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The Soundscapes of Faith
November 14, 2014
Our award-winning celebration of sacred sound, based on the idea that every faith tradition has its own sonic signature--from the murmur of a Buddhist mantra to the hum of the Hindu om.
Judaism: The Shofar
If Judaism has a sound, it’s the trumpet-like blast of the shofar, a sacred instrument made from an animal horn. According to the Hebrew bible, the shofar has framed some of the most important moments in Jewish history, from revelation of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai to the crumbling of the walls of Jericho.

Rabbi Jack Moline, Rabbi Emiritus of Agudas Achim Congregation
Islam: The Call to Prayer
One of the most beautiful sounds in Islam is the one heard most often: the call to prayer, or adhan, from the Arabic word "to listen." It rings through the streets of many Muslim countries five times a day, summoning believers to pause and remember God.

Akbar Ahmed,  chair of Islamic Studies at American University
Portland Sacred Harp
Christianity: Sacred Harp
This week we listen to the strange and beautiful sounds of sacred harp singing, an early form of American church music. There's no harp in sacred harp singing; it refers to the instrument we all have: the human voice.

Nancy Groce, Senior Folklife Specialist at the Library of Congress
Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons
Hinduism: Om
Aum is the sound that Hindus and Buddhists call ‘the first breath of creation.’ When said in unison with a group, it reverberates through the room, hinting at the reality that encompasses the entire universe.

Shubha Pathak, associate professor of religion at American University
Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons
Buddhism: Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo
This time, we listen to the trance-like mantra which defines Soka Gakkai Buddhism, nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Its repeated invocation is often hypnotic, but as our guest says, "there's nothing magical about it." As the founder, Nichiren, has said, the very soul of their tradition is "nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."

Photo: A 14-15th century depiction of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism. 

William Aiken, Director of Public Affairs at Soka Gakkai International - USA