I was reading a blog of a friend of mine, Dave Stoker, over at Thoughts of a Seeker when I noticed a photograph of a statue he used in a post. This statue, that he identified as the Tian Tan Buddha, was intriguing to me because of its unique posture that I had not before recognized in Eastern art. Dave informs us that these arm and hand gestures are quite universal in historical depictions of Buddha, and are known as mudras. He further says that this particular statue is the largest outdoor seated Buddha in the world, completed in 1993 in Hong Kong.
Tian Tan, I have come to find out, is Mandarin for “Temple of Heaven,” or more literally “Altar of Heaven,” and is the same name given to a Taoist temple in Beijing. The term mudra is Sanskrit for “seal” or “seal of authenticity.” Wikipedia further defines the mudra:
A mudrā (Sanskrit: मुद्रा, lit. “seal”) is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. Mudrā (Sanskrit) is a ‘spiritual gesture’ and energetic ‘seal of authenticity’ employed in the iconography and sadhana of Dharmic Traditions and Taoic Traditions; particularly those influenced by Tantra, Shinto and Shamanism. [Read more…]
Latter-day Saint or Mormon temples are holy edifices or buildings wherein the most sacred ordinances, rites, and ceremonies are performed that pertain to full and complete salvation in the Kingdom of God, usually referred to as exaltation. Because Latter-day Saints believe that life continues after this mortal existence, and that all men and women deserve and need to participate in these saving ordinances instituted by God, members of the Church who have participated in these ordinances for their own salvation are encouraged to return to the temple often to act as proxies for ancestors who have passed on. . . .
Since today is Presidents Day, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the inauguration of the President of the United States into office. It is rightly called an oath of office or presidential oath. Wikipedia defines such an oath:
An oath of office is an oath or affirmation a person takes before undertaking the duties of an office, usually a position in government or within a religious body, although such oaths are sometimes required of officers of other organizations. Such oaths are often required by the laws of the state, religious body, or other organization before the person may actually exercise the powers of the office or any religious body. It may be administered at an inauguration, coronation, enthronement, or other ceremony connected with the taking up of office itself, or it may be administered privately. In some cases may be administered privately and then repeated during a public ceremony.
Some oaths of office are a statement of loyalty to a constitution or other legal text or to a person or other office-holder (e.g., an oath to support the constitution of the state, or of loyalty to the king). Under the laws of a state it may be considered treason or a high crime to betray a sworn oath of office. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_office))
The actual formal act of taking this oath consists of the President raising their right arm to the square, following the lead of the officiator or Chief Justice of the United States who wears the formal ceremonial regalia, the President also usually extends and places their left hand on the Bible or other sacred object, and repeats the oath after the officiator as follows:
Here is a link to photos of several Presidents taking this oath. Here is a link to photos of other government leaders around the world taking similar oaths. Below is a video of the last 13 Presidents of the United States taking this singular oath of office, noting that each time it is considered a highly solemn, sacred and respected moment:
The Encyclopedia Britannica reports what is speculated to be the origin of the letter “E” in our modern alphabet:
The letter E may have started as a picture sign of a man with arms upraised, as in Egyptian hieroglyphic writing (1) and in a very early Semitic writing used in about 1500 BC on the Sinai Peninsula (2). The sign meant “joy” or “rejoice” to the Egyptians. In about 1000 BC, in Byblos and in other Phoenician and Canaanite centers, the sign was given a linear form (3), the source of all later forms. . . . (( “E, e.” Student’s Encyclopædia. 2008. Britannica Student Encyclopædia. 17 Feb. 2008. <http://student.britannica.com/comptons/article-9274097>.))
Wikipedia corroborates the same source:
E is derived from the Greek letter epsilon which is much the same in appearance (Ε, ε) and function. In etymology, the Semitic hêprobably first represented a praying or calling human figure (hillul jubilation), and was probably based on a similar Egyptian hieroglyph that was pronounced and used quite differently. In Semitic, the letter represented /h/ (and /e/ in foreign words), in Greek hê became Εψιλον (Epsilon) with the value /e/. Etruscans and Romans followed this usage. ((“E”. Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E>.))
The more I learn the more I’m convinced of Nibley’s striking statement, “All the arts and sciences began at the temple. Dance, music, architecture, sculpture, drama, and so forth—they all go back to the temple” ((Nibley, Hugh, and Gary P. Gillum. Of all Things!: Classic Quotations from Hugh Nibley. 2nd, rev. and expand ed. Salt Lake City, Utah; Provo, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993, 45)).
I just watched an excellent documentary on BYU Television entitled “Sacred Stone: Temple on the Mississippi.” It was all about the building of the Nauvoo temple, and included video of the rebuilding of the current temple from just a few years ago. Here is the description from BYU broadcasting:
In September 1846, the last of more than 12,000 Nauvoo, IL residents were forcibly driven from their homes to begin their journey to the Great Basin, blazing what is now known as the Mormon Trail. Their presence in Nauvoo accounted for one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in Illinois and the construction of its stately temple. In 1848 the same unruly forces that drove them out also sacked and burned the temple. Today, more than 150 years later, the Nauvoo Temple rises on the very footprint of its original. Please join narrator Hal Holbrook for this remarkable story – a historic chapter from 19th-Century America.
Not only did this documentary outline the history of the Nauvoo temple, but the history of temple building among the Latter-day Saints in general. Many interviews were conducted with LDS scholars and other scholars from prominent universities all across the country. Some of the comments from non-LDS scholars were very interesting as it relates to the purpose of temples on earth. I will see if I can pull some of those quotes for a future post.
You can watch this documentary online at www.byu.tv. Just follow the instructions to install the Movie Media Player, and then scroll back to 12:00pm on today’s date, February 16, 2008. You can watch the entire program online. If you have BYU-TV you can also watch the program be rebroadcast on February 18th, 2008, at 8:30am MST. Or if those options don’t work out, you can also purchase the DVD of the program from Deseret Book.