Faith-based Reflections

A series of reflections on Ride to Worship: 

(Below) Pada Yatra Temple to Temple annual walk held in October each year

Icon_rel_hinduHindu reflection, from the Hindu Council of Australia

Hinduism is one of the world's oldest religions and its third largest. Hindus call it Sanatana Dharma- the eternal religion, ever present. Its origin lies prior to the recorded history. Hindus have lived in perfect harmony with nature for thousands of years. Hindus worship the sun, the stars, the rivers, the trees and the animals- nature in all its manifestations and glories.

Following is the message of living in harmony with Mother Nature from the Holy Scriptures of Hinduism:

Live in complete harmony with Nature,
Experience the grace of God in the splendour of the universe.
Be blessed by God's reassuring love,
The sweet dawn will sweeten your soul,
The dazzling mid-day will set your hearts aflutter,
And the serene music of your soul will guide you towards peace and prosperity.
And when the day's task is over, you will sleep in the lap of Mother Nature,
All the deities will be favourable to you.

Mother Nature, Yajur Veda 34.37

It is a pity that we have ignored this sublime message of living in complete harmony with nature and enjoying the many splendours of the universe. By our indiscriminate use and abuse of its abundant resources we have spoilt its beauty. Consumerism has been at the core of our ever-increasing desire to possess more and more to add to our so-called comforts for living. We have complicated our lives, and have added a lot to our mental worries. The ever-increasing demand on our energy resources has led to climate change and warming of the earth's atmosphere with some drastic consequences. Obesity has become one of the biggest problems in our society. Eating cheap pre-processed food and living a sedentary lifestyle are the some of the main causes.

In order to overcome this dual problem of our health and the impact on the environment, ARRCC has taken the initiative to encourage the people of faith communities to lead a more active life-style. Eat a healthy, organically grown diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced amount of meat.

Ride-to-worship is part of this initiative to encourage people to exercise more, walk or ride a bicycle to work, to shops or even to place of worship, if we can, or to use public transport instead of our own cars to reduce our ecological footprint and feel healthy, active and energetic. Hindu Council of Australia fully supports this initiative.


Icon_rel_buddhistBuddhist reflection, from the Buddhist Council of NSW

Buddhism originated in India more than 2500 year ago, with Gotama Buddha. Buddha is an honorific title meaning Awakened One, or one who is fully awake to the Universal Truth (Dharma). Gotama Buddha was not a deity and he never asked or encouraged others to worship, venerate or praise him. Instead he encouraged his followers in devotion to Truth (Dharma) and peaceful way of life.

"And the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "Ananda, the twin sal trees are in full bloom, though it is not the season of flowering. And the blossoms rain upon the body of the Tathagata and drop and scatter and are strewn upon it in worship of the Tathagata. And celestial coral flowers and heavenly sandalwood powder from the sky rain down upon the body of the Tathagata, and drop and scatter and are strewn upon it in worship of the Tathagata. And the sound of heavenly voices and heavenly instruments makes music in the air out of reverence for the Tathagata.

Yet it is not thus, Ananda, that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped, and honored in the highest degree. But, Ananda, whatever bhikkhu or bhikkhuni, layman or laywoman, abides by the Dhamma, lives uprightly in the Dhamma, walks in the way of the Dhamma, it is by such a one that the Tathagata is respected, venerated, esteemed, worshipped, and honored in the highest degree. Therefore, Ananda, thus should you train yourselves: 'We shall abide by the Dhamma, live uprightly in the Dhamma, walk in the way of the Dhamma.'"

(Digha Nikaya 16: Maha-parinibbana Sutta - Last Days of the Buddha)

Through walking or living in the way of the Dharma, the Middle Way or the Noble Eight-fold Path, the Buddhists respect or honour their teacher in the best way they are capable of - by being kind and truthful, by living in an eco-friendly way for the benefit of all.

Most modern Buddhists go to their temples or meditation centres primarily for spiritual fellowship, to learn about the Buddha's teaching and to practice meditation. While they also show respect to the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) in a formal traditional way, they don't consider their community centres places of worship.

The Buddhist Council supports the ARRCC interfaith Ride to Worship week in solidarity with other religious communities, to encourage all participants to use eco-sustainable transport and to reflect on the meaning of worship and practice it in a more eco-friendly way - a way that really helps make this world a better place for everyone.

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Icon_rel_christianChristian reflection, from ARRCC member Miriam Pepper

I am a cyclist, and have been riding regularly for ten years. Along with trains, my bike is my main means of transport for journeys longer than a few kilometres. Holidays usually involve cycling in one way or another. As well as cycling in pleasant conditions, I regularly expose my body to wind, rain, and sweltering heat. Neither am I a stranger to numb extremities or to the rasp of frozen air in my throat and lungs, having ridden through three English winters. But my identity as a cyclist is not just about these practices. Slowly but surely, cycling has changed me, in ways that I would never have thought when I first took it up. I am more attuned to the weather and to the changing seasons. My world has become smaller, distance-wise, but more filled in with detail and diversity. When I ride the ten kilometres home from church on a Sunday night, in the winter dark, I process the sermon, I repeat songs and prayers, and I exhilarate as the cold air rushes past my warm body. I have some of my most mystical moments, a sense of being drawn out beyond myself and of connecting with God and with nature, when I am on a bike. Through the discipline of cycling, I have come, gradually, to re-imagine who I am.

If we are to look the ecological crisis in the face, and to repent of and change our ways, we need to see ourselves and our story differently. The old narratives of progress through technological advancement, of ever increasing well-being through wealth creation and rising consumption, have broken down. Those Christian narratives that have afforded little space for the worth and purpose of the Creation save humanity are increasingly questioned. There is a need for re-imagination, for a deep look backwards, forwards, and even sideways, to an earthier, more grounded Christianity than the Christianity with which many of us may have been more familiar.

Various psychological models of behaviour hold that cognitions such as worldviews, values, and attitudes precede behaviours. According to these models, we re-imagine first, and then we act. If we come to hold a more ecologically sensitive outlook, the way that we live would likewise become more ecologically sensitive, both as individuals and as societies.

There is much truth in this. But I want to suggest that the relationship between our views and our behaviours is as much back the other way. The truth of my experience is that a great deal of the work of re-imagination comes through practices themselves.

Our views of God, ourselves, the Earth, and how each one relates to the other, are played out in our everyday lives, communities and actions in a dynamic way. There are multiple ways that these views might change. For example, a journey of ecological re-imagination in the lives of our churches can come about by exposing ourselves to new perspectives – for example, through having a speaker from a community affected by climate change coming to talk with us about their experience, running Bible studies where we deliberately employ an ecologically aware interpretive method, or sensitising our worship to ecological considerations. Over time, we might find that this also results in our churches starting on some practical environmental initiatives.

At the same time, it is also important to acknowledge that we don't necessarily need to wait until we have the "right" theology, the "right" understanding, or the "right" answers in order to change our day to day lives so that we tread more lightly on the Earth. This might be by making a change to what we eat, or to how we get from A to B, or by participating in the growing of food in some small way – as individuals and families, but also as churches. For example, we might start walking, cycling or car pooling to services, we might start serving locally produced, organic and/or vegetarian food at communal meals (including the Eucharist), or we might regularly participate in a local community garden as a church. As much spiritual as they are practical, these everyday "disciplines" have the power to reshape and remake our understandings.

This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared in Eremos Magazine, November 2009.

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Icon_rel_jewishThe meaning of Shabbat in Jewish practice, from Rabbi Orna Triguboff

Shabbat in Jewish practice, is a time to connect with nature and relax.

Traditionally, for the whole of the sabbath one has a technology break and one does not use a car, computer, TV, phone or money.

Having one day when we walk to synagogue, walk to visit friends or just wander in a park can be a chance to commune with nature, family, community and connect with deep levels of yourself.

The seventh day of the week is a day of rest and rejuvenation.

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Icon_rel_christianChristian reflection, from Frank Kinnersley

Shared in Worship at St John's Uniting Church, Essendon VIC, on Ride to Worship Day 7 October 2012

My earliest memories of riding to worship are being dunk by my brother to Sunday School. Then when I had my own two wheeler I rode to Sunday School with my brothers.

I also remember as a young adult a weekend when we borrowed a tandem and rode to worship with one child in a seat on the back.

How I came to be so involved in cycling seems to stem from the time of my tertiary engineering education when we aspired to own a motor car but were encouraged to consider efficiency in design, so once the thrill of having my own motorised wheels wore off, I realised there were other wheel systems available for the transportation task.

When providence saw that I would receive a bicycle to pay off a debt my adult life of cycling began.

My tentative short amusement trips grew into practical transport tasks then into longer recreation tours and later into supporting advocacy for walking and cycling as a practical alternative to personal motorised movement.

After some years I learnt that active transport that had become a lifestyle improved my personal health and allowed me to make a practical contribution to reducing some of the negative impacts of the motor vehicle industry in which I worked. Cycling to and from work enabled me to burn off some of the frustrations of a long and frustrating business day before I returned home to share with my young family

Cycling to work was challenging when promotion saw me with a company vehicle.

As my family grew I was able to move to some longer recreational or touring cycling then when the family became independent and fate saw me finish my professional career earlier than expected, I found employment, much of it as a volunteer, in sustainable transport related roles.

So now I enjoy a semi retired lifestyle with many opportunities to cycle as part of mainly unpaid work

When you have been cycling for some years you find many occasions for reflection and thought while cycling, particularly when you are on longer rides (or walks).

When travelling so much in this unhurried format you are often accompanied by a spirit who you communicate and share thoughts with and you wonder if the higher being is guiding and protecting you.

I am so sure God has been close to me on many rides as not only has He cared for me in what could have been dangerous circumstances, He has guided me down routes when I have not been sure where to go for a particular destination or to experience wonderful views, places and people.

But then there have been the times I have been so deeply engrossed in a discourse with God, likely inspired by a recent scene, that I have missed a turn I should have taken.

As I pass through areas while travelling, religious buildings are one of the significant features you see, occasionally presenting opportunities to worship in different surroundings and themes.

While walking and cycling can mean you are often absent from your regular church family there are accidental chances to participate elsewhere.

I remember on two cycling events while participating in worship, I made contact with cyclists I had not previously known. In both cases the new friend was experiencing a personal crisis and felt the religious environment would assist with their healing. I am sure God put us in contact so I could be a shoulder to help them work through their problem. I never met either of those people again but felt it was more than co incidence we met at that time.

Closer to home I have been able to assist the community develop improved sustainable transport routes and help individuals find safe and convenient ways from A to B.

This has led Mark to invite me to participate and share these experiences with you today.

The ongoing participation in sustainable transport at a personal level and making it easier for others, leads to a greater caring for the world God created for us and I am sure that is why he shows us how enjoyable it is to transport ourselves by bicycle.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this reflection with you on Ride to Worship Day. If any need help with any cycling issues, please talk to me.

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