What’s the Spiritual Season this week? Happy birthday NBA and Orphan Annie & Hindu, Muslim, Christian holidays, too

Seasons

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What’s the Spiritual Season?
(August 3 to 9, 2009)
By Stephanie Fenton

THIS WEEK, the National Basketball Association and Little Orphan Annie both hit milestones! And we’ve got news about Hindu, Muslim and Christian traditions as well. This is a colorful and creative week!

Phil JacksonMONDAY, shoot some hoops and get into the team spirit, because the National Basketball Association (NBA) turns 60 years old. On August 3, 1949, the Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged with its rival, the National Basketball League (NBL), to form the NBA. Today, the NBA is making headlines in connection with our favorite subjects—spirituality and interconnectedness. 
    Fans continue to talk about the coaching techniques of Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. A Buddhist, Jackson has now won his 10th NBA Championship, a feat that many argue has a direct connection to his application of Buddhist principles. According to the Washington Post, Jackson’s “unconventional use of spirituality,” which includes meditation, is a lesson for other leaders. What do you think? Read some viewpoints about Jackson’s strategy at the Washington Post.

    NBA rookies are getting lessons in peacemaking through the NBA promotes, too, in both the Seeds of Peace International Camp and Play for Peace basketball clinic. Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington, former college rivals and recent first-round picks, are among the many Seeds of Peace International Camp volunteers. At this camp, both attendees and volunteers will learn leadership, conflict resolution and awareness. Play for Peace will teach 140 Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and American young persons to put aside differences and work together, completely, as a team.
    Today, the NBA is made up of 30 teams in North America and is recognized by the International Basketball Federation.

Rakhi TUESDAY evening and WEDNESDAY, Raksha Bandhan celebrates the sacred bond between siblings in the Hindu and Sikh traditions. Since its ancient origins, Raksha Bandhan has become a day in honor of brotherhood among all, thanksgiving to soldiers and various other regional themes. Nevertheless, the strong bond between a brother and sister remains the primary devotion of Raksha Bandhan. 
    After a morning bath, worship and meal preparations, sisters tie a rakhi (a “thread,” or thin bracelet) onto the wrist of a brother. Upon presenting the rakhi, a sister will often chant a mantra, such as this:
    “The sun radiates its sunlight, the radish spreads its seeds
    I tie the rakhi to you, O brother, and wish that you may live long.”
    Upon this blessing by his sister, a brother then pledges his duty to protect her in all possible situations.
    More than just a pledge said on Raksha Bandhan, many brothers consider the protection of a sister a religious duty. Following the blessings, sister and brothers present each other with sweets and gifts, and families and friends enjoy a great feast together. This festival day is met with much gaiety and happiness.
    Weeks before the start of Raksha Bandhan, shops in India are filled with every color and type of rakhi imaginable: simple, inexpensive rakhis appeal to some, while fancier, beaded rakhis are preferred by others. Stores overflow with clothing and gifts, as siblings often buy new clothing for this day and seek out a special gift to give. Sweet shops, too, abound with treats for brothers and sisters to present to each other.
    Traditions about the origins of this custom vary, although the common element is a story about a woman presenting a man with a bracelet, after which the man protects her. Of special note is the fact that a man need not be a biological brother to be presented with a rakhi: an adopted brother, cousin or close friend can receive one, too.
    Women—learn how to make your own rakhi bracelet! We’re sure that you’ll enjoy this meaningful project. Children in India did the same, and they sent rakhis to soldiers this year. Check out this article in an Indian publication.

Muslim prayer beads (lailat) Also TUESDAY evening and WEDNESDAY, Muslims give and receive forgivness on Lailat al Bara’ah and Mid-Sha’ban. (English spellings vary as do Sunni and Shia traditions.) Lailat al Bara’ah is Arabic for “Night of Freedom from Fire:” it is the night preceding Mid-Sha’ban, or the 15th day of the month of Shaban. During this night, many Muslims pray, ask forgiveness for sins, grant forgiveness to others and recite the Qur’an.
    According to Shia tradition, Laylat al Bara’ah recognzies the night before Muhammad al’Mahdi’s birth, in 868 CE. Sunnis, on the other hand, believe that Mid-Sha’ban is the day when fate for the coming year is determined. In preparation for this fateful day, Sunnis spend the evening in prayer and worship.
    Mid-Sha’ban falls two weeks prior to the commencement of Ramadan.

Little orphan annie WEDNESDAY, it’s “Leapin’ Lizards!”
    The classic American comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” turns 85 years old. As one of the five longest-running comic strips still in print, Annie has made her mark in newspapers, on the radio, in films and on Broadway. The ever-popular redhead continues to promote the values of respecting elders, working hard and warding off evil. Read some of the more recent “Little Orphan Annie” adventures here.
    In 1924, Harold Gray began the strip with a suggestion from his editor at the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. The title of the comic was inspired by an 1885 poem by James Whitcomb Riley, “Little Orphant Annie.”
    Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
    An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
    An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep …
    Although Harold originally called his strip “Little Orphan Otto,” the lack of female protagonists in comics at the time inspired the famous change.

    Film and Broadway adaptations have cast Annie as a singing orphan, but the comic strip reads quite differently than these lighthearted storylines. On paper, Annie battles criminals, smugglers and gangsters, dodges bullets and fights crime around the world. Her ability to remain young is due to the fact that she was born on Leap Day, February 29, and therefore—or so the story goes—ages only one year for every four years that pass.
    The Library of Congress created an exhibition, “Cartoon America,” which includes “Little Orphan Annie.”
    In 1930, “Little Orphan Annie” became a radio show with a young audience—something rare at the time—and a movie adaptation followed in 1932. It wasn’t until 1977 that the orphan and her loyal companion, Sandy, hit the stages of New York.
    “She’s been a multi-generational heroine from the comic strip, to the popular radio show from 1930-42, to the revival with the musical and movie in the ’80s,” says Kurt Kolka, a journalist and comic artist himself. (Kolka produces the Cardinal comic strip.)
    “Little Orphan Annie” was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, and the comic strip continues today through the artwork of Ted Slampyak. You can listen to a radio show of “Little Orphan Annie” at the Radio Hall of Fame Web site. Or check out today’s comic here.

Mount of transfiguration THURSDAY, many Christians celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord, or the Transfiguration of Jesus. According to Gospel accounts, Jesus went up onto a mountain with Peter, James and John where his divine power was revealed.
    Although no Gospel names the specific mountain, many believe it was Mount Tabor in Israel (photo at left). During the 4th century, a church was erected on Mount Tabor. This church was dedicated on August 6.
   This Major Feast is one of 12 Great Feasts in most branches of Orthodox Christianity, often accompanied by a blessing of grapes or other local fruits. Although the Dormition Fast continues for Eastern Orthodox Christians on this feast day, fish, wine and oil are allowed.
    Catholics also honor August 6 as a feast day, and seven years ago, Pope John Paul II named it one of the five Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.

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