Archive for June, 2009

Kazakhstan to host 3rd triennial Interfaith Conference

Posted in spirituality on June 30, 2009 by ewakening

The two-day Congress of World and Traditional Religions is scheduled to open this week in the new Kazakhstan capital of Astana. It will be the third such congress to be hosted by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev after previous meetings in 2003 and 2006. The conference represents part of a wider effort by Kazakh leaders to position their nation as a meeting ground for the discussion of religious differences.

In attendance will be a Roman Catholic cardinal responsible for interfaith dialogue at the Vatican, the grand imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque of Cairo, various Protestant representatives, and Israel’s chief rabbi, among others.

The impressive spectrum expected at the gathering is precisely what Nazarbayev has sought to create: an effort to make Kazakhstan’s unique religious openness a lever for influencing the region.

Photo on upper left: The Pyramid of Peace, constructed in 2006 in Astana to represent various different religions. It is conceived as a global center for religious understanding. Here delegates from around the world meet for the trienniel Interfaith Congress. The center also includes a research library and national cultural museum.


Brain scans reveal hypnosis in action

Posted in brain, hypnosis on June 28, 2009 by ewakening

A brain researcher in Switzerland recently published the results of a study which showed that the brains of a group of hypnotized volunteers reacted to the hypnosis by changing the way different brain regions interacted to movement initiation stimuli. The research is further evidence of the scientific basis for hypnosis and related brain technologies such as meditation, and how these ancient techniques actually work in the brain.

Somali Sufis fight back against shrine desecration

Posted in sufism on June 18, 2009 by ewakening

Since they began to capture large swathes of southern Somalia, radical Islamists have been undertaking a programme of destroying mosques and the graves of revered religious leaders from the Sufi branch of Islam. The destruction of non-approved religious sites started last year when they began to knock down an old colonial era church in the town of Kismayo.

Most Somalis are Sufi Muslims, who do not share the strict Saudi Arabian-inspired Wahhabi interpretation of Islam with the hardline al-Shabab group. They embrace music, dancing and meditation and are appalled at the desecration of the graves.

But al-Shabab sees things differently. The group’s spokesman in the town of Kismayo, Sheikh Hassan Yaquub, told the BBC Somali Service that his movement considered that the memorials were being worshipped and that this was idolatry – banned by Islam.

Grave are being desecrated wherever al-Shabab is in control. But there is evidence that the anger generated by such actions is stirring the usually peaceful Sufis to take up arms and fight back against al-Shabab. The umbrella group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama (Sufi Sects in Somalia) has condemned the actions of what they call the ideology of modern Wahhabism and the desecrations of graves. They see Wahhabism as foreign and ultimately un-Islamic.

Inner space: The power of solitude

Posted in buddhism, meditation on June 15, 2009 by ewakening

(From the Independent, 15 June 2009)

It’s no coincidence that in the West even something such as psychoanalysis, which shelters under the official umbrella of being a science, has historically always been more strongly linked to continental Europe and America than the UK. But this isn’t psychoanalysis; this is Vipassana. Meaning “to see things as they really are”, it’s the technique the Buddha himself practised – so before Buddhism itself even existed. Passed on from generation to generation by a chain of devoted teachers, it’s thanks to one of these teachers – a Burmese industrialist called S. N. Goenka – that it’s now taught in centres all over the world.

Set amongst 22 acres of rolling countryside, the centre (called Dhamma Dipa – “island of dhamma”, dhamma being “the way to liberation”) is based around an old farmyard. More recently used as a riding school for children, it was bought and converted in 1991. Although Vipassana courses are also held in East Anglia, London and Sussex, Dhamma Dipa is the only dedicated centre in Britain. In the early days it ran courses for 50 students who sat in a drafty barn rather than in the modern hall they do today; and now it can take 130 of them. More than 30 courses are run each year at the centre, most of which last for the standard 10 days – although there are shorter and longer courses for children and students who have been before. In 2008 around 1,300 people completed courses here; in the 18 years since Dhamma Dipa opened, approximately 15,000 people, from all walks of life, have passed through its doors. Perhaps most remarkably, all the courses are completely free.

Read the full story, including a personal memoir of a meditation retreat undergone by the writer, at:

The Sorcerer’s Freedom

Posted in castaneda, enlightenment, spirituality on June 9, 2009 by ewakening

A sorcerer is in the hands of power and his only freedom is to choose an impeccable life.

— Carlos Castaneda