31 January 2010

The Greatest Acupressure Point for Nausea, Reflux, and Hiccups

Pericardium 6 (PC 6), called nei guan in Chinese, is one of the most famous and well researched acupressure points.

It is used to treat many conditions, most famously nausea. It works for any type of nausea: morning sickness, car sickness, and sea sickness. In fact, this point is the reason those magnetic wristbands work while you are on a cruise.

Recently on a trip to Guatemala, I had to massage PC 6 for many passengers during our bus ride through the mountains.

It works well. Gentle pressure needs to be applied in order to prevent the nausea from coming back during the trip.

Not talked about that much, but at least as valuable, is that it can also treat hiccups.

PC 6 works because it influences the flow of qi, the body’s energy. In the digestive tract, the qi is supposed to flow downwards. Nausea and hiccups are disharmonies when the qi flows upward. Gently massaging this point helps the qi flow down.

The pericardium channel goes from the middle finger to the chest and then downward through the stomach. PC 6 can be used for symptoms such as nausea, indigestion, stomach aches, and hiccups.

Location: To locate PC 6 hold your hand palm side up. The point is on the center line of your forearm, two thumb widths up (towards your elbow) from the wrist crease.

Symptoms: stomach aches, nausea, indigestion, hiccups, and sea sickness. This point is safe to treat morning sickness during pregnancy. If you have chronic morning sickness, nausea, digestive problems or reflux disease, you will probably need acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment.

How to Massage: Often with nausea, PC 6 will feel tender and sensitive. Massage in gentle circles. At first, do not press too hard because this can occasionally make the nausea worse. If the person you are helping is comfortable, you can press harder. Rub for 30 seconds to two minutes. Acupressure works quite fast, usually withing a minute or two, to soothe the stomach. You may need to repeat often for car sickness.

Acupuncture is a very ancient form of healing which pre-dates recorded history. Acupressure comes from Acupuncture, although some would say Acupuncture comes from Acupressure instead. The philosophy is rooted in Taoist tradition. which goes back to over 8,000 years. The people of this period would meditate and observe the flow of energy within and without. They also were keen to observe man’s relations with nature and the universe. There were many stages of this period but the most legendary was Fu His, who lived in the Yellow River area of China approximately 8,000 years ago. By observing nature, he formulated the first two symbols, a broken line and an unbroken line. These symbols represented the two major forces in the universe - creation and reception - and how their interactions form life. This duality was named Yin-Yang and they represented the backbone of Chinese Medicine theory and application. Fu His then discovered that when Yin-Yang fuse, a creative action occurs and this gives birth to a third aspect Fu His then pondered on how this triplicity occurs eight times and this led to the eight trigrams and then sixty four hexagrams of the I-Ching (Book of Changes)

The I-Ching shaped the thinking for years to come and every influential book on Chinese Medicine is based upon its fundamental philosophy. The primitive society of China is divided into two time periods - The Old Stone Age (10,000 years ago and beyond) and the New Stone Age (10,000 - 4,000 years ago). During the Old Stone Age, knives were made out of stones and were used for certain medical procedures. During the New Stone Age, stones were refined into fine needles and serve as instrument of healing. They were named BIAN STONE - which means the sharp edged stone to treat diseases. Many bian stone needles were excavated from ruins in China dating back to the New Stone Age.

The most significant milestone in the history of Acupuncture occurred during the period of Huang Di - The Yellow Emperor (2697-2597). In the famous dialogue between Huang Di and his physician Qi Bo, they discuss the whole spectrum of the Chinese Medical Arts. These conversations would later become monumental text The Nei Jing ( The Yellow Emperor Classics of Internal Medicine). The Nei Jing is the earliest book written on Chinese Medicine. It was compiled around 305-204 BC, and consists of two parts:
  1. The Su Wen (Plain Questions) - 9 volumes - 81 chapters, The Su Wen introduces anatomy and physiology, etiology of disease, pathology, diagnosis, differentiation of syndromes, prevention, Yin- Yang, five elements, treatments, and man’s relationship with cosmos.

  2. The Ling Shu (Miraculous Pivot, Spiritual Axis) - 81 chapters, The Ling Shu’s focus is Acupuncture, description of the meridians, functions of the Zang-Fu organs, nine types of needles, function of acupuncture points, needling techniques, types of Qi, location of 160 points.
Approximately 1,000 BC, during the Shang Dynasty, hieroglyphs showed evidence of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Bronze needles were excavated from ruins, but the bian stones remain the main form of needles.

During the Warring States Era (421-221 BC) metal needles replaced the bian stones. Four gold needles and five silver needles were found in an ancient tomb dating back to 113 BC. The Miraculous Pivot names nine types of Acupuncture needles. The history notes many physicians practicing Acupuncture during this time Another milestone for this period was the compilation of The Nan Jing (Book of Difficult Question) The NanJing discusses five element theory, hara diagnosis, eight extra meridians, and other important topics.

From 260-265 AD, the famous physician Huang Fu Mi, organized all of the ancient literature into his classic text - Huang-Ti Chen Chiu Chia I Ching (Jia Yi Jing): The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. The text is twelve volumes and describes 349 Acupuncture points. It is organized according to the theory of Zang Fu, Qi and Blood, channels and colaterals, acupuncture points and clinical application. This book is noted to be one of the most influential text in the history of Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture was very popular during the Jin, Northern, Southern, Dynasties (265-581 AD) For XuXi family were known as expert in acupuncture. During this time period important texts charts enhanced knowledge and application.

Acupuncture experienced great development during the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) Dynasties. Upon request from the Tang Government (627-649 AD), the famous physician Zhen Quan revised the important Acupuncture texts and charts. Another famous physician of the time, Sun Si Mio, wrote Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang: Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold for Every Emergency (650-692). This text includes data on acupuncture from various scholars. During this period, Acupuncture became a special branch of medicine and practitioners were named acupuncturists. Acupuncture schools appeared and acupuncture education became part of the Imperial Medical Bureau.

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), a famous physician Wang Weiyi wrote and illustrated Manual on Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion. This book included 657 points. He also cast two bronze statues on which meridians and points were engraved for teaching purpose.

The Ming Dynasty (1568-1644) was the enlightening period for the advancement of Acupuncture. Many new developments included:
  1. Revision of the classic texts

  2. Refinement of Acupuncture techniques and manipulation

  3. Development of Moxa sticks for indirect treatment

  4. Development of extra points outside the main meridians

  5. The encyclopedic work of 120 volumes - Principle and Practice of Medicine was written by the famous physician Wang Gendung

  6. 1601 - Yang Jizhou wrote Zhenjiu Dacheng (Principles of Acupuncture and Moxibustion). This great treatise on Acupuncture reinforced the principles of the NeiJing and NanJing. This work was the foundation of the teachings of G. Souile de Morant who introduced Acupuncture into Europe.
From the Qing Dynasty to the Opium Wars (1644-1840), herbal medicine became the main tool of physicians and Acupuncture was suppressed.

Following the revolution of 1911, Western Medicine was introduced and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology were suppressed. Due to the large population and the need for medical care and Acupuncture and herbs remained popular among the folk people and the “barefoot doctor” emerged.

Acupuncture was used exclusively during the Long March (1934-1935) and despite harsh conditions it helped maintain the health of the army. This led to Mao Zedong, the leader of the communist Party, to see that acupuncture remained an important element in China’s medical system. In 1950, Chairman Mao officially united Traditional Chinese Medicine with his book: New Acupuncture.

In the 1950’s to the 1960’s Acupuncture research continued with further study of ancient texts, clinical effect on various disease, acupuncture anesthesia, and Acupuncture’s effect on the internal organs.

From 1970’s to the present, Acupuncture continues to play an important role in China’s medical system. China has taken the lead in researching all aspects of acupuncture’s application and clinical effects.

Although acupuncture has become modernized it will never lose its connection to a philosophy established thousands of years ago.

30 January 2010

The Enlightened Fruit of Buddhist Monks: Luo Han Guo

During the Tang dynasty, Guilin was one of the most important Buddhist retreats containing many temples. The luohanguo fruit was named after the arhats (Chinese: 羅漢; pinyin: luóhàn), a group of Buddhist monks who, due to their proper way of life and meditation, achieved enlightenment and were said to have been redeemed. According to Chinese history, the fruit was first mentioned in the records of the 13th century monks who used it.

However, plantation space was limited: it existed mainly in the slopes of the Guangxi and Guangdong mountains, and to a lesser degree in Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Hainan. This and the difficulty of cultivation meant that the fruit did not become part of the Chinese herbal tradition, which depended on more readily available products. This is also the reason why one finds no mention of it in the traditional guides to herbs.

The herb became better known in the 20th century. The first report on the herb in English was found in an unpublished manuscript written in 1938 by Professor G. W. Groff and Hoh Hin Cheung. The report stated that the fruits were often used as the main ingredients of "cooling drinks," that is, as remedies for hot weather, fever, or other dysfunctions traditionally associated with warmth or heat.

Groff and Hoh realised that the fruit was an important Chinese domestic remedy for the treatment of cold and pneumonia when consumed with pork.

Interviews have confirmed that the fruit only recently gained importance in Chinese history. Nonetheless, it appears that a small group of people had mastered its cultivation a long time ago and had accumulated extensive knowledge on growth, pollination, and climatic requirements of the plant.

The fruit came to the United States in the early 20th century. Groff mentions that during a visit to the American ministry of agriculture in 1917, the botanic Frederick Coville showed him a luohanguo fruit bought in a Chinese shop in Washington. Seeds of the fruit which had been bought in Chinese shop in San Francisco were entered into the universal botanic description of the species in 1941.

The first research into the sweet component of luohanguo is attributed to C. H. Lee, who wrote an English report on it in 1975, and also to Tsunematsu Takemoto, who worked on it the early 1980s in Japan (later Takemoto decided to concentrate on the similar sweet plant, jiaogulan). The development of luohanguo products in China has continued ever since, focusing in particular on the development of concentrated extracts.

The plant is most prized for its sweet fruits, which are used for medicinal purposes, and as a sweetener. The fruits are generally sold in dried form, and traditionally used in herbal tea or soup. They are used for respiratory ailments, sore throats and reputed to aid longevity. The best way to describe the medicinal use of luohan guo in southern China during the 20th century can be found in the book "Fruits As Medicine: A Safe and Cheap Form of Traditional Chinese Food Therapy" written by Dai and Liu. It was written in Chinese in 1982 and translated into English in 1986.

29 January 2010

Taoist Yoga

Taoist Yoga is a contemporaneity term used to describe an ancient Taoist Yogic Art of mind-body harmony that uses gentle movement, stretches, breath work, visualization and meditation to balance, strengthen and heal the body.

Its practice spans many thousands of years of continuous development and refinement, and include indepth methods of self-healing and spiritual development.

Taoist Yoga is an ancient precursor of what is termed Qigong in modern times, specifically the variety sometimes known as Nei Gong. Taoist Yoga was practiced in Chinese Taoist monasteries for body development, health preservation, self healing and spiritual cultivation in ancient times.
Taoist Yoga derives its roots from the ancient Dao Yin Practice as developed from the ancient Taoists in the Sacred Mountains in China.

Traditionally and historically speaking, Daoyin practices are stretching exercises, and static postures, usually combined with breath-work. Many Daoyin practices involve very specific breathing (huxi 呼吸) patterns.

The earliest forms of Daoyin were developed during the Early Han dynasty (206 BCE-8 CE), in the context of health and longevity as well as therapeutic movements. Daoyin practice was also referred to as Yangsheng 養生 in ancient times, which literally means “nourishing life.”
Some of the earliest sources on Daoyin include the Daoyin tu 導引圖 (Exercise Chart) and Yinshu 引書 (Stretching Book).

Dating to around 168 BCE, the Daoyin tu was discovered in the burial materials of Mawangdui 馬王堆 (near Changsha; Hunan). It consists of forty-four color illustrations of human figures performing therapeutic Yogic Postures, with accompanying captions. The exercises involve standing in specific postures that aim to cure corresponding illnesses.

Taoist Yoga practice has at its heart the cultivation of Vital Energy or Chi as termed by the Taoists. Through this nurturing of the Vital Energy in the practice of Taoist Yoga, one may gain a greater sense of well being, healing from disease, and gain longevity.

Taoist Yoga has three primary goals:
  1. To increase the vital energy moving into and circulating within our bodies.
  2. To become aware of the subtleties of our body, breath and mind and understand their relationship to one another, as well as how to use this relationship to create a sense of wholeness and peace in our everyday life.
  3. To increase our physical flexibility and strength through full ranges of motion, as well as gain smoothness and depth in breathing. This helps to enhance every aspect of our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Modern Taoist Yoga comes from the tradition of Tao Yin (Dao Yin), of Han Dynasty China, whose earliest transcripts date back to about 180 BC. The Tao or way, as it is often translated, is the underlying component of reality. It is the infinite rhythm of our cosmos that every aspect of our life adheres to. It is the vibration of the electrons in atoms, the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun, the changing of the seasons and the rhythmic breath and heartbeat that keeps us alive and animated. The Tao comprises two opposite but interdependent aspects called Yin and Yang. Yang is the sun, the fervent, aggressive, powerful aspect of the universe. Yin is the shade, the nurturing, maternal and gentle aspect of the universe. The idea of the Tao, which is inherently Chinese, is similar to the Yogic term Prana which is from India. It is nice to see how two very different cultures can share an idea that is so pivotal to each of their traditional spiritual practices and ways of understanding reality.

Tao Yin is the cultivation and understanding of Tao through soft, gentle, healing and nourishing exercises. The early Taoists developed many practices geared toward keeping themselves healthy and prolonging their life so they could spend more time practicing, studying and meditating to understand the deepest aspects of Tao.

The postures and exercises of Taoist Yoga are very unique and generally have no relation to Hatha Yoga. In regards to similarit of Hatha Yoga and Taoist Yoga we may look to the fundamental teaching of the 'Three Regualtions' in traditional Taoist Yoga Doctrine. These are the 'Regulation of Posture', 'Regulation of Breath', and 'Regulation of Hearth/Mind'. It can be viewed that Hatha Yoga also shares the practice of these Three Regulations, and herein lie their similarity. Taoist Yoga has at its core a very unique and special process of Breath Training.

The Taoist Yoga Breath Training will generally go through Three Stages of Development that are termed:
  1. Natural Breathing - After Heaven Quality
  2. Reversed Breathing - Before Heaven Quality
  3. Fetal Breathing - Before, Before Heaven Quality
Each Taoist Yoga stage of breathing can have generally 9 methods that are put into application and training such as: inhale from nose/exhale from nose, inhale from nose, exhale from mouth, inhale from mouth/exhale from mouth, breathing through energetic points, breathing through energetic channels, subtle refined breathing, and so on...

Both Hatha Yoga and Taoist Yoga have different exercises, philosophies and breathing techniques, but the underlying foundation practice is very similar in regards to the shared practice of 'The Three Regulations.

One very unique quality of Taoist Yoga is the stress we find on developing and nurturing the Vital Energy. The benefit of this training and nurturing of the Vital Energy results in a long history of practitioners gaining amazing self healing, self rejuvenation of the body, and longevity.

The way for a person to realize his or her own personal truth must be taught in an individual way. Focus must be placed on teaching how a person can come to understand truth and beauty through pure and simple means. There is no harm in leading all people to the secrets that have been unfairly protected through dogma over the past centuries. The nature of the Tao is to change, move and be spontaneous. Therefore no one teaching can hold the secrets to the Tao. It will be different for each person at different times in his or her life.

Taoist Yoga is a general term used by some practitioners of Taoism to categorize a multitude of traditional postured based exercises that are practised to maintain health and well being. Some say it is based on Hatha Yoga, but this is merely opinion. In fact some of the postures look very similar to the Hindu postured based exercises called Yoga. The name Yoga is used to make an analogy so, that people can paint an image of what the practice of Taoist Yoga might be like.

28 January 2010

The Tao of the Ginkgo Tree

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba; in Chinese and Japanese 銀杏, pinyin romanization: yín xìng, Hepburn romanization: ichō or ginnan), also spelled gingko, also known as the Maidenhair Tree after Adiantum, is a unique species of tree with no close living relatives. The ginkgo is classified in its own division, the Ginkgophyta, comprising the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only extant species within this group. It is one of the best-known examples of a living fossil, because Ginkgoales other than G. biloba are not known from the fossil record after the Pliocene.

For centuries it was thought to be extinct in the wild, but is now known to grow in at least two small areas in Zhejiang province in Eastern China, in the Tian Mu Shan Reserve. However, recent studies indicate high genetic uniformity among ginkgo trees from these areas, arguing against a natural origin of these populations and suggesting that the ginkgo trees in these areas may have been planted and preserved by Chinese monks over a period of about 1000 years. Whether native ginkgo populations still exist has not been demonstrated unequivocally.

Ginkgo has long been cultivated in China; some planted trees at temples are believed to be over 1,500 years old. The first record of Europeans encountering it is in 1690 in Japanese temple gardens, where the tree was seen by the German botanist Engelbert Kaempfer. Because of its status in Buddhism and Confucianism, the Ginkgo is also widely planted in Korea and parts of Japan; in both areas, some naturalization has occurred, with Ginkgos seeding into natural forests.

Ginkgos adapt well to the urban environment, tolerating pollution and confined soil spaces. They rarely suffer disease problems, even in urban conditions, and are attacked by few insects. For this reason, and for their general beauty, ginkgos are excellent urban and shade trees, and are widely planted along many streets.

Ginkgos are also popular subjects for growing as penjing and bonsai; they can be kept artificially small and tended over centuries. Furthermore, the trees are easy to propagate from seed.

Extreme examples of the Ginkgo's tenacity may be seen in Hiroshima, Japan, where six trees growing between 1–2 km from the 1945 atom bomb explosion were among the few living things in the area to survive the blast (photos and details). While almost all other plants (and animals) in the area were destroyed, the ginkgos, though charred, survived and were soon healthy again. The trees are alive to this day.

The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of the Urasenke school of Japanese tea ceremony. The tree is the national tree of China.

The nut-like gametophytes inside the seeds are particularly esteemed in Asia, and are a traditional Chinese food. Ginkgo nuts are used in congee, and are often served at special occasions such as weddings and the Chinese New Year (as part of the vegetarian dish called Buddha's delight). In Chinese culture, they are believed to have health benefits; some also consider them to have aphrodisiac qualities. Japanese cooks add Ginkgo seeds (called ginnan) to dishes such as chawanmushi, and cooked seeds are often eaten along with other dishes.

Ginkgo has many alleged nootropic properties, and is mainly used as memory and concentration enhancer, and anti-vertigo agent. Ginkgo has been proposed as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease on the basis of positive preclinical results in mice. Ginkgo extract may have three effects on the human body: improvement in blood flow (including microcirculation in small capillaries) to most tissues and organs; protection against oxidative cell damage from free radicals; and blockage of many of the effects of platelet-activating factor (platelet aggregation, blood clotting) that have been related to the development of a number of cardiovascular, renal, respiratory and central nervous system disorders. Ginkgo can be used for intermittent claudication. Some studies suggest a link between ginkgo and the easing of the symptoms of tinnitus. Preliminary studies suggest that Ginkgo may be of benefit in multiple sclerosis, showing modest improvements in cognition and fatigue without increasing rates of serious adverse events in this population. A study conducted in 2003 by the Department of Dermatology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh, India concluded that Ginkgo is an effective treatment for arresting the development of vitiligo.

27 January 2010

Shinto Birth, Christian Marriage, Buddhist Burial

There are many religions in Japan that have come along with current times but most follow Shintō or Buddhism. Most Japanese people do not identify as exclusively belonging to just one religion, but incorporate features of both religions into their daily lives in a process known as syncretism. Shinto and Buddhism are even taken to as being interwoven in the country. Japanese streets are decorated on Tanabata (七夕, meaning "Evening of the seventh"), a Japanese star festival, derived from the Chinese star festival, Qi Xi (七夕 "The Night of Sevens"), Obon (お盆) or just Bon (盆), a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors, and Christmas, an annual Christian holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Japan grants religious freedom to all sects of religious people, as evidenced by the fact they allow minority religions like Christianity, Islam and Sikhism to be practiced. According to the CIA World Factbook 84% to 96% adhere to Shinto and Buddhism while 4% to 16% of the demographic population adhere to other religions or non-religious, atheist groups. However, such high numbers come primarily from birth records, following a longstanding practice of family lines being officially associated with a local Buddhist temple and not the people truly following the religion. The majority of Japanese carry on the roles of one or more religious body, but do not consider themselves believers in one particular religion, but are syncretistic.

Most Japanese participate in rituals and customs derived from several religious traditions. Life cycle events are often marked by visits to a Shintō shrine. The birth of a new baby is celebrated with a formal shrine visit at the age of about one month, as are the third, fifth, and seventh birthdays and the official beginning of adulthood at age twenty. Wedding ceremonies are often performed by Shinto priests, but Christian weddings (or howaito uedingu "white wedding" in Japanese) are also popular. In the early 1980s, more than 8% of weddings were held in a shrine or temple, and nearly 4% were held in a church. The most popular place for a wedding ceremony—chosen by 41%—was a wedding hall. These days most Japanese weddings are Christian style, using liturgy but not always with an ordained priest.

Japanese Funerals are usually performed by Buddhist priests, and Buddhist rites are also common on death day anniversaries of deceased family members. Some Japanese do not perform ancestral ceremonies at all, and some do so rather mechanically and awkwardly. But there have also been changes in these practices, such as more personal and private ceremonies and women honoring their own as well as their husbands' ancestors, that make them more meaningful to contemporary participants.

There are two categories of holidays in Japan: matsuri (festivals), which are largely of Shinto origin and relate to the cultivation of rice and the spiritual well-being of the local community, and nenjyuu gyouji (annual events), mainly of Chinese or Buddhist origin. The matsuri were supplemented during the Heian period with more festivals added and were organized into a formal calendar. In addition to the complementary nature of the different holidays, there were later accretions during the feudal period. Very few matsuri or nencho gyo are national holidays, but they are included in the national calendar of annual events. Most matsuri are local events that follow local traditions, and vary from place to place.

Most holidays are secular in nature, but the two most significant for the majority of Japanese--New Year's Day for Shinto believers and Obon for Buddhists, which marks the end of the ancestors' annual visit to their earthly home—involve visits to Shintō shrines or Buddhist temples. The New Year's holiday (January 1–3) is marked by the practice of numerous customs and the consumption of special foods. These customs include time for getting together with family and friends, for special television programming, and for visiting Shintō shrines to pray for family blessings in the coming year. Dressing in a kimono, hanging out special decorations, eating noodles on New Year's Eve to show continuity into the new year, and playing a poetry card game are among the more "traditional" practices. During Obon season, in mid-July or mid-August, bon (spirit altars) are set up in front of Buddhist family altars, which, along with ancestral graves, are cleaned in anticipation of the return of the spirits. As with the New Year's holiday, people living away from their family homes return for visits with relatives. Celebrations include folk dancing and prayers at the Buddhist temple as well as family rituals in the home. Many Japanese also participate, at least as spectators, in one of the many local matsuri celebrated throughout the country. Matsuri may be sponsored by schools, towns, or other groups but are most often associated with Shintō shrines.

26 January 2010


Shinto (神道 Shintō?) or kami-no-michi is the natural spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. The word Shinto ("Way of the Gods") was adopted from the written Chinese (神道), combining two kanji: "shin" (神), meaning gods or spirits (originally from the Chinese word shen); and "tō" (道), or "do" meaning a philosophical path or study (originally from the Chinese word tao).

Shinto incorporates spiritual practices derived from many local and regional prehistoric traditions, but did not emerge as a formal centralized religious institution until the arrival of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, beginning in the 6th century. Buddhism gradually adapted in Japan to the native spirituality.

Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written historical records of the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki in the 7th and 8th century. Still, these earliest Japanese writings do not refer to a unified "Shinto religion", but practices associated with harvests and other seasonal clan events, along with a uniquely Japanese cosmogony and mythology, combining spiritual traditions of the ascendant clans of early Japan, mainly the Yamato and Izumo cultures.

Shinto is a religion in where practice (actions) and ritual, rather than words, are of the utmost importance. Shinto is characterized by the worship of nature, ancestors, polytheism, and animism, with a strong focus on ritual purity, involving honoring and celebrating the existence of Kami (神). Kami are defined in English as "spirit", "essence" or "deities", that are associated with many understood formats; in some cases being human like, some animistic, others associated with more abstract "natural" forces in the world (mountains, rivers, lightning, wind, waves, trees, rocks). It may be best thought of as "sacred" elements and energies. Kami and people are not separate, they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity.

Modern Shinto does have a central theological authority but no singular Theocracy. Shinto today is an inclusive association of local, regional, and national shrines of various rank and historical significance. Practitioners express their various beliefs through similar language and practice, adopting a similar style in dress and ritual, dating from around the time of the Nara and Heian Periods.

Shinto currently has about 119 million known adherents in Japan, although a person who practices any manner of Shinto rituals may be so counted. It is generally accepted that the vast majority of Japanese people take part in Shinto rituals, while most would also practice Buddhist ancestor worship. However, unlike many monotheistic religious practices, Shinto and Buddhism typically do not require professing faith to be a believer or a practitioner, and as such it is difficult to query for exact figures based on self-identification of belief within Japan. Due to the syncretic nature of Shinto and Buddhism, most "life" events are handled by Shinto and "death" or "afterlife" events are handled by Buddhism -- for example, it is typical in Japan to register or celebrate a birth at a Shinto shrine, while funeral arrangements are generally dictated by Buddhist tradition -- although the division is not exclusive.

Shinto has shrines in many other countries, including the United States, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the Netherlands among others and is considered to be expanding to a global religion especially with the advent of international branches of Shinto shrines.

Shinto teaches that everything contains a kami (神 "spiritual essence", commonly translated as god or spirit). Shinto's spirits are collectively called yaoyorozu no kami (八百万の神), an expression literally meaning "eight million kami", but interpreted as meaning "myriad", although it can be translated as "many Kami". There is a phoenetic variation kamu and a similar word among Ainu kamui. There is an analog "mi-koto".

Kami are a difficult concept to translate as there is no direct similar construct in English. Kami is generally accepted to describe the innate supernatural force that is above the actions of man, the realm of the sacred, and is inclusive of gods, spirit figures, and human ancestors. All mythological creatures of the Japanese cultural tradition, of the Buddhistic tradition, Christian God, Hindu gods, Islamic Allah, various angels and demons of all faiths among others are considered Kami for the purpose of Shinto faith.

The kami reside in all things, but certain places are designated for the interface of people and kami (the common world and the sacred): sacred nature, shrines, and kamidana. There are natural places considered to have an unusually sacred spirit about them, and are objects of worship. They are frequently mountains, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, waterfalls, and other natural edifices. In most cases they are on or near a shrine grounds. The shrine is a building built in which to house the kami, with a separation from the "ordinary" world through sacred space with defined features based on the age and lineage of the shrine. The kamidana is a home shrine (placed on a wall in the home) that is a "kami residence" that acts as a substitute for a large shrine on a daily basis. In each case the object of worship is considered a sacred space that the kami spirit actually dwells, being treated with the utmost respect and deference.

Shinto teaches that certain deeds create a kind of ritual impurity that one should want cleansed for one's own peace of mind and good fortune, not because impurity is wrong in and of itself. Wrong deeds are called "impurity" (穢れ kegare), opposed to "purity" (清め kiyome). Normal days are called "day" (ke), and festive days are called "sunny" or simply "good" (hare). Killing living beings should be done with reverence for taking a life to continue one's own and should be kept to a minimum.

Modern Japanese continue to place great emphasis on the importance of ritual phrases and greetings (挨拶 aisatsu). Before eating, many Japanese say, "I will humbly receive" (戴きます itadakimasu), to show proper thankfulness to the preparer of the meal in particular and more generally to all those living things that lost their lives to make the meal. Failure to show proper respect can be seen as a lack of concern for others, looked down on because it is believed to create problems for all. Those who fail to take into account the feelings of other people and kami will only bring ruin on themselves.

The worst expression of such an attitude is the taking of another's life for personal advancement or enjoyment. Those killed without being shown gratitude for their sacrifice will hold a grudge (怨み urami) and become a powerful and evil kami that seeks revenge (aragami). This same emphasis on the need for cooperation and collaboration can be seen throughout Japanese culture today. Additionally, if anyone is injured on the grounds of a shrine, the area affected must be ritually purified.

Purification rites are a vital part of Shinto. They are done on a daily, weekly, seasonal, lunar, and annual basis. In many ways these purification rituals are the lifeblood of the practice of Shinto. Such ceremonies have also been adapted to modern life. New buildings made in Japan are frequently blessed by a Shinto priest called kannushi (神主) during the groundbreaking ceremony (Jichinsai 地鎮祭), and many cars made in Japan have been blessed as part of the assembly process. Moreover, almost every Japanese factory or international business built outside Japan has had a groundbreaking ceremony performed by a Shinto priest, with occasionally an annual visitation by the priest to re-purify.

Unlike many religions, one does not need to publicly profess belief in Shinto to be a believer. Whenever a child is born in Japan, a local Shinto shrine adds the child's name to a list kept at the shrine and declares him or her a "family child" (氏子 ujiko). After death an ujiko becomes a "family spirit", or "family kami" (氏神 ujigami). One may choose to have one's name added to another list when moving and then be listed at both places. Names can be added to the list without consent and regardless of the beliefs of the person added to the list. However, this is not considered an imposition of belief, but a sign of being welcomed by the local kami, with the promise of addition to the pantheon of kami after death. Those children who die before addition to the list, including miscarried or aborted children, are called "water children" (水子 mizuko), and are believed to cause troubles and plagues. Mizuko are often worshipped in a Shinto shrine dedicated to stilling their anger and sadness, called mizuko kuyō (水子供養).

Because Shinto has co-existed with Buddhism for well over a millennium, it is very difficult to untangle Shinto and Buddhist beliefs about the world. Though Buddhism and Shinto have very different perspectives on the world, most Japanese do not see any challenge in reconciling these two very different religions, and practice both. Thus it is common for people to practice Shinto in life yet have a Buddhist funeral. Their different perspectives on the afterlife are seen as complementing each other, and frequently the ritual practice of one will have an origin in the other.

25 January 2010

LOTUS: Light Of Truth Universal Shrine

The Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) is a unique temple dedicated to interfaith understanding and the Light within all faiths. Individual altars represent and honor the different world religions. The vision, design and inspiration of Sri Swami Satchidananda, the LOTUS was dedicated in 1986. In the peaceful countryside of Virginia, the doors of the LOTUS are open to welcome people of all faiths.

"I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same."
—H. H. the 14th the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso

"Every human being under the sun is graciously welcome at the LOTUS."
—The Very Rev. James P Morton, The Interfaith Center of New York

"Words cannot express the uplifting feelings I have experienced in visiting this shrine. The LOTUS celebrates the unity of all faiths, the many paths but one God."
—Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, the New Synagogue; Founder and President, All Faiths Seminary International

"The LOTUS stands as a living monument to the interfaith ideals."
—Dr. Karan Singh, Member of Parliament (India); Internat’l Chairman of the Temple of Understanding

"I appreciate the LOTUS which promotes understanding among all people and among all religions. May we all come to the path of unity that will allow us to overcome the enemy of separation that is now trying to destroy all of the earth."
—Sun Bear, Founder and Medicine Chief of the Bear Tribe Medicine Society

"The LOTUS is a ‘Statue of Spirituality’ equal to the Statue of Liberty. It unites spirituality into the reality of the Oneness of God and Light and gives everybody unity in diversity."
—Yogi Bhajan, Sikh Dharma Chief Religious and Administrative Authority for the Western Hemisphere

"The LOTUS is a visual testimony to interfaith understanding and stands as a beacon of Truth and Peace."
—The Venerable Prabhasa Dharma, Founder of the International Zen Center; 45th generational heir of the Vietnamese Lam Te (Rinzai) Zen Lineage

"The LOTUS was built to address the challenge of the hour: for us to work together in the formation of a global spirituality that will make us realize that we are all one and the welfare of any one lies in the well-being of us all."
—Father Basil Pennington, OCSO, Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery

"The real purpose of any religion is to educate us about our spiritual unity. It is time for us to recognize that there is one truth and many approaches. The basic cause for all the world problems is the lack of understanding of our spiritual unity. The need of the hour is to know, respect, love one another and to live as one global family. Our humble aim in building the LOTUS is to spread this message."
—H. H. Sri Swami Satchidananda, founder of LOTUS

24 January 2010

The All Faiths Yantra

The All Faiths Yantra is an external image representing the central tenet of the LOTUS: Truth is one, paths are many. Sometimes external images are used in meditation or worship to symbolize or express certain aspects of the Divine. That is why we see so many holy pictures and images in temples and churches.

The Yantra is such an image, and like the teachings of Integral Yoga, it is universal. Because it is universal, the Yantra is the main symbol used over the altar at Satchidananda Ashram—Yogaville. It was revealed to Sri Swami Satchidanandaji in meditation, and he gave it to all of us.

The Yantra represents the entire cosmos. God is originally unmanifest. The first expression of God begins as sound vibration. As the Bible says, "In the beginning was the Word..."

The dot in the center of the Yantra represents the first physical expression of that, the very core of the cosmos. And all the rays of manifestation—shown in the rings, the petals and the colors—come out of it. The entire Yantra is then surrounded by an open border, to show that the Divine Expression is infinite and unlimited.

The symbols in the petals, clockwise from top are: Faiths Still Unknown, Hinduism, Judaism, Shinto, Taoism, Buddhism, Other Known Faiths, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Traditional African Faiths, Native American Faiths.

When mantras—sounds that represent various divine qualities—are meditated upon, certain images are brought out, almost like liquid crystallizing into a solid form. Those images are yantras. Trataka is the practice of repeating a mantra, a sacred word, and visualizing a yantra. When you sit and pray or meditate in front of a yantra, you can feel those divine qualities: the love out of which God manifested the world, the peace of God that transcends all understanding.

And because God is not limited to any one tradition or creed, the symbols of all the religions are there. In this way, the Yantra is also a beautiful reminder that we can respect and learn from all the paths, and follow any one of them to reach the Divine.

23 January 2010

Paths are Many, Truth is One

The purpose of any religion is to educate us about our spiritual unity. Everything that God created belongs to all of us and to our future generations. The entire world belongs to us, to be shared by us as one family of God. Nobody can put a label and say, "This is mine alone." All the resources of the world are given to us for our use, and we have a responsibility as caretakers on this earth.

Truth is one. That is why my motto has always been, "Truth is One, Paths are Many." The great sages and saints have experienced the same truth but only expressed it in different ways. It does not matter what name you give to the nameless Spirit. The only way to eternal peace and joy is to realize that Christhood or Buddhahood or Krishnahood. But when we miss that point, we fight in the name of Spirit.

There are so many things that can separate and divide us. We say, "I’m an American," or "I’m an Australian." "I am white," or "I am black." "I am fat," or "I am thin," "I am a boy," or "I am a girl." "I am Christian," or "I’m Hindu," or "I’m a Jew." My color may be different from your color. Her color may be different from somebody else’s color. We are all of various colors and hues because nature never makes duplicates. There is constant variety throughout the creation. But inside, we all have the same light; we are all made in the image of God. The same light is shining through many different colored lamps.

When we look at the outside alone, we will only see differences. But when we go a little deeper, we see the oneness. Don’t we say that "beauty is only skin deep." Scratch less than one millimeter beneath the surface and we all have the same color blood. So, if we see the difference, we are different; we are separate. But if we see the Spirit, we are the same. I am you, you are me; we are not different. We have all the differences and individual distinctions, but we are so much more. These definitions are what you use in order to function in this world. The challenge given to each and every one of us is to remember that oneness behind the outer differences.

God gave each of us a different costume, different makeup, a different role, in order to play our part in the world. But behind all these differences we are all one in Spirit. When we forget that and identify ourselves with the superficial differences, we lose sight of the spiritual oneness. So, religion asks us to get back to that original state. The very meaning of the word "religion" is to "bind back;" to get back to your original oneness.

When we argue about what is the right path and whose religion is best, there is something terribly wrong with our approach. Then, we are looking at the superficial side of religion and forgetting to go deep into its foundation. If we did go deep, we would find that all the religions ultimately talk about the same God, the same Truth; but somehow we ignore that common base and continue to fight over the superficial aspects.

It is time for us to recognize that there is one truth and many approaches. As long as you are a spiritual seeker, follow your spiritual path with your goal in mind. Don’t worry about other people’s paths. Whatever path you choose according to your temperament and taste, stay with that consistently while respecting all other paths. Though God can be approached through any form or name, if you keep changing from one idea of God to another, you won’t progress at all. You can’t travel on ten roads at the same time, even if they’re all going to Rome.

So, let us resolve not to fight in the name of religion. When the understanding comes that essentially we are one appearing as many, then all the other problems—physical and material—will be solved. Until then, they will never be solved because the basic cause for all the world problems is the lack of understanding of this spiritual unity. Wherever you go say, "We look different, but we are all one in Spirit. Hello, brother; hello sister." No religion is superior and no religion is inferior. We are all doing God’s work. We should learn to live together and work toward one goal: to share and care, love and give.

In order to have a better world we must learn to think of the globe as a whole. Whatever problems we face, there are also solutions. This needs a lot of cooperation and requires that everyone rise above personal, selfish interests and think in terms of the whole world.

Only by having a universal and spiritual vision can we bring positive change into the world. We are literally destroying ourselves in the name of religion. We criticize each other’s faiths, proclaiming, "Mine is the best, yours is the worst." Even the same religious groups have splintered factions. Is that the purpose behind religion? Do you think God will be happy? Because we are one in Spirit, it doesn’t mean that you should renounce your own path or approach. That is not unity; that is conversion. Real unity means accepting all the various approaches, and that is what interfaith understanding is all about.

Interfaith dialogue is designed to bring people together so that we can remember the unity behind the diversity." Sometimes people ask if the interfaith approach is an effort to have all faiths merge into one. That is not the point. If there is only one kind of flower in the garden, it is no longer a garden. Should the flowers fight about their colors, their scents, their shapes, and forms? Should they hate each other for their differences? We seem to appreciate the variety, texture, shapes, and scents of the flowers as they blend together to create a beautiful bouquet of flowers. God created all this variety for us to enjoy and for this beauty to enrich our lives. Our aim should be to understand the unity and enjoy the variety.

You can be loyal to your parents, your religion, your country, and at the same time you can love and respect another person’s allegiances. We can love our own faith and respect the other person’s faith as well. There is nothing contradictory in that. You don’t have to renounce one to love another. Ultimately, we all aim for the same truth while walking on different paths. So, in the name of interfaith understanding, we are not advocating uniformity, but universality.

There are many conferences now being organized worldwide to promote this kind of interfaith perspective. There are many peace efforts sponsored by religious and interfaith organizations working cooperatively. The time has come and the world has shrunk. We cannot separate ourselves and deny each other anymore because we are aware, more than ever, that we are a global village. It’s time to understand each other better and to live as one global family.

Each individual can do his or her own part to build a more peaceful world. By devoting a few minutes a day to meditation—to peace prayers—you can send out nice vibrations that will go around the globe and influence political leaders. If we want a peaceful world, first we must have a peaceful mind. Change the mind, you change the person; and change the person, you change the community or the society or the nation or the world.

22 January 2010

Bahá'í Lotus Temple

The Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi, India, popularly known as the Lotus Temple due to its flowerlike shape, is a Bahá'í House of Worship and also a prominent attraction in Delhi. It was completed in 1986 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent. It has won numerous architectural awards and been featured in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.

As with all other Bahá'í Houses of Worship, the Lotus Temple is open to all regardless of religion, or any other distinction, as emphasized in Bahá'í texts. The Bahá'í laws emphasize that the spirit of the House of Worship be that it is a gathering place where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. The Bahá'í laws also stipulate that only the holy scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith and other religions can be read or chanted inside in any language; while readings and prayers can be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments can be played inside. Furthermore no sermons can be delivered, and there can be no ritualistic ceremonies practiced.

All Bahá'í Houses of Worship, including the Lotus Temple, share certain architectural elements, some of which are specified by Bahá'í scripture. `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, stipulated that an essential architectural character of a House of Worship be that it requires to have a nine-sided circular shape. Inspired by the lotus flower, its design is composed of 27 free-standing marble clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. While all current Bahá'í Houses of Worship have a dome, they are not regarded as an essential part of their architecture. Bahá'í scripture also states that no pictures, statues or images be displayed within the House of Worship and no pulpits or altars be incorporated as an architectural feature (readers may stand behind simple portable lecture stands). The nine doors of the Lotus Temple open onto a central hall, capable of holding up to 2,500 people. The central hall is slightly more than 40 meters tall and its surface is made of white marble. The House of Worship, along with the nine surrounding ponds and the gardens around comprise 26 acre (105,000 m²; 10.5 ha).

The site is in the village of Bahapur, in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. The architect was an Iranian, who now lives in Canada, named Fariborz Sahba. He was approached in 1976 to design it, later oversaw its construction and saved money from the construction budget to build a greenhouse to study which indigenous plants and flowers would be appropriate for the site. The major part of the funds needed to buy this land was donated by Ardishír Rustampúr of Hyderabad, who gave his entire life savings for this purpose in 1953.

Since its inauguration to public worship in December 1986, the Bahá'í House of Worship in Delhi has, as of late 2002, attracted more than 50 million visitors, making it one of the most visited buildings in the world. Its numbers of visitors during those years surpassed those of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal. On Hindu holy days, it has drawn as many as 150,000 people; it welcomes four million visitors each year (about 13,000 every day or 9 every minute).

This House of Worship is generally referred to as the "Lotus Temple". In India, during the Hindu festival Durga Puja, several times a replica of the Lotus Temple has been made as a pandal, a temporary structure set up to venerate the goddess Durga. In Sikkim a permanent replica is of the Hindu Legship Mandir, dedicated to Shiva.

21 January 2010

Jesus in the Vedas

Jan 20, USA (SUN) — A recent flurry of articles and website postings have been made to indicate that the fable of Jesus is mentioned in the Vedas [Bhavisya Purana]. Many Vaisnavas have been enthused by these Vedic findings, confirming Jesus as a messenger of God and a pure devotee. The Bhavisya Purana is certainly a bona-fide literature, its predictions concerning certain events cannot be taken as absolute because of evangelical interference.

The Bhavisya Purana is considered to be one of the major 18 Puranas of the Vedic canon. As the name suggests, it mainly deals with future events (bhaviysati). The Bhavisya Purana is also mentioned in the ancient text of the Apastambha-dharma-sutras, so it is to be taken as an original Puranic literature dating from the time of Vyasadeva.

There are four known editions of the Bhavisya Purana, each having different predictions from the other, but having one consistent prediction - that of Jesus.

One edition contains five chapters, one contains four, another contains three and yet another contains only two. Additionally, the contents in all four editions differ in various degrees - some having extra verses and some having less. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult to ascertain which of the four is the original text of the Bhavisya Purana, if indeed an original text still exists, but all four editions do mention Jesus.

The Venkateswar Steam Press edition of the Bhavisya Purana printed in Bombay in 1829 (and reprinted by Nag Publishers in 2003) is probably the most complete version available, containing all the main features of the four manuscripts.

The consistent prophecy in all four editions that seems to indicate an interpolation concerns the so-called meeting of Maharaja Salivahana and Jesus. This is found in the 19th chapter of the Pratisarga-parva:

"Ruling over the Aryans was a king called Salivahana, the grandson of Vikramaditya, who occupied the throne of his father. He defeated the Sakas who were very difficult to subdue, the Cinas, the people from Tittiri, Bahlikas and the people of Kamarupa. He also defeated the people from Roma and the descendants of Khuru, who were deceitful and wicked. He punished them severely and took their wealth. Salivahana thus established the boundaries dividing the separate countries of the Mlecchas and the Aryans. In this way Sindusthan came to be known as the greatest country. That great personality appointed the abode of the Mlecchas beyond the Sindhu River and to the west. One time, that subduer of the Sakas went towards Himatunga (the Himalayas). In the middle of the Huna country (Hunadesa - the area near Manasa Sarovara or Kailasa mountain in Western Tibet), the powerful king saw an auspicious man who was living on a mountain. The man's complexion was golden and his clothes were white." (19:19-22)

The text continues with Salivahana asking Jesus, "Who are you?" to which Jesus replies:

"I am the Son of God and I am born of a virgin."(19:23)

The Christian idea that Jesus was born of a virgin is based on the following verse found in the Old Testament in the Book of Isaiah:

"Behold, a virgin has conceived and bears a son and she will call his name Immanuel."

After Jesus has introduced himself to Salivahana he explains that he is teaching religion in the distant land of the Mlecchas and tells the king what those teachings are:

"Please hear from me, O King, about the religion that I have established amongst the Mlecchas. The mind should be purified by taking recourse of proper conduct, since we are subject to auspicious and inauspicious contaminations - by following the scriptures and concentrating on japa (repetition of God's names) one will attain the highest level of purity; by speaking true words and by mental harmony, and by meditation and worship, O descendant of Manu. Just as the immovable sun attracts from all directions the elements of all living beings, the Lord who resides in the Surya-mandala (sun globe) and is fixed and all-attractive, attracts the hearts of all living creatures." (19:28-30)

Japa, meditation, the negation of both good and bad karma, are all concepts that are familiar to eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, but not to the Abrahamic religions of the west.

It may also be noted that throughout the Pratisarga-parva of the Bhavisya Purana we find the stories of Adam and Eve (Adhama and Havyavati), Noah (Nyuha), Moses (Musa), and other Biblical characters.

In conclusion, the Bhavisya Purana may well be a genuine Vedic scripture prophesying future events.

*This story, as originally published, was full of falsehoods and tried to argue against Jesus visiting India after His resurrection. The hatred in this anti-ecumenical article, prompted us to edit out sentences and words to change the author's words, posted above, to make an article that was instead an endorsement of this theory.

20 January 2010

Christianity in India

Christianity is India's third-largest religion, with approximately 24 million followers, constituting 2.3% of India's population.. St. Thomas is credited with introduction of Christianity in India. He arrived in Malabar in AD 52.

The Saint Thomas Christians, still use the Syriac language (a dialect of Aramaic and so related to the language of Jesus) in services. This group, which existed in Kerala relatively peacefully for more than a millennium, faced considerable persecution from Portuguese evangelists in the 16th century. This later wave of evangelism spread several denominations of Christianity more widely.

Today Christians are found all across India and in all walks of life, with major populations in parts of South India, the Konkan Coast and the North-East. The Christian church runs thousands of educational institutions and hospitals and has contributed significantly in the development of the nation. Most Christians in India are Latin Rite Catholic. The Eastern Rite churches include the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church, which are prominent in Kerala. Other churches include the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, Church of South India (CSI), the Church of North India (CNI), Indian Pentecostal Church and other evangelical groups.

According to Indian Christian traditions, Saint Thomas arrived in Kodungallur, Kerala and established the Seven Churches and evangelized in present day Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

As with early Christianity in Europe, the initial converts were largely Jewish proselytes among the Cochin Jews who are believed to have arrived in India around 562BC, after the destruction of the First Temple. St. Thomas, who was also a Jew by birth, also spoke the same language, Aramaic. As in the earliest Christian groups (in the near East) the earliest practices mixed many elements of contemporary Judaism.

An early third-century Syriac work known as The Acts of Thomas connects the apostle's Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and said, “Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word, for my grace shall be with you.”But the Apostle still demurred, do the Lord overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an Indian merchant, Abbanes, to his native place in northwest India, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. The apostle's ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.

Critical historians treated this legend as an idle tale and denied the historicity of King Gundaphorus until modern archeology established him as an important figure in North India in the latter half of the first century. many coins of his reign have turned up in Afghanistan, the Punjab, and the Indus Valley. Remains of some of his buildings , influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder. Interestingly enough, according to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was bidden to build a palace for the king. However, the Apostle decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity and thereby laying up treasure for the heavenly abode. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (A.D. 154-223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in North India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it. But at least by the time of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (A.D. 226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India, Afghanistan and Baluchistan, with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.

The Acts of Thomas identifies his second mission in India with a kingdom ruled by King Mahadwa, one of the rulers of a first-century dynasty in southern India. Aside from a small remnant of the Church of the East in Kurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Mar Thoma or “Church of Thomas” congregations along the Malabar Coast of Kerala State in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he suffered martyrdom near Madras. Throughout this period, the church in India was under the jurisdiction of Edessa, which was then under the Mesopotamian patriarchate at Seleucia-Ctesiphon and later at Baghdad and Mosul. Historian Vincent A. Smith wrote, “It must be admitted that a personal visit of the Apostle Thomas to South India was easily feasible in the traditional belief that he came by way of Socotra, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient... ”.

Although there was a lively trade between the Near East and India via Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf, the most direct route to India in the first century was via Alexandria and the Red Sea, taking advantage of the Monsoon winds, which could carry ships directly to and from the Malabar coast. The discovery of large hoards of Roman coins of first-century Caesars and the remains of Roman trading posts testify to the frequency of that trade. in addition, thriving Jewish colonies were to be found at the various trading centers, thereby furnishing obvious bases for the apostolic witness.

Piecing together the various traditions, one may conclude that Thomas left northwest India when invasion threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra enroute and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris on an island near Cochin (c. A.D. 51-52). From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast, though the various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. he reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about seventeen thousand converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centres. In accordance with apostolic custom thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malabar church.

St. Thomas attained martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount in Chennai and is buried on the site of San Thome Cathedral.

India had a flourishing trade with Central Asia, Mediterranean, and Middle East, both along mountain passes in the north and sea routes along the western and southern coast, well before the start of Christian era, and it is likely that Christian merchants settled in Indian cities along trading routes.

The Chronicle of Seert describes an evangelical mission to India by bishop David of Basra around the year 300; this metropolitan reportedly made many conversions, and it has been speculated that his mission took in areas of southern India. According to Travancore Manual, Thomas of Cana, a Mesopotamian merchant and missionary, introduced Christianity to India in 345 AD. He brought 400 Christians from Baghdad, Nineveh, and Jerusalem to Kodungallur. He and his companion Bishop Joseph of Edessa sought refuge under King Cheraman Perumal from persecution of Christians by the Persian king Shapur II. The colony of Syrian Christians, thus established at Kodungallur, became the first recorded Christian community in South India.. A number of historians conclude that Thomas of Cana was confused with the 1st century apostle Thomas by India's Syrian Christians sometime after his death and became their Apostle Thomas in India.

There are also two sets of distinct accounts of Jesus travelling through India. According to the first set of accounts, Jesus traveled and studied in India between the ages of twelve and thirty. According the second set of accounts, Jesus, after his apparent death and resurrection, journeyed to Kashmir to teach the gospel, and then remained there for the rest of his life. The origin of the first set of accounts is attributed to Russian author Nicolas Notovitch who published the book La vie Inconnue du Jesus Christ (The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ) in 1890.

The origin of the second set of accounts is attributed to Kashmiri author Mirza Gulam Ahmed who published the book Masih Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India in 1899. While travel between Middle-East and India was common during those times, these accounts are not given serious thought and treated as speculation since there is no historical account, either in early Christian writings or Indian historical accounts, to either confirm or refute Jesus traveling to India.

Although, the exact origins of Christianity in India may remain unclear, it is generally agreed that Christianity in India is almost as old as Christianity itself and spread in India even before it spread in many, predominantly Christian, nations of Europe.

The Syrian Malabar Nasrani community was further strengthened by various Persian immigrant settlers. The community was Christian-Jewish Knanaya colonies of third century, Manichaeanism followers and the Babylonian Christians settlers of 4th Century, the 7th Century Syrian settlement of Mar Sabor Easo and Proth, and the immigrant Persian Christians from successive centuries. The Kerala Syrian Church was in communion with Syrian Church and was believed to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians and the Patriarch of Babylonian till the Portuguese arrival in the late 15th century. Bishops came from Syria. They seem to have maintained their identity for a long time in the first few centuries and later amalgamated into one patronized community known differently as Nasrani, Malankara Christians, Syrian Christians.

The South Indian epic of Manimekhalai (The Dancer With the Magic Bowl) written between 2nd and 3rd century BC mentions the Nasrani people by the name Essanis referring to one of the early Christian-Jewish sect called the Nasranis. The embassy of Alfred in 833 CE described the Nestorian Syrian Christians as being prosperous and enjoying high status in the Malabar coast. Marco Polo also mentioned the Nasranis and their ancient church in the Malabar coast in his writings Il Milione.

The total number of Christians in India as per Census in 2001 are 24,080,016 or 2.34% of the population.Majority of Indian Christians are Roman Catholics accounting for a total of 17.3 million members, including 500,000 members of the Syro-Malankara Church and 3,900,000 of the Syro-Malabar Church. In January 1993 the Syro-Malabar Church and in February 2005 Syro-Malankara Church were raised to the status of major archiepiscopal churches by Pope John Paul II. The Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest among 22 Eastern Catholic Churches who accept the Pope as the "visible head of the whole church". The states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in South India and Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya in North-East India account for 60% of India's total Christian population.

Most Protestant denominations are represented in India, as a result of missionary activities throughout the country. The largest Protestant denomination in the country is the Church of South India, since 1947 a union of Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, and Anglican congregations with approximately 3.8 million members. A similar Church of North India had 1.25 million members. (These churches are in full communion with the Anglican Communion.) The Mar Thoma Church has 700,000 members, and derives from the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Church, which numbers 1.2 million and is in communion with the Anglicans, but not a full member. In 1961, the evangelical wing of the church came out of Mar Thoma Church and formed the St. Thomas Evangelical Church of India which has 10,000 members. There were about 1,267,786 Lutherans, 648,000 Methodists, and 2,392,694 Baptists in India. Pentecostalism, another denomination of Protestantism, is also a rapidly growing religion in India. It is spreading greatly in northern India and the southwest area, such as Kerala. The major Pentecostal churches in India are the Assemblies of God, The Pentecostal Mission (TPM — founded in 1923.), Indian Pentecostal Church of God (IPC) with 900,000 members. New Apostolic Church founded in 1969, with total adherents of 1,448,209. The New Life Fellowship (founded in 1968) now has approximately 480,000 adherents, and the Manna Full Gospel churches and ministries (founded in 1968 with connections to Portugal) has 275,000. Evangelical Church of India now has over 680 churches with a 250,000 community. Another prominent group is the Brethrens. They are known in different names Plymouth Brethren, Indian Brethren, Kerala brethren. Presbyterian Church of India has 823,456 members.

The Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church has 900,000 members, while the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has 1,600,000, and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Malabar Rite has 1,200,000 members.

Historically, Hindus and Christians have lived in relative peace since the arrival of Christianity in India from the early part of the first millennium. In areas like Kerala, land to build churches had been donated by the then Hindu kings and Hindu landlords only. The arrival of European colonialists brought about large scale missionary activity in South India and North-East India. Many indigenous cultures were converted to Christianity voluntarily.

Then Hindus who converted to Christianity typically retained their social customs, including caste practices; Dalit Christians make up 70% of India's Christian population. Aggressive proselytizing by Christian missionaries under British rule was a cause of resentment among Hindus and Muslims in the 19th century, who felt that their cultures were being attacked. This was one of the several causes of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British Raj. The role of the Anglican padres and chaplains in that conflict is recounted in William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal Also, many Christian ideals prompted reform movements within the Hindu society in the 19th century, the most notable being the Brahmo Samaj, which was influenced by British Christian Unitarianism. Some Indian Christians have retained Hindu customs and practices, and have combined Hindu customs with Christianity to achieve a unique brand of Indian Christianity.

In more contemporary periods, Hindu-Christian amity is sometimes challenged by partisan politics and extremism from both communities. Christian missionary activity among lower-caste Hindus has created groups of Crypto-Christians, particularly among Dalits. As a response to allegedly aggressive missionary activity four Indian states (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu) passed laws restricting or prohibiting religious conversion.

In spite of the fact that there have been relatively fewer conflicts between Muslims and Christians in India in comparison to those between Muslims and Hindus, or Muslims and Sikhs, the relationship between Muslims and Christians have also been occasionally turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim ruled kingdoms in India.

19 January 2010

Christianity in Korea

The practice of Christianity in Korea has a relatively short history but, after a slow start, it has seen significant growth and high numbers of believers. The deeply-rooted traditional religions of Korean shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism held strong for many centuries and have been challenged by Christianity in a meaningful way only since 1784, when the first Catholic prayer-house was established in Korea. Protestantism followed in 1884, but growth of both was slow until the middle of the twentieth century. In 1897 the Russian Orthodox Church resolved to send missionaries to Korea by decision of the Holy Synod in July 1897. Archimandrite Ambrose Gountko led the three person team, but was refused permission to enter the country.

In 1900 a more hospitable atmosphere between Russia and Korea allowed for a second missionary team led by Archimandrite Chrysanthos Shehtkofsky to begin an outreach in Seoul. He was joined in Korea by Hierodeacon Nicholas Alexeiev of the original team, and chanter Jonah Leftsenko. On February 17, 1900 in a make-shift chapel the first known Orthodox Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Korean peninsula.

The first Orthodox church was constructed in Jung Dong, Jung-gu, the central area of Seoul in 1903 and is named in honor of Saint Nicholas. However, with the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 - 1945 came an intense period of persecution against Orthodox Christian believers. In spite of persecution in 1912 Fr. Ioannis Kang, the first native Korean Orthodox priest, was ordained.

In November 1921 The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow ended its support of the Church of Korea, and the Japanese Orthodox Church gave up its jurisdictional authority. Thus, in 1946, the Orthodox Church of Korea was put into the position of having to organize itself as a parish.

1947 saw the ordination of a third Korean priest, Fr. Alexei Kim, just as the last Russian priest departed the country. Father Alexei was the sole priest of the Orthodox Church left to serve the people of Korea. Just three years later, on July 9, 1950, he was captured and disappeared without record. As the Korean War descended upon the land the Orthodox Christian community in the region was dispersed and the formal practice of the faith disrupted.

However, in 1953, Army Chaplain Archimandrite Andrew Halkiopoulos of the Military Forces of Greece was made aware of Korean Orthodox faithful and arranged for a parish in Seoul to be reestablished.
The following year Korean Orthodox Christian Boris Moon was ordained by Archbishop Ireneus of Japan in Tokyo. Then, on Christmas Eve of 1955, by unanimous decision the Korean Orthodox community chose formally to come under the jurisdictional authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In 1975, Archimandrite Sotirios Trambas volunteered to serve in the Korean mission of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. During the ensuing years, he founded a monastery, several parishes both in Korea and in other places in Asia, and a seminary.

In 1993, the Holy Synod of Constantinople elected Archimandrite Sotirios Trambas as Bishop of Zelon and Auxiliary Bishop to the Metropolitan of Australia and New Zealand. In this role, Bishop Sotirios served as Exarch of Korea. On April 20, 2004, the Exarchate of Korea was raised to the rank of a Metropolis and Bishop Sotirios became the first Metropolitan of Korea.

On May 28, 2008, Metropolitan Sotirios of Korea, the first Metropolitan of the Orthodox Metropolis of Korea retired and was given the title of Metropolitan of Pisidia. On the same day, Bishop Ambrosios of Zelon and Auxiliary Bishop of the Metropolis was elected to succeed Metropolitan Sotirios as the Metropolitan of Korea.

Today there are ten Korean Orthodox parishes with several hundred members in South Korea, as well as one monastery. Additionally, in 2006 the government of North Korea supported the establishment of at least one Orthodox Christian parish (of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate) in the capital Pyongyang.

Prior to the Korean War of 1950–1953, two-thirds of Korean Christians lived in the North, but most subsequently fled to the South. It is not known how many Christians remain in North Korea today, and there is some confusion about the exact number in South Korea as well. It is known that by the end of the 1960s there were barely one million Protestants in South Korea, but during the "Conversion Boom" period ending in the 1980s, the number of Protestants increased faster than in any other country. According to the CIA's World Factbook, Christians and Buddhists today each comprise 26% of the population of South Korea,and other sources claim that about 49% of the population are Christians. The discrepancies arise because a large proportion of the population does not maintain official membership in a specific religion, regardless of the group in which they are active.

In 2005, one source showed that about 18% of the population of South Korea professed to be Protestants and around 10% called themselves Roman Catholics, the third highest percentages in Asia (after the Philippines and East Timor). Surveys have shown that South Korean Christians are very active in their religion, quite often exceeding their American counterparts in frequency of attendance at group worship services. Seoul contains eleven of the world's twelve largest Christian congregations. South Korea also provides the world's second largest number of Christian missionaries, surpassed only by the United States. South Korean missionaries are particularly prevalent in 10/40 Window nations that are hostile to Westerners. In 2000, there were 10,646 Protestant South Korean missionaries in 156 countries, along with an undisclosed number of Catholic missionaries. A number of South Korean Christians, including David Yonggi Cho (조용기), senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, have attained worldwide prominence.

Christianity was established on Korean soil only after nearly two centuries of failed efforts, and another two centuries passed before Christianity became numerically significant. The first known Christian in Korea was Konishi Yukinaga, who was one of the commanders of the Japanese invasions of Korea in the 1590s. He took a Korean girl later known as Julia Otā (ジュリアおたあ) back to Japan with him and she later became one of the first Korean Christians. Father Gregorious de Cespedes, a Jesuit priest, visited Konishi in Korea in 1593 to work among Japanese expatriates, but he was not permitted to proselytize Koreans.

A decade later, however, the Korean diplomat Yi Gwang-jeong (이광정) returned from Beijing carrying a world atlas and several theological books written by Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit missionary to China. He began disseminating the information in his books and from these beginnings the first real seeds of Christianity were sown. Christianity faltered along in Korea over the following two centuries before the Catholic Church was finally able to gain a foothold in 1784. Even after this time, Korean Christians dealt with persecution and hardship but persecution has been shown historically to strengthen the faith of believers and increase the influence of the church. Many were martyred, the most famous of whom was Andrew Kim Taegon, who was beheaded in 1846 at the age of 25 for his practice of a foreign religion. Christianity continued to gain adherents despite the persecution, and in 1884 Henry Appenzeller, a Methodist, and Horace Underwood, a Presbyterian, both from the United States, introduced Protestantism to Korea.

Matteo Ricci's books provoked immediate academic controversy when Yi Gwang-jeong brought them into Korea, and academics remained critical for many years. Early in the seventeenth century, Yi Su-gwang, a court scholar, and Yu Mong-in (유몽인), a cabinet minister, wrote highly critical commentaries on Ricci's works, and over the next two centuries academic criticism of Christian beliefs continued unabated.
Some scholars, however, were more sympathetic to Christianity. Members of the Silhak (실학; "practical learning") school believed in social structure based on merit rather than birth (see classism), and were therefore often bitterly opposed by the mainstream academic establishment. Silhak scholars saw Christianity as an ideological basis for their beliefs and were therefore attracted to what they saw as the egalitarian values of Christianity. Thus, when Christianity was finally established in Korea, there was already a substantial body of educated opinion sympathetic to it, which was crucial to the spread of the Catholic faith in the 1790s. An 1801 study indicated that 55% of all Catholics had family ties to the Silhak school. This philosophical sympathy for Christianity among the educated elite greatly facilitated its growth in Korea.

Largely as a result of the influence of the Silhak school, Christianity in Korea began as an indigenous lay movement rather than being imposed by a foreign ecclesiastical hierarchy. The first Catholic prayer-house was founded in 1784 at Pyongyang by Yi Sung-hun, a diplomat who had been baptized in Beijing. In 1786, Yi proceeded to establish a hierarchy of lay-priests.[13] Although the Vatican ruled in 1789 that the appointment of lay-priests violated Canon Law, Christianity was introduced into Korea by indigenous lay-workers, not by foreign prelates. Since Christianity began as largely a "grass-roots" effort in Korea, it naturally spread more quickly through the population than it would if it had originated with outsiders with no initial popular support.

Hangul, a phonemic Korean alphabet invented around 1446 by scholars in the court of King Sejong, was little used for several centuries because of the perceived cultural superiority of Classical Chinese (a position similar to that of Latin in Europe). However, the Catholic Church became the first Korean organization to recognize officially the value of using Hangul, and Bishop Berneux mandated that all Catholic children be taught to read it. Christian literature printed for use in Korea, including that used by the network of schools established by Christian missionaries, predominantly used the Korean language and the easily-learned Hangul script. This combination of factors not only resulted in a sharp rise in the overall literacy rate, but also enabled Christian teachings to spread beyond the elite, who predominantly used Chinese. As early as the 1780s, portions of the Gospels appeared in Hangul; doctrinal books such as the Jugyo Yoji (주교요지) appeared in the 1790s and a Catholic hymnary was printed around 1800.

John Ross, a Scottish Presbyterian missionary in Manchuria completed his translation of the Bible into Korean in 1887 and Protestant leaders immediately began emphasizing its mass-circulation. In addition, they established the first modern educational institutions in Korea. The Methodist Paichai School (배재고등학교) for boys was founded in 1885, and the Methodist Ewha School (이화여자고등학교) for girls (later to become Ewha Womans University) followed in 1886. These, and similar schools established soon afterwards, facilitated the rapid expansion of Protestantism among the common people, and in time Protestants surpassed Catholics as the largest Christian group in Korea. As a side effect during this period, female literacy rose sharply, since women had previously been excluded from the educational system.

The spread of Christianity in Korea was aided by the similarity of certain Christian doctrines with a number of Korean traditions. Unlike prevailing Chinese and Japanese religions of the time, shamanist Koreans had an essentially monotheistic concept of a Creator-God,[20] whom they called Hwan-in or Hanal-nim (하날님) (later also Haneul-nim, 하늘님/하느님, or Hana-nim, 하나님). According to an ancient myth, Hwan-in had a son named Hwan-ung (환웅) who, in turn, had fathered a human son named Tangun in 2333 BC. According to the story, Tangun founded the Korean nation and taught his people the elements of civilization during his thousand-year reign. There are several variants of this myth, one of which depicts Tangun as having been mothered by a virgin. Some modern theologians have even attempted to explain the Christian concept of the Trinity in terms of the three divine characters in the Tangun myth. These parallels psychologically prepared the Korean people to accept various Christian teachings, such as the incarnation of Jesus.

One of the most important factors leading to widespread acceptance of Christianity in Korea was the identification that many Christians forged with the cause of Korean nationalism during the Japanese occupation of 1905 through 1945 (comparable to Catholicism in Ireland and Poland). During this period, seven million Koreans were exiled or deported and a systematic campaign of cultural assimilation was attempted. In 1938, even use of the Korean language was prohibited. However, the distinctly Korean nature of the church was reinforced during those years by the allegiance to the nation that was demonstrated by many Christians. Furthermore, while the subsequent constitution of South Korea guarantees freedom of religion as well as separation of church and state, the South Korean government has been favorable overall to Christianity, regarding the religion as an ideological bulwark against Communism.

On 1 March 1919, an assembly of thirty-three religious and professional leaders known as the "March 1 Movement" passed a Declaration of Independence. Although organized by leaders of the Chondogyo (천도교) religion, fifteen of the thirty-three signatories happened to be Protestants, and many of them were subsequently imprisoned. Also in 1919, the predominantly Catholic pro-independence movement called "Ulmindan" (울민단) (Righteous People's Army) was founded, and a China-based government-in-exile was at one time led by Syngman Rhee (이승만), a Methodist.

Christianity was linked even more with the patriotic cause when Christians refused to participate in worship of the Japanese Emperor, which was required by law in the 1930s. Although this refusal was motivated by theological rather than political convictions, the consequent imprisonment of many Christians strongly identified their faith, in the eyes of many Koreans, with the cause of Korean nationalism and resistance to the Japanese occupation. This show of resistance to the occupying nation enabled Koreans to see past the foreign origins of Christianity and accept it as their own.

The Christian concept of individual worth has also found expression in a lengthy struggle for human rights and democracy in Korea. In recent years, this struggle has taken the form of Minjung theology. Minjung theology is based on the "image of God" concept expressed in Genesis 1:26-27, but also incorporates the traditional Korean feeling of han, a word that has no exact English translation, but that denotes a sense of inconsolable pain and utter helplessness. Minjung theology depicts commoners in Korean history as the rightful masters of their own destiny. Two of the country's best known political leaders, Kim Young-sam, a Presbyterian, and Kim Dae-jung, a Roman Catholic, subscribe to Minjung theology. Both men spent decades opposing military governments in South Korea and were frequently imprisoned as a result, and both also served terms as President of the Republic after democracy was restored in 1988.

One manifestation of Minjung theology in the final years of the Park Chung-hee regime (1961-1979) was the rise of several Christian social missions, such as the Catholic Farmers Movement and the Protestant Urban Industrial Mission, which campaigned for better wages and working conditions for laborers. The military government imprisoned many of their leaders because it considered the movement a threat to social stability, and their struggle coincided with a period of popular unrest which culminated in the assassination of President Park on October 26, 1979. However, even this period of turmoil affected the growth of Christianity to the degree that Koreans saw it as a source of stability in a difficult time.

Many Korean Christians believe that their values have had a significant positive effect on various social relationships. Traditional Korean society was hierarchically arranged according to Confucian principles under the semi-divine emperor. Women had no social rights, children were totally subservient to their parents, and individuals had no rights except as defined by the overall social system. This structure was radically challenged by the Christian teaching that all men are created in the image of God and thus that every individual has implicit worth. Closely aligned to this concept is an emphasis on the right to own private property.
Christians regarded the emperor as a mere man who was as much under God's authority as were his subjects, and Christian values also favored the social emancipation of women and children. The church permitted the remarriage of widows (as taught by apostle Paul, not traditionally allowed in East Asian societies), prohibited concubinage and polygamy, and forbade cruelty to or desertion of wives. Christian parents were taught to regard their children as gifts from God, and were required to educate them. Arranged child marriages and the neglect of daughters (who were often regarded as less desirable than sons in Asian culture) were prohibited. These changes were judged as favourable by many Koreans, who associated them with Christianity, and many became Christians as a result.

South Korea's rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s is usually credited to the policy of export-oriented industrialization led by Park Chung-hee (박정희), who was a devout Buddhist. But many South Korean Christians view their religious faith as a factor in the country's dramatic economic growth over the past three decades, believing that its success and prosperity are indications of God's blessing. It is, of course, difficult to isolate this factor from the effects of other influences such as indigenous cultural values and work ethic, a strong alliance with the United States, and the infusion of foreign capital.

A 2003 study by economists Robert J. Barro and Rachel McCleary  suggests that societies with high levels of belief in heaven and low levels of church attendance also exhibit high rates of economic growth. Barro and McCleary's model has been influential in subsequent scholarship and, to some observers, it supports the belief that Christianity has played a major role in South Korea's economic success. The study has also been criticised by scholars such as Durlauf, Kortellos, and Tan (2006), who argue on statistical grounds that there is little evidence connecting religion and economic growth either directly or indirectly.

Any research, however, no matter which side of the issue it supports, is irrelevant to the fact that the confidence of South Korean Christians in the social and economic benefits of their faith has been a factor in the spread of Christianity in South Korea. There is much appreciation in South Korea for the statistical growth, impressive organization, and attractive buildings that are enjoyed by many Christian groups. People quite naturally want to associate themselves with prosperity and success, and insofar as they see Christianity as the source of those things, they will be more likely to accept it as an important influence in their lives.
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