day when his family came to join him, and the twelfth, the day of their departure to Istanbul. During this holy time, during these days, any work is suspended. Ridvan usually takes place in the home, however larger Baha’i communities may well hire a hall or larger building. The focus is on joyfulness and prayer. The whole event is a happy time. Usually during this period, on the first day of Ridvan, elections take place in what is referred to as the local spiritual assembly. This is to ensure the local administrative structure is in place and continuity is maintained in the local governance of the community. Elections for national representatives take place later in the festival.
Declaration.
In his declaration, Baha’u’llah said that he was the ‘Prophet Of All Ages’, and went on to identify three significant details. i. In addition to being a messenger of God of this age, no more prophets will be sent by God for a full thousand years from that date 1863, ii. His followers should not use force or shed blood in their efforts to promote his teachings. iii. As of that moment, all the names of God were made fully manifest in all created things. This third point is interesting; Baha’is believe that all of creation was renewed and infused with new energy. Creativity at that time was increased. Hence all things were made new. At that moment all the secrets of the Universe were laid bare. Many Baha’is would point to the considerable developments made at that time in science, technology, art, music, and literature and ever since that era, have flourished.
A Formal consent or approval to what this means.
In a short passage Abdul Baha Abbas, son of Baha’u’llah, wrote at this time, ‘Know the new age is here, creation is reborn, humanity has taken on new life, the autumn has gone by and the reviving spring is here, all things are now made new. Arts and Industries have been reborn and new discoveries in Science leading to new inventions were taking place, all this newness has its source in the fresh outpourings from the wondrous grace and favour from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world. The people therefore must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon those new principles. They are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age’.
That concludes this contribution thank you very much for listening.

Festival of Easter – Christian.
Steve set about describing the festival of Easter. It is a Christian movable feast, celebrated on a Sunday between March 22 nd and April 25 th each year. Whereas the celebration of Christmas takes place on the same day every year i.e. December 25 th, the exact date of the celebration of Easter changes from year to year. Easter is a commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead : Ref The Gospel of St. Mark 16 : 1 – 7
Difference between the Latin and Orthodox Churches.
In the Latin Rite, i.e. The Western Church, ruled from Rome, Easter is calculated on the first Sunday following the first full moon in the Northern Hemisphere following March 21 st or the Vernal Equinox according to the Gregorian Calendar. Eastern (Orthodox) Churches calculate the date from the first full moon after 3 rd April following the Julian calendar. The Julian Calendar was set in the Roman Empire under the direction of Julius Caesar (110 – 44 B.C.E.). The Gregorian calendar is the calendar used in most of the World. It was introduced in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII (1502 – 1585) as a modification of, and replacement for, the Julian calendar to rectify some miscalculations which measured the ‘tropical’ or ‘solar’ year, that is determined by the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. Easter is considered to be the greatest of all Christian festivals and it holds a central place in the liturgical (Churches’) calendar year. So an example is that in 2022, Western Churches celebrated Easter on Sunday 17 th April 2022, whereas Orthodox Churches held services to mark the occasion on Easter Sunday, 24 April 2022. The celebration of Easter and the Easter Season continues for the six or seven Sundays following Easter, that is approximately 50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.

Liturgical year.
The cycle of the Church’s year is celebrated to mark time as God’s time, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is recognised in the seasons : Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. The liturgical calendar follows the events of Jesus’ life – each Sunday is celebrated as the Resurrection, which illuminates the life of Jesus. We are reminded how, through the Resurrection, God raised Jesus to new life and that gives meaning to the things that Jesus said and did and through Him, God is seen to triumph over death, sin, evil and suffering.
Cultural traditions of Easter
It is important to bear in mind the way that traditional religious practice tends to follow very naturalistic and organic processes. Hence at Easter : eggs, the Easter bunny, hat parades and other similar local activities have a prominence. Many ancient traditions dwell on natural phenomena. I suppose it is possible to recognise how religions have a way of coming to terms with the mysteries of life and the unexplained. So the Paschal Mystery : a Catholic expression, which refers to the dying and rising of Christ, includes the same. Brother Anthony of Worth Abbey, referred to the paschal mystery in our last meeting when he was talking about health and well-being – he said “The Christian Paschal mystery is lived out in our lives in small ways. In reality we die to the 20 year old that we would like to be, in order to live as the 70-year-old that I really am”. The unexplained includes the Anglo-Saxon Goddess ‘Eostra’ or ‘Ostra’ from which comes the word Easter. She is the Goddess of Springtime. This idea takes on identity in ‘The Paschal’ mystery which comes from the word ‘Pesach’ in which the annual commemoration of Passover in Egypt goes back to an ancient celebration of the Spring, when life returns to the earth after winter. It took on added meaning when the liberation of the captive Hebrews took place at that time.
Jesus Christ – The Resurrection.
It is the Passover that Jesus celebrates with his followers on the night before he died, when crucified as a subversive element by the Romans, because the leaders of the people charged him with blasphemy. Christians call this occasion ‘Good Friday’, it is good because through the death and resurrection of Christ, all humanity is saved from sin and death. The Gospels describe : his tortuous death on the Cross, which is the symbol of salvation, and how his dead body was placed in the tomb and how on the third day, in accordance with a number of prophetic scriptures, His followers went to the tomb following the Sabbath and the tomb was empty. The Gospels record appearances of Jesus to his followers and on one occasion He even ate in front of them.
The Mystery of the Resurrection.
A great deal has been written about the resurrection and some have tried to explain it. Like the nature of God, it is impossible to say how the Resurrection occurred and explain it. To do so would be to see the mind of God. But it does reflect some of the important truths about life that actually require faith rather than the knowledge to appreciate it. In the celebration of Easter, Christians and all people are enabled to reconcile themselves to life and death, knowing that in our lives God’s will is being enacted even in the face of apparent contradiction. Painting eggs, the Easter Bunny, fertility symbols and many more examples contain evidence of the impossible forces that Humanity attempts to control and manipulate even in the natural aspects of life.
Thank you.


Festivals in Hinduism : Particularly Hanuman Jayanti

Dhavel displayed the bullet points he was to talk to, in a series of slides concerning the significance of festivals in the Hindu Community. Like other religious traditions, Hindus celebrate festivals throughout the whole year. In many parts of India they are dated according to the lunisolar calendar, others use the solar calendar. Some festivals follow a pattern set in regional calendars and mark the seasons of the year, like Makar Sankranti which takes place on 14 th January each year, and is enacted throughout India or wherever Hindus live today. We would consider Hinduism as being Indiacentric, hence all festivals relate back to India and the Indian tradition in some way.

  • Festivals are an integral part of Hinduism.
  • They are spread across the seasons according to solar, lunar or planetary movements.
  • They create a special atmosphere, divert the mind from worldly concerns and joyfully focus on spiritual matters.
  • They often mark the birth, marriage and other significant events during the gods’ time on earth or can simply mark the change in seasons e.g. Makar Sankranti.
  • Every celebration centres around the rituals of prayer and seek blessings.
  • It is not compulsory for everyone to observe / celebrate the festival .

Makar Sankranti

Is dated according to the Gregorian calendar which gives it its specific zodiac sign on that day. A number of festivals fall during the Springtime including the New Year which falls on the 14 th April for many of the modern states in India. Some regions have their own calendar for religious or spiritual purposes and hence The State of Gujarat marks the New Year in November, others keep it in August or September. The national and international calendar is kept according to the Gregorian solar calendar. Many festivals are related to either the birth or marriage of one of the gods e.g. The Festival of Krishna’s marriage with Tulsi. It is called ‘Tulsi Vivah’. It celebrates the ceremonial marriage of Tulsi – a plant, with Lord Vishnu or to his avatar : Lord Krishna. The Tulsi wedding signifies the end of the monsoons and the beginning of the wedding season.
Hindu Theology
In the Hindu faith the gods personify the elements like: the Sun, wind, water, rivers and the gods preside over them. Plants and trees can also be worshipped as gods. Similar celebratory events are :The marriage of Ram to Sita, Rukimi and Krishna and so on. An occasion when God appears on earth is considered his or her birthday. Obviously the gods are neither born nor die, so their appearance is marked as a festival birthday. Other celebratory events mark the change of the seasons or the movement of the Sun or Moon from one zodiac sign to another. Usually the festival days have vigils and prayers associated with each of them, primarily to seek blessings from the presiding deity on that particular day.
The Gods
There are three ways of representing the gods or their forms. There is the human form like those seen and worshipped in Hindu temples and shrines. The gods may also be represented as icons such as the egg like stone which is worshipped as Shiva, it is a considered an avatar. Similarly Vishnu is represented as a shalingram, also called a shalagram shila. It is a particular variety of stone collected from riverbed or banks of the Kali Gandaki, a tributary of the Gandaki River in Nepal, used as a non-anthropomorphic representation of Vishnu by some Hindus. A flat stone placed horizontally is Vishnu, a black oval shaped stone placed vertically is Shiva. Some groups within Hinduism do not use representations of the gods they prefer to rely on the elements. So fire sacrifices suffice for worship. A fire is lit and by chanting hymns from the Vedas is the way of connecting or
worshipping the god. There are several paths to follow which lead you to the God. An individual, within Hinduism, has the liberty to choose the path to follow, to attain the supreme personality or the supreme God. You may worship the idol, the icon or the element.

Hindu Festivals
Thus are festivals arranged. They are not compulsory, so not everyone participates. It is not
necessary that all conform to the same activities of worship in the festival throughout the day. It does depend on the individual’s philosophy and belief.

  • Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated to mark his appearance day .
  • Hanuman is one of the central characters in the Ramayana and is also present in the Mahabharata. He is also known as Sankatmochan, Maruti, Pawanputra, Kesari Nandan.
  • He is the symbol of energy and strength.
  • He is a deity who fights against all evils.
  • He is viewed as an ideal combination of courage, assertive excellence and heroic initiative.
  • He symbolises the human excellences of inner self-control and faith.
  • He is known as an ideal karma yogi for his fearless selfless service, humility and devotion to Lord Ram.

Hanuman Jayanti – the story.
The narrative is recounted at the Festival of Hanuman Jayanti. It is contained in the Ramayana, which is part of the Hindu Vedas. Lord Ram was exiled for 14 years. His step mother and father required him to leave the kingdom. He went to live in a forest. His wife Sita who accompanied him, was abducted by Ravana, King of the Island of Lanka. In his efforts to rescue his wife Ram met with Hanuman, The Monkey god and King of a Monkey Kingdom, learns of Sita’s plight. Hanuman acts as Ram’s ambassador and shows complete loyalty to him in surrendering to Ram as his sole devotee. Ram’s order was for Hanuman to go to Lanka to inquire of Sita’s health and whereabouts. He went and found Ravana and offered him the means by which he could avoid Ram’s anger if he sought forgiveness. Ravana refused to listen. Hanuman returned to Ram with the response. Hanuman’s army and many other creatures combine under Ram’s leadership and set about invading Lanka. Ram builds a bridge between the mainland and the Island and together the forces invade Lanka to engage with Ravana’s forces and eventually Sita is rescued.
A Further Adventure.
In the process Lachshman, the brother of Ram is hit by a poisonous arrow. Because he was
unconscious and nearing death, it was deemed necessary to obtain an antidote situated on a far away mountain. Hanuman is deputed to do so, but in his hurry to undertake this order, received no proper information about how to identify the specific herb that contained the medicine that could save Lachshman. Hanuman finds the mountain at great speed. It is full of many herbs. He doesn’t know which one to take, so he lifts the entire Himalayan mountain and carries it across India to Lanka to save Lakshman. Thus it is his immense strength that helps Lakshman recover from his wound.
The significance of Hanuman.
Hanuman is referred to as ‘Sankatamochan’ ; sankat = an obstacle, mochen = one who overcomes. Hence, Hanuman is renowned as the one who assists with obstacles both physical and mental. He is a prime deity whose strength, speed and power are prolific. He is distinguished for these characteristics and revered especially by wrestlers and body builders. He is considered a ‘Karma Yogi’ for his selfless acts in the service of Ram.

  • The worshipper’s role is to appease Lord Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Lord Ram.
  • Devotees need not perform any spiritual exercises. In complete faith they visit Hanuman’s
  • shrine, taking part in pooja rituals, offering fruits and flowers. Reciting ‘Ram Naam’ is more
  • than enough.
  • Hanuman provides a role model to Brahmacharyas (celibates) wrestlers and body builders.

The Spiritual aspects celebrated in the story.
Hanuman Jayanti is a festival of Hanuman’s birth or the day of his appearance on earth according to the Hindu scriptures. He is reputed to live on, having overcome death. He is one of the Chiranjeevi. Which makes him one of the noble immortal figures in Hindu mythology. In the previous presentation we have heard of the life of Jesus Christ and about the Resurrection in Christianity, in which all is not necessarily black and white in the spiritual world . The same applies to the details about Hanuman. It demonstrates how the virtues he embodied are still alive. People remember Hanuman as a great devotee of Ram They worship him by reciting Hanuman’s prayers, visiting Hanuman’s Temple and offering paraphernalia.

The Festivity
None of the Hindu festivals are complete without sweets. This one is associated with a specific type of Ladoos, which are a mixture of ingredients. They are formed of a little globule of gum arabic collected from the babhul tree, with possibly ; coconut, almonds, cashews, dates, spices such as nutmeg and cardamom, poppy seeds, ghee, and sugar. These are offered to Hanuman as part of the festivities. People chant Hanuman Chalina composed by Tulsidas in the Sixteenth Century. These prayers, written in the colloquial language of the time, still act as significant intercessions for Hindu people. Those who require a deeper interpretation can chant sanscrit prayers where Hanuman praises are sung from the Ramayana and other scriptures. Flowers and fruit are also always included in the repertoire. Thank you.


The Festival of the Vaisakhi – Sikh

Jasvinder and her daughter Annekah spoke about the festival of Sakhi. Jasvinda thanked CIFN for the invitation to present this contribution.
The festival is known as Baisakhi or Vaisakhi which is the celebration of the New Year on either 13th or 14th April. It is a traditional festival for the beginning of the Harvest and the date is calculated according to the lunar calendar. It is a thanksgiving for the harvest. It took on a whole new meaning in the year 1699 for Sikhs.
Historical Background.
Since then it has continued in the same mode but with a new significance. In the 17th century when India was ruled by Moghuls there were a number of atrocities that took place and the people were in turmoil. At the festival of Sakhi, the 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, born Gobind Das or Gobind Rai was the tenth Sikh Guru, a spiritual master, warrior, poet and philosopher. (Jasvinder showed an illustration) A large gathering was due to take place in Anandpur when Guru Gobind Singh decided to create saint soldiers. At that time there was a considerable need not only for spiritual leadership but also military intervention, to defend Sikh interests. He wanted to create a new identity for Sikhs who lived together throughout India with Muslims and mainly Hindus. At a public appearance he emerged from
his tent with a sword to ask for the heads of five people. He was not speaking literally, he did not wish to decapitate these people, however what he said did create some fear in the crowd. When he spoke in Punjabi and requested what seemed like an awful expectation. What he said was symbolic, he was asking for commitment for people to fight to the death if necessary. Some people responded, they realised what he meant. First one person stood up and then another until he had the five volunteers. They were taken into his tent where he initiated them, first with a drink of nectar known as Amrit, (which means to bring the dead to life.) The drink is made with sugar and water, it was part of their commissioning. The men were given the name ‘Singh’ which means lion, later Women were dubbed, ‘Kaur’ for princess. From now on they would be his courageous followers, dressed in full garb with turbans and swords in readiness to fight. From that day, this festival assumed its new importance.
The celebration of Vaiskhi today
When we celebrate today in India in the open, there can be a funfair, lots of food, bhangra dancing to the music. It is the biggest festival of the Sikh calendar. When we celebrate Vaisakhi in the Gurdwara it is slightly different. We have readings from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. The celebration takes place over three days and nights and there is lots of food available. On the third day when the festivity reaches its conclusion, the Gurdwara is usually full of people, taking part in devotional singing and ritual celebration. No alcohol or meat is consumed. Sikhs believe that we shouldn’t kill for our needs unless it is absolutely essential. In some places the Guru Granth Sahib, is processed around the Town. At the head of the procession are five people in full garb carrying swords, they are known as the ‘beloved five’, they represent the five chosen volunteers that Guru Gobind Singh originally initiated in 1699. So from that day, Sikhs are invested with their special identity. To mark this identity Sikhs wear five objects.
Jasvinder’s daughter Annekah explained the objects of Khalsa initiation and showed examples :

  • The hair comb : Kanga
  • The steel bracelet: Kara
  • Cotton underwear: Kachh
  • A steel sword :Kirpan
  • Uncut hair: Kesh

These objects are the sign of a fully baptised Sikh, who is required to follow the basic code of Sikh conduct. Thank you.

Ramadan and the Festival of Eid- Islam
Because time was short, this contribution was curtailed.
Iyad explained that at the end of the period of fasting known as Ramadan is the celebration called Eid. To begin with, Ramadan is a period of fasting during the hours of daylight that can last for 30 days continuously. The Islamic lunar calendar consists of twelve months, with Ramadan being the ninth month. It develops personal self-awareness and Spiritual growth, teaches self-discipline and self-control, improves willpower and motivation. It provides a sense of achievement that at the end of 30 days fasting, from dawn to sunset, one can realise a deeper spiritual identity. It offers mental stability for a healthy lifestyle.
The Meaning of Ramadan.
The root of the word Ramadan shows : Ramad which means thirst. The practice creates a desire which can be overcome. The first few days can be very demanding, however with experience the process is slightly eased and any discomfort minimal.
Examples of Eid Celebrations
Iyad displayed some photographs of past Eid celebrations. They are mostly large numbers of people celebrating the festival together:

The celebration of Eid in Mecca at the Kaaba.

Eid in a park in Crawley.

Together in Birmingham.

Cairo, Egypt.

Jerusalem.

A funfair in Manchester at Eid.
Eid Remembered
Iyad reminisced, he can remember as a boy going with his father to visit his uncle who was a tailor. Together they would go to the Cloth Market in order to purchase material and his uncle would make trousers and shirts for them. The Eid celebration is marked with the wearing of new clothes and shoes. There were also presents, usually in the form of money from his mother and father. The money was given back to his mother, who would act as his banker. When any money was required for the cinema or something from a shop, he would go to mother to obtain it. In Crawley a number of opportunities have arisen in the past for Muslims to celebrate Eid together, which always makes for a great occasion.
Thank you.
An opportunity for questions:
In the light of Richard’s presentation regarding the Obon Ghost festival, he was asked to clarify the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. In his response he explained that the principle of Atman is that there is not a persistent soul which is reborn. There is however Karma. He went on to say “If I am not clear about reincarnation, I am being absolutely consistent, because when Shakymuna Buddha was asked, he said, ‘It depends’ “. It seems there is a conflict in the Sutras and Philosophy of Buddhism with the Vinayas and actual practice of Buddhism.(The Vinayas- a division of the Buddhist Cannon containing the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community or Sangha). Essentially it is the Buddha Nature which persists into new life, when the conditions are right. If some unresolved issues exist in a person’s life through Karma, that may account for the spirit’s existence after death. What is fascinating is that the interest in Ghosts is not just a cultural overlay, it is obviously not just the lay people who were responsible for these beliefs and practices. These ideas were present at the start of Buddhism. It is possible to show archaeological evidence that senior disciples and senior monastics were also involved in practicing relic veneration and other rituals apparently incompatible with Anatman. It is possible to reconcile both of these strands (persistence and non-persistence) since they represent the two perceptions of Buddhism. These are: the Truth of Temporary Existence, which is analytical and describes the Law (all composite things are subject to birth and death), and the Truth of Dependent Origination, which is synthetic and describes phenomenal reality (all things are interdependent). These two come together to form the Truth of the Middle Way, which unites and transforms the apparently irreconcilable theory and practice we find in sutras and stupa inscriptions, in Anatman and spirit rituals.

Dhavel enquired about the difference between the Orthodox celebration of Easter falling after the Jewish Passover, whereas Western Churches can celebrate Easter before the Jewish Passover. Because the Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar, their festivals do not synchronise with those of the West. For instance the Orthodox Christmas takes place on 7 th January each year. They have never attempted to update those calendar differences, in the in the light of the changes brought about by the Gregorian calendar. In fact it has caused some considerable problems between the Orthodox Church and The Latin Church in the past. The problem merely concerns the chronology of the narrative being celebrated. The Orthodox Church do not celebrate the death and resurrection of
Christ until the Jewish community have celebrated their Passover, whereas the Latin Churches are quite happy to celebrate Easter independent of them. As there were no further questions Iyad Daoud thanked all for their presentations and those who had
contributed by their presence. All were asked to unmute and wish each other farewell, until the next CIFN event in June.

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Next Event Wednesday 29 th June 19. 30 hrs.

Father Ian Wallis has been Rector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain in the ORTHODOX PARISH OF THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST since 2009, leading Worship at St Thomas a Becket’s Church, Cliffe High Street, LEWES BN7 2AW.

He will provide an instruction on Orthodox Christianity and include a comment on the Russian Orthodox Church and its relation to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This will no doubt stimulate questions and some discussion.

CIFN Zoom Meeting Time: Wednesday Jun 29, 2022 at 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81077039140?pwd=WS8wN1ZhL3pqR2VBZnEzTVZ1bWkwUT09

Meeting ID: 810 7703 9140 Passcode: 108420

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