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Chapter 9. The City Dwellers

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

Humans have lived in cities almost as long as they have in villages. But cities have probably been different from villages from the start. Since this point may not be generally accepted, and since what happens with respect to religious behavior in the city as the last of the human adaptations to emerge is of special interest to us as urbanites, I will include some references to ancient cities here as well. The difficulty is, of course, that no outsider, such as a foreign anthropologist, did any participant observation in the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, and what written records we have are for the most part boastings of the rulers, so I cannot quote any ethnographic material. But historians have made some educated guesses, which might be at least of some value within a comparative framework. We are better off with ancient Rome, where we have a wealth of manuscripts, political speeches, essays, personal letters, and literary creations that give us a pretty good idea about those topics that interest us here.

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Chapter 5. The Hunter-Gatherers

Felicitas D. Goodman Indiana University Press ePub

The bands, hordes, or groups of the hunter-gatherer type of society are usually small.1 Each one is associated with a particular geographic area, but they do not claim exclusive rights to it. The institution of chiefly power is minimal to nonexistent, and personal property is of modest proportions. Despite the geographic distance between bands, there is communication between them for the exchange of resources and women, and for passing on new religious material, such as songs or stories. Women are equal partners. There is sexual freedom and sexual variety, in addition to permanent marriages. A man is allowed to have several wives. He also has access to potential wives, that is, women whom he would be allowed to marry without violating incest rules, as well as to his brothers’ wives. Women in polygenous households may choose lovers among “permissible” men, as well as from among the husband’s brothers. In addition, a woman can expect to live with a series of husbands during her lifetime, for the marriage rules usually provide that the first husband be considerably older than his wife. Most adult men and also the women are “medicine” people, that is, religious specialists. Older women are especially valued for their knowledge of ritual and may function as advisers during important rites.

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Two: The First Limb: Universal Morality

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We are here to awake from
our illusion of separateness
.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Most religions or philosophies speak to some aspect of the morality contained in the words of the Sutra referencing the yamas. Robert Johnson’s classic treatise on Patanjali’s Sutras explains that “The commandments [yamas] form the broad general training of humanity. Each rests on a universal spiritual law.” Patanjali says that the commandments are not limited to any “race, place, time, or occasion.” They are to be integrated into daily living.

Often called the moral restraints, the precepts in the yamas are universal, and are framed as the “do nots” in life’s list of moral do’s and don’ts. The precepts contained within this First Limb are:

Ahimsa—non-violence

Satya—non-lying

Asteya—non-stealing

Brahmacharya—non-squandering of vital energies

Aparigraha—non-greed, non-hoarding

Put into positive wording, ahimsa asks that you eschew all forms of violence and treat all living things with respect and compassion. Satya is a commitment to truthfulness and transparency. Asteya means we take only that which is freely given. Brahmacharya is about controlling our senses and energies so we can cultivate our inner life, and aparigraha is about living simply by taking or using nothing more than what we truly need.

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Six: The Fifth Limb: Withdrawal of the Senses (Pratyahara)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The world within and the world without are
two entirely separate realities.
The external world dissipates energy,
but the internal world showers blessings
that fill the vacuum created by the world
.

Swami Rama

 

In the meditation hall, where hundreds of people sit in reflective silence, a woman begins to cry. The soft gulps of emotion soon escalate into deep, piercing sobs. The room begins to vibrate with bright tension as the outburst diverts others from their inward journeys, an unwitting and unwilling audience to the woman’s sensational drama. After a few moments, the person assigned to “hold space” for those meditating quietly but firmly says, “Please. Be quiet.”

Almost immediately, she is, and the room melts into silence.

Pratyahara combines the Sanskrit words prati, meaning against or away, and ahara, translated as food. This is a practice for gaining mastery over your senses and helps to develop the peaceful mind needed to achieve a deep, meditative state. Like the physical postures and breathing (asana and pranayama), it is a stepping stone. Many masters say that pratyahara is the most neglected limb of yoga, and yet it cannot be skipped on the way to meditation (dhyana) and absorption (samadhi). In the Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar says pratyahara is when “our senses stop living off the things that stimulate.” In Western society, it is a particularly challenging practice, since our environment has evolved into a state of perpetual sensory overload. David Frawley, founding director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies, says, “Pratyahara is the key between the outer and inner aspects of yoga. It shows us how to move from one to the other.”

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Contents

Foundation, Anasazi Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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