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Books and Documents

Spiritual Meditations

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)

Throughout history philosophers and prophets have asserted that positive thinking can cause a seismic shift in the energies surrounding us and whatever we strongly desire will actually happen. In fact, spiritual teachers also caution against unquestioned positivity and advise that it's not as simple as just intensely wishing for something. -- Milia Ali

''Liberty of thought and action is the only condition of life, of growth and well-being. Where it does not exist, the man, the race, the nation must go.''...He wanted to combine western progress with India's spiritual background...Vivekananda's constant refrain was abhaya - be fearless, be strong. For him man was no miserable sinner but a part of divinity; why should he be afraid of anything? ''If there is a sin in the world it is weakness; avoid all weakness, weakness is sin, weakness is death.''-- Abridged from Nehru's The Discovery of India, the chapter on Vivekananda

The Master entered the room, his head bent low, carefully measuring each step that he took. A dozen disciples silently trailed in after him. He headed to the far end of the room, where he usually sat, and, lifting the glass globe of the oil lamp, gently snuffed out the wick. Thereupon, he quietly settled on his seat—a slim mattress spread out on the bare floor. An uneasy calm prevailed in the room. The disciples waited with bated breath to hear the Master speak about the day’s events. They were charged with a confused tangle of intense emotions, but the Master kept silent for a long time. -- Hee-Haw, NewAgeIslam.com

He made possible a radical criticism of tradition, without making tradition despicable. Few describe the savagery of Indian society with as much bluntness as he does. The greatest indictment of priestly power was it made the poor forget their own humanity. No social structure is religiously sanctioned; societies are products of the operations of power and necessity. -- Pratap Bhanu Mehta

This is where reference to the finest spiritual traditions of humankind may help. They seek to build bridges, not erect barriers, between races and cultures, nations and religions. Unlike the literalists, they do not subscribe to the view that there is only one truth, that there is only one path to discover this truth, that there is only one guide to take you to this destination. In the recent Salman Rushdie controversy, the noblest utterance has come from the outstanding Islamic scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan: ‘The answer to a book is a book, not a ban.’-- Dileep Padgaonkar

Can the Gita be dubbed extremist literature? Indeed, yes, for it advocates extreme action that could result in sweeping annihilation. Does the Gita promote violent acts? Undoubtedly -- doesn’t Krishna suggest you use the sword without hesitation to fulfill your mission? . The Gita is full of killer apps but all of them are metaphysical. That’s why it would be more suitable to call it an extremist, metaphysical document, for you are not meant to read it as an alogrithm that advocates physical, military action. -- Narayani Ganesh

I told them that in Qur’an and in Arabic language jihad does not mean war. The word jihad and its derivatives occur 41 times in Qur’an but not even once for war. For war Qur’an uses the word qital and clearly says that fight only those in the way of Allah who fight against you and do not comment excesses as Allah does not love those who are aggressors.(italics supplied). This clearly shows that Qur’an only permits war of defence, not war of aggression Thus in western countries too education system has become a powerful tool to spread misinformation and prejudices. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

"Our main objective behind teaching Hindu scriptures along with the Quran is to undertake a comparative study of the holy books of the two religions to enable our students to draw similarity between Islam and Hinduism," Ahmad, a teacher at the Islamic seminary, told IANS. "By drawing similarity between the two religions, students will be able to correlate the teachings of Quran with those of the Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu ancient text, which in turn would enable them to respect the two religions in the same manner," he added. The Hindu scriptures were introduced one year ago in the syllabi of the Behroom-Uloom madarsa with an aim to spread communal harmony and brotherhood. The private Islamic seminary was set up in 1964. "The management always asked the teachers to come up with ideas and suggestions for making students good in academics, improving their performance and inculcating moral values," 58-year-old Ahmad said. "In our discussions, we unanimously agreed that apart from grooming students and preparing them for future challenges, our other main objective was to churn out good human beings from the seminary," he said. -- Asit Srivastava

The convention of taking on the husband’s name is so ingrained in Indian society (except in Sikhism, Islam and matrilineal families) that there is no real choice for the young woman at that point. Not complying may seem like a rejection of the husband’s family. (“She does not want to fit in!”) Even women from privileged backgrounds generally go through the customary name change. As the woman settles down in her new name, her personal identity grows and is consolidated in that name. So after divorce, whether she retains that name or not is entirely up to her. She is not the starry-eyed girl entering marriage, she is a disillusioned woman, maybe a mother, an older, more mature individual being displaced from the home she has built and nurtured. She is expected to survive on her own now, and bring up her kids. Whether she changes her name or not must also be left to her. -- Antara Dev Sen

When a particularly obnoxious person - according to you, that is -- shows up prominently in your life, it's time to find your submerged sense of humour and say: "Oh, this must be Teacher of Life Lesson 579 for me!" Or 700, or whatever. Know that there are, and will be, many such teachers... When a person repeatedly upsets, harms or otherwise does something negative towards you, you might think "This will end," or "He will change", and focus on other things. But often you notice that this just does not happen. Let's say a particularly annoying arrogant person, X, is a frequent part of your life. You avoid having much to do with this person. After a while X moves away, or changes jobs. You are relieved; no more contact with this painful person. The problem is no longer there; it no longer triggers your hostility or pain. -- Maguerite Theophil

 

Keeping silent in our times is no easy matter. It needs constant vigilance to restrain oneself from the temptation to constantly speak, to give vent to the mental chatter within. If one deeply studies the lives of saints, sages and prophets of the past, one realizes that these people talked less and worked more. They moved others through their silence. And so, we do not have records of long speeches by them, mostly just short and sweet words that touch the heart. This wisdom they must have attained through long periods of meditation and silence. -- Nigar Ataulla

“GRANDFATHERS have ways of coming up with statements that seem less and less logical as you grow up. Questions like ‘where do babies come from?’ would get strange answers that proved really low on facts as time passed. “Now that he is no more in this world I often find myself wishing for some conversation with him so that I can tell him ‘Look grandpa, you need to update your knowledge’. Another statement by my late grandfather was ‘there are no shortcuts to success.’ Apparently there are, and many of them.” Lastly, I am contemplating applying for Australian immigration. Because I know, once I am a grandfather, I, too, would have to come up with stories like ‘there are no shortcuts to successes. If I stay here I am pretty sure I would be confronted by my grandson or granddaughter; so better pack my bags and leave. The only thing that keeps me from going ahead with the plan is how I would hate the writer’s description at the end of my article to read ‘The writer is a former Pakistani’. -- Syed Saadat 

In Urdu there are many words originating from ‘hajj’ meaning many things apparently quite apart from one another. The root ‘hjj’ means to ‘intend to do something’. The root also implies ‘intending to do something big’. Thus the intention to make a pilgrimage at Mecca is called hajj ‘hajj’. Because of the annual nature of the ritual, the Holy Quran also uses ‘hajj’ to mean ‘year’. The Holy Quran is itself called the final and clear ‘hujjat’ (‘baligha’). ‘Hagio-’ comes from Greek, meaning holy or sacred. It led to expressions like stand in awe of or to worship someone. One thing is certain. The basis of worship has always been sacrifice. In the ritual of hajj, sacrifice (‘qurbani’) is the central act at the popular level. -- Khaled Ahmed

Compassion begins with empathy. Empathy is the ability to feel for another. They who are sensitive to the motions of life, to the experiences of pain and pleasure are capable of empathy. They who have watched the movements of their thoughts, the burden of unnecessary thinking, and the pain of conflicting thoughts know it well. They, who have paid attention to their emotional upsurges, the unintelligent ways of anger, hurt or hate, the irrationality of fear, feel empathy for another who is going through a similar emotion. Hence, compassion begins with attention to one's own life experiences, be it physical or emotional.  Empathy and compassion thus born would naturally blossom into acts of kindness to reach out to others. Well-being of the other is the highest priority for a compassionate person; hence her actions would reflect tremendous intelligence, fortitude and discretion. -- Purnima (Photo: Live life with compassion Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)

Darkness cannot stand the glare of light. But to perceive the full brightness of light one needs total darkness as both darkness and light are complementary and opposite to each other. What is darkness to light, so negativity is to enlightenment. Negativity can never sneak into an enlightened mind for such a mind achieves total control over the senses. Thus, negativity in any form is helpful for alerting, probing as also enlightening the mind of a spiritual seeker. Advaitist Shankaracharya became a jnana-yogi at an early age. One day, he was going towards the Ganga for a bath. Suddenly, he noticed a Chandala (outcaste) coming from the opposite end. To avoid contact he asked the Chandala to step aside but the latter did not heed his request. Shankara was perturbed and warned him again. Seeing Shankar’s anger, Shiva as Chandala replied "O Brahmin! Who are you asking to step aside, the body or the atman? How would they move, as both are inert? Is there a difference then between a Brahmin and a Chandala?" Shankara accepted the truth with humility. -- Moni Mohan Bhattacharyya

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