Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Sufi And Islamic Mysticism

The Sufi And Islamic Mysticism Image
It was in the course of his practice of Islam that the 19th Century contemplative Ramakrishna Paramahansa (1836-1886) had one of his remarkable visions: "I was meditating under the banyan tree when I was shown a Mussalman (a Muslim). He came to me with rice in an earthen plate. The Mother (Kali) showed me that there exists only One and not two. It is Satchidananda (Truth - Knowledge - Bliss - Absolute, Brahman) alone that has taken various forms; He alone has become the world and its living beings."

Ramakrishna was initiative into Islamic practice by a devout Sufi Govinda Rai. He repeated the holy name of Allah and recited the namaz (the formal prayer of Islam); the Hindu mode of thought vanished from his mind during this period, which culminated in his vision. As his disciple Mahendra observed: "The mighty river of Islam also led him back to the Ocean of the Absolute."

Ramakrishna's life is unique in the annals of religious experience. Although born to an orthodox Hindu Brahmin family of India and trained as a priest, he practiced a wide catholicity of religious expression. He advocated the positive acceptance of other faiths and resolved the dilemma of religious plurality by direct experience.

By communicating with God through the path of Islamic mysticism, Ramakrishna showed a new way of transcending religious barriers. It was in this spirit that his disciple Vivekananda (1863-1902) wrote: "Practical Advaitism (Non-Duality), which looks upon and behaves to all mankind as one's own soul, was never developed among the Hindus universally. I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind. For our own motherland, a junction of the two systems Hinduism and Islam is the only hope."

:: Quoted from The Best of Speaking Tree (The Times of India) - volume 1 Traveling Many Roads to the Infinite by N S Chandramouli

Vivekananda, Ramakrishna's most illustrious disciple, is considered by some to be one of his most important legacies. Vivekananda spread the message of Ramakrishna across the world. He also helped introduce Hinduism to the west. Vivekananda was a great admirer of brotherhood of Islam and unity which is unparallel and he wished that great Vedantic philosophy and Islam could come together. Indeed Vedantic teaching very much address in the level of the Haqiqat (the Inner Divine Reality) of Islam and Hindus have great things to learn from Islam.

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wonderful Lecture On Sufism By Ziinayat Khan

Wonderful Lecture On Sufism By Ziinayat Khan Image
There are many concepts in this world which words can never explain, let alone define properly. Sufi or Sufism is a terribly misunderstood term both in east and west. The Sufi Idea is a reality, that has no form or ritual. As a result people fail to grasp the concepts about it. Sufism is a reality that transcend all doctrines, all faith or dogams. It can be called the religion of heart which is immersed in Love. For Sufis religion is nothing but the Beloved God. This lecture by Zia Inayat can help u realize the reality of Sufism in its essence.

Zia Inayat Khan is a very well known spiritual personality of our time. He is the grandson of Sufi Inayat Khan. He gave this lecture in the 2005 Sufi Conference. The lecture is infused with some very beautiful definitions of what really Sufism or Sufi is. In the process of explaining he also mentioned several beautiful sufi stories in the lecture which are worth listening.

The lecture can be downloaded by clicking here. Its a mp3 format audio file. File size about 44 mb. (right click on the link above and selcect Save Target As... to save it in the harddisk).

Thanks to GoldenSufi.org for giving the permission to host the lecture's link on this blog. More audio lectures can be found here. I would recommend you to listen the lectures by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

The GoldenSufi Center is located at Inverness, California, USA.

[+] Please visit MysticSaint.Info For full multimedia experience and enjoy special music.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

King Jesus Gospel Book Review

King Jesus Gospel Book Review Image
Scot McKnight's latest book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, is a worthwhile read and I commend it to all who believe that the message of Jesus is, can be, or ought to be genuinely "good news." McKnight has done an excellent job of analyzing what Jesus and the first-century Apostles meant when they spoke of the "gospel" ("gospel" being derived from the old English "godspel" or "good news," is equivalent to the Greek "euangelion" from which we also get our English words "evangelize" and "evangelism"). Before I complete this review I'll examine a significant issue where I think Scot missed the boat, but this is a place for extension of the dialog, and does not in any way temper my recommendation of the book.

"The King Jesus Gospel" sets out to answer what in my view may be the most breathtakingly misguided question ever asked in modern Christendom. As McKnight tells it, "John Piperat a big conference in April of 2010 asked this question: 'Did Jesus preach Paul's gospel?'" Scot's more charitable than I would be. He states that he "would defend the legitimacy of Piper's question," based as it is on the notion that Paul's gospel is essentially the doctrine of justification by faith, and that's not a topic upon which Jesus seems to have spent much (if any) time. Obviously (and I'm sure Piper would agree) any biblical "gospel" must rest entirely on Jesus, and that most certainly includes the "gospel" of justification by faith. THE MERE SUGGESTION THAT JESUS, WHO HIMSELF IS THE GOSPEL, MIGHT NOT HAVE PREACHED THE GOSPEL, BLOWS MY MIND.

But I digress. While McKnight is kinder to Piper's question than I would be, he quite properly points out that such a question suggests that our very definition of "gospel" may need reexamination. I absolutely agree with his statement: "When we can find hardly any instances of our favorite theological category in the whole of the four Gospels, we need to be wary of how important our own interpretations and theological favorites are."

So what is "the Gospel?" McKnight goes into a detailed-and, I think, entirely correct-study of the church's use of the term "gospel." His approach is best defined, I think, in his own words:

I want now to make a stinging accusation. In this book I will be contending firmly that we evangelicals (as a whole) are not really "evangelical" in the sense of the apostolic gospel, but instead we are "soterians". Here's why I say we are more soterian than evangelical: we evangelicals (mistakenly) equate the word "gospel" with the word "salvation". Hence, we are really "salvationists." When we evangelicals see the word "gospel", our instinct is to think (personal) "salvation." We are wired this way. But these two words don't mean the same thing(p. 29)

("note for those who don't play with Greek"soterian" comes from the Greek "soter" which means "savior". That is, a "soterian" is one who preaches-or emphasizes-salvation")

In this point, Scot is solidly on track. I have before suggested that salvation gets too much focus within the Christian messagenot because salvation is irrelevant or incorrect, but because it's not the main event in God's story. He then spends a significant and important portion of the book refocusing the "good news" preached by both Jesus and the Apostles (as related in Acts), within the story of God's redemptive work through Israel, and eventually, beyond Israel to the world. Jesus, according to his own preaching and later that of Peter and Paul, is the culmination of all that God was doing through the nation of Israel up to that point in history. When Jesus declared the Kingdom of God, he was declaring "good news" on a myriad of levels, of which salvation from sins was definitely one, but only one and not necessarily the greatest. There was (is) a new king on the thronethe one God promised for ages past. If that's not good news, what on earth could be? (for more on this, see my advent meditation on Jesus' announcement of Jubilee). One more quote of note:

My summary point of comparison: gospeling declares that Jesus is that rightful Lord, gospeling summons people to turn from their idols to worship and live under that Lord who saves, and gospeling actually puts us in the co-mediating and co-ruling tasks under our Lord Jesus. When we reduce the gospel to only personal salvation, as soterians are tempted to do, we tear the fabric out of the Story of the Bible and we cease even needing the Bible. I don't know of any other way to put it. (p. 142)

There is much more to glean in the pages of Scot's book, not least as he discusses the methods by which Christians over time, have attempted to persuade others to consider and accept the claims of Jesus (hint, it hasn't always been about hell). Without getting into all of it here, let me commend his perspective to you as well worthy of consideration. In short, it's worth looking at how the Apostles evangelized, and contrasting it to the sales pitches we adopt today.

But I want to turn to one area in particular where I part ways fairly substantially with McKnight's arguments, and that is the credence he gives to the church fathers. Fairly early in his book (chapter 5), Scot makes the argument that the early church creeds, in particular the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, are a direct outgrowth of, and a faithful characterization of, the gospel Jesus and the Apostles preached. He states directly that the creeds are "an articulation" of Paul's gospel summary in 1 Corinthians 15, and even that "denial of the creeds is tantamount to denying the gospel itself because what the creeds seek to do is bring out "what is already in the Bible's gospel"." (emphasis in original)

McKnight returns to this notion in Chapter 10 "Creating a Gospel Culture" when he suggests that following a traditional church calendar can focus the church on a fuller view of the gospel than that embodied by soterians. He may be onto something when he says that "focusing on these events in their theological and biblical contexts [will expose the church] every year to the whole gospel, to the whole Story of Israel coming to its saving completion in the Story of Jesus." He continues later to advocate knowing "our creeds," because "the wisdom of the church is on the side of the value of creeds and confessions of the faith."

I've disagreed with Scot on this before. In fact, though I doubt he'd remember me, I engaged him a bit on his own Jesus Creed blog a couple years back when he did a series on the historical heresies of the early church. My point then, which remains a concern today, is that he seems to have given the 3rd- and 4th-century "church fathers" a complete pass from critical examination. This is unfortunate, as I believe it is precisely in those periods, and in the creation of the creeds themselves, that the seeds of this entire misapprehension of the gospel has its ultimate roots. Go back and take a look at the actual text of either of the Apostles' or Nicene creeds (Google is your friendthere are lots of sources). What's the operative declaration in every phrase? "I BELIEVE". It's a propositional issue. Discipleship is at best implicit, though even to say that is being generous.

Look again at what is being stated that one must believe. God's nature, Jesus' origin, his suffering, death, burial, resurrection. All important stuff, and to deny it is certainly to be talking something other than Jesus' gospel. BUT THE WHOLE "STORY" THAT SCOT DOES SUCH A GOOD JOB OF DESCRIBING IN THE REST OF HIS BOOK IS COMPLETELY ABSENT FROM EITHER THE APOSTLES' CREED OR THE NICENE CREED. The Nicene Creed even says that Jesus' incarnation was "for us men and for our salvation," a soterian statement if I have ever encountered one. If he's right (and I think he is) that the soterian message overtook the gospel in error, then the creeds were (and are) part of the problem, not the solution! IT IS PRECISELY THE REDUCTION OF DISCIPLESHIP TO A SET OF PROPOSITIONS TO BE BELIEVED, THAT IS THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE CREEDS. It may have taken a while to get from the Nicene Creed to the Four Spiritual Laws, but the arc was inevitable.

So while McKnight has done an outstanding job of characterizing certain of the symptoms of a deep malady within today's Evangelical church, I think he's stopped short of the roots of that malady. Those roots, I would submit, are firmly embedded in the power struggles of the third and fourth centuries (possibly earlier), and in the whole process that took the Way of following God's anointed King and reduced it to a "religion" filled with propositions to be "believed." Here, at last, the Gospel must be rescued from the religion that has for so long held it captive. Scot gets us on the road, and for that, his book is worth the purchase and the reading. I hope we all go further.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Becoming Buddhist Reading Quantum Physics

Becoming Buddhist Reading Quantum Physics Image
Wilkinson, who became a British national hero at the 2003 World Cup, said Buddhism has helped him overcome a fear of failure that was ruining his life.

Rugby star Jonny Wilkinson: "I've become a Buddhist after reading quantum physics books." We should have known the sports star had a spiritual side from the way he clasps his hands as if in prayer before he kicks goals. Now the England rugby payer has revealed that he has found inner peace through Buddhism.

His obsessive perfectionism was making him miserable, but Buddhism liberated him from being motivated by "money, status, or ego." The millionaire sportsman said that within 24 hours of winning the World Cup final against Australia in Sydney, he felt a powerful feeling of anticlimax.

"I did not know what it really meant to be happy. I was afflicted by a powerful fear of failure and did not know how to free myself from it." More

Celebrity Buddhists include Angelina Jolie, Tiger Woods, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sting, Coldplay wife Gwyneth Paltrow, Keanu Reeves, Tina Turner, Orlando Bloom, Uma Thurman and, of course, Lisa Simpson.

Sarah Jessica Parker: Hollywood's Newest Jew-Bu?


NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Stressed by her latest challenge as producer of not one but two new cable shows, and dismayed by continuing rumors that her marriage is incontinent, superstar Sarah Jessica Parker seems to be finding tranquility down a path that many of her faith have trodden in the past: Becoming a Jew-Bu.

by Colin Fernandez (Mail Online at dailymail.co.uk)

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Buddhism Is Not A Religion

Buddhism Is Not A Religion Image
The "Buddha-Dharma" -- despite there being religious organizations called "Buddhism" -- is not inherently a religion. It is a technique and way of living that is applicable to anyone, EVEN IF they choose to continue identifying with a religion.

The Buddhist way of being is one that fos-ters compassion, kind-ness, and cooperation. If a condition of being Buddhist is that you must forsake your religion (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or otherwise) for something called a "Buddhist religion," the chance of Buddhism spreading wide becomes exponentially slimmer. I would have sorely misunderstood what the Four Noble Truths mean.

Buddhism is a path to liberation from dissatisfaction ("dukkha"). It does not condone war or killing others on the way to liberation. Buddhists do not defend physical or mental territory with knives, guns, and bombs (or bows and arrows, as pictured here with a "lost tribe" in the Amazon jungle that does not want contact with the modern world). Although religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and others all have beautiful teachings and have been engines of civilization at various points in history, each of them also succumbs to combat when their geography or beliefs are challenged.

There is a whiff of the primitive origins of religion that makes itself known whenever religious organzations (or governments claiming a divine right) kill other people for not believing in the spiritual or physical boundaries that they have drawn.

When I hear of wars being conducted with the blessing of Christ, or a Jewish God, or a Fatwah, or in the name of a Mormon divinity, I cannot help but picture a caveman with a stone in his hand standing outside his rock house bashing in the head of a threatening neighbor going "Me mine, no come here!"

Spiritual teachings that are truly based on compassion and interdependence -- that offer the tools to actually manifest compassion -- do not require guns, knives, and bombs.

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