AcroYoga - A Language of Perfect Union

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 13:43 p.m. EDT, 3 February 2014

Acro Yoga, Partner Yoga, Photo by Greg RobertsThe mission and focus of this website informs the presentation and dialogue about stories on gender relations with a particular emphasis on women’s’ rights. Consequently, we report on stories from around the world in which women are not allowed to realize their full potential either through force or circumstance.

Unfortunately, most of this aberrant and abusive behavior is perpetrated at the hands of men, though in some cases, like Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) or Leblouh, women also participate in abusing their daughters in an effort to make them conform to inhuman societal norms.

But, not every man is bad, nor every woman abused. In fact, the state of mankind is not as dire as it seems despite all our bad behavior, and millions of men and women across the globe experience healthy and loving relationships.

Balance in reporting is as important as it is in life, and the video below featuring a husband and wife practicing AcroYoga or partner yoga is a beautiful illustration of the best in us as humans. Though this is demonstrated through yoga, one need not be a practitioner to achieve the highest ideals of harmony and peace between all people as there are many paths to this destination.

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL4kfGpa5E8] For some people, the path toward peace and enlightenment is achieved through religious observance and a belief in a higher power. For others it is meditation or actively living consciously by being aware of our impact on the world and other people so that we don’t accumulate negative Karma.

For others, it is a combination of all of the above and yoga. I fall into this category as I regularly practice yoga. In Western societies, most practitioners use yoga as a form of health and fitness similar to pilates which is an exercise created by Joseph Pilates to strengthen and stretch the body to achieve a strong core.

However "the traditional purpose of Yoga, has always been to bring about a profound transformation in the person through the transcendence of the ego," (Feuerstein, Georg. The Deeper Dimension of Yoga: Theory and Practice. Boston: Shambhala, 2003)

According to the Levy, “Yoga in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism means "spiritual discipline”…..It is an activity that has been practiced for thousands of years, and it is something that has evolved and changed overtime…..the exact history and origins of yoga is uncertain; however……the earliest signs of yoga appear in ancient Shamanism. Evidence of yoga postures were found on artifacts that date back to 3000 B.C.

Evidence of Yoga is found in the oldest-existing text, Rig-Veda. Rig-Veda is a composition of hymns. Topics of the Rig-Veda include prayer, divine harmony, and greater being. Yoga originally focused on applying and understanding the world. Its focus later changed to the self. Self-enlightenment became the ultimate goal.”

Though many may take umbrage, at the end of the day “When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” ~ Charles de Lint

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xECiTdgy9nE#t=93]

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Facebook Post Sparks Attack on Buddhists

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 03:53 AM EDT, 1 October 2012

Buddhist Monk Standing Before Buddha, Photo by Ruro PhotographyCOX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh - In March 2001 the Taliban destroyed two ancient statues of the Buddha called Bamiyan in an attempt to cleanse the country of Afghanistan of what they perceived as Hindu heresy.

Today, nearly 12 years later, Buddhist temples and homes are once again under attack ostensibly to revenge an insult of Islam. At least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes of Buddhists were destroyed by an angry mob of approximately a hundred Muslims.

The Cox's Bazar area is in the southeast of Bangladesh, and has historically been a model of successful, peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Buddhists. This coexistence has been assiduously maintained despite efforts to foment dissension by agitators.

Similar to the recent violence that swept across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in response to a video which depicted the Prophet Mohammed in blasphemous terms; the riots in Cox’s Bazar were instigated by Muslim protesters because they were outraged by a photo of a burned Qur’an which was posted on Facebook.

The photo was posted on the Facebook page of a young Buddhist boy who claimed that he wasn’t responsible for the inflammatory picture. The ability of others to post photos on user pages is fairly simple. Adept users can easily circumvent privacy settings by tagging a photo with a person's name which then automatically posts the image to the unsuspecting user's page.

The boy and his mother are currently under police protection, and in response to the violence the police have increased security presence in the area to prevent further protests from erupting.

"We brought the situation under control before dawn and imposed restrictions on public gatherings," said Salim Mohammad Jahangir, district police superintendent for Cox's Bazar.

Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir described the attacks on temples as a "premeditated and deliberate attempt" to disrupt harmony. (Source: AP)

Bangladesh’s is a Muslim dominated city of 150 million people of which Buddhists comprise less than 1 percent. According to witnesses, this small population refused to be intimidated by recent events, and over 100 Buddhists staged a silent protest of the attacks in the capital Dhaka on Sunday afternoon.

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Feast, Fete, Dead Guests | Famadihana Funeral Ritual

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 16 March 2012

Famadihana, Rewrapping Body, Madagascar, Photo by Save Your Smile

AMBOHIMIRARY, Madagascar — When people think of dancing with the dead, they usually picture the New Orleans Carnival pre-Hurricane Katrina. Carnival in that city was an admixture of ghosts, ghouls, scantily clad women and men dancing through aged alleys full of shops selling haints, potions and the occasional voodoo apothecary.

However, in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the Coast of East Africa, the inhabitants of the small farming village of Ambohimirary actually dance with their dead. The village is 20 miles west of the nation’s capital, Antananarivo, and it is inhabited by the Malagasy who practice a ritual called famadihana (pronounced fa-ma-dee-an).

This custom entails the exhumation of the shrouded bodies of dead relatives so that they may participate in a celebration which has been organized in their honor. The festival occurs every five, seven, nine or eleven years depending on the family and the amount of resources at their disposal.

The tradition is based on the belief that spirits do not leave their bodies until they completely decompose. Although the Island nation is predominantly Catholic, and the government initially attempted to outlaw the practice, millions of Malagasy still honor their ancestors in this way.

Everyone in the town and the surrounding villages are invited to participate in the three day festival which can cost around $1.2M Malagasy Ariary or $550. It is the responsibility of the families of the deceased to pay for the festivities and provide meals up to three times a day to all the guests who can number in the hundreds.

The fete begins with the bodies being removed from the family crypt. The soiled shrouds are sprinkled with expensive perfume or sparkling wine and then wrapped in woven mats. A marching band then leads a procession of the living, which carries the often cumbersome corpses of the dead to the place designated for the joyous celebration.

The Malagasy who practice famadihana believe that this is an important rite of passage because it honors their ancestors to whom they feel they owe a debt of gratitude. They do not ascribe to the Judeo-Christian belief that man comes from mud. For them, human beings come from the body, and the boundary between life and death is fluid, thus famadihana facilitates spirit travel back and forth across the void.

What makes this custom strange to most Jews, Muslims and even Christians, is the fact that the Malagasy remove and handle the bodies. In Judaism and Islam dead bodies are unclean, and after burial more so and thus should not be touch. In all three faiths the act of removing a dead body from its final resting place is considered desecration.

But every society has its own customs, for instance in India, the Hindus and Buddhist have their unique ceremonial practices in preparing loved ones for their transition.

“In Hinduism, immediately after the death, family members close the mouth and eyes of the deceased, and put the arms straight. Minimal contact with the body is observed because the body is believed to be impure. Then, the body is placed on the floor with the feet pointing towards the south which is the direction of the dead. An oil lamp is lit and placed near the body during a three day wake.

Hindus believe that once the soul sheds the body it prepares to depart immediately on its karmic journey. Because of this, it's very important to cremate the body as soon as practicable so there is no allure for the soul to linger this side of the world.

For this reason, both Buddhists and Hindus cremate the bodies immediately, preferably on the riverbank of the Ganges, the holiest place on earth for both faiths. The Buddhists prefer immediate dispersal of the ashes over the river, while the Hindus collect the ashes in an urn for disposal in a special year-end ceremony.” (Source: Webhealing & Wikipedia)

But, in Madagascar, this small, island nation off the coast of East Africa, after three days of raucous dancing and eating, the conversations with the corpses conclude, and the families prepare to return the bodies to the crypts. Carefully caressing and redressing the bodies; they bid adieu to their relatives, with the assurance that they will be reunited soon.

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Tibetan Monk Self-Immolates

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:24 PM EDT, 16 February 2012

Konchog Wangdu Tibetan MonkLOBSANG GYATSO, Tibet - A 19-year-old monk from the Kirti monastery set himself ablaze on the main street, according to the London-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). Security forces beat Gyatso while extinguishing the flames, then took him away, the group said in an online statement posted late Monday. It was not immediately clear whether he survived.

Tibetan’s are a deeply religious and independent culture. The annexation of the country, forced resettlement, plus the exile of one of its most revered figure, the Dalai Lama has sparked intense resistance . Many monks remain fiercely loyal to Tibet's exiled Buddhist leader, who fled the Himalayan region in 1959 amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EASprHOwZ48&feature=related]

China's tacit acceptance of the country's religious fervor does not negate the fact that the Tibetan people have expressed feelings of oppression from and domination by the invading Chinese. Out of fear of reprisal many Tibetans, including the man who was interviewed in 2008 by Michael Palin, will only publicly state that they have experienced no problems with their assimilation into Chinese society and culture.

Tibet is governed by China as an autonomous region and the territories of Lhasa and Yushu were featured prominently in Palin’s documentary “The Roof of the World.” The rich culture depicted in the documentary seems quite different from that of the Chinese. From this perspective, it is not surprising that this clash of cultures would result in an escalation of the number and kinds protests that dissidents would engage in to capture the world’s attention and highlight the human rights abuses that occur in Tibet on a daily basis.

Self-immolation is one of the most extreme forms of civil protest, second only in my opinion to a hunger strike. The case of the Tibetan monk setting himself on fire is reminiscent of another monk who burned himself to death in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam’s Roman Catholic government.

His name was Thích Quảng Đức and the photos of his self-immolation are burned into the psyche of anyone born in the 60’s. His self-sacrifice brought attention to the repressive policies of the Diệm regime. Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his renowned photograph of the monk's death.”(Source: Wikipedia)

Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday, 14 February 2012, stated that with regard to China's policies on Tibet, they respect the Tibetans traditional culture and freedom of religious belief. He further cast aspersions on the monk by stating that "in his opinion this monk and others like him are being manipulated by outside nations to incite the populace and destabilize the country."

Group: Tibetan sets herself on fire in protest

It would appear, based upon China’s response to this deadly incident that the officials view this movement as economic sabotage. China has invested a great deal in the infrastructure of Tibet, including building new dams, roads and communications networks. According to a CBS reporter who recently visited, he claimed that cellular service was better there than in America.

The Chinese government views these improvements as a benefit to Tibetans, but in reality the continued development encroaches on the nomadic, peaceful and spiritual lives of the Tibetans. Like the Native Americans, the Tibetans are facing the loss of their autonomy and culture through the imposition of the English and Chinese languages, habiliment and atheism.

Premiere Wen was quoted as saying, "Any attempt to incite a small number of monks to take radical moves to undermine stability in the Tibet Autonomous Region is not in the interest of development in Tibet or the interests of the people living in Tibet. Such attempts can have no popular support." He delivered this pronouncement to reporters at a joint press conference with visiting leaders from the European Union.

It is interesting that he used the imperative when stating that this movement “can have no” popular support. His words connoted a subtle but implied threat to any Tibetan who would seek to embarrass or otherwise demonstrate dissatisfaction with Chinese rule. Much of the recent unrest has occurred in adjoining provinces with large Tibetan populations, particularly Sichuan.

According to ICT, 20 Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople have set themselves on fire in China over the past year, with at least 13 dying from their injuries. These self-immolations have occurred with increasing frequency in recent weeks, and most have taken place in Sichuan's remote and mountainous Tibetan areas.

Independent verification of the true status of these anti-Chinese dissidents is unknown since Western reporters trying to visit that part of Sichuan have been turned away by security forces.