Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Muslim, Jewish, Sikh Dialogue on Fanaticism

The 3rd Global Conference on World’s Religions after September 11
September 15, 2016
Panel Discussion: Fanaticism: Cause & Cure
Panel Chair, Daniel Cere

Dr. Amir Hussain is Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he teaches courses on world religions. His own particular speciality is the study of Islam, focusing on contemporary Muslim societies in North America. From 2011 to 2015, Amir was the editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the premier scholarly journal for the study of religion. In 2008, he was appointed a fellow of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.
Dr. Hussain comments on the negative portrayal of Islam in the media pointing out that Islamic terrorists often show little religious knowledge, evidence of religious practice, or connection with a religious community; they rather tend to be alienated individuals frustrated by socio-political upheavals. He maintains that the Muslim religion needs to be presented more accurately in the media, that is, as a normal religion.
Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. She is also the daughter of the late Abraham Joshua Heschel, deemed one of the 20th-century’s most important Jewish thinkers. Her scholarship focuses on German-Jewish thought, with particular attention to Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Islamic relations as expressed in historical scholarship. Her publications, many of which are award winning, focus on the above-mentioned areas of expertise and Jewish-feminist issues. Heschel has served on the academic advisory Committee of the Research Center of the US Holocaust Museum since 1999.
Her publications include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press), which won a National Jewish Book Award, and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton University Press). She has been a visiting professor at the Universities of Frankfurt, Edinburgh, and Cape Town, and is the recipient of four honorary doctorates. A Guggenheim Fellow, she is completing a book on the history of Jewish scholarship on Islam.

Professor Hershell argues that true religion is an antidote to fanaticism because the mercy and compassion are its greatest characteristics. She suggests that fanaticism is a result of a falling off from religious fervour and also a complacency among liberal thinkers. There is a need to remember the covenant of peace and compassion, citing Isaiah: Even in anger we must have mercy.
As the former Director of Chaplaincy Service at McGill University from 2006-12, Manjit Singh has worked with several chaplains of varying religions and faiths. He also has numerous years of experience providing spiritual and personal guidance to students and coworkers.
In addition to his time at the Chaplaincy Service, Mr. Singh has published many articles on Sikhism and developed Intro to Sikhism for McGill’s Faculty of Religious Studies, which he taught from 2002-12. Mr. Singh has been a Sikh Chaplain since 1999.

Fanaticism and fundamentalism are caused by complex interplay of socio-political conditions of persecution, injustice and tyranny.   Fundamentalism not confined to religious groups, it can be found in secular organisations as well. Mr. Singh cites injustices towards religious groups due to secular policies. Sikhs have been attacked because they were equated with the Taliban and Osama Ben Laden. Sikhs have for a long time shared territory with Hinduss Muslims and Buddhists  in a spirit of religious pluralism. Fundamentalism among Sikhs did not arise until the 1980s when there was a breakdown in the social contract between the Sikhs and the Indian state.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Reincarnation and Human Relations

Nearing the end of his short life, Judge wrote three articles on Karma and Reincarnation in 1893. His famous ''Aphorisms on Karma'', ''Devachan'' and the one below. Although quite short, it is a strong, insightful call to charity that shows how the notions of universal brother/sisterhood are intimately connect with the concepts of karma, reincarnation and spiritual evolution. The famous quote from Paul is from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Friends or Enemies in the Future

The fundamental doctrines of Theosophy are of no value unless they are applied to daily life. To the extent to which this application goes they become living truths, quite different from intellectual expressions of doctrine. The mere intellectual grasp may result in spiritual pride, while the living doctrine becomes an entity through the mystic power of the human soul. Many great minds have dwelt on this. Saint Paul wrote:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith so that I could reove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

The Voice of the Silence, expressing the views of the highest schools of occultism, asks us to step out of the sunlight into the shade so as to make more room for others, and declares that those whom we help in this life will help us in our next one.

Buttresses to these are the doctrines of Karma and Reincarnation. The first shows that we must reap what we sow, and the second that we come back in the company of those with whom we lived and acted in other lives. St. Paul was in complete accord with all other occultists, and his expressions above given must be viewed in the light Theosophy throws on all similar writings. Contrasted with charity, which is love of our fellows, are all the possible virtues and acquirements. These are all nothing if charity be absent. Why? Because they die with the death of the uncharitable person; their value is naught, and that being is reborn without friend and without capacity.

This is of the highest importance to the earnest Theosophist, who may be making the mistake of obtaining intellectual benefits, but remains uncharitable. The fact that we are now working in the Theosophical movement means that we did so in other lives, must do so again, and, still more important, that those who are now with us will be reincarnated in our company on our next rebirth.

Shall those whom we now know or whom we are destined to know before this life ends be our friends or enemies, our aiders or obstructors in that coming life? And what will make them hostile or friendly to us then? Not what we shall say or do to and for them in the future life. For no man becomes your friend in a present life by reason of present acts alone. He was your friend, or you his, before in a previous life. Your present acts but revive the old friendship, renew the ancient obligation.
Was he your enemy before, he will be now even though you do him service now, for these tendencies last always more than three lives. They will be more and still more our aids if we increase the bond of friendship of today by charity. Their tendency to enmity will be one-third lessened in every life if we persist in kindness, in love, in charity now. And that charity is not a gift of money, but charitable thought for every weakness, to every failure.

Our future friends or enemies, then, are those who are with us and to be with us in the present. If they are those who now seem inimical, we make a grave mistake and only put off the day of reconciliation three more lives if we allow ourselves today to be deficient in charity for them. We are annoyed and hindered by those who actively oppose as well as others whose mere looks, temperament, and unconscious action fret and disturb us. Our code of justice to ourselves, often but petty personality, incites us to rebuke them, to criticise, to attack. It is a mistake for us to so act. Could we but glance ahead to next life, we would see these for whom we now have but scant charity crossing the plain of that life with ourselves and ever in our way, always hiding the light from us. But change our present attitude, and that new life to come would show these bores and partial enemies and obstructors helping us, aiding our every effort. For Karma may give them then greater opportunities than ourselves and better capacity.

Is any Theosophist, who reflects on this, so foolish as to continue now, if he has the power to alter himself, a course that will breed a crop of thorns for his next life's reaping? We should continue our charity and kindness to our friends whom it is easy to wish to help, but for those whom we naturally dislike, who are our bores now, we ought to take especial pains to aid and carefully toward them cultivate a feeling of love and charity. This adds interest to our Karmic investment. The opposite course, as surely as sun rises and water runs down hill, strikes interest from the account and enters a heavy item on the wrong side of life's ledger.

And especially should the whole Theosophical organization act on the lines laid down by St. Paul and The Voice of the Silence. For Karmic tendency is an unswerving law. It compels us to go on in this movement of thought and doctrine; it will bring back to reincarnation all in it now. Sentiment cannot move the law one inch; and though that emotion might seek to rid us of the presence of these men and women we presently do not fancy or approve--and there are many such in our ranks for every one--the law will place us again in company with friendly tendency increased or hostile feeling diminished, just as we now create the one or prevent the other. It was the aim of the founders of the Society to arouse tendency to future friendship; it ought to be the object of all our members.
What will you have? In the future life, enemies or friends?
The Path, January, 1893

Monday, 11 February 2019

Through the Gates of Gold: Part 5: The Secret of Strength 3a

This final part of Through the Gates of Gold ends in a true crescendo, culminating in some very original and inspiring passages. It will be treated in two parts. The first part gives some hints on the astral life and introduces an explanation of the relation between the animal soul and the divine soul.

Before venturing into the astral world, one has to have solidly mastered the physical world:

The man who is strong, who has resolved to find the unknown path, takes with the utmost care every step. He utters no idle word, he does no unconsidered action, he neglects no duty or office however homely or however difficult. But while his eyes and hands and feet are thus fulfilling their tasks, new eyes and hands and feet are being born within him. For his passionate and unceasing desire is to go that way on which the subtile organs only can guide him. The physical world he has learned, and knows how to use; gradually his power is passing on, and he recognizes the psychic world. But he has to learn this world and know how to use it, and he dare not lose hold of the life he is familiar with till he has taken hold of that with which he is unfamiliar.

When he has acquired such power with his psychic organs as the infant has with its physical organs when it first opens its lungs, then is the hour for the great adventure. How little is needed — yet how much that is! The man does but need the psychic body to be formed in all parts, as is an infant's; he does but need the profound and unshakable conviction which impels the infant, that the new life is desirable. Once those conditions gained and he may let himself live in the new atmosphere and look up to the new sun. But then he must remember to check his new experience by the old. He is breathing still, though differently; he draws air into his lungs, and takes life from the sun.

The astral world is but a transition to the spiritual world. This passage can be compared to the three halls in The Voice of the Silence:

He has been born into the psychic world, and depends now on the psychic air and light. His goal is not here: this is but a subtile repetition of physical life; he has to pass through it according to similar laws. He must study, learn, grow, and conquer; never forgetting the while that his goal is that place where there is no air nor any sun or moon.

Do not imagine that in this line of progress the man himself is being moved or changing his place. Not so. The truest illustration of the process is that of cutting through layers of crust or skin. The man, having learned his lesson fully, casts off the physical life; having learned his lesson fully, casts off the psychic life; having learned his lesson fully, casts off the contemplative life, or life of adoration.

There is a macrocosmic-microcosmic homology in the inmost sanctuary of the temple of one’s pure divinity, the universe and all its wonders are to be found within:

All are cast aside at last, and he enters the great temple where any memory of self or sensation is left outside as the shoes are cast from the feet of the worshipper. That temple is the place of his own pure divinity, the central flame which, however obscured, has animated him through all these struggles. And having found this sublime home he is sure as the heavens themselves. He remains still, filled with all knowledge and power. The outer man, the adoring, the acting, the living personification, goes its own way hand in hand with Nature, and shows all the superb strength of the savage growth of the earth, lit by that instinct which contains knowledge. For in the inmost sanctuary, in the actual temple, the man has found the subtile essence of Nature herself. No longer can there be any difference between them or any half-measures.

After one has reached this inmost sanctuary, then a phase of selfless action and service truly begins:

And now comes the hour of action and power. In that inmost sanctuary all is to be found: God and his creatures, the fiends who prey on them, those among men who have been loved, those who have been hated. Difference between them exists no longer. Then the soul of man laughs in its strength and fearlessness, and goes forth into the world in which its actions are needed, and causes these actions to take place without apprehension, alarm, fear, regret, or joy.

This state is possible to man while yet he lives in the physical; for men have attained it while living. It alone can make actions in the physical divine and true.

Life among objects of sense must forever be an outer shape to the sublime soul, — it can only become powerful life, the life of accomplishment, when it is animated by the crowned and indifferent god that sits in the sanctuary.

The obtaining of this condition is so supremely desirable because from the moment it is entered there is no more trouble, no more anxiety, no more doubt or hesitation. As a great artist paints his picture fearlessly and never committing any error which causes him regret, so the man who has formed his inner self deals with his life.

The expression, it is always darkest before the dawn, is applicable to the moment of entrance into the Gates of Gold. This passage can be compared to Light on the Path (

But that is when the condition is entered. That which we who look towards the mountains hunger to know is the mode of entrance and the way to the Gate. The Gate is that Gate of Gold barred by a heavy bar of iron. The way to the threshold of it turns a man giddy and sick. It seems no path, it seems to end perpetually, its way lies along hideous precipices, it loses itself in deep waters.

Once crossed and the way found it appears wonderful that the difficulty should have looked so great. For the path where it disappears does but turn abruptly, its line upon the precipice edge is wide enough for the feet, and across the deep waters that look so treacherous there is always a ford and a ferry. So it happens in all profound experiences of human nature. When the first grief tears the heart asunder it seems that the path has ended and a blank darkness taken the place of the sky. And yet by groping the soul passes on, and that difficult and seemingly hopeless turn in the road is passed.

The passage below comments on the poetic nature of exoteric religions compared to the esoteric path, which claims that the path never ends:

So with many another form of human torture. Sometimes throughout a long period or a whole lifetime the path of existence is perpetually checked by what seem like insurmountable obstacles. Grief, pain, suffering, the loss of all that is beloved or valued, rise up before the terrified soul and check it at every turn. Who places those obstacles there? The reason shrinks at the childish dramatic picture which the religionists place before it, — God permitting the Devil to torment His creatures for their ultimate good! When will that ultimate good be attained? The idea involved in this picture supposes an end, a goal. There is none. We can any one of us safely assent to that; for as far as human observation, reason, thought, intellect, or instinct can reach towards grasping the mystery of life, all data obtained show that the path is endless and that eternity cannot be blinked and converted by the idling soul into a million years.

The explanation below can be compared to the tripartite division of animal soul, human soul, spiritual soul:

In man, taken individually or as a whole, there clearly exists a double constitution. I am speaking roughly now, being well aware that the various schools of philosophy cut him up and subdivide him according to their several theories. What I mean is this: that two great tides of emotion sweep through his nature, two great forces guide his life; the one makes him an animal, and the other makes him a god.

The chilling, degrading effects of subjecting one’s godly power to one’s animal power, making it the slave to the senses:

No brute of the earth is so brutal as the man who subjects his godly power to his animal power. This is a matter of course, because the whole force of the double nature is then used in one direction. The animal pure and simple obeys his instincts only and desires no more than to gratify his love of pleasure; he pays but little regard to the existence of other beings except in so far as they offer him pleasure or pain; he knows nothing of the abstract love of cruelty or of any of those vicious tendencies of the human being which have in themselves their own gratification. Thus the man who becomes a beast has a million times the grasp of life over the natural beast, and that which in the pure animal is sufficiently innocent enjoyment, uninterrupted by an arbitrary moral standard, becomes in him vice, because it is gratified on principle. Moreover he turns all the divine powers of his being into this channel, and degrades his soul by making it the slave of his senses. The god, deformed and disguised, waits on the animal and feeds it.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Six Buddhist Perfections (Paramitas) in Christianity

The following passages taken from John of Ruysbroeck, The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage (C.A. Wynschenk Dom, transl.)

OUT of kindliness springs compassion, which is a fellow-feeling with all men; for none can share the griefs of all, save him who is kind. Compassion is an inward movement of the heart, stirred by pity for the bodily and ghostly griefs of all men. Such a man will also regard with pity the bodily needs of his neighbours, and the manifold sufferings of human nature; seeing men hungry, thirsty, cold, naked, sick, poor, and abject; the manifold oppressions of the poor, the grief caused by loss of kinsmen, friends, goods, honour, peace; all the countless sorrows which befall the nature of man. These things move the just to compassion, so that they share the sorrows of all. This work of compassion and of common neighbourly love overcomes and casts out the third mortal sin, that is hatred or Envy. For compassion is a wound in the heart, whence flows a common love to all mankind and which cannot be healedso long as any suffering lives in man; for God has ordained grief and sorrow of heart before all the virtues. (Bk. I, Ch. 28)

Generosity (Dana)
FROM this compassion springs generosity; for none can be generous in a supernatural way, with faithfulness and goodwill towards all, save him who has a pitiful heart—though a man may often show generosity to a particular person without charity and without supernatural generosity. Because of this generosity men are wont to practise the seven works of mercy; the rich do them by their alms and because of their riches, the poor by their goodwill and by their hearty desire to do as the rich if they could. And thus the virtue of generosity is made perfect. (Bk. I, Ch. 19)

Ethical Discipline (Sila)
WHOSOEVER wishes to obtain and to keep these virtues should adorn and possess and rule his soul like a kingdom. Free-will is the king of the soul. It is free by nature and still more free by grace. It shall be crowned with a crown that is called charity. This king, free-will, should dwell in the chief city of the kingdom; namely, in the desirous power of the soul. And he should be clad and adorned with a garment of two parts. The right side of his garment should be a virtue called strength, that therewith he may be strong and mighty to overcome all hindrances, and to ascend up to heaven, into the palace of the most high Emperor, and to bow down his crowned head before the most high King, with love, and with self-surrendered desire. The left side of the garment should be a cardinal virtue called moral force.

This king should also choose councillors in his kingdom: the wisest in the country. These should be two divine virtues: knowledge and discretion, enlightened by the light of Divine grace. They should dwell near the king, in a palace called the rational power of the soul, and they should be clad and adorned with a moral virtue called temperance, so that the king may always do or leave undone according to their counsels. This king, free-will, should also appoint in his kingdom a judge: that is, righteousness. This is a divine virtue when it springs from love, and it is one of the highest of moral virtues. This judge should dwell in the heart, in the midst of the kingdom, in the irascible power. And he should be adorned with a moral virtue called prudence; for righteousness cannot be perfect without prudence.  (Bk. I, CH. 24)

Patience (Kshanti)
Patience is a peaceful endurance of all things that may befall a man either from God or from the creatures. Nothing can trouble the patient man; neither the loss of earthly goods, of friends and kinsmen, nor sickness, nor disgrace, nor life, nor death, nor purgatory, nor devil, nor hell. For he has abandoned himself in perfect charity to the will of God, and as he is not burdened by mortal sin, everything that God imposes on him, in time and in eternity, is light to him. By this patience a man is also adorned and armed against peevishness and sudden wrath, and impatience in suffering; which often stir a man from within and from without, and lay him open to many temptations. (Bk. I, Ch. 25)

Zeal and Diligence (Virya)
It is an inward restless striving after every virtue, after the likeness of Christ and of all His saints. In this zeal a man longs to devote his heart and his senses, his soul and his body, and all that he is, and all that he has and all toward which he aspires, to the glory and praise of God. This zeal makes a man grow in reason and prudence, and practise the virtues, both of soul and of body, in righteousness. Through this supernatural zeal all the powers of the soul are laid open to God, and are made ready for all virtues. And the conscience rejoices, and the grace of God is increased; the virtues are practised with joy and gladness, and the outward works are adorned. Whosoever has received this living zeal from God has cast out the fifth mortal sin, which is indolence of the mind or Sloth, as regards the virtues which it is needful that we should practise. And sometimes, this living zeal also casts out the sloth and indolence of the natural body. (Bk. I, Ch. 20)

Meditative Stabilization (Dhyana)
And therefore God gives him the sixth gift, which is the spirit of Understanding. This gift we have already likened to a fountain with three rills, for it establishes our spirit in the unity, it reveals Truth and it brings forth a wide and general love. This gift may also be likened to sunshine, for by its shining the sun fills the air with a simple brightness and lights all forms, and shows the distinctins of all colours. And thereby it shows forth its own power; and its heat is common to the whole world, bringing forth fruits and useful things. So likewise does the first ray of this gift bring about simplicity within the spirit. And this simplicity is penetrated by a particular radiance even as the air of the heavens by the splendour of the sun. For the grace of God, which is the ground of all gifts, maintains itself essentially like to a simple light in our potential understanding: and, by means of this simple light our spirit is made stable and onefold and enlightened, and fulfilled of grace and Divine gifts: and here it is like unto God through grace and Divine love. (Bk. II, Ch. 63)

Wisdom (Prajna)
Now understand this well: when we turn within ourselves in contemplation, the fruitive unity of God is like to a darkness, a somewhat which is unconditioned and incomprehensible. And the spirit turns inward through love and through simplicity of intention, because it is active in all virtues, offering itself up in fruition above all virtues. In this loving introversion, there arises the seventh gift, which is the spirit of Savouring Wisdom; and it saturates the simplicity of our spirit, soul and body, with wisdom and with ghostly savours. And it is a ghostly touch or stirring within the unity of our spirit; and it is an inpouring and a source of all grace, all gifts and all virtues. And, in this touch of God, each man savours his exercise and his life according to the power of the touch and the measure of his love. (Bk. II, Ch. 63)

Meditation on Emptiness
At times, the inward man performs his introspection simply, according to the fruitive tendency, above all activity and above all virtues, through a simple inward gazing in the fruition of love. And here he meets God without intermediary. And from out the Divine Unity, there shines into him a simple light and this light shows him Darkness and Nakedness and Nothingness. In the Darkness, he is enwrapped and falls into somewhat which is in no wise, even as one who has lost his way. In the Nakedness, he loses the perception and discernment of all things, and is transfigured and penetrated by a simple light. In the Nothingness, all his activity fails him, for he is vanquished by the working of God's abysmal love, and in the fruitive inclination of his spirit he vanquishes God, and becomes one spirit with him. And in this oneness with the Spirit of God, he enters into a fruitive tasting and possesses the Being of God. And he is filled, according to the measure in which he has sunk himself in his essential being with the abysmal delights and riches of God. (Bk. II, Ch. 65)

The Bodhisattva Path
NOW the man shall go out towards himself and towards all men of good-will, and shall taste and behold how that they are tied and bound together in love; and he shall beseech and pray God that He may let His customary gifts flow forth, that thereby all may be confirmed in His love and His eternal worship. This enlightened man shall faithfully and discreetly teach and instruct, reprove and serve, all men; for he bears in him a love towards all. (Bk. II, Ch. 43)