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Spiritual Meditations

Two days ago, Adil Najam’s website carried a photographic report of a different kind—of religious extremists attacking Shia processions in Lahore and Karachi, and killing dozens of people. “Pakistan is at war,” Najam wrote in anguish and despair. In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a series of terrorist strikes targeting Shias, Ahmediyas and Sufis. This made me ponder over a troubling paradox. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Islam’s insistence on righteousness and God-consciousness is loud and clear, more emphatically so in the practice of fasting and prayers during Ramzaan. Why, then, do a minority of Muslims exhibit that streak of extreme intolerance which rejects other faiths as false or aberrant, seeks to violently suppress diversity within Islam, and never hides its ultimate goal of establishing a uniform and dogmatic interpretation of Islam as the reigning faith all over the world? -- Sudheendra Kulkarni

 

Wasifuddin Dagar, president of the Dhrupad Society, represents the 20th generation of a family that has nurtured the dhrupad tradition in music. His forefathers were court musicians, dating back to the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. Dagar, 42, spoke to Humra Quraishi:

We believe that it's Allah who is the Provider, who bestows on you your daily bread. In our rendering there's pulse for rhythm, pitch for 'swar' and pause for silence. Like mere words do not and cannot make a speech so just about any sort of music cannot reach or touch us. Our rendering starts with the tanpura in the background and then the alaap.

In the green room, the sound of the tanpura sets the raga and we can delve into that pure sound of the alaap for hours at a stretch, but sometimes even wrap it up in a few minutes depending on that particular moment. We can lose sense of time and space while singing and so do some listeners. It cannot be done at will, it happens only through His Grace and that is why we pray to Him to give us a good mood.

 

What is the greatest dharma? It is said, “Non-violence or non-injury is the supreme dharma”. Violence is something that disturbs the entire society, and it begins at the mental level. Dislike can turn to anger, and if uncontrolled it will result in physical and emotional abuse within the home as well as in the society. We usually consider violence only at the physical level, but it can occur at the thought and speech level also. So it is important to practice non-injury (ahimsa) at all levels — at the levels of thought and speech as well as the physical level. -- Swami Tejomayananda

One of ships in the Turkish flotilla carrying aid for Gaza was named ‘Rachel Corrie’, after the 23-year old American peace activist who was martyred on March 16, 2003, when she tried to prevent an advancing Israeli bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home by standing in front of it, as part of non-violent resistance by International Solidarity Movement activists. The Israeli Defence Forces fulfilled her premonition, when she wrote to her mother back in the US that “if the Israeli military should break with their racist tendency not to injure white people, please pin the reason squarely on the fact that I am in the midst of a genocide”. She sent out a loud message not only to her mother, but to the entire world that they needed to open their eyes to the plight of the Palestinians and shed complacency, that the American government and people are complicit in the genocide being systematically carried out in Gaza through their policy to support Israel. Hers is the modern day parable of courage and conviction. -- Ishrat Saleem

My first Ramadan, when I was 30 years old and a relatively new Muslim, was a bit of a disaster. Since becoming a Muslim, I'd had an eventful year. I had been an award-winning television presenter on MTV Europe and host of the youth show Bravo TV in Germany. But my conversion had sparked a negative press campaign in the German media which led to me losing my presenting work almost overnight. -- Kristiane Backer

 

The thought that someone else will clean for you is playing havoc with our inner and outer environment. If 75 per cent of the population is entitled to throw dirt around and only 25 per cent is supposed to clean it, what will be the quality of cleanliness? The outer mess is a reflection of the inner mess. Indian mind is a junkyard. It is full of old baggage because it is attached to the old — old ideas, beliefs, conditioning, culture. Osho calls it “garbage”. When there is a heap of garbage within, how can the outside be without it? It is high time we realise that old is no more gold, old is dead. Osho defines cleanliness as emptiness: “You have to clean yourself; and nothing less than emptiness will be accepted as cleanliness. In the West they say, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’. There is no god so there is no question about that. But I say, ‘Cleanliness is just next to emptiness. In fact, cleanliness is another name for inner emptiness'. The outer garbage is a symptom, a reflection of the inner garbage. -- Amrit Sadhana

 

Breathing is a divine act. It takes one deep within one’s body and soul; it explores the realm of sound that awakens the consciousness. It explores the zahir, the outward, and the batin, the inward.

“And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels:

Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered.

So, when I have made him and have breathed into him My spirit...’ (Quran 15:28 -29)...

The Sufis resort to the use of divine names, which condense and compress the effect of a longer recitation into a brief space, which becomes Dhikr. Yoga teaches that the body reflects the breath, the breath reflects the mind, the mind reflects the heart and the heart reflects the soul. The Kapalbhaati and the deep breathing in pranayaam is a measure of one’s healing power. As you learn to become still, you take your attention to where you want the healing to happen. For the Taoist, the conscious cultivation of breath offers a powerful way not only to extract energies from the outside world but also to regulate the energetic pathways of our inner world, helping to bring our body, mind and emotions into a harmonious balance. -- Muzaffar Ali

 

The world and all who share in it have suffered too long from the spiritual provincialism that results from clinging to our separate dogmas so fiercely that we behave in ways that mock the very message that they were created to promote. The followers of every religion - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, all have at one time or another been both perpetrators and victims of the sin of enmity toward those who do not share their specific doctrines or their history.  It is long past time for all of us to honor our faiths by allowing their dogmas to serve their true purpose of revealing the universal message of love for all of our fellow sufferers on this earth.

When we are truly religious, our faiths serve to unite, not divide us; they lead us into conversation, understanding and compassion; they do not become excuses for hostility and strife.  If peace is to become more than a fantasy, we must not let the differences among our doctrines and rituals lead us down paths that can end only in suffering and death. Instead, we must learn to talk to one another - and listen to one another, using as the common vocabulary of our conversation the two great truths that are the priceless gift of our religions. -- Norm Phelps

"O you who believe, seek assistance through patience and prayer; surely Allah is with the patient. And speak not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, (they are) alive, but you perceive not. And We shall certainly try you with something of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits. And give good news to the patient, who, when a misfortune befalls them, says: Surely we are Allah's, and to Him we shall return. Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord; and those are the followers of the right course." –The Holy Quran (2:153-157)

This, of course, does not mean that we should not speak up against the evils of corruption, cheating, lying, exploitation of the poor and the downtrodden. What Jesus is warning us against is to stop judging and criticising others on those very things that we could be found guilty of. Before we speak about others it may be good to go through the thest which socrates administered to some one who came to complain to him about one of his students. Before he could start, Socrates asked him, “a)Are you sure that what you will say is true? B) Is it something good? And c) Is what you want to tell me going to be useful to me at all?” When the answer to all the three was in negative, Socrates told him, “ If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?” -- Dominic Emmanuel

Today, empowering your heart to control your mind is the essence of any education philosophy. Thus today, more than ever before, we need to think with our hearts.

India’s cultural subjugation had begun even before the first war of Indian Independence in 1857. In 1835, Lord Macaulay said about India in British Parliament: “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”. -- Muzaffar Ali

... This “basic structure” lies embedded in the Upanishadic thought. Its central message is that all life in this universe is divine and individuals are “divine specks” of the same Supreme Divinity, which permeates the inextricably enmeshed cosmic web of human existence. In this metaphysical principle, the notion of equality is in-built. If the same divinity is embodied in different individuals, they cannot but be equal. The Bhavishya Purana says: “Since members of all the four castes are children of God, they all belong to the same caste. All human beings have the same father and children of the same father cannot have different castes”. Because of widespread ignorance about Hinduism and the extensive interpolations and manipulations which it has undergone over the ages, few in India today understand its fundamental principles and propositions. The very soul of Hinduism debunks the caste system. The only source to which the origin of this system could be attributed is the second portion of Purusha-sakta hymn of the Rig Veda, wherein it is stated that the purusha was cut into four parts, the first pertaining to his mouth, the second to his arms, the third to his thighs and the fourth to his feet. An interpretation of this statement was drawn to lay down that the Brahmin came from the highest portion of the Supreme Self and shudra from the lowest. In between came the kshatriyas, the warrior class, and the vaishyas, the traders, agriculturists etc. This interpretation is, clearly, arbitrary and untenable. Nor is there any scriptural authority on the basis of which the caste system could be made either hereditary or water-tight. In his remarkable write-up, titled Un-Hindu Spirit of Caste-Rigidity, Sri Aurobindo has pertinently observed: “The baser ideas underlying the degenerate perversions of the caste system, the mental attitude which bases them on a superiority, depending on the accident of birth of a fixed and intolerant inequality, are inconsistent with the supreme teaching, the basic spirit of Hinduism which sees the one invariable and indivisible Divinity in every individual being”. -- Jagmohan

Sufis have a treasure of stories relating to methods used in replacing unworthy attributes by praiseworthy qualities. One day the bazaars of Baghdad caught fire and Sari Saqti, the ninth century mystic was informed that his shop had burnt down. He later learnt that somehow his shop did not get destroyed in the fire whereas most of the other shops in the street had been destroyed completely. Saqti said he gleefully thanked God, but soon realised his selfishness in not feeling immense pain for fellow shopowners. He admitted to repenting that one sin for over 40 years. Eventually, Saqti gave away the shop and everything he owned to the poor and embraced the Sufi path. -- Sadia Dehlvi

 

There are wide inter-religious differences in the quality and intensity of repentance depending on what is considered as the origin of evil. In the Christian faith, for example, the source of evil is the tempter Satan. In Sikh theology, God Himself is considered the author of good as well as evil. Surprised by this Sikh concept, a Christian would exclaim, “How can God be the author of evil?” However, a little open-mindedness can resolve the paradox. The omnipotent Christian God could have exterminated the rebellious Satan, if He wanted to. But He didn’t. Isn’t He Himself then responsible for the presence of evil in the world? Apart from blaming Satan for tempting him, a Christian might also blame himself for getting tempted. That often leads to a biting sense of guilt and an excruciating sense of repentance. A Sikh on the other hand would invoke God to divert his mind from evil and blessingly lead him towards salvation. -- J.S. Neki

 

This is only a body, so don’t get attached. You do know that if we bury you here, you become earth. If we burn you, immediately the results are there for you to see. If we bury you, it takes a little longer. But what happens to you? This needs probing. It definitely needs looking into, isn’t it? Because this man who is here today, so real, tomorrow if he can suddenly evaporate, disappear, it is your business to know what happened, because it is going to happen to you also. Definitely, it is everybody’s business to know, isn’t it? So that’s where the first step is. -- Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

 

Sanatan Kriya is formulated in such an easy manner that one does not have to renounce worldly pleasures and become a hermit to reap the benefits of Ashtanga Yoga. It is very much possible living in a modern setup to practice the kriya and achieve the same results as experienced by people living in ashrams, as nowhere in yoga is one asked to leave one’s surroundings and responsibilities. The practice of this kriya slowly brings you to a level where you are not affected by your surroundings, businesses and prevalent chaos of a modern setup. As one progresses in Sanatan Kriya, subtle changes manifest in the body, elevating the level of consciousness. The connection with the guru, who exists at a much higher level of consciousness, slowly starts reflecting on the follower’s body. The highly potent yogic techniques start to reshape and redefine one’s aura. As the aura gets cleansed of grosser prana, the congestions in the subtle channels called nadis get cleared and the shakti (force) of the guru is channelised in the body. At the physical level it results in ridding the body of imbalances which generally are seen as physical, financial, mental or emotional disturbances. As these disturbances subside, the result is seen as an extraordinary glow, inner and physical strength, and, needless to say, a heightened level of consciousness. -- Yogi Ashwini

 

جب سے میں نے پڑھا ہے کہ ہندوستان میں ملیشیا کے ملاّ حضرات مسلمانوں  کو یوگا کیمپوں سے دور رہنے کا مشورہ دے رہے ہیں ، میں سوچ رہا ہوں کہ یوگا سے کون سا نقصان پہنچنے کا اندیشہ ہے ۔ کیا ہمارا ایمان اتناکمزور ہے کہ اگر ہم یوگا کسرتیں سیکھ لینگے تو ہم مسلمان نہیں رہیں گے جب کہ آج کل ڈاکٹر بھی خاص  کر دل کے ڈاکٹر اور سرجن دل کی بائی پاس سرجری کے بعد یا ہائی بلیڈ پریشر میں مبتلا اشخاص  کو یوگا کسرتیں کرنے کی صلاح دیتے ہیں؟ در حقیقت  یوگا کئی بیماریوں میں مفید ہے اور بہتر ین احتیاتی تدابیر میں شامل ہے ۔ اگر باقاعدہ سے کیے جائیں تو یوگا کی مراقبتی تکنیک انتہائی خوشگوار روحانی تجربے  کا باعث بن سکتی ہے۔

 

Buddhism is depicted with accuracy as the labour of learning to see clearly and wake up to life just as it is: a painful but nonetheless exquisite transitory flux. Rather than securing ourselves against life's evanescence by swimming in a sea of addictive poisons like greed, hatred, and delusion, the Buddha eliminates habitual egoism by cutting out the root of ignorance that binds human beings to samsara: the illusion of self. Released from that falsehood, human beings are free to embrace life in all its fragile interconnectedness with care and compassion.

Suppose viewers become readers and follow up their viewing with a deeper encounter with Buddhist wisdom. What questions come next? Christian viewers of the film will surely be impelled to ask, what does Bodhgaya have to do with Jerusalem? What have the Buddha's teachings to do with the teachings of the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? -- John Thatamanil

 

Pandit Mustafa Arif is basically a journalist, Hindi Poet and Author from Ujjain Madhya Pradesh, now permanently residing in Delhi. Currently he is engaged in a major task to write Hamd in Hindi consisting of 10, 000 verses, which will take at least five more years to complete. Working since 4th April 2008, till today he has completed writing of 2, 232 verses in 4 volumes, each volume containing 558 verses. To spread this work among the masses he has founded Quran Literacy Program (QLIP) Foundation in Delhi, which will undertake programs to make adults Quran literate, survey of Quran knowing people and to develop a Quranic Park.

Pandit Mustafa says his work is based on the inspiration derived from the study of the Holy Quran. His mission is to convey the message of Allah to the masses through the Quran. -- Editor

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

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    ( By Pankaj )
  • wahabism is the real problem of Islamic world. Muslims need to disassociate themselves from wahhabism.
    ( By Ravi Kumar )