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Spiritual Meditations

According to religious tradition, God created the human being and settled him in paradise. But after some time, man committed a grave error and was sent down to earth. In the beginning, God wanted to settle the whole of the human race in paradise, but after we sinned, God changed His plan. Thereafter, only selected individuals would be allowed to enter paradise. According to this story of creation, we lost our initial advantage and since then only the second best has been available to us. This story shows us the right direction for our lives. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

“The Islam of the Sufis spread faster than the Islam of the sword. Soon, it became the popular religion of the masses as opposed to the orthodox, often puritanical Islam of the theologian.” This is a line from a chapter on the 13th century monument, Bakhtiyar Kaki's dargah, from the book, Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments of Delhi, a nice and informative coffee-table book with lovely pictures and interesting text about the many famous and not-so-well-known monuments in the Capital. -- Irena Akbar

 

Times change, and with them what, where, and how people eat. In fifteenth-century London a man could be hanged for eating meat on Friday. An ancient Roman was expected to wear a wreath to a banquet. The potato in sixteenth-century Europe was believed to cause leprosy and syphilis. As of two years ago, 19% of America’s meals were being eaten in cars. The contract between humankind and nature remains in force for as long as it is understood which one is the tenant and which one the landlord. The contract between landlord and tenant doesn’t come up for review until the seventeenth-century plantings of capitalist finance give rise to the Industrial Revolution. -- Lewis H. Lapham

 

I halted at the State Tourism Guest House outside Taxila Museum.  Archaeological sites dating back to the 5th century B.C. offers a glimpse of rich Gandhara arts, architecture, sculpture and learning of the Buddhist heritage of the central Asian civilization.  Entire site of this great historical vintage was well preserved and protected by armed guards.  Security officer’s room was echoing with popular Indian songs. Looking at the artefacts of the ancient heritage one wonders what had gone wrong with the people of this great civilisation. Just a few kms. away, beyond the Khyber Pass, monumental structures of the great civilization, 5 storey tall, mountain statues of Bamian Buddhas were, inside Afghanistan,  blown to dust by the Taliban government.  A young curator confirmed unnecessary hostility prevailing towards “Indian civilization”.  No Pakistani visits the site of Taxila, nor had any Indian visited Taxila confirmed the curator. Has he visited the Buddhist sites in India? -- Dhirendra Sharma

My spiritual tree never left its allotted space. Neither did it ever protest against anyone; it never demanded that others find its new, living leaves. It remained at the same place and started a new process within itself. What was this process? The process was to get its food from below as well as from sunlight. The strategy worked. The whole of nature came to its aid and after some months, it gained its lost greenery once again. This is the lesson I learned from my spiritual tree. No protest, no complaint, no demand, no street activism or stage activism: simply trust your own natural abilities and work silently. Try to reshape your destiny. And very soon you will be glad to discover that you have regained your life.  What is a tree? A tree is an illustration from nature. Nature tells us of its scheme through trees - that after every winter, a new spring will follow. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Once a proud but benevolent king sent for his prime minister and said, "All of us have some definite work or assignment to perform. A king rules, a soldier fights, a trader trades, a teacher teaches and a preacher preaches, though as individuals they do other things also. Then what is the primary function of the Creator? Can you answer my question?"  The minister was puzzled. No one knew, and no book ever explained what God's work was. After some thought, he said, "I, too, have often wondered about this like you. But my duty here is to advise and assist you on worldly affairs. This involves spiritual matters and the right person to answer you is our bishop." -- Acharya Ratnananda

My father is my hero and opened the doors of wisdom to us. Pluralism indeed runs in my family. He taught one of the biggest lessons of my life in social cohesiveness and dealing with extremism that I continue to reflect in my talks, acts and write ups. During the communal riots in Jabalpur (India) in the early sixties, both Muslims and Hindus were killed in the mayhem. I wish every father in India, America and elsewhere teaches this lesson to his kids. He was crystal clear on his take; He told us the "individuals" are responsible for the bloodshed and not the religions; he would emphasize that you cannot blame the intangible religion and expect justice, we must blame the individuals who caused it and punish them accordingly for disturbing the peace and thus bring a resolution to the conflict by serving justice. He said you cannot annihilate, kill, hang or beat the religion, then why bark at it? He broke all traditions of the society; during the early sixties India was pretty much like the US in the way she treated her "Harijan - God's chosen people as Mahatma Gandhi termed the "untouchables".-- Mike Ghouse

 

President, Center for Informed Faith:

Should our government have sanctioned the death of Osama bin Laden? At least three options exist within Christian theology. One is "total pacifism," building on the words of Jesus: "Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). Most interpreters, however, believe that his words had to do with personal slander, not self-defense or war. A second could be termed "pragmatic initiative," building on the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 6). When an enemy threatens us, we are sanctioned biblically to defend ourselves even if we must initiate aggression. Most interpreters, however, see the conquest of Canaan as a one-time necessity rather than an abiding biblical principle. A third approach builds on "just war" theory. -- William McKenzie

The habit - of forgetting - leads you to many good things. It saves you from distraction, it economises your energy, it prevents you from wasting your time, and it shields you from negative thoughts. All these things are so important for a better life that any sacrifice to achieve it is certainly worth it.  In life your share is only 50%. The rest of the 50% is supplied by others. Living with bitter memories means that you are not ready to accept this law of nature. You cannot change the law of nature, so change yourself. This will give you the gift of a comfortable life in every situation.-- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.  Once we learn to see with the eyes of the heart, or what Islamic mystics have called chasm-e-dil, we begin to inhabit a world transformed by our seeing. The bland or unattractive reveals hidden beauty, the ordinary becomes sacred, everyday events take on new meaning and depth. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back always making little surprises and springing them on us when we least expect it. -- Marguerite Theophil

 

Discontent not only leads to an unending passion to achieve some prospective goal but it also engenders an unremitting urge to achieve more and more. Thus it becomes the master key for a high degree of success, whatever the field of action. Where contentment puts a full stop to everything, discontent pushes you on a non-stop journey. This is the greatest advantage of depression. Unpleasant experiences are painful but they make a necessary contribution to advanced intellectual development. Without undergoing this kind of experience, no one can be a super achiever. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

 

Not everyone is comfortable with newness. I often meet people who are afraid of new ways of thinking and acting. Clinging onto the past, they mask their fears with: “We’ve been doing this for ages” or “this is the way things have always been” excuses. However, the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus is that we discover a totally new way of the divine action; encountering the Risen Christ means to be so totally transformed by the experience that we go around proclaiming that God transforms self-sacrificing deaths into life and that truth, ultimately, will triumph. -- Francis Gonsalves

 

Ideas can’t be seen. Love can’t be seen. Honor can’t be seen. This isn’t a new concept. Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism have all taught for thousands of years that the highest forms of reality are invisible and mysterious. And these realities will never be reducible to clear-cut scientific formulae for the simple reason that they will never be fully comprehensible to the human mind. God didn’t mean them to be. -- Anthony DeStefano

When the soul as a result of the positive karmas of the past life meets the Guru, only then it chooses to go back to the state it came from. With the blessing of the Guru, it chooses the path of sadhana, the path of evolution and reaches the state of complete merger. The journey of the spirit gets completed there. This state is described by ancient rishis as “Aham Brahmasmi”, “I am like Brahma” — not Brahma but part of the unmanifested, or to say looking similar to Brahma, like salt in the ocean..-- Yogi Ashwini

After four years of research, at least one thing became clear: Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. The “insurmountable hostility” between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliché, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality. Ecklund’s study serves as a corrective to that caricature. In the first section of her book, which focuses on religion and spirituality in scientists’ personal lives, she finds that only 15 percent of scientists hold firmly to the “conflict paradigm” — believing there is “no hope for achieving a common ground of dialogue between scientists and religious believers.” Meanwhile, a significant minority of the respondents, 36 percent, acknowledged holding at least some sort of belief in God. These ranged from “I believe in a higher power, but it is not God” (8 percent) to “I believe in God sometimes” (5 percent) to “I have some doubts, but I believe in God” (14 percent) to “I have no doubts about God’s existence” (9 percent). -- Peter Lopatin

 

What’s surprising is just how fathomable Beauvois makes their choice. The martyrs come out as heroes, but not especially superhuman ones. The Christian love they’re striving for takes very specific form in the people that they serve. Nobody wants to die. They’re not even trying to change the world, really, but only bear witness to it normally, day by day. This, too, is typically Trappist; a vow all monks take is to bind them to a place. It’s also, in the etymological sense, martyrdom. The presence of French monks in Algeria in the first place isn’t unproblematic. Cistercians first arrived in 1843, and they were very much a part of the colonial system. Father Christian may have had this partly in mind when he wrote, in a “testament” left behind after his death that “I am complicit with the evil that, alas, prevails over the world.” He served as a soldier there in his early twenties, and it was then that an Algerian friend saved his life at the cost of his own. Christian went on to become a student of Arabic and the Qur’an—a fact which once gets the monks out of a tight spot—and he treated the problem of Muslim-Christian relations as an opportunity to learn as much as to teach. -- Nathan Schneider

 

"Why has this happened and why did it affect us so adversely?" is the question asked by millions of people. Nobody has the perfect answer! Some blame it on global warming and other on the lack of dams. What could be more unfortunate that even at this hour of misery and loss the nation is divided? There is evident lack of trust. Many suspect that there are people at helm of affairs who would rather siphon of the aid to their personal accounts - leaving these miserable unsupported. Of the foreign countries that are willing to help us, most are hesitant to trust our hierarchy. More disturbingly, even the local population prefers to contribute on their own, in their own way resulting in total lack of coordination. How many a town We destroyed! Our wrath came upon it as they slumbered at night or they reposed by day. Their only plea, as Our wrath fell upon them, was to say; 'We were indeed wicked'. (Al Quran 7: 4-5). -- Dr. Muhammad Hafizullah

You have always thought of God as a father, up in the heavens somewhere. When you think of God as a father, you will want to demand and take from Him. Why do you want to pray? What do you want to ask? A good father already knows what to give. Assume you are the most beloved of the Divine; then surrender happens. Surrender is not an action, it is an assumption. Non-surrender is ignorance, an illusion. Surrender begins as an assumption and then it reveals itself as a reality. The world is made up of both; the seen universe and the unseen consciousness. It is the form of the Divine but the Divine is formless. There is no "two", no duality. For God, there is no you and I. -- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Recently I spent two days at the Nagaur Sufi Music Festival, held amidst the magnificent Nagaur Fort. Hosted by the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, the three-day festival celebrated devotional expressions. Over 300 people from various parts of the globe participated in the festival. It included local Rajasthani folk singers and musicians from Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Turkey.

Nagaur is a two-hour drive from Jodhpur. From emperor Akbar’s time up to the end of Mughal rule in India, Nagaur changed hands, from the Rathores of Jodhpur, Bikaner, to the Mughals. Veiled in obscurity for years, the fort has recently been restored. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

People judge you mostly by your outward manifestation in terms of your personality, attire, the way you carry yourself and your status in society. You judge yourself by what you think you are capable of doing, while others judge you by what you have already done. An individual's perception about himself is mostly coloured by the twin conditions of self- importance and ego, albeit in varying degrees. Very few are keen to find out the real Self hidden within to ascertain one's true identity. Knowledge of the Self is one of the most important fundamentals of philosophy.  The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states, "Whosoever departs from this world without having realized his own inner world, to him, life has been of no service. It remains unlived, like unrecited Vedas or any other undone deed. -- Prabhakar V Begde

 

Spirituality is a term that is often mistaken for a life of asceticism, meant either for aged people or saints, or for people who have proved an utter failure in material life or the last resort of those who are fed up with the material world. It is a paradox that preceptors are often faced by the question, at what age should one start spiritual life! The pity is that even learned people often associate this term with the “other phase” of a man’s life. This is because of the wrong conception that the essence of spirituality is detachment from worldly relations. The fact, however, is that spirituality and material life on earth are interwoven and complementary to each other. One without the other is incomplete and rather uninspiring. A person leading material life has to imbibe certain values and virtues in his life since childhood. Practice of humanitarian activities adds to one’s worth. Possessing qualities like love and concern for fellow beings, respect for sages and elders, regard for parents and siblings, purity in thought, word and deed etc, ascribe to one’s personality the glow of spiritualism.-- V. Balakrishnan

 

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

 
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