Programs & Events
Spirituality and the Arts
The Office of Religious Life’s Spirituality and the Arts program explores and uncovers the spiritual and devotional dimensions of the arts. Through film screenings, plays, spoken word events, music concerts, dance performances, and art exhibitions, Spirituality and the Arts examines and interrogates the ultimate questions of meaning, purpose, and identity as they manifest through the arts. Previous participants and performers include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Rainn Wilson, K.C. Porter, Salman Ahmad, Nishat Khan, D’Lo, Summer Watson, and Roger Steffens.
Sept 11 through Oct 30: 9:11 IN THE WORLD'S SCRIPTURES - a display of chapter 9, verse 11 from the scriptures of the world's religions - in the Fishbowl Chapel, University Religious Center, open 9-5 pm weekdays and by arrangement other times.
Ifrah Sheikh speaking at opening reception, 9-11-11
Art by Ifrah Sheikh, sophomore, Fine Arts
Muslim member of the Student Interfaith Council
Artist’s statement: Through the conscious application of color and technique, as well as the release of personal sentiment, I offer a series of pieces intent on presenting a historic tragedy in light of growth and weighty thought. In wake of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I hope to utilize this exhibit as a means to reflect on the various facets of religion as well as humanity’s responsibility to channel tragedy into a benevolent, empathetic force. This presentation is not meant as mourning, but rather a reverence of the possibility of pulling virtue from heartbreak. My essence as an artist and creature of God is woven into the construction of this project, which I hope engages others in a similar spiritual fashion.
Commentaries on texts by Antonia Blumberg, senior, Anthropology
Pagan/Wiccan member of the Student Interfaith Council
Bhagavad Gita, 9:11
translated by Winthrop Sargent
The deluded despise Me
When I assume human form
Not knowing My higher being
As the Great Lord of Beings.
The Bhagavad Gita is the most sacred work of Hindu religious thought. It derives from the Vedic tradition and discusses Yogic and Vedic philosophies. It is, in essence, a dialogue between God and man - Lord Krishna and the young warrior prince Arjuna. Chapter 9 in the Gita translates roughly as “The Most Confidential Knowledge.” In this chapter, Krishna explains the true nature of material existence - that it is created, maintained and ultimately destroyed by His power, that all things come and go under His care. Only the seeker who shuns vanity and puts faith in the supreme mystery of creation may find grace with Krishna.
Tao Te Ching by Lao-tzu
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
9 Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
11 We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
Tao te Ching
The Tao Te Ching is the fundamental text in Taoist philosophy. It has been attributed to Lao-tzu, a record-keeper for the Chinese court during the 6th century BC. It has influenced many subsequent religious traditions, including Taoism, Chinese Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism. Chapters 9 and 11 both come from the first book, the Book of Tao, which discusses the philosophies of the Tao - the way - and its manifestations. Thus it provides sketches for practical wisdom and living. Some of its themes include creation, the feminine, emptiness, beauty, politics and the self.
But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know.
The Koran (Quran) is the central holy text of Islam and is considered by people of that faith to be the true word of God. In addition, it is regarded as one of the most beautiful pieces of Arabic literature. The Koran holds an eminent position in Islam as it is believed to contain the messages from God revealed to the prophet Muhammad. It includes many narratives from Jewish and Christian religious scriptures. It may also be viewed as a book of guidance for humanity. Chapter 9 of the Koran covers the topic of repentance. It describes the proper behavior for one who wishes to repent and describes the mercy of a wise and omnipotent God.
I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
Lo, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old
It is the holy text of the Jewish people. It is also foundational for the Christian religion, known as the Old Testament. Through historical accounts, legal codes, and poetry, the Hebrew Bible describes the origin of the Jewish people and their traditions. The first 9:11 passage comes from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which outlines God’s creation of the world. The second passage is from Job, much of it a didactic poem about a test of the faith of a pious man. The third passage comes out of Ecclesiastes, a book of wisdom teachings. And the final passage springs from the book of Amos, one of the twelve minor prophets of the Bible.
When the crowds learned it, they followed him (Jesus); and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, and cured those who had need of healing.
The Christian Bible
The Holy Bible is the sacred text of Christianity and is comprised of the Old and New Testaments. The gospels of Luke are contained in the New Testament, a collection of 27 books that revolve around the figure Jesus Christ. The books are by different authors with unique themes and perspectives, and combined they present a compelling history of not only Christ but also the advent and origins of Christianity. The books can be divided into three categories: the Gospels (four stories of the life of Christ), the Epistles (letters to the early churches) and the final book of Revelation. Luke’s gospel recounts the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Chapter 9 describes Jesus sending his disciples out into the world to heal the sick and preach the Kingdom of God.
LATTER DAY SAINTS:
Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 9:11
And because of the way of a deliverance of our God, the Holy One of Israel, this death, of which I have spoken, which is the temporal, shall deliver up its dead; which death is the grave.
Therefore it came to pass, that after we had dwelt in the land for the space of twelve years that king Laman began to grow uneasy, lest by any means my people should wax strong in the land, and that they could not overpower them and bring them into bondage.
Yea, and if it had not been for his matchless power, and his mercy, and his along-suffering towards us, we should unavoidably have been cut off from the face of the earth long before this period of time, and perhaps been consigned to a state of endless misery and woe.
Book of Mormon
The book of Mormon is one of the sacred texts of the Latter Day Saints, a distinct Christian religious group founded in the late 1820’s by Joseph Smith, Jr. The Book of Mormon is thought to supplement the Bible with the writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent. It is a compilation of shorter books, each named after and pertaining to its main narrator or a prominent figure. The first passage comes from the first section of the Book of Mormon, the First Book of Nephi. Nephi is believed to have been a prophet from around 600 BC, and the book is a first-person account of his life, visions and doctrine. The Book of Mosiah covers the life of Mosiah II, one of the kings of the Nephites from roughly 100 BC. And the Book of Alma tells the story of the prophet Alma who was also a chief judge of the Nephites.
THE KITÁB-I-AQDAS of Bahá’u’lláh
Hair doth not invalidate your prayer, nor aught from which the spirit hath departed, such as bones and the like. Ye are free to wear the fur of the sable as ye would that of the beaver, the squirrel, and other animals; the prohibition of its use hath stemmed, not from the Qur’án, but from the misconceptions of the divines. He, verily, is the All-Glorious, the All-Knowing.
We have absolved you from the requirement of performing the Prayer of the Signs. On the appearance of fearful natural events call ye to mind the might and majesty of your Lord, He Who heareth and seeth all, and say “Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation”.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the central holy text of the Bahá’í faith, written by the founder of the religion, Bahá'u'lláh. The book is often referred to as a charter for the future of world civilizations. It covers law, ethics, social theories and prophecies. It also includes several hundred verses written in rhyming and poetic language. In verse 9 Bahá'u'lláh confirms that the wearing of animal furs does not invalidate one’s prayer. Verse 11 refers to the Prayer of Signs, a Muslim prayer that followers say in times of natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, that cause fear and may appear to be signs from God. Bahá'u'lláh offers a different prayer that praises God as Lord of both the seen and the unseen dimensions.
Dialogues of the Buddha (The Dîgha-Nikâya)
Translated from the Pâli by T. W. Rhys Davids
9: POTTHAPÂDA SUTTA
11. 'And again, Potthapâda, the Bhikkhu, suppressing all reasoning and investigation, enters into and abides in the Second Rapture (the Second Ghâna)--a state of joy and ease, born of the serenity of concentration, when no reasoning or investigation goes on, a state of elevation of mind, a tranquilization of the heart within. Then that subtle, but actual, consciousness of the joy and peace arising from detachment, that he just had, passes away. And thereupon there arises a subtle, but actual, consciousness of the joy and peace born of concentration. And he becomes a person conscious of that. / 'Thus also is it that through training one idea, one sort of consciousness, arises; and through training another passes away. This is the training I spoke of,' said the Exalted One.
These Dialogues of the Buddha contain what early Buddhists believed to be the teaching of Buddha. Chapter 9, the Potthapâda Sutta, centers on the concept of soul, which in the ancient context refers to what now might be called the “astral body.” This chapter describes the movements and states of the soul and its relationship to the physical body.
The Lotus Sutra, Ch. 9, v. 11:
Innumerable myriads of kotis of good qualities, the measure of which is never to be found, appertain to this Râhula, my son; for it has been said: He exists by reason of enlightenment. The Lord now again regarded those two thousand disciples, both such as were still under training and such as were not, who were looking up to him with serene, mild, placid minds. And the Lord then addressed the venerable Ânanda : Seest thou, Ânanda, these two thousand disciples, both such as are still under training and such as are not? I do, Lord; I do, Sugata.' The Lord proceeded: All these two thousand monks, Ânanda, shall simultaneously accomplish the course of Bodhisattvas, and after honouring, respecting, venerating, worshipping Buddhas as numerous as the atoms of fifty worlds, and after acquiring the true law, they shall, in their last bodily existence, attain supreme and perfect enlightenment at the same time, the same moment, the same instant, the same juncture in all directions of space, in different worlds, each in his own Buddha-field. They shall become Tathâgatas, Arhats, &c., by the name of Ratnaketurâgas. Their lifetime shall last a complete Æon. The division and good qualities of their Buddha-fields shall be equal; equal also shall be the number of the congregation of their disciples and Bodhisattvas; equal also shall be their complete extinction, and their true law shall continue an equal time.
The Lotus Sutra is perhaps the best known sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana originated in India and is one of the two primary branches of Buddhism. The teachings of Mahayana Buddhism emphasize the path of enlightenment for oneself and for the good of all sentient life. The Lotus Sutra contains parables that refer to the pursuit of enlightenment. Chapter 9 of the sutra is entitled “Prophesies Conferred on Learners and Adepts” or “Announcement of the Future Destiny of Ananda, Rahula and the Two Thousand Monks.”
Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ninth Raag, 11th hymn:
God is in charge of every living being in the world. One’s future is dependent upon our past deeds and thoughts. We are destined for a particular future based on our karma. No one controls Him but every other creature in the universe is under His command. Therefore, o my mind, focus on the Lord to achieve permanent peace in life. The only way you can do this is by being in constant humility while bringing in the teachings of Guru. You realize after remembering Him that He himself is the giver and user of all materials. Once you have started to focus on the Lord, you can feel His presence internally and externally as well. You see only Him in all aspects of the world as his Spirit is in everything- you realize that everyone and everything is equal. Since God’s Spirit is within all living creatures, you make no distinction between anyone and therefore view everyone and everything equally, These people restrain their arrogance and subdue their ego. This spiritual stage is only achieved if one is able to live a life according to the Guru’s teachings. They are able to see and feel His presence in things that are both tangible and intangible- upon feeling His spirit they are amazed beyond words. All stress leaves and only a feeling of permanent happiness remains. Once you have experienced and are able to achieve this permanent happiness, you will experience the Lord in yourself. Once you reach that stage by singing the Lord’s praises and living a truthful life, you are freed from the cycle of birth and death and are fully assimilated with God. You then realize that the pure essence of God is everywhere in the world. The souls within everyone are all a part of Him God is limitless- O Nanak, my true Guru is the Lord himself.
Guru Granth Sahib Ji
Sikhism is a 500 year old religion from the northwest Indian state of Punjab. It is the fifth largest religion in the world and is strictly monotheistic while also believing in the concept of karma and reincarnation. This shabad (hymn)is written in raag (a style of music that plays only particular notes in order to invoke certain feelings in the listener). Raag Sorath was written by the first Sikh Guru (spiritual teacher), Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The shabad is part of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, which is Sikhism’s holy book and considered Sikh’s current and final Guru. Sorath is a raag that is considered to be very serious and is only supposed to be sung in the evening and pre-dawn hours of the morning, creating a feeling of separation in the listener in that one feels he/she is missing God. By creating this feeling, the listener is therefore encouraged to follow the path of the Guru and take steps in his/her life to become closer to God.
DENSITY FRAMES - an architectural exhibition by USC Professor Gail Borden in the University Religious Center Courtyard. DENSITY FRAMES will be on display through Fall Semester. It is something akin to an inflatable chapel - turn the knob on the black box to inflate it!