–By Sensei Morris Doshin Sullivan
UPDATED February 1, 2019:
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will continue our Big Words series this semester, beginning this Thursday. Each Big Words event presents an interfaith perspective on a concept or value important to different religious and spiritual traditions. Besides lively and interesting discussions and other activities, dinner is included and cultural credit is available (pending approval–check for updates).
In the past, we have looked at topics like the spiritual value of generosity, the role played in our lives by the phenomenon of awe and how to build spiritual community. This semester, we will examine the spirituality of breaking bread; religion and romance; death and dying; and the sanctity of song.
We kick off the spring Big Words series this Thursday, January 17, with Big Words: EAT. Chef Hari Pulapaka joins us to create this event, which we are doing in conjunction with Baptist Collegiate Fellowship (BCF). The event will be in Allen Hall, where BCF holds its regular Thursday dinners.
Food is, of course, essential to life; it also serves as a powerful symbol for the way our religious and contemplative practices nurture our spiritual lives. Most Americans are familiar with the ritual of Eucharist, for example, and with pivotal teachings such as Christ’s miraculous feeding of several thousand people with a couple of small fish and a few loaves of bread.
Breaking bread together is a universal spiritual rite. Many religions base practices around the opportunity to share a meal. The practice of langar—dining together in the community kitchen—is integral to the Sikh religion. Sharing food and dining on vegetarian meals, with everyone sitting side-by-side regardless of status, communicates the principle of equality between all.
In my own Buddhist tradition, offering alms food to monastics is in itself an important practice. The Buddha said that once one recognizes the spiritual value of generosity, he or she would never eat again without first sharing.
Some religions restrict certain foods as a religious observance, such as the Jewish and Muslim practice of refraining from eating pork, and vegetarianism is important to people from many traditions, including Hindus, Jains, and Seventh Day Adventists.
Hari Pulapaka, Ph.D., will guide the cooking for Big Words: EAT, as well as lead a discussion of spirituality and food. Besides being a professor of mathematics at Stetson, Dr. Pulapaka is also Chef Pulapaka—he is the acclaimed, award-winning chef and owner of Cress Restaurant in downtown DeLand.
Big Words: EAT will be in Allen Hall this Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m.
The Big Words series will continue February 12—just in time for Valentine’s Day, with Big Words: LOVE. During that evening’s program, we will discuss the intersection of religion and relationships, with a look at romance as it appears in sacred literature and contemporary culture. The evening’s program will include readings from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other scriptures.
“Religion” and “romance” may seem incompatible, but relationships between us are integral to the survival of humanity, and so inseparable from religion and its influence on culture. One need only to look at a passage like 1 Corinthians 13, for instance: “If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” to find scriptural support for loving relationships.
The chaplains will read some of our favorite religious words of love, but we also are inviting students and faculty members to share spoken word or music relating to the spirituality of love.
Big Words: LOVE will be in the CUB garage at 6:30 p.m. on February 12. And there will be chocolate!
When I first ordained, a friend said to me, “Great—now you can marry and bury.” I prefer weddings to memorials, but one of the important functions of ministry is to help people with transitions at the end of life.
On March 14, we will tackle a challenging but important topic with Big Words: DEATH. Perhaps one of the most obvious purposes of religion is to deal with questions of life, death and meaning.
Christopher Bell, Ph.D., will introduce us to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. We will also hear from Cheryl Lankford, whose family has owned and operated Lankford Funeral Home since 1950.
We will look at how religions have dealt with death, how one might prepare for death, and some of the practical matters associated with living and dying.
Big Words: DEATH will be March 14 in the CUB Garage, also at 6:30 p.m.
UPDATED: We will wrap up Big Words for the semester in April with Big Words: SING. This event will feature performances by Stetson University’s Gospel and Cultural Choir and the Stetson Community Choir, as well as opportunities to chant, sing, and otherwise join together in song.
Big Words: SING will be at 6:30 p.m. on April 29, in the CUB Garage.