Saturday, February 6, 2016


 

 

197. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part two

 

We were discussing the conversion of Raymond of Capua.

Initially, in 1374, he was skeptic of her numerous visions and her endless torrent of words about God. Was she imagining all these visions? I quote Raymond: “…… I feel myself obliged to reveal things………so no incredulous person may say, “She was the only person…….there were no witnesses….she is simply giving her own account…..perhaps her account is not true….she could have been mistaken or be telling lies.”

 I quote Raymond:

“It occurred to me that if I could be certain that Catherine’s prayer had brought me a great and unaccustomed contrition for my sins it should be perfect proof that all her actions were guided by the Holy Spirit….because only Holy Spirit can do that.”. He went to Catherine and begged her to pray for him and ask God specially to forgive his sins.”She said she would be delighted to do so. He called it a ‘Bull’

Next morning he became sick and was confined to bed. She, with a companion came to see him, and as usual started talking about God. Raymond writes, “As she was talking….there came before my mind an unusual vision of my sins. I saw myself naked before the judgment seat of God…….Under the effect of these reflections , or rather utterly clear visions, ……I burst into tears so violently that I almost felt my heart would break….she stopped talking and let me cry and sob…… “ is this the Bull I asked yesterday?” I said”

“It is” She replied. Tapping me on the shoulder, she said, “Never forget the graces of God”

“This I say in the presence of God, knowing I do not lie”.

One morning he was called to her bedside. She was too sick to rise. She continued her several hours long previous night conversation about God.  Let me quote Raymond: “What I heard was so extraordinary __ nothing of a like kind ever happens to anyone else. That I ungratefully forgot the first grace I had received through her (the Bull)…..I felt doubtful as to whether what she said was true. As I looked at her lying in bed, her face changed to that of a strange man who , fixing grave eyes upon me inspired me with great fear…………..I raised my hand and cried out “ Who are you, looking at me?” The virgin replied, “He who is.” Virgin’s face reappeared.

“I vow this is true As God is my witness”.

 

Raymond was not the only confessor and companion of Catherine. She had dozens of close disciples; men and women. They all considered her their fearless leader and sought her holy company. Apart from Raymond and Thomas, the other confessors and confidants were Tomasso Caffarini and Bartholomew Dominic; the later wrote valuable incidents of her life. Critics should pay particular attention to the word confessor, because confession is a sacrosanct religious ritual; Saint Catherine won’t be telling lies in confession, and confessors won’t be lying about her private conversations in the books.

Alessia, Lisa, and Cecca were her true female friends. They are always mentioned by the male writers. They stayed with her for most of her life till the day of her death, and took care of her body needs. Alessia arranged her whole life that she could be with her holy friend.

 

The extraordinary journey towards God of this saint started when she was approximately six years old. She was with her brother Stefano travelling over the lane of Valle Piatta when she happened to look up. She saw a beautiful bridal chamber hanging in the air. There was an imperial throne in it. Jesus Christ was sitting on it, dressed in monarchial papal attire. With him were the Apostles Peter and Paul and the holy evangelist John. The little girl gazed unblinkingly, uprooted to the ground. He looked directly in her eyes. Jesus came towards her and blessed her with making the sign of the Cross over her. She was taken out of her and entirely into Him. She became oblivious of herself and her surroundings and stood in the middle of the street. Meanwhile, Stefano had gone ahead, thinking that his sister was with him. When he realized that she was standing way behind, he shouted at her. But she did not move. He came back and shook her. She woke up, as if from a deep sleep, and said, “If you could see what I saw, you would not have been so cruel to disturb me.” She raised her eyes again but the vision had vanished. She burst into tears.

Let me analyze this vision with the additional knowledge of six centuries. It is clear that Jesus did not actually appear in the sky in a physical body because if that had been the case, everybody in the street would have seen Him sitting on the throne. This was an imaginary scene which only Catherine could see.  Why? There are three possibilities:

To be continued

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1.       ‘The life of ST. Catherine of Siena’ by Blessed Raymond of Capua, Confessor to the saint. Translated by George Lamb.

2.       ‘Catherine of Siena , a biography’ by Anne Baldwin

Saturday, January 30, 2016


196. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part one

 

ST. Catherine (1347- 1380) is one of the greatest mystics of all times.

She was not only a mystic but also a church reformer. She is only one of the two women, other being ST Teresa of Avila, who has ever been awarded the title of Doctor of the Church. One is dazzled by the plethora of miracle that she performed. She performed more miracles than any other person I know, except Jesus Christ. This mote holds the opinion that miracles reflect the power of God. God gives His own special powers to persons close to Him. Very few humans are worthy to hold these powers. Most persons are given one or two of these supernatural powers ( although this does not mean that closeness to God can be solely judged on the variety of powers; a person can be very close to God  and have no supernatural power such as ST Therese of Lisieux), very few have many .  ST. Catherine had several powers.

The second thing which impressed me was her extraordinary proximity to Jesus. She was mentally talking to him most of the time, and he talking back. She could see him most of the time. He was in her heart. I quote:

‘For she herself revealed to me, she would no sooner be enclosed in her cell that He would deign to appear to her and reveal things useful to her soul’

The third glaring feature of her life is her endeavors to reform the church. Clergymen lived in luxury. Popes and their advisors used their power and wealth for their own good. She exhorted them to abandon such life.

The fourth facet of her life was her love of neighbor.

The fifth aspect that struck me was her pious life. Her austerities, her selflessness, her stigmata, her ecstasies, fill one with awe and wonder.

Now the details. But before we go in details we have to prove the authenticity of various events. Otherwise no one will believe us. Biographies are full of exaggeration and unbelievable events. What makes her life story believable is the fact that the book ‘The life of St. Catherine of Siena” was written by her contemporary and confessor; Blessed Raymond of Capua. This book is the principle source of information about Catherine. At the end of each chapter he mentions, how he learned it. Were there any witnesses and who were they? For example at the end of one chapter is the following paragraph:

 “ What I have said in this chapter has been told to me by Lapa, Catherine’s mother, and Lisa, the wife of one of her brothers; and what I could not be told by other people in the house, I learned from the holy virgin herself.

At the end of chapter 6 on ecstasies and revelations, is the following paragraph:

“Lastly, with regards to the rising in the air and remaining there………this was witnessed by a number of the Sisters of St Dominic, including a certain Catherine, the daughter of Ghetto da Siena, who was a for a long time the virgin’s inseparable companion; and if I am not mistaken, her sister-in-law Lisa, who is still alive, and the above mentioned Alessia was also there at the time”

In another place, he writes, “As to the facts, you must know that whatever I relate, I made myself fully conversant with, either through witnesses, or through writings, or from my own experience…….I can also remember the gist of many other things she said….I have been obliged to add this aside, for fear of offending against truth”.

Who was Raymond of Capua (1330-1399)?

As Catherine’s fame grew, so did the vicious rumors and controversies about her. Did she really eat or sleep very little? Was it the work of God or Satan? Since she belonged to the order of St Dominic, the Church Elders felt compelled to investigate. She was ordered to appear before the Master-General of the order of Preachers (Dominicans) in 1374. After the meeting she was sent home without censure. Soon afterward, Father Raymond of Capua, a scholar of great ability and renown, was sent to Siena to be her confessor and advisor. He took over from a fellow member of the Dominican community, Thomas della Fonte. Raymond was a man of stature in the church. He was the best man they had. He rose to the rank of Master General of his Order later in life. He wrote her official biography. He leaves the impression of a truthful man, not capable of lies, but not a critical observer either. He was her confessor only for six years. In a letter she wrote to him in 1377, she said, “Sweetest Father, your soul has made itself food for me.”

He had three personal supernatural encounters with her.

As he arrived in Siena he contracted plague. The epidemic killed hundreds of citizens of Siena. Raymond struggled to her house in delirium. When she came home she put her hands on his head and prayed. He felt as if the sickness was being pulled out of her body. He wrote, “It was as if something was being pulled out of me at the end of all my limbs”. At the end of half hour prayer, he was completely cured.

To be continued

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

1.       ‘The life of ST. Catherine of Siena’ by Blessed Raymond of Capua, Confessor to the saint. Translated by George Lamb.

2.       ‘Catherine of Siena , a biography’ by Anne Baldwin

 

Saturday, December 26, 2015


195. Mkadk’s progress

There has been some recent progress. It started on 2-3 of Dec 2015.

There are always ups and down in this journey. Aridity and bliss alternate with each other, till one reaches the final stage, when one becomes connected with God all the time. Then these cycles end, and there is peace and contentment constantly. Now all my sessions are good, full of bliss. In 4/15 and 5/15, I had asked BBJ to pray for me, that I should get my two goals, ‘Green Allah, and a supernatural spiritual event ‘. Those have not occurred. The door to God is still closed as ever. It will open at age 78, or earlier, as promised by QA. BBJ said he cannot help me, nobody can, God wants it that way, but he can pray that my path may be made easier ( 5/15). He asked RQ to raise his hands and pray with him. Both prayed for me.  I think God granted their prayer. My path has become easier

This easing of path, if true, and if it continues, is a great milestone achieved. My path has been made tremendously easy. It is due to the predictability of the bliss during my morning session. Another factor is that I have finally started believing that I will get my goal in less than five years. Although I am terribly impatient and don’t want to wait. I would rather die today without finding God, than to wait for 5 years. But it is still better than never finding God at all. Why this waiting? I think it is unjust. I constantly fight with God about it. I want to understand the reason behind it.

Meditation period has increased. From 4 hours to 5 hours every day. Now I have an evening one hour book reading session

Tears have increased; from one time a day to 2 times a day. Bliss, in the morning session has increased.


SK (the chief disciple of QA) is going to sing my five Urdu poems. He had been a professional wandering singer, so he knows better.  QA also listened to my poems. His remark was that they reminded him of old time when similar verses (of love and separation from God) used to erupt from his heart. Now, off course, he is all the time connected with God.

He must be close to eighty  at this time.

I had written a letter to QA, and put it under the sign of Allah, in my meditation room. I wrote it on 2/15/13. It consisted of 2 questions. I had completely forgotten it. The other day I found the paper and was amazed that both questions have been answered. The two questions were:

When will I find God?

Is it true, or just my imagination, that a receiver has been installed in my head? If any of the great spirits, present in this room want to answer these questions, they are welcome

The second question was answered by Shah Sahib in 2014 or 2013. RQ asked him this question on my behalf. He said “it is true. Receiver has been installed. To further improve it depends upon him”.

The second question was answered by QA in 5/2015 and again in 6/15, once through SK and once by wireless communication directly to RQ. How many persons in the whole world are lucky enough to be told, years in advance, that they are in the notice of God and have been accepted for the greatest honor that a human being can get in this life; an honor granted not by any human being but by God Himself. Just the thought of the Master looking at me fills me with awe and gratitude. I want to share it with the whole world. I want to shout on rooftop “o’ people of this world, I have been selected by God! Me, mkadk. And God approved its disclosure to me through QA. QA would have never told RQ, without God’s permission. He could not have been given this knowledge by God, if God did not want it. Why did God want me to know? To comfort me, what else? Seeing my anguish he took pity on me. He could not grant me the reward now (instead of age 78), because I am not ready. I don’t have the capacity to handle it. Remember, my own poem (blog 61, The Riddle): “Trained according to capacity and need”. This episode clearly shows that God is personal ( as a matter of fact He is both personal and impersonal, as I have previously discussed it in blog 114): unchanging God and His kinetic energy))

It is most amazing that my letter with the two questions has been answered.

What a relief? It also almost guarantees that I will live till that time (2020 or earlier). Although QA was careful to state that I will get my goal only if I live that long. He also said that the desire to live has gone in him (mkadk). However I am certain that God won’t let me die without rewarding me. That is how God works. Effort must be rewarded. His justice absolutely demands it.

Living till 2020 is not a joy for me. I would rather die today, unfulfilled. This is because I don’t want to live away from God for almost five years. Pain and anguish has decreased now, as compared to a year ago.

I also think it is not fair that I have never been given even one bit of spiritual reward for 16 years. No spiritual event. Although others have been like me; Brother Lawrence did not get even a bit of reward for 10 years, Philip John (Searcher from England, see blog 64) for over 25 years. But I am not sure they never saw a spiritual supernatural event in others. Philip John met many Qalandars in the desert of Sindh; he may have seen a spiritual event first hand while he was with them.

Brother Lawrence had written at one place that God liked his talk. If he forgot to talk to Him for any length of time, He gently reminded him and drew his attention( blog 18). Pleasant sensations occurred in him, so pleasant that he was embarrassed to mention them. Now, for the last 3 weeks when in the evening I sit on a sofa to read a spiritual book and get into the spiritual mood, pleasant sensation develop on the face and last till the end of one hour session. This instant reward is something new. I have been given a spark of the fire which raged in Brother Lawrence.

 

If you are curious about the Green Allah, you deserve an explanation.  My wish is that whenever I should close my eyes and think of God, I should be able to see the Green Allah sign , as it is written on a piece of paper and hanging on a wall in my meditation room. I made it myself, and MB and I colored it green and sprinkled glitter on it. The sign should appear on the back of upper eyelids, as in a dream, and not back in brain, as one sees things in imagination. I have never been able to do it, even for one second. All thoughts should be focused on God at that time( to prevent thoughts from wandering, something is required in the field of vision ), and I should forget passage of time. I should be neither asleep nor unconscious.

My second desire, to experience a supernatural spiritual event, is important to me. I want to be touched by this limitless, mysterious, God’s spiritual system. Only then would I believe it. If QA would merely contact me directly, over a distance of thousands of miles, I would be satisfied. He has the power to do so. He has sent instructions to RQ and SK many times by imprinting the words in their brains. I requested him but he denied my request.  Shahab received a letter from Germany. That was an example of a supernatural spiritual event (Blog 65). No doubts are left in an open-minded person’s  mind after such an event.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


194. Thoughts of Al-Ghazali. Part three

We were discussing Sufism ( mysticism)

 

 

He knew that piety and restraint from passion is necessary, but it was also required to devote with total ardor to God. This could only be achieved by avoiding fame and fortune and fleeing from attachments. He reflected on his intentions on his public teachings, and saw that it was not directed purely to God, but more towards fame and prestige. He realized that he had to give up his post and leave Bagdad.

An intense period of vacillation ensued. One day he would firmly resolve to leave Bagdad and next day cancel his decision. Worldly desires and path towards God were pulling him in opposite directions. This lasted for six months

God intervened!

A lock was put on his tongue. He could not speak a single world. He also became sad. His appetite and digestion went away. There was great weakening of his powers.

‘In powerlessness I had recourse to God. I was answered by Him’

‘He made it easy for my heart to turn away from fame, family, children and associates’. He announced that he was leaving for Mecca (for Hajj?). Although in actuality he was going to Syria. This was a precaution from schemes of trouble makers.

 

“I departed from Bagdad after I had distributed what wealth I had, laying by only the amount needed for my support and the sustenance of my children…… I resided in Damascus for nearly two years. My only occupation was seclusion, spiritual exercise to purify my soul…..cleansing my heart for the remembrance of God, in the way I had learned from the writing of sufis…..mounting to the minaret of a mosque for the whole day and shutting myself in……Then I travelled from Damascus to Jerusalem, where I would go daily into the Dome of the Rock and shut myself in.”

An inner urge guided him to go to Mecca and Medina and perform Hajj. Which he did.

He had to come back to his native land for certain important matters. But he maintained solitude. He tried to keep his heart empty for remembrance of God. But worldly concerns and needs made it impossible to fully achieve this state. He had blessed ecstasy only intermittently. He remained in this condition for ten years.

Things impossible to enumerate were disclosed to him.

Many Islamic mystics like Shahab ( blog 32,94. Also see note 4 below) have considered mysticism inferior to Shariat. But not Ghazali:

 

“ this much I shall mention, that profit may be derived from it: I know with certainty that the sufis are those that uniquely follow the way to God, their mode of life is the best of all, their way the most direct of ways , and their ethics the purest.”

“…….all their (sufis) motions are learned from the light of the niche of prophecy. And beyond the light of prophecy there is no light on earth from which illumination can be obtained.”

“From the very beginning of the Way revelations and visions start…. so that , even when awake, the sufis see the angels and the spirits of the prophets and hear voices coming from them……eventually to states beyond the narrow range of words”

He wanted to come out of seclusion to reform others. He had found out that the faith of some men was weak. He wanted to guide them aright and to deliver them from peril.

He was on the horns of a dilemma: seclusion and devote all the time to God or to come out of religious retirement and guide others by lectures and books.

God intervened!

Sultan ordered him to return to Nishapur and face the threat of this tepidity in Muslims. Thus the decision was taken out of his hands. In addition to that, certain Godly men had many recurrent dreams attesting that this move of his would be a source of good and a right procedure, and it had been decreed by God ……

He was uniquely qualified for this task due to his encyclopedic knowledge of Islam, and philosophy and being an authentic sufi. He wrote many books.

Avicenna (Ibn Sina, born 980 A.D.) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd, born 1126 A.D.) are the two most famous Muslim Philosophers of Middle Ages. In philosophy, they both followed Aristotle (Pupil of Plato, born in 384 B.C.), and not Plato. Ghazali exposed, what he thought, were the weaknesses in the arguments of both of them, and also that of Al Farabi (born 870? A.D.). He wrote a book called Destruction of the philosophers. Averroes replied by a book Destruction of the Destruction.

 

He followed Shariat and his mysticism was traditional Islamic mysticism. He advocated orthodox religious views. He did not bring anything new.

 

This mote considers him a great man, because when the time for sacrifice came he rose to the occasion and sacrificed, by quitting the world, for God. He realized God without any teacher. Books were his teacher. This mote also has no guide; books have been my guide. But I did not realize God, because I did not possess the courage to leave world.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 (1) ‘AL-Ghazali’s path to Sufism, his deliverance from error’. “Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal”. Translated from the Arabic by Mccarthy. Prefaced by Burrell. Introduction by Graham

(2) ‘Kashaful- Mehjoob’ by Daata Gunj Bakhash

 (3) My source in writings about Descartes and Plato is the book, “A history of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell

(1)   From my blog 94:“I am simply amazed that how Mr. Shahab considered it inferior to shariat. The bliss of God’s touch on one’s face is ineffable. Words cannot describe it. One touch is greater than thousand ritualistic prostrations. All great saints, like St Teresa of Avilla, and Sri Ramakrishna have said the same thing.”

 

Friday, December 11, 2015


193. Thoughts of Al-Ghazali. Part two

 

We were discussing sense-data

 

What if the dream state was real and ordinary state was unreal like a dream?

He had heard that Sufis could attain states which were different from normal wakefulness and sleep.  There was a hadith,  “Men are asleep: then after they die they awake.” And will be told, according to Quran, ‘But We have removed from you your veil and today your sight is keen’ (50:21-22)

Ghazali struggled for two months with this dilemma. On one side was the surety of sense-data and self-evident truths and on the other side arguments against them which made one doubt them. He could not surmount this impasse.

Then, God in His great mercy guided him and illumination came to him.

 

At this point, this mote wants to digress and want to site two pertinent examples of two great philosophers.

Remember Ghazali doubting the sense-data. Descartes(born 1596 A.D.) is considered the founder of modern philosophy (3). He went through the same thought process in 17th century which Ghazali had gone through earlier, namely to doubt everything (Cartesian doubt). He said to himself, ‘here, I am sitting in my armchair by the fire place. But I have imagined myself sitting like this while I was in bed. I have had hallucinations and dreams which appeared real to me, but were false. However, although sense-data can be doubted but geometrical and arithmetical realities are certain’. As he further reflected on this point he came to question mathematical beliefs also. He considered, ‘what if a powerful demon or God was misleading me. God would not do such a thing but an evil demon might. He could make me believe in things where none were present’

“there remains, however, something that I cannot doubt. No demon, however cunning, could deceive me if I did not exist. I may have no body: this might be an illusion. But thought is different.”

‘I cannot think unless I exist.’

“ I think therefore I am”

This phrase has become immortal over centuries!

It was his first truth, which he could accept without scruple.

 

Plato, ( born 428-7 B.C.) discussed what is real and what is an illusion in his famous simile of the cave.

 

“Behold! Human being living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards light……., and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them……Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and prisoners there is a raised way……there is a wall in front. Between the wall and themselves there is nothing; all that they see are shadows of themselves, and objects behind them, cast on the wall by the light of the fire behind them. Inevitably they regard these shadows as real, and have no notion of the objects to which they are due. At last some man succeeds in escaping from the cave to the light of the sun, for the first time he sees real things, and becomes aware that he had hitherto been deceived by shadows.”

If he is a philosopher he goes back to the cave to tell others that are looking at shadows. Nobody believes him.

 

Philosophy. Next Ghazali turned his attention to philosophy. “God, most high, gave me an insight in the farthest reaches of philosophy in less than two years.”There were three main divisions:

1.       Most ancient philosophers: they did not believe in God. They alleged that the world had existed from eternity as it is, and not by reason of a Maker. Modern scientist and philosophers, like Einstein and Bertrand Russell, would fall in this category, except their belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

2.       Second category were the naturalists. They believed in God, but did not believe in afterlife. This mote, as a young man, belonged to this group.

3.       Third group of philosophers believed in a Creator, and afterlife. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle belonged to this category. This mote, a secular humanist and novice mystic, belongs to this group. They differed from devout religious in several aspects. Ghazali noted twenty differences from ordinary Muslims, especially three questions, and wrote a book (The incoherence )to refute their beliefs. In general, the philosophers of his time, were unbelievers in religion, they were innovators, and practiced mathematical and physical sciences. They also followed logic and syllogism.

Ghazali spent a lot of energy and effort in discussing these topics in his spiritual autobiography. This mote has no intention of doing it because it is unnecessary and outdated for present times. Suffice is to say that Ghazali was satisfied.

Sufism. Finally he planned to learn the way of sufis. It took him eleven years. First he read many books written by great mystics. It soon became evident to him that theoretical knowledge is not sufficient, he had to practice mysticism. Just like knowing the definition of drunkenness is different than actually being drunk.

 

To be continued

 

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(1)‘AL-Ghazali’s path to Sufism, his deliverance from error’. “Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal”. Translated from the Arabic by Mccarthy. Prefaced by Burrell. Introduction by  Graham

(2) ‘Kashaf ul- Mehjoob’ by Daata Gunj Bakhash

(1)    My source in writings about Descartes and Plato is the book, “ A history of Western Philosophy” by Bertrand Russell

 

Friday, December 4, 2015



192. Thoughts of Al-Ghazali. Part one

Ghazali( born 1058 A.D.) was a mystic philosopher, like Saint Augustine ( born 354 A.D.). One is struck by his questioning mind. We are fortunate that he wrote an account of some of his thoughts. Although he wrote many books, some encyclopedic, but I am concerned only with his spiritual autobiography ‘al-Munqidh min al-Dalal’(‘Deliverance from Error’) (1). Why? Because it is an autobiography, and I try to write almost exclusively from autobiographies or from biographies written by mystic’s contemporaries, because mystics don’t lie. St. Augustine wrote his autobiography (‘Confessions’) in fourth century. There is a gap of seven centuries, till Ghazali and Daata Gunj Bakhash ( born 1010 A.D.)(2) wrote their respective autobiographies in 11th century.

In the beginning of his book Ghazali states that he was born with an inquisitive and questioning mind. He questioned the assumption that the religion that he practiced___Islam, was the only true religion. Why did he question this general belief? Because he made the observation that the children follow their parent’s religion. Infants born to Christian parents become Christians, and the children born to Jews, as they grow up, embrace Judaism, and babies born to Muslim parents stick to Islam. Therefore, he argued, that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were not inherently superior to one another; rather it all depended upon blind chance____ where  one was born and brought up, factors beyond one’s control.

He also came upon a hadith (saying  of Holy ProphetPBUH ) that “each infant is born with a natural fitra ( inclination)” (Towards a particular religion? ). Then probably his parents make him Muslim, Christian or Jew ( this mote’s addition). What is this mysterious fitra? From where did it originate? And most crucially why is it different from one another in infants born to different religious parentage? Ghazali never discusses it in his autobiography.

Two points must be mentioned here by this mote. Almost nine hundred years had to pass before DNA was discovered. An infant’s genes (made of DNA and they determine one’s hereditary traits) are derived from his parents; half from his father and half from his mother. Ghazali had no way of knowing it. This is the mysterious fitra, derived from one’s parents.

Second point is that almost all modern Muslim scholars now believe that everybody is born as Muslim: whether his parents were Hindus, Christian, Jews or atheists, whether he was born in Alaska, Europe or Russia, and whether he was born recently or three thousand years ago___ before the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Thus, everybody has a Muslim fitra.

At any rate, Ghazali decided to find out that how much of religion was based upon blindly following parents and teachers , and how much on other factors ( inherent superiority of one religion over others, fitra, etc)

Since from the same primary observation Ghazali also realized that the truth (I am using truth as a loose term, what I mean is the path chosen by God) of a religion cannot be ascertained from the arguments, logic and practices of various religions, because every person accepts those arguments which support that person’s particular religion (he/she is conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs) and rejects those which support another religion. There is an inherent appeal to followers of one religion with a practice or belief, whereas the same practice is abhorrent to the votaries of another religion. For instance, according to Muslims, to worship a statue of a diety/god (idolatry) is the highest sin that a human can commit (making  a statue equal to God ), but this worship is carried out by over one billion Hindus.

Therefore, Ghazali realized that he cannot just be content with Revealed knowledge (revealed by God and stored in religious scriptures) but will have to search other sources of knowledge. He came upon three main sources and several minor sources:

(1)    Sense-data. Nowadays we would have called it Science

(2)    Philosophy

(3)    Sufism

 

Sense-data .All knowledge in the world (except revealed knowledge) is received through senses. One sees one’s mother’s face, sun, bird, flower, and water, indeed everything by one’s eyes. One hears ticking of clock, song, voice of a friend, indeed everything through one’s ears. Same is true for taste, smell and touch; there are sensory organs for them. What if the information provided by senses is wrong, then the knowledge would be wrong. Can it happen? Ghazali thought about it. He made a protracted effort to doubt sense-data. He took the example of stars. They look small like a dinar (a coin) but there were clear geometrical proofs that they were bigger than the earth. Our senses led us astray. One could furnish similar examples about all senses.

However there was another kind of data; self-evident truths. An example of self-evident truth would be that ten is bigger than three. If a man converts stone into gold and a stick into snake, in front of us, but proclaims that three is bigger than ten, we would not believe him, despite his miracle.

Ghazali doubted sense-data but he could not doubt rational data of self-evident truth.  One day his mind spoke up, “what assurances have you that your reliance on rational data is not like your reliance on sense-data?.....”

“Don’t you see that when you are asleep you believe certain things and imagine certain circumstances and believe they are fixed and lasting and entertain no doubt about their status? Then you wake up and know all your imagining and beliefs were groundless and unsubstantial”

 

To be continued

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

(1)    ‘AL-Ghazali’s path to Sufism, his deliverance from error’. “Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal”. Translated from the Arabic by Mccarthy. Prefaced by Burrell. Introduction by  Graham

(2)    ‘Kashaful- Mehjoob’ by Daata Gunj Bakhash

 

 

 

 

192. Thoughts of Al-Ghazali. Part one

Ghazali( born 1058 A.D.) was a mystic philosopher, like Saint Augustine ( born 354 A.D.). One is struck by his questioning mind. We are fortunate that he wrote an account of some of his thoughts. Although he wrote many books, some encyclopedic, but I am concerned only with his spiritual autobiography ‘al-Munqidh min al-Dalal’(‘Deliverance from Error’) (1). Why? Because it is an autobiography, and I try to write almost exclusively from autobiographies or from biographies written by mystic’s contemporaries, because mystics don’t lie. St. Augustine wrote his autobiography (‘Confessions’) in fourth century. There is a gap of seven centuries, till Ghazali and Daata Gunj Bakhash ( born 1010 A.D.)(2) wrote their respective autobiographies in 11th century.

In the beginning of his book Ghazali states that he was born with an inquisitive and questioning mind. He questioned the assumption that the religion that he practiced___Islam, was the only true religion. Why did he question this general belief? Because he made the observation that the children follow their parent’s religion. Infants born to Christian parents become Christians, and the children born to Jews, as they grow up, embrace Judaism, and babies born to Muslim parents stick to Islam. Therefore, he argued, that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism were not inherently superior to one another; rather it all depended upon blind chance____ where  one was born and brought up, factors beyond one’s control.

He also came upon a hadith (saying  of Holy ProphetPBUH ) that “each infant is born with a natural fitra ( inclination)” (Towards a particular religion? ). Then probably his parents make him Muslim, Christian or Jew ( this mote’s addition). What is this mysterious fitra? From where did it originate? And most crucially why is it different from one another in infants born to different religious parentage? Ghazali never discusses it in his autobiography.

Two points must be mentioned here by this mote. Almost nine hundred years had to pass before DNA was discovered. An infant’s genes (made of DNA and they determine one’s hereditary traits) are derived from his parents; half from his father and half from his mother. Ghazali had no way of knowing it. This is the mysterious fitra, derived from one’s parents.

Second point is that almost all modern Muslim scholars now believe that everybody is born as Muslim: whether his parents were Hindus, Christian, Jews or atheists, whether he was born in Alaska, Europe or Russia, and whether he was born recently or three thousand years ago___ before the Holy Prophet Muhammad PBUH. Thus, everybody has a Muslim fitra.

At any rate, Ghazali decided to find out that how much of religion was based upon blindly following parents and teachers , and how much on other factors ( inherent superiority of one religion over others, fitra, etc)

Since from the same primary observation Ghazali also realized that the truth (I am using truth as a loose term, what I mean is the path chosen by God) of a religion cannot be ascertained from the arguments, logic and practices of various religions, because every person accepts those arguments which support that person’s particular religion (he/she is conditioned like Pavlov’s dogs) and rejects those which support another religion. There is an inherent appeal to followers of one religion with a practice or belief, whereas the same practice is abhorrent to the votaries of another religion. For instance, according to Muslims, to worship a statue of a diety/god (idolatry) is the highest sin that a human can commit (making  a statue equal to God ), but this worship is carried out by over one billion Hindus.

Therefore, Ghazali realized that he cannot just be content with Revealed knowledge (revealed by God and stored in religious scriptures) but will have to search other sources of knowledge. He came upon three main sources and several minor sources:

(1)    Sense-data. Nowadays we would have called it Science

(2)    Philosophy

(3)    Sufism

 

Sense-data .All knowledge in the world (except revealed knowledge) is received through senses. One sees one’s mother’s face, sun, bird, flower, and water, indeed everything by one’s eyes. One hears ticking of clock, song, voice of a friend, indeed everything through one’s ears. Same is true for taste, smell and touch; there are sensory organs for them. What if the information provided by senses is wrong, then the knowledge would be wrong. Can it happen? Ghazali thought about it. He made a protracted effort to doubt sense-data. He took the example of stars. They look small like a dinar (a coin) but there were clear geometrical proofs that they were bigger than the earth. Our senses led us astray. One could furnish similar examples about all senses.

However there was another kind of data; self-evident truths. An example of self-evident truth would be that ten is bigger than three. If a man converts stone into gold and a stick into snake, in front of us, but proclaims that three is bigger than ten, we would not believe him, despite his miracle.

Ghazali doubted sense-data but he could not doubt rational data of self-evident truth.  One day his mind spoke up, “what assurances have you that your reliance on rational data is not like your reliance on sense-data?.....”

“Don’t you see that when you are asleep you believe certain things and imagine certain circumstances and believe they are fixed and lasting and entertain no doubt about their status? Then you wake up and know all your imagining and beliefs were groundless and unsubstantial”

 

To be continued

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

(1)    ‘AL-Ghazali’s path to Sufism, his deliverance from error’. “Al-Munqidh min al-Dalal”. Translated from the Arabic by Mccarthy. Prefaced by Burrell. Introduction by  Graham

(2)    ‘Kashaful- Mehjoob’ by Daata Gunj Bakhash

 

 

 

 

Friday, August 21, 2015


191. Jesus Christ in the eyes of a non-Christian. Part Seven

We were discussing that how did Christianity grow from a few demoralized, persecuted, leaderless followers to the largest religion in the world?

The answer is, because Jesus repeatedly appeared to his followers after his death, and even to one of his  enemies, like Saul (St. Paul). There is nothing more convincing to any person than a visit, while one is awake and in full senses, than a visit and talk with a dead person whom one knew well when that person was alive. All doubts vanish, never to appear again. Even threat of painful death does not make one renege. It is no wonder that almost all of his 12 disciples (and others like Stephens and St. Paul), except John and perhaps one other (who were not killed), stood steadfast when they were violently executed. Some were beheaded; others were crucified, or stoned to death or pierced by pine needles or arrows.

That is why his death and resurrection were so important to God’s plan

Now, after I have discussed the four aspects of his life: his message, his miracles, his death, and his resurrection, what do I conclude?

Power of God was with him. Nobody before and nobody after him had that much power!

We are forced to arrive at that conclusion by the richness of the above mentioned four aspects and by the fact that the fruit of his labor resulted in the largest single creed which humanity has adopted. A tree is recognized by its fruit.

 

Nonetheless my rational mind cannot accept certain aspects of the popular and fundamental beliefs of Christianity. These are listed below. 

1.      Jesus was the Son of god

2.      Three gods or one God

3.      Man is made in the imitation of God

4.      Redemption of sins by Jesus

 

God is fundamentally different from human beings. Let me repeat what I wrote before ( blog 113):

. God can be conceptualized as energy, or something even more subtle than energy, with a supermind. You can raise an objection that how can energy have a mind. We already know it can happen. Human brain is an example. It is made, mainly, of nerve cells. These cells have the power to think. Thoughts arise from certain nerve cells in the brain. I can communicate with them and they with me. When I address my brain cells and say “how are you doing?” I am certain that some brain cells have received the message, otherwise I would not be conscious of it. The message had to be received and interpreted by brain cells to come to my consciousness. The cells may reply “we are fine”. Again, to come to my consciousness, some brain cells must have formed the thought and sent it to me. Either the same or some other brain cells interpreted the thought. These cells communicate with each other instantaneously, at the speed of light (we know the speed, because all messages are carried by electrons, which travel at the speed of light). If our brain, a collection of billions of cells, made of atoms, and atoms made of subatomic particles, such as electrons and protons and neutrons, can have thoughts of pain, pleasure, compassion, jealousy, and anger, why not God, a collection of pure energy, have a mind?

 

Such a limitless mass of subtle energy cannot have sons and daughters like humans have. It is like saying that electricity has sons and daughters and husbands and wives. There cannot be three Gods; the Father, the son and the Holy spirit. Holy spirit is the kinetic energy of unchangeable God. The two cannot be separated, like milk and its whiteness, the fire and its ability to burn. Let us see what St. Paul had to say in New Testament:

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Man is a creation of the Creator. It is not made in the image of God or in imitation of God. What has limitless mass of energy in common with a biped carbon based animal?

This mote’s concept of Jesus does not include the belief that he came to redeem our sins. He came to show us a path through his message and through the example of his noble death and resurrection.

I did not find any message of Redemption in the gospel of Mark. At any rate, to think that we are exculpated from evil deeds, because Jesus Christ has taken our sins and had to sacrifice his life for our sins, is not rational . This notion is not worth serious consideration.

And anyway what are the sins of human beings for which they are going to be punished in hell, by being burnt alive by fire for centuries if not forever?

All our acts, good or bad, are the result of three factors, or rather two factors; intention, nature and nurture. One is the result of one’s nature, which is produced by one’s genes, which one gets, half from one’s mother and half from one’s father. The other part of a person is constructed by where one is nurtured, or where one grows up. The environments; parents, teachers, peers, culture, etc. Neither in nature nor in nurture  one had any control.  A just God is not going to punish us for our sins, because our intention was mostly derived from factors which were not in our control  (See blog 54).

 As far hell is concerned I have discussed it in blog 119 (1). Here are some excerpts:

 

“Years ago (probably twenty-five), somebody casually remarked, “There is no hell, just heaven. God is kind and merciful; therefore, there cannot be a hell”. That remark gnawed on my ( this mote ) mind for years. The more I thought, the more I was convinced that there cannot be hell”……….

….“Isn’t it true that you have a son who is causing you great suffering because he drinks and………”(Sri Yogananda talking)

The man’s jaw dropped “How did you know? Yes, this has been the greatest sorrow of my life”

“Then may I make a suggestion”

“Yes”. The man was eager for a solution.

“All right take him out for a walk in the hills, and have two trusted friends waiting there for you. They should pounce upon him and bind him. Then let them build a huge roaring fire. Let them throw your son in the fire”

The man was flabbergasted. “Are you mad to make such a suggestion?”

“Exactly so! Yet you ascribe such behavior to God, who created you and instilled in you that love for your child. How dare you attribute to Him feelings so callous and punitive that He will take all of His children that have done wrong and cast them in eternal flames?”  

 

A final remark to this seven blog series : All systems fail at the altar of human self-interest. Whether it is any religion or ideology, such as communism. Only certain individuals surmount this hurdle through selflessness.
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(1) ‘Finding the joy within you, by  Sri Daya Mata’