Hollywood’s depiction of nuns a case of ‘Veiled Desires’

Menachem Wecker (“The Washington Post,” October 17, 2013)
From Julie Andrews’ performance as Maria in the 1965 film “The Sound of Music” to Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Sister Aloysius Beauvier in “Doubt” (2008), many Hollywood actresses are particularly conspicuous for their habits. But although habits or veils are thought to symbolize purity — and especially chastity — some films presented a more complicated portrait of nuns.

Read the original article at WorldWide Religious News  2013-10-19 »

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Post-religion poll finds most ‘have spiritual beliefs’

(“BBC News,” October 17, 2013)
Despite the falling popularity of organised religion, most people in the UK still believe in the power of spiritual forces, research suggests.

A study for the Christian think tank Theos recorded 77% as believing some things could not be explained by science or any other means.

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Prominent UK Muslims under police protection after al-Shabaab threats

Shiv Malik (“The Guardian,” October 17, 2013)
A prominent British Muslim commentator is being protected by police following concerns over his safety following the release of a video by Somali-based terror group, al-Shabaab, which singled out several British Muslims for having criticised jihadists in the aftermath of the Woolwich murder.

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‘Stop Stereotyping Us,’ Demand Distressed Asian American Evangelical Leaders

Jeremy Weber (“Christianity Today,” October 17, 2013)
Distress among Asian American evangelicals, sparked by recent failed attempts at humor by Rick Warren and a church planting conference, has proven to be more than the typical Internet flash in the pan.

Approximately 700 people have signed on to an open letter arguing to the wider evangelical church that its Asian American segment “continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented, and misjudged.

Read the original article at WorldWide Religious News  2013-10-19 »

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House Stenographer Says Holy Spirit Moved Her to Shout, ‘God Will Not Be Mocked’

Gina Meeks (“Charisma News,” October 17, 2013)
A stenographer from the House of Representatives was forcibly removed from the floor Wednesday evening during the vote to end the partial government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling after an odd outburst.

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Evangelicals for immigration reform considerable force in House

Catherine Brzycki (“UPI,” October 17, 2013)
Washington — Evangelical Christians are pulling together to advocate for action on immigration reform by the end of the year — and their influence could be substantial.

The Evangelical Immigration Table’s “Pray4Reform: Gathered Together in Jesus’ Name” campaign running from Oct. 12 through Oct. 20. includes more than 300 events in 40 states where members of the faith are praying for reform.

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Religion at Burning Man

Reverend Dr. Malcolm Clemens Young (“The Huffington Post,” October 18, 2013)
The Latin word “religio” is the root for our word “religion.” It means to tie, bind or fasten in the way that you might moor a boat. In a world of coercive and persuasive powers that compel and draw us as moral, intellectual and aesthetic beings, religion is the way that we seek orientation, or the mooring appropriate for our time and place.

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Recovering Jewish History: Lawrence H. Schiffman

Chana Thompson Shor (“Publishers Weekly,” October 17, 2013)
When Lawrence H. Schiffman was 15 years old he traveled to Israel, where he developed a love for its archaeological and historical sites. That inspiration would eventually lead to a distinguished career as a scholar of Second Temple literature, concentrating on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The road wasn’t completely linear.

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Mexico’s Trinity of Death: Santa Muerte, Day of the Dead and Calavera Catrina

R. Andrew Chestnut (“The Huffington Post,” October 18, 2013)
David Metcalfe, author, researcher and founder of Liminal Analytics – Applied Research Collaborative – co-authored this piece.

The season of death is upon us. Halloween and the Mexican death trinity of Day of the Dead, Catrina Calavera (Skeleton Dame), and Santa Muerte (Saint Death) engage millions of North and South Americans in rituals that reconnect us with our own mortality.

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Dutch court rules Scientology tax-exempt

(AP, October 17, 2013)
Amsterdam — A Dutch court has ruled the Amsterdam arm of Scientology is a charitable organization and exempt from paying taxes.

The ruling by the Amsterdam Appeals Court overturns a lower court ruling that Scientology should be taxed because it charges adherents for classes.

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Suzan Johnson Cook Resigning As Religious Freedom Ambassador

Lauren Markoe (“The Huffington Post,” October 17, 2013)
Washington – Suzan Johnson Cook, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, will announce this week that she is resigning after 17 months on the job, according to two sources familiar with her office.

President Obama nominated the former Baptist minister to serve as his top adviser on protecting religious freedom around the world.

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Sistine Chapel Pollution Levels Threaten Michelangelo Frescoes, Vatican May Limit Visitors

Nicole Winfield (“The Huffington Post,” October 17, 2013)
Vatican City — The head of the Vatican Museums warned Thursday he might be forced to limit the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel if its new air conditioning and air purification systems don’t significantly reduce “dangerous” pollution levels.

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Pope Francis In Spain: Pontiff Gets Passionate (And Mixed) Reactions In Catholic Country

Rodrigo Carretero (“The Huffington Post,” October 17, 2013)

It’s not totally silent and righteous at the doors of the church. You can also catch laughter, see groups of people, and overhear more or less heated discussions. When Pope Francis speaks, he can fire up even the most reticent of Catholics.

The Pontiff’s latest words are the talk of the town among those who are waiting to enter eight o’clock mass here.

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Could Pope Francis make women cardinals?

David Gibson (“The Washington Post,” October 17, 2013)
Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals — the select and (so far) all-male club of “Princes of the Church” that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.

Whether it’s even possible is a matter of debate.

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The Dalai Lama’s Interpreter Opens Up About Working With His Holiness

Editor’s Note: When the 14th Dalai Lama visited Honolulu for the inaugural Pillars of Peace Hawaii in April 2012, Civil Beat contributor Jon Letman was curious about the interpreter who stood beside the Dalai Lama at every appearance. Shortly after the event, Letman contacted him and, over more than a year’s time, corresponded and interviewed him to explore what it’s like to work with the Dalai Lama.

Born in 1961 near holy Mt. Kailash, Tenzin Dorjee was still an infant when his parents bundled him against the bracing cold and escaped Chinese-occupied Tibet into India. One of the more than 100,000 ethnic Tibetans who have sought refuge in India, Dorjee grew up in Bylakuppe, one of the largest Tibetan enclaves in South India.

After high school Dorjee left the south for the foothills of the Himalayas, moving to Dharamsala, home to the 14th Dalai Lama. There he embarked on Buddhist studies at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics where he worked as a researcher and translator at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Tucked away in the Himalayan Tibetan town, he spent countless hours translating the Buddhist teachings of Tibetan scholars into English. Dorjee appeared destined for a quiet life of Buddhist studies and academia until he was invited to the United States to teach at a Tibetan Buddhist Center in Montana in 1991.

“I never thought of coming to the West,” Dorjee admits. “But my friends thought I was too conservative so they kind of pushed me to go.”

While in Montana, Dorjee was called upon to tour and translate for Lati Rimpoche, a prestigious Tibetan Buddhist master and debate assistant to the Dalai Lama. Then, in 1993, during a second tour, Dorjee decided to continue studying in the United States. In 1995 he received a visa which allowed him to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees and eventually a Ph.D. in communication from the University of California.

Found in Translation

Like many Tibetans of his generation who were raised in India, Dorjee speaks Tibetan, Hindi and English. When he first began learning to translate Tibetan into English, there were no formal programs and, because the two languages are so different, his early years of study were grueling. Unlike English, Tibetan follows a subject-object-verb order. With verbs at the end of sentences, simultaneous interpreters must think in two languages at the same time, recalling a previously spoken sentence while waiting for the verb to complete the thought.

“The two languages don’t go well together and without a verb, you cannot translate,” says Dorjee.

By 2012 Dojree had become a U.S. citizen, earned his Ph.D. and was teaching communication theory at California State University, Fullerton, when he received an email from the office of the Dalai Lama asking if he could travel to Hawaii to act as an interpreter during a three-day event called Pillars of Peace.

Over three decades in India, Dorjee had interpreted for half a dozen eminent Tibetan Buddhist teachers including, on many occasions, the Dalai Lama himself. Still, the request came as a surprise. By chance, the Dalai Lama’s usual interpreters were unavailable to travel to Hawaii so Chhime Rigzing, the Dalai Lama’s personal secretary, contacted Dorjee.

“Chhime Rigzing showed His Holiness a picture of me and he said, ‘Yes, I know him.’ That’s how I was able to come to Hawaii,” Dorjee recalls.

After so many years Dorjee was very excited to be reunited with the leader of the Tibetan Buddhist world. “There was an emotional significance.”

Speaking in English, the Dalai Lama can certainly hold his own even discussing topics that would stump many native speakers. Having an interpreter at his side is, in some ways, more for his own sense of security than out of necessity. But for Dorjee, it meant standing close by and remaining attentive at all times, ready to perform a task he calls intensely challenging but a great honor.

Human But Divine

“His Holiness’s thinking is very deep and profound,” Dorjee says.

The Dalai Lama is the author of more than 100 books on subjects like metaphysics, cosmology, neuroscience, spirituality and science, but because he is not a native English speaker, he occasionally struggles to find commonly used words, leaving him to improvise, like calling a medicine chest a “medicine box.”

On days Dorjee translated for the Dalai Lama, he was almost constantly at his side, at the center of an impermeable security bubble usually reserved for heads of state. These days the Dalai Lama’s schedule is less demanding but Dorjee recalls working with him years earlier in India. “Because he would go until 6 or 7 in the evening, it was very exhausting.”

One one occasion, Dorjee says, he nearly blew it.

“As a Tibetan, the Dalai Lama is everything to us,” he says. He is a human but also a divine being and so we put him on a pedestal. I couldn’t imagine being in his presence but I was asked to translate. It was the first time and I got nervous.”

Dorjee had made a mistake to which the Dalai Lama responded with a firm “No.”

“I was so scared, I had a blackout,” Dorjee says. “When I regained my senses I realized that His Holiness was speaking in English and I thought, ‘Well, that was the first and last chance for me. No one will call me back.’”

But they did call back, repeatedly. By working closely with the Dalai Lama again and again, Dorjee says he was able to develop a relationship that allowed him to better understand the Dalai Lama’s way of thinking and gradually he grew more confident.

“It’s challenging because you have to follow his train of thought,” he says. “He might not be speaking in Tibetan, but if he struggles to find a word, you have to guess it.”

These experiences, Dorjee says, allowed him to do “a pretty decent job.” For an interpreter unfamiliar with the Dalai Lama, the same task would be very difficult.

Hard to Keep Up

When the Dalai Lama speaks on subjects as varied as tantric meditation, quantum physics or ethics and genetics, very few interpreters can match his pace.

“He can quote a hundred different books from memory and you have to catch up with his brilliant mind. It’s very tough,” Dorjee says.

The Pillars of Peace events in Hawaii, he says, were relatively simple because the audiences were primarily students and the general public and the topics — pursuing peace and cultivating compassion — were relatively easy.

Victor Chan, founding director of The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Vancouver, B.C., attended Pillars of Peace. He agreed Dorjee’s task was light compared to what some interpreters face. Chan explains that it’s not uncommon for the Dalai Lama to speak uninterrupted for 15 to 20 minutes before pausing for an interpreter to recall the entire monologue.

“The translator is expected to remember everything without taking notes,” Chan says.

“It’s not easy to translate for His Holiness … unless you know the vocabulary of neuroscience and psychology. If you’re translating Buddhist teachings you need to be very fluent,” Chan says, adding that many of the scientific English terms the Dalai Lama uses have no exact Tibetan equivalent.

The Dalai Lama calls himself “a simple Buddhist monk” and in a gesture of humility, talks about speaking “broken English.” But Chan, who has co-authored two books with the Dalai Lama, says he’s a very competent English speaker. Even when the Tibetan leader breaks basic grammar rules, Chan says his delivery is idiosyncratic and powerful.

“He can easily talk in English non-stop without notes for an hour and a half and hold his audience spellbound.”

Not So Simple

Now 78 years old, the Dalai Lama still spends much of the year traveling to address audiences all over the world for weeks on end (he will be in New York this week), periodically returning to teach across India and at his residence in Dharamsala. Depending where he is, the Dalai Lama works with interpreters conversant with Tibetan, Hindi, English, Japanese, French or other languages.

Dorjee points out that Tibetans view the Dalai Lama differently from non-Tibetans. While the Dalai Lama is, in one sense, very down to earth and able to connect with people regardless of background and really doesn’t care about a person’s status or power, he is much more than a “simple Buddhist monk.”

“If we really look at his life’s history and the institution of the Dalai Lama and how it started … he is the 14th in the line, a human incarnation of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig), Embodiment of Compassion. That means he can’t just be simple — it’s very different. He’s a highly evolved, realized person,” Dorjee says.

“For somebody like me, having to negotiate those two levels of truth is kind of a challenge. In one way he is like us. In another, he is a very enlightened person. But those two things seem to work very smoothly in his case. At the same time, it’s a very paradoxical reality for me. So it’s a challenge how to relate to him.”

A 15th Dalai Lama?

And what of the future of the Dalai Lama? He has said he will address the question of succession when he is 90 years old. Speaking earlier this year in Australia the Tibetan leader has suggested the next Dalai Lama may be a woman or, if the figure of Dalai Lama is no longer relevant, he could be the last one.

Dorjee points out that the Dalai Lama often speaks of the importance of cultures adapting to new circumstances.

“He said we have to learn what are the important things in our culture to keep and learn the new things. We cannot preserve everything that is called ‘culture’ and some things need to change,” Dorjee says.

“We don’t want to think about a 15th because the 14th is very much alive, but at the same time we have to be realistic. As His Holiness often says, he won’t be here anymore. Yes, I do think about it.”

Read the original article at Religion News on The Huffington Post  2013-10-19 »

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