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Spiritual Meditations

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

 

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.

St Francis of Assissi

 

Our society is bathed in artificial light, and submerged in spiritual darkness. Everywhere there is light, except in the hearts of the people. Spiritual enlightenment is our greatest need.

Roy Davison

 

Light the lamp of love in your heart; the lamp of abundance in your home; the lamp of compassion to serve others; the lamp of knowledge to dispel the darkness of ignorance and the lamp of gratitude for the abundance that the Divine has bestowed on us. Light dispels darkness and when the darkness of ignorance within you is dispelled through the light of wisdom, goodness prevails. -- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Whatever Our Path to God, We Share the Ultimate Goal

I had an interesting experience, a few weeks ago, when I attended a guided meditation to clear-up negative energy that I was carrying within my body. I walked into the session with pent-up stress and worries. The facilitator had our small group focus on the seven chakras in our bodies' energy centres, starting with the base or root chakra and gradually moving up to the crown chakra. -- Adrianne Murchison

 

With the rise in religious fundamentalism around the world, it is increasingly difficult to talk about one’s deepest beliefs. Liberal Hindus are reluctant to admit to being Hindu for fear they will be linked to the RSS. Liberal Christians and liberal Muslims abroad have had the same experience. Part of the reason that the sensible idea of secularism is having so much difficulty finding a home in India is that the most vocal and intellectual advocates of secularism were once Marxists. Not only do they not believe in God, they actually hate God. As rationalists they can only see the dark side of religion — intolerance, murderous wars and nationalism and cannot empathize with the everyday life of the common Indian for whom religion gives meaning to every moment. Secularists speak a language alien to the vast majority, so they are only able to condemn communal violence but not to stop it, as Mahatma Gandhi could, in East Bengal in 1947. -- Gurcharan Das

 

I remember his soft and roguish voice reciting Urdu poetry and telling stories over the years so vividly that I feel he is still talking to me. While he lived I kept taking him as a man of the world, a great marketing genius but as he is gone I hear his voice distinct and different from any voice I have heard, except the voice of my parents. Through this voice I share many of my passions with him. From the mundane to the mystical. From cars to Caravanserais. From horses to Hindi cinema. From lost cultures and civilisations to wealth of the nouveau riche. And it was from the newly acquired wealth of nations and individuals that Husain grew from strength to strength. He made them feel cultured and civilised which they had lost on the fast track to wealth. He had something in his art that made them believe in it. -- Muzaffar Ali (Photo: M F Husain)

After spending six years continuously with the epic, I have learned that the Mahabharata is about the way we deceive ourselves, how we are false to others, how we oppress fellow human beings, and how deeply unjust we are in our day to day lives. But is this moral blindness an intractable human condition, or can we change it? Some of our misery is the result of the way the state also treats us, and can we re-design our institutions to have a more accountable government? I have sought answers to these questions in the epic’s elusive concept of dharma, and my own search for how we ought to live has been this book’s motivating force.

The Mahabharata is unique in engaging with the world of politics. India’s philosophical traditions have tended to devalue the realm of human action, which deals with the world of ‘appearances’ not of reality. Indeed, a central episode in the epic dramatises the choice between moral purity and human action. King Yudhishthira feels guilty after the war for ‘having killed those who ought not to be killed.’ He feels trapped between the contradictory pulls of ruling a state and of being good, and wants to leave the world to become a non-violent ascetic. -- Gurcharan Das

The Immorality of Silence

Remorse and Rahul Gandhi

Yudhishthira and Narendra Modi

THE GREAT TEACHERS OF HUMANITY
Dr. Sarkar Haider, New Age Islam

According to the Gita such are the times when great Teachers are usually born. Let us examine ourselves and find out if we are ready? But before we ask that let us first go into a little detail of the journey humanity has taken in the last five thousand years or so and how various noteworthy teachers have influenced the outcome? We shall examine the traditional claim that humans are responsible for their destiny and it requires evolved humans to prevent the cosmos from collapsing and thus the human being is not just a part of Divine Design like any other species but is actually responsible for sustaining the cosmic order. -- Dr. Sarkar Haider in his tribute to the great teachers of humanity on this Teachers' Day.

Ramadan feasts serve spiritual, social purposes for Muslims

"Ramadan teaches us self-sacrifice and patience"

For fasting to be truly universal, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human, and its universality is reflected by its observance in Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other faiths. This is the month when Prophet Mohammed received the revelation called the Quran. The Quran also says, "We are sending a Prophet from among the Arabs and a Quran in Arabic — if this same message would have been delivered to you (Arabs) through Jews — you would not have listened — so to change your sinning ways for ever — a Quran in Arabic and a Prophet from the Arabs (Ref: Below) — descendant of Ismail, son of Abraham through Hager. Twenty-five hundred years ago, Buddha, the enlightened one also fasted. He taught that unrestrained desires are the cause of human sufferings. Hinduism also has a great self-discipline — fasting is also a part of their religious ritual. Some Hindus eat only one meal a day all year around. -- Iftekhar Hai

 

The purpose of Sufi Yoga; it is a promise of pure ecstasy, joy, love and harmony.

One of the most brutal diseases of the mind is 'Fear', also known as 'Worry'. It arises out of a complete dependence on one's own self and the notion that 'the self' is independent.

 

Sultan Shahin on Babri mosque dispute: A spiritual response
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

بابری مسجد کی شہادت کے بعد ہندوستانی مسلمان گزشتہ کئی سال سے ذہنی تناؤ اور سخت  ذہنی عذاب میں مبتلا رہے ہیں ۔ اس درمیان انہوں نے اپنا سخت محاسبہ کیا ہے اور نہایت امسائد حالات میں انتہائی دانشمندی کا ثبوت بھی پیش کیا ہے ۔ اور سنجیدہ ذہن و بالغ رائے ہونے کاثبوت بھی دیتے رہے ہیں۔ اب کوئی بھی یہ امید کرسکتاہے کہ اس پختہ ذہنی کو اب واضح طور پر سامنے آناچاہئے۔ 

 

 

 

Dr. Sarkar Haider ponders the moral frailties of mankind

A few years back while standing in a Cairo museum, looking at the mummified corpse of Ramses II, a renowned cardiologist, Dr. Sarkar Haider, now based in Bareily, India, felt besieged by several questions. While Time has answered some of his questions and the rest have died out a natural death, the biggest question he had on his mind that day still haunts him: is the Pharaoh, who was thought to be immortal, finally dead or is he still alive?

If Pharaoh 3.0 is here, could the Deliverer be far behind?

Dr. Haider’s musings lead him to the conclusion that the current age is the age of Pharaoh 3.0, which is more menacing, more powerful, more aggressive, more spiteful than the original one. But then another question has cropped up in his mind: Where is the Deliverer?

I used to think that actually spirituality is the second line of defence for the religious people. When they get embarrassed about traditional religion, when it starts looking too down-market, they hide behind this smokescreen of cosmos and super consciousness. But that is not the complete truth. Because the clientele of traditional religion and spirituality is different. ...You see that the clientele (of spirituality) is well heeled, it is the affluent class. All right, so the guru gets power, high self esteem, status, wealth…(which is not that important), power…and lot of wealth too. What does the disciple get? When I looked at them carefully I realized that there are categories and categories of these disciples. It’s not a monolith. There are different kinds of followers. Different kinds of disciples. One, who is rich, successful, doing extremely well in his life, making money, gaining property. Now, since he has everything he wants absolution too. So guru tells him - whatever you are doing, is “niskaam karma” – you are playing a role, this is all “Maya”, the money that you are making every day and the property that you are acquiring, you are not emotionally involved with it. You are just playing a role. You come to me because you are in search of eternal truth....

 

 And what surprises me, and confirms my worst feelings, that today, the enlightened people who know the cosmic truth, none of them stand up against the powers that be. None of them raises his voice against the ruling classes and the privileged classes. Charity, yes, when it is approved and cleared by the establishment and the powers that be. But I want to know which was that guru which took the dalits to those temples which are still closed to them. I want to know which was that guru who stood for the rights of the Adivasis against the thekedaars and contractors. I want to know which was that guru who spoke about the victims of Gujarat and went to their relief camps. They are human beings. -- JAVED AKHTAR 

Insights into the way the shamans of Mexico understood God and grappled with spiritual issues

THE GREAT majority of the existing spiritual traditions in the Americas has been able to keep its roots, even those that date back to before Colombus’s arrival. Among these traditions is Mexican Shamanism, which is still followed by local tribes and is one of the most studied ones.

Several anthropologists have studied the way the wizards understood the presence of God and the spiritual quest. Here are some of the aspects of this comprehension of the universe, taken from several sources. -- Paulo Coelho

Will Muslims remain in a state of denial while Taliban demonise Islam?

Indeed, the use of firepower for the erasure of Jews from Europe and schools from Swat points to camaraderie of the devil in the triangle of Fascists, the Taliban and Al Qaeda. After all, in the Quran, the devil boasts that he is created of fire, even as the devil’s counterpart in Faust, Mephistopheles, says that his favourite element is fire.

Fortunately, however, the Taliban lack Hitler’s firepower to incinerate the region. The question is whether ‘well meaning’ Muslims will remain in a state of denial like the Jews of Wiesel’s hometown, or wake up to the Taliban’s mission of turning Islam from a world religion into their dogma, where people are forced into larval existence, and the Taliban see themselves, in Hammad’s words, as “God’s angels on His earth amidst devils”. -- Suroosh Irfani

Understanding Man as a religious animal

Were one to characterize the life of religion in the broadest and most general terms possible, one might say that it exists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves hereto.... Scientific theories are organically conditioned just as much as religious emotions are; and if we only knew the facts intimately enough, we should doubtless see 'the liver' determining the dicta of the sturdy atheist as decisively as it does those of the Methodist under conviction anxious about his soul. When it alters in one way the blood that percolates it, we get the Methodist, when in another way, we get the atheist form of mind."- Dr. William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.

 

The Varieties of Religious Experience was first presented as a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1901. To prepare for the talks, Harvard psychologist William James had read widely in the religious classics, including the personal accounts of various saints and mystics.

His decision to look at spiritual experience from a psychological point of view seemed very new at the time, even blasphemous. Mountains of books were still being churned out on the finer points of dogma and theology, but James was more interested in individual experience. His purpose in writing the book was to convince the reader that although religion itself often seemed absurd, the spiritual impulse was what made us human. James wanted to know why man was a religious animal, and what practical benefits spirituality brought us, assuming that we would not engage in it if it did not do us some good.

The book's insights are wrapped in prose as elegant and forceful as anything written by his novelist brother Henry James, and it was recognized as a classic virtually from the day of publication. The book's great service was to make the religious reader see spiritual matters from a more rational, objective perspective, and to persuade the scientifically-minded that religious experience had its value and was a 'fact'.

Baha'u'llah affirmed three fundamental, essential unities at different levels of being. First, he proclaimed the absolute unity of divine. The unity of divine reality, however, is beyond the capacity of human understanding, even in terms of a conceptual framework. Also, the categories of oneness and plurality are incapable of expressing the unknowable divine unity, but this divine reality is the foundation and ultimate purpose of all beings. Human beings are capable of reflecting divine reality through their longing and love for recognition and attainment of God. For Baha'is, all beings are signs and indications of the divine. -- Nader Saiidi

 

He's Gone, and I Probably Won't Ever Meet Him Again
Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam
One of the most moving memories that I have of Khurshid—and this rushes to my mind as I write these lines—was when we went out to the Dalit slum just beyond Tando Allah Yar. As we entered the locality of the Jogis—Shiva-worshipping snake-charmers—a train of little children, undernourished and dressed in miserable rags, rushed out to greet him. He enveloped them in a giant hug. Then, he introduced me to his friends, pathetically impoverished Jogi men and women, with whom he spent much of his time. He showed me around the little Shiva temple at the corner of the locality. Some of the bells and statues inside he had brought back from his frequent trips to India.

 
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  • Excellent article.'
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
  • Hats Off is a liar. I have never justified the conquest of India and have on several occasions previously, said that the conquest was by ...
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  • I agree with the comment of Yunus Sb. The jurists of today need to think anew in the light of the Quran. The jurists ...
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  • as usual mr. naseer ahmed's sickeningly patronizing tendency, his supremacism and his contempt for hindus and hinduism shines through his ugly comment...
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  • Dear Agnostic reader, You comment is very thought provoking. Why the Qur'an was accepted....
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  • Most of what is written in Koran is pretty good. There may be a few verses which can be interpreted according to ...
    ( By Monojit Mohapatra )
  • Swamijee said all versions of religion is the same which converts man from animality...
    ( By Krishna Pada Acharya )
  • You can't bring live to a dead body or dead ideology.
    ( By SN Mishra )
  • seems very funny a human is talking about to reform the truth of God who gave him birth and all well... Probably writer is...
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  • Yes i agree changes in religious books should be undertaken regularly...
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  • Those who have objection on ISLAM,can accept any other religion....
    ( By Salam Aalam )
  • Why single out Islam alone? Christianity is equally dangerous for its conversion tactics. Both the religions survive...
    ( By Shridharan Ramamurthi )
  • Central Asian societies mostly coexist just fine combining Islam and modern...
    ( By Arif Moin )
  • Islam is the perfect religion. It doesn't need any reform. However, most of it's followers are the worst. They do not follow what....
    ( By Sayed Qasim Rizavi )
  • And who will reform. It should be by the person from any religion who has...
    ( By Rokhsar Ahmed )
  • And who will reform? It should be by a person form any religion who have reformed their own book to be the best. Who is ...
    ( By Rokhsar Ahmed )
  • GM Sb, Not everybody has the same understanding of the Quran. They take the...
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
  • I have had some very good Hindu friends in college with whom I traveled and stayed in Ashrams....
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
  • The Article is excellent analysis of Recent Hindu mindset, I have said many times that Hindus have influenced intolrent...
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  • Naseer sahib, The universal message of the Quran is of course sacrosanct. Many people however believe that the Quran contains...
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  • Rashid Sb, To bring out the difference between theology and the Quran, consider the following verse which ...
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  • The last sentence in the previous comment should read: Fighting in the cause of the oppressed against the oppressor is always fighting in the cause ...
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  • GM Sb,, I prefer getting down to specifics rather than arguing in general terms. Take Surah Taubah and the verses discussed in my article. It ...
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  • Naseer sahib, Your arguments to advocate your point of view are strong. However instead...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • 7/21/2017 8:25:29 AM Vineeth Mani Come on 3 sqn..... time to rise n shine...
    ( By Vineeth Mani )
  • All religious texts should be subjected to tests of: 1.whatever is written...
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  • Because there is solution of every problem in Quran pak. Every way of life is shown in Quran. There is no space for terrorism or ...
    ( By Fayaz Mughal )
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  • Some religions shown their changes time to time as per the comments of other friends. Dear friends it is only Islam...
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