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Spiritual Meditations

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.

 

Focus on Grace, Not Control
Mark Galli
People become religious for many reasons, good and bad. One for many is that their lives are completely out of control morally and socially, and they see in religion a way to bring order to the chaos. Religion as inner police. Such adherents are attracted to religions, or denominations within religions, that accent discipline and obedience. This happens -- surprisingly -- even in Christianity.

 
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