by Igor Bosilkovski
“Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.”
In the previous edition, Prowl Magazine took a closer look at three Chapman students who belong to unique theistic beliefs and who discussed how their religion has shaped their characters. The students we took a look at were followers of Native American religion, Sikhism and of Buddhism.
For this issue, Prowl Magazine profiles three other students who also belong to minority religious groups, but have their own experiences in regards to their connection with God. Meet Esme, Rachel and Akshat.
Esme Aston is a sophomore psychology major from Portland, Oregon. Although her father is agnostic, when Esme was two years old her mother started following the Baha’i faith, a monotheistic religion founded in 19th century Persia by a prophet called Bahá'u'lláh, which translates to Glory of God.
“The Bahai’s believe that in each of the major religions you can find religious and spiritual truth. We believe that Allah and God and all the Hindu gods represent the same unknowable Essence,” Aston said. “The idea is that for each place there had to be a different message that was appropriate for the time and then as humanity evolved so did the teachings. In this day and age we follow the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh which we believe to be the most recent manifestation.”
Aston said that as a child she went to virtues classes and participated in Baha’i activities. However, the accepted rule is that when one turns 15, they can choose whether to become Baha’i and follow that lifestyle.
“At first I said I don't want to have a label but a few things happened: I started engaging in more service and I started putting my beliefs into action and once I saw the effect of those actions I felt this is the right path for me” Aston said.
She also said that in the Bahá'í faith there is no clergy because they believe that humanity is at this point ready to have more individual connection with God and understand things for themselves.
“There’s no one who’s telling us their interpretation of it, because it is all our interpretation of what we understand to be true.” Aston said.
Latter Day Saints movement (Mormonism)
Rachel Stoughton is a senior vocal performance and music education major from Orange County. Her parents are both converts of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, a religion she was born and raised in.
“There is a point in our lives when we try to investigate the religion for ourselves and develop our own testimony of things we’ve been taught all our lives and that is our personal studying of scripture and prayer and coming to know it for ourselves to be true,” Stoughton said.
The Church of Latter Day Saints is a Christian organization. They believe Christ to be the Messiah and adhere to the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible, which includes both the New and the Old Testament.
One of Stoughton’s favorite traditions in the church is the celestial marriage.
“The family is the essential unit of our lives that we believe families are forever and eternal. One of the amazing acts that happen in the temples are the celestial marriages which is when a man and a woman are sealed together for all time and eternity,” Stoughton said.
Stoughton also serves as president of Chapman’s Latter-day Saints Student Association, which is an organization where student on campus can come and study the scriptures together and have lessons of different doctrines in the gospel. Stoughton said the association has about 30 members, but the number of Mormons on campus is most likely larger.
Mormons traditions and moral codes are often satirized by the entertainment industry, such as the television show South Park and the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.
Stoughton however said that she believes in the importance of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. She also mentioned that to a certain extent, the cultural references help Mormons by bringing the religion into the public’s view.
“Our church isn’t associated with that play The Book of Mormon, but a cool thing that the church did is that on the back of the bill they put an advertisement that says ‘you’ve seen the play, now read the book.’ They were able to tag team, which I thought was genius,” Stoughton said.
Akshat Jain is a freshman business major. He is an international student from Bangalore, a city in the southern part of India. Jain is a follower of Jainism, an Indian religion he was born into.
“My grandparents were pretty religious and they would take me to the temple once a week and I have a small temple at home as well,” Jain said.
Jain said that Jainism is following the teachings of Mahavira, who was a well known guru in the 5th century BCE. Mahavira’s teachings were based on tolerance and non-violence toward all living beings.
“Some of the core teaching was Ahimsa, which means no violence, not to kill plants and animals for your own benefit. So basically you head the society by not taking something away from the society” Jain said.
According to teachings, followers are not supposed to wear clothes because they get their clothes by killing cotton plants.
“However, in today’s world it’s not that easy to practice that for obvious reasons,” Jain said.
Jain said he has never eaten meat and that makes him feel clean because he feels like he is not doing anything wrong to nature or society. He also prays to his God every morning.
“Normally I do pray after I take a shower for around two minutes, so that my day goes well,” Jain said.
One of Jain’s favorite customs of Jainism is a week in the year in which followers do not eat after sunset.
“On the last day we go to the temple and meet the guru for his blessings. This tradition makes me feel like I’m actually doing something for my religion. It makes me feel like I am a part of something. It keeps me clean and reminds me of my faith and what I’m supposed to do,” Jain said.