Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speaks about Oneness and New Energy to Awaken the World | SufiRadio Interview

The present Sufi Master of particular lineage, Naqshbandiyya - Mujaddidiyya Order, Llewellyn Vaughan Lee recently spoke about his personal journey into the timeless path of Sufism, about his own teacher, his work on Oneness and Spiritual Awakening of the World. In recent years, the focus of his writing and teaching has been on spiritual responsibility in our present time of transition, and the emerging global consciousness of oneness. Below is a very brief excerpt from his one hour audio interview in which he touch certain areas and subjects i feel are really important for our time. Shaykh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee, May God bless his path, speaks:

My real feeling is that we have to respect the Divinity of Creation. Not in some nice ... I always feel we have sanitized God and part of the mystical path is to go beyond that. Its said, Sufism is Truth without form, and you go beyond any idea of the Divine.

Its actually part of the what happened in the dark night of the soul, for example, Saint John of Cross went through - that all your ideas of God are taken away from you and you enter into both the terror and the beauty of the Divine; the Power and the Glory (the Jamal and the Jalal) and somehow we have first of all taken the Divine away from creation and we say creation is just this mechanized thing that we have to work with and we have also made God into something manageable and we have forgotten the power of the Almighty.

We have forgot that tremendous authority that belongs to God. It is His world.

I always liked this part of the Lord's prayer: May Thy Will be done on earth as it is on Heaven.

And we have forgotten the Will of God in this world and it may not be beautiful, it may not be kind. Yes it is love but as the sufis know that love has two sides, there is the sword of Love, the sufis say you cannot have a rose without a thorn.

And I think if we are gonna welcome God back into His world which I feel is the work that we have to do, just as a sufi you welcome God into the heart ....

[>] Recorded for KWMR, "Sufism: The Heart of Islam" with Wendy McLaughlin. July 2007. You may download (mp3 audio file) and listen to the whole interview via Golden Sufi audio archive.

:. Sufism: The Heart of Islam is a bi-weekly radio program hosted by Wendy McLaughlin in which she talk to American Sufis from all walks of life about many spiritual aspect and journey of life. The program has interviewed american sufi masters and personalities such as Kabir Helminski (Shaykh in the Mevlevi order and co-founder of the Threshold Society), Abdal Hayy Moore, Murshida Rabia Perez Chishti, Dr. Robert Frager (Founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), Imam Bilal Hyde and also personality like the renowned scholar Huston Smith. .: visit the archive to listen portions of the past interviews.

.: Visit the Official site of the Program www.sufiradio.com
.: Golden Sufi Center Pin It Now!

Terrorism is no '-ism' of any Religion | Tehelka and Gujarat Violence in the name of Religion

"Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn't very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved 'OM' on her forehead. Precisely which Hindu scripture preaches this?" - asks Booker prize winner novelist, Arundhati Roy in her article, Democracy: Who is she when she's at home?

NO, none of the Scriptures of Hindu Religion, one of the most tolerant and inclusive religion on the face of earth preach violence and killing thy Neighbor. Yet those who fuel their violence and hate, use religion over and over again to claim their own agenda.

"The post-Godhra Gujarat riots in 2002 has been considered as one of the grisliest communal strifes of post-Independence India. This religious strife was labeled thus because of alleged collusion of the administration that literally gave a free hand to rioters. At the end of three days, nearly 2000 Muslims lay dead murdered brutally in one of India’s urban cities adversely affecting India’s psyche and put in doubt the country’s rise to prominence as a growing power in the world." (credit via ipatrix)

On October 22nd, 2007 (yes it took 5 years to just uncover it, thanks to government level involvement in covering up this), Tehelka, India’s leading investigative Magazine has captured the criminals on Camera, admitting their involvement in the genocide, and deliberate annihilation of Muslims. All the while police did nothing to stop the carnage. The Chief Minister apparently gave three days to the extremists to clean out anybody who is Muslim in Godhara, Gujarat.

.: Brave Journalism of Tehelka dot com that exposes Truth and Reality / few years back i worked in national media (daily and monthly publications on different capacity such as coordinator, technical editor and executive editor) involving IT (information technology) journalism, mostly focusing on personal computing. that time i developed a deep appreciation for journalism as it can be a noble service for upholding the truth and intellectual engagement about social justice. i found Tehelka dot com's brave journalism for the cause of truth very inspiring and at the same time it is a good story to make the point that a terrorist has no religion but Terrorism and Terrorism is no 'ism' of any Religion.

The sad incident of killing of thousands of innocent muslim civilians by extreme hindu nationalists and terrorists do show that terrorism can not be tagged single handedly with any religion. this problem can well surface in Northern Ireland or in Serbia among violent people who might call themselves Christian, can surface in India among hate-mongering people who call themselves savior of Hindu religion or anywhere else under any religious banner.

Some of the most notorious ultra nationalist groups in India that use extremism behind Hindu religious banner include the hate-spewing Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the lumpen members of Bajrang Dal, the violently anti-Muslim and anti-Christian branch of the VHP and the radical Hindu outfit Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS).

Tehelka, the magazine that pioneered the use of sting operation has now compiled an exhaustive report on the Gujarat riots. The various reports that give you a chilling account of what actually went down and this is entirely in the words of the people who perpetuated those crimes. Tehelka’s reporter, Ashish Khetan spent six months undercover as a pro-Hindutva researcher investigating and talking to the people who carried out the attacks against Muslims. The revelations are mind-numbing and make you shake your head in disbelief and horror to the extent man can fall in causing harm to his fellow beings.

The painstaking investigation uncovered a web of lies entwined with truth, a mash of fact served up with fiction. In an extra-ordinary investigation it shows how corrupt and sickly religious motifs can be directed to propagate violence and hate. [>] The Truth of Godhara Gujarat 2002 / One of The Most Important Story of Our Time that exposes why terrorism in the name of religion is no '-ism' of Religion.

[>] detailed sections and story here.

:. Religious leaders shocked at Tehelka revelations
Several spiritual and religious leaders including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Agnivesh Saturday said that those behind Gujarat's communal violence of 2002 'should be ex-communicated from the Hindu fold'.

# Exploring Reads
:. Indian Holocast - 2002 Gujarat Violence via wikipedia
:. Godhara event / how police is used to manufacture lies
:. Kill Thy Neighbour | Time CoverStory of Gujrat Violence
:. Tehelka’s Gujarat Expose
:. Murder will out
:. Narendra Modi and Tehelka Expose
:. Three posts on Tehelka's Operation Kalank

:. Updates | this is part of an ongoing uncoving of events. check here to get latest updates. Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Legacy of Babel and Inheritors of the Abrahamic Tradition | Anab Whitehouse

1. And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
2. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there.
3. And they said one to another, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.
4. And they said, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

... In the matter of Babel, the wrong choice was made [namely, how to use the gift of time], the wrong intention underlay that choice [in other words, to serve ego rather than to glorify Divinity], the wrong methodology was used to try to reach God [i.e., that of external, legalistic, arbitrary, rule-governed methods rather than through principle-bound indigenous, esoteric methods] and creative imagination was inappropriately used and called upon to serve human purposes rather than Divine purposes, and although the people of Babel got their wish – a name for themselves – it was not quite what they had in mind when they started their venture.

Today, we [meaning the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim peoples], who are the inheritors of the Abrahamic Prophetic tradition, often find ourselves to be uneasy if not hostile neighbors of one another. We find ourselves this way because, among other things, of what we have inherited from the times of Babel … we have become separated through the confusion of communication … we have become separated and isolated from one another through our collective wrong choices, and our collective wrong intentions, and our collective use of problematic methodologies, and our collective use of inappropriate modes of creative imagination, and of our collective failure to take responsibility for the many consequences which are the direct and indirect result of all that we, collectively, are doing wrong with respect to choice, intention, methodology, and creative imagination.

We always have grievances against one another, and only very rarely do we have grievances against ourselves. Yet, the world is like it is today because we are like we are today… it is not the other who is at fault, it is we who are at fault. Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said that insanity is to keep doing the same things while expecting different results, and if this is the definition of insanity, then, many of us qualify to be so diagnosed.

- Dr. Anab Whitehouse / excerpt from the text of an excellent talk given at Fordham University, New York City - Sufi Circle Interfaith Conference, April 2007 . [>] read full text here.

[SUFI PODCAST] Anab Whitehouse hosts the Sufi Podcast. His latest podcast can be downloaded and listened here. / past Sufi Reflection Podcasts can be found here.

# Earlier post / Spiritual Health - Sufi Reflections
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Die Before you die | poem by Rabia

Ironic, but one of the most intimate acts
of our body is

So beautiful appeared my death –
knowing Who then i would kiss,
i died a thousand times before i died.

“Die before you die,” said the Prophet

Have wings that feared ever
touched the Sun?

i was born when all I once
feared - i could

- Rabia Basri, the highly acclaimed woman sufi saint of 8th century (717 - 801), may God sanctify her station.

:: from “Love Poems From God” by Daniel Ladinsky / In both Eastern and western spiritual traditions. It is believed that certain mystics and saints receive a gift from God that makes them poetic conduits of the divine, bearers of "Love Poems From God." Love Poems From God is a collection of poems from 12 timeless spiritual poets; six from the East and six from the West. [>] read some selection of poems via Poet Seer.

. a Zen Story of Dying before Death
. What is Fana, what is Baqa?
/ image credit
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

a Zen Story of Dying before Death

A monk set off on a long pilgrimage to find the Buddha and Enlightenment. He devoted many years to his search until he finally reached the land where the Buddha was said to live.

While crossing the river to this country, the monk looked around as the boatman rowed. He noticed something floating towards them. As it got closer, he realized that it was the corpse of a person.

When it drifted so close that he could almost touch it, he suddenly recognized the dead body - it was his own!

He lost all control and wailed at the sight of himself, still and lifeless, drifting along the river's currents. That moment was the beginning of his liberation.

:: credit & read comment on the story here / image credit

. Zen Stories | Nothing captures our attention quite like a good story ... these are among the oldest stories in human history and have withstood the test of time ... Zen and Taoism are ancient religions offering profound insights into human nature, the cosmos, and spirituality / read more Zen stories from John Suler's site.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Good reads | out of body experience, deciphering spirituality and more

[<] author of the Sufi Novel, Master of the Jinn, Irving Karchmar has shared his wonderful and inspiring out of body experience in his Darvish Blog:
Like a flash, my consciousness, or soul, or spirit, or ka, left my body. I was flying upward around the curved rim of the universe at an impossible speed faster than thought. I still had a body, but it was ethereal, light as a feather. I could see the small oval shapes of thousands of galaxies on my left as I sped past. A heartbeat later I was there.

In front of me was a long luminous table, like a raised dais, and seated there were beings bathed in light, but human in form. They had heads and bodies, but I could not make out their faces. Were they angels? Judges? I don’t know. I think there were ten of them. At least that is the number that is in my head. Then I began to spin like a top attached to a string, though my consciousness looked straight at them. I am spinning and looking straight ahead. How is that possible? And I began to weep. I must be dead, I thought, and began, without any prompting or question being asked, to recount the sins of my life, and they were many. [>] read it here.

[<] good friend Krishna N. Choksi has started writing in her blog Deciphering Spirituality sharing thoughts from her Spiritual Diary. her first post from the diary:
Ever since I came into existence, these two eyes have witnessed glimpses of the supreme ruler’s glory - His gifts of a kaleidoscope of emotions (joy and sorrow, tears and smiles), success and failure, highs and lows, blessings and blessings in disguise (in mysterious forms which I failed to comprehend initially), triumphs and disasters, humans in the form of angels and humans cloaked in the devil’s attire, humanity which stirred my soul and deceit which shattered my existence. The one thing that dawned upon me was that both these contrasting facets of the two P's – Pain and Pleasure were from His goody bag that I call His gifts. It took me many years to realise this truth and I wish to etch it on my soul. [>] visit her blog here.

[<] Deja Vu / The experience of Deja Vu in clinical and spiritual terms.

[<] Jew, Muslim Build Temple, Bridges for Peace

[<] Poems from Alhambra / The walls of the Alhambra are full of calligraphic decoration, cursive and kufic writings with sentences such as "Only God is victor"and poems by three poets of the Court of Granada, Ibn al-Yayyab (1274-1349), Ibn al-Jatib (1313-1375) and Ibn Zamrak (1333-1393), who were secretaries of the royal chancellery and prime ministers. Among them, Ibn Zamrak is considered to be the most brilliant of the poets of the Alhambra. [>] read few of the poems here.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Islamo-Fascism (!) | islamophobia, misinformation and my two cents

Islamo-Fascism (!) Awareness Week (IFWK) according to its neo-conservative organizers, is a national effort to create awareness about Islamo-Fascist Jihad, which in reality contains how much truth is open to debate. It is currently being observed in university and college campuses across US during October 22-26. Like other schools across the country, UCLA is also hosting the IslamoFascism program this week with mixed view points and codemnation from student govt.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week is the brainchild of David Horowitz. Horowitz, president of the David Horowitz Freedom Center (previously the Center for the Study of Popular Culture) editor-in-chief of FrontPageMag.com, and founder of Students for Academic Freedom, is, of course, a former leading New Leftist who has found fame and fortune on the extreme right and has done particularly well since 9/11 when he got in on the “Islamo-Fascist” ground floor. (more via LobeLog)

To begin with, the term IslamoFascim is a wrongly coined term tying up Islam with Fascism. What's wrong with "Islamo-fascism"? For starters, it's a terrible historical analogy, even from very neutral point academic point of view. According to Joseph Sobran, Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term. Linking "fascism" with Islam as Horowitz does posits that the faith of over 1.5 billion people around the world is intrinsically totalitarian.

The term is, in fact, incorrect and counter-productive. Fascism, by commonly accepted definition, incorporates extreme statism, nationalism, and corporatism. Fascism is a state-based phenomenon. Those who talk of "Islamo-Fascism" are encouraging a climate that fosters state-to-state warfare, although police and intelligence work will counter terrorism more effectively. But then, that's probably the point. Iraq II, anyone? (credit)

The Progressive Jewish Alliance has repudiated saying, "Horowitz ... uses symbols and rhetoric which exploit Jewish communal memory and grief. He uses the fear brought about by the Holocaust as well as by terrorist attacks against our fellow Jews. He juxtaposes images of Nazi propaganda with current Islamic extremists. By associating these images with broad groups haphazardly labeled “Islamo-Fascist,” Horowitz seeks to replace intellectual discussion with panic."

[>] Ali Eteraz made comment in his article "Laughing at Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" in The Huffington Post, a good recommend to read.

Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week this time has been focusing on the theme, 'oppression of women in islam'.

Capitalizing on misinformation along with islamophobia, a lot of misconception has been streamed into the publicity of the event. For example when talking about oppression of women in islam, David Horowitz and his team is giving example among others: honor killing and female genital mutilation.

What is significant here is that such horrifying, barbaric practices like honor killing and female genital mutilation has nothing do with the religion of Islam. Practices such as those are very back-dated tribal customs only found in certain part of the world (parts of middle east and pakistan specifically; also found in other community such as Sikhs adherents in India). It is strongly condemned. Even there are Fatwa or religious verdict against honor killing by muslim scholars.

Secondly female genital mutilation also is a very barbaric tribal practice found in few African countries (practiced even by Christians) and it predates even christianity, let alone islam. Categorizing this horrifying practice with religion is another example of deliberate islamophobia, misinformation and crude stereotypes.

Moving away from all the buzz about term Islamo-Fascism and misinformation associated with it i want to give my two cents on the neglected part of this debate. Whenever there is a criticism of Islam, it is often forgotten that no matter what is there in the actual core or teaching of the religion, it is the practitioner of that religion who represent the religion (at least for that time and space). Muslims in general seems go on unrealized that it is the actions of Muslims as a whole, which portrays the image of the religion.

There is no doubt that rights of women are seriously abused and violated in many countries dominated by Muslims, which has very little to do with religion but more to do with culture. For example the attitude against women in many arab society has very deep rooted cultural and social influence. And in many cases such violation of women right are very much against the broad minded teaching of the Prophet of Islam who exerted revolutionary effort to give women right and dignity in his time.

It is undeniable that muslim behavior across the globe has BIG TIME problems and it needs serious self-criticism. There are problems with back dated interpretation of the religion, specially when it comes to Sharia. Reforms are not taken seriously. Still there are doubtable and sources (questioned by religious scholars themselves) used (such as fabricated hadith) to formulate religious codes not suitable for modernity. There has been very little intellectual effort to make the religious code and laws dynamic and more accommodating for the time.

Events like Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, as i see it, is nothing but a reaction which is bound to happen when a beautiful religion is hijacked and made ugly by its own people and fanatics. In our time, the most damage to the image of islam is done not by any other but fanatics of the religion who use the religion as a banner to justify their own selfish agenda. As a counter reaction, spread of islamophobia and misinformation can and will happen (because that again serve other people who have their own agenda like war, sale of weapons, global dominance, ne0-colonialism) in the coming time because of the behavior of the practioners of the religion. Muslims when keep abusing the message of Islam by their ego dominating hatred against each other (shia versus sunni, wahabi versus other etc.) and violent ideology - then it is going to be interpreted like that.

There are serious areas in Islam (such as Sharia Law) which definitely needs to be addressed by islamic scholars with intellectual modern minds. The Sharia and Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) needs to go through dynamic, modern reform with a rational interpretation fitted for our time. There has been a lot advocating from muslim intellects about the need for reinterpreting the Islamic laws in order to help to develop more inclusive, generally equitable laws for the time. And that is very much encouraged and a part of the teaching of the Prophet as well. Ijtihad is Islam’s own tradition of independent thinking which needs to be revived.

# Further read on aspects of Islamo-Fascism
. On Propaganda and Islamophobia
. Looking beyond the Islamofascism rhetoric
. “Fascist-Islamophobia”: A Case Study in Totalitarian Demonization
. Weak defence of Islamo-Fascism
. The origin of Fascism
. The Hypocrisy of “Newly Minted Feminists”…And David Horowitz’ Dangerous Agenda
. Islamofascism: On language - The New York Times
. Neo-Fascism Awareness Week
. Presiden Bush and Islamo-Fascism

# Resources
. IslamoPhobia Watch
. Ijtihad
. Defend Critical Thinking
. News result from IslamoFascism Awareness Week

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Nameless Reality | Osho on Religionless Religion

The true religion has no name, it cannot have any name. Buddha lived it, Jesus lived it - but remember, Jesus was not a Christian and Buddha was not a Buddhist, he had never heard of the word. The truly religious people have been simply religious, they have not been dogmatic. There are three hundred religions in the world — this is such an absurdity! If truth is one, how can there be three hundred religions? There is only one science, and three hundred religions?!

If the science that is concerned with the objective truth is one, then religion is also one because it is concerned with the subjective truth, the other side of the truth.

I teach only that religion. Hence if somebody asks you what my teaching is, in short, you will not be able to say — because I don't teach principles, ideologies, dogmas, doctrines. I teach you a religionless religion, I teach you the taste of it. I give you the method to become receptive to the divine. I don't say anything about the divine, I simply tell you "This is the window - open it and you will see the starry night."

Now, that starry night is indefinable. Once you see it through the open window you will know it. Seeing is knowing - and seeing should be being, too. There should be no other belief.

So my whole effort is existential, not intellectual at all. And the true religion is existential. It has always happened to only a few people and then it disappears from the earth because the intellectuals immediately grab it and they start making beautiful ideologies out of it - neat and clean, logical. In that very effort they destroy its beauty. They create philosophies, and religion disappears. The pundit, the scholar, the theologian, is the enemy of religion.

Even the sky is not the limit, so open your wings without any fear. This whole existence belongs to us; this is our temple, this is our scripture. Less than that is manmade, manufactured by man. Where it is manufactured does not matter much - beware of manufactured religions so that you can know the true, which is not manmade. And it is available in the trees, in the mountains, in the rivers, in the stars - in you, in people that surround you - it is available everywhere.

There is no need to (blindly) believe in anything - that is the fundamental of science. That is the scientific approach to reality: do not (just blindly) believe, inquire. The moment you believe (blindly), inquiry stops. Keep your mind open - neither believe nor disbelieve. Just remain alert and search and doubt everything until you come to a point which is indubitable - that's what truth is. You cannot doubt it. It is not a question of believing in it, it is a totally different phenomenon. It is so much a certainty, overwhelming you so much, that there is no way to doubt it.

This is knowing. And this knowing transforms a man into a buddha, into an enlightened one. This is the goal of all human growth.

- Religionless Religion by Osho (1931-1990), one of the most provocative spiritual teachers of the twentieth century.

. excerpt from Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic by Osho. // . other books by Osho via google book

. related posts
.. Buddha Never Bowed Before a Statue, and Jesus Never Kneeled Before a Cross
.. I'm a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Taoist ...
.. Osho on Sufis of the New Age
.. Sufis: People of the Path

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Sufi's Religion | Inayat Khan

Religion in the ordinary sense of the word, as known by the world, is the creeds. There are not many religions in the world, but there are many creeds. And what does creed mean? Creed means a cover over the religion. There is one religion and there are many covers. Each of these covers is called 'Christianity,' 'Buddhism,' 'Judaism / Hebrew Religion,' 'Islam / Muslim Religion,' etc., and when you take off these covers, you will find that there is one religion, and it is that religion which is the religion of the Sufi (or you can keep it nameless if you dare or if you can comprehend what is nameless). And at the same time a Sufi does not condemn a church or creed or a certain form of worship. He says it is the world of variety.

Everyone must have his choice of food, his choice of dress, his choice of expression. Why must the followers of one faith think that the others are heathens or pagans? The Sufi thinks that we all follow one religion, only in different names and different forms; but behind names and forms there is one and the same spirit and there is one and the same truth.

And now coming to the idea of what religion consists of. The first thing in the religion is the idea of God. What is God? Some say that 'my idea of God is that He is in the highest Heaven, that He is the Creator, that He is the Judge of the Last Day, that He is the Forgiver.' And there is another one who says: 'My idea is that God is all, God is abstract, all is God, and if anyone believes in a personal God, I do not believe it.' Both are right and yet both are wrong. They are right if they see the other point of view and they are wrong if they see their own point of view. Both see the God-ideal with one eye. One sees it with the right eye and the other with the left eye. If they see with both eyes, then the vision is complete.

It is indeed an error on the part of man to limit God in the idea of a Personal Being, and it is wrong in the person who believes in the Absolute God, to efface the Being of god from his conception of it. As they say: 'To explain God is to dethrone God.' To say that God is abstract is like saying: 'God is the space, God is the time.' Can you love the space? Can you love time? There is nothing there to love. A beautiful flower would attract you more than the space. And nice music will attract you more than time. Therefore the believer in the abstract God has only his belief, but he is not benefited by it. He may just as well believe in no God as in an abstract God. Yet he is not wrong. He is uselessly right.

The most advisable thing for the believer of God is to first make his own conception of God. Naturally man cannot make a conception which he does not know, of something he does not know. For instance, if I told you to imagine a bird that you have never seen, which is unlike any bird you have ever seen, you will first attach the bird to wings, then you will see the head of the cow, and then perhaps you will imagine the feet of the horse, the peacock's tail. But you cannot imagine any form which you have not seen, which you have not known. You have to embody from your mind a form which you already know. You cannot make a conception which you have never seen or known before. Besides, it is the easiest thing and it is the most natural thing for man to conceive of any being in his own form. When man thinks of fairies or angels he sees them in human form, and therefore it a person conceives of the God-ideal, even the highest and best way of conceiving will be in the highest and best human personality. There is nothing wrong about it. That is all that man can do.

God is greater than man's conception, but man cannot conceive Him higher than he can. Therefore any man's God is in his own conception. It is useless, therefore, to argue and to discuss and to urge one's own conception upon another. For the best way a person can think of God is in the way he is capable of thinking of God.

And then the next aspect of religion is the ideal of the Teacher. One says that: 'My Teacher is the Savior of the world, the Savior of humanity. My Teacher is Divine, My teacher is God Himself.' And there is another who is ready to oppose it, saying that it is not true, no man can be called divine and now one can save the world, each one has to save himself. But if you look at it from the Sufi's point of view, the Sufi says: What does it matter if a man sees in someone he adores and worships and idealizes, God himself? After all, this whole manifestation is God's manifestation. If he says that in that particular Teacher he sees the Divine, there is nothing wrong about it. Let him call his Teacher Divinity. I am sorry for the one who does not call his Teacher the Savior.' Besides that, we each have an effect of our deeds on the whole cosmos and if a high soul was called by someone' the Savior of the World,' it is not an exaggeration. One wicked soul can cause such harm to the whole cosmos, and one holy soul by his life on earth can do so much good, directly and indirectly, to each being in the world, because each soul is connected with the whole cosmos. But for the Sufi there is no dispute about it.

If a Buddhist says: 'Buddha is my Savior, if a Christian says 'Christ is divine,' if a Muslim says ' Muhammad was the seal of the Prophets,' if a Hindu says ' Krishna was the expression of God,' the Sufi says: 'You are all justified; you each have your name, individually or collectively. You are calling my Ideal. All these names are the name of my Ideal. You each have your own ideals. I have all these names as the name of my Ideal. I call my Beloved: Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad. Therefore all your ideals I love, because my ideal is one and the same.'

And now comes the third idea in religion, and that is the idea of the form of worship. Perhaps in one religion there are candles lighted and there is a form of worship. And there is another religion, even a song is not allowed to be sung in the church. In another religion they call out the name of God and pray to the Lord with movements. In another religion they have put a statue of Buddha on the altar as the sign of peace. These are different expressions of devotion. Just as in the Western countries by nodding and in the Eastern countries by raising their hands, they salute one another. It is the same feeling, but the action is different. What does it matter if one greets in this way or in that way, is it not all a greeting? The Sufi says, so long as there is real devotion, it does not matter in what way it is expressed. For Him it is the same.

. from Religious Gatheka #66, by Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 - 1927), may God bless his noble soul. // text credit via wahiduddin.net

Al-Haqqu min Rabbika; fala takoonanna mina almumtareena.

The Truth is from thy Lord; so be not of the doubters.

- The Quran 2:147

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Secret of Male and Female | Each give birth the other

Abbasseh told a wandering scholar once;
“The man who’s kindled
by love’s radiance
Will give birth to a woman;
when love’s fire quickens within
a woman this desire,
She gives birth to a man;

Is it denied:
That Adam bore a woman from his side, That Mary bore a man?

Until this light Shines out,
such truths are hidden from your sight;
But when its glory comes you will receive
Blessings far greater than you can conceive.
Count this as wealth; here is the faith you need.

But if the world’s base glory is your creed,
Your soul is lost – seek the wealth insight gives;
In insight our eternal kingdom lives.

Whoever drinks the mystics’ wine is king
Of all the world can show, of everything-
Its realms are specks of his authority,
The heavens but a ship on his wide sea;
If all the sultans of the world could know
That shoreless sea, its mighty ebb and flow,
They’d sit and mourn their wretched impotence
With eyes ashamed to meet each other’s glance.

- Form Conference of the Birds
By Fariduddin Attar

Related and Previous Posts on the Secret of Male and Female
. Metamorphsis - Secret of male and female
. Secret of Male and Female : from your thoughts
. In the light of message of the Final Testament
. Sri Ramakrishna's inspiration
. The Book of Mirdad | shedding light on the secret Pin It Now!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We called on You only out of love for You | Sufi Story

The Master told this story: "It has been reported in the tradition of the Prophet that there is a group of people who will be dragged into heaven in chains!"

... then the Masters eyes began to fill with tears. He related, One of the interpretations about the identify of this group are those who tomorrow on the Day of resurrection testify, 'We have believed; we have been sincere.'

They are a group of the lovers of God whom He has directed to enter Paradise. Yet they protest: 'We did not beseech You for the sake of Heaven or for fear of Hell. We called on You only out of love for You." The Command resounds, "So you did, but the promise of seeing Me and being united with Me is fulfilled in Heaven. Enter there that you may obtain what you were promised.'

Still, they do not budge. Then the nearby angels are commanded to bind their necks with chains of light and drag them into heaven! Praise be to God, the Lord of the universe!"

- adopted from Nizam ad-Din Awliya - Morals for the Heart Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sacred Sayings | compiled by Imam Ali

O children of Adam, I am the Ever Alive and will never die. Act on what I have commanded you and avoid what I have forbidden you from. So that I shall give you eternal life in which you never die.

O children of Adam, I am the King Who will never be overthrown. When I command, it will be so. Obey Me in what I have commanded you to do and refrain from what I have prohibited you. So that when you command, it will be so.

O children of Adam, when you speak of good and practice evil, you are head of hypocrites. When your appearance is pleasant but your inner self is ugly, you are the most perditious of the perditious ones.

O children of Adam, no one can enter My blissful station (heaven) unless he or she humbles himself or herself before Me, interrupts his day in My remembrance, denies himself the worldly desires for Me, extends his brotherhood and sisterhood to strangers and helps the poor, and is compassionate to those in suffering, and is generous to orphans and treats them as would a kind father, and is kind and compassionate towards widows as a partner would be.

Thus whatever those with these attributes call Me, I shall respond. And whatever request is made of Me I shall bestow.

.. compiled by Imam Ali, may God bless him, from original Hebrew to Arabic. These are the quotes from Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, where God has spoken directly.
.. from the book, Sacred Sayings of Imam Ali and Prophet Mohammad, MTO Shahmaghsoudi Publications /image credit Pin It Now!

Did you read this? | interesting reads across the web

:: Jesus as an unifying force @ On Faith by Newsweek- Washington
(( The concept of Jesus Christ as the Son of God has been a very contentious theological issue between Muslims and Jews on one side and Christians on the other. However, I personally see Jesus as a great potential source of unity between the Abrahamic faiths ... It may be surprising to some Christians that Jesus is considered a great prophet by Muslims. Indeed Jesus is a focal point in the Quran. He is mentioned more often in the Quran than even the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet himself said that there is no one closer to Jesus in love and reverence than him. )) - Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University

:: New Ideas from a Jewish Dreamer @ Time
(( In 1994, Rodger Kamenetz helped shift the spiritual center of liberal Judaism. His book The Jew in the Lotus combined the chronicle of a delegation of Jews visiting the Dalai Lama with an investigation into the possibilities for meditative mysticism in a Jewish context. The avid curiosity it provoked helped launch a thousand Kabbalah classes. Kamenetz's follow-up, Stalking Elijah: Adventures with Today's Jewish Mystical Masters, won the National Jewish Book Award. But his latest offering, The History of Last Night's Dream, diverges in content and tone. TIME's David Van Biema wondered whether he was straying from his fan base. )) interview with Rodger Kamenetz on Mystical Jewish Dreamworks.

:: No Religion is an Island @ On Faith by Newsweek- Washington
(( From an Islamic perspective I should add two more things here. First, I should bring to the attention of the uninformed that in Islam one of the ninety-nine names of the Creator is love. He is the source and author of love and without his Rahman and Rahim which are two of his Divine Names, affirming both sides of his power and manifestation of love in this life and in the hereafter. )) by Sulayman Nyang, Scholar of African and Muslim affairs.

:: Muslim scholars reach out to Pope via BBC News
(( More than 130 Muslim scholars have written to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging greater understanding between the two faiths. ))

:: Voices from the capital of Sufism via Turkish Daily News
(( The big master of Sufi Islam, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi was praised in his beloved city, Konya, on his 800th birthday. Hundreds of dervishes and thousands of Konyans celebrated Rumi’s gospel of love ))

note: i am starting this new section by the title, Did you read this? - bringing interesting, variety article highlights, news items or contemporary thoughts on religion and faith that broadens the perspective. if you happen to come across any interesting news articles, you may suggest via email here mysticsaint [at] gmail [dot] com .. also i can update the post with new stories added via comments.

"Minds, once broadened, cannot retain their initial confines." Pin It Now!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Meditative Quranic verse | the Greater Death, MahaSamadhi

Wa la taqooloo liman yuqtalu fee sabeeli Allahi amwatun bal ahyaon wa lakin la tashAAuroona. transliteration

And do not call those who die in God (MahaSamadhi) as "dead", no! they are living in their soul's merging with God; only you perceive not. (The Quran 2:154)

Translated on the esoteric level of meaning.

The Final Testament, Quran has many levels of meanings and on broad generalization namely two: external or literal and internal or mystical (sufistic) or that of ma'rifa (gnosis). This particular verse is a good example why literal translation of Quranic verses are not the only way to approach the Quran.

First of all, in general translation and explanation (tafsir or exegeses) of this verse, the death referred as: yuqtalu fee sabeeli Allahi, is translated as that of death in lesser Jihad (some even translated as those who are slain). But this poor translation is not fitting to the weight of this verse.

Here is an explanation why literal translation of Quranic verses without probing into esoteric dimensions misses out the essence. In literal sense, those who die are called "dead", thats the common knowledge. But the verse starts with the negation that the (special) people who die are not to be called "dead". On top of that it is said, those who died are actually living! That paradox is a good indication that this verse is not a subject of literal interpretation only, because it challenges that limited literal understanding. It surely contains deeper meaning(s) on the esoteric dimension.

Now as for "fee Sabeeli Allahi" many only try to mean or explain 'death on the lesser Jihad', the external fighting. But this is not about the lesser, but the Greater. And according to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the Greater Jihad or the Greater Struggle is the struggle against the nafs, the ego.

Similarly, when indicating the Greater Death, remember from the sacred tradition (hadith) where Prophet says, "Die before your death". This death signifies the death of the nafs or ego. Thats the annihilation of the ego. In eastern philosophy this Greater Death is defined by a beautiful term, MahaSamadhi (Maha means Great, Samadhi means death). Although MahaSamadhi on one level refer to soul's departure from the physical realm, for highly cultivated souls this state is independent of the physical body.

The Sufi word Fana-fi Allah is a good hint of this MahaSamadhi or Greater Death. The word Fana meaning: to pass away, to cease to exist, annihilation in God - is the complete losing of self and the realization of God. It rises towards the achievement of union with God. Fana is attained by constant meditation and by contemplation on the attributes of God, coupled with the denunciation of nafs. The other names of MahaSamadhi / Fana in other traditions or culture can be found as Nibban or Nirvana.

Referring to the part of the verse that says, those who die (the Great Death) are not dead, but they are alive! this state of being alive is the state when individual self or soul merge into Supreme Self or Supreme Soul.

God, The Supreme Self is Al-Hayy, the Ever Living and there is no death. That is the pinnacle of the inner meaning of this verse when it says, no! they are living. But alas we perceive that not in our deluded dualistic state, because that Supreme State of Being, Ever Living is beyond perception, beyond comprehension.

This verse of Quran from chapter 2, sura Al-Baqara (The Heifer), is an excellent seed for meditation. May the divine verse enter our inner hearts. amen.
And do not call those who die in God as "dead", no! they are living in their soul's merging with God; only you perceive not.

And God, The Supreme Knower (Al-Alim) knows the best.

. learn more about the concept of Samadhi or Mahasamadhi in eastern philosophy. / . Egolessness / Shunyata
. Sufi Tafsir
. Translation of the Quran

. To Die Before Death - The Sufi Way of Life by Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (read via Google Book).

[>] Click here to read all the previous post on the series | Meditative Quranic Verses
. Quranic verses that encourage Meditation Pin It Now!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tribute to Sri Chinmoy | a lover of God enters Mahasamadhi

I now know why
God has brought me so close;
Because I have placed
At His Feet my heart-rose.

- Sri Chinmoy (1931 - 2007)

Sri Chinmoy, mystic and a spiritual teacher who dedicated his life in the service of humanity, entered into Mahasamadhi - the mystic process through which spiritual Masters exit the body - and passed behind the curtain of Eternity on the morning of 11 October 2007. Indeed we are from God and to Him is the Mahasamadhi, the final journey.

Respected and loved worldwide, Sri Chinmoy's philosophy for world peace was manifested through a wide array of activities, ranging from literature to art to sports to music. The universal nature of his philosophy embraced and encouraged people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities to work together for peace.

Hailed as a modern day renaissance man, Sri Chinmoy has sought to combine the spirituality of the East with the dynamism of the West. He made prolific and eye-opening contributions in the fields of literature, poetry, art, music and athletics. Sri Chinmoy used strenuous exercise and art to spread his message of world harmony and inner peace. He spread his philosophy through his own way of life, exercising and creating art and music. In his 43 years in the West, he endeavored to inspire and serve mankind with his soulful offerings - his prayers and meditations, literary, musical and artistic works. He drew attention by power-lifting pickup trucks and public figures like Muhammad Ali and Sting. He slept only 90 minutes a day, he said, and when he was not traveling to perform in concerts and spread his message, spent the rest of the time meditating, playing music, exercising and making art.

His followers said he had written 1,500 books, 115,000 poems and 20,000 songs, created 200,000 paintings and had given almost 800 peace concerts.

Drawing upon Hindu (Non-Dual, Vedanta and Vaishnavism) principles, Mr. Chinmoy advocated a spiritual path to God through prayer and meditation. He emphasized "love, devotion and surrender" (which is the same universal mystical principles) and recommended that his disciples nurture their spirituality by taking on seemingly impossible physical challenges. In the 1970’s, Mr. Chinmoy was a guru to several prominent musicians, including the guitarist John McLaughlin, who for a time ran the Mahavishnu Orchestra, a name given it by Mr. Chinmoy, as well as the bandleader Carlos Santana, the singer Roberta Flack and the saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

Sri Chinmoy Kumar Ghose was born in 1931 at Chittagong, in what is now Bangladesh. From the age of 12, he lived in an ashram. He immigrated to New York in 1964 to work as a clerk at the Indian Consulate. He opened a meditation center in Queens with a philosophy of celibacy, vegetarianism and meditation and attracted hundreds of followers, many settling near his two-story home on 149th Street. To achieve spiritual enlightenment, he advocated extreme physical activity, including weight lifting, distance running and swimming. Sri Chinmoy leaves behind great spiritual legacy and teachings which God willing, will continue to illuminate many hearts.

May God bless the soul of Sri Chinmoy, may Divine peace be upon all lovers of God.

. Sri Chinmoy
. Explore different resources from Sri Chinmoy
. Watch and hear Sri Chinmoy's Meditation at the Parliament of World's Religions 2004
. Biography
. Poetry by Sri Chinmoy / also at Poetry Seers
. Sir Chinmoy Speaks on spirituality
. Yoga of Sri Chinmoy
. Sri Chinmoy Center
. Sri Chinmoy Art
. Meditation silence
. Tributes / Selected Tributes / NY Times article
. When I am Gone Away, Remember Me - a song by Sri Chinmoy Pin It Now!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gita Inspiration | faith and dedication to the Supreme Being

Whatever is done without faith - whether it is ritual, charity, austerity, or any other act - is useless. It has no value here or hereafter, O Arjuna. (The Gita, 17.28)
If you are unable even to do any spiritual discipline, then dedicate all your work to Me, or do your duty just for Me. You shall attain perfection by doing your prescribed duty for Me - without any selfish motive - just as an instrument to serve and please Me. (12.10)

:: previous posts on Gita
. Sufi Spirit from Bhagavad Gita
. Food for Thought from Gita
. Wisdom of Gita : On work without attachment

. image credit via flickr
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Uncertainty Paradox

In remembrance of the Great Beloved Who brings inspiration & illumination into the inner heart

Uncertainty Paradox

you told me, there is so much uncertainty!
replied i, uncertainty is part of this reality.

Master of Great Silence whispers within:
follow the path diligently
that leads to deeper and unknown trails
into the Universe of Uncertainty.

take hand of the Master of Uncertainty
Who will lead you to the deepest forest,
leaving you totally bewildered and lost.

immersed in total uncertainty
look nowhere to find a way out, but
leave all to Him Who brought you here
in the first place. There is no other way.

for a split second, let not your heart sway.
be baffled but hold fast with total trust.

behold the mystical paradox that says:
only (realizing) Total Uncertainty (within)
will take you to the point of Total Certainty.

Sunday, October 14, 2007
City of Westchester, Los Angeles

. dedicated to you, my woman of sorrow
. image credit via flickr
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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Feed the hungry with a click | power of the Internet in humanitarian need

Thanks to the power of internet, with a single click you can contribute to 1.1 cup of food to a hungry person. And all it costs you is 2 seconds and nothing else!

It is estimated that one billion people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Many in the world at this moment are dying of starvation. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, hunger and malnutrition are the underlying cause of more than half of all child deaths, killing nearly 6 million children each year. Yet the world has all the resource for us all, its just made imbalanced by our selfish hoarding of resources. The Hunger Site was founded to focus the power of the Internet on a specific humanitarian need: the eradication of world hunger.

At The Hunger Site, you can click on a link and through the sponsorship of advertisers to the site food is donated to organizations that distribute it to those in need. THIS COSTS YOU NOTHING! The Hunger Site provides a feel-good way to help promote awareness and prevent hunger deaths every day - through easy and quick online activities. It does not require you to write a check or give your credit card number; it costs you no money.

Those who (in charity) spend of their resources by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. The Quran 2:274

Since its launch in June 1999, the Hunger site has established itself as a leader in online activism, helping to feed the world's hungry. On average, over 220,000 individuals from around the world visit the site each day to click the yellow "Click Here to Give - it's FREE" button. To date, more than 200 million visitors have given more than 300 million cups of staple food.

The staple food funded by clicks at The Hunger Site is paid for by site sponsors and distributed to those in need by Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. 100% of sponsor advertising fees goes to charitable partners. Funds are split between these organizations and go to the aid of hungry people in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and North America.

[>] Please remember to click every day or atleast on a regular basis to give help and hope to those most in need. Every click counts in the life of a hungry person. This is one very simple way that we can extend our charity all year, and God willing continue to feed those in need. Visit Hunger site and click on Click Here to Give Yellow button.

. Read more about The Hunger Site and how it works
. Know about the Projects of Hunger Site
. Know about World Hunger

thanks to Writeous Sister and Darvish Blog for spreading the word. I have incorporated the Hunger Site Button in the blog for quick navigation to the site, you may find it on the right menu panel in the middle.

(The righteous are those) who feed the poor, the orphan … for the love of God, saying: 'We feed you for the sake of God alone; we seek from you neither reward nor thanks.' The Quran 76:8-9

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Prophet's Eid and the Orphan

It was Eid day, the day of celebration and a day of rejoicing. There was an air of festivity in the streets of Madinah. All the people, both young and old were dressed in their best clothes, especially for this special day of Eid.

As it was time for early morning Eid prayers everyone made their way to an open piece of land on the outskirts of the city. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, arrived and led the prayers. After they had finished they all greeted each other and everyone was walking back home. The children running and playing in excitement, smiling and laughing, without a care in the world.

As the Prophet walked back home, he suddenly became aware of a little boy (Zuhair Bin Saghir) sitting by himself on the side of the path. The little boy was crying and looked very sad. The Prophet of love and mercy bent down and patted him on the shoulders and asked 'why are you crying?' 'Please leave me alone' sobbed the little boy. The boy didn't even see who was talking to him, such was his overwhelming sadness.

The loving Prophet ran his fingers through the boy's hair and very gently and kindly asked him again why he was crying. This time the boy said, 'My father was martyred fighting, and now my mother has married again and my stepfather does not want me to live at home any more. Today is Eid and everyone is happy. All the children have new clothes and nice things to eat, but I don't have any clothes except what I am wearing. I have no food and I don't even have a place to live.'

The Prophet said to him, 'I know how you feel, I lost both my mother and father when I was a little boy.' The boy was surprised to hear that it was an orphan who was comforting him, and when he looked up to his great surprise it was the Prophet Muhammad, the most beloved person in the whole world - and he immediately jumped up to his feet out of love and respect.

The Prophet said to him 'If I were to become your new father and Ayesha you new mother, and Fatima your new sister, would that make you feel better?' 'Oh yes, that would be the best thing in the world!' The boy started smiling. The Prophet took him home and gave him new clothes and good food on this beautiful day of Eid. The boy indeed had a wonderful Eid that day.

Later on Zuhair Bin Saghir, who was a companion of Prophet said, “I was hungry and thirsty. Messenger of God fed me. I was an orphan, but now, Prophet Muhammad is my father and Hazrat Aisha is my mother. I am no longer an orphan.”

Some one asked the Prophet Muhammad, what actions are most excellent? He replied, To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.

May be we can make our Eid more meaningful by helping out someone less fortunate than us. May be we can gladden another heart and bring smile at another person's face to make it a real day of happiness on this Eid. Not everyone has such a wonderful day. It is a day of celebration, but take a moment to stop and think of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. That's the real following of Blessed Prophet's path. May your path also be blessed. Peace and blessings be with you. Eid Mubarak!

. text credit / photo: afghani boy
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Friday, October 12, 2007

Symbolic Meaning of Sighting New Moon and Breaking Fast

Eid Mubarak! Greetings of Festival to you all. After a month of fasting, the celebration is going to be on Saturday here in North America.

Based on scientific astronomical calculation (which i support as well) according to The Fiqh Council of North America & the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California Eidul Fitr 1428 is Saturday, October 13, 2007. Have a very Happy Eid Celebration!

Iftar, the breaking of fast and Eid-ul-Fitr (the Festival Celebration that follows after one month of fasting) both are derived from the same Arabic word root F-T-R which means Essence.

Now when we break our fast by taking food it doesn’t limit only to taking nourishment for our body. After a full day of fasting, abstinence from desire of food or bodily need we reach the pinnacle by negating our bodily desire and then comes iftar which represents the essence of spiritual nourishment.

Remember the spiritual nourishment that Jesus prayed for: Said Jesus the son of Mary: "O God our Lord! Send down to us a table spread with nourishment from heaven which should be to us an ever-recurring happiness, for the first of us and for the last of us, a sign from Thee; and give us sustenance, for Thou art the Best Sustainer." - The Quran, Chapter: The Table Spread, 5:114

The Iftar thus symbolize the Essence of Spiritual Nourishment.

When a whole month of fasting ends, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace, instructed to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr when new moon appears. Exoterically it concerns the moon that is out there. But from esoteric perspective we are instructed by the Mystic Master to witness the inner shining, that is enlightenment of heart.

The Prophet said: "... whoever fasts during Ramadan out of sincere faith and hoping to attain God's rewards, then all his past sins and negativity will be forgiven." (Bukhari). The exercise of a whole month of fasting along with other spiritual practices, divine consciousness, seclusion and remembrance one move to reach that state of innocence when one’s heart shines like a beautiful new moon adorning the sky.

That’s the essence (F-T-R) inside Eid-ul-Fitr and that’s where real celebration is.

- inspired from talk given by Jilla Behnam in a meditation workshop organized by MTO Shahmaghsoudi.

O God, do Thou cause the appearance of this moon to be a harbinger of peace, faith, security and submission to You for us. Thy Lord, O moon, and mine is God. May this be a moon presaging guidance and goodness. - Prophet's prayer when new moon appeared
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Raja Yoga and Science of Meditation

. related to previous post: Prophet Muhammad's Meditation

Raja Yoga ("royal yoga", "royal union", also known as Classical Yoga or simply Yoga) is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of ancient Hindu philosophy. It is also sometimes referred to as Astanga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to further one's acquaintance with Reality and finally achieve liberation or Union. The eight levels of Raja Yoga, clearly spelled out, are as follows:

1. Self-Restraint/ "Yama"
Self restraint can be best defined as the codes of behavior that keep the aspirant at peace with the world he lives in, as well as with himself. By engaging in such "self-restraint," the aspirant is freed from the negative Karma that unwholesome behavior will generate.

Typically, this level of practice in all of the esoteric traditions is to instill a sense of righteous behavior in the aspirant. What many fail to realize is that an absence of past indiscretions also frees the mind in the present. Thus, a mind free from these concerns is at peace and free to focus on meditation.

There are five precepts for self-restraint:
# Non-killing/ "Ahimsa"
# Truthfulness/ "Satya"
# Non-stealing/ "Asteya"
# Sexual Continence/ "Brahmacharya"
# Non-covetousness/ "√Āparigraha"

2. Observance/ "Niyama"
Observances build on the concepts of self-restraint, putting those principles into action in daily life. Such natural extensions comprise this second level.
# Purity of action
# Contentment
# Austerity
# Study of self-development through classic treatises
# Physical discipline
# The honoring of a guru
# Surrender of ego to the ultimate universal power

Much or most of this is not possible for modern society without having heightened awareness and psychological growth that could only come through some sort of preparatory practice like Hatha Yoga.

3. Physical Practice/ "Asana"
Although "physical practice" is considered an absolute necessity to open up and develop the muscular and central nervous systems in all of the traditions, it is not enough. The majority of these exercises are stretching in character, but many "Asanas" build incredible strength.

In the truest understanding of Raja Yoga, though, asana relates to the sitting meditation postures of padmasana/lotus pose, siddhasana/accomplished pose for men, and siddha yoni asana/accomplished pose for women. To be able to sit in these poses for hours at a time comfortably with perfect concentration necessitates a high level of accomplishment in the asana practice of Hatha Yoga.

4. Breathing Exercise/ "Pranayama"
Breathing exercises develop the connection between the cultivation of energy/"Prana" and the breath of the aspirant. Various techniques are used in Yoga, from alternating nostrils to forced exhalations to timed

inhalations and exhalations. It is at this point where the production of "Prana"/ "Chi" really accelerates. An advanced aspirant learns breathing techniques, some which trace the sensation of the breath up and down certain limbs or energy lines. Energy develops, and the aspirant presupposes that, in the energy felt, the ultimate goal of his exploration into meditation has been realized- the ability to feel energy travel through limbs or spine.

5. Sense Withdrawal/ "Prathyahara"
Sense withdrawal is the pulling of the five senses back into the mind and the detaching from the various sense stimuli that the surrounding environment is generating. This level is considered to be the last level of the foundation necessary to be successful in the pursuit of a true a spiritual experience in meditation.

"The excited senses of even a wise man, though he may be strong, impetuously carry away his mind. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It is a trying discipline of the senses." -Swami Sivananda, "Fourteen Lessons on Raja Yoga"

6. Concentration/ "Dharana"
Concentration is possible once sense withdrawal has begun. The refocusing of the senses on a single concentration point continues the inward turning of the mind. In the practice of Trataka, seeing an image with the eyes closed at the eyebrow center is one example of such a concentration technique. When one focuses the mind like this, it is akin to all of the light being generated by a light bulb condensing into one point- a light bulb can light a room, whereas a laser can cut through metal. You are training your mind to be like a laser.

Raja Yoga has it that if one can inwardly focus on such a point in this way for 12 seconds without interruption, it is considered a "Dharana." This is much harder than it sounds. Most people's minds will interrupt such an endeavor almost immediately.

7. Meditation/ "Dhyana"
Meditation is the unbroken flow of the mind on a single point for an extended period. In practice, it can be measured by counting the numbers of breaths in one's focus on a concentration point, with or without a mantra.

8. Superconsciousness / "Samadhi"
Superconciousness is the state of "union" that word Yoga directly refers to. The union achieved is described as: "In Samadhi, the meditator loses his individuality and becomes identical with the Supreme Self. Just as the river joins the ocean, the individual soul joins the Supreme Soul, the ocean of absolute consciousness."-Swami Sivananda, "Fourteen Lesson on Raja Yoga"

It is at this level that the aspirant reaches a peak in his/her evolution. Very few aspirantst reach this level of development. It is really not worth talking about, since words fail to convey the experience adequately to any one who has not experienced this directly.

- - -

[>] How Prophet's meditation and teaching and the philosophy of Raja Yoga coincide can be discussed further in details. But for the moment anybody who is familiar with the inner philosophy of Islam can easily connect with the principles and different levels of Raja Yoga as outlined above.

[>] Just as a hint (only) about the physical aspect (Asanas), let me mention few sacred traditions (hadith) of the Prophet, about his actions which might shed some light about Yoga method of sitting position (the lotus position) which even Prophet used as narrated and recorded by his companions.

A Hadith reported by Dhayyal ibn Ubayd mentions: "I went to the Prophet and I found him seated with his legs double crossed." - Related by Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad.

Jabir bin Samurah reported: "After the Fajr (dawn) prayer the Prophet used to sit crossed legged in the same place in which he had prayed till the sun shone brightly." - Abu Dawud.

"I visited the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and I saw him sitting cross-legged." - from the narration of Dhayyal ibn Hanzala.

:: References:
. Raja Yoga via Wikipedia
. The Eight Levels of Raja Yoga - by Daniel Carr
. Free books on Yoga by Swami Sivananda Pin It Now!

Prophet Muhammad's Meditation

It is known from historical accounts that before his prophetic illumination, the last Divine Messenger, Prophet Muhammad used to go to spiritual seclusions and extended retreats of meditation into Mouth Hira near Mecca. It is during one of such meditation retreats (in the holy month of Ramadan) in a defining moment of extra-cosmic enlightenment, Divine revelations started to reveal to him. The well-preserved collection of such Divine revelations later came to be known as Quran which literally means recitation because the Prophet following the inspirations, used to recite it to others including his companions.

Now, interestingly nobody surely knows about the exact method of meditation that Prophet Muhammad used in his very personal experience in Mount Hira. The aspect of meditation and its teaching was most probably passed down to very inner circle of elect companions such as Ali, Abu Bakr, Fatima etc. who are known for their more evolved and higher spiritual station. The validation of the previous statement can be derived from the historical fact that holy companions like Ali, Abu Bakr were able to reach elevated levels of intense concentration and super-conscious stages during their formal prayers, which signifies that they were taught the science of concentration (which basically meditation is).

Now Sufis or Muslim mystics preserved the tradition of meditation unlike the orthodox schools of Islam. Different Sufi groups have their different method of meditations transmitted from Prophet to his different elect companions. Prophet's meditation was and still is one of my most fascinating area of interest. Once in a conference I had the courage to ask Shaykh Hisham Muhammad Kabbani, the current spiritual master of distinguished Naqshbandi Order, whether the methods of Prophet's meditative experiences, specially in Hira mountain cave are recorded. The Shaykh replied, "nobody knows except Allah".

Now as a learner if one approach (in a very human, rational way) about the urge to know the methods of Prophet Muhammad's meditation, it is very much plausible to think that since he was practicing this prior to his divine inspiration - he might have been introduced to the idea of meditation at some point of time earlier. It is known from the life of the holy Prophet that he used to travel to Syria in his young age. At that time Syria and that part of the world was the center of devout monks, mystics, kabbalists, sabians, gnostics - vibrating with fusion of different traditions. Now if one has to trace back the history of meditational techniques among different world faiths and analyze the time line (because the more ancient it is, the more sophisticated it might become over the time with accumulation of wisdom) - one is sure to go back to ancient land of Indus valley (hence the name Hindus) we now call India.

Many scholars do acknowledge that fact that ancient Indian spiritual wisdom did spread beyond its boundaries. It was instrumental in influencing other religious and spiritual practices. Thus cross-cultural and cross-spiritual exchange was a very much possible reality prior and during the time of the Prophet. Hindu civilization having very rich tradition of meditation techniques was borrowed by others and assimilated into their own. Its not impossible that gnostics and ancient spiritual groups, particularly the Christian monks did know about such techniques from exchange of pilgrims among various lands.

What my hypothesis is: it is very much possible that the meditation technique Prophet Muhammad used to practice might have been learned or influenced from gnostics during his trips to Syria and adjacent lands which again might have been inherited it from ancient Indian wisdom of meditation. The reason of saying that among many other reasons is because Indian meditation technique is one of the most sophisticated science of meditation known to mankind that still thrives today. If one look at the eastern meditation techniques, specially that of ancient science of Yoga from India, one will easily agree with that.

Just as Islam is a transmission and continuation of Divine Inspiration from Judeo-Christian tradition, so is possible the cross-spiritual transmission of eastern ideas and techniques. Specially when it comes to higher level of consciousness and the art of self realization through meditation, it does hints to collective human experience across race and space. The idea of Prophet Muhammad's meditation always fascinates me and tracing its root in the broader context of collective human experience, (to my personal observation) one has to go back to Indian or Yogic wisdom of meditation because it is one of the most original, most ancient (we are talking about thousands of years before the birth of Christ even) and most importantly one of the most refined techniques of meditation that is known to humanity.

[> NEXT POST ] i was reading about Raja Yoga (the Royal Path of Union, a specialized science of meditation from ancient India) and God willing in the next post i would like to post specifically on it (Raja Yoga) to demonstrate the proximity at the level of Haqiqa or Inner Reality between Islamic Philosophy and what Raja Yoga is about.

. As-Salatu was Salamu alayka ya Sayyidi ya Rasul Allah. May God's infinite blessings be with the master and teacher of humanity, Prophet Muhammad upon whom the pinnacle of Divine Revelation was graced.

(c) Sadiq M. Alam / UCLA
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