Lead-InThe following sixty slides come from my‘Reflections On Life’ Slide-Show – Part 1,timed to give a ten-minute ‘count-down’ to the firstpart of four which make up ‘Two Questions.’This is just to provide a reflective atmosphere tothe workshop which explores two questions –What is Religion?AndWho or What is God?In this first part we explore the subject ofReligion and Me
“Music gives soul to theuniversewings to the mindflight to the imaginationand life to everything"Plato
In the beginning was the Word. Andthe Word was with God and the Wordwas God….
“The unexaminedlife is not worthliving.”Socrates
There are two ways to live:you can live as ifnothing is a miracle;oryou can live as if everythingis a miracle.Albert Einstein
About the authorDurgaMata Chaudhuri has been absorbed by the subjects of God andreligion all her life. Born into a Quaker farming family, on leaving homeshe lived in Ulster, during the height of ‘the Troubles,’ which intensifiedher own search for Truth.Not long after returning to England to study in Birmingham, she met thespiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy who subsequently gave her the spiritualname DurgaMata.Inspired by worshipping with her Hindu in-laws and with friends frommany different religions, DurgaMata took a degree in Theology andReligious Studies (twinned with mural art) at Roehampton University andtrained as a specialist teacher in RE and Art. She has taught for morethan 20 years and now works as a free-lance RE Consultant and silk-paint artist.DurgaMata believes that there is no such thing as a neutral viewpoint. Asa Theist, she respects all faith positions including agnostic and atheist,but her own love for God both underpins and is reflected in this resource.
Many of the images in Two Questions comefrom our own photographs. Others have beengathered from many sources. A full list ofcredits is being prepared.We hope that all whose photographs have beenused will be happy and proud to be includedin this slide-show - but should anycopyright questions arise we will be happyto make any adjustments necessary.
The unexaminedlife is not worthliving.– Socrates
What is Religion?What do you think ?Religion is something weall have views about.
Activity 1Think about the question What is religion?Working on your own,What are the most important words or short phrasesthat you would want to include in your answer?How would you answer the question‘What is Religion?’How would you answer the question‘What is Not Religion? – or What is Religion Not?’Write your views on a ‘postit’ and stick them on theflip-chart at the front of the room for later discussion.
Religion is about me• Religion is a subject that you have to thinkabout.• Everyone has a point of view on thissubject.• And in the subject of religion, your viewsare important. So are mine.• We may not agree but all our views matter.• Religion is about you.• Religion is about me.• Religion is about everyone.
We asked reception children .They gave lots of answers and they did notall agree - but their answers followed apattern. They all could be grouped by theideas they expressed. There were four mainideas.The children said that• Religion is about what I believe.• Religion is about doing things.• Religion is about Jesus and Christianity.• Religion is about God.Here are some of the answers they gave -
Religion is about Belief?• Your own opinion.• A belief in different countries.• What you believe in.• Believing in everyone.• Believe to do something.• What I believe.• Person who believes.
My favourite answer here is:„Your Own Opinion‟This is a very insightful answerbecause Religion is abouteach person,what we think and what we believe,our own understanding of life.Religion is about the way that eachperson makes sense of the amazingreality that we call life.
Religion is about doing things?• A thing you do at least once a week• A religion is if you pray to God andother people.• Believe to do something• Vegetarian• Someone who helps people• Believe to help another person• Something youve forgotten to do!
My favourite answer here is:„Believe to do something‟This is a very insightful answer becauseReligion is about each person and whatwe do, how we live our lives.Our religion affectsthe choices we makewhich are guided by our beliefs –and all our actions.
Religion is about Jesus (Christianity)• Believe in Jesus and God and theirfriends• Something to do with Easter• … if you read the Bible• Lots of people who pray to God orJesus• Something left over from a longtime ago!
My favourite answer here is:‘Believe in Jesus and God and their friends’This is a very insightful answer because Religionis about people like Jesus who inspire others tofollow their example. People who follow theteaching of Jesus are called Christians.Christianity is one of the great world religions.The Great World Religions are sources of wisdom andauthority for millions of people. These religions have a biginfluence on their members but they have more influencethan that. The great religions affect individuals,communities, society, national politics, and the wholeinternational scene.How many religions can you think of?
Activity 2Working on your own,Make a list of all the different World Religions that you can think ofWorking in pairsBrainstorm all the different ways thatthe great World Religions influence –their members, local communitiessociety in general, national politicsworld affairs.Working in groups of 4 – 6 people,Share your brainstorms and discuss in your groups the ideas you have inluded.Underline items that more than one pair listed.Circle items that are unique to your brainstorm.Think about religion as a power.Which items show the power of religion adding quality to people’s lives, helping people orworking as a force of good in society?Which items show the way that religion can be a force of division or harm?
We asked reception children .The fourth thing that the reception childrenmentioned in their answers to the question‘What is Religion?’ was the concept of God.The children said that• Religion is about what I believe.• Religion is about doing things.• Religion is about Jesus and Christianity(which we have seen means a powerful, often unifying butsometimes divisive source of authority and direction)and• Religion is about God.
Religion is about God.• I believe in God• Someone who believes in God• Is someone who loves God• Believing in God and his friends• If you think God is real• Someone who talks to God in theirprayers• I don’t believe in God.• Believe in God to do something for Him
My favourite answer here is:‘Believe in God to do something for Him’I think that this is a very insightful answer becauseReligion is aboutthe relationship that someone can develop with God,not just a rather empty ‘belief’ in God.If you have a strong relationship with someone, thenyou want to please them and do things for them.And again, like in the previous answer which mentioned Jesusand introduced the great world religions, this faith or belief isreflected in the way that people live –in their actions –in what they think and do –and in how they relate to each other and the world around them.
Did anyone get the right answer?If so, Which answer is right?Religionis not a simple subjectlike mathswhere you learn a ruleand use it to get the right answer.Religion is about us, who we are and what we think.We are all different. We have different parents, differenthistories, different experiencesand different ways of seeing the world.So our thoughts are different andwe answer the question in our own way.
What does that mean?Does that mean none of the answers are right?No.Does that mean all of the answers are right?Perhaps.Does that mean that all of the answers are right but only inpart,- Each one only gives part of the answer?Many people would say that this is true.But not everybody.There are many different views.
The unexaminedlife is not worthliving.– Socrates
The Best AnswerWell, you’re the RE teacher. You know more about thesubject of religion than we do. So which answer do youlike best and why?I like this answer best:‘Religion is something you do, something you believe inand Someone you believe in.’Why? -Because the person who wrote this, even though they are soyoung (in reception class) - can understand that religion iscomplicated and can’t be explained in a short way.They have said that religion is about the way you live your life(actions - what you do) – about your own beliefs - and about asource of wisdom - you believe in. This last idea includes bothGod and the great world religions. So this one answer covers allfour basic ideas.
The Jigsaw of ReligionOK, Miss, since you are so clever, howwould you answer the question?How would I explain what religion means?That is an excellent question.I would start by saying thatReligion is like a jigsaw made of millions of pieces.It is not something simple and easy to understand.Each person is a piece of the Religion-JigsawWithout each person, the picture of religion isincomplete.
Part 1Religion and MeWe start by thinking about the wayreligion is made up of differentindividuals, all with their ownunderstanding of who theyare and what lifeis all about.
If this red piece represents me.What colour would you chooseto represent you?
No Religion“But I don‟t believe in anything. I‟m notChristian or any other religion. I don‟t haveany religion. I‟m a „none‟ so I‟m not part ofthe jigsaw of religion, am I Miss?”Well, the different religions in the world are only part ofthe religion-picture.Everyone’s views, ideas, thoughts, experiences,hopes, dreams and beliefs are important in religion.The picture is only complete when it includes everyone.Your views are just as important as anyone else’sSo there is definitely a piece of the jigsaw for you.
Difference is natural.You see difference everywhere.No two leaves on a tree are the same.No two snowflakes in a snowstorm are the same.It is natural that we all have different views, ideas andbeliefs.The religion-picture includes them all.If we want to see the complete picture we needeveryone’s views.In my view, truth is not Truth if it is incomplete.(We will explore different views about religion and God later.)
I am unique• Unique is a very important word in religion. It meansabsolutely special and different from anything else that exists.Just like everything else in nature, each human being isunique.• I am unique. You are unique. We are absolutely special andcompletely different from anyone else who has ever livedbefore. Also we are completely different from anyone elsewho will ever come to live on earth.• Even identical twins are different. They may share exactly thesame DNA, they may look similar, but they have their ownthoughts and experiences, their own ways of understandinglife, their own hopes and dreams.One goal to aim for is to try to be true to who we are.
Activity 3Working in pairsTalk to a partner and take turns to explain what your views, ideas andbeliefs about religion are and why.See how many things you can think of that you agree or disagree about.Do you agree that everyone is part of the jigsaw ofreligion even if s/he does not actually believe in God orpractise – any religion such as, Hinduism, Jainism,Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam,Sikhism, Bah’ai, Rasta etc?Does this challenge your own understanding of whatreligion is?If so, how do you feel about that?Do you have a favourite way of explaining religion or model of religion’ which you find helpful touse when teaching? Make a note of any ideas or questions that you would like to discuss laterand put them in the basket at the front.
Reflection in a mirror?Since everyone is part of the religion-jigsaw,one good place to start is by askingwhat it is to be a human being,what it is to be you.You look in the mirror in the morning and see your reflectionlooking back at you. You may think „I look great today.‟But is that who you really are?You may show a friend a photo of when you were young,and say, „look how cute I was.‟But a reflection in the mirror or an image on a photographDo not begin to show who you really are.You have a body and external features that can be seenbut there is more to you than that.
Who Am I?I have a strong bodywhich is solid and warm.
Who Am I?I have the five senses – sight,hearing, smell, taste and feeling .
Who Am I?I have clever hands that canmake things and hold things.
Who Am I?I have a mindthat can think and dream,
Who Am I?True I have a body and a mind –but is there more to who I am than that?Many people – including many great teachers of religion -would say that you are not the body or the mind –They might say -- that your body and mind belong to you.- You own them and use them.• - that you need your body and mind – you can’t livewithout them - but they are not who you really are.• Many – probably most – people in the worldbelieve that who we really are is the spirit or soul.
Who is speaking?I am the owner of my body.I am the captain of my mind.I am the lover of my heart.Sri Chinmoy
Activity 4 - reflectionLike all models which represent something different, the jigsawmodel of Religion is useful as a starting point but it is not perfect.There are difficulties.We are not like a ‘jar of paint,’ the same ‘colour’ all the way through.Human beings are complicated.There is a lot to who and what we are.Working on your own -• Shut your eyes and feel what it’s like to be who you are.• Feel how solid and warm you are.• Listen and see how many things you can hear.• Watch your thoughts. Are they thinking about the past, the present,the future or in the world of pure imagination?What is your own view of who you are?Do you believe in mind, body and spirit?Do you think we have or are the soul?Thinking of religion as a jigsaw is usefulbut can you think of a better model for religion?
The soul?When you think about the soul you have touse art, music, symbols or poetry becausethe soul has no visible shape.
Each soulIs a leafOf God’sUniversalHeart-Tree.Sri Chinmoy
Invite Your SoulInvite your soulTo enter into your mind-jungleTo clear it up.Invite your soulTo enter into your heart-insecurityTo strengthen it.Invite your soulTo encourage youin all that you doand say.Your soul will inspire you,Fulfil youAndImmortalise youby Sri Chinmoy.
Is death the end?Many people – including many visionaries, poetsand great teachers of religion (who claim to knowabout these things) say that we are not the bodybut the soul which experiences life. They also say:that death is not the end andwhen the body dies, and the brain is dead,the soul – which is the real you, lives on.- Few people have personal first–handexperience of this,so there is a lot of argumentabout the soul and life-after death.
A butterfly isoften used as asymbol of lifeafter deathbecause it startsout as caterpillarand then turnsinto a chrysalis(as if it had died)but after sometime itemergesas a beautifulbutterfly
Activity 5Working on your ownThink not just about whether you believe in God, the soul and in life after death,but also where these beliefs come from.Have they changed significantly over the years since you were first awareenough to think about them?If they have changed, what caused these changes?Do you practise a religion? Have you ever belonged to a religion? What is your‘Faith Journey’ Reflect on this for a few minutes.Working in a group of three people.This is an exercise in Active Listening.Give each member of your group a number.Number 1 tells number 2 their life-story while number 3 listens at a distance of a few feetaway. S/he can write down any questions that occur while listening.Number 1 talks for five minutes and nobody interrupts in any way. Number 2 has to listenvery closely as s/he will have to re-tell number1’s Faith Journey to number 3 afterwards.
two waysYou can live as ifnothing is a miracle;orYou can live as if everythingis a miracle.Albert Einstein
Life after Death?Unless we have special vision, we do not know, from personalobservation, what happens when we die or whether or not we have orare the soul.There are people who speak – and who have spoken in the past - onsubjects like this, with such clarity and authority that people havebeen drawn to follow them and believe that what they say is true.Such ‘visionaries’ can be found in all the great religions.Christianity and Islam tend to view life as linear, with abeginning and end. They speak of‘judgement’ and of heaven and hell,whileReligions which have their origins in theIndian region tend to speak of ‘karma’ – cause and effect -and view life as cyclic, birth and deathbeing linked by reincarnation.All religions agree that there are consequences to ouractions here on earth, and death is not the end.
sixth senseSome people claim to see beyond the physical. Theyspeak of a sixth sense and may know things or seethings that most people are not aware of. They mayhave encountered a ghost or been strongly aware ofthe presence of God in some way, for example.People sometimes have surprising experiences, whichare outside the normal pattern of life, when they seethings in a new way. Rudolf Otto studied this and foundit is common. He called this encounter with the‘Numinous.’Research into reincarnation and Near DeathExperiences offers some interesting insight.
Evidence?Some people speak of encountering ghosts, speaking to spirits of the dead, past life experiences and Near Death Experiences - of ‘continuedexistence’ when they have died and beenresuscitated again.Each person will have their own reasons to supporttheir beliefs in life after death – but as with allreligious questions, these can never be proved in away that is going to convince everyone.Most people who do not believe in God, rejectthe idea of life after death, too.
insightAll the religions agree that our physicaldeath is not the end of our existence.Sri Chinmoyin meditation,One of countless spiritualteachers who has spokenwith authority and insightgained in meditation -about God, the soul, lifeafter death and manyrelated subjects,Sri Chinmoy combinedEastern and Westernapproaches to life in aparticularly clear anddynamic way.
The spirit or soulSpirituality and religion are interestedin who and what we are in our inmostselves, deeper than our physicalappearance and mental thoughts.Spiritual awareness suggests that atthe deepest level we are all one.Sri Chinmoy (a prolific poet and spiritualMaster of our time) has written muchabout spirituality. The following poem isabout the meaning of spirituality. It is allabout this sense of oneness:
SpiritualityMy Supreme, my Supreme,my Supreme!My true spirituality isthe love of Your BreathIn every heart,My Supreme, my Supreme,my Supreme!--------- by Sri ChinmoySri Chinmoy uses the name Supreme for God. What does ‘Supreme’ mean ?Do you know any other names for God?
Activity 5How would you explain what spirituality means?Human beings are not islands separate from everyone else. Weare tribal, social animals. We tend to like it if we find people withsimilar views and can find opposing views quite challenging.Have you ever got into an argument about a ‘religious’ issue?What other subjects or views do you feel strongly about?Where do you look for answers to the great questions in life?What are your own favourite poets or sources of inspiration?With members of your groupDiscuss these questions… and if there are questions or issues you would like to discuss further,note them on a ‘postit’ and stick them on the flip-chart at the front.
Inside and outsideI am complicated. I am part of the jigsaw of religion but I am alsolike a jigsaw myself - because I am made up of many different parts.I can think of myself as a piece of the jigsaw of religion, but I amalso like a flower with lots of petals.I have a physical body. On the outside there are all the features thatyou can see: the colour of my skin, my hair, my eyes, the shape ofmy nose, how tall I am, what I see when I look in the mirror....But then there is who I am on the inside, all the things that I thinkand feel. I have a mind – but I am also more than that.I am the one who experiences, observes and learns – could that bethe soul?There are many different ‘petals’ that make up the ‘flower’which is ‘me.’ I need a model for my life which recognises allthe different things that go into making me who I am.I can use a flower as a model to illustratethe complexity of my own life.
A human being is like a flowerwith many petals.What ‘petals’ would you include in aflower-diagram of your life?
The Flower of my lifeLike all models which represent somethingdifferent, the jigsaw model has difficulties.We all have a body that you can see, but we are morethan that. We have an ‘outside’ and an ‘inside’. Some ofthe most important parts of us are on the inside –including our thoughts, feelings and experiences…We grow from a tiny baby to a child and adult, then wegrow old and eventually we die. Flowers also bloom andfade away.The model of a flower is better, as a representationof my life, than a piece of a jigsaw because - justlike each flower with all its petals - each person iscomplicated with many parts and just like a flower,we change with time.
The Garden of ReligionI can think of myself as a flower with many petals, growingin the Religion-Garden.Like a flower, we change. We grow from a baby into anadult and at the end of our life we die. We have family,friends and neighbours and our lives overlap.Flowers are like that too. You need many different flowersto create a beautiful garden.This model of Religion as a garden, helps us tounderstand that we are complicated and there aremany parts to our nature. It also reminds us thatreligion is about many people, not just one.What sort of flower would you chooseto represent your own life?
"I find one vast gardenspread out all over the universe.All plants, all human beings, all higher mindbodiesare about in this garden in various ways ,each has his own uniqueness and beauty.Their presence and variety give me greatdelight.Every one of you adds with your specialfeatureto the glory of the garden.“
ChangeA flower grows from a seed. It is nourished by the rain and the sun.It grows and blossoms, fades and dies, just as we do,but it stays where it was planted. Flowers don’t move about.Flowers don’t think – at least not as we do.People are more complicated.A human baby grows up in a family and is nourished and protectedby its parents and other people. Our family, our community is notfixed in one place like a garden.I have a family, friends and pets. They are part of who I am, too.I am part of a community, a neighbourhood, a nation – a ‘humanrace,’ the world of nature and Planet Earth itself.I am part of many groups, many patterns and these patterns areconstantly changing.My thoughts, feelings beliefs and ideas change with time, too.A good model for religion needs to be able to show the way weare part of patterns which move and change all the time.
Activity 6On your own Watch your thoughts and see how they change. Can youstop them from moving about? Imagine watching birds fly across the sky. You see thempass but you do not follow. Try to do the same with yourthoughts. Observe your thoughts and see if they are in the present,past or future – or are they in the land of dreams andimagination. Can you detach your awareness from your thoughts, watchthem without getting caught up in them? Can you stop your thoughts and make your mindcompletely still and clear, awake, aware but silent andwatchful?It is not easy, but that is the aim of meditation. Try for yourself.
Watching your breath can help in meditation.Let your breathing be gentle and slow, not forcedin any way.With each breath, feel you are taking pure peaceand stillness into your heart.As you breath out, feel you are breathing out allyour restless thoughts, anything that is worryingyou or making you feel tense and stressed.The Buddha was an expert in meditation. He saidthat everyone can become enlightened, fully awareand awake, experiencing perfect peace and bliss.
• Using the power of imagination is also helpfulwhen you meditate.• Imagine a flower bud is growing in your heart-centre, in the very centre of your chest.• The flower is slowly opening, petal bypetal and growing in size until it is fullyblossomed and you are nothing but thisflower.• The fragrance of the flower fills you andspreads out, sharing its sweetness witheveryone around.
Activity 7On your own -• Think about changing emotions, about times in the past fewdays when you have been particularly happy or sad, lovingor angry or full of inner peace.• In silence, think about all the changes that you experience –each day, each week, each month, each year and atdifferent stages of life.• What about your family and community – can you think ofways that they have changed?• Has anyone you know given birth to a new baby?• Can you think of anyone who has moved away or movedinto the area.• Has anyone you know died?Share your observations with a partner.
The beauty of lifeHas deepened my love.The beauty of deathHas deepened my wisdom.Sri Chinmoy,Ten thousand Flower-Flame series ? Part 1
Activity 8 Our views ideas and beliefs are invisible and private – unless we chooseto share them. They are not fixed. They grow and evolve over the years. They are influenced by our experiences, by all that we learn, eachconversation we have, each book we read or film we watch.On your own Think about your relationships with other people, friends, family, pets andother animals etc. Then there is the whole panorama of romance. In what ways have your relationships changed over the years? Think of your own views and your experience of faith. What has shapedthis and how has it changed since you were a young child? Can you think of any models for religion that can include this quality ofdiversity and change which is so important when we think about who weare?with a partner -Share something of your faith storyShare some experiences that have changed your views on life.
Community• We are born into a family.• Our family is part of the wider community.• We belong to the local district, where we live.• Families and individuals who practise a religion belongto a community of faith.• When we start school or join a club, we becomemembers of a new community and make new friends.• When we go to work we belong to another communityand are part of a team of colleagues.• When we get married we join another family group.• All these different groups are like patterns in our livesand communities themselves are full of patterns whichchange with time, just as our own lives do.
PatternsIf you think of just one community that you belong to, youcan picture it as a flower.Who or what would you place in its petals?Think of people – family, friends and neighbours – yourlocal district, your nation, continent and the whole world.Think of pets and all the birds, animals and other creatures thatshare this world with us.Then think of all the different people in that community andhow they all belong to other groups, just as you do. Youcould draw these as interlocking circles, but the patterns aretoo complicated to represent on the petals of a flower.
Moving and ChangingReligion is like a jigsaw with many pieces.Each person is part of the picture.Each person is complicated with many partslike a flower with many petals, so Religion is like a garden.Just as there are many flowers in a garden, and they can begrouped in different flower-beds, so people live in groups.We have families, neighbours, villages, towns, districts,nations and continents.But unlike a garden with flowers that stay in one place,our communities are made up of interlocking and overlappingpatterns of people and events that are constantlymoving and changing.We need a new model for religionwhich has ‘space’ for that.
The Kaleidoscope of ReligionReligion is not just a picture which is complicatedlike a jigsaw, made of many pieces which aresolid and fixed.Religion is not just like a garden where plantstend to stay where they’re planted. Religion is notfixed.Religion full of beautiful colours andinterlocking patterns which are constantlymoving and changing.It is more like a kaleidoscope.
The Kaleidoscope!Have you ever used a kaleidoscope?It is like a tube.You look down the centre and turn the barrel atthe bottom. Light comes through the bottomwhere there are small pieces of translucent plasticor coloured glass, all shapes and colours.These are reflected by mirrors running the lengthof the tube. You can’t describe a kaleidoscope,you have to see it to know what I mean.Here are some kaleidoscope images.
Religion is inside usA Kaleidoscope, colourful patterns thatmove and change, now that is looking morelike religion!But religion is not just something you see fromoutside. Religion is not just something you lookat from a distance. Religion is inside us. It ispart of who we are.Religion is how we make sense of the worldwe live in, how we understand ourselves,who we are and why we are alive.
Activity 9On your ownJust reflect on who you are and what it means to beyou, what things, people, places and experiencesmatter most to you.How would you answer the questions‘Who are you and why are you alive?Listen to the following poems about identity.Reflect on these poems and the pictures and ideasthat they explore.
• From a song aboutmyself….. He ran away to ScotlandThe people for to see -There he foundThat the groundWas as hard,That a yardWas as long,That a songWas as merry,That a cherryWas as red,That leadWas as weighty,That fourscoreWas as eighty,That a doorWas as woodenAs in England-So he stood in his shoesAnd he wonderd,He wonderd,He stood in hisShoes and he wonderd.• John Keats
I Am - by Rose TremainI am the ragged fur coat my English Literature teacher worein a cold boarding school classroomAnd all the stories she encouraged me to writeI am a publishers rejection letterI am five publishers rejection letters. Then six, then seven…I am the white boots I wear in 1975 to meetthe eighth publisher, Penelope HoareAnd her devastating smile of acceptanceI am Robert Merivel, and all my characters whocame before and after himI am the eyes of my readers on the undergroundI am Lev, wounded hero of The Road HomeI am Rose Tremain,winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2008I am all these things and all these people.I am who I am because of everyone.
I AM ALONEI am aloneI wonder who I really amI hear everyone around me and yet I know I am aloneI want to trust once againI am aloneI pretend that Im fine butI feel lonely and afraidI touch my reflection and feel trapped inside myselfI worry that Ill forever be this wayI am aloneI understand that I have to find someone to trustI say to them, Im fine but I hope they know Im notI dream of one day feeling secureI try to put my faith in others, but I cantI hope that one day Ill trust again, but for nowI am alone.Student – exploring wishes, dreams, hopes and fears with poems.
Imago DeiCiara Regan, age 13Here I stand,Looking at the cold sheet of glass,Watching a stranger mimic my every moveI think of all the time spentTrying to create the perfect face of beauty,To no avail.What was the point?Why the waste of time?Why the waste of effortI realise now that I am perfect in my imperfection,I am – we all are – what God intended.We are his creation,Through his spirit we live,We are him and he is us,Imago Dei
Do not stand at my grave and weep,I am not there, I do not sleep.I am in a thousand winds that blow,I am the softly falling snow.I am the gentle showers of rain,I am the fields of ripening grain.I am in the morning hush,I am in the graceful rushOf beautiful birds in circling flight,I am the star-shine of the night.I am in the flowers that bloom,I am in a quiet room.I am in the birds that sing,I am in each lovely thing.Do not stand at my grave and cry,I am not there. I do not die.Mary Frye
Within - part 1WITHINI am the sound of the wind rustling through feathersAs the eagle soars between mountain peaks.I am the space between the last breaths of the dyingAs they leave life behind for the next and grow weak.I am the grey that floats in the fog when changes arriveHolding the potential for new choices; neither black or white.I am the eye of the storm where it is quiet and I set its courseYet having no motion I am the measure of the hurricane’s great forceI am the silence that the birds sing to in the nightI am the blood coursing in their veins andthe will that gives them flight
Within - part 2I am the homeless woman on the cornerwhose eyes you look through.I am the dark and the light that revolve within you.I am the proton, electron and neutron at play,The saints in their glory and the one who betrayed.I am without bounds and wear time as a cloak,With my hand I spin the cosmos with one brief stroke.I am a bug on a leaf on the bamboo treeLook within yourself if you wish to meet me.--------------- by Katherine Wyatt
Long long agoWhen nothing was thereAnd God got bored with himselfHe made everythingThen he got boredWith everything that was perfectAnd so planned to make some distortionsSo he made some like meWho as they say have lost their mindsAs I sat on the swing in the playgroundThe teachers words tossed in the airLike bubbles of soap all around meI did not play with them by waving them awayBut I tried to feel them by waving them in and outWhen I walked out of the classroomThe tail of words followed meWords made of lettersCrawling like antsIn a disciplined row.Tito Mukhopadhyay(the author is severely autistic. He uses words to communicate his world.)
"I am dust particles in the sunlight.I am the round sun.To the bits of dust I say, Stay.To the sun, Keep moving.I am morning mist,And the breath of evening.You the One in all, say who I am.Say I am You.“Sufi poet Rumi.
Activity 10• Make a list of the experiences, things and people whohave influenced you, which you might include, like JohnKeats and Rose Tremain, in writing about yourself.• Think about your relationships and how you feel, yourdreams, hopes and fears, like the student in ‘I Am Alone.’Add more ideas to your list.• Think about life and death, the world of nature and all theamazing things that make up your world, which you mightinclude, like the poem on remembrance and the poem‘Within.’• Think of how your own understanding of life, death andGod affect your sense of who you are, like the authors ofImago Dei and the poems that followed ‘Within’.Now write your own poem entitled, ‘I Am.’
EmotionWe have seen that religion includes everyone and how eachhuman being is a very complicated thing made up of body,mind and spirit. But in the poems, the dimensions ofexperience and emotion were added to this mix ofingredients that makes us who we are.When some people feel very happy, they start to sing.If you feel sad or upset, you can change that mood and cheeryourself up, by listening to music you love – or by singing.What is so special about music that can express ouremotions and change our moods like this?We need a model of religion which includesexperience and emotion. Music is an answer.
Sing or listen• Some songs are hymns and carols. They are religioussongs which are not about ordinary human things. They areabout spiritual or religious subjects. They are sung as a wayof worshipping, praising or thanking God. They may takeyou on a journey of faith.• But many non-religious songs can also take you onan inner journey. The song ‘Windmills of Yourmind’ is like a jigsaw or kaleidoscope. It is full ofdifferent images about life.• Many kinds of music can expand your emotions and makeyou feel as if you are flying, but unless you play aninstrument in a band or an orchestra you can’t join in easily.But everyone can join in a song.
Windmills of Your Mind- some of the lyrics –Like a circle in a spiral orA wheel within a wheel neverending or beginning on an everspinning reelLike a snowball on fountain or acarnival balloonor a carousel that’s turningrunning rings around the moonLike a clockwhose hands areSweeping past the minuteson it’s faceAnd the world is like an appleWhirling silently in spaceLike the circles that you find inthe windmills of your mindLike a tunnel that you followto a tunnel on it’s ownDown a hollow to a cavernwhere the sun has never shoneLike a door that keeps revolving in ahalf forgotten dreamOr the ripples from a pebble someonetosses in a streamLike a clockwhose hands areSweeping past the minutes on it’s faceAnd the world is like an appleWhirling silently in spaceLike the circles that you findin the windmills of your mind.
Religion the SongReligion is often described as a code of life or way of life.It is not silent and distant like the patterns in a kaleidoscope.It is more like a hauntingly beautiful song.~ if you think of religion as a song ~Each person is one of the notes of the melody.And the music of religion flows in and through you.You are part of the song of religionbut it is bigger than any one individual.If religion is a song, the song is part of who you are,you are part of it – and at each moment,one of the verses is recordingthe story of your life.
Activity 11 part 1Talk to the people in your group.Can you think of times when you have sungsomething that has changed the way you feel?What are your favourite songs?Can you think of a song you sing that ‘takes youout of yourself,’ that makes you feel exultant, as ifyou are flying or soaring above the earth?Can you think of any songs which use words tocreate a feeling or an impression, words used assymbols, not to describe the actual subject of thewords (Windmills of Your Mind is a good example.)If you have any ideas to share or questions to discuss, write them on a ‘postit’and stick them on the flip-chart at the front of the room for later discussion.
Activity 11 part 2…• Can you think of a time when you have sung or played music andthe result has been bigger than you, bigger than any onemusician?• Each person has been important, like a note in the song – but thesong itself has been bigger than all of you.Talk to those in your group...about music and the part it plays in your lives.• How does religious or spiritual music compare with popularmusic? Can you think of examples where they overlap?• The subject of religion is like music. We are all part of it- but it is bigger than all of us together.Talk to those in your group about the idea of religion as music.How does this help us understand what religion is?
“Music gives soul tothe universewings to the mindflight to theimaginationand life to everything"Plato
Religion the musicYou can’t write a definition of music or explainwhy music changes the way you feel. It is aninner experience, a mystery.Religion is like that. You can’t prove that yourbeliefs or your way of understanding the worldis right. You can’t prove that God exists ordoes not exist to someone else.Religion, like music, simply is. It’s part ofour experience, part of who we are.
Activity 12• Think of examples of things that you findmysterious or amazing about the world.• Are there certain books or films that you findexplore the mystery of life in an insightful way?• ‘There are many more things to life than we canknow for sure or understand. If we can embrace themystery of life, just as we accept music, then manyproblems and arguments simply disappear.’in your groups-Discus your responses and thoughtsabout the concept of religion as mystery… and if there are questions or issues you would like to discuss further, notethem on a ‘postit’ and stick them on the flip-chart at the front.
Religion the mysteryWhen we come to the subject of religion, spirituality and the soul,we are a bit like ants looking up at a human being and trying toknow who human beings are. It‟s amazing that we can think of allthese things, but it is not surprising that there are things we simplydon‟t understand.Our little brains have evolved over millions of years,from the nervous system of a mud-worm,from the „primeval soup‟ in the primordial oceanfrom nothing but star-dust –and before that (to use religious language)from the „dreams‟ or „Word‟ of „God‟ our „Creator.‟Sometimes we just have to fold our hands,in all humility and honesty, and admitthere are things that we simply do not know.
Shakespeare?There are more thingsin heaven and earth,Horatio,Than are dreamt ofin your philosophy.Hamlet Act 1 scene 5Shakespeare
The Outer WorldScience explores the physical or material world.Scientists have discovered amazing things aboutour world. They have worked out how atomsbuild into molecules, how the different chemicalelements build up this amazing planet.Some people think that science can explaineverything. But in reality science does nothold all the answers. Science and Religionare both important.There is an outer world that science explores.But there is also an inner world. If you wantto know about that, science is the wrongdiscipline, the wrong tool to use.
Science and ReligionScience can calculate the age of the earth and show that lifehas evolved - but it can not tell us what life is or how to livea good life.We need two eyes to see clearly, to see in perspective. In asimilar way we need the insights of both science andreligion to understand our lives.Science and religion are sometimes viewed as opposites,competing with or contradicting each other. But actuallythey are just different ways of seeking truth about the sameworld.How would you ‘define’ life, love, beauty, hope,peace, happiness or the colour blue?Can you look at love under a microscopeor write a formula for it?
The Quest for TruthIn their common quest for truth,science and religion, science and spirituality,though at opposite ends of the knowledge-‘spectrum’ are drawing closer,as both delve deeper intothe nature of human consciousness.Some quotations and aphorisms are as rich andmeaningful as spiritual poems – The great scientistand mystic, Albert Einstein declared:“Science without religion is lame,Religion without science is blind. ”
Spirituality and ReligionThere is an aspect of life which is invisible, subtle and elusive.You can not define it or explain it. But it is just as important asthe outer physical world. It is the world of our inner feelings,experience, and imagination, sometimes called the ‘InnerWorld.’Spirituality and religion are two related subjects that explorethis inner aspect of life. Spirituality is impossible to define, butit includes the sense of everything being infinitely precious andthe feeling that we are all part of a Whole.Spirituality is rooted in our experience of life and especially inthe deep emotions of wonder and awe, when the mind stopsthinking of anything and we just ‘live in the moment.’Religion can be viewed as our human response to thissubtle, inner or spiritual experience.
Poetry and Symbolism• When you want to explore the outer world, things thatyou can see and touch, cut up and examine in detail,science can help you. If they are very small, you canlook at them under a microscope. If they are far awayyou can use a telescope. You can analyse them inchemistry to see what they are made of – or use thelaws of physics to see how they work.• But when you want to learn about subtle, elusivesubjects, about our inner lives, about life itself then youneed to explore them with the tools of spirituality andreligion. It is impossible to approach them directly.Here we need to use different tools.• Art, music, poetry and symbolism are someof the tools often used to express the truthsfound in religion. They have to convey ideasand emotions rather than simple facts.
A poemUpwardsTowards the heightsTowards the starsTowards the Vast SilenceBy Ibsen
The analytical mind• Can you understand the poem?• Why do you think the poet uses capitals for V and S?• Do you think poets want you to try to analyse theirpoems?• Poems are words that take you beyond the mind, toexplore realities that are without walls.• Poems are often intended to convey their meaning ona deeper level, to give you a sense of understandingwhich is not limited by the analytical mind.• Instead of trying to analyse a poem, just hold it inyour heart and ‘feel’ its truth.
AspirationUpwardsTowards the heightsTowards the starsTowards the Vast SilenceBy Ibsen
Going Beyond the MindWhat is this mind?Who is hearing these sounds?Do not mistake any state forSelf-realization, but continueTo ask yourself even more intensely,What is it that hears?Bassui
Searching for God: Hide and SeekPatrick Corley, age 8I counted to ten, and then I looked,Behind the office door, on the top floor.For half an hour, I searched the shower.Then the cupboard under the stairs,But he wasnt there.I checked behind the sofa, and out in the street,But if he had been outside, he would have been a cheat.I looked under the table and under the bed.Then I checked the bathroom instead.I looked in the mirror, and what did I see?Then I realised, maybe he is in me.Should I look for him in my heart?Okay! Lets make a start.
RealisationThe AbsoluteNo mind, no form, I only exist;Now ceased all will and thought;The final end of Natures dance,I am it whom I have sought.A realm of Bliss bare, ultimate;Beyond both knower and known;A rest immense I enjoy at last;I face the One alone.I have crossed the secret ways of life,I have become the Goal.The Truth immutable is revealed;I am the way, the God Soul.My spirit aware of all the heights,I am mute in the core of the Sun.I barter nothing with time and deeds;My cosmic play is done.From ‘My Flute’ by Sri Chinmoy.
Infinity is thisInfinity is that.When infinityfrom infinityIs taken awayInfinity remains…The Upanishads
Activity 13Think about the questionWhat is religion?Working on your own,Having worked through this slide-showand perhaps thought about religion in newways, write your own poem or create amind-map or collage of images entitled -what religion means to me.We will then share our ideas andenjoy an open discussion.
In Part One - we have seen that -religion is about questions and answers,in religion everyone matters, everyone has a place.The picture of religion is not complete without all of us.Religion is like a jigsaw andeach person is part of the picture.Religion is like a gardenand each person is a flower with many petals.Religion is like a kaleidoscope,full of beautiful colours and patternsthat are always moving and changing.Religion is like a song, like music. It ‘flows in and through us’ so each personis a note in the melody, a verse in the song. The music is bigger than any oneperson but each person contributes to it, adding their unique character, beautyand fragrance to the whole.Religion is a mystery, a subtle and elusive subjectReligion explores the inner worlds, dealing with truths such as love, hope,compassion and happiness that are ‘felt’ inwardly, using the spiritual ‘heart’.Religion does not conflict with science but explores a different aspect of life.Religion and spirituality often use art, music, poetry and symbolism to inspireand communicate, because they explore an aspect of life which can not beexamined or analysed by the intellectual mind.
By Durga-Mata ChaudhuriBlue Lotus EnterprisesBlue Lotus Enterprises is a company which createsproducts and offers services which educate andinspire.All our Slide-Shows can be ordered from our websiteon DVD or in book form –see www.bluelotus.co and www.bluelotus-art.co.ukContact firstname.lastname@example.orgThis work is copyright and can not be copied withoutpermission of Blue Lotus EnterprisesThis Slide Show is good for increasing understanding andencouraging discussion / reflection with all ages.
ImagesMany of the images in Two Questions comefrom our own photographs. Others have beengathered from many sources. A full list ofcredits is being prepared.We hope that all whose photographs have beenused will be happy and proud to be includedin this slide-show - but should anycopyright questions arise we will be happyto make any adjustments necessary.
PoetryThe poems used in Two Questions come frommany sources. They include two from the REToday Spirited Arts Competition, 2011.http://www.natre.org.uk/spiritedarts/poetry11/1_where_is_god.phpWe hope that all whose poems have been usedwill be happy and proud to be includedin this slide-show - but should anycopyright questions arise we will be happyto make any adjustments necessary.