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Books and Documents

Spiritual Meditations

An Urdu tome that I recently chanced upon, Syed Ahmad Uruj Qadri’s Awliya-e-Allah (Friends of God), is a fascinating critique of the traditional Sufi understanding of the awliya of God. Before I turn to this book, a brief account of the traditional Sufi concept of the wali and the hierarchy of the awliya is in order. According to the tradition known in Sufi literature as the hadith (saying) of Abdullah ibn Masud, there are 355 or 356 awliya, ‘upon whom the life and death of all nations depends.’ In popular Sufism, these awliya are considered spiritually exalted creatures, raised far above the level of the common Muslim masses, and ordered in a grand cosmic hierarchy.  Various Sufi shaikhs have been taken by their followers to be the qutb or the ‘pole’ or ‘axis’ around which the entire cosmos revolves, around whom are a host of lesser awliya of lesser ranks, such as the nuqabaawtadabrar,abdalakhyar and mijaba. These and other such cosmic hierarchies that the Sufis elaborated upon were believed to be the spiritual power through which the order and the continued existence of the cosmos were assured. Belief in this hierarchy of Sufis reflected the steeply hierarchical feudal system when this belief was evolved or invented. -- Yoginder Sikand

God laws are eternal and unalterable and not separable from God Himself. It is an indispensable condition of His very perfection.

Hence there is great confusion that the Buddha disbelieved in God and simply believed in the moral law.

Because of this confusion about God Himself arose the confusion about the proper understanding of the great word Nirvana. Nirvana is undoubtedly not utter extinction. So far as I understand the central fact of the Buddha’s life, Nirvana is utter extinction of all that is base in us, all that is vicious in us, and all that is corrupt and corruptible in us. Nirvana is not like the black dead peace of the grave, but the living peace, the living happiness of a soul which is conscious of itself and conscious of having found its own abode in the heart of the Eternal...

Non-violence is an intensely active force when properly understood and used. A violent man’s activity is most visible, while it lasts. But it is always transitory ... as transitory as that of Chenghis’s slaughter. But the effects of the Buddha’s non-violent action persist and are likely to grow with age. And the most it is practised, the more effective and inexhaustible it becomes, and ultimately the whole world stands agape and exclaims: ‘a miracle has happened’. -- M K Gandhi

O Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way, I can’t wait to look in the mirror ’cause I get better looking each day — these words from Mac Davis’ song are symptomatic of a modern malaise: I-disease. The Bible tells us that Primal Man, Adam, too, suffered from I-disease leading to the “Fall of Man” (Genesis, Chapter 3), which mustn’t be taken as a historical event but as profoundly true in its message: “Pride comes before a fall”.-- Francis Gonsalves

We all think man fears death. But, in reality, he fears himself. The remorses and repentances of life haunt him. One who has no remorse, nor any ground for repentance, has no reason to fear death. Death, the most dreaded evil for many, is not so for those who are spiritually illumined. For them it is of little concern.

Only right living can prepare us for safe or even joyous dying. Let us, then, be of good cheer about death and know this that no evil can happen to a good man either in life or after death. Death, be assured, is no evil. It is impossible that a thing so natural, so necessary, and so universal should ever have been designed by our Creator as an evil to mankind. -- By J.S. Neki

I‘ve got an email with title “your religion is not important”. In this email, a Brazilian theologist of freedom named Leonardo Boff had a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I like the wise answer from Dalai Lama.

With his interest, he asked Dalai Lama:

“What is the best religion?”

Dalai Lama answered,

“The best religion is the one that gets you closest to God. It is the one that makes you a better person.”

Such a wise answer, Boff asked again:

You have a sacred task of taking a sacred idea into sacred space — you have to be cleansed of impurities to do so. You need writers burning with the desire to put spirituality, humanity and aesthetics in an intriguing and dramatic format. Then you need poets fired by love to create lyrics that will rock the soul. You need composers who can compose with the same ecstatic abandon as such poetry may demand. Singing Sufiana means singing Sufiana and for this you have to see the Sufiana in every form of singing and in every relationship in life. You cannot sing Sufiana if you are ungrateful, if you are petty and jealous, competitive and aggressive. Some can make the connect and in some cases their ego interferes. The audience is not coming to you directly. It is taking the same route as the singer... the divine route. Few understand this as commerce and intellect often comes in between. First you have to receive light from that divine connection to pour out your soul. ...

And in such a journey you find tassawuf (Sufism) in everything and everything in tassawuf. The power of music on the big screen is still untapped. The power of the voice has to rise to meet the challenge of a harsh changing world. Sufi films and music that is waiting to be born on Indian soil very soon, in these music will become the reality of the subject. You can’t pay lip service to tassawuf in cinema. It has be the ethos the film, it has be the ethos of the reality the country is steeped in.

Thus this journey has taken me to a realm when poetry and music, soul and reality, singer and the listener have become one. However, it is here where the challenge lies and needs to be addressed. -- Muzaffar Ali

Tribulations teach compassion, for those who experience tragedy and pain can feel what others go though in similar situations. Commenting on the state of the truly pious of earlier communities, the Prophet said, “By the one whose hand is my soul, they would show joy on the onset of a calamity, as you show joy at time of ease”. Islamic spirituality prepares the soul to be in a continuous state of mutmainah, contentment. It teaches not to be perturbed, anxious and never to prejudge Allah, for He knows best — the Quran informs us that humanity is given only a small amount of knowledge, the explanations of the unseen will unfold in the hereafter. Allah tells us never to despair from His rahmah, mercy, for, “Verily, with every difficulty, there is relief” (96:4). --Sadia Dehlvi

O God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.

You are all Light.

You are all Knowledge and Bliss.

You are Destroyer of fear,

You are Creator of this Universe,

You are the Greatest of all.

We bow and meditate upon Your light.

You guide our intellect in the right direction.

The mantra, however, has a great scientific import too, which somehow got lost in the literary tradition. The modern astrophysics and astronomy tell us that our Galaxy called Milky Way or Akash-Ganga contains approximately 100,000 million of stars. Each star is like our sun having its own planet system. We know that the moon moves round the earth and the earth moves round the sun along with the moon. All planets round the sun.

Each of the above bodies revolves round at its own axis as well. Our sun along with its family takes one round of the galactic center in 22.5 crore years.

All galaxies including ours are moving away at a terrific velocity of 20,000 miles per second.

Religion and Reason
Wahiduddin Khan

It is true that Scholastics invented what professed to be logical arguments proving the existence of God, and that these arguments, or others of a similar tenor, have been accepted by many eminent philosophers, but the logic to which these traditional arguments appealed is of an antiquated Aristotelian sort which is now rejected by practically all logicians except such as are Catholics. There is one argument that is not purely logical. I mean the argument from design….

It appears to me that some people do not seem to understand Monotheism (One God in a dual state- Creator and Creation as two), and they tend to confuse this with Monism (One God in a single state – Creator and Creation as one).  Well these are two different things and it is not difficult to understand the difference with the help of an example. I do not intend hurting the religious sensibility of any one with my example, as this is meant only to explain an otherwise complex and at the same time sacrosanct idea....

A critic and an atheist can still say that he does not see His powers or effects in the world (and so he does not accept His existence) , but  a Muslim sees His powers or effects in whatever he sees around, and so he believes in His existence. -- Manzoorul Haque

 

Why had she made a plea for us to accept her gift? Because, by accepting the kindness of strangers, the recipient gives back the greater gift of trust? Bunny had taken the apple. And by doing so, had perhaps given back something in exchange. A belief in our common humanness, a mutual recognition that the person who receives is also a giver.

A simple thought to remember, particularly when we in India are -- at long last -- preparing to reach out to those of us who all their lives have known only hunger and poverty. Think of what they might be waiting to give us. Not gratitude, never that. But perhaps a mirror -- flat, hard and unsentimental -- in which we see ourselves, as we might have been, as we might be one day. The gift of ourselves for the price of a toffee apple? What better bargain in the world. But why does it take wars, or volcanoes, for us to find that out? -- Jug Suraiya

 

I am glad that I am fully aware that I will die. Ever since I walked the Road to Santiago, I realised that — as long a life continues, and we are all eternal — there will be an end one day...

The Indians say, “Today is as good a day as any to leave this world.” And a witch once remarked, “That death is always sitting next to you. So, when you need to do important things, it will give you the strength and courage.” I hope you, my reader, have come to be aware not only of statistics, but of your mission on this earth. Yes, all of us will die sooner or later. But accepting it is the best way to be prepared for life. -- Paulo Coelho

 

God is beyond all religions and no religion can claim to possess absolute truth or make the claim of being the norm for all the others. Truly religious persons cannot be exclusive. They can discern the presence of God in every religion. 
Ramakrishna and Sri Satya Sai Baba of Shirdi did not find any contradiction in practising different religions. They exemplify the ideal of finding God in all religions and respecting the faith, symbols and practices of other religions. It is untenable to hold on to a position that God's revelation occurs only in a particular country or culture. God has no "chosen people" for all are God's people. A person with a deep experience of God and rooted in his own faith will not be threatened by other religions, but rather would rejoice in the diversity of religious experiences. 
Harmonious relationship between religions is possible when followers of all religions realise that the infinite mystery of God cannot be exhaustively grasped. -- Thomas Chillikulam

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

 
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