I wrote this poem on 21.10.02. Those days I always wrote the date whenever I wrote poems. I don’t have to do that anymore because now I am posting my new poems in Facebook and WordPress which already show the dates posted. Anyway, this was written 18 years before (and when I was about 18 years old) and I thought I had really lost it. I was looking for it, even though I wasn’t focusing much on that. One reason why I thought I had lost the poem is because I posted it online on a content writing website and they closed the site six years before.
Anyway, today I was simply going to my own old notebooks, to see which one would get my attention first; and the poem that I thought I had lost, was the first thing that I noticed among several hundred pieces of papers. It made me smile, because for me it was a miracle.
(Even though the topic of the poem seems to be romantic love, it is really an unconscious longing for maternal love).
A dark rainy blanket has wrapped the earth;
A gloomy round, the day has given birth;
I am here, thinking calmly about my love,
Starring without a blink, the long rainbow.
The season has scattered dark black patches;
People, for heat, are searching for matches;
In their small, simple homes of road corner;
They are like goats; those are missed by their owner.
I came across this image today and it got me into thinking:
Rather than calling it ‘thinking’, I would describe it as a creative process which started flowing as I began typing.
Everything has a reason in nature even though it seems to be an unconscious process. It not only includes your forgetfulness, but also includes all the suffering you go through, every tear you shed and every lesson that you learn after that.
Jesus said blessed are the people who suffer. That is not a joke; suffering makes you to think and search for a solution; it creates empathy and sympathy for other people who suffer; suffering makes you to learn the lessons of life; suffering makes you search the divine inside you. So yes, if you are suffering now, you are blessed. And do you suffer thinking you are not good enough? If yes, forgive yourself and accept yourself as you are. No matter what you did in the past, forgive yourself! It could not have happened any other way because every effect has causes. What happened to you or through you certainly had a reason to follow.
Ok. Enough looking at your own suffering. Turn around and look at the face of the next person you see; yeah, do it now! He or she, only that person completely knows the suffering they went through; only that person knows every step they took in their life; only that person knows how much they are trying their best; only that person knows their struggles, painful memories, accomplishments, situations etc. Who are you to judge and label them as good or evil?
You don’t have that measuring scale! We all have planks in our eyes which stop us from recognizing the sawdust in the eyes of the others. May it is not a sawdust but you are projecting it! So isn’t it a good idea to throw those planks away and remove the blurriness from our own eyes first?
So, forgive the person you just saw wholeheartedly, accept them as they are and love them. Just try to send a thought wave of love. Try it!
Then open your windows and look at your neighbor. Repeat the same steps with them, repeat it for every person who you see after that. Just try for a few minutes or may be longer.
Come on, it is not that hard!
After all, it is another human being just like you, who has a story that you don’t know. It is the same breath, the same consciousness and the same Divine which resides within you. The kingdom of God is within him just like it is within you. It just have to be discovered by turning in (or metanoia, the actual Greek word for repentance used in the Bible).
Now you see someone that you really hate. Do you know him or her? Not really. Yeah we talked about it. Forgive and love, just try it….
The world will be a better place with more understanding, more love, less intolerance, less ingroup-outgroup bias, less prejudice and less hatred…
God is Love. We find Him in love.
Now, Is it very difficult to love the one who gave the message of love to the world and got nailed for it?
No. You don’t have to be a Christian to do it. You don’t have to be baptized to do it. And you don’t have to stand in the streets and give flyers to make someone understand it either!
(Republishing my Quora answer for the same question) …This is going to be a long answer because I want to cover many aspects which are related to Hindu-Muslim disunity and also suggest some solution for that.
Before I answer the question, let me narrate how I grew up and what values I was taught when I was very young:
My first introduction to anything religious happened through Lord Ayyappa, if I try to remember clearly. My father used to wear mala and go to Sabarimala in Kerala every year. Sabarimala is a symbol of religious tolerance, as there is also a shrine of Vavar, a muslim friend of prince Manikandan there. Every Sabarimala devotee has to first go to a mosque of Vavar and offer salutations before having the darshan of Ayyappa. I learned at a very young age how this promotes religious tolerance.
During my first standard, I studied in Presentation convent, Thachanallur. It was a Christian convent and our classroom was very close to a church. I didn’t know anything about Christianity back then; but for me, Jesus was just another God. I didn’t find anything odd in thinking that way.
During my second standard, I lived in Colachel, Tamil Nadu, a town where Hindus are a small minority. Majority of the residents in the town are Christians and Muslims. I studied in a Muslim school where I was the only Hindu in my class. We lived in a big compound owned by a Christian family that had a lot of animals including cows, turkeys, hens etc. The compound was full of bones of animals as the Christian family ate meat regularly. Inside the same compound, a Brahmin family, an old Muslim couple and us lived together like a big family. It was also the time when Babar masjid was demolished. But we all lived very peacefully there. We celebrated all our festivals together.
During my 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th std, I studied in another school in Tittagudi, where I had a close friend called Anbarasan. Their parents had an interesting story. They were Christians; but one day his father wore mala to Sabarimala without his mother’s knowledge. This led their whole family to accept both Christianity and Hinduism. Since I was his close friend, I always went to his house before going to school and used to have a light morning breakfast there. We used to discuss a lot about both religions as my friend was very much devotional.
In 7th standard, I entered a Hindu school, which is Swami Jayendra Sarasvati Swamigal golden jubilee matriculation higher secondary school in Tirunelveli. There were lots of Muslims and Christians there, as their parents didn’t mind their children studying in a Hindu school. They valued the quality of education more than religion. Each day for us began by reciting slokas from Guru Gita, Dakshinamurthy slokam, Saraswati sloka, Shanti mantra etc. On Fridays, we had an hour long Bhajan session and everyone including Hindus and Muslims sang those songs. And here is one of the songs we used to sing:
Govind Bolo Gopal Bolo
Ram Ram Bolo Hari Nam Bolo
Allah Malik Isha Nanak
Zoarastra Mahavir Buddha Nam Bolo
Govind Bolo Gopal Bolo
Ye Nam Sare Hai Jivan Sahare
Paramananand Ke Kholte Hai Dvare
Jo Nam Chaho Vo Nam Bolo
Prem Se Bolo Bhav Se Bolo
Sing the glorious names of Govinda, Gopala,
Rama, Hari, Allah, Sai, Jesus, Nanak, Zoroaster,
Mahavir, and Buddha. As companions in life,
they open our hearts to supreme bliss. Chant
the name you choose with love and devotion
There is a small shrine of Vinayaka in front of the house. During every Hindu festival we ate prasad together. We celebrated Holi and Raksha Bandhan together
6. During 10th standard, I studied in a school in Thirumalaiappapuram, a small village in Tirunelveli district in between Pottalpudur and Ravanasamudram which had Muslim majority. We had a lot of muslims there, playing together with Hindus. There is a famous dargah in Pottalpudur where Kandhiri is celebrated by people of all religions.
7. My role models during these days also insisted that all names like Allah and Ishvara were various names for one God. I read about Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who practiced different religious paths including Sufi Islam and Christian mysticism, attained the same samadhi experience, and proclaimed that all these religions are various paths leading to the same goal. I spoke regarding Ramakrishna and Vivekananda in lectures in my school and won many prizes in competitions conducted by Vivekananda Kendra. I also loved the poems of Bharathiyar, who wrote songs about Jesus and Allah too. I learnt that he had even given a speech about Prophet Muhammad in Pottalpudur dargah during his time.
8. In my personal life, I have had some close Muslim friends. There was a girl called Fathima in my first company who took care of me like a mother. She also fell in love with a Hindu guy and married him. There was also a Fazil Hussain who stood beside me for every problem. In general, I have received lots of love and hospitality from Muslims. So, I have been conditioned to never think that a Muslim or a Christian is an outsider or someone who doesn’t belong to my group or block.
But only when I began to see the kind of comments made by religious extremists online, I woke up to a different reality. The beautiful world of religious tolerance that I saw in school life is now being threatened; I am scared that if we do not act now, we may no longer be able to brag about the unity in diversity in India, after a few generations.
Let us come to the question now. What is the reason for hatred between Hindus and Muslims in India?
The simple reason for any conflict that arises between two groups is In-group favoritism, or in-group–out-group bias:
“In-group favoritism, sometimes known as in-group–out-group bias, in-group bias, intergroup bias, or in-group preference, is a pattern of favoring members of one’s in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.
This effect has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice. The phenomenon is primarily viewed from a social psychology standpoint. Studies have shown that in-group favoritism arises as a result of the formation of cultural groups. These cultural groups can be divided based on seemingly trivial observable traits, but with time, populations grow to associate certain traits with certain behaviour, increasing covariation. This then incentivises in-group bias.”
We derive our sense of self and ego, not only based on the individual abilities and skills but also based on the group that we belong to. You may be someone who were born just 30-40 years before. But you derive your pride from good things about your culture, and even boast about an ancient ancestor of your group for the good things he did; As a Hindu, you take pride in a temple that was built by someone who lived about 1000 years ago, even though you might not have done anything worthwhile yourself to deserve it. You never had a choice when it comes to where you were born. And you had no idea who your ancestor were 5-6 generations before or what kind of values the great-grandfather of your great-grandfather had. But yet, the very fact that you belong to that group makes you have a sense of superiority.
Then you were told that people from a different group destroyed your temple about 500-600 years before. You also come to know that many people who are identified with that same group indulge in terrorism. You start seeing the world in groups instead of seeing individuals. Just like you derive your pride from your group even though you didn’t do anything to deserve it, you also begin to look down on this ‘other’ group and start to stereotype them. You generalize this whole group, and you somehow tend to think that someone who was born about 30-40 years in that ‘different’ group is responsible for temple destruction and terrorsim. You see him as an outsider.
You know, it is human nature to have some kind of prejudice. But the real maturity is to grow to go beyond that. So, if someone tries to pour fuel into your prejudice or provoke your sense of ego based on your group identity, it is very important to recognize and resist that. Failure to do so is the cause of the growing hatred between Hindus and Muslims.
Do you know what keeps fueling this prejudice? Politics! But unfortunately, even based on politics we create groups. We tend to be married to one political party and be committed to vote for that group for life. We get too defensive when trying to support a political party and we even lose friends because of that. Even based on this answer, people will try to judge me and place me in a political group: a congress supporter, a sickular person, an Anti-hindu etc.
But the reality is, I hate today’s politics and how it is going. I am not attached to any political party or committed to vote them for life. In democracy, I am the king and I do not have to wipe the feet of any politician.
Politicians just play with your emotions to get votes. And you give in. Now, your political leaders become your gurus and authorities. You begin to worship them, blindly support them, kill the spirit of democracy and allow the unity of diversity of this country to be threatened. You fall for it when they act like they are the saviours of your religion, which makes you to neglect the true dharma of this land. You end up worshipping Godse and demonise Gandhi!
A politician openly says in media that Hindu boys should rape Muslim girls. A politician openly declares that Godse, who did nothing but kill a 70 year old man, as a patriot. Most of these politicians say things which are utter nonsense and seems to be lacking real intelligence. Yet, we support them, worship them and try too hard to defend them. And when someone tries to point this out, we try to come with a list of faults from another party, so that your group appears better (which is nothing but fooling ourselves). And when a person who belongs to the ‘other’ group questions it, we stereotype him just based on his Arabic name and troll him.
Yet, when someone asks in Quora if India is becoming intolerant, we have the guts to deny it, because accepting it hurts our self-esteem. So, just to save our self-esteem and pride and to make your people feel better, you start denying the reality and deliberately lie; You close your eyes to the hatred and prejudice. And in order to prove that you country is still tolerant, you come up with examples from other countries to show how we are actually better.
Let us say someone comes to your house and says that there is a lot of garbage in your house and that you should clean it. If you respond by saying, “You know, other houses are worse; you haven’t seen them. They have more garbage than we do”, then you are actually being stupid. There is no reason to look at another house. If your house has even a little garbage, you should attempt to clean it for your own good. But if you remain deaf when someone points that out, you just pave way for more garbage to gather in your house in the future. And soon, it will be worse than other houses.
If you want to know how much poison the minds of people have gathered, just look at the nature of comments on Twitter and Facebook; just see how cheap people get in abusing other people inhumanely, just to save their face and establish their superiority. There are Facebook groups tied to political parties who openly abuse the ‘other’ group members and sometimes I am left speechless and concerned after seeing all that.
The true maturity is the ability to see our own faults and criticize ourselves. We have to take our sense of self less seriously. Pointing out the faults in our own group, acknowledging them and being willing to rectify them is not the same as defaming ourselves or putting ourselves down. It only shows that we are always ready to improve and grow.
There are also two other problems that I would like to point out:
Black and white thinking: Because of too much attachment that we have towards our own culture, we tend to white wash our culture completely; and we tend to ‘black-wash’ another group completely. Caste system? British created it. Sati? That happened because of Muslims.. Our culture? Oh, our culture is golden and there is no fault in our culture at all and never has been. Asram Bapu? He is a Hindu and so I will defend him. Nithyananda? I don’t care how many people he raped; since he is trying to create a Hindu country, I will support him. Raja Raja Chola? Oh, he was a great Hindu king who conquered many countries in South Asia, very peacefully without killing a single human. Did you say Akbar and Shah Jahan were great? Go to Pakistan. We Indians never did anything wrong right from the day God created us, we never suppressed women, we did everything only for good. In fact, the fact that my own grandfather who ran a restaurant in my village had a separate room for dalits, separate bucket to wash their hands etc is something that happened because of some evil ‘outside’ influence. Yes, none of our scriptures have any defects while all other scriptures of the world are complete nonsense.. And people like Rumi, Kabir, etc never existed because nothing good can actually come from the ‘other’ group. This way of thinking is sickness and it needs medicine. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa? Since he said that all religions lead to the same truth, he must be deluded or someone who never existed. (I was told that I am living in a fool’s paradise just because I said the same thing). Have you ever bothered to check why some people say that all religions lead to the same goal? Have you ever bothered to understand why Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi spoke good things about Islam and Christianity? Are you aware that Shirdi sai baba was both a Muslim fakir and a Hindu saint? We are drinking too much alcohol! No, not the ones which are sold in bars; The name of this alcohol is ‘pride’ and it is too intoxicating.
Conformity: The group we belong to and identify with gives us a sense of belonging. So, we try to unconsciously conform to the norms of our own group. We tend to agree with what the members of our own group say, and this takes precedence over logic or ethics. Because, when our self-esteem is threatened, our mind is willing to compromise on logic and ethics. This is a fact in psychology; but the true maturity is to see through that and go beyond that. Guess what, we are not doing that! We simply tend to support someone’s opinion just because they belong to our group, especially if that opinion shows our group in a favourable way and puts down the other. That is like eating chocolate for us. I have seen many intelligent people simply agreeing to things just to conform. And Quora or any social media platform that signals an acceptance by your group members through upvotes and shares acts as a perfect breeding ground for all this.
How to increase Hindu – Muslim unity?
Hindus need to take the first step for that. Why Hindus? Because, we are the ones who claim that we are tolerant than the others. It is our Dharma which teaches that the world is one family. Rather than asking a different group to be tolerant with us and be peaceful us, we need to set an example by doing the first step. Only by seeing examples, other people get inspired. When you make religious tolerance as the highest value to conform to, people from other religions will also start to conform to those values. As I said, conformity is something natural to humans.
What we call as Hinduism is a huge library. And we have a huge list of saints who are important. On the other hand, Islam has just one central holy book and just one important Prophet with whom all of them all emotionally connected. So, even to compare Hinduism and Islam and argue which one is better is very unfair. It is like a huge army with thousands of weapons fighting with a single man who has a small knife. Who has to be more generous here?
You can very easily insult a person who practices Islam. Just cherry pick the so called ‘sword’ verses from Quran and ignore all the verses in the Quran that says things like ‘there should be no compulsion in religion’, or ‘If you kill one human, it is like killing the whole of humanity’. Pick some controversial verses from Hadiths that were written more than a hundred years after the death of Muhammad and use those verses to portray Islam as completely evil. Most importantly, ignore all the verses which are good. On top of that, try to insult the only person that they revere and put him down by calling him with abusive names, without caring about the historicity. Don’t worry, the whole world is with you when you do that.. Many people will come and agree with you and even rejoice at the insults that you are passing. And when you do this, forget about the claim that your religion is tolerant.
Because, the beauty of stupidity is that you can have double standards. On the one hand you can claim that your religion is very tolerant, generous, and forgiving; on the other hand you can go down to any level of intolerance to put down the ‘other’ groups and rejoice in making fun of them. Why should you care about the feelings of an innocent harmless Muslim who is already too scared about the hell fire and is in a dilemma? Why should you have any compassion to any Muslim to help him deal with his cognitive dissonance? After all, 600 years before someone from their group destroyed a temple and somewhere in the world, a sick-minded terrorist is bombing people; and this innocent Muslim is responsible for all of that!
There is an intelligent priest in Quora, an expert in Pancharatra and Mimamsa and a ‘proud’ Shudra, who actually contributes to pouring fuel in this glowing fire of intolerance. I like most of his answers. He is never abusive himself and is a very nice person. But one thing he does is, constantly cater to the needs of some extremist Hindus who are looking for some dose in the alcohol of superiority. Whenever Islam is put down, many people who are looking for this dose rejoice and upvote. And, probably the priest also gets some comfort because now he conforms to the opinions of a particular group and his need for the sense of belonging is satisfied. Who cares about a different perspective on Islam? The world has already made up their mind about it and we can all join in the chorus. Well, while this does absolutely nothing to stop terrorisim and obviously cannot undo the calamities which has happened in the past, it continues to spoil the ‘proud’ people. May be the priest doesn’t know what is happening in India or doesn’t care about the politician who said that Hindu boys should rape Muslim girls or that Godse is a patriot (After all, these politicians are Hindus, right?).
Please remember. It is the comparison of religions (to feel superior) that makes the differences and gaps in humanity larger and larger. Dharma is a path; it is not an identity. The focus of Dharma is to ensure the well-being of yourself and others. If you want to brag, please pick something else. Buy fancy clothes and post your pictures on Instagram, write beautiful and useful answers on Quora and enjoy the pride of being appreciated, go to the gym and build a six-pack to show off, play cricket and impress others etc. But do not touch dharma! Dharma is not for you to brag.
OK. Now, let me tell you about my views on Muhammad; This may help you to get a different perspective:
Historians agree that we can’t be sure about Muhammad’s life at all. The only thing we can say for sure is the fact that a person called Muhammad existed.
But they do agree that Islam improved the status quo of the pre-Islamic society. Islamic society was an improvement of what was existing.
We also know that Muhammad was invited to be a mediator in Medina to handle religious intolerance. It is not an opportunity that some cruel bigot can get.
If a person is cruel and he is just after power and money, there is no reason for him to promote charity, welfare of orphans etc or even name his religious doctrine as ‘Islam’ which is a word related to peace and surrender. There is no reason why there should be even a sentence in Quran that says that there should be no compulsion in religion.
Human beings are not generally good in judging others. We really do not know another person. Trying to judge a person who lived about 1500 years ago based on some bits and pieces of information that we have is not going to work out.
No human being is perfect; so I am pretty sure that Muhammad was not a perfect man either.
Also, please understand this: A human being’s behavior, personality, moral sense etc strictly depends on two things: Nature and nurture. Pre-Islamic society was very backwards and this was the society that Muhammad was brought up in. Now ask yourself these three questions:
If you had been born in 5th century Arabia, what kind of person would you be?
If Muhammad with his same genetic make up is born in today’s world in a developed country, what kind of person he would be?
If Muhammad was born in 5th century India instead of Arabia, what kind of person he would have been?
Place Muhammad in his own time and in his own society. Before you try to judge him, place him in the stage where he belongs to. So, abusing Muhammad in an attempt to criticize Islam is not only unfair, it will only make you as a ‘hater’ in the eyes of Muslims. As soon as you talk ill about Muhammad, all the ears will be closed and you can’t expect any open-mindedness from the other side, even if you want to engage in some healthy discussion. At least, try to understand human psychology.
Now, my views about Islam:
Islam means ‘submission’ or surrender to the supreme God. This concept of surrender exists in all religions. For me, this is the only criteria that defines a Muslim. In that sense, I am a Muslim too.
Allah is just another word for God or Ishvara. I am not too obsessed with names. Also, this is what Ramakrishna, Kabir, Rumi, Vivekananda, Gandhi etc taught me. And the opinion of a modern Godse fan or Savarkar’s fan cannot change that. (By the way, Savarkar praised Nazism and he said that Indians should do the same thing to Muslims. So, I think any political party that is associated with this guy is evil).
I reject the concept of eternal hell because it contradicts with Quran itself. I think the idea of hell and heaven were only brought to control the order of society based on fear. These ideas were first popularized by Plato.
Quran says, ‘everywhere you turn, there is a face of God’. So, as long as you see the face of God in an idol, it is not shirk.
I do not agree that Muhammad is the last messenger of God. In fact, Muhammad was considered as seal of Prophets, which seem to indicate that Muhammad concluded and finalized the teachings of specific prophets accepted by Jews and Christians.
I do not agree with Sharia laws and I think most of them are outdated.
I am completely against the cruel blasphemy laws, killing people in the name of faith or anything that is unethical, which is done in the name of Islam.
I do not have to abuse Muhammad or totally blackwash Islam to say all that. And I am pretty sure that we can come up with a list of problematic aspects in many religious scriptures of many religions.
When you come across any idea from any religion, there are only two simple questions to ask:
Is it rational?
Is it ethically correct?
If yes, accept it; if no discard it. This was the simple message of Mahatma Gandhi.
Hindu-Muslim conflicts are caused when we see these religions as an identity. But we don’t have to. We can discuss independant ideas without worrying about which religion it comes from.
Please remember.. You cannot make a person to leave his religion by condemning his religion. This has never worked. Most of the conflicts in religions have been resolved by syncretism and exchange of ideas. Even Shankaracharya united six different traditions under Vedantic philosophy by fusion of ideas and not by completely condemning any tradition. In fact, Muhammad himself did exactly that to unite the people of Arabia under a common law.
I have crossed 36 years on this planet. My birthday was just yesterday, September 26th. I have placed my step on 37th year now. When I think about the past, nothing immediately comes to the memory because I am completely unburdened by the past in psychological level. There are certain times when I behave in certain ways motivated by any emotion-provoking incident from the past, but those times are very rare.
Freedom from the past is correlated with peace, fulfilment and absence of the sense that one is seperate from the existential source. This is not the result of a scientific study, but something that I confirmed by my own experience. So, this is not a public evidence that can be objectively verified yet. But whatever I write in this blog is not new. I am just separating facts from myths and summarizing the essence of spirituality, by looking at it from all perspectives, including the modern psychological perspective. This essence of spirituality has been communicated by various people through various texts. Those texts probably number in thousands or even millions. But one doesn’t have to read all that. I have summarized everything in two different books, with two different perspectives or approaches.
There are two ways to approach the ultimate truth of existence. One way is scientific way, but it is a psychological exploration combined with mindfulness meditation. You don’t have to believe in a God or follow a religion. You just have to follow a certain set of instructions to do two types of meditations: open-monitoring meditation or Vipassana/ Mindfulness and closed-focus meditation or shamatha/dhyana. The former involves in non-judgemental moment to moment passive awareness of what goes on in your mind; you start with with body first and extend it to your thoughts, emotions, subtle mental reactions or movements etc. The latter involves focusing on one object; whenever your mind wanders from that object, you notice it, take it with acceptance and bring the attention back to the object of meditation. The former is the direct path to freedom and comes second in the two-fold spiritual path that I often mention in my posts and videos. The latter is the path to purify the mind, develop non-attachment and prepare the ground for the former direct path; it comes first in the two fold spiritual path. Explaining this and practicing this requires no beliefs! This approach is the approach of meditation.
The second approach is the approach of love. This approach usually accompanied with a belief in a personal God or personification of the absolute truth of the existence. This is a path of unconditional love, prayer, chanting hymns etc accompanied by love towards other human beings and a longing to unite with God. This approach is the path of devotion.
Two kinds of people exist in this world. Based upon one’s nature, they can choose either one of them or even combine them both but not simultaneously. One could start with devotion to God, use the devotion as a stepping stone or the purification stage (stage 1 in 2-fold path) and later progress towards the approach of meditation. But since purification stage is already complete, you can stick to the open-monitoring meditation alone. This is how I walked on the spiritual path. The first 18-19 years I walked in the path of devotion, though I tried closed-focus meditation from time to time. The next 12 years were spent usually in a lot of mindfulness meditations.
I have written two books for these two different approaches, so that I could address all kinds of people.
People who are atheists, scientists, critical thinkers etc can read the book “The Truth About Spiritual Enlightenment: Bridging Science, Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta” :https://www.amazon.com/dp/1973364549
People who believe in God, no matter which religion they belong to can read the book “Discovering God: Bridging Christianity, Hinduism and Islam”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XRJ3GWS
In the post Goddess Gomathi Amman, Adi Thabasu and Religious Tolerance, I have written about certain coincidences in life that I was amazed by. You can bookmark it and read it later because it is pretty much connected to my latest book, the second one in the above list. These days, I am observing such coincidences so closely and I am making sure that they are recorded in my blog posts. There are some new coincidences related to this book which are wonderful and creepy; I want to share them with the readers today.
Before that, let me start with the very first coincidence that started all this. My school life was mostly influenced by Tamil Poet Bharathiyar; and my life in my early twenties was mostly influenced by Osho. My son was born on December 11th, 2016. It is on that day I realized that both Bharathiyar and Osho were born on December 11th. So I get to celebrate three birthdays on my son’s birthday! Amazing right? But wait, there is more to it.
I released my book “Discovering God: Bridging Christianity, Hinduism and Islam” on September 11th, 2019. It didn’t plan that, it just happened by chance that the day I released my book ended up being September 11. But then I realized that it is an important day in many aspects.
Memorial day of Tamil poet Bharathiyar that I just mentioned. He was very keen in explaining people that all these three religions lead to the same truth. Once he had given a speech about Prophet Muhammad, in Pottalpudur in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, India during his lifetime. There is a famous dargah in that town and I used to pass by it everyday by bicycle to school when a studied in T.M.Puram, a village next to this town.
On 11th September 1893 Swami Vivekananda, gave his first speech in the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. He addressed the crowd as “Sisters and brothers of America”. After saying these words, Vivekananda received 2 minute standing ovation from the crowd. Vivekananda’s guru was Ramakrishna Paramahansa, who promoted religious tolerance by practicing spiritual practices of all these three religions and confirming that they lead to the same goal. Also, Vivekananda’s speech created a big revolution and made Westerners to have interest on Eastern philosophy.
But it also has been one of the worst days in history. The day September 11 is known for the terrorist attacks in the US in 2001. The main reason for this attack was religious intolerance. It is also true that those terrorists were getting inspiration from some verses from the Quran itself which are regarding Jihad. This and many forceful conversions in the past has earned Islam a bad name. I also dedicate this book to the people who lost their lives in those attacks. But I have also presented the nature of true Islam as taught by Muhammad and shown how the major religions Christianity, Hinduism and Islam can be bridged. I hope the overall message in the book will spread to more number of people.
Anyway, after seeing these related coincidences, I was sure that I can find interesting about Osho on the same day. So I searched for the English speech that he gave on September 11th. The first one I got surprised me. Osho kind of summarized whatever that I said about the two approaches in the beginning of this post. Let me end this post by including that exact discourse which happened on September 11, 1980 in Chuang Tzu Auditorium, Pune:
God can be attained through two ways: either prayer or meditation. They are different ways, diametrically opposite but, strangely leading to the same experience.
If you look at the ways they look antagonistic, and if one thinks logically one will think, how can these contrary thoughts lead to the same goal? But those who have attained have seen that, ultimately, both paths lead to the same goal. And those two paths are needed because there are two types of people in the world.
Humanity can be divided into two categories: the people who are more interested in love and the people who are more interested in bliss. The person who is interested in love has to follow the path of prayer. Then God is somewhere outside and you become a lover or a beloved. Both things have been done in the past.
The Indian mystics who followed the path of prayer have always thought of God as the lover and themselves as the beloved. They thought of themselves as feminine because God is the only male. That too has a beauty of its own — you are just receptive like a woman.
The Sufis have done just the opposite. It is the same path but they think of themselves as lovers and God as a beloved. God is the woman — that too has its beauty. But both are on the path of love. Prayer means the highest form of love. But you have to hypothesize God somewhere outside, then you can relate.
The people who are interested in bliss have no need to hypothesize God outside, they have to hypothesize God inside. Buddha, Mahavira — the whole tradition of Tao mystics and Zen mystics follows the path of meditation. In meditation, you don’t need any outside God — it is self-exploration.
Now, these two things look totally opposite; one is focussed on the inside God. How can they reach to the same point? — But they do.
The person who thinks of God as being on the outside dissolves himself into his God. He disappears, and the moment he disappears the ego is dropped and there is oneness. That oneness is realization.
In meditation you have to discard the ego, you have to become aware of the ego, you have to become watchful of the ego and all its tricks and strategies and cunning ways. As you watch the ego and its subtle ways it starts disappearing. It cannot exist in the light of awareness. Awareness is just like light: you bring light in and the darkness disappears. And the ego is nothing but darkness.
The person following the path of love surrenders his ego to God. “I am not, you are.” But the same phenomenon happens, the ego is surrendered. And the person on the path of meditation does it through awareness. The same phenomenon happens, the ego disappears. And the moment the ego disappears you have come to find oneness with existence. So both reach the same oneness, both paths lead to the disappearance of duality; the duality is dissolved.
My feeling is that, as man becomes more and more mature, the path of meditation has to be more and more implemented.
A child cannot understand the path of meditation; he can understand the path of love because love is natural. Every child knows what love is. Maybe later on he forgets what it is, but every child knows what love is; it is an intrinsic feel.
Meditation is for a grown-up person. And humanity has come of age, hence meditation is going to become more significant than prayer in the future. Buddha is going to become more significant than Jesus. Zen is going to become more predominant than Sufism, Hassidism. Of course a few people will go on following those paths, and nothing is wrong in following them if they appeal to you — if they fit you. But the more intelligent you are, the more contemporary you are, more is the possibility that you will be easily moved by meditation; hence my emphasis on meditation.
I help people in prayer only when I see that meditation will not be possible for a certain person. But it is becoming more secondary every day.
Dhyaneshwar means God that is attained through meditation. So remember, meditation is going to be your way.
Experience is of the mind. Mind deals only with dead things. Experience means something that has already become past. Experiencing means that which is present, which is already here and now, which is a process, not a thing. And this has to be understood about everything that is valuable. Love, bliss, awareness — these are all processes, not things. You are always moving from one perfection to another perfection but the end never comes. It is an endless pilgrimage. The pilgrimage itself is so beautiful that there is no need for any end, the pilgrimage itself is the end.
Never make any goal in life because life has no goal, hence all goals are false and those who are running after goals are bound to be disappointed. Live life as a process, not as a dead thing but as something alive, growing, like a tree which is constantly growing; new leaves are always coming, the old are disappearing, the old is constantly replaced by the new. Or like a river which constantly goes on flowing towards the ocean, it is a continuum. Life is a river, love is a river, awareness is a river.
Remember always, nouns are all false. Existence consists of verbs, not nouns. In fact if we want to make language really true — true to life, true to reality — then we have to drop all nouns, all pronouns. Language should consist only of verbs. There is no tree, there is only treeing. There is no river, there is only rivering; there is no life, there is only living; and there is no love, there is only loving.
This has to be remembered constantly because the mind tries to make everything a noun. It lives in nouns — that’s why it goes on missing life. It is very happy with dead things because dead things can be easily manipulated. Dead things become objects. You can think about them, you can go round and round them, you can dissect them, you can try to find out what their secret is. But when something is alive mind simply feels impotent.
You cannot dissect an alive child. Yes, you can do a post-mortem when somebody is dead. And mind goes on doing post-mortems. It goes on cutting up and analysing corpses. But when a child is dead it is no more the same child. The real has already left; the bird is no more in the cage, only the cage is there. And by dissecting the cage you cannot find the bird.
That’s why science goes on missing the soul. It goes on missing your centre because it depends on dissection, analysis. Science lives in nouns. A person becomes religious when he becomes aware that all nouns are false, only verbs are real.
That is the meaning of Prem Anubhuti: love is an experiencing, it is a process. Never try to make it permanent. Never try to change its natural course, its flow, because a canal is not a river. There is a tremendous difference between the two. The river has freedom, the canal is imprisoned. It only has the appearance of a river.
My sannyasins have to understand it as deeply as possible. Never destroy any process by forcing your ideas upon it. Remain spontaneous, alert, receptive, but allowing life its own course, never interfering. Then all bliss is yours and all benediction is yours. Then life is always an ongoing ecstasy, it is a dance of such tremendous beauty and grace that mind is absolutely incapable of comprehending it.
I have a lot to say about Christianity. First, I will let you watch a video that narrates many incidents from my life which are associated with Christianity. I will be making many videos in the future, but this is an introduction. In this video, I have spoken the truth that I have realized in my experience, which is now as clear as the sunlight to me. Sharing my thoughts on Christianity is intended to promote religious tolerance, inter-religious understanding and peace. I speak about all religions and this post is in specific to Christianity. First, watch the video, then read the rest of this post:
https://youtu.be/npKleb7Gh1A The rest of this post is an answer that I wrote in Quora. But also follow the links at the end of this page. The Quora question was, ‘Why do most Christians refuse to accept “Prasad” from Hindus?‘
Because many churches preach that idol worship in Hinduism is Satanic and that idols have evil spirits in them. I used to have a Protestant friend, a girl, whose boyfriend is a Catholic. She wouldn’t step inside a Roman Catholic church because it has the idol of Jesus on the cross.
It is true that Hebrew Bible asks not to worship idols. But it was specifically for people in ancient Israel who were polytheists and didn’t have a strong philosophy that preaches the oneness of God. But when it comes to Hinduism, it already says God is one without a second, and idols are devices for meditation and devotion. So the idol worship that is banned in Bible is not the same as the idol worship in Hinduism.
Hinduism offers various symbols to connect with divine. The symbols include the stimuli of all the five senses. A form of God is a powerful visual stimulus that can evoke the feeling of devotion by mere exposure. This is possible because of a psychological phenomena called classical conditioning. So, in other words, Hinduism is based on deep understanding of human psychology. Such symbolism is also present in other religions anyway. The Cresent in Islam, the Cross in Christianity, the taste of wine and the bread of the Eucharist and the melodious songs of orchestra in Church are a part of such symbolism and send powerful sensory cues.
Before there can be a real religious tolerance between various religions, people first need to understand the essence of their own religions. A Hindu cannot provide counter arguments to Christians if he himself is ignorant about his own religion. And Christians should understand that anything that is offered to God with love is not /cannot be anti-Christian or Satanic.
I am in the process of making videos, images and infographics that promote religious tolerance and educate people about the true essence of religions.
Christianity is all about love. When you reject a Prasad that is offered by someone with love, you are turning your face away from love; you are being anti-Christian.
By the way, this is not a post intended to attack Christians. And I am not in agreement with organizations like RSS who constantly abuse people of other religions in India. I am all for religious tolerance.
I was going through a small bag that I have preserved since school days. I came across a few notes written by me when I was in school. I am sharing those notes with you to show you how depressed and helpless I was in school days. I have omitted certain parts of them. The practice of mindfulness was what cured me from depression and helped me realize my own nature and find my own true bliss.
Here are the pictures of those notes:
The last picture is not very clear. I have mentioned there that sometimes I used to weep for no reason. It was a mystery for me and I didn’t know what caused my tears without reason.
My depression was very hard to bear and I thought of commiting suicide many times. But it was that suffering which made me to seek the ultimate liberation.
This poem is based on an incident that happened in my school. The teacher mentioned in the poem is Mrs. Usha Raman who is the principal of the school I studied in Sankarnagar, Tirunelveli. If you join the first letters of all the lines, you will get the sentence, ‘Mrs. Usha Raman is my guru’.
I am always amazed by coincidences in life. As I scientist, I regard them as just coincidences but the poetic aspect of me rejoices in the beauty of the connections. Many such beautiful coincidences happened today; and today is also Adi Thabasu, a festival in Tamil month of Adi that celebrates religious tolerance.
There is a beautiful temple in a town close to my city. The town is Sankarankovil, in Tirunelveli district. This temple has a story behind it. It is not history, but a story. But the story comes with a good message which served to connect Shaivism and Vaishnavism, the two sects into one.
I am including the story from Wikipedia as It will save me a lot of typing:
“The goddesses is a yogini who was performing her penance on the tip of the needle to please lord Shiva and merge with him. Two snake kings namely “sangan” and “padman”. Sangan was worshipping lord shiva and padman was worshipping lord narayana. One day they had a quarrel on who is great whether lord shiva, the destroyer or narayana, the protector. They were trying to prove their own power and finally went to the yogini and pleaded her to give them a proper judgement.
The yogini grew out of her grace pleaded the almighty to show his universality form so that not only the snake kings but also for every human being. By the intense penance lord shiva appears before the yogini in the form of half shiva and half vishnu showing the world that they are equal and it is with love and sacrifice they could reach them. Hence sangan and padman worshipped the lord and prayed to the yogini for showing them a way to attain the god and they stayed with her. the yogini was none other than goddesses gomathi. Gomathi means repository of wealth. Since the snakes stayed with the goddesses, this place is free from all venomous creatures and praying to this goddesses can eliminate the fear of venom.
One of the 18 siddhas, the great pambatti siddhar worshipped this goddesses as valai kumari and he regarded this goddesses to be the great serpent power which can make miracles in taking aspirant in yogic transformation. Pambatti siddhar samadhi is seen behind the temple.”
My long time readers would know that I am not happy with the hatred spread by RSS and other Hindutva organizations in India. This morning, before I knew that today is Adi Thabasu, I commented on an RSS group in Facebook. Their replies were in Tamil but you can guess what they are basically saying by reading my replies that are in English. Eventually, in between the comments I got to know that today is the festive day that reminds us about religious tolerance, as I was also checking Tamil calendar app in my mobile. And what I notice among RSS members is religious intolerance and hatred. Here are the screenshots:
There was another coincidence too. Once I finished posting these comments, I saw this in my Facebook feed:
A birthday of a Muslim friend and a Christian friend. Both are my good friends. And coincidentally, it made me recall a conversation that I had with one of them in a post that I posted a month before:
The conversation itself was regarding religious tolerance. This is way too much of coincidences today. I am not sure if they have any other significance other than being coincidences but they are beautiful and poetic. They make me smile and I enjoy them!
You are avyakta (impersonal); but you identify yourself with the image of a person (vyakta). It is like a wave imagining itself as an entity separate from the ocean. But how can a wave be separate from the ocean? We are all like waves, but forgot that we are not many, but the One reality that is without two. I think that must be the true meaning of the phrase ‘Lahilaha illalla’….
Many people do not know that Prophet Muhammad was the one who started the first Sufi order. Islam means surrender. And Holy Jihad symbolizes the war against one’s own ignorance. This is similar to the teachings and the context of Bhagavad Gita. Islam is a path of karma yoga. There is a way to read and interrupt Quran to get the right meaning. And only Sufis seem to know that.
Also, many people do not know that Jesus was a gnostic teacher. Gnostic wisdom says that there is divine spark in every one. That is what Jesus meant when he said the kingdom of God is within you. He also says that you can become free like birds, with no worries about tomorrow. In Sermon of Mount, by saying Blessed are the meek, he says that suffering is a blessing in disguise. It makes people to seek spiritual truth and bliss. By making statements like ‘I and the Father are one’ and ‘Before Abraham, I am’, he reveals his possible connections with Eastern traditions. His only two commandments are to love God and love human beings. His message was love and Christianity is a path of Bhakti yoga.
Also, while true Islam reflects the teachings of Gita, life of Jesus closely resembles the life of Krishna.
We are all connected. India is a land of unity in diversity. So, as a matter of fact, India is the only possibility for a world peace. Only India can show how people can live together. Do not listen to Sanghis like RSS people. Discourage them! Because they are the real anti- Indians and anti-Hindus.
This reminds me of a song that we used to sing in school. It starts as Govinda bolo, Gopala bolo. It proceeds to name Allah, Jesus, Zoroaster, Buddha, Mahavira and Guru nanak. Three more days for Independence day for India. Let us remind ourselves about unity in diversity..
Post dedicated to Usha Raman mam, my school principal….
I have noticed that human beings often judge other people based on the notion that a human being is a static entity. When they talk about other human beings, they somehow unconsciously assume that the person never changes. We often reduce human beings into mere labels such as ‘he is a good guy’, ‘he is a bad guy’ etc. We tend to define human beings and confine people within the boundary of a definition. This is usually based on a very short time acquaintance with another human being. You may know a person for the past six months and within those six months that person has already been conceptualized as a static entity inside your mind; Based on how you react to the experiences with that person, you tend to form an opinion that never changes in your life. I mean, you never bother to revise that opinion.
We often say that the first impression is the best impression. I think that is wrong. The first impression is the worst impression. Because the first impression is usually formed with insufficient data. You hardly know a person but you think you have already figured it out. The saddest part is, this first impression is usually difficult to change. Because of this, people often stress the importance of leaving a good impression at first meeting. This is often given as a self help advice. But people should also be advised about the fact that the first impressions about a human being in your mind doesn’t capture the full picture of what that person is.
In fact, it is impossible to grasp a full picture of a human being. Because, as I said, a human being is a process. In the lifetime of about 60 years, a human being undergoes many changes. He very frequently changes his ideologies and opinions, regrets his past actions, refines his behaviour, learns new things and tries to be more mature.
Every human being is born as a clean slate but has the genetics to have some predisposed qualities or characters. This genetic part is under nobody’s control. You are simply born with certain genes and it was not your choice. But a person learns behaviours and thought patterns by interacting with the environment. Everybody tends to repeat the behaviours which are rewarding and stop the behaviours which lead to unpleasant consequences. This type of conditioning is called operant conditioning. So how a person behaves at any given moment is a product of his genetics and his learned behaviours.
Usually, the type of environment a person gets to interact with and the type of people he gets influenced by is not in his control either. The environment is so huge with complex network of thousands of people who influence what you think and how you behave; but the human being is so tiny. He can’t control what he interacts with completely. So, if you think about it, a person is helpless when it comes to his character at any given moment. He has so and so character traits because of thousands of factors which was not under his control. Of course, everyone has free will but the free will is only an appearance. Any decision that you make in any given moment is tied to both your genetics and everything that you have learned and absorbed from the different environments you have interacted with in your entire life.
If you understand this correctly, it will automatically increase your compassion towards other human beings. It will make you more tolerant, accept other human beings as they are and forgive them easily for their defects.
Second, it is a fallacy to judge people based on their past actions. What a person did ten years before is not important and it doesn’t define how he is now. He interacts with the environment everyday and lets it shape him. So everybody goes through waves of personal transformations throughout their lives. To understand this, let us recall what I said in the beginning of this post: a human being is not an entity but a process.
There is a beautiful story in ancient Indian literature. Valmiki, the author of Ramayana was said to be a thief once. After his interaction with Narada, he is said to have completely transformed. This story gives an example of how a thief turns into a saint because of his interaction with the environment. Oscar Wilde says “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”. Future opens the door for transformation.
I would even say that the words like saint and sinner are mere labels which do not capture the totality of a human being. A human being is way more huge and complex than these labels. Every human being usually has good intentions, passions, care for loved ones and understanding and tolerance towards other human beings. But sometimes things go wrong and they end up learning behaviours and ideas which deviate from the social norm. All that needs to be done is to make those people unlearn those behaviours. If humanity does more research on that, we can come up with better options than punishments. Punishments are barbaric and only some poor unluckier ones go through it. The rich and influential can often get away without going through legal actions, in spite of committing crimes that are worse.