Tag Archives: Places of Worship

Dharma in Manchester

We were welcomed at the Jain Samaj Manchester by Suresh Mehta, the Chair of Trustees at the temple. They are just building a large new annexe which has cost £1M. The centre was opened 18 years ago by Gerald Kaufman MP

Suresh showed us a picture of the huge temple complex at Palitana.  Jains have 24 tirthinkaras in each time cycle, who have each reached nirvana. The first reached nirvana there 

We moved into the temple room and rang the bell, as saw the statues of the three tirthinkaras that they have there: Mahavir , the 24th tirthanka 599 BC – 527 BC, Parshvanat  the 23rd, born 877BC and Shantinath the 16th Tirthinkara.

Suresh spoke to us about the temple, the life of Mahavir and Jainism. He pointed out that he was talking about Mahavir’s version of Jainism as that is written down. Both Mahavir and Buddha came from Bihar and lived at more or less the same time, teaching very similar things.  They walked everywhere, and many Jain priests and devotees will do the same today.  140 people took tiksha in 2016. They give up everything and live without possessions in the Ashram. 

He explained that Jainism is built on three pillars:

  • Ahimsa – non violence but taken to the extreme meaning not even thinking bad thoughts and including being able to forgive.
  • Aparigrah – trying to live at a level of comfort, but not of excess. This leads to Jains being very generous.
  • Anekantvad – there is no absolute truth, everyone is (potentially) right 

Jainism follows a lunar calendar but add an extra month every fourth year.   We are in the fifth of six segments of the current time cycle. During this period things will get worse. Suresh talked to us about how Jain beliefs and practices influenced the Hindu Mohatma Gandhi.  Mahavir gave 5 rules for lay people to live by: ahimsa, truthfulness, not stealing, none aquisitionness, control over sexual desires.  

Suresh talked a little bit about the Jain Community- they try to help the local community, and are open and pluralistic in their outlook. They started holding meetings in a hired school hall.  Now they have 125 families. During the recent Paryushan celebrations ( a period of personal reflection), four people fasted for 8 days, no food and drinking only water during daylight. Suresh came from Kenya, where he lived next to the temple until he was 12. 

On a Sunday evening, before a shared dinner, Gujarati hymns are sung. In July he flag on top of the shrine is changed in a special ceremony.  Diwali is celebrated , as well as a Christmas party!  The temple is like one you would have in a house, so this doesn’t need a priest to wash the idols each day and carry out other duties.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays the temple is open and people can come and pray in a personal way.

We then moved on to the Sri Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara where we were met by Sukhbir Singh.

Having removed our shoes, covered our heads and washed our hands we went into the Diwan Hall. Sukhbir demonstrated how he would enter the prayer hall. 

He gave us a quick overview of the history of Guru Nani Dev Ji and the founding of Sikhism, leading on to key beliefs and practices, including the five virtues, the Gurus and the Harminder Sahib. He talked about what happens at the gurdwara, both religious and cultural/community practices.

He explained that there are three pillars of Sikhism: 

  • Nama Jappo, praying to God.
  • Vand Chako, share everything you have
  • Kirat Karo, get what you can honestly through hard work.

A family who had just had a baby arrived straight from the hospital and we were able to listen as the granthi read a prayer from the Guru Granth Sahib. The first letter of the reading gave the family the start of the name, and they chose the name Ishtar. The granthi then prayed, for the baby and the family, including the blessing “bole so nihal”, “sat sari Amal” and we were blessed as the father offered us chocolates to show their thanks.

We finished off in the Langar Hall where we were served some delicious vegetarian pilau.

Juma Prayers at Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque

The PGCE cohort visited the Quwwat Ul Islam Mosque in Preston as part of their subject knowledge development.  In addition to touring the mosque and observing Friday prayers, the group also had a fantastic opportunity to speak to some Yr10 pupils from Preston Muslim Girls High School about their experiences of Islam and what their faith means to them. Thanks Waqaus for a great day as always!

Merseyside Buddhism

Year 2 QTS undergraduates spent a day looking at two forms of Buddhism in Merseyside. Our first visit was to the Triratna Buddhist Centre in Liverpool. Sumnadipa and Janet welcomed us and  offered us a drink. Sumnadipa explained her name meant graciousness and lamp, and she was given it when she was ordained. She reminded us that the five precepts have both negative and positive sides, for example the second precept, not taking the not given can also mean living with open handed generosity. She suggested that mindfulness meant taking notice of he things around us.  Normally we cannot do this adequately as our ‘monkey minds’ are full of noise and chatter. Meditating, just stopping and being is one was to still the mind and become mindful.  Sumnadipa explained some of the fundamental teaching of the Buddha, including the three jewels.

Sumnadipa gave us some of the historical background to the Triratna movement, starting with the life story of Sangharakshita. She explained that Sangharakshita realised that different schools of Buddhism may look quite different and teach different things, because they had taken on the culture of where they are.  Underlying his, he suggested there was a core Buddhism, of taking refuge in the three jewels. He set up the Western Buddhist Order to translate the Buddha’s teaching into a form that would appeal to the Modern Western mind. Since the 1960s it has spread worldwide and became the Triratna Community in 2010. Sangharakshita died a few weeks ago aged 93.

She explained some of the differences between the Triratna and other Buddhist schools. Right livelihood appears to be very important in many of their activities and involves both helping others and freeing themselves.  We heard how Sumnadipa became a Buddhist, through an initial desire to meditate.  She suggested that Sangharakshita might have been a bodhisatva, but people such as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu may be enlightened beings.

We finished our time with a meditation session which Sumnadipa led.

A short minibus ride took us to the Wat Phra Singh UK Buddhist Centre in Runcorn. Tony welcomed us and explained that they are from the Thai Therevada tradition. He began by explaining how the two branches of Buddhism developed. Their parent temple is he Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai in Thailand.  Tony told us the story of his ordination and how he became Samart, meaning one who achieves. He was ordained in 2008 in Thailand – the first foreigner to be Ordained at Wat Phra Singh Chang Mai, and the last person to be ordained by Lonpornu. The Head monk arrived from Thailand in June 2012, staying with Tony who had a vision for a Temple in the North West of England. The temple opened in June 2014. They now have ambitious plans to build an ubersot – a consecrated Hall.

Every morning and evening the monks, who reside on the third floor of the temple, chant and meditate for 45 minutes. One of the rules of the monastic life is that they can only eat before midday. They do duties and learning during the day. There is a free weekly meditation class.

Tony says that he has always been a Buddhist, although he was raised as a Christian, and only became aware as he encountered Buddhist teachings.  Other religions say this is right and this is wrong; the dhamma says this is what the Buddha realised. Tony helpfully explained some of the Buddha’s teachings on diverse subjects including kamma, right living, intention and meditation.

Fieldwork in Religion: Going Out and Finding Out

This last week has been very busy for our undergraduate students, who have benefitted from meeting and engaging with local faith communities.

Year 2 Ethnography students are currently engaged in their own fieldwork projects, exploring a range of topics including witchcraft, perspectives on the after life in a care home, life in a convent, challenges and controversies in contemporary religion, digital ethnography, as well as engaging with Paganism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. The principle of the module is to allow students to go out and find out more about how living religion is experienced as part of every day life.

Year 2 Judaism students and their module tutor, Dr Chris Greenough, visited Southport and District Reform Synagogue on Wednesday 7th November. They received a very warm welcome from the team there, especially Selwyn and Anne who gave an informative talk about the Jewish way of life and particularly the differences between the Orthodox and Reform movements. On Tuesday 13th November, the same group of students visited Southport Orthodox synagogue, where they were able to consolidate their subject knowledge about Jewish worship practices and the design of a synagogue.

Year 3 students, with Maggie Webster, were welcomed by Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Preston to mark the celebration of Diwali and new year.


Visit to Tübingen

This summer I spent around ten days as a visiting lecturer at Centre for Islamic Theology the University of Tübingen, located on the edge of the beautiful and mysterious Black Forest in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The University of Tübingen, now also known as Eberhard Karls University, was founded in 1477, and has a long-standing history in the fields of theology and philosophy.

I delivered a series of lectures on classical Islamic philosophy, beginning with the definition of “wisdom” (sophia in Greek, hikma in Arabic), then exploring different key foundational philosophers up to the Grand Master of Islamic Philosopher Ibn Sina, known in the Latin West as Avicenna.

As part of the visit, I met local scholars and visited a number of historical locations around the city, including the Stiftskirche (the university church and one of the earliest to convert to Protestantism) and the Bebenhausen monastery on the outskirts of the city.It was exciting to walk around the streets that were once frequented by likes of Lessing, Holderlin, Hegel, Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann! On the final day, I was able to attend a stunning performance by the university’s Philharmonic orchestra of Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Crysostom and Mozart’s Coronation Mass. Still, it was chilling to learn from the signs outside that the concert hall used to be a gathering place for Nazi officers during the Second World War, and the city’s once thriving Jewish community no longer exist.

I would like to thank the assistant director of the centre, Professor Lejla Demiri, for inviting me, as well as all of those who made me feel very welcome as well intellectually/spiritually energised from the visit.

– Harith Ramli, Senior Lecturer in Theology and World Religions

View of the Stiftskirche or St. George’s Collegiate Church, one of the first in the region to convert to Protestantism during the Reformation. Important rulers of the city are buried within.
At the entrance to the Bebenhausen monastery outside the city
The northern corner of the Bebenhausen monastery cloister where the monks would gather to read.
The pulpit in the monastery chapel, built after the Reformation.
View of the Neckar river that runs through the medieval city centre.
The entrance to a 16th century townhouse.

SKE 2018: Princes Road Synagogue & Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

The group took a trip to Liverpool as part of their ongoing subject knowledge development course to look at the differences between the Jewish and Christian places of worship.

First stop was the very grand and ornate OrthodoxJewish Synagogue. Trainees were able to hear about the history of the Jewish community in Liverpool, the features of the synagogue and the way an Orthodox synagogue would differ from the Reform. Our host was able to share with us a number of Jewish artefacts and demonstrate the significance of the Torah Scrolls in worship.

After a quick bite to eat, we moved onto the Anglican Cathedral, just down the road from the Synagogue and made from the same sandstone. After outlining the role of the Cathedral in Christian worship and the extensive outreach programmes the church runs, trainees were taken on a tour,  learning all about the building and development of the Cathedral, enjoying the Whispering galley and finding the Derby Mouse.

RE SKE 2018: Preston Gujurat Hindu Temple & Vajravarahi Kadampa Meditation Centre

On Thursday we ventured up the M6 to visit the Gujurat Hindu Temple and Preston Buddhist centre as part of developing our subject knowledge about the Dharmic traditions.

At the Gujurat Temple, we were able to learn about the importance of the temple in Hindu puja (worship) and the significance and stories of some of the many gods that live there. Students ejoying asking lots of questions on everything from Hindu attitudes towards homosexuality to the belief in reincarnation and karma. Some were eagle-eyed enough to spot an image of the Buddha – raising interesting questions about the links between Buddhist and Hindu belief.

It was lovely to see Pagba on our visit to the Vajravarahi Kadampa Meditation Centre. As always, he was able to offer real insight into what it means to be a practicing Buddhist and how he was drawn to Buddhism and made the choice to become a monk. Some very deep philosophical discussions about the nature of ‘the mind’ were had!

 

RE PGCE: Bradford Interfaith Visit 27.6.18

As part of their pre-NQT enrichment week, RE PGCE trainees visited Bradford as part of an interfaith visit to a number of places of worship.

The day began with a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha where trainees were given a tour of the worship hall and able to see the rituals and practices associated with the Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Trainees enjoyed asking questions and experiencing some of the sounds of Sikh worship.

Next it was onto the Shree Laxmi Narayan Hindu Temple where trainees were able to observe the daily Aarti worship and meet with Seema, who discussed her experiences and beliefs as a Hindu. Ready for a rest, we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian lunch!

Before making our way back to Ormskirk, we ended the day with an insight into Reform Judaism at the Bradford Reform Synagogue, learning about the history of the Jewish community in Bradford and some of the differences between reform and orthodox practice.

A wonderful (very hot!) day and a lovely end to the PGCE course.

RE PGCE: Liverpool Anglican Cathedral visit

On Friday 15th September the RE PGCE trainees visited Liverpool Anglican Cathedral to help develop their subject knowledge around Christianity and places of worship. We had a great tour from Helen, who told us about the history of the Cathedral and that without a ‘cathedra’ a Cathedral is just a big church! Trainees thoroughly enjoyed the ‘whispering arch’ – some claimed it was better than vodafone!

RE Subject Knowledge Enhancement 2017: Stenecourt Shul, Salford

RE PGCE and UG students travelled to Salford to visit Stenecourt Shul with their tutors Sjay Patterson-Craven and David Arnold as part of the SKE course. The day gave students the opportunity to develop their understanding of Jewish belief, enjoy some challah, visit the shul, ask questions and ended with a very enjoyable Israeli-Kosher meal!