Sunday, December 29, 2019

Happy New Year 2020!




Happy New Year 2020!

May you be blessed with divine peace and happiness in the New Year!  May 2020 find you healthy, faithful, and joyful!  May your life be a model of goodness to men, women, and children of every race on Mother Earth!  May God, Allah, Brahma, Dao and secular humanism continue to guide your steps in pursuing these goals!  For it’s through these gifts people will see the light of your compassion for others.  You’ll be what are beautiful and special in spreading love in this world.  It’ll be these positive thoughts, prayers, and acts of kindness that define your character.  For such blessings we pray giving thanks to the Primordial Essence, now and forever.  Amen!       

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Authentic Gratitude




Authentic Gratitude

The root of joy is gratitude.  This light goes out and touches all those that come into our sphere of influence.  This is how to thank people who make a difference in our life.  It must be remembered that there’s always something to be thankful for.  And this thankfulness opens the door of abundance.  It’s the superpower that keeps transforming lives.  The more people are grateful the more abundant they become.  It’s based on the concept: “What you freely give you’ll receive in abundance.”  This is how believers and non-believers alike wake up to the goodness and beauty of life.  These are all part of a process for practicing authentic gratitude.

Did you ever think of the reason why the Psalms of David have come, like winged angels, down across all the realms and ages,— why they make the key-note of grateful piety in every Christian’s soul, wherever he lives? Why? Because they are so full of gratitude. “ Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
Alphonso Albert Willits, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 290.

Let but the commons hear this testament—
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read—
And they would go and kiss dead Cæsar's wounds
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood,
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their issue.
William Shakespeare, Julius Cæsar (1599), Act III, scene 2, line 135.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

God Is Not One




God is not One by Stephen Prothero makes the point that all religions are indeed different.  There are similarities between them, but many fundamental differences.  That’s why there is conflict between nations’ political, economic, and cultural belief’s systems.  Prothero therefore examines eight rival religions, viz., Islam: The Way of Submission, Christianity: The Way of Salvation, Confucianism: The way of Propriety, Hinduism: The Way of Devotion, Buddhism: The Way of Awakening, Yoruba: The Way of Connection, Judaism: The Way of Exile and Return, and Daoism: The Way of Flourishing.  In the 9th Chapter a Brief Coda on Atheism: The Way of Reason was addressed.
   
         ‘“The Tao has ten thousand gates,’ say the masters,
            and it is up to each of us to find our own.”

Prothero wrote, “To explore the great religions is to wander through these ten thousand gates.  It is to enter into the Hindu conversations on the logic of karma and rebirth, Christian conversation on the mechanics of sin and resurrection, and Daoist conversations on flourishing here and now (and perhaps forever).  It is also to encounter rivalries between Hindus and Muslims in India, between Jews and Muslims in Israel, and between Christians and Yoruba practitioners in Nigeria.  Each of these rivals offers a different vision of “a human being fully alive.”  Each offers its own diagnosis of the human problem and its own prescription for a cure…. Muslims say pride is the problem; Christians say salvation is the solution; education and ritual are key Confucian techniques; and Buddhism’s exemplars are the arhat (for Theravadins), the bodhisattva (for Mahayanists), and the lama (for Tibetan Buddhists).”

Conflicts at the national and international levels are to be expected.  But people and societies should aim at fostering inter-religious understanding to be able to work together in peace.      

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Joys of Christmas




Joys of Christmas

Christ the little babe was born in a manger
While Mother Mary and Father Joseph were there
So were animals keeping watch that memorable night
And that’s the story of Christ’s birth

This glorious birth, believers celebrate on December 25th.
It’s on Christmas day when Christmas trees
Of all dimensions are aglow with colorful lights
Large and small presents adorn their branches
And precious gifts lie under the trees
Green wreaths with red and silver decorations
Add to the splendor and are hung in homes

It’s a time to celebrate our Savior’s majestic birth
So let church bells ring and trumpets blast
For a King is born in Bethlehem
Let the celebrations begin

At Christmas there’s an outpouring of love
Everyone rejoices and the hopes of the world are renewed
People do everything to buy gifts for loved ones.
And children jump for joy on Christmas morning
After Santa Claus comes bearing gifts

Not even the poor and downtrodden are forgotten
For believers make a special effort
To feed the poor and destitute with a Christmas dinner 
That’s why churches are busy at this time of year ringing in the season
“Heavenly Father we give thanks for the joys of Christmas, these celebrations, and good will that unite us all.  Help us to live each day like its Christmas.”
Amen


Thursday, December 19, 2019

World Religions




Editor Michael D. Coogan’s World Religions is a comprehensive body of work.  It focuses on: 1) origins and historical developments; 2) aspects of the Divine; 3) sacred texts; 4) sacred persons; 5) ethical principles; 6) sacred space; 7) sacred time; 8) death and the afterlife; and 9) society and religion.

Coogan examined the wealth of each tradition.  In the case of Christianity he looked at its beginnings, two millennia of faith, and the Christian canon.  In Islam he explored the age of empires, approaches to God, and the word of God.  While with Hinduism there was an examination of five millennia of traditional beliefs, gods and goddesses, and words of devotion.  Neither did Coogan exclude the Buddhist, Chinese, and Japanese traditions.

The author wrote that one way that the Divine was manifested to humans was through inspired scripture and other writings.  He described how every literate community has produced collections of texts composed, assembled, and edited over the centuries.  Each of these religions recognized their founders, saints, holy men and women, and martyrs, who were essential to the tradition.  And enshrined in the sacred texts are embodied ethical principles concerning how these individuals lived, and what they taught their followers.  Each religious tradition also recognized special times of the year for private and communal acts of religious observance.

Major forms of a tradition’s belief system are focused on religious practices and beliefs concerning the cycle of life — birth, maturity, work, marriage, suffering, and death.  These affairs in one’s lives are celebrated by unique rituals in every faith.  Religion has therefore been a catalyst in shaping and molding its adherents to have values, and live lives in their respective societies.    

Friday, December 13, 2019

Enlightenment




What is Enlightenment?

A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.

Albert Einstein, in Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York (1941); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)


Mindfulness




Mindfulness

Christopher André’s Looking at Mindfulness is a primer of twenty-five lessons on mindfulness. With pictures to supplement the text the author explained how people could be aware of their bodies and environment and not be like robots. Advice is given concerning how to turn off and adjust to the multiple stimuli of film, television, radio, and the Internet. These media only corrupt minds and cause people to be unable to concentrate on what really matters most in life.

By breathing and being in silence people will become aware of their true selves and savor the precious moments of their lives. By being still and reflective they will come alive. Such practice they should make a part of their daily lives. The benefits of these meditations will give them a sense of purpose, release their stress, and help people live compassionately.

But these objectives have to be practiced consistently. It’s true they could begin at any time in one’s life, whether it’s just waking up in the morning, preparing for work, at the job during the day, at home at night, or before going to bed. So when people are faced with difficulties like having problems at work, conflicts, marital problems, are suffering, or under stress, being mindful could definitely bring release and ease their pain.

However mindfulness isn’t a panacea for every problem. It will only allow a practitioner to approach the good and bad experiences of life realistically. They will be able to entertain and deal with the conflicting realities of their problems. With breathing and being still they will be able to understand and minimize these conflicts. It isn’t guaranteed that people will eventually feel better, but they will be better able to understand their problems. For André wrote that hurtful situations might last only for a time with mindful practice. These teachings are supplemented with quotes from psychologists, pyscho-analysts, and religious thinkers from the Christian and Buddhist traditions.

Mindfulness is nonconceptual awareness. Another English term for sati is “bare attention.” It is not thinking. It does not get involved with thought or concepts. It does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories. It just looks. Mindfulness registers experiences, but it does not compare them. It does not label them or categorize them. It just observes everything as if it was occurring for the first time. It is not analysis that is based on reflection and memory. It is, rather, the direct and immediate experiencing of whatever is happening, without the medium of thought. It comes before thought in the perceptual process.

Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English (2011), p. 134

Compassionate Living




Compassionate Living

Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.
Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, as quoted in Words Of Wisdom: Selected Quotes by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (2001) edited by Margaret Gee, p. 71.

The Dalai Lama’s An Appeal to the World is a moving primer of his message for the 21st century. In an interview with television journalist Franz Alt, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed both the inward and outward paths of peace, war, climate change, materialism, meditation, universal ethics, and even neuroscience.

His Holiness discussed six principles: 1) nonviolence—of which he has become a symbol to free Tibet; 2) tolerance—he envisions no peace unless there is peace among religions; 3) each religion’s uniqueness; 4) the meaning of religion today—the Dalai Lama sees a religious person as one who collaborates in preserving the earth; 5) patience—His Holiness saw himself working on this virtue; and 6) death and rebirth—he has no clue what will happen.

Still the Dalai Lama presents the world with a “childlike faith” in political miracles saying, “One day we will cooperate well with China.” He pins his greatest hope on China’s young people, and the 400 million who are Buddhists. His Holiness viewed the 65 years of Chinese Communism as an enormous spiritual void, as compared with 1,300 years of Tibetan Buddhism.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong is also most pertinent for the 21st century too. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisions twelve steps, but thought that such an approach to one’s life could take a life time. In the introductory remarks to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions and their concepts based on compassion.

Later Armstrong weaves these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step readers are presented with a discussion about how to use each teaching. These compassionate goals are carefully calibrated, and based on the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong though was able to integrate each affirmation with an explanation.

This book as a true gift was able to relate each topic to the contemporary issues of the day. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained further how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves and tribe. She wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad aspects of life alike. We should treat others the way we would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies that are suffering just like us.

Armstrong’s work was formulated like that of the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her TED talk in 2008 on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate in the promulgation of the Golden Rule and compassionate living in the world.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

What is spirituality?




Personal (*Dfurstane) Spiritual Beliefs

What is spirituality?

Spirituality is predictable and unpredictable.  Its recognition could be the result of suffering, misfortune, or failure that reveals the true nature of circumstances.  It could be based on the appreciation, success, or an accomplishment that’s beautiful, and awe inspiring.  In short, it’s the insights gained of a transcendent reality from such diverse occurrences.

The word spiritual means the active betterment of life for all people, for the most people. Spiritual is anything which brings a man or woman to a higher state of life, whether that is on the physical, the emotional-astral, the mental, or on the spiritual or soul plane. Anything which is towards the betterment of humanity is fundamentally spiritual; it is not only a religious thing. The religious path is only one path. So we have to create structures — political, economic, and social — which are fundamentally spiritual...

Spiritual Beliefs




Spiritual Beliefs

1)  Spiritual beliefs are always evolving, and like all of nature nothing remains the same.

2)  Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) is all in all, predictable and unpredictable, the existence of a mystery, and always greater than conceived. 

3)  The Timeless Spirit is the glue that holds all manifestations together.

4)  Through Dfurstane all elements, structures, and people are created.

5)  On entering the world all living and non-living things take some form, and at the end of their existence they become invisible.

6)  The consciousness and health of all living beings are determined by “chance.”

7)  Sin and free will are human constructs, but “good” and “bad” exist—different sides of the same coin.

8)  People pray by their thoughts, deeds, physical exercises, and works.

9)  Rational thinking causes growth, development, discovery, and healing.

10)  “Positive” and “negative” polarities cause cultural norms, but eternal reality is diverse in nature.

11)  Prayer only works as a regulator of “cosmic wholeness.”  It has to do with interdependence, and inter-relationships of all structures.  Believers should pray for “harmony.” Lack of “harmony” is how the world experiences disruptions of all sorts.  This reality has nothing to do with the way people are living but is due to “chance.”   

12)  Living in “harmony” with nature is the key for a successful life.   This entails having a balance life: a) helping the mind grow in understanding; b) caring for one’s physical body; c) serving society’s poor, homeless, and destitute; and d) building up the world through love and compassion.

13)  Religious literacy helps believers discover the diverse paths that are essential for spiritual growth. 

14)  Finally, believers by following a spiritual path will merge with Dfurstane.

Eternal Essence





Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) is the Way, Truth, and Light

To embrace the all in all is having an appreciation of creation’s manifestations.  The heavenly bodies - the sun, moon, and stars, known and unknown planets traversing the sky are phenomenal.  The trees, plants, oceans, rivers, streams, mountains, hills and valleys speak in their own language, while being buffeted by the wind.  So are the seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter with their distinct moods.  Sometimes it’s calm, beautiful, and glorious, while occasionally there are hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and forest fires.

But birds, reptiles, fishes, and animals of all sorts inhabit the earth living on land or in seas.  They breed, feed, and exist in a divine and unpredictable reality.  These creatures in their respective environments are provided for by nature.  People breathe fresh air, pick fruits from trees, enjoy the meats of animals, drink refreshing water, build cozy houses with wood of trees, light a fire to cook their meals, and dress in warm clothing from nature’s bounty.

This is only a part of the Eternal Essence that’s within, above, below, and around us.  To personalize this Essence is only a metaphor.  S/he is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immanent, and transcendent.  No words can adequately describe this all-encompassing Essence that’s the sum of all living and non-living things.

The Way & Paths




The Way & Paths

The way (Daoism) and paths (Buddhism) are interwoven.  In life people travel many paths to find their way to the Supreme Light.  They do so as they journey on this earthly plane and also spiritually through dreams.  Most believers have definite faith traditions whose teachings they follow e.g., Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, or Secular Ethics.  But there are those souls that endeavor to undertake new realities by tapping into their own conception to what it means to be spiritual.  When this is the case they travel in the physical and spiritual realms.

The interfaith author Karen Armstrong spoke about climbing a “spiral staircase” moving towards this Supreme Light.  But in my dreams I was traversing terrain that was like an obstacle course.  During my journeys I encountered various people in their daily activities.  My trips were taking me through foreign lands strewn with trees and waterways.  Once I was on a bicycle when a guy asked me for a lift away from my destination, but I thought it wise to continue on my path to find my home.

It began raining as I was peddling towards home, but was forced to shelter under an eave at a local library from being soaked.  The rain soon ceased and I continued my journey.  But as I peddled off into the unknown I began looking for the guy whom I refused to give a ride.  Then suddenly I found myself without a bike, and walking down a pathway covered with water.  At a rustic cottage I encountered three individuals sitting at its entrance.  I asked a black woman sitting there for directions to where I was heading, and she told me it was about nine blocks away.

But as I traversed the landscape I encountered a large body of water.  Soon I was climbing a wall to make it to a schooner to take me to my destination.  It was around this time I awoke from my dream.  So my journey has to continue.  This was surely one of my spiritual dreams with lots of symbolism.

The Physical Plain

Looking back at my life I remembered when I suffered from manic depression.  My senses were heightened and often I felt as though I was in a country in tropical Africa.  I actually experienced living there, breathing the air, cognizant of the scents, African culture, and a landscape baked by the sun.  On occasion too I also felt transported to parts of China with millions of Chinese, and although I didn’t speak Mandarin there was still a natural connection with their identity.

Dealing with declining health of chronic renal failure, diabetes, and having a pacemaker I am presently experiencing suffering as a journey.  These afflictions are teaching me valuable lessons of life.  They are all leading to the Supreme Light.  Some Americans take many trips abroad to Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.  They, in their own way, are journeying towards the Light.  It might very well be that dreams, suffering, and our journeys are all apart of reincarnation (karma, samsara, moksha).

Truth & Perspectives




Truth & Perspectives

Truth is unity that expresses itself at micro and macro levels.  All things and beings are interrelated and interdependent.  This reality is fundamental to every community, society, and culture.  So people depend on labels - book, pen, car, pig, cow, food, drink, ocean, lake, river, mountain, valley, house, etc;  dimensions – line, triangle, pyramid, cube, oblong, sphere, etc; and dualism – true/false, long/short, happy/sad, hot/cold, wet/dry, tall/short, Chinese ying/yang, etc, to navigate their world.  They use their five senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch to do so.

Whoever desires that his intellect may grow up to soundness, to healthy vigor, must begin with moral discipline. Reading and study are not enough to perfect the power of thought. One thing above all is needful, and that is, the disinterestedness which is the very soul of virtue. To gain truth, which is the great object of the understanding, I must seek it disinterestedly. Here is the first and grand condition of intellectual progress. I must choose to receive the truth, no matter how it bears on myself. I must follow it, no matter where it leads, what interests it opposes, to what persecution or loss it lays me open, from what party it severs me, or to what party it allies. Without this fairness of mind, which is only another phrase for disinterested love of truth, great native powers of understanding are perverted and led astray.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Supreme Light



Supreme Light

Light is a pure reality, has no distractions, and the ultimate in fulfillment.  It symbolizes the Eternal Essence (Dfurstane) of the universe, and refers to the Oneness of God, Allah, Brahma, and Dao.  Predominant teachings of faith traditions emphasize believers ascending to this Supreme Light.

Sacred texts, saints, gurus, priests, rabbis, and imams teach how to accomplish this reality. These Holy Scriptures are based on ancient mythology, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Old and New Testaments, Koran, Vedas, Upanishads, and other canonical books.  But these all regard this Supreme Light in uniquely different ways with some common characteristics.  The monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic beliefs are geared towards believers achieving eternal life in Heaven.  Eastern faith traditions stress the role of karma – what believers sow they will reap in the afterlife.  This reality comes in the form of various stages of rebirth to achieving the Oneness of Hinduism’s Brahma, or Buddhism’s nirvana.


Hail, holy light! offspring of heaven firstborn!
Or of th' eternal co-eternal beam,
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is light
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!

John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667; 1674), Bk III, line 1

*Dfurstane (Eternal Essence) 

– Devotees for universal rights stand tall after natural Enlightenment.   


Monday, December 2, 2019

Happiness with Equilibrium




Happiness with Equilibrium

Carp Diem is a Latin aphorism that calls for people to live to the fullest right now.  “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” said the Roman poet Horace.  But does life only consist of these pleasurable pursuits?  There’s an essential goal that is necessary to make people happy.  On a fall’s day people could stroll in the woods then watch a powerful life-affirming film.  They could take a trip to some exquisite place, or read a good book that warms their hearts.  Still these joys might not satisfy their thirst to be happy.  People could even breathe in the fresh air at the seaside; swim in the ocean, or bike on the beach as the sun shines brightly in the sky.  Still happiness escapes them.  Why is this so?  It’s because they are only satisfying an emotional, physical, and intellectual need.  But do they ever stop to think what is lacking?  It could very well be that with all they are doing there isn’t any balance in their life.  They might well be neglecting their spiritual growth, and their soul’s longing for fulfillment.  This benefit only comes when they are inspired by God, Allah, Brahma, or Dao.  Only then would their happiness become enlightened having attained the necessary equilibrium.