Out of all the time I have spent here at the Vanderbilt Summer Academy, I have found class to be the most interesting experience as it should be. The abnormal truth is that it’s getting even more interesting as we get closer to the end of the program.
I awoke very early for class this morning to gather at The Commons, two hours before our normal start time at 9:00AM, to eat breakfast and prepare for our field trip. We took a trip to the beautiful Greek Orthodox Church called Holy Trinity, and sat in on the service. Upon our arrival I was in awe of the sheer size of the church. When we moved inside the walls were adorned with beautiful pieces of artwork depicting, Jesus, Mary, and the 12 disciples. In the sanctuary itself, was a huge altar with paintings of the 12 disciples and Jesus along with other religious figures including the apostle Paul. For most of the service we stood with only about 15 minutes of total sitting time. The practices of worship include a lot of ritualism including bells, incense, specific chants, and songs; some songs and chants include a call and response format. The service also included help from the community with young church members having to carry the lanterns.
After the service was over, we were able to talk to the leader of the service and ask questions about Christianity and the Eastern Orthodox sect of Christianity. I learned that they shaped their sanctuary in the fashion of the ancient Israelite Tabernacle with three layers within the church, one being the holiest in which only priest can enter.
After we returned from our trip, we immediately switched tracks and got right down to Buddhism. We attacked the complicated idea of emptiness in one’s self, yet fullness in the spirit of all humanity. We talked about the ideas of inevitable death and samsara which is the cycle of life, basically reincarnation. We explored nirvana and the idea of being a bodhisattva or person that after becoming enlightened denies nirvana instead to come back to earth and help others reach Enlightenment. One example is the Dalai Lama.
Exploration is never finished in our World Religions classes. Using sources from YouTube to King of the Hill as tools, we are able to understand the concepts of these complex religious systems allowing us to be able to not only look at the religion from a historical perspective, but from the eyes of the people that practice it.