Archive for May, 2011

            Basically the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff is about his belief that the children’s series about Winnie-the-Pooh is about more than a bear who loves honey and his adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood, but actually a parallel of the Three Teachings of China, and how the main character is a perfect example of the philosophy behind the religion of Taoism.

                So the book starts off explaining the Taoism with the Three Teachings of China. The best illustration most eastern philosophers will use is the Vinegar Wine Tasters. The picture shows each founder of each teaching; Confucius the founder of Confucianism, Siddhartha Gautama (more commonly known as Buddha) the founder of Buddhism and Lao-tzu the founder of Taoism. Each philosopher is tasting vinegar; the vinegar is the representation of life. Hoff takes time to explain what each expression and religious view of each philosopher. Confucius’ expression is sour, demonstrating the Confucianism belief that the present was out of balance with the past therefore he stressed reverence for the elders. Buddha viewed life as bitter; that attachments and desires led to suffering. Lao-tzu viewed life as sweet, and believed that the earth was a reflection of heaven and that it abides by the same “laws” as heaven. This is the basic belief of Taoism. Because there is a natural energy in the world, humanity disrupts that nature; therefore it is up to each individual to find their harmony with those genuine “laws” of nature.

                In the chapter “Spelling Tuesday”, Hoff explains to the reader and to the characters in Winnie the Pooh, how Owl portrays the qualities of Confucius. Confucius and Owl both agree on the use of education and analytical processes in order to solve problems. The problem with that when it comes Taoism, is that Taoism believes that problems can be solved naturally and that the solutions are innate; unlike Confucianism which believes that knowledge must be attained therefore the problems must be fixed step by step. Hoff explains that “scholarly knowledge” is useful for some things its almost useless in Taoism when exploring topics beyond “limited reach”.  He uses this quote from a Taoist follower Chuang-tse:

“A well frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How can a scholar understand the Tao? He is restricted by his own learning.”

According to Hoff, Owl chooses to learn about life from books instead of actually experiencing it, which leave his explanations of life missing major components. For example, in the story Hoff asks Owl to spell Tuesday and Owl comes up with the incorrect spelling of Twosday because logically it is the second day of the week making the spelling “Twos-day” so Pooh mistakenly thinks that this is correct. So when the author tries to correct Owl, Pooh settles on “Today” being his favorite day to avoid further confusion.

                Comparing Eeyore to Buddha is an idea I agree with completely. Although Eeyore didn’t start out in a perfect atmosphere like Siddhartha Gautama, they both came to view life in a pessimistic light.  In the animated television series the very tone of Eeyore’s voice is enough to bring down anyone. With his bitter outlook on life, the only thing he was able to do is complain about every situation. Eeyore even talks in the negative with the occasional use of heavy sarcasm.

                “Dear, dear, how unlucky! You ran too fast, I expect. You didn’t hurt yourself, Little Piglet?”

                “Or supposing you missed him by mistake…”

                “I didn’t stop to ask, Pooh. Even at the very bottom of the river I didn’t stop to say to myself, ‘Is this a hearty   joke, or is it the merest accident?’ I just floated to the surface and said to myself, ‘It’s wet.”

By staying in the pessimistic view, Eeyore and Buddha saw the world as a dark, dreary place with very few chances of brightness and positivity. In result, both missed out on the “sweetness of life” according to Taoism. Because Lao-tse was able to recognize the bitter and sweet moments of life, he was able to live it to the fullest.

                Winnie the Pooh in essence is Taoism because he follows one of its rules unintentionally. Wu Wei Wu, or Do Without Doing is the principle that things will happen by themselves randomly. Benjamin explains this idea in the chapter called “The Pooh Way”. Pooh unknowingly uses the natural forces in the world to solve his problems. He proves what Taoism is by being himself. The answers to his problems seem so simple, therefore they have simple solutions and eventually will work themselves out.

                This is basically the story of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Personally I liked it because I love Winnie the Pooh and I was curious to see how it played into an ancient Chinese philosophy. It made sense in some parts and I really liked seeing the connections from the children’s book to the Three Teachings of China.


Group Writ- Shintoism

Shintoism  1) Name of religion – how did it get the name?  When did the religion start?  Who started the religion? – provide some details on life of founder(s)  Shintoism is an Ancient Japanese religion starting about 500 BCE. It was originally a combination of nature worship, fertility cults, divination techniques, hero worship, and shamanism. Its name was derived from the Chinese words “shin tao” in the 8th Century CE. Which means the way of the Gods. There were no documented known founders.
2) what is the geographic range of  religion?, what language(s) are used in the  religion?  
Shinto is practiced almost exclusively in Japan where they speak Japanese. According to some estimates about 100 million Japanese practice this religion.
3) any holy books? – describe the literature Although Shinto does not have sacred texts, there are some books that contain the myths and the religious traditions of the Japanese people such as the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki. These document were written in the 8th century and contain history of Japan and it’s creation. 
4) are there any divisions, different denominations, among the faithful?  There are three main divisions in Shintois Sect Shinto, State Shinto, and Shrine Shinto. Most people who do consider Shinto their religion are presumably involved in “Sect Shinto.”
5) do faithful form communities?, how & when do they meet?  

The faithful do form communities, most Japanese participate in rituals and customs derived from several religious traditions. Life cycle events are often marked by visits to a Shinto shrine.
6) describe a religious service.  Please include internet links to examples, if available.   There are no weekly religious services because there is no holy place. The idea of the religion is to connect the followers with the spirits or the “Kami”.
7) what is the role of music, dance, art in the  religion? MUSIC: “Special Shintō music was devised for use in imperial shrines. In Japan such Shintō music is called kagura. The kind of music and ritual used exclusively in the imperial palace grounds is called mi-kagura, that in large Shintō shrines, o-kagura, and Shintō music for local shrines, sato-kagura.”

DANCE: “Kagura dances dedicated to native deities and performed at the imperial court or in villages before local Shintō shrines are in essence a symbolic reenactment of the propitiatory dance that lured the sun goddess Amaterasu from the cave in ancient myth. Although kagura dance has been influenced by later more sophisticated dance forms, it is still performed much as it was 1,500 years ago, to religious chants accompanied by drums, brass gongs, and flutes.”

8.) describe the religious calendar.  What are the religion’s sacred times?  Major festivals are held at each Shinto shrine each year.Spring festival: “Haru Matsuri” or “Toshigoi-no-Matsuri”

Autumn or Harvest festival: “Aki Matsuri” or “Niiname-sai”

Annual festival: “Rei-sai”

Divine Procession: “Shinko-sai”

Order of rituals at these festivals:

  1. Purification rites
  2. Adoration
  3. Opening the door of the inner sanctuary by the chief priest
  4. Presentation of food offerings
  5. Prayer recited by chief priest
  6. Sacred music and dance
  7. General offering
  8. Offerings taken away
  9. Shutting the inner sanctuary door
  10. Final adoration
  11. Feast

9) do the faithful have dietary restrictions?, other life-style restrictions?,  do the faithful have dress restrictions or distinctive clothing for certain life cycle events?, Is special jewelry or make-up worn?    No dietary restrictions, fasting on holidays is commonThere are no restrictions from what I found, however people who practice Shintoism find it necessary to perform purification rituals and make offerings in order to keep evil spirits out of their lives.

10) are there any special rituals at home?, grace at meals?, prayers?   “there are ceremonies which “consist of abstinence (imi), offerings, prayers and purification (harae). Purification, by washing with water, symbolically removes the dust and impurities that cover one’s inner mind.”

11) how is the religion organized?, describe its leadership.

There are Shinto priests are ordered within the shrine. Most Shinto priests are males but there are a few females. They usually study at a Shinto university before training at a larger shrine. Shrine Maidens (Miko) are common; they are young women who serve in the shrine until they are married. They are usually seen in white. Men and women are allowed to be married and have children if they are a Shinto priest.

12) describe the nature of the good & evil in the religion.  describe the nature of the sacred/divine in the religion.

                The belief is that humans are thought to be genuinely good and evil is caused by evil spirits. Most Shinto rituals are used to purify areas as well as themselves to rid and protect themselves of evil spirits.

13) describe the nature of the good life & ethical behavior in the religion.                Influenced strongly by Confucianism; reverence for the ancestors is highly important. They believe that humans have an internal moral and can be encouraged with shame from doing wrong (or evil) acts. Evil actions are cleansed through rituals of purifications. Sincerity is an important personality trait in Shintoism.
14) what is the nature of forgiveness in the religion?, forgiveness of self?, seeking and granting forgiveness from other individuals?, other peoples?, are there any rituals for forgiveness?

                Shinto Purification and offerings to the gods (Kami) are believed to rid one’s mind and body from impurities.

15) what is the range of political thought among believers?

Before WWII=Japan is a “Shinto State”, Religious practices and government issues we’re closely related. After WWII= Japan separates religious practices from the government.

16) what is the role of social activism  in the religion?  Sam
17) how does the religion provide outreach within the community?, to others? Wasn’t much about providing outreach in the community but there are annual festivals held during the different seasons.
18) what are the religious attitudes towards education and peace?

The moral code of Shintoism is built on Confucianism, the value of education is high.

They do believe however that all human life is sacred, so they are probably advocators of peace.

19) describe the nature of the afterlife in the religion.  

The afterlife is not a primary concern in Shinto, and much more emphasis is placed on fitting into this world, instead of preparing for the next. Shinto has no binding set of dogma, no holiest place for worshippers, no person or kami deemed holiest, and no defined set of prayers.
20) how does the religion envision the end of time, the last days of humankind?    There wasn’t much about how the religion envisions the end of time and the last days of humankind.