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Spiritual Meditations

Primary imagination is our capacity to perceive and organise stimuli from the outside world. We have the power to order and orient our lives. Secondary imagination refers to the ability to go beyond primary organisation to reassemble perceptions and synthesise fragments of truth. This enables us to create new meanings, which help us to relate to the Divine.

As creators of images and consumers of imagination’s artifacts, we must carefully consider what culture offers, for there is the possibility of imagination running amuck and deceiving us to mistake the transient for the eternal. If this can be done, all of us — believers, non-believers and those in between — can share our stories and construct new worlds for the welfare of all, driven by that dream of many of us today that “another world is possible”. -- Francis Gonsalves

 

You believe there is God or you believe there is no God, you just believe something that you do not know. The problem is just this - you are unwilling to see that you actually do not know. Belief essentially means that you are assuming something that you do not know. 

If you do not even know where Creation begins and where it ends, how do you know where the Creator is? If you do not even know the nature of yourself, how do you know the nature of the Creator? You just believe something that you have been culturally conditioned to believe. Believing and disbelieving are fundamentally not different; it is just believing in a positive way or believing in a negative way. This will not get us any closer to reality. -- SADHGURU

Being barefoot signifies shedding your ego, your defences, being receptive, being in a state of utmost respect and submission. All healing of the mind, body and soul comes from the feet in the orient, which the occident is slowly discovering for itself. The body has a complex network of invisible energy channels through which Chi, the vital energy of life travels. Everything is energy. Life is receiving and directing energy. Energy becomes anything. From aura to product. From power to wealth. Energy manages human beings and resources. Energy takes you into a virtual world. You become someone you are not. You bring people to life. The concept of physical cleanliness and physiological wellness to manifest itself in a spiritual way has never come together so strongly as in being barefoot. Any space which is considered sacred where human beings congregate to receive a charge or a blessing has to be visited barefoot. Homes in every evolved Indian culture from Kerala to Kashmir are all barefoot areas. All mandirs, mosques and dargahs are barefoot zones. -- Muzaffar Ali

 

The Prophet taught to love the One God, emphasising that the path leading to Him consists of kindness, compassion and moderation. He taught that women be respected, and according a high status to mothers, he declared, “Paradise lies beneath the feet of the Mothers”. Laying emphasis on purification the heart he said, “Surely in the breasts of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound, then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt, then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?”

The essence of Sufism stems from the belief that the universe was created from Noor-e-Muhammadi, Light of Muhammad, and from this pre-existent light, Allah took a handful to build the universe.

For mystics, Prophet Muhammad mirrors Allah’s attributes. During my Sufi initiation, I was taught that loving and following the Prophet was to love God. He remains the perfect vehicle to inner enlightenment, for even in slumber, he remained connected to Allah. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

The Prophet's character was based on moderation in spirit, generosity, justice, dignity, moral excellence, humility, bravery and firmness in the face of death, good fellowship, and sympathy for others, detachment of the world, and constant fear of the Lord. He chose poverty over wealth, sleeping on the floor with a bed made of stuffed palm fibers.

The most forgiving of people, the Prophet never sought revenge despite thirteen assassination attempts made on his life. He told followers not to respond to persecution with aggression, assuring that Allah rewards those who exercise patience. He remained sympathetic to those who had left Islam due to persecution from their families and no sanctions were issued against them. UbaydullahibnJash who migrated to Abyssinia with the first batch of Muslim immigrants converted to Christianity. He abandoned his wife Um Habiba, the daughter of Abu Sufiyan whom the Prophet later married. None of the Muslims took any action against him and he died upholding the Christian faith. When the Prophet settled in Madinah, he made it clear that he wanted relations with the new society to be egalitarian. -- SADIA DEHLVI

According to Datta Sahab, “The knowledge of God is the science of Gnosis, the knowledge from God is the science of the sacred law and knowledge with God is the science of Tasawwuf, Sufism. Knowledge is a divine attribute and action a human attribute and the two are not separate from one another”.

The Kashf al Mahjub describes the perfect state of the intoxicated Sufi as one of sobriety. It explains safa, purity, as the destination of a Sufi, a station where there is no room for complaint. Datta Sahab defined a Sufi as one who overcomes the passions of the self and annihilates himself in the path of haqq, truth. The mystic preached that those with Marifah, divine knowledge, are the chosen ones to whom God reveals the “divine secrets”. -- Sadia Dehlvi

My journey to Islam started at the tender age of 15, in Dayton, Ohio, USA; the city where I grew up. As a sophomore in high school, I engaged in all the usual activities, school, sports, and friends demanded most of my time. I stayed at my mother’s house; my parents had been divorced for a number of years. I had very little to do with my father and I would, often, go six months to a year without seeing or even speaking to him. In many ways, I was a typical American youth; moreover, I was a staunch American nationalist; I loved America and dreamed of joining its armed forces. Islam would change me; free me from the burden of prejudice and save the world from one more egotistical American. The key events which lead to my reversion, took place when I had not yet heard about Islam or Muslims. -- By KING-slave of ALLAH

I recently came across an initiative by Arun Sachdev, a retired mediaperson, christened “Love Commandos”, which is an oxymoron really. For love is always associated with positive emotions and the dictionary meaning of commandos is, “group of soldiers who are trained to make quick attacks in enemy areas”. “Love Commandos” began actually as a response to “honour killing” — another oxymoron there — (can there be honour in killing?), which has become a notorious practice, mainly in Haryana but also in parts of Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Mr Sachdev thought that such a practice, which thrives on a false sense of pride, needs to be responded to by providing the hunted down couple with love and shelter. It is an abundantly positive and creative way of countering a rather depressing reality. -- Father Dominic Emmanuel

 

A violent attack on Sufis for their beliefs is not a new thing. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned all Sufi orders in 1925, and their spiritual centres were taken over by the Turkish state. In North Africa in the 12th century, the Maliki Almoravid dynasty actively denounced Sufis and Sufism. The practice of Sufism is characterised by its disciples’ sole aim: to become closer to God. They achieve this through dhikr, the remembrance of God, and asceticism, through being “in the world but not of it”. Sufis are opposed to violence, extremism and jihad. They are seen as the world’s symbols of Islamic tolerance and humanism: nondogmatic, flexible and nonviolent. Many Muslims in Pakistan consider themselves to be Sufis, and while the South Asian brand of Sufism is tied to our own particular culture, it has links to Sufi orders all over the world, which have thrived despite violence and discrimination. -- Bina Shah

The Swami’s confession has provoked a sense of triumph among Muslims and secularists, who had all along suspected that Hindutva groups were responsible for the series of blasts outside mosques that started in Maharashtra in 2003. But while the campaign now on, to get the Muslim boys arrested for these blasts out on bail is necessary, shouldn’t we also appreciate the act that made their release a possibility? Those fighting against injustice to the minorities must need be concerned with that cliché called “communal harmony”. Swami Aseemanand’s act goes beyond harmony: as Kaleem, the prisoner who the Swami says prompted him to confess, told this reporter, in his Hyderabadi dialect: “Bahoot bada kaam hai — confess karna.’’ The interaction between Kaleem and the Swami is truly the stuff legends are made of. The young man’s behaviour is no less inspiring than the Swami’s. Tortured and imprisoned for 18 months for a crime he hadn’t committed; his family hounded into moving house six times; losing his coveted medical seat (he was fourth in the merit list); finally being acquitted, and then re- arrested in another case… after all this, to be kind to the man responsible for the very crime for which he had suffered, is hard to understand. -- Jyoti Punwani

 

The mystic and philosopher Shaykh Muhyiddin Ibn al Arabi is amongst my favourite early Sufis. Born in Murcia, Moorish Spain in 1165, he came to be called Shaykh ul Akbar, the great master. One of the most prolific writers in Islamic history, Ibn al Arabi’s writings immensely impacted Muslim communities throughout the world. He remains a refreshing voice that throws light on the human condition in any time and any place. Rooted in Islamic sciences, his work is universal, accepting that each person has a unique path to the Truth.The 19-year-old Ibn al Arabi met the renowned philosopher Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) whom the West knows as Averroes. The philosopher asked the young mystic, “Do the fruits of mystic illumination agree with philosophical speculation?” Ibn al Arabi replied, “Yes and no. Between the yes and no, the spirits take their flight beyond the matter”. --Sadia Dehlvi

Numbers play a crucial role in a man’s life. The crucial events of Salman Taseer’s life prove this theory. The number that played a very critical role in deciding the turn of events in his life is 9.

The life and death of the slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer was governed by this number. He was born on May 31, 1944. If we add the digits of his date of birth we get 9…

One important aspect of the number 9 people is that they are found to make great enemies, to cause strife and opposition in the position they are and are often wounded or killed either in warfare or in the battle of life. -- Sohail Arshad

Silence is broken by needs, with the act of asking, with the urge of wanting...

Betalab vo de raha hai chup raho

kuchh kaha to baat khaali jayegi

(Without asking, you are being given,

if you ask, your words may go blank)

...so mumbled a Sufi faqir calligrapher, who was challenged by his speech.

The Indian-Eastern wisdom was a subtle way of achieving the impossible without visible effort. It was a way of making the unimaginable happen. Many a times this phenomenon could not be explained so it was called a “miracle”.

Bhika baat agham ki, kahan sunan ki nahi

Jo jaane so kahe nahi, jo kahe so jaane nahi

(Bhika, the truth is, not said or heard. Those who know, do not say, and those who say, know not...)

The art of silence is the act of not asking. It is the state of knowing. A state of Ching-jing Wu-wei, sitting and doing nothing. It is the acuteness of perception without the bitterness of not achieving it in a given time scale---- Muzaffar Ali

Ever since I was young there has been a halo around the name of Swami Vivekananda, as there was around his master's, Sri Ramakrishna. Recognition outside India meant a lot a hundred years ago; it was an enviable kind of validation. But to be candid, none of this reverence affected my life. Vedanta was just an arcane term, and the flight of modern Indians was toward science, upward social mobility and personal freedom. I imagine that anyone who took the step of joining the Indian Diaspora followed the same wave that carried me to America.

It was years before I realized what I'd run away from, and now Vedanta means a lot to me. It is the map to higher consciousness, never surpassed by later history yet frequently validated in fresh, new ways. Vivekananda did that a century ago. We honour his memory for it, but that's incidental, for the spiritual path implies action, not salute to memory. Vedanta is either here and now or it is nowhere.

Which means that without new life Vivekananda's legacy will be inert. The only viable memorial is to put his model of spirituality into practice. I'm avoiding the phrase "put his ideas into practice," because Vedanta, once reduced to ideas, is equally lifeless. So what would Vivekananda ask us to do today, here and now? --- Deepak Chopra

On the 28th of September falls the 706th Urs, death anniversary of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, who lies buried inside the compound of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s dargah. Like most devotees, I follow the tradition of first offering prayers at Khusrau’s tomb before seeking blessings from his Master. I respect Khusrau’s genius, adore his music, love his poetry and seek his intercession to invoke the blessings of Hazrat Nizamuddin. In these tumultuous times, Khusrau’s legacy signifying India’s composite heritage and culture has become more relevant than ever. -- Sadia Dehlvi

The fact of the matter is that each and everything in this world belongs to Almighty Allah. He is the real owner of all. As such, man’s life and riches, which are part of this world, also belongs to Him, because it is He who created them and it is He who has assigned them to each man for his use. Looking at the problem from this angle, the question of any sale or purchase does not arise at all. Almighty God is the real owner, there is no question of His purchasing what is already His. Man is not their real owner; he has no title. But there is one thing that has been conferred on man, and which now belongs fully to him, and that is his free will, the freedom of choice of following or not following the path of Almighty Allah. -- Khwaja Mohammed Zubair

 

The Vedas are described as apaurusheya, that is, written by no man. They were transmitted down from one generation to the next without anyone having a clue as to who wrote them. This question of authorship of the Vedas is linked with another, perhaps more tractable, question: When were they written? From the study of the contents, the language and allusions to events, Western scholars arrived at the figure of around 3.5 to four thousand years ago as the age of Vedic literature. Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, known to most Indians for his leadership of the Indian national movement for Independence, before the arrival on the scene of Mahatma Gandhi, had a multifaceted personality. He was well versed in mathematics, had written a learned commentary of the Bhagavad Gita called the Geetarahasya, had a philosophical bent and took great interest in social issues besides running a national newspaper, Kesari, of which he was also the editor. Last, but not the least, he possessed basic knowledge of astronomy which he put to use in a highly original fashion to decide the antiquity of the Vedas. -- Jayant V. Narlikar

Sanghasena — who was born amid poverty at Tingmosgang — a remote village in Ladakh — knew for sure that education could transform the lives of people. He realised that poor people needed shelter, food, clothing and medicines not religious philosophy. Moreover, religion also preaches welfare and happiness of people and he would be following the religious tenets if he could ensure good education for children in Ladakh — especially the girls. In 1986, he set up the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre in Leh and six years later, he laid the foundation stone at Choglamsar for setting up Devachan — a school to provide free education to children. -- BHIKKU Sanghasena

 

Ever since Jesus was born 2,000 years ago, the story of his birth has been narrated over and over again, not just in words but also through poetry, paintings, songs, radio dramas, classical dance forms, small and big films and through many other art forms. The real narration of his birth though, as portrayed in the Gospel of St. Luke, is rather simple as: “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was the governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. -- Father Dominic Emmanuel

The festive season of Christmas provides an opportunity to reflect on Jesus and the centrality of Love in Divine philosophies. Although the Muslim and Christian narratives somewhat differ, one cannot be a Muslim unless they believe in Maryam, Virgin Mary, and Isa Ruh Allah, Jesus, an important prophet who is the Spirit of Allah, that is, pure compassion and mercy...

Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the Cross, but was raised to the Heavens. However, both Islam and Christianity believe that Christ will return to the earth to destroy the Antichrist who shall bring tyranny and war, selling lust, greed, gluttony and other sins. Both Jesus and Mary have significant roles in Sufi thought, finding frequent mention in mystic verse. -- Sadia Dehlvi

The traditional ends or ideals of life are dharma, artha, kama and moksha, understood as moral order, material fulfilment, emotional gratification and spiritual freedom. The Indian psyche has been shaped by these time-honoured principles of organising ones life and they have given us a certain direction and guidance, underpinning our life, both sacred and secular. While dharma is what sustains all our activities and moksha is the ultimate state of being, artha and kama are driven by our innate nature and largely define our material life. Our material and emotional pursuits are products of our intrinsic psyche and mental attributes. However, there is one pursuit that is worthy of being included as a purushartha or ideal in its own right, or at the very least woven as a subtext to artha and kama, and that is seeking the beautiful and making it a part of ones life, or realising saundarya inwardly and subjectively. -- Harsha V Dehejia

 

Meditation brings self-realisation. A tale from Chandogya Upanishad is relevant here. Sage Aruni conveyed to his son Svetketu what this realisation is. He asked his son to drop a pinch of salt in a bowl of water. Then he asked him to take the salt out. Svetketu said, he couldn’t. Aruni smiled and said, “Taste this water”. Svetketu complied. Aruni then said, “Though the salt is now invisible and intangible, yet it has permeated the water with its essence. So too, you do not perceive the reality that is within you as a subtle essence. That essence is the atman and you are that”. -- J.S. Neki

A tree withstands the vagaries of nature — the storms, the downpours and the floods — to protect the flora, the fauna and the soil alike. A tree provides for those around it — the animals, the birds and the insects in the form of food and shelter, as a nurturer as well as a healer. A tree purifies the air around it, a tree binds the soil together, a tree participates in causing the rains, a tree decomposes to enrich the earth — a tree befriends the environment. -- Yogi Ashwini

 

We are in the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the lunar Muslim Hijrah calendar. According to authentic prophetic traditions, Muharram is one of the four sanctified months mentioned in the Quran, the others believed to be Dhul-Qa’dah, Dhul-Hijjah and Rajab. Muharram literally means, “one that is sacred”. This does not mean that other months have no sanctity, because the month of Ramzan is admittedly the most sanctified month in the year. However, these four months were specifically termed as sacred months. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

A dimension is our level of existence at any given point of time. The state that we humans exist in is called the bhulok. Dimensions below the bhulok are called tals; sutal, rasatal, patal are the levels of existence below the bhulok, while above the bhulok exist the bhuvah, svah, maha, janah, tapah and satyalok, each lok having layers of existence to it. Each lok has attributes to it that create sub-dimensions within that. At our level too, i.e. at the level of the humans in the bhulok, we have so many different types of people; workers, professionals, businessmen, CEOs. Each is different from the other in characteristics and the experiences that they live through. -- Yogi Ashwini

 
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