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Spiritual Meditations

Great spiritual leaders, like Jesus, or Mohammad, or Nanak (and scientists and poets such as Einstein and Kalidas), have enhanced and heightened human consciousness and stand at the highest end of the spectrum. Genocidists like Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot (and terrorists who kill innocent people, and those who violate the bodies and minds of the helpless and the innocent) negate consciousness, to the point of extinction in the most extreme cases, and stand at the lowest part of the spectrum which brackets both saints and sinners, angels and demons. -- Jug Suraiya

 

What we usually think of when emphasizing the inevitability of freedom is rather an idealistic and impractical mindset about a liberal, unrestricted and limitless society in which the residents, from the grassroots, proletariat and workers to the rhetoricians, journalists, dissidents and scholars are free to act, express and challenge in any way they want to. So, what is the external incarnation of this "free" world where the constraints and chains do not exist and people breathe in the air of "freedom" and "liberty" perfectly?  -- Kourosh Ziabari

 

The path of yoga that he taught was the ancient meditative path of raja yoga. The teachings of raja yoga are the best guide to meditation that I know. They are completely non-sectarian, and can be practised with equal effectiveness by anyone regardless of their religious affiliation. Their goal is super-conscious realisation: the realisation of who and what you are in your highest, spiritual reality. It is, as you can see, a very personal goal for each seeker...

I am aware that some people prefer to omit God from any effort at self-improvement, including the practice of meditation. and yet, without aspiration towards some higher reality, one is left meandering mentally. Whether you call that higher reality God, it is infinitely above your normal waking state of awareness. It is, in fact, your own self, and offers the fulfilment of all your deepest longings. – SWAMI KRIYANANDA

Ananda sangha will hold meditation workshops based in teaching of paramhansa Yogananda on April 4 in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida. Please call 9899014209 or (0124)405-9550.

I wonder what that tune is”. I cleverly noticed a sign posted near bandstand so I said to your bhabi, “I’ll go and see”. A little while later I came back and told your bhabi, “It’s the Refrain from Spitting tune”. As we walked around, a janaza came. In London they don’t carry dead body on charpoy with whole mohalla and extanded family walking with it on their shoulders and veiling, crying. -- Jugnu Mohsin

Photo: Nawaz Sharif

 

It’s the story of the new millennium. Exhausted by the dizzying pace of corporate life, jetizens are trading in fat salaries and fatter waistlines for an improved life as full-time volunteers in spiritual orders. Some have also become monks.

A hospital bed is a fine place for some delayed introspection, discovered Malaysian Jigme Semzang as she lay sick in bed, having been brought in with high blood pressure. Further tests confirmed diabetes, high lipid and early menopause. For the 43-year-old jet-setting executive with a pharmaceutical corporation, it was time for some serious rethink.

That was five years ago. Today, Semzang is a size S, unrecognizable to her friends who remember her as an XXL weighing 135lb.At 49,shes fit, energetic and having a whale of a time as a spiritualist in the 12th Gyalwang Drukpas order (( head of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism). -- Meenakshi Sinha

Photo: Tired with dizzying pace of corporate life, many senior executives are taking short breaks and finding peace in the teachings of Buddhism

The spiritual path established by the Messenger fuels the Sufi quest for deeper meanings of why humanity was created. He inspires with the words, “I have come to perfect noble character”. Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife, once commented, “His character was the Quran”. Muslim piety accepts the Prophet as Habib Allah, the beloved of God who revealed hidden mysteries of the universe laying emphasis on the heart. In established traditions, Mohammad said, “When in doubt ask your heart for a decision for virtue is when the heart and soul are at peace”. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

Jahan- e- Khusrau festival returns with some new names and some old. IT’S A rare event to see carefree youngsters hang around to hear a woman sing in a language alien to them. Especially at a time when the 17- year-old popular American band, Backstreet Boys, has just performed live in the city. But that’s what the event held at Select City Walk, Saket, on Monday, to formally announce the launch of this year’s Sufi music festival, Jahan-e-Khusrau, succeeded in achieving. -- Neha Mathur

As I sit at the threshold of the 8th Jahan-e-Khusrau, to happen in the precincts of the tombs of the master Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia and his disciple Amir Khusrau we pray for that moment of Divine design that will accept the supplication of the artistes who will perform with abandon and surrender during these three days. We talk of the same reflection, abandon and surrender as Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi addressing his mentor Shams Tabrez,

Or in the words of Khusrau to his master Hazrat Nizamuddin, who donned a tilted cap...

Kaj kulah kama kusha tang qabaye keesti

labagaran wa dilbara ushwa numaye keesti

(O one with a tilted cap, a fitted garb parted open,

O beloved seducer, reflection of whose endearing ways are you.)

It is the same resonance that emerges from a spiritual quest; the dawning of the same beauty that reinvents human expression; the glow of that Divine design which will forever grace the world. Muzaffar Ali

Photo: Japanese dancer Masako Ono performs at the formal announcement of the upcoming Jahan-e-khusrau festival

These differences have been sharpened after 9/11, with more and more people in the West now seeing Islam and Muslims as being behind the rise in extremist violence in much of the world. Muslims, for their part, see themselves as victims of a rising Islamophobia. Interestingly, the trend towards atheism and agnosticism is far less marked in the United States than in Europe. Well below five per cent of Americans assert they do not believe in any god. Indeed, some Evangelical Christians in America think they have more in common with Muslims than the ‘godless Europeans’.

One reason it is so difficult for many Muslims to become assimilated into the societies they have chosen to live in is the huge cultural differences they encounter. Generally coming from deeply conservative backgrounds, they are shocked with the free and easy lifestyle they encounter. Rather than encouraging their children to integrate, they seek to insulate them from Western values, thus causing a state of mild schizophrenia in second- generation immigrants. Some of these young people become quickly radicalised, and seek clarity in the black-and-white world of religious extremism. Unfortunately, too many of them lack the education to realise that ultimately, no set of beliefs or values is inherently inferior or superior to another.

 Morality, as we have seen, is not the monopoly of any faith: an atheist can be more ethical than a religious person. At the end of the day, what matters is that humans behave with consideration and decency, and avoid imposing their beliefs on others.

-- Irfan Husain

Photo: The belief in a god is generally quite low in all the major European countries

Today this truth is dawning on us that neither faith alone nor reason by itself, can suffice. Both are needed for a successful and meaningful life. Reason alone can make us skeptical and faith alone can make us superstitious. Since rationalists were severely persecuted by the organized religion, they adopted the extreme position of denouncing the faith altogether and stressed sufficiency of reason. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

What attracted Mahatma Gandhi to the New Testament is clearly mentioned by him in his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth.

He says that he was simply thrilled to find a connection, or “unity”, between Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” and the teachings in the Hindu holy text, the Bhagvad Gita.

The said sermon is found in the Gospel of St. Matthew and reads thus: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied; Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God; Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt 5: 3-12)”. -- Dominic Emmanuel

 

Pythagoras went with this technique to Greece, and really, he became the fountainhead, the source of all mysticism in the West. This technique is among the deep methods. Try to understand it. Modern physiology says that between the two eyebrows is the gland that is the most mysterious part of the body. This gland, called the pineal gland, is the third eye to Tibetans. It is the Shivnetra, the eye of the Shiva, of tantra. Between the two eyes there exists a third eye, but it is non-functioning. You have to do something to open it. Otherwise, it remains closed. -- Osho

True religion has no need of state power. True religion stands for the experience of unity and harmony. There are some who say that religion has failed to solve human problems. But that is because religion is being used to accumulate wealth, cure disease and win legal suits. More importance is being given to name and form. Religion is not meant for these things; it is meant to elevate your consciousness on the spiritual plane. So-called religious wars were caused not by religion but by its form and name. The soul of religion is unity. No war can be fought without destroying the spirit of religion. -- Acharya Mahaprajna

 

Sufism, the accepted name for Islamic mysticism, is about awakening the higher consciousness through submission to divine will. Prophet Mohammad 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 Sufi path is about purification of the heart. It’s about how to free oneself from the ego and realise God’s countless attributes within one’s own spirit. Sufis desire to unravel divine mysteries and remove the veils that separate mankind from God. Sufism is the eternal quest for union with God, the beloved. -- Sadia Dehlvi

So is there a god module in our brain? The evidence available seems to indicate that our emotional brain, the limbic system, the hippocampus in particular, perhaps more on the right side, plays a significant role in determining the nature and quality of one's religious experience and expression. It is very likely, the rich neuro-chemical networks that populate this region, including dopamine and serotonin, have considerable influence on our religiosity, notwithstanding the alteration of brain structure, right hippocampal atrophy. Religiosity may thus be viewed as a trait, which can undergo both physiological and pathological evolution during the course of a person's lifetime. The nature of the underlying biological framework in an individual is likely to determine the form, quantum and nature of religious experience and expression that psychosocial adversity and emotional illness provoke. The bio-psychosocial model of mental health and illness dictates that both the physiological and pathological manifestations of this trait marker are likely to be influenced strongly by the sociocultural ethos of the individual, as well as his psychological evolution during the course of a lifespan.

We must acknowledge here, the very significant role that religion and spirituality play, in helping human beings maintain optimal emotional well being or indeed achieve restoration of emotional health after a breakdown. One must also acknowledge our collective ignorance, as a society, about the biological, neuropsychiatric and psychological effects and virtues of theism, atheism and their many-splendored, much-debated, interface. Whether our religious predilections have a role in protecting and preserving or indeed enhancing our emotional state, remains thus, a matter of conjecture. The influence of this god module in our brain, "The Almighty Within", is however probably omnipresent, just as our ancients conceived the almighty himself to be. Strange then, indeed, are his ways! -- Dr. Ennapadam S. Krishnamoorthy

The increasingly universal human being is becoming simplified, devoid of complex ideas and nuances

The dogmatic mind displays, moreover, one further characteristic. It would be a mistake to think that it accepts the existence of only one point of view: the dogmatic mind is a binary mind. Whilst it states that its truth is the only truth, that its Way is exclusive and that its universal is the only universal, that is because it stipulates – at the same time—that anything that does not partake of that truth, that path and that universal is, at best, absolutely ‘other’ and, at worst, culpably mistaken. This simplistic state of mind can sometimes be astonishingly sophisticated; it is, to say the least, disturbing, to observe, at the heart of postmodernity and globalization, the rise of mass movements that are, in varying degrees, intellectualized or emotive, that shape dogmatic and binary minds that are increasingly incapable of accepting the complex multiplicity of points of view, paths and ways. It is as though mass communications, with their colossal powers, their capacity to bring psychological pressures to bear and the uncontrolled complexity of their power to influence us, had shaped a new ordinary human being, in both the East and the West, the North and the South. This increasingly universal human being is, like his fellows, in danger of becoming simplified: we are seeing the global birth of a binary mind that is increasingly devoid of complex ideas and nuances, easily convinced of the truths it is told again and again, colonized by perceptions and impressions that are as intellectually vague as the way it judges others is cut and dried and final. - Tariq Ramadan

Islam lays great emphasis on cleanliness. Other religions too consider it next to godliness. Twentieth century consumer society created a multiple-billion dollar industry out of keeping people clean and smelling well. But as the following essay in the Economist, London, reveals it may now be going out of fashion.

 

In 1861 Imre Madach published “The Tragedy of Man”, a “Paradise Lost” for the industrial age. The verse drama, still a cornerstone of Hungarian literature, describes how Adam is cast out of the Garden with Eve, renounces God and determines to recreate Eden through his own efforts. “My God is me,” he boasts, “whatever I regain is mine by right. This is the source of all my strength and pride.”

Adam gets the chance to see how much of Eden he will “regain”. He starts in Ancient Egypt and travels in time through 11 tableaux, ending in the icebound twilight of humanity. It is a cautionary tale. At the end of Madach’s poem, Adam is about to throw himself off a cliff in despair, when he glimpses redemption. First Eve draws near to tell him that she is to have a child. Then God comes and gently tells Adam that he is wrong to try to reckon his accomplishments on a cosmic scale. “For if you saw your transient, earthly life set in dimensions of eternity, there wouldn’t be any virtue in endurance. Or if you saw your spirit drench the dust, where could you find incentive for your efforts?” All God asks of man is to strive for progress, nothing more. “It is human virtues I want,” He says, “human greatness.”

Ms Neiman asks people to reject the false choice between Utopia and degeneracy. Moral progress, she writes, is neither guaranteed nor is it hopeless. Instead, it is up to us. -- The Economist, London

 

When Google fails, there’s Twitter. Somebody, somewhere, will always have an answer to the question bothering you. The answer need not always be right. None of us look for right answers in life. We look for answers that comfort us. It’s a bit like finding God. If he doesn’t exist, we’ll have to manufacture him.

Why must technology isolate us instead of bonding us with a real world of real people, real passions? How can internet sex be a substitute for the real thing? Yet porn is the biggest business on the Net. How can a Tamagotchi (or any e-pet) replace the love of a real pug? Yet the Japanese are hooked on it. So as this year stumbles to an end, i make this promise to myself. Let me enslave technology, not let it run my life for me. -- Pritish Nandy

 

Dealing with all that causes suffering means to overcome obstacles in our path to progress. There are many ways to accomplish this. First of all it means focusing on strengths and understanding our limitations better. Interacting with positive people helps. Walking in natural environs, spending time alone, reading quietly or listening to music are all activities that engender positive thinking for it connects us to the whole; it opens our eyes to the interconnected nature of life and the concept of Brahmn starts making sense. -- Rashmi Singla

 

The warriors of Islam battle against emptiness

What keeps the world spinning today, he argues in substance, is shallow and ephemeral enthusiasm in the realms of politics, intellectual endeavour and the arts. In each case the yearning is for instant fame, not reputation, for money, not achievement. Even more shallow, and infinitely more dangerous, is collective religious fervour and the resurgence of narrow identities. No less worrisome is the homogenisation of cultures.

All this explains, he says, why China, quite apart from its imperial ambition, is a banal country or why Japan's quest for identity is so troubling. America, as is evident from its misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, cannot look beyond its nose. A wave of mediocrity sweeps across the length and breadth of Europe. The warriors of Islam battle against emptiness…. Dileep Padgaonkar

Education here is based on rote memorisation, with virtually no emphasis on creative thinking. Few schools here even teach the theory of evolution.

“Our culture, the whole Arab culture unfortunately, does not encourage free thinking,” said Madiha el-Safty, a sociology professor at American University in Cairo. “You’re not encouraged to think freely, you’re supposed to be moulded into certain forms and frameworks.”

In large part because of the emphasis on memorisation over critical thinking, many here say, the quality of the education is poor. While countries in the region often spend as much or more than the world average per pupil, the results are frequently far below average.

Egypt, for example, once considered the intellectual capital of the Arab world, was recently ranked 124th of 133 countries in the quality of its primary education by the World Economic Forum, based in Switzerland. Other global assessments have provided equally dismal results. -- Michael Slackman

 

Just a few years ago, it seemed curious that an omniscient, omnipotent God wouldn’t smite tormentors like Mr Richard Dawkins, Mr Christopher Hitchens and Mr Sam Harris. They all published best-selling books excoriating religion and practically inviting lightning bolts.

Traditionally, religious wars were fought with swords and sieges; today, they often are fought with books. And in literary circles, these battles have usually been fought at the extremes.

Fundamentalists fired volleys of Left Behind novels, in which Jesus returns to earth to battle the Anti-Christ (whose day job was secretary-general of the United Nations). Meanwhile, devout atheists built mocking websites like www.whydoesGodhateamputees.com. The site notes that though believers periodically credit prayer with curing cancer, God never seems to regrow lost limbs. It demands an end to divine discrimination against amputees.

This year is different, with a crop of books that are less combative and more thoughtful. One of these is The Evolution of God, by Mr Robert Wright, who explores how religions have changed — improved. He notes that God, as perceived by humans, has mellowed from the capricious warlord sometimes depicted in the Old Testament who periodically orders genocides...

 As for Christianity, Mr Wright argues that it was Saint Paul — more than Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet — who emphasised love and universalism and built Christian faith as it is known today. Saint Paul focused on these elements, he says, partly as a way to broaden the appeal of the church and convert Gentiles.

Wright detects an evolution toward an image of God as a more beneficent and universal deity, one whose moral compass favors compassion for humans of whatever race or tribe, one who is now firmly in the anti-genocide camp. Wright’s focus is not on whether God exists, but he does suggest that changing perceptions of God reflect a moral direction to history — and that this in turn perhaps reflects some kind of spiritual force. -- Nicholas D. Kristof

 

According to one belief, God created Man in his likeness; God created Man as the supreme creation. However, when I examine human beings, myself included, I come short wondering if that's what God was able to do best! Man has looked inside the heart of atoms, man has looked into the vast galaxies of the Universe but fails to look inside his own heart and soul; man has achieved remarkable feats, from scaling Mount Everest to creating microprocessors but man has not yet overcome his desire to destroy things around him, from other human beings to the atmosphere he breaths. Man is indeed unique, for we know not another beast like us but to say that we represent the best work of God is a bit assumptive. George Carlin, a famous comedian, who died last year but wrote a remarkable piece before his death that I quote here because I cannot write a better one. -- Sarfaraz K. Niazi

A Message from George Carlin: The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

Gita is a practical guide to day-to-day problems, challenges and obligations of life. It takes us to real freedom and real success. Gita stipulates that real freedom is freedom from attachment, aversion, ego, greed, anger and fear. For Gita, real worship consists of doing one’s duty with perfection without being distracted by thoughts of outcome of our action. It liberates us from all bondages, doubts, self-imposed limitations, anxieties and fears, and enables us to lead happier, fuller, contented, peaceful, blissful and supremely successful life...

Gita teaches that it is our duty to fight for justice. Bhagvad Gita is the journey of a despondent Arjun, who, faced with the prospect of fighting his near and dear ones in the battle, has thrown away his weapons in the battlefield (as narrated in shloka 1.47), to a self-assured Arjun ready to fight (as described in shloka 18.73). Arjun’s refusal to face the challenge at Kurukshetra is explained in shloka 1.47 as follows:¬

Evam uktava Arjun sankhye rathopasth upavisht,

Visarijya sasharam chapam shok sanvigna manasah.

(Thus, uttering the despondent words, grief stricken Arjun threw away his bow and arrows, and sat down on the chariot in the battlefield). -- JG Arora

 

To their way of believing, focusing on God leads to a state of bliss that opens the door to transcendence and enlightenment. But if God is truly all that is, what can possibly make one of his names more powerful than any other? For that matter, what is the purpose of naming him (or her or it) in the first place? Naming anything creates a subject/object relationship between you and the thing named, and that in and of itself means a separation. Every name of God, no matter how holy, drives a wedge between the creator and the created which includes you and me. This separation is the primal breeding ground for fear, for we then see ourselves as tiny beings, abandoned (or evicted from Paradise) and living on the fringe of an incomprehensibly huge cosmos.Jean Claude Koven

 
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