Religion Rundown

Posted on November 13, 2012 by



“In the days after Hurricane Sandy, Buddhists and meditation practitioners are joining a host of faith based and spiritual caregivers responding to the ongoing crisis. Yet in addition to the fundraising, helping hands and prayers offered by many faith based groups, Buddhists are making use of meditation and “mindfulness,” a spiritual practice with origins in Buddhism that’s focused on centering and grounding people as a method of reducing stress, while acknowledging pain and difficulties.”

Koshin Paley Ellison, a co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, sent out his best men and women to help rebuild after the storm’s widespread destruction. He accumulated an inspiring team of Buddhist chaplains that visited hospitals and isolated apartments where the elderly and sick continue to struggle. With a total of 32 volunteers and staff spread throughout Manhattan, Ellison’s team offers a unique breed of disaster responder.

Ellison quotes, “Our chaplains provide contemplative care. It’s the kind of care given by someone who has their own meditation practice and uses that to bring to the patient an openness and reliability that the meditation practice is supposed to do.” He continues, “We’ve been doing meditations in medical center hallways. They’re open and can be useful to anybody. Oftentimes, it’s not Buddhists whom we are serving.”

Another organization, the Reciprocity Foundation, is providing post-hurricane counseling and healing sessions for those left homeless after the storm, as well as those who were homeless before Sandy hit. They advertise free food, acupuncture and loving counseling, via Facebook.


“Congress will become a shade more religiously diverse this January, after Tuesday’s (Nov. 6) election of the first Hindu representative and first Buddhist senator.”

On November 6th, Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, will become the first Hindu-American congresswoman, after defeating her Republican rival. Gabbard was born in American Samoa to a Catholic father and a Hindu mother, moving to Hawaii at the age of 2. The Iraq War veteran said she follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which venerates the deity Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. Gabbard has expressed her hope in strengthening ties between the United States and India, Hinduism’s spiritual homeland. She quotes, “How can we have a close relationship if decision-makers in Washington know very little, if anything, about the religious beliefs, values and practices of India’s 800 million Hindus?”

“Gabbard will take the congressional seat of another Democrat, Mazie Hirono, who will be the nation’s first Buddhist senator when the new Congress convenes in January.”

Hirono, who is also the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, was one of three Buddhists in the House of Representatives. Being raised in the Judo Shinso school of Pure Land Buddhism, she believes “in the precepts of Buddhism” but does not practice the religion daily.


“Parents in this seaside town (Encinitas, California) are in a twist over yoga, saying that adding the ancient practice of meditative exercise to the school curriculum is tantamount to religious indoctrination into Hinduism.”

In Encinitas, California, where yoga is a common activity among the population, school officials never thought is would be controversial when they accepted a $533,000 grant from a local yoga studio to include Ashtanga style yoga in a program where students also get the opportunity to learn about healthy eating and cultivate small gardens. However, soon after yoga teachers began leading sessions of stretching, breathing and relaxing at five elementary schools, four dozen parents argued that yoga is solely a system of spiritual beliefs.

“School officials quickly announced that parents could choose to have their children excused from yoga class.”

School officials are standing firm. The yoga classes are expected to expand into four more elementary schools by early January, while researchers from the University of San Diego and the University of Virginia study whether yoga helps improve attendance at the schools and reduces fighting and bullying.

The yoga sessions have been tailored to children and made “kid-friendly,” with creative poses such as “gorilla pose” and “mountain pose.” Under the grant, the district has hired 11 yoga teachers; students get two 40-minute sessions per week.

David Miyashiro, the assistant superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District quotes, “I think that the lessons ‘slow down’ the game of school. Kids have more time to think, they’re less reactive, more responsive, both academically and socially.” He continues, “Anecdotal evidence from principals suggests a decrease of playground problems and fewer suspensions for unruly behavior.”,0,6809683.story


“The five-day Diwali festivities kicked off with the celebration of Dhanteras in parts of northern India. This day is especially auspicious for those in the business community, and Hindu’s generally worship Ganesh or Lakshmi for wealth and auspiciousness.”


“Pakistan, and people around the world, commemorated yesterday as “Malala Day,” in honor of Malala Yusufzai, who was shot in the head by a Taliban militant for demanding the right of girls’ education.”

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