As I sit here surrounded by scraps of paper and ideas, trying to translate my thoughts into English or any other understandable language. I realize the beauty of my predicament, exploring a subject so rich and intricate that defies words – coffee and religion.
Coffee is a commodity but such title does not serve it justice. The bean in all its shapes and colours transcends barriers. It builds socio-economic bridges and some even believe it connects us to the divine and unknown. In fact, the very root of coffee is within religion.
Centuries ago, the Sufi – a segment of Islam mostly recognized by the spiritual teachings of Rumi and the whirling movements of the dervishes – saw in the alertness produced by the beverage a way to get closer to God.
Coffee was considered a sent from heaven to allow its drinkers to endure the long hours of praying through the night. To the Sufi, it was an indispensable companion on their spiritual voyage.
The effect of coffee was so celebrated that they needed a word to express it and from the Arabic was born the term “ Marqaha” – the feeling of joy and euphoria that comes over one through a beautiful cup of coffee.
Nowadays, coffee has integrated the culture of Islamic countries and it takes on a new task – to connect humans. In an almost ceremonial manner, coffee is served in countries such as Turkey, as a token of friendship and hospitality.
In Christianity coffee was seen for a long time as “ a dark invention of Satan” and believed to have some evil magic powers. One has to appreciate the creativity behind the fables of the church, right?!
Despite, the urges from the community of priests for pope Clement VIII to ban the abominable beverage. The pontiff was a big fan of a brew and instead of forbidding the drink, he decided to cheat the devil by baptizing it.
Folklore or not, without a blessing from the pope, only God knows the fate of coffee in the West. So let’s have a cup in his honour.
“ If not even Jesus pleased everyone how could I ” said any Brazilian at least once in their life, it would be naive to think coffee would. In 1833, Joseph Smith, the leader of the Mormon church was supposedly enlightened by the divine to instruct his followers to refrain from harmful substances (caffeine included) and hot beverages among other things.
“9 – And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly- says the word of wisdom. The Mormons Book”.
Some say that in moderation caffeine has its benefits, the wise will give all facts the benefit of doubt.
When it comes to the second point on which coffee is forbidden among the Mormons, coffee does not stand a chance on its most common form. My rebellious mind however, can not help but wonder if an iced decaffeinated brew is a loop in the system?
Another bible based belief that is not so fond of our beloved bean is the Rastafarian. Its members are discouraged from drinking coffee. They claim that the stimulant effects of caffeine pollute their body which is considered a temple and meant to be clean and pure.
As a further proof that good and evil don’t always look the same for everyone, the Rastafarian followers advocate the use of the holy herb aka marijuana as an aid for spiritual development.
Buddhism consist of five precepts which aim to assist its followers on the path to Nirvana. The 5th precept says that one should abstain from substances that cloud the mind.
As you would imagine, for many, coffee falls into this doomed category. Which raises a lot of controversies and debate making the guidelines for a zen life with or without coffee a little blurred.
Interestingly, I recently came across a book called “ Zen coffee – a guide to mindful meditation” please note that the book was not compelling enough to convert me to Buddhism or to be honest even read it fully.
Yet its message that when one loses themselves in the few moments of gulping a cup of java or indulging in the aroma and flavours of the brew could be a from of meditation, did sound appealing.
As everything in life facts and tales are often entwined so with a pinch of salt I entertain many lines of thoughts and with copious amounts of self-control I try to resit the temptation of caffeine over-indulgence.