Friday, March 20, 2015

Alas No one Remember You Here O Beloved! (Tomar Kotha Hetha Kehoto Bolena) ~ A Translation of Tagore Song


তোমার কথা হেথা কেহ তো বলে না,
করে শুধু মিছে কোলাহল।
সুধাসাগরের তীরেতে বসিয়া
পান করে শুধু হলাহল ॥

আপনি কেটেছে আপনার মূল--
না জানে সাঁতার, নাহি পায় কূল,
স্রোতে যায় ভেসে, ডোবে বুঝি শেষে,
করে দিবানিশি টলোমল ॥

আমি কোথা যাব, কাহারে শুধাব,
নিয়ে যায় সবে টানিয়া।
একেলা আমারে ফেলে যাবে শেষে
অকূল পাথারে আনিয়া।


সুহৃদের তরে চাই চারি ধারে,
আঁখি করিতেছে ছলোছল,
আপনার ভারে মরি যে আপনি
কাঁপিছে হৃদয় হীনবল ॥


তোমার কথা হেথা কেহ তো বলে না,
করে শুধু মিছে কোলাহল।
সুধাসাগরের তীরেতে বসিয়া
পান করে শুধু হলাহল ॥



Alas! No one remember You here O Beloved!
sitting on the shore of this blissful ocean
they only choose to listen
to the noise of illusion

Alone at this ocean
I know neither how to swim, nor where is shore,
floating aimlessly day and night,
I am almost drowning

To whom can I go? Whom can I ask?
All will abandon me, all begone
leaving me at the end
at this clueless ocean of illusion

Looking for true guide and friend of heart,
I am now weeping
dying from carrying my own baggage,
this weak heart of mine is quivering


Alas! No one Remember You here O Beloved!
sitting on the shore of this blissful ocean
they only choose to create and listen
to the noise of illusion


~ Tomar Kotha Hetha Keho to Bolena (None Speak About You Here), original by Rabindranath Tagore, English Translation (Noise of Illusion) by Sadiq M. Alam  ~



Every distraction is a veil and every veil is responsible for us being cut off from the Real. In the process of veiling, we first get cut off from our own real self, our heart and soul gets veiled and the joy within dies slowly as we become more and more distracted. Being joyless from within we look for cheap entertainment, intoxication, ten thousand more distractions outside. It goes on and on and feed back into the system. More distractions make us more joyless within, creates more void inside and mindlessly we look to fill that void with more distractions. Its a vicious cycle.

Then eventually we lose the connection with our real self and with the reality. But the biggest price we pay is that we forget the Beloved. Aqeemus Salat (establish prayer) is a call and reminder to re-establish that connection (of heart with the Beloved), that is an antidote against this perpetual culture of distraction.

The reality is such a mysterious mirror that it reflects us back everything so very nakedly. If we forget the Real, we are made to forget our own soul; if we forget the Source Light (Nur), we are made to forget our own light within.


Wala takoonoo kallatheena nasoo Allaha fa ansahum anfusahum...

And be not like those who forgot the Divine, so the Reality made them forget their own souls.

~ The Qur'an 59:19


Wa qeela alyawma nansakum kama naseetum liqaa yawmikum hatha..

And it will be said, "Today the Divine Reality will forget you as you chose to forget the meeting of this appointed Day.."

~ The Qur'an 45:34

On the other side of this reality, if we Remember Him, the Divine remembers us. Is there any news more joyful than that! - that the Beloved remembers you when you remember Him? That is the greatest gospel (announcement of good news). The greatest law / rule / mystery / reality of love.

Fazkuroonee azkurkum

So remember Me; I will remember you.

~ The Qur'an 2:252


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Aiming Happiness & Bliss: The Intersection of Science & Spirituality



Physical or material science try to explain the physical reality using physical or tangible evidences. Thats how the whole paradigm of science is based upon, on observable phenomena and verifiable logic and facts. On the other hand spirituality is often about things that can not be touched, observed with naked eyes or can't even be proven with material evidences. Spirituality has a very big component which deals with the unseen.

Never the less there is something common between the most materialistic person and the most spiritually oriented person and that commonness is to aim for happiness. This is like an universal demand of human mind and heart which is to be happy, to find bliss and happiness.

From a philosophical point of view it can be argued that all that God, the Supreme Architect of reality, wants is that sentient beings be happy. No matter what the believers believe, no matter how much they worship, they add nothing to the Master of the Universe because God already owns it all, He is the Supreme Inheritor. No amount of worship, adoration or the opposite of it, no amount of denial or doubt or indifference can neither add nor substract anything from God's Kingdom. Creation can give back nothing to the Creator, and yet the Merciful and Loving Creator wants happiness for His family, which is humanity and by extension for all sentient beings.

If you think about it you will perhaps come to this realization that every religious tradition aims at providing certain guidelines which if followed can ensure both a collectively sane society as well as sane individuals. So even behind all religious structure, its laws, ethics, guidance, scriptural teachings they all can be summed up to the same goal which is human happiness. Spirituality often teach how being charitable we are less attached and less attachment means less suffering which eventually leads to a happy life. Spirituality provide a number of guidelines for right living and end goal of all of them are less and less suffering, which is just another way of saying more happier life.

If we look at how things are in extremely consumer and materialistic society is that they tend to give constant feedback to people about how they can be more happy with material things. The world of advertisement and marketing use human psychology all the time to tap into the demand for happiness. So the message from an advertisement ends up being, how the latest gadget is the most beautiful device ever and those who have it are the most happy people. The latest car is owned and driven by the most successful people who have the most assuring smile on their face in the commercial and if we own that car, we surely will be happy - at least thats the subtle message.

Now physical science specially the field of medical science fairly recently did uncover some of the mechanism behind what makes people happy. So our physical body and particularly our brain is influenced by many chemicals and scientists have figured out what kind of chemicals are directly linked to happy feeling. For example: Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins are the neurotransmitters (or hormones) mostly responsible for our happiness, at least from biochemical correlation point of view.

Here are some brief functionality of these important four neurotransmitters thought to be linked with happiness or our state of being thats related with happiness. 


Dopamine:

Dopamine motivates us to take action toward goals, desires, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them.


Serotonin:

Serotonin flows when you feel significant or important. Loneliness and depression appears when serotonin is absent. Princeton neuroscientist Barry Jacobs explains that most antidepressants focus on the production of serotonin.


Oxytocin:

Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships. It’s released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked.


Endorphins:

Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress, and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression. The surging “second wind” and euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain.



Now since we now know these, you can easily imagine what will happen next in pharmaceuticals companies. They will come up with drugs that will trigger these happiness hormones. In fact anti-depressant drugs use this science.

So you can say there are two approaches to use this knowledge. One is to artificially creating a situation where these hormones / neurotransmitters are released or activated. This is more a materialistic approach where physical reality is changed using physical or material means alone.


But spirituality has a different approach. Its more likely to be opposite of material approach. Instead of relying on drugs, it relies on the heart and mind. Here are some practical tips how certain spiritual practice or simple techniques to achieve a certain state of mind can actually trigger these happiness hormones naturally, genuinely not artificially.


Be Grateful, its the Best Tool for Happiness


Gratefulness is a state of mind. It doesnt matter how much or how little you have, you can always be grateful. You can always find reasons to be grateful no matter what. Gratefulness is such a central core to many spiritual path. In Islam for example the daily prayer every time begins by saying "Thank you God and I praise you" (yes thats what Alhamdulillah approximately means, from Surah al-Fatiha the opening chapter, recited in every single prescribed prayer by Muslims).

What triggers gratefulness? It is triggered when we reflect and realize significance of our life, significant achievements or gifts in our life. Interestingly the hormone for happiness that most antidepressants focus is serotonin or the product of it.

Reflecting on past significant achievements allows the brain to re-live the experience. What gratitude practices does is that it remind us that we are valued and have much to value in life.

Spiritual life has ever encouraged contemplation and prayer. Contemplation helps reflect on our gifts and to be grateful. Prayer is also a way to channel that gratitude towards the Giver of all. Thus if you need a serotonin boost during a stressful day, take a few moments to reflect on a past achievements and victories, contemplate and give thanks while being genuinely grateful.


Meaning of Life is Important


Spirituality gives meaning to life, not only this life but the hereafter, the eternal life to come. A religious person with lots of faith find it much easier to move through life, specially when time is tough. On the other hand a life devoid of spiritual meaning end up depressed and tragic end can be fatal through suicide. A spiritual life is also filled with actions that have certain goal, certain meanings. Religious observances are meant for that as well.

It is Dopamine that motivates us to take action toward goals, and needs, and gives a surge of reinforcing pleasure when achieving them. We can recreate the effect of Dopamine release by being motivated towards goal and achieving them. When we do act of charity, when we act based on compassion, motivated by our faith and love of God, there are almost no action more motivating on earth than that. Motivation for God or the love of God is the highest motivation and hence highest cause for happiness. One simple tip towards Dopamine triggering effect is to breaking big goals into small ones and being mindful of achieving those small goals. This gives us sense of joy, happiness. The more important those small goals are, the more likely we will be happy.


Faith, Trust and more Faith


Interestingly enough the third neurotrasmitter that is responsible for happiness effect has a lot to do with faith, intimacy and trust. Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships.

It’s released by men and women during orgasm, and by mothers during childbirth and breastfeeding. Animals will reject their offspring when the release of oxytocin is blocked. Oxytocin increases fidelity; men in monogamous relationships who were given a boost of oxytocin interacted with single women at a greater physical distance then men who weren’t given any oxytocin. The cultivation of oxytocin is essential for creating strong bonds and improved social interactions.

People of faith, with intimate relation with God obviously are more happier people because they tend to have higher level of Oxytocin. People of faith also trust others easily, which is again linked with Oxytocin.

The hormone referred to as the cuddle hormone, a simple way to keep oxytocin flowing is to give someone a hug. Scientists explain that inter-personal touch not only only raises oxytocin, but reduces cardiovascular stress and improves the immune system; rather than just a hand-shake, go in for the hug. Some experts even recommends eight hugs each day.

Spiritual life encourage community and such community thrive on good inter personal relationship where people genuinely trust and have faith on each other. They hug more. 

In Islam in fact giving and exchanging gift is a recommended Sunnah and scientific research now shows that Oxytocin level increase when someone receive gift.


Suffer Consciously, it has rewards


Certain spiritual tradition will explain that this world of duality is composed of opposites. The Islamic Scripture, the Qur'an says that God created everything in pair. Interestingly our mind also works on contrast. We can not distinguish one without its opposite or absence. Our perception develops based on opposite. In fact without the opposite we wouldn't name things. There would be no day if there were no night or opposite of the condition of day.

So the opposite or duality is necessary for this reality to work. Similarly often time it is the opposite condition which helps achieve its counter part. Conscious suffering in spiritual practice is one such things which may seem difficult to enter in our mind simply because at the surface it seems counter intuitive. But here is an easy example. If we are really hungry, the next meal we will eat will taste so much delicious. Now if someone is never hungry, is never craving for food, his or her system is not even ready to in take food, digest food, enjoy food.

A common example of conscious suffering is fasting. Take for example the Muslim fast. From pre-sunrise to post-sunset, that is the time period when during the entire month of Ramadan, every able adult Muslim will observe complete fast. No food, no drinks, no sex. What does it do? It feels great once this gets into the habit. Body feel light, mind is light, surprisingly you feel energetic. Depending on physiological condition and body type, some people may experience otherwise, but those who enjoy fasting, though on the outset it appear a tool for suffering, yet it may produce very positive effect on body and mind. What is the explanation?

Think of Endorphins. Endorphins are released in response to pain and stress, and helps to alleviate anxiety and depression. The euphoric “runners high” during and after a vigorous run are a result of endorphins. Similar to morphine, it acts as an analgesic and sedative, diminishing our perception of pain.

Also aromatherapy release endorphins. In Islam its encouraged to use good fragrance / perfumes. Interestingly the smell of vanilla and lavender has been linked with the production of endorphins.

So spiritual practices that taxes the body and gives it relatively hard-time may end up make you feel happier. As a side effect probably you will also have a very good sleep and thus further reduce your over all stress and that again makes you more happier. "Indeed with hardship is ease" is a Quranic reminder to us.


So yes, scientific knowledge and spiritual wisdom can intersect and help us achieve a more balanced, happier and blissful life. May our capacity to be grateful be increased, may our capacity to have faith be increased, may the meaning of our life be made more meaningful to our heart and may our capacity to be more conscious be increased. May all sentient beings in the universe be happy and blissful.



// Sadiq M. Alam
// Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Miracle is a Release from Bondage


1.

God exists in eternity. The only point where eternity meets time is in the present. "The present is the only time there is." A miracle is a shift in thinking from what we might have done in the past or should be doing in the future, to what we feel free to do right here, right now.

A miracle is a release from internal bondage. Our capacity for brilliance is equal to our capacity to forget the past and forget the future. That's why little children are brilliant. they don't remember the past, and they don't relate to the future.

One of the exercises in the Course Workbook reads, "The past is over. It can touch me not." Forgiving the past is an important step in allowing ourselves the experience of miracles. The only meaning of anything in our past is that it got us here, and should be honored as such. All that is real in our past is the love we gave and the love we received. Everything else is an illusion.

The past is merely a thought we have. It is literally all in our minds. The Courses teaches, "Give the past to Him Who can change your mind about it for you." To surrender the past to the Holy Spirit is to ask that only loving, helpful thoughts about it remain in our minds, and all the rest be let go.

What we are left with then is the present, the only time where miracles happen. We place the past and the future as well into the hands of God. The biblical statement that "time shall be no more' means that we will one day live fully in the present, without obsessing about past or future.

The universe provides us with a clean slate in every moment; God's creation holds nothing against us. Our problem is that we don't believe this. Let us ask forgiveness, not of God who has never condemned us, but of ourselves, for all we think we did and did not do. Let us give ourselves permission to begin again.

~ A Return to Love - Reflections on the Principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES by Marianne Williamson. pg 70, 71, 72


2.

In a certain Sufi Order this particular Remembrance as a Technology of the Heart is taught. It involves three sacred invocation. First is Astaghfirullah - this is the statement to free ourselves from the bondage of past, from every regret, every mistake, every act of oppression of the past. Astaghfirullah literally means 'I seek forgiveness from Allah'.

Second is MashaAllah - this is the statement to free ourselves from the speculation of future, from every unreal desire, every illusion about future or anticipation of future. MashaAllah literally means 'as Allah Wills', so with this sacred statement we surrender and submit everything in future as the grand Will of the Divine.

Once we are free from the bondage of past and the project of future, we are stabilized to the present moment and when we are stabilized in the present, all we as human beings embodied with the capacity to witness truth and beauty - all we can do is to be in awe, to be a witness. And then finally we say, SubhanaAllah ~ 'Glory be to Allah', Glory be to God, Glory be to the One.

So here they are again, Astaghfirullah, MashaAllah, SubhanaAllah. Thats all. May the utterance of these sacred matra with the correct attunement of mind and heart may we be free with the true freedom and may we be present in the true sense of it. May our life be touched by the Abundant Miracles that is always present.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Annihilation of Falsehood


Someone asked, in the Quran it reads in 17th Chapter, 81th Sign:
"Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart."

Does that mean all that leave by your side are things of falsehood?


Word by Word, the Revelation as example above reads:

jaa - Has come

al-haqqu - the truth

wa zahaqa - and perished

al-batilu - the falsehood.

inna - indeed

al-batila - the falsehood

kana - is

zahuqan - to perish.


The word BATALA - stands for - to nullify, to become vain, to render in vain, prove to be false, worthless.

The fabric of the reality is multidimensional. This Sign of the Qur'an also has multidimensional meanings.

From the highest vantage point, only God is Real, every thing else related to God is unreal. Can the tiny candle stand a chance in front of a Glowing Star ten thousand times bigger in size and intensity than our known Sun? Everything other than God is thus unreal, becomes annihilated, becomes nullified of its separate existence. Hence from that perspective anything other than Real is indeed vanishing away, always.

Keeping that perspective in mind we can also possibly appreciate that the existence of all things are only temporal, ephemeral, bound to decay and destruction, must annihilate at the end. The only existence they have because the Sustainer (ar-Rabb) is giving sustenance to it, for a limited period of time, and that is the only reason for its existence. Independent of God it has no existence. All things are thus dependent on the Lord of Sustenance, ar-Rabb. All such existence, including human beings with their ten billion made up personalities are bound to perish because they too are unreal in relation to the Real.

Ephemeral existence only exist for a tiny fraction of moments, then they vanish into nothingness, returning to the Source

Now from another perspective, that is our perspective, from the perspective of heaven and earth (this creation), God says in the Qur'an that everything in the creation is created with truth (bil-haqq). Here the pronoun bi or with provide a number of meanings including 'with truth' or also 'with purpose.'

Have you not seen that Allah created the heavens and the earth in truth?
~ Qur'an 14:19

So from Quranic communication, the paradox is, even the creation is created with truth and with purpose. It doesnt just categorically ask us to reject the creation as unreal or as maya or illusion, instead it uses the very term haqq, one of the Name of Allah (al-Haqq) to point to the Immanence of God.


Just as every quality of God is absolute so is the quality of Divine nearness. So from that perspective the Nearness of God to every object also lend them the quality of truth. Thus whatever we see around us reflect the truthfulness of the Grand Truth, al-Haqq.

So from this perspective, it would be not the best adab to say everything that leave from our side are falsehood. Its more proper etiquette to describe them as temporal or momentary than falsehood. There are elements of truth in everything including those who come and leave from our side- its better that we appreciate for what it is.

This is why the Messenger used to supplicated thus: "O Allah show me reality as they truth are."


When any one of us want to use our mind to understand the subtleness of the reality of existence, we have to come to terms with paradoxes. The paradoxes are facets of truth existing simultaneously that apparently seem to be contradictory. A generic example would be a glass half empty, half full. They are true at the same time but appear to be contradictory if taken separately. Paradoxes are contradictory only on the level of the mind, not on the level of heart and higher realms such as level of soul. We need an unified vision to understand the paradoxes. Tawhid is necessary. A continuum between seen world and unseen is possible through Tawhid, through Unity.

Example of such paradoxes are: 

God is Nearmost and yet We are Far from God.

God is Loving and yet God is Severe in Punishment to Purify.

There is Divine Spark within Us (Soul) and yet We are Not God.

Our body will die and yet Soul will not die.

God is Hidden (Batin) and yet God is Manifest (Zahir).

If you look for God, you can't find Him; yet those who found God, found only through seeking.

La ilaha - illa Allah (No god but God).



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Friday, February 20, 2015

Make Me Less of Me and More of You


One night, closer to the dawn, the following prayer came to a dervish:

O Allah, please make me less of me,

And more of You.

There is nothing more real than You.

There is none who is real other than You.


And the imagery that came to his heart is the imagery of the moon waxing and waning, so he further prayed,

By the moon and its journeying,

O Allah, please make me less of me,

and more of You.

There is nothing more real than You.

There is none who is real other than You.


And the imagery that came to his heart is the imagery of the blazing sun, which by it's every single ray, becomes less and less for the sake of nourishing all; so he further prayed,

By the glowing sun and its rays,

O Allah, please make me less of me,

and more of You.

There is nothing more real than You.

There is none who is real other than You.


And the imagery that came to his heart is the imagery of a lover becoming less and less for the sake of his beloved, so he further prayed,

By every true lover whom You elevate to his, her rank of love,

O Allah, please make me less of me,

And more of You.

There is nothing more real than You.

There is none who is real other than You.


Then a long silence came and entered into the heart of the poor dervish.


And finally, the final imagery that came to his heart is the Way of the Infinitely Merciful, the Ever Merciful Who Has decreed Infinite Grace upon Himself, for His Glorious Self (kataba ‘ala nafsihi l-rahmata, Quran 6:12) - out of that Infinite Mercy God Himself hide Himself in the mystery of His Being, being Manifest (Zahir) He at same occasion becomes Hidden (Batin) as said Rabindranath Tagore, "tomar shesh nahi tai shunno sheje, shesh kore dao apnakeje" (O God You have no end and yet You hide Yourself to make Yourself not); so he prayed,

By the Way of ar-Rahman ar-Rahim,

O Allah, please make me less of me,

And more of You.


THERE IS NOTHING MORE REAL THAN YOU.

THERE IS NONE WHO IS REAL OTHER THAN YOU.


Ameen. By God's permission, so be it. (end of prayer)





And here is an elegant secret: God, Allah, Ishwar wants to be less and less of Himself so that you may be yourself; so that we all may be our different unique selves. That is the most prominent and certain quality of love that it makes one less and less for the sake of the beloved. And human beings are most honored that they are the beloveds of God (Walaqad karramna banee adama, And We have certainly honored humanity ~ Quran 17:70).

God's apparently being less and less does not diminishes anything from His Kingdom or His Essential Self.

Just as He is Unique, he has allowed each self to be unique, no two sentient beings are same, they all are unique sharing the divine attribute of uniqueness, unique oneness.

But at the end when all play of duality comes to an end, at the end of history, all must return to Him.

wa-ilayhi yur'jaʿūn  ~ The Quran 3:83

and towards the Divine Self they will be returned.



# Related:
* Tomae Notun Korey Pabo Boley - A Sufic / Spiritual interpretation of Tagore's Song
* Other Songs of Tagore translated at Technology of the Heart


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