Holi is an ancient Hindu religious festival honoring Spring. Also known as Festival of Colors or Festival of Love, the celebration is very popular throughout India, Nepal and Southeast Asia. It’s becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America as a rite of winter passage into Spring and an opportunity to play, dance and celebrate during the final days of winter. Holi is a little bit of Valentine’s Day mixed with the multicultural primal pagan roots of Easter.
Holi is celebrated in conjunction with the vernal equinox on the “Phalguna Purnima” (Full Moon usually in March). It symbolizes the victory of good (Spring) over evil (Winter); the end of the cold dead of Winter; the arrival of the blooming fertility of Spring; and a communal celebration of cheer and laughter. It’s a time to forget troubles, forgive grievances and play without regard to age or social status. Holi celebrates hope.
Festivities include the night-before bonfires (Holidas) around which family and friends gather to drum, sing and dance. Special foods are served with intoxicating beverages (bhang) and desserts. The next morning witnesses a liberal playful time of literally throwing multi-colored dried powders on each other, water fights to run the colors, water balloon fun and dancing.
I’ve never been to India but visiting during Holi seems like a really festive time to go.
An ancient Buddhist proverb suggests that “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” And so it is.
When studying comparative religions in seminary, I initially felt that Hinduism didn’t particularly resonate with me. While I was familiar and comfortable with at least the some of the philosophical tenets of Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam were foreign and relatively foreign to me.
My faculty adviser knew these things. Much to my surprise, his ordination gift to me was his own copy of Swami Vivekananda’s Lessons in Classical Yoga. The very next day, I participated in my first Hindu blessing ceremony.
I’m now exploring Hinduism again. Much like Buddhism, many of the culturally relative signs, symbols and rituals of Hindu beliefs really don’t speak to me (at least yet) but I’m open to the adventure. Another reminder that my “all paths” approach to meaning and ministry is the right approach for me.
Here’s a small sample of what’s been floating through my meditation these past days. All the quotes are from Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), who represents one path within Hinduism called Vedanta philosophy. As always, I’m trying to keep it simple.
“You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.”
“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you,
None can make you spiritual.
There is no other teach but your own soul.”
“There is only one existence.”
“All the power is within you;
You can do anything and everything.
Believe in that.
Don’t believe that you are weak.
Stand up and express the divinity within you.”
“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary.
Thoughts live; they travel far.”
“Take risks in your life.
If you win, you can lead. If you loose, you can guide.”
“You are Divine.”
“All the power in the universe are already ours.
It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.”
“The unity of all existence is already within each of us.”
“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind,
because oneness is the secret of everything.”
“Never say, “O Lord, I am a miserable sinner.” Who will help you? You are the help of the universe. What in this universe can help you? What can prevail over you? You are the God of the universe; where can you seek for help? Never help came from anywhere but from yourself. In your ignorance, every prayer that you made and that was answered, you thought was answered by some Being, but you answered the prayer yourself unknowingly. The help came from yourself, and you fondly imagined that someone was sending help to you. There is no help for you outside of yourself; you are the creator of the universe. Like the silkworm, you have built a cocoon around yourself. Who will save you? Burst your own cocoon and come out as a beautiful butterfly, as the free soul. Then alone you will see Truth.”
On October 27, 1986, world religious leaders gathered in Assisi, Italy for the Day of Prayer for World Peace. The 12 prayers for peace offered have become known as the Peace Seeds.
“Like the bee gathering honey from the different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scripture and sees only the good in all religions.” – Mahatma Gandhi
HINDU PRAYER FOR PEACE
Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real. Oh God, lead us from darkness to light.
Oh God, lead us from death to immortality.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all. Oh Lord God Almighty,
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome.
And may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.
May they Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to us. And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all,
And may that peace come to me also.
BUDDHIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
May all beings everywhere plagued with sufferings of body and mind
Quickly be freed from their illnesses. May those frightened cease to be afraid,
And may those bound be free.
May the powerless find power, and may people think of befriending one another.
May those who find themselves in trackless, fearful wilderness –
the children, the aged, the unprotected –
Be guarded by beneficent celestials, and may they swiftly attain Buddhahood.
JAINIST PRAYER FOR PEACE
Peace and Universal Love is the essence of the Gospel
preached by all the Enlightened Ones.
The Lord has preached that equanimity is the Dharma.
Forgive do I creature all and let all creatures forgive me.
Unto all have I amity and unto none enmity.
Know that violence is the root cause of all miseries in the world.
Violence, in fact, is the knot of bondage.
“Do not injure any living being.”
This is the eternal , perennial and unalterable way of spiritual life.
Any weapon, howsoever powerful it may be,
can always be superseded by a superior one;
But no weapon can, however, be superior to non-violence and love.
MUSLIM PRAYER FOR PEACE
In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful.
Praise be to the Lord of the Universe.
Who had created us and made us into tribes and nations,
That we may know each other, not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy inclines towards peace, Do thous also incline towards peace,
And trust in God, For the Lord is the one that hears and knows all things.
And the servants of God, Most Gracious, are those who walk on the earth
in humility, and when we address them, we say “Peace.”
SIKH PRAYER FOR PEACE
God judges us according to our deeds, not the coat we wear.
That Truth is above everything, but higher still is truthful living.
Know that we attain God when we love,
And only that victory endures in consequence of which no one is defeated.
BAHAI’ PRAYER FOR PEACE
Be generous in prosperity and thankful in adversity.
Be fair in judgement and guarded in speech.
Be a lamp for those who walk in darkness and a home to the stranger.
Be eyes to the blind and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
Be a breathe of life to the body of humankind,
A dew to the soil of the human heart,
And a fruit upon the tree of humility.
SHINTO PRAYER FOR PEACE
Although the people living across the ocean surrounding us,
I believe are all brothers and sisters,
Why are there constant troubles in this world?
Why do winds and waves rise in the ocean surrounding us?
I only earnestly wish that the wind will soon puff away all the clouds
Which are hanging over the tops of the mountains.
NATIVE AFRICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
Almighty God, the Great Thumb cannot evade to tie any knot;
The Roaring Thunder that splits mighty trees;
The All Seeing Lord up on high who sees even the footprints of an antelope
on a rock mass here on Earth.
You are the One who does not hesitate to respond to our call.
You are the cornerstone of peace.
NATIVE AMERICAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, I raise my pipe to you.
To your messengers the four winds and to Mother Earth who provides for your children.
Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love,
to respect and to be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind.
Let us learn to share all the good things that you provide for us on this Earth.
ZOROASTRIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
We pray to God to eradicate all the misery in the world;
That understanding triumph over ignorance, that generosity triumph over indifference,
That trust triumph over contempt and that truth triumph over falsehood.
JEWISH PRAYER FOR PEACE
Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
that we may walk the paths of the Most High.
And we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks.
National shall not life us sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
And none shall be afraid for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken.
CHRISTIAN PRAYER FOR PEACE
Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be known as Children of God.
But I say to you that hear: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you.
To those who strike you on the cheek offer the other also.
And from those who take away your cloak, do not withhold your coat as well.
Give to everyone who begs from you
And of those who take away your goods do not ask them again.
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
*Thanks to the Chaplaincy Institute (www.ChaplaincyInstitute.Org/library).
This year has been very painful for me. Despite my losses, I am grateful.
A Native American Thanksgiving Blessing
We return thanks to our mother, the earth,
which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams,
which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs,
which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and stars,
which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to the sun,
that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in Whom is embodied all goodness,
and Who directs all things for the good of Her children. (Iroquois Nation)
A Jewish/Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer
For the laughter of the children,
For my own life breath,
For the abundance of food on this table,
For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,
For the roof over our heads,
The clothes on our backs,
For our health,
And our wealth of blessings,
For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,
For the freedom to pray these words
In any language,
In any faith,
In this great country,
Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.
Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen. (Rabbi Naomi Levy)
A Hindu Thanksgiving Prayer Before Meals
This ritual is one.
The food is one.
We who offer the food are one.
The fire of hunger is also one.
All action is one.
We who understand this are one.
A Christian Thanksgiving Litany
Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so
freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and
sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and
We thank you, Lord.
For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.
For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering
and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.
For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and
promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen. (The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer)
The Canticle of the Creatures
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun, who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.
We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.
We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility. (St. Francis of Assisi)
An Interfaith Prayer of Thankfulness
For today, I am grateful. For tomorrow, I am hopeful. For my life, I am blessed
I thank my ancestors for their labors and survival.
I thank my contemporaries for their companionship.
I thank my descendants for carrying me with them.
For today… I do my best in all things. For tomorrow… I honor and heal the environment. For my life… I work to be a healthy cell in the body of the Universe.
I honor the journey of my life with conscious living
and honor the the lives of all I meet and those I will never know. (Abby Willowroot)
I’ve thought/meditated/prayed about this all day today. I have decided not to blog about Michael Brown or Ferguson, Missouri or American racism. Volumes have been shared considering his tragic death, the Brown family’s loss, the community’s pain and the nation’s bigotry, hatred and fear that still simmers 149 years after the Civil War.
I work very hard throughout my life not to judge. I choose not judge Micheal Brown or Darren Wilson.
Instead I am blogging about Mahatma Ghandi: Be the change you want to see in the world.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
In the early months of my seminary study, I acknowledged that for all the thinking, contemplation, meditating and praying that spiritual and religious persons vastly better at it than I had done for thousands of years, it was going to take me taking action if I was going to accomplish my ministry’s agenda of hope through compassion and forgiveness.
Contemplation isn’t enough. Contemplation requires action. A spiritual kind of “Just Do It!”
So tonight I think about Gandhi’s words. He lead a nonviolent passive resistance movement that changed the history of India – leading independence from British rule, drawing attention to India’s oppressive class system and extreme poverty and relentlessly looking for paths to peace between Hindus and Muslims. He was a spiritual warrior who taught and lived his philosophy of “satyagraha” (devotion to truth) with hunger strikes as his primary weapon. His spiritual message and nonviolent politics touched Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela. Strongly influenced by Hinduism, Jainism and Christianity along with the writing of Thoreau and Tolstoy, this Father of India refused violence. He has much to teach me.
My thoughts about Gandhi lead me to action. Personal and social transformation go together. Nonviolent protest to achieve political change and social and religious progress works. Gandhi’s strategy can be successful.
Be the change you want to see in the world. Tonight I am examining my racism; my evaluations/judgments and thoughts, feelings and behaviors about ethnicity, class, poverty, law enforcement, criminal justice, violence and fear.
I am changing. Change begins with me. Tonight I light a candle for Michael Brown and Darren Wilson and Black people and White people and Gray People. Pray for me.
NAMASTE is a Sanskrit word that means “I bow to you.” It is pronounced “na-ma-stay.”
A customary warm and respectful greeting in India and Nepal, it is usually spoken when people meet or say good-bye. It is common among relatives, guests and strangers alike. Namaste is often said with a smile and slight bow towards the other with hands together, palms touching, fingers pointing upwards and thumbs held reverently close to the chest (heart chakra). In some places, the spoken word is common. In other places, the gesture without the word is more customary.
Within Hindu religious tradition, Namaste has evolved to mean:
“I bow to the Divine in you.”
“I recognize and I revere the God I see in you.”
“I honor the place in you which is of love, truth, light, and peace.”
“We are one…we are all connected.”
“I recognize the sacredness we share.”
Namaste is a profoundly rich acknowledgement that we all share the same One Divine Consciousness. I use Namaste as a greeting, a farewell and an interfaith blessing.