Friday, October 19, 2012

De Baptism

De Baptism Image
I've long been of the opinion that the ritual of infant baptism as practiced by many mainstream Christian denominations is essentially pointless from a spiritual and magical perspective. My reasoning? If we assume that the Christian concept of salvation is based on spiritual realization, we must also take into account the basic truth that nobody else can do spiritual work for us. The problem with infant baptism is quite simply that while participating in a religious ritual led by another person can help speed one's spiritual progress, an infant really has no idea what is going on. Some babies just cry through the whole thing and find the water used unpleasant, which seems to me as about as far from a genuine spiritual awakening as I can imagine.

While baptism does serve a social function, it seems to me that people could get their socialization in clubs or organizations that are not religious in nature. This strikes me as a better state of affairs on the grounds that it would ensure that human politics and spiritual realization do not become conflated with each other. I'll add that this is not limited to churches, and the same point could be made about many magical orders and societies. There's a reason that when Aleister Crowley first put together his plan for A.'.A.'. he forbade socialization among its members. He had seen firsthand what political struggle had done to the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and had played a significant part in it himself acting as Mathers' representative in London during the "revolt of the Adepts."

Several new websites are now offering "de-baptism" certificates for those who wish to formally leave their Christian Churches. While requesting a certificate from a website is at least as pointless as an infant baptism ritual from a spiritual perspective, its political significance cannot be overlooked.

The idea of getting "de-baptized"-- or having your name officially deleted from the baptismal registry-- is relatively new, but one which the Catholic Church is beginning to take seriously, and with grave concern.

The movement may have begun just a decade ago when Terry Sanderson, head of the National Secular Society in Britain, posted an unofficial "de-baptism certificate" on the society's website, mostly as a joke. To date it has been downloaded at least 100,000 times.

"It was a joke to begin with, but now it has taken on a new significance because there are so many people who are anxious to leave the church that they are actually taking it seriously now, and they want some way to make their break with the church formal," Sanderson told VOA. "Often the church won't acknowledge their desire to leave."

Many disenfranchised ex-parishioners have begun to take it a step further, seeking official, legal acknowledgement for de-baptism. For instance, 71-year-old Frenchman Rene Lebouvier recently filed a lawsuit against the church after his initial request to have his name crossed off the church's baptismal registry was denied. Last October, a lower court in Normandy ruled in his favor, making him the first man to be officially de-baptized, though a local bishop has filed an appeal.

The very existence of de-baptism demonstrates the extent to which people have become angry with the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of ongoing scandals and the continued embrace of political positions very much at odds with those of the modern world. It remains to be seen if the current surge in de-baptisms represents a trend, or if it is simply the latest Internet craze that will fade as quickly as it emerged.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Meaning Of Tao

Meaning Of Tao Image
Couple of days back (24th Aug, 2006) i was initiated in a Tao temple here in Singapore. i went there to quench my thirst about Tao Philosophy. being someone interested in comparative religion, i found it interesting to co-relate between the Tao Philosophy and Judio-Christian-Islamic philosophy. Tao is one of the most ancient philosophy, also it refers to the ancient/folk religion of ancient China. on the other hand islam is the last major monotheistic religion, the most modern philosophy in terms of religious ideas. yet the fabric that binds the two is amazing and ever refreshing to discover.

The very meaning of Tao is very enigmatic. Literally it means 'the Way', or 'the Path', although it means much more. Those who are familiar with the undescribable nature of the Supreme Spirit (Param-Atma in Hindu terminology) the Abstract description of God, can easily co-relate the idea of Eternal Tao and the unfathomable idea of God. From Taoist sacred texts we find:

The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao;

The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.

The Nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

It is the same Judio-Christian-Muslim idea of God. The idea that God can not be named was so great in Judaic tradition, they still write God as G-d as a symbol of respect and to mean that God can not be named in reality. In Quran we also find this idea of God as an impersonal reality far beyond human intellect. Quran says clearly, "Glory to be God, the Lord of Inaccessibility, above everything that they describe" (37:180) or in simpler terms, "Nothing is like Him" (42:11).

Quoting from the wikipedia on Tao: There is the 'Great Tao', that is the source of and guiding principle behind all the processes of the universe. Beyond being and non-being, prior to space and time, Tao is the intelligent ordering principle behind the unceasing flow of change in the natural world. In this sense Tao gains great cosmological and metaphysical significance comparable to the theistic concept of God (particularly the first person of the Christian Trinity) ; the Greek concept of the logos; or the Dharma in Indian religions.

thus when as a muslim i recognize the symbology of Tao and can relate it to the abstract transcendental idea of God in other religion including that of Islam, it was easier for me to appreciate the Taoists when they say, 'everything comes from the TAO'. i had no problem agreeing with the idea that everything began from the God, Al Azim (another name of God found in Quran, meaning incomparably Great) and Al Badi (the Originator).

Remembering the opening chapter of the Quran, namely AlFatiha - i was saying to myself that in every prayer muslims pray for the Tao. you wonder how?

Remember the quranic verse when it says,

Ihdina aLssirata almustaqeema.

Guide us on the straight path. (chapter 1, verse 6, the Quran)

Now Tao exactly means the Path. so if the Quran was in chinese instead of arabic we had to read it as 'Tao' and in essence we basically praying to Eternal Tao (that is the God transcendental) for the tao (the path, the dhamma, the guidance).

Also if you read Tao Te Ching, the way it describes the Eternal Tao, you can co-relate with the names of God mentioned in the Quran, for example: Al Waajid - God The All Perceiving;

Al Badi - God The Originator.

For a more scholarly explanation pls read this article by Sachiko Murata that talks about the Tao of Islam. its a very refreshing article not only for muslims but for all.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ideas Of The Sufi

Ideas Of The Sufi Image
One of my friend, Viktor asked, "Can you post some about what Sufi really is? I mean, I read the wikipedia entry, but I'm still not smarter. What does it mean for you? IS IT A FAITH? IS THIS KIND OF A SUCCESSOR TO ISLAM? Or how does it fit in the entire religous cosmos?"

Thanks Viktor for asking. Not everything can be defined. Sufi idea is one such thing. You can't define Divine Love, can you ? (but u can realize it, u can atleast try to explain it with certain limitations). You have to realize the truth in your heart cause its so subtle and at the same time, so grand, words are not enough.

To make things clear at first, Sufi Idea is NOT FAITH. Sufism is philosophy among the religions and it is a religion among the philosophies. It is realization of God, devotion and love. It is not a successor to Islam, but it continues even after Islam.

Sufis are mystics and the central idea of Sufism is believed to have existed from the beginning of creation. All Messengers, Biblical Prophets are Mystics. Traces of Sufism or Mysticism are to be found in all periods of History. Abraham, Moses, Jesus propagated the Divine Love, Sufism until the coming of Muhammad, by whom THIS BROTHERHOOD WAS FORMED, while it is advanced by Ali and later spiritual personalities.

The Sufi SEES THE TRUTH IN EVERY RELIGION. They understand the hidden message in all faith because each are longing for the same goal, uniting with the Ultimate Soul, God, Heaven in Father who created Man in His own image, with His own Spirit.

If invited to offer prayers in a church, a mosque, a synagogue, or a temple, the Sufi is ready to do so, knowing that all people worship the same God, the Only Being, no matter what Name they use. YET THE SUFI'S TRUE HOUSE OF WORSHIP IS THE HUMAN HEART, IN WHICH THE DIVINE BELOVED LIVES.

Sufism is a religion for those who wish to learn religion from it, a philosophy for those wanting wisdom from it, a mystical path for any who would be guided by it to the unfoldment of the Soul, and yet it is beyond all these things. It is the Light of Life, which is the sustenance of every soul. Sufism is the Message of Love, Harmony, and Beauty

The tendency of the Sufi IS TO UNITE HUMANITY than to differ. That is why they readily appreciate and seek the inner beauty of the teachings of all spiritual leaders becaues all souls are inspired by the One God. Not distraced by the outer differences but able to seeing the "inner reality", they can transcend beyond any forms, culture, language and even religious faith.

Sufism is the ancient school of wisdom. The Mysticism that was only taught to very close disciples of Jesus and also Muhammad are often quoted inspirations. If you are seeking to undestand life and yourself, then you can call yourself Sufi. Every seeker after the ultimate truth is really a Sufi.

For more detail, you can read from the following links,

10 Sufi Thoughts,

History of the Sufis and Unity of Religious Ideas,

Spirit of Sufism and Sufism.

I may go on quoting many things about Sufi, but its better to leave it to you to discover more.

Surely all inspirations come from our Beloved God and He only shows the path whoever seeks for it. As Jesus said, "I SAY UNTO YOU, ASK, AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU; SEEK, AND YE SHALL FIND; KNOCK, AND IT SHALL BE OPENED UNTO YOU"."

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Thomas Merton Letter To Sufis And Views On Sufism

Thomas Merton Letter To Sufis And Views On Sufism Image
"I'm deeply impregnated

with Sufism."

- Thomas Merton,

In 'The Springs of Contemplation'

"I am the biggest Sufi in Kentucky though I admit

there is not much competition"

- Thomas Merton, October 1966

"My prayer tends very much to what you (sufis) call fana.^"

- In letter to a Sufi master Abdul Aziz

^ Fana in sufism refers to the inner act and unitive experience of merging with the Divine oneness

1. Sufism: a very strange subject and it should be kept a strange subject

"Who wants mystical theology in a monastery?!", says he mischievously. "That's almost as bad as bootlegging or something!" dismissing it, bug-eyed with mock wondering disgust. "The last thing in the world any modern, progressive Catholic wants to hear about is mystics... I sort of throw it at you with a Moslem disguise or something like that in which it is more acceptable."

At this point, having warmed his audience up, he launches into the topic of the day.

"Now, we'll talk about Sufism. Sufism is a very strange subject, and it should be kept a strange subject." He has his listeners intrigued. "Don't ever let anybody ever get up here, or anywhere else, and give you a course on Sufism," introducing the class with bonhomie to cover his genuine modesty about presenting a subject for which in fact he was, despite his humble disclaimers, perfectly well qualified. "Because anybody who is giving you a course on Sufism is giving you a false bill of goods, and anyway, what do you suppose Sufism is all about?"

- from a series of informal Sunday classes which the teacher has organized to stimulate the monks' faith and practice: the topic is Sufism, six talks, during 1967-68, venue The Monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani, Kentucky. The speaker is Father Louis, better known to the world by his given name: Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968).

2. A Catholic Monk in Sufi Garb

Merton's interest in Sufism was a venture he specifically sought out. Initially his correspondence with the French scholar Louis Massignon, the presenter par excellence of the martyred master Hallaj to the West, was a triggering point for his interest in Islam. Particularly its mystical dimension, Sufism, the study of which Merton pursued through the works of two other important living scholars in the field, the French Henry Corbin and the Iranian Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

His discovery of Ibn 'Arabi, who bridged the domains of mysticism and philosophy, had a special impact on him, and he took an avid interest in the Spanish Sufis. It was not lost on him that the Arabic word suf referred to the coarse wool worn by a particularly ascetic group of the Prophet's Companions, and that this was the very material with which the austere Trappists traditionally garbed themselves. And not to mention, he was a trappist monk himself, living the life of a catholic monk in sufi garb.

3. Thomas Merton's letters to Sufis

Father Thomas Merton's most fruitful correspondence which he had on Sufism was with a Pakistani sufi master and scholar, Abdul Aziz, who first wrote to him in November 1960 when his name had been furnished by Massignon, in answer to his request for the recommendation of a contact with "some genuine Christian saint and contemplative mystics". It was the letters and books which Merton received from this fertile source that spawned the series of Sunday lectures on Sufism.

In answer to a query by Abdul Aziz about books on St. John of the Cross, Merton mentions the works of the two contemporary priests, Fr. Bruno de J'esus-Marie and Fr. Paul Nwyia, on the saint and his possible Sufi connections.

One of the fruits of the exchange of books between Merton and Abdul Aziz was the monk's receipt of a copy of Titus Burckhardt's classic text on Sufism, which prompted him to comment to his correspondent that Sufism clearly involved "a deep mystical experience of the mystery of God our Creator Who watches over us at every moment with infinite love and mercy". He mentions that Burckhardt's book also directed his attention to the importance of tawhid as central to the Sufi perspective, prompting him to note:

"I think that the closest to Islam among the Christian mystics on this point are the Rhenish and Flemish mystics of the fourteenth century, including Meister Eckhart, who was greatly influenced by Avicenna (the Persian mystical philosopher Ibn Sina). The culmination of their mysticism is in the 'Godhead' beyond 'God' (a distinction which caused trouble to many theologians in the Middle Ages and is not accepted without qualifications) but at any rate it is an ascent to perfect and ultimate unity...

Another point from Burckhardt which impresses Merton is the matter of "the dhikr which resembles the techniques of the Greek monks, and I am familiar with its use, for it brings one close to God". He agrees that God "alone is Real, and we have our reality only as a gift from Him at every moment. And at every moment it is our joy to be realized by Him over an abyss of nothingness", a comment which reflects the agony of Merton's existential state as much as anything springing from Sufi doctrine, for he goes on to say with a particularly un-Sufi-like bitterness, "but the world has turned to the abyss and away from Him Who Is. That is why we live in dreadful times". The Sufi perspective would be that no time in the world is better or worse than any other; the 'dreadfulness' comes in one's individual inattention to God at any time.

In discussing the approach of St. John of the Cross, in whom Abdul Aziz had expressed particular interest, he could be expounding Sufi doctrine in the approach he takes, stating that there are two levels of detachment: first the outward, which he says is easier, then the inward, explaining that:

Inner detachment centers around the 'self', especially in one's pride, one's desire to react and to defend or to assert 'self' in one's own will. This attachment to the self is a fertile sowing ground for seeds of blindness, and from this most of our errors proceed. I think it is necessary for us to see that God Himself works to purify us of this inner 'self' that tends to resist Him and to assert itself against Him. Our faith must teach us to see His will and to bend to His will precisely in those points where He attacks the self, even through the actions of other people. Here the unjust and unkind actions of others, even though objectionable in themselves, can help us to strip ourselves of interior attachment.

By June 1964 Merton is telling Abdul Aziz that he is to "provide notes on Islamic mysticism from time to time for the magazine of our Order. This is a new step, and a promising one". In another letter he reaffirms the harmony of perspective he feels between Christianity and Islam, asking when Ramadan is to be that year (1965) and saying:

I would like to join spiritually with the Moslem world in this act of love, faith and obedience toward Him Whose greatness and mercy surround us at all times, and Whose wisdom guides and protects us even though, in the godlessness of the world of men, we are constantly on the edge of disaster. We must humble ourselves truly and seek to see our state, and strive to pray with greater purity and simplicity of heart.

4. Disclosing the Inner-ness of Thomas Merton's Prayer

Br. Patrick Hart of the Abbey of Gethsemani commented in an interview over Thomas Merton's correspondence with Sufi master Abdul Aziz, "That's a wonderful correspondence. I recommend it to everybody to read because it's the only time when he talked about how he himself prayed."

This is what Merton wrote in a final note in the correspondence with Abdul Aziz:

Strictly speaking I have a very simple way of prayer. It is centered entirely on attention to the presence of God and to His will and His love. That is to say that it is centered on faiths by which alone we can know the presence of God. One might say this gives my meditation the character described by the Prophet as "being before God as if you saw Him." Yet it does not mean imagining anything or conceiving a precise image of God, for to my mind this would be a kind of idolatry. On the contrary, it is a matter of adoring Him as invisible and infinitely beyond our comprehension, and realizing Him as all. My prayer tends very much toward what you call fana ['annihilation']. There is in my heart this great thirst to recognize totally the nothingness of all that is not God. My prayer is then a kind of praise rising up and out of the center of Nothing and Silence. If I am still present 'myself' this I recognize as an obstacle about which I can do nothing unless He Himself removes the obstacle. If He wills, He can then make the Nothingness into a total clarity. If He does not will, then the Nothingness seems to itself to be an object and remains an obstacle. Such is my ordinary way of prayer, or meditation. It is not 'thinking about' anything, but a direct seeking of the Face of the Invisible, which cannot be found unless we become lost in Him who is Invisible.

The significance of this passage is, first, that it is written as a confidence, involving the expression of something which he would normally find too private, even too inexpressible, to expose to anyone; and second, that Merton has been inspired to find terms to express the inexpressible through the vocabulary of the Sufis which has come through the works which Abdul Aziz has led him to. He does not have a 'dhikr' (a sacred formula), which he acknowledges to be the key to Sufi contemplation, but he is struggling to embrace the process of Divine communication in a conceptual way, beyond the rituals, the litanies and the offices of the Church and the monastic rule offered to the devotee in his own tradition.

Other than the correspondence with Pakistani sufi Abdul Aziz and the abundant reading material that sprang from it, there was another sufi master who shaped Merton's view on sufism and it was Algerian Sufi shaikh, Sidi Abdesalam.

Merton's biographer, Michael Mott, describes the impact of Sidi Abdesalam: Now a man (Sidi Abdesalam) he (Thomas Merton) recognized as a true mystic, a man who represented the most authentic tradition in Islamic spirituality, left him with the message that he was very close to a mystical union and that the slightest thing could bring that union about.

In carrying on the teaching of his visit, the shaikh wrote Merton a letter the following February, asking if he "had set aside the distractions of words, his own words and those of others, in order to realize the mystical union" he had foreseen. At this time, in the winter of 1967, Merton was in the throes of debating within himself whether or not to travel. As Mott puts it:

"What is best is what is not said," Merton translated from Sidi Abdesalam's letter. He was in search of the "not said". Solitude had borne many fruits when Merton had trusted it [in his solitary hermitage].

This is the context in which Merton was giving his lectures over the years 1967-68, basically from the time of his encounter with the Sufi shaikh to that of his departure on his journey.

In attempting to give the 'strange' Sufism greater immediacy to his fellow monks, Merton, the teacher, explores the idea of a connection between Sufism and the Christianity of his monastic listeners, suggesting a link with Syriac Christianity, which must have come up in his voluminous reading, through which he had, no doubt, come across the fact that the Prophet Muhammad had received his first religious instruction from a Nestorian monk in the course of his commercial journeys into Syria long before his revelation. He then turns to the great late medieval mystics of the Netherlands and the Rhineland, notably Ruysbroeck and Meister Eckhart, who he says "are like the Sufis," continuing on to state approvingly: "That's why they are good," and, furthermore, "That's also why they get into trouble."

He states that "this is a thing that the Sufis realised. You cannot go on indefinitely affirming and denying,... for sooner or later you are going to have to account for the things that you've denied... Because eventually the balance gets overbalanced and, all of a sudden, everything flops over and you suddenly find that the people who hold all the affirmations are supremely impious people. What happens is that there comes a time in this process where the most orthodox, the most fervent and the most holy people are real sons of guns." At this point his exasperation with the sanctimonious and doctrinaire types becomes so strong that a wrath of the sort that fired Jesus to drive the money-changers out of the temple stirs him to begin spelling out that 'naughty word': "bastard", to brand the hidebound, denying dogmatists who plague every faith.

To bring the point home to his listeners, he touches on the archetypal case from the Gospels: that of the Pharisees. "The supreme example of this process is where you have the officially holy people who've got everything taped so perfectly that when God appears, they kill him." If he had used the term, 'perfect human' (insa'n-i kamil), he would have been virtually expounding Sufi doctrine.

What he does proceed to do is to come to grips with another doctrine vital not only to the Sufis but to Islam in general: that of the simultaneous transcendence (tanzih) and immanence (tashbih) of God with respect to the realm of existence. While similar issues have been raised in the context of Christian theology, Merton chooses to employ the Islamic concepts and terms, with which he is not merely familiar but over which he has clearly pondered considerably. This discussion leads Merton on to the topic of the 'mystical knowledge of God', the subject of his next talk, but which he introduces now, giving a foretaste of what is to come. He begins with the paradox of God's simultaneous transcendence and immanence, saying that the former represents the "absolute otherness of God", which is "not able to be expressed in any way, not able to be understood, not able to be manifested," while the latter indicates that God "is able to be understood", that, indeed, "He is manifested in concrete things, and He's in everything." The speaker tells us that the Sufis "run these two things together, and actually the point is that there is no knowledge of God without these."

In the final talk, the second part of the discussion of 'The Desire for God', Merton states that the "Sufis are centered entirely around this love, this desire, this thirst, for God, which is a passion, you see. It is a supreme passion, and the Sufis emphasize the aspect of passion... not passion in a purely erotic sense, but it is a passion of love arising out of a supreme intuition." When it comes to question time, he replies to someone's query with words he says he is quoting from the Sufis: "Those who once knew God in Him as their supreme love, when He manifests Himself to them in this life, they suddenly become beside themselves and intoxicated with ecstatic love, for they know the scent of the wine. They have drunk it before."

5. Sufi prayer from the Heart and Contemplative Prayer

Br. Patrick Hart, Speaking on the Legacy of Thomas Merton in April 2005 commented:

He (Fr. Thomas Merton) really observed things... I recall that when he was getting ready to go to the Far East he said, "I'm hoping to bring back some of their wisdom, some of their techniques and their ways of praying and entering into the Silence." It wasn't that he wanted to change any doctrines. He wanted to learn more about their methods so that he could deepen his own monastic experience. He didn't deny that there were differences in doctrine; he wasn't trying to wash that away.

But he felt that people like the Sufi mystics can teach you how to pray from the heart, to enter into the heart and not worry about the creeds and doctrines that divide us. On the experiential level, the level of how we experience God, Merton felt we have much in common.

6. Inspiration for Dialogue

Merton who was a preeminent pioneer of inter-religious dialogue and spiritual friendship, saw the Sufi concept of fana as being a catalyst for Muslim unity with Christianity despite the obvious doctrinal differences. He wrote to his letter to sufi Abdul Aziz:

Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas... in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution.... But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light... It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.

In another letter he said:

"I am tremendously impressed with the solidity and intellectual sureness of Sufism. I am stirred to the depths of my heart by the intensity of Moslem piety toward His names, and the reverence with which He is invoked as the 'Compassionate and the Merciful.' May He be praised and adored everywhere forever."

7. Merton and Sufism The Untold Story: A Complete Compendium

The book published by Fons Vitae contains Thomas Merton's encounter with Sufi mysticism, views, his own sufi poems, edited transcriptions of his lectures on Sufism given to the Trappist novices at the Abbey of Gethsemani, and a selections of works from which he drew particular inspiration including the work of Al-Tirmidhi (d.932), which uses fascinating metaphors elucidate the difference between the Breast, Heart, Inner Heart, and the Intellect. Also included is Merton's famous correspondence with Abdul Aziz and Marco Pallis and a photo essay depicting similarities among Sufi and Christian practices.

May God be well pleased with Father Louis, Thomas Merton; bless his saintly soul in abundance and accept him among the sanctified lovers in the court of the Most High.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Victory Of Virtue Over Vice In Ramayana

Victory Of Virtue Over Vice In Ramayana Image
The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic attributed to the poet Valmiki and an important part of the Hindu canon. The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven cantos and tells the story of Rama, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravan.

Like its epic cousin Mahabharata, the Ramayana is not just an ordinary story. It contains the teachings of the very ancient Hindu sages and presents them through allegory in narrative and the interspersion of the philosophical and the devotional. The characters of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharat, Hanuman and Ravana (the villain of the piece) are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of the world.

Morals in Ramayana

The brief narration of the entire Ramayana story by the sage Narada to Valmiki, forms the first sarga of Valmiki Ramayana. Narada lists the sixteen qualities of the ideal man and says that Rama was the complete man possessing all sixteen of these qualities. Although Rama himself declares "he is but a man", and never once claims to be divine, Rama is regarded by Hindus as one of the most important avatars of God Vishnu and an ideal man.

The story of Rama is divided into four parts:

1. Early life of Rama

2. Rama's exile

3. Abduction of Sita (Rama's wife) and

4. Slaying of Ravana, the abductor of Sita, and Rama's coronation.

Main Characters

1. Rama is the hero of this epic tale. He is portrayed as an incarnation of the god Vishnu. He is the eldest and the favorite son of the King of Ayodhya, Dasharatha. He is a popular prince loved by one and all. He is the epitome of virtue. Dasaratha, forced by one of his wives Kaikeyi commands Rama to relinquish his right to the throne for fourteen years and go into exile by his father. While in exile, Rama kills the demon king Ravana.

2. Sita is the wife of Rama and the daughter of king Janaka. She is the incarnation of Goddess Laxmi (Lord Vishnu's wife). Sita is the epitome of womanly purity and virtue. She follows her husband into exile and there gets abducted by Ravana. She is imprisoned in the island of Lanka by Ravana. Rama rescues her by defeating the demon king Ravana.

3. Hanuman is a vanara belonging to the kingdom of Kishkinda. He worships Rama and helps find Sita by going to the kingdom of Lanka crossing the great ocean.

4. Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, chose to go into exile with him. He spends his time protecting Sita and Rama. Ravana and Maricha deceive him into believing that Rama was in trouble while Sita gets abducted.

5. Ravana, a rakshasa, is the king of Lanka. He received a boon from Brahma that he will not be killed by either gods, demons or by spirits, after performing a severe penance for ten thousand years. He was also the most intelligent and erudite living being of his time. He has ten heads and twenty arms. After getting his reward from Brahma, Ravana begins to lay waste the earth and disturbs the deeds of good Brahmins. Rama is born a human to defeat him, thus overcoming the boon given by Brahma.

6. Dasharatha is the king of Ayodhya and the father of Rama. He has three queens, Kousalya, Sumitra and Kaikeyi, and three other sons, Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna. Kaikeyi, Dasharatha's favourite queen forces him to make his son Bharata heir apparent and send Rama into exile. Dashatara dies heartbroken after Rama goes into exile.

7. Bharata is the second son of Dasharata. When he learns that his mother Kaikeyi had forced Rama into exile and caused Dasharata to die broken hearted, he storms out of the palace and goes in search of Rama. When Rama refuses to break his exile to return to the capital to assume the throne, he requests and gets Rama's sandals and places them on the throne. Bharata then rules Ayodhya as a representative of Rama.

8. Vishvamitra is the sage who takes Rama into the forest at the behest of defeating the demons destroying his Vedic sacrifices. On the way back he takes Rama into Mithila where Rama sees and falls in love with Sita.

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Article Source: Epand

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Spirituality And Sufism

Spirituality And Sufism Image
Known in global music circles as the "Uncrowned Sufi Queen", Abida Parveen's inimitable Qawwali sound burrows its way into the soul of the listener, drawing upon love and emotion. She is one of the best contemporary Sufi singer of our time. She is from Pakistan, but her access to win the heart and mind of people is not limited to any political boundary.

Most of her lyrics come from old Sufi texts of great such as Hazrat Amir Khusrau, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai and Maulana Rumi, and she has sung in a number of languages including Urdu, Siraiki, Persian, Arabic, Punjabi and Sindhi, as according to her, "the Sufi tradition is dependant on no language for communication."

Recently she was addressing on the topic of "Spiritualism" under Aga Khan University's Special Lecture Series. Abida began her lecture by stating that spiritualism had no theory, it was a direct connection that Man (and woman) shared with his (or her) Creator. "It's a direct dialling relationship. Spiritualism is a light that Allah put in man's heart at the time of his creation," she explained, saying that the warmth of that flame was inexplicable except for the person who felt it in his heart or that force which had put it there in the first place.

According to Abida, the spirit was eternally in search of uniting with the Absolute, the only experience that could complete it and help it ascend to the spiritual level that every man yearned for. "To allow one's spirit to soar that high, one should practice humility and submission so steadfastly that all that remains of this is those very traits," she said with much force.

She repeatedly referred to the concept in Sufi tradition that the human soul was created from Divine light, therefore man strived to seek reunification with that very basis of his existence. She said that humility was the weapon with which one could defeat the ego. "When the Messenger of Allah (peace) ascended to the point of Meraj, Allah gifted him with this supplication, which has been transmitted to us through the processes of nubuyat and then wilayat."

Quoting Hazrat Ali (peace), she said that any practice of worship that made one proud of oneself was not worth it. "Pride and spiritualism cannot go together, what does go hand in hand though is spiritualism and supplication because surrender is the core of it all." She focussed on the all-encompassing nature of Sufism and asserted that worship and love for Allah were to bring the humanity together. "The words of the Sufis are so strong and so absolutely descriptive of Allah's majesty that they bring Allah right into one's heart. The one who recites and the one who listens, both become the light."

"Sufism has no complexities within; it is as simple as love itself. Love teaches selflessness and without losing self one cannot find Allah," she said.

"Sufism is grief and sacrifice that purify soul and strengthen forbearance of the one who surrenders his being entirely," she said citing the example of fire that burns and qualifies to give light.

"It (Sufism) is just like fire and those who are burnt by this fire could learn the ultimate truth," she added.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Story From The Life Of Hafiz Of Shiraz

Story From The Life Of Hafiz Of Shiraz Image
Earlier in his life, Hafiz was a drunkard having little to do with religion. One day, he was staggering across the street, he saw a piece of paper in the gutter among the filth. Curious, he picked it up. The name of God was written on on it.

"Woe that I should see Your name fallen into such places!" Hafiz cried, brushed it off, and handled the paper with reverence. That night he had a dream.

In the dream, a voice told him: "Hafiz, you have raised my name from where it was, and I shall elevate your name among human beings." This is how Hafiz began his career as a sufi (mystic) saint and still today he is one of the greatest poet of all time.

- Quoted from the book, The Black Pearl by Henry Bayman.

This story touches upon the sufi concept of courtesy or adab. Courtesy contains: harmony/ gentleness (hilm), reverence (burmah), purity (safiyah), tranquility (sukuun), sincerity (ikhlas), modesty (tawazu), solitude (halwat) and spiritual poverty (faqr). Sometime courtesy in the path is also referred as right action arising from right thoughts. Spiritual progress without adab or courtesy in the first place is impossible; be it towards the spiritual master or scripture or the components of the religion.

... the hightest stage of courtesy is the highest destiny man can attain. According to a Sufi couplet:

Courtesy is a crown, made of the light of God,

Wear that crown, and be safe from all calamities.

- image credit / Hafiz Points Out A Poem In His Divan / Indian, 1019/1610 via Sufi Cookbook art gallery[+] Please visit MysticSaint.Info For full multimedia experience and enjoy special music.


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