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Books and Documents

Spiritual Meditations

The Indivisible God
Manzoorul Haque, New Age Islam

The Indivisible God
Manzoorul Haque
What is the whole idea of a God? If God is a rare being to be found hidden in some groove so that man should immediately bow down to him on coming to find him, the question does arise, why this funny antic and on what rational grounds? And of course there can be no limit to the number of such Gods, as every rodent living or dead (since God cannot die) can be ascribed that status simply on the whim of a person choosing to do so….

Making Time for Stillness
Susan Gladin

All you have to do is sit down and shut up, and that’s the hard part. Staying still for 15-20 minutes is easier compared to the effort involved in getting there in the first place. “There” might be a special place with candles and incense, or it can be anywhere you happen to be. Sitting up in bed works for me sometimes so I can catch myself in the morning before my brain has a chance to tell me how busy I need to be. …

 
A Long Overdue Apology
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

A Long Overdue Apology
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for New Age Islam

What, you might ask, drew me to that village, to work as a teacher for a couple of hundred rupees a month? At that time, I had my own ideas as to why I was there, but now, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize that they were hardly as altruistic as I had fondly imagined. Looking back, I now understand that my dream of spending my life ‘doing good’ for the ‘poor’ in ‘backward’ rural India—which actually lasted hardly a year!—was simply youthful rebellion against my family that I detested and against the suffocating norms and expectations of the society I was brought up in. …

Why I Gave Up on Social Activism
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Why I Gave Up on Social Activism
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for New Age Islam
This delightful anecdote neatly sums up the story of my life till now, and that is why I found it so endearing. Ever since I left home, at the age of eighteen, I've been desperately trying to change the world, as a self-appointed missionary of the 'Revolution'. I began identifying with communities in India that saw themselves as 'oppressed', and took it upon myself to champion their 'cause'.

Spare Me This Bloody Nonsense, Please!
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Spare Me This Bloody Nonsense, Please!
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for New Age Islam

"Blood is thicker than water, after all. All said and done, your siblings are your siblings, and you simply have to be good to them," said my mother firmly to me just the other day. How I hoped she would have patiently heard me out and tried to understand why I couldn't force myself to be all so cuddly and sweet with my siblings as she insisted I should! I can't really blame my mother for parrotting the empty rhetoric about blood being 'thicker' than water. She was brought up to think in that conventional way, although I dare say she didn't really bring that maxim into operation in her own life. …

The Holy Quran also is very sacred to such an extent that believers cannot touch the writings of the script unless they are in a state of purity. The Holy Quran says, "None shall touch it except the purified ones." (56:79). This state of purity is achieved by performing ablution as it is done before the five daily prayers….

Futile Battles Over Religious 'Authenticity'
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Futile Battles Over Religious 'Authenticity'
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for NewAgeIslam

Each religious tradition has been interpreted diversely by its votaries throughout history, which explains the bewildering variety of sects within each, with each claiming to represent the sole true understanding of their faith. In turn, each sect passionately denounces the rival interpretations of competing sects as 'deviant', 'false' or 'heretical' or even 'blasphemous'. In many cases, intra-sectarian rivalries have been much more fierce and bloody than inter-religious rivalries. …

Not only do the Abrahamic faiths, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, place due emphasis on duty towards parents and keeping to the promises made or agreements signed, faith systems such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, also embrace these finer human values. …when Abraham told his son Ishmael of having dreamt that he must sacrifice Ishmael and asked the latter’s view, the son promptly told his father to go ahead with fulfilling his dream. “Father,” said Ishmael “do that which you are commanded, God-willing you shall find me patient” (37:102). …

Buddhist Concept of God
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Buddhist Concept of God
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for New Age Islam

Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan (d. 1988), an Indian Buddhist bhikkhu, wrote extensively on issues related to religion. In this letter to his disciple/friend Yogendra (below), which appears in his book Bhikkhu Ke Patra, he elaborates on the Buddhist understanding of the concept of God….

A Sufi Message from a Pakistani President
The writer is a senior journalist, television commentator and interviewer

The message the Sufis sought to communicate offended nobody: oneness of Being (Wahdat ul Wajood), equality of men, Love as a universal value. Rungs of the stratified Hindu order found the egalitarianism of Sufi Khanqahs, ashrams, hospices, compelling. The first-time visitors to the hospice were overwhelmed by the hospitality. The cuisine was custom made for universal consumption. It was not just vegetarian but care was taken to avoid garlic and onion too which some Hindu sects abstain from. …

Vishwamitra: The Forgotten Rishi
Yogi Ashwini is an author of rare blend of the real and ethreal

Vishwamitra was a Kshatriya king with vast resources and power. However, after realising that physical powers and siddhis were just a trap of the physical world and tapo bal (the yogic power of penance) was supreme power, he renounced his kingdom and went on to become a Brahmarshi who even set out to create a parallel universe; the gods, of course, had to come down to request him to desist. …

Religious Brainwashing Begins At Birth
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Religious Brainwashing Begins At Birth
Yoginder Sikand is a regular columnist for New Age

Being wholly dependent—psychologically, emotionally and materially—on their parents, they automatically imbibe the religious beliefs and prejudices of the latter. This is how blind, unquestioning belief in the religion that they inherit at birth becomes so deeply-rooted in most people as to make it almost impossible for them to shake it off at a later stage in life. Along with this, in many cases children are also socialized by their parents into believing that their religion alone is true and that all others are false, impure or deviant. …

I want to say to him, “O God how much I want you to come down from your heavenly abode and play with me. I want to be a little child again. I want to hold your hand and run with you. Deep into the jungle. And when the jungle scares me, I want to hide in your arms. I want you to stay there, wait for me. Don’t abandon me like others. You are more kind than a mother. And more caring than a father.

 

The Album of Life is Strange
Aisha Aijaz is a medical doctor, specialising in Acute Medicine

‘And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young.” (Al- Qur’an 17:22-24)…

Letters of a Modern-Day Indian Buddhist Monk Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan
Yoginder Sikand works with the CSSE at the National Law School, Bangalore

From the late nineteenth century, efforts began to revive Buddhism in the land of its birth. Much has been written about this, particularly focusing on Babasaheb Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism and that of vast numbers of his followers. Relatively little, however, is known about the key role in this process of certain Indians who became Buddhist monks or bhikkhus and, in that capacity, played a major part in the spread of Buddhism in modern India. …

 
Unique Buddhist-Christian Meditation Centre
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam

Unique Buddhist-Christian Meditation Centre
Yoginder Sikand is a New Age Islam columnist

Ever heard of a Catholic priest devoting his life to promoting the teachings of the Buddha and the practice of Buddhist meditation?  You might think it unbelievable, for Christianity is premised on belief in a creator-god and in a saviour whose death is thought to have washed away the sins of those who believe in him. Buddhism, on the other hand, has no room for a creator God, and insists that one has to be one’s own light. Recently, I spent a week at Bodhi Zendo—and that was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. …  

 

Be that as it may, if God is good, which is certain, then, God is peaceful. In actual fact, the image of God implanted into man’s subconscious being right from infancy is that, God is love, and where love exists, violence has no place. All religious books contain stories of how God has displayed his love towards man. First, at creation, God gave man dominion over all things that He had created before man, giving man a ‘super intelligence’….

Agonizing Over Religions: My Way Out!
Yoginder Sikand for New Age Islam

Agonizing Over Religions: My Way Out!
Yoginder Sikand works with the CSSE at the National Law School, Bangalore

All those many years I spent working on religion have miserably failed to make me a better human being. And so, in a very fundamental sense, I’ve gained nothing at all from my long involvement with the subject. And, what is more, all the many books I’ve written on religion and the many more that I’ve read on it have left me even more confused than I was before I began my ‘religion trip’ about the reality of the cosmos, the origins and purpose of life, the existence or otherwise of God, the truth or otherwise of heaven and hell and all those other fundamental questions which religions claim to answer. …

Why I No Longer Envy Born Believers
Yoginder Sikand for New Age Islam

Why I No Longer Envy Born Believers
Yoginder Sikand works with the CSSE at the National Law School, Bangalore

I tried to experiment with various religions over the years—not very seriously, I must admit—I could never arrive at the same state of belief as that of ardent ‘born believers’. Lack of sincerity and commitment was certainly one factor. …most blind believers are not guided by the quest for truth at all. Indeed, they are inimically opposed to that very quest. True seekers are few—and have always been so….

Burn Anger Before Anger Burns You
Dada J.P. Vaswani is the spiritual head of The Sadhu Vaswani Mission

Anger is more destructive than fire or earthquakes. When you get angry, certain glands in your body get activated. This leads to an outpouring of adrenaline and other stress hormones, with noticeable physical consequences. Your face reddens, blood pressure increases, voice rises to a higher pitch, and breathing becomes faster and deeper, your heart beats harder and your arm and leg muscles tighten. Your body becomes tense. …

Are We Ready For Spiritual Democracy?
Kancha Ilaiah is director M A N Urdu University, Hyderabad

Once the spiritual system transformed from the totemic worship stage and moved on to become a largely organised priesthood in the spiritual realm and monarchy in the political realm, what laid the foundation for authoritarianism in the entire socio-spiritual and political domain was spiritual dynasticism, casteism and authoritarianism. The masses, for the most part of human history, feared spiritual authority more than political authority. …

While the Muslims rely on the supernatural and the metaphysical the majority of ‘non-Muslims’ in the developed world base all their inferences on naturalism, the foundation of science. The time when every phenomena like the rising of the sun or the blowing of the wind was attributed to an act of god or gods is long gone. Similarly, ascribing every success or failure to a supernatural being is also history in the modern world. Science is fast replacing religion. ...

Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, has long framed the American propensity for "the divine-deli-cafeteria religion" as "very much in the spirit of Hinduism. You're not picking and choosing from different religions, because they're all the same," he says. "It isn't about orthodoxy. It's about whatever works. If going to yoga works, great—and if going to Catholic mass works, great. And if going to Catholic mass plus the yoga plus the Buddhist retreat works, that's great, too."-- Lisa Miller

Human longings are expressed through waves, aspirations, hopes and longings. These micro-psychic longings are many. In the course of this endeavour, there comes hardly any obstacle from within, but there may come hindrances and obstacles from without in the shape of ideological clashes. ...

 

It would be very nice to study religion in anthropological and psychological ways. By the way, i do think children need to be educated about religion. They just shouldn't be told you belong only to this or that religion. They should be told, there is this religion and that religion. And when you grow up, you may - or may not - choose to join any of those.--  Richard Dawkins in an interview with Vineet Gill (Photo: Richard Dawkins)

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