Chinese Girl Gives Up Her Successful Life as Luxury Goods Designer to Become a Buddhist Monk

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24-year-old Ting Tien has done something that’s not really expected of girls her age – she’s gone and given up all her material comforts to become a monk. In her former life, Ting lived in luxury; she was a fashion designer with access to the best of clothes and make up. But the shine of material objects wore off quite soon in Ting’s case and she chose to look for inner peace instead.

Ting, a native of Jinan City in Eastern China, attended the Qingdao University in Shandong Province, specializing in luxury goods design. But when she graduated, she became disillusioned with the lifestyle that she and her friends were leading. She found everything around her increasingly materialistic and too much to handle.

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Nepal’s Worshiped Child Goddesses Whose Feet Cannot Touch the Ground until Puberty

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Nepal is a land of mysticism, where a select few pre-pubescent girls from the Newar clan are worshiped as ‘Kumari Devi’ or ‘Virgin Goddess’. According to tradition, Durga (the Hindu goddess of destruction) herself is incarnate in young girls belonging to the silver and goldsmith community. Until they attain puberty, Kumaris are worshipped as deities and deemed protectors by thousands of adoring Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.

To prove that she is the chosen one, a prospective Kumari must go through over 30 tests. Initially, high priests choose girls based on their physical characteristics – with a slender neck like a conch shell, gentle eyes like a cow, and other special traits. In the next stage, the girl must pass through a series of unusual trials. In one test, she is placed in a darkened room with severed animal heads and hideously masked dancing men, while her reaction is observed. In another test, she must correctly identify the items worn by her predecessor (similar to the ritual used in Tibet to choose a new Dalai Lama).

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Chinese Monk Who Has Been Praying for Up to 1,000 Times a Day for 20 years Leaves His Footprints Ingrained in Wooden Floor

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HuaChi, a simple monk from China, has achieved something that only few are able to – he has left a mark in this world, quite literally. The pious man has knelt to pray in the exact same spot for nearly 20 years now. He’s performed the ritual so many times that his footprints are deeply ingrained in the wooden floor of his temple, in the monastery town of Tongren, in Qinghai Province.

The highly disciplined monk follows a never-changing routine – he arrives at the temple steps every day before sunrise, places his feet on the footprints and prostrates a few thousand times in prayer. Having done this for two decades, the wood beneath his feet has softened considerably, transforming into perfect footprints that are 1.2 inches deep.

When Hua Chi was younger, he would prostrate 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. “But I have grown older, so in recent years I have only done around 1,000 each day,” he said. Sometimes, during winter he can only manage 500. But even that is seriously impressive; I couldn’t imagine doing a handful of prostrations without exhausting myself. After completing his prayers, he walks around the temple as well.

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Woman Says She Is Virgin Mary’s Cousin 65 Times Removed

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Mary Beth Webb, from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, is making  some tall claims about her ancestry. She considers herself to be the 64th great-granddaughter of Saint Joseph Ben Matthat Arimathaea, who is considered to be Virgin Mary’s paternal uncle. So that makes her the Virgin Mary’s cousin, 65 times removed.

Mary has been looking into her ancestry since 2010, and it has taken her two years to spot her connection to Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph of Arimathaea is credited in the Bible for providing the tomb in which Jesus Christ’s body was placed after his execution on the cross.

The idea to research her ancestry came from her other bizarre ritual – speaking to the dead. When she lost her brother to cancer in 1999, she started communicating with him and also with her dead parents. Mary’s cousin was always the medium for these conversations – she conveyed messages from Mary’s parents that included details she could never have known about. Mary herself admitted that there was no way her cousin could have known some of the stories.

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Baring More than Their Souls – Virginia Church Congregation Worship in the Nude

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White Tail Chapel, located in Southampton County, Virginia, has recently made a bizarre decision to welcome its congregation the way they were made – nude. Pastor Allen Parker, the leader of the church, said that he found the clothing requirements of other churches overly pretentious. So he wanted his own flock to be able to let go of such materialism if they desired to.

He argues that many of the Bible’s most defining moments occurred when people where nude, including the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. “When he was born he was naked, when he was crucified he was naked and when he arose he left his clothes in the tomb and he was naked. If God made us that way, how can that be wrong,” said Parker, in an interview with CNN.

The pastor’s theory is that nudity is the ‘great equalizer’ that reminds the people gathered in church that they are all simple human beings. His goal is to drive the fact that beneath all the personal wealth and glamorous clothing, everyone is more or less the same. “There’s not a feeling that you have to be better than one another, physically,” he said. We’re humans, we have scars, we have what we have. It’s learning to love and accept that.”

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Arizona Reverend Performs Exorcisms via Skype

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Bob Larson, a reverend at the Spiritual Freedom Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, has developed a high-tech exorcism ritual involving Skype video calls. The reverend, who claims to have performed over 20,000 exorcisms in 40 years, is now giving possessed people the option of banishing their demons from the comfort of their living rooms.

“In simple terms, an exorcism is the process of expelling an evil spirit from an individual who has become somehow invaded and demonized by that being, and sending it back to hell and freeing the person,” he said in an interview with ABC news.

Larson is the self-proclaimed ‘world’s foremost expert on cults, the occult and supernatural phenomena’. In the past, he has appeared on shows like Oprah and Larry King Live. There are numerous video clips on YouTube of his exorcisms. A particular video where he came face-to-face with a gay demon went viral a couple of years ago.

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Meet Inri Cristo, the Man Who Thinks He Is Jesus Reincarnated

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A 66-year-old Brazilian man believes he is the reincarnation of Jesus. He has been preaching the word of God for the past for the past 35 years. Born Alvaro Theiss, this controversial religious figure now goes by ‘Inri Cristo’.

Inri is derived from the Latin acronym inscribed on the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion (INRI – Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, which means: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews). Cristo, his last name, means Christ.

Cristo experienced his first revelation that he was Christ during a religious fast in Santiago, Chile, in 1979. Although he had a powerful voice in his head guiding him since childhood, on this occasion it told him clearly: “I am your Father. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” He has hundreds of followers around the world, and his own church, ‘Soust’, based on a lush farmland outside Brasilia. Soust is an acronym for Suprema Ordem Universal da Santmssima Trindade.

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Taxi-Driving Pastor Offers Confessions on the Go

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Great news, you no longer have to go to church to confess your sins. Thanks to pastor Joseph Djan, who also happens to work as a cab driver, the confessional has been moved from the church into a New York taxi.

The 52-year-old taxi driver and Evangelical pastor sees cab-driving as running a “church on wheels”. Why? “It allows me to meet a lot of people and sometimes interact with them and it gives me the flexibility to attend to (the) ministry when it’s needed,” Djan says. He has Christian hip-hop playing in his cab and he sometimes lets his passengers know that he is a minister. Usually, after finding out about him being a man of Faith, people open up to him. This is what happened to one of his clients, a gay man who was afraid of coming out of the closet. “He heard my Christian hip-hop and while talking about it, it slipped out that I was a pastor. His mood changed instantly. He told me he wanted to tell me something that had never told anyone before”, the New York cabby says . The client confessed that he was feeling guilty about not telling the truth about his homosexuality, but Djan comforted him. “I told him that we all keep secrets. We all have to come out of the closet in some way or another. He was so relieved.” After stepping out of the cab, the passenger also stepped out of the closet and lived his life without hiding who he was.

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The Catacomb Saints – Relic Hunter Photographs Europe’s Jewel-Encrusted Skeletons

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Paul Koudounaris, a history professor from California, has spent the last three years visiting ancient ossuaries and churches around Europe and photographing their macabre treasures. Among these are the Catacomb Saints, a series of jewel-encrusted skeletons said to be the remains of Christian saints.

Decorated with hundreds of precious stones and several pounds of gold and silver, the Catacomb Saints photographed by Mr. Koudounaris for his new book, Empire of Death, are skeletons dug up from Roman catacombs in the 16th century and installed in churches around Germany, Austria and Switzerland on the orders of the Vatican, to replace the sacred relics destroyed during the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. Although none of them qualified as saints, authorities from the Vatican signed certificates identifying the dug-up skeletons as martyrs. The bones were packed in boxes and sent from Rome to various monasteries around central Europe, where nuns decorated them with gold and silver jewelry encrusted with precious stones. Since the skeletons were believe to be Christian martyrs, their bones couldn’t be handled by anybody, but only by those who had taken a sacred vow to the Church.  Once the decorative work was finished, the bejeweled remains were sent to churches and cathedrals where they reminded people of the spiritual treasures of the afterlife and acted as symbols of the Christian Church’s power in previously Protestant areas.

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Man Spends 4 Years Writing the Bible by Hand

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Handwritten bibles were common before the invention of the printing press, but nowadays they are considered a rarity. 63-year-old Philip Patterson, a retired interior designer from New York, has spent the last four years copying every single word in the King James Bible by hand.

Philip Patterson is not the most religious person in the world. He goes to church regularly, but he has never been particularly zealous. One might think the man from Philmont, New York, set out on this painstaking quest as a spiritual journey, but Philip says he did it out of curiosity, to learn more about the Book of Books. It all started one day in 2007, when his longtime partner, Mohammed, told him that Muslims have a tradition of writing out the Quran. Patterson replied that the Bible was too long, but Mohammed said that was more of a reason why he should do it. “The next day I started researching pens and pencils and paper and never looked back,” Philip said. 2007 was the year he started working on his prototype, copying the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, which allowed him to figure out the technique, layout and the type of paper and writing instruments that were most suitable for his grand project. Two years later, he started work on the entire King James Bible.

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On the Wings of a Prayer – India’s Unique Airplane Temple Fuels Devotees’ Traveling Dreams

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It’s not unusual at Indian temples for devotees to make huge offerings of money and food, in exchange for their prayers to answered. But the case of this particular Sikh temple in Punjab is quite strange, even for Indian standards. The narrow, dusty alleyway leading up to the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara in Punjab’s Doaba region, near the city of Jalandhar, is lined with a host of shops selling toy aircrafts of various sizes and colors. Although they sell like hot cakes, they are not meant to be travel souvenirs, but offerings to the temple. At the Sant Baba Nihal Singh Gurudwara, devotees make toy plane offerings in the hopes that their dreams of traveling abroad and starting a new life will come true.

It’s hard to say how the trend started. But the offering of the toy plane is quite befitting, since the thing most people pray for at this temple is to settle down in another country. According to one local shopkeeper, “Surely it must have been someone’s wish to go abroad coming true that must have started it all. It’s now become a tradition. For us it’s business.” So the sight of scores of devotees flocking at the century-old gurudwara gates, holding colorful toy planes might be a strange one to you but quite normal to the locals. They line up patiently, waiting for their turn to access the inner sanctum on the first floor, where several decorative model planes are placed in neat rows. The devotees place their rainbow-colored offerings in the demarcated enclosure, paying their obeisance to the Gurus of the Sikh tradition and to Baba Nihal Singh, a simple farmer of the nearby Doaba region after whom the gurudwara was named. After the offering is made, they then proceed to ask for their wish to be granted – to be sent abroad as soon as possible.

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Controversial Priest Wears Rocker Clothes, Rides a Chopper and References Rock Songs During Sermons

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Adolfo Huerta Aleman, known to his parishioners as Father Gofo, is not your usual priest. He looks and dresses like a rocker, likes going to bars, loves pictures of naked women,smokes, swears, and tells jokes during his sermons. He’s probably not the only Catholic priest with odd hobbies, but unlike most, he’s open about them.

At one point in his life, Gofo wanted to enroll in the military. Then he thought about becoming a policeman, a firefighter or a teacher, but he ended up as a priest in the Mexican city of Satillo. He says his ultimate career choice was probably influenced by the values passed on to him by his religious family. But for him, entering the Church didn’t mean leaving everything he loved up to that point at the door. That included his love for rock culture, his passion for motorcycles or any of his vices. On the contrary, he decided to let his unique personality play a big role in his profession, as a way to reach those for whom conventional religion held no appeal. He continued dyeing the end of his black locks red, wore skull rings and bracelets in church, rode his chopper around town, and even referenced rock songs during Mass. Obviously, all that didn’t sit well with many of his conservative parishioners, but it got him closer to members of the community that would otherwise be inaccessible to the Catholic Church.

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A Huge Cross to Bear – Man Spends 26 Years Traveling the World with a Giant Crucifix on His Shoulder

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I think it’s amazing how dedicated some people can be towards a cause they believe in. Like 60-year-old Lindsay Hamon, who has spent the past 26 years of his life hauling a giant crucifix all around the world, talking about Jesus to anyone who will listen. He literally carried his faith on his shoulders, trekking across 19 countries including New Zealand, Romania, India and Sri Lanka. During the course of his amazing journey he has had some truly spectacular moments as well as some pretty rough ones. In spite of being attacked and shot at in Bangladesh and thrown out of St Peter’s Square in Rome, Hamon has no plans to stop his work any time soon.

Hamon took up the mission of carrying the huge cross around the world in 1987, and he has rarely put it down ever since . The cross itself is made of cedar wood and measures 12 ft. by 6ft tall. It has a wheel at its base to make it easier to drag around, and he actually carries it over his shoulder for up to 12 hours a day, without having the faintest idea of where he will spend the night. The father-of-two and part-time care worker receives donations from supporters that help him stay committed to his role as a Christian Evangelist. But he does need to stop at his home town in Cornwall every once in a while to work and pay his family’s bills. “I tried giving up my work and doing this full time instead, but I didn’t get enough money to make ends meet,” he says. At times, Hamon has even put his life at risk. “There is fear there sometimes because I have a wife and kids and you don’t want to put yourself in danger. It is really trusting in God, knowing he will protect you.”

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The Religious Serpent Handlers of Appalachia

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You would think that handling snakes is an activity limited to the snake-charmers of India. After all, the handling of such venomous creatures is naturally associated with the mystical cultures of the East. But you will be surprised to know that the practice exists in the U.S. as well, and has been present here for the past 100 years. ‘Snake handling’ or ‘Serpent handling’, as it is called, is a religious ritual followed in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., with origins in 20th century Appalachia. The belief behind the practice dates back to antiquity, and followers quote the Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Luke for support:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

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Ghost Money – Currency of the Afterlife

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If there is indeed such a thing as afterlife, the Chinese and Vietnamese might just be the richest people there. And that’s because their living relatives make sure they are well provided for – by throwing money into flames. Well, not real money. Only fake notes. This fake money is commonly known as ghost money, “Joss paper” and as ‘pinyin’ (literally ‘shade’ or ‘dark’ money) in Chinese. The ghost money, along with other papier-mâché items (usually expensive stuff) are burned as a part of Chinese tradition – on holidays to venerate the deceased, and also at funerals, to make sure that the spirits have plenty of good things in the afterlife.

Traditionally, Joss paper is made from coarse bamboo paper or rice paper. The Joss is cut into squares or rectangles and has a thin piece of square foil glued in the center. Sometimes, it is even endorsed with a traditional Chinese red ink seal depending on the particular region. The paper is generally of a white color (symbolizing mourning) and the foil is either silver or gold (representing wealth), hence the name, ghost money. The three types of ghost money are copper (for newly deceased spirits and spirits of the unknown), gold (for the deceased and the higher gods), and silver (for ancestral spirits and local deities). Sometimes Joss paper is completely gold, engraved with towers or ingots. The burning of joss paper is not done casually, but with a certain reverence, placed respectfully in a loose bundle. Some other customs involve folding each sheet in a specific manner before burning. The burning is mostly done in an earthenware pot or a chimney built specifically for this purpose.

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