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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Islamic Center of Irving on Stereotypes

Islamic Center of Irving on Stereotypes

1/10th of 1% of population, be it Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Russian, Chinese, Arab, English, Latin or otherwise tends to be extremist. In the USA 1% of our population is incarcerated for a variety of crimes. That does not make any group or nation a bad people.

Bad people are bad people, regardless of the religion they wear.

If we punish them as bad people, not as white, not as black, not as Christian, Muslim or otherwise, we will be doing the right thing.

Full story and the bigoted comments at the TV website:


# # #

In Rome, Durga is not welcome

To the Director of USCIRF,

Evil persists, if we the good people stay silent. The bad incident is like a cancer which grows and swallows up communities and nations, it needs to be stopped. What action can you take? We the people of conscience request you to investigate this matter and bring a resolution to the exclusivism in Italy.

Nearly twelve years ago, a Hindu wedding took place in Lisbon in a catholic church, a simple wedding. The priest was ousted for giving the Hindu couple permission to place the Icon of Ganesha, I strongly protested it and took up with them. I had several intimidating calls from the Catholic members of the dioceses in California telling me shut up and back off, it was unChristian like for them to do it. Of course, that give me more challenge.

What we need to do it not to blame Christianity for the evils of a few fanatic men. We need to Isolate those reckless bigots and blame them for fascist attitudes, we will gain more support to support from the General public. Punish the individual bad guys, take them to court.

Let me know what I can do?

Mike Ghouse

# ##
In Rome, Durga is not welcome


Kanchan Gupta

What does it mean to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome? It means to be humiliated, harassed and hounded by city officials who happen to be pious Christians. Alright, I could be utterly wrong in presuming they are pious since I have no independent confirmation of their piety or otherwise. But let’s get back to the question with which I began. Late Thursday night I was at the park near my house where the local Bengalis organise Durga Puja every year. It’s a raucous celebration of faith and culture. The food stalls are invariably hugely popular and there I was with my nine-year-old daughter, standing in a queue for kathi rolls. After what seemed like an interminable wait, it was our turn to be served. Just then my BlackBerry beeped. Balancing the piping hot rolls, dripping oil, tomato ketchup, green chilli sauce and lemon juice, in one hand, I tried to read the e-mail on my handset.

No luck. I got shoved around, nearly dropped both rolls and my phone, and decided to let the e-mail wait. Later, away from the crowd, I checked the e-mail and it was a fascinating story. Since the identity of the person who had sent the mail is not really relevant, let me reproduce the text: “The Municipal Police authorities of Rome have today withdrawn permission, granted three weeks ago, to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. The cancellation came a few hours before the Ambassador of India was scheduled to inaugurate the Puja at 8 pm local time. No acceptable explanation has been given. This has caused the local Indian community the loss of thousands of Euros spent in preparatory arrangements. The same thing was done in the same manner in 2008 also. Please monitor developments.”

Now that’s awful, I told myself, here I am having kathi rolls and there they can’t even celebrate their own festival. On Friday, I called a friend in Rome who provided me with the latest details. Our Ambassador, Mr Arif Shahid Khan, a feisty man who has in the past taken up the issue of Sikhs being forced to take off their turbans at Italian airports, campaigned throughout the day, calling up officials, including the Mayor of Rome, and contacting members of the ‘Friends of India’ group in the Italian Parliament, arguing with them why permission for the Puja should be restored. By evening, the authorities had reversed their order and permission was granted to celebrate Durga Puja, which will now begin on Saturday, Ashtami — a full 48 hours behind schedule. Provided, of course, there is no last minute cancellation, as it happened on Thursday. Mr Khan will inaugurate the Puja, an honour he richly deserves.

The story behind the cancellation needs to be told, if only to point out that Christian countries in the West, whose Governments so blithely criticise the ‘lack’ of ‘religious freedom’ in India, have no compunctions about trampling on Hindu sentiments at home. After last year’s experience, when permission for celebrating Durga Puja in Rome was abruptly withdrawn by officials who cited specious reasons to justify their grossly unfair decision, the organisers, led by Mr Rajesh Sahani, a Sindhi from Kolkata who speaks flawless Bengali, took ample precautions this year. They were given permission to organise the Puja at Parko Centocelle, a public park on Via Cailina, Torpignattara. Three weeks ago, permission was granted for the Puja at the park and necessary formalities were completed.

Early this past week, the Puja organisers were told they could not use the park as a crime had been committed there and the location posed security-related problems. The organisers agreed to change the venue. Another park was selected, permission was given to celebrate Durga Puja there, and the preparations began all over again in right earnest. Then, like a bolt from the blue, at 4 pm on Thursday came the withdrawal of permission by the Municipal Police. The organisers were bluntly told to pack up and leave hours before Durga Puja was scheduled to begin with Akal Bodhon in the evening. Why? No reason was proffered.

Some officials are believed to have told the organisers that the cancellation of permission at the eleventh hour, both last year and this year, was meant to be “retaliatory action against the persecution of Christians in India”. It may be recalled that the President of Italy, Mr Giorgio Napoletano, has been vociferous in demanding that Europe should do more in support of Christians in India and to help them ‘affirm their right to religious freedom’. The Government of Italy has in the past summoned the Ambassador of India to convey to him that it has “deep concern and sensitivity for the ongoing inter-religious violence... that has caused the death of many Christians.” The Pope has been no less harsh in denouncing India.

There could be another reason, apart from its “deep concern” about the welfare of Christians in India, for Italy’s callous disregard of the sentiments of Hindus in that country. Although the Italian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, under the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, Italy recognises only the three religions of Semitic origin — Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All other religions are no more than paganism and are to be shamed and shunned. The Vatican would not countenance any open breach of the Lateran Treaty; Italy would not want to be seen as recognising Hinduism.

“It’s only natural that Italy should have a surfeit of churches. But it’s the rejection of any other faith than Christianity, Judaism and Islam that explains why there are so many mosques but virtually no temples in Italy although this country has a large Hindu expatriate population,” my friend told me while regretting the attitude of the Government and the local authorities. According to him, there are only three temples in Italy: One in a garage in Venice; another at Frescolo and the third at Reggio Emilia. These survive at the mercy of local zoning officials.

But for Mr Arif Shahid Khan’s pro-active involvement — most Ambassadors tend to stay aloof from community affairs — this year too there would have been no Durga Puja in Rome. Indians in Italy owe him a debt of gratitude. So do Bangladeshis who are equal participants in this annual celebration of dharma’s victory over adharma, of the triumph of good over evil. Cultural and linguistic affinities unite Bengalis, irrespective of whether they are from the west or east of Padma, during this autumnal festival celebrated around the world.

Meanwhile, let’s not get carried away by the West’s bilious and bogus criticism of 'lackof' religious freedom in India and indulge in self-flagellation. Let the West look at its own ugly, septic warts. If Christians can celebrate Christmas in New Delhi, Hindus have the right to celebrate Durga Puja in Rome. This is non-negotiable.

-- Follow the writer on: http://twitter.com/KanchanGupta. Blog on this and other issues at http://kanchangupta.blogspot.com. Write to him at kanchangupta@rocketmail.com

Saturday, September 26, 2009

3000 Muslims pray at Capitol Hill

3000 Muslims pray at Capitol Hill
The following note was posted at Washington Post.

As a Muslim, I am pleased with the demonstration of Unity and solidarity with America; however, I found some of the comments to be gratuitous.

One of the Imams in the video wearing the Arab traditional dress invites people to prayers,( links in the article below) it was indeed beautiful, but when he suggests to "lay your idols down and come to pray" was offensive to those who worship the creator in the form of Icons, which he called Idols. The act of denigrating Idol worship reduces Islam to be a faith based on absence of Idols. He knows Islam's existence is not dependent on vilifying other faiths and the call was un-neccessary, most likely the Imam did not realize that it was inflammatory to others who share the city, state, nation and the world with him.

Thank God, the majority of preachers respect and honor divinity of other faiths as they honor their own. A few, just a few preachers among Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and others simply have no regard, how the statements they make don't create goodwill.

You find bigots in your faith as well, they are right there and you know them. The Christians standing and shouting 'repent' and asking people to convert to Christianity also cheapens the teachings of Jesus. Jesus would not have approved their act; you win people by showing your goodness, if they had served the Muslims with Halal refreshments, water and helping with parking, they would have earned the good will for future harvesting of the souls.

Religion is not about reciting Mantras and doing rituals, ultimately it is about becoming a good human being. When Jesus said follow me, Krishna says surrender to me, Allah says submit to my will, they are are asking one to be a good human being like the good God who loves and cares about every one of his creation.

Some of these unspiritual religious men are brainwashed with the idea of conversion. It is time we do our individual and group renaissance - and evaluate the value of conversion. Are we open to investigate if Jesus or Mohammad really wanted people to become Christians or Muslims politically numberwise or they wanted the world to be a better place with better humans. Which route is easire to achieve and sustainable with least conflcits?

We scream at the extremists that they cannot think, are we?

Mike Ghouse

# # #

At Capitol, a Day of Muslim Prayer and Unity

3,000 Gather to Combat Fear and 'Do the Work of Allah' Amid Christian Protests

# # #

At Capitol, a Day of Muslim Prayer and Unity

3,000 Gather to Combat Fear and 'Do the Work of Allah' Amid Christian Protests

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nearly 3,000 people gathered on the west lawn of the Capitol on Friday for a mass Muslim prayer service that was part religion and part pep rally for the beleaguered U.S. Muslim community.

As faint shouts of "Repent!" from Christian protesters floated across the gathering, dozens of long rows of men in robes and white knit caps and women in head coverings prostrated themselves to God, gave praise and listened to sermons as part of the congregational prayer that occurs about noon Fridays.

"Stop being so scared!" thundered Imam Abdul Malik of New York. "You ain't done nothing wrong. Just do the work of Allah, and believe."

The service comes as the Muslim community has been rocked by verbal attacks from conservative Christians that have grown stronger since the election of President Obama and by the recent arrests in a terrorism investigation involving several Muslim men, including an imam.
"We wanted to bring people out to show you don't need to fear America," said Imam Ali Jaaber of Dar-ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth N.J., the service's main organizer. At the same time, he said, he wanted to remind non-Muslims that "we are decent Muslims. We work; we pay taxes. We are Muslims who truly love this country."

Across the street from the service, Christian protesters gathered with banners, crosses and anti-Islamic messages. One group, which stood next to a 10-foot-tall wooden cross and two giant wooden tablets depicting the Ten Commandments, was led by the Rev. Flip Benham of Concord, N.C.

"I would suggest you convert to Christ!" Benham shouted over a megaphone. Islam "forces its dogma down your throat." A few Christian protesters gathered at the rear of the Muslim crowd, holding Bibles and praying.

At one point, organizers asked them to tone it down.

"We would never come to a prayer meeting that you have to make a disturbance," Hamad Chebli, imam of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey, said from the lectern. "Please show us some respect. This is a sacred moment. Just as your Sunday is sacred, our Friday is sacred."

The noise from protesters faded somewhat during the final portion of the service, which lasted nearly two hours.

Organizers said this month that they hoped to draw about 50,000 people from mosques across the country for the gathering, billed as a day of unity for the nation's Muslims. But it failed to attract the support of national Islamic organizations and drew only a fraction of that number. Some people were frightened off by the conservative Christian attacks, said Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam.

Nonetheless, organizers said they were happy with the turnout.

Abdellah had become the focus of criticism in recent days because he was part of the legal team that represented one of the men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Kia Campbell, a homemaker from Durham, N.C., who came with several members of her family, said they were concerned about their safety.

"It wasn't going to keep us from coming," she said. "But it wasn't that we didn't feel cautious."

Takoma Park engineer Mohammed-Amin AbaBiya said he was happy to be at a "historical" event.

"This shows that America is one, that religion is one," he said, beaming, after the gathering ended and people began to stream off the lawn. "It shows solidarity and brotherhood. In the future, we are going to come more often, I hope."


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blasphemy laws have got to go

Blasphemy Laws Today By Rev. Swing

I am please to append the piece written by Dr. Swing below, as a Muslim, I am fully endorsing his opinion.

Rev. William E. Swing is speaking the truth and I agree with him on this one. As Muslims we have to stand up for Islam, he is doing the right thing and is indeed standing up to protect the essence of Islam, to protect the name of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad has set several examples;

This story is narrated by Muslims literally every day to teach about treating others when they are not nice to you. When the Prophet took a walk to go Kaaba, the place of worship in Mecca, a lady invariably threw trash on him right when he passed in front of her house. One day, he did not get the trash thrown on him, he was concerned about her well being, so he goes to see her to find out if she was alright, she was indeed ill, the prophet takes care of her. The real lesson was, this is how one should treat another human with grace. Unfortunately the story is told with a conversion angle - that lady converted because of his grace.

Even if the greedy converters want to convert others, they should do it with grace. Instead of the blasphemy laws, they should be nice to them, then they have a chance to harvest (The un-civil word used by the greedy converters like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) them to their faith. The blasphemy laws are dumb from that point of view.

Prophet Muhammad was pelted stones by the miscreants on his way to Taif, angel Gabriel and his associates were ready to go thrash the bad boys, But what did the Prophet do? He held the avengers back and instead asked them to pray with him for God to grace them with goodness.

No wonder, Allah assures the followers of Islam to do their work and not worry about the religion, he will protect it. The wisdom was simply to protect the human kind, lest they become aggressive and compel others to do or undo and create havoc like the Blasphemy laws in Pakistan or some other Muslim majority nations do. These laws have to go. It is against the spirit of Islam - there is no compulsion.

We all should work to ban Blasphemy Laws - I have some honey for the greedy harvesters, by banning the blasphemy laws, no one would be tempted to play the game and relative peace prevails. The arrogant people can go harvest poor souls to convert, just as the greedy Christian Missionaries do, serving people should be the goal and not harvesting them.

We have to stand up against these senseless blasphemy laws, they are against the spirit of Islam and go against the peace models Prophet Muhammad taught.

To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; that is indeed the purpose of religion, any religion. Mission statement

Mike Ghouse/ world Muslim Congress.com

Blasphemy Laws Today
By The Rt. Rev. William E. Swing

President of the United Religions Initiative
Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California

On March 27, 2001, almost immediately after I had arrived in Lahore, I was taken to the Pakistan Movement Workers' Trust where I was interviewed by a large number of journalists. I was on a three nation (Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan) visit to show solidarity with new United Religions Initiative groups and to enhance our exposure. Interfaith was my mission. But the first and clearly the loaded question from the reporters was, "What do you think of our blasphemy laws?" Clearly they were baiting me to condemn Pakistan's laws which were sometimes ripe excuses for bringing terror and intimidation to people of minority religions. I had hardly been in town an hour and was publicly on the spot.

I said something like this. "There probably is such a thing as blasphemy. When someone mocks the Divine Creator of the Universe. Blasphemy could be felt silently or expressed overtly. It could be with clear intent or it might merely be a clumsy choice of words that seem like blasphemy but are not. Or when someone who desires to bring ultimate harm to another, that someone could lie and claim that the other voiced blasphemy. Whatever blasphemy is, God should be the one to determine the intent and to mete out a just sentence. When human beings begin to take the place of God and pass judgment on intent and mete out death for blasphemy, I think that human beings are in a most presumptuous, dangerous and unwise state."

Later on in that trip I saw first hand the terror and intimidation that comes from blasphemy laws. I was in the kitchen of a Christian family in Lahore, and the parents were sending their little children off to school. The parents warned their children not to kid around or tease or be in any way offensive to Muslim children. Those Muslim children, if aroused to hatred, could claim that they heard a Christian child mock the Quran or the Prophet. On the basis of one male witness or four female witnesses, the blasphemy machinery could be put in motion and culminate in the death of your child.

This becomes a broader threat when blasphemy is understood to be an indignity toward the religion as well as a contemptuous assertion about God. Further, it gets more complicated when a religion is linked with a nation. That ends up with people who say something against the nation or the religion or God being accused of blasphemy. A theocracy of all these invites blasphemy laws.

In Jewish history Mosaic Law tells us that death by stoning was the punishment for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). In England in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, blasphemy was punished by death. In Scotland it wasn't until 1837 that blasphemy was punishable by fine or imprisonment or both but not by death. Even in the United States some states had blasphemy laws that had prescribed punishments. Pakistan is merely the latest nation to wrestle with this ancient and unreliable concept.

When I think of the central figures in the creation of Pakistan, I think of The Great Leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and also Allama Mohammed Iqbal. These were most certainly not religious extremists but moderate, modern innovators. As a matter of fact Jinnah described religious minorities as a "Sacred trust of Pakistan." Originally the blasphemy laws of Pakistan were passed to deal with "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs."

For forty years these broad sensibilities prevailed. But in 1986 a new Blasphemy Law (Amendment Act No. III) was introduced that brought a mandatory sentence of death (section 259C of the Pakistani penal code). If a claim of blasphemy is made, a person is arrested and put in detention. If the charge of defaming the Prophet Mohammed is upheld in the courts, the sentence is mandatory death. If the charge of desecrating the Holy Quran is upheld, the sentence is life imprisonment. If a mob decides that blasphemy had been committed, the sentencing is swift and deadly.

Presently convictions are made possible without proof of deliberate intent on the part of the accused. In this past twenty years almost 650 have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan even though this law is in contradiction to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan (Article 6 of the Constitution).

Time has passed. Most blasphemy laws throughout the world have been repealed. They don't accomplish what they set out to do. All civilized societies are figuring that out. Today Muslim Pakistanis immigrate to other countries and are themselves a minority religion and are terribly glad that there are not blasphemy laws in these new counties which could lead to their children's death. We all live together in one great big world. We are all in a religious minority or a religious majority or a grouping that eschews or ignores faith. Yes there probably is such a thing as blasphemy but that is for God to determine. Yes there probably are blasphemies against things sacred in our midst. Nevertheless our main job in all of this, it seems to me is not to spend our time and resources figuring out the blasphemy crimes and punishments but to rise to new levels of mutual respect and willingness to acknowledge differences and create healthier communities.

Having had conversations over the years with Pakistani Supreme Court Justices, legislators, ambassadors and religious leaders I am certain that all of them were as horrified as the rest of the world by the recent burning of Christian people and homes in Gojra. It appears that the perpetrators of this violence did so under the belief that they were carrying out the intent of the Blasphemy Laws of Pakistan.

If such laws could inspire such terror, I am not surprise to find the Government of Pakistan appointing a Commission to review these laws.

I work with people in Pakistan who strive to promote interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to build cultures of peace, justice and healing. These people want religious minorities throughout the world not only to be protected from mob rule but to build new, stronger bonds of understanding between people of majority and minority religions in every country.

Therefore I heartily endorse the intent of the Commission and hope that they day will come when Blasphemy Laws will be repealed or amended and that new paths of interfaith living might be fostered.

# # #

We have to speak up, if we want goodness to prevail.
If not the extremist would have their say,
then the good people become bystanders.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 2009 Holidays


September 2009...
* 8/23 to 9/3: Ganesha Chaturthi.

* 9/1 eve to 9/2 eve: Old Greek festival honoring Athena Polias and Zeus Polios as protectors of city and state.

* 9/3: Day gender discrimination was outlawed world-wide (1981); day to mourn all manifestations of sexism.

* 9/4 (12:03 p.m. EDT): Full Moon (Harvest Moon).

* 9/5: Mindfulness Day--Zen Buddhist day for being mindful that harm to the Earth and sentient beings results from ignorance of interdependence.

* 9/6: Day Latin American Catholic Bishops espoused Liberation Theology (1968). They believe that the Gospel requires Christians to aid the poor and oppressed in the struggle for economic and social justice.

* 9/7: Labor Day--Day to reflect on the sacredness of all work and the value of ethical, meaningful employment.

* 9/8 (OC 9/21): Birthday of Blessed Mary, catalyst of liberation and redemption.

* 9/8: Baha'i feast honoring the one Deity as Izzat - the Almighty.

* 9/8: Animal Day--Day to honor all creatures of the land and to meditate on Deity manifesting as animals - God-Goddess as Ra/Lion & Rait/Lioness (Old Egyptian); Nandi/Bull & Prisni/Cow (Hindu); God as Cernunnos/Stag (Old Celtic) & Mica/Coyote (Lakota); and Goddess as Rhpisunt/Bear Mother (Haida).

* 9/8: Death day of Mother Ann Lee (1784), mystic and founder of the Shakers, who worshipped with ecstatic dance and song, and believed Deity to be Father, Son, Mother, and Daughter.

* 9/9: Christian feast of St. Joachim, father of Blessed Mary and grandfather of Blessed Jesus; guide of grandfathers and elderly men.

* 9/10: Birthday of Thomas Thayer (1812), Universalist who believed Deity to be at work in evolution and continuing Creation.

* 9/11: Day terrorists killed over 3,000 innocent civilians of many ethnicities and religions from 86 nations (2001); day to mourn all victims of terrorism.

* 9/12 eve: Vigil for lost grandparents; night of mourning and healing.

* 9/12 to 9/16: Zoroastrian celebration of Divine Spirit Spenta Armaiti, creator and protector of Earth.

* 9/13: Grandparents' Day--Day to give love and thanks to all grandparents; day for all grandparents to celebrate their age and contemplate their sacred duty to share their wisdom with the young.

* 9/13: Day Israelis and Palestinians committed to peaceful coexistence (1993); vigil for true peace, justice, religious tolerance, and equal rights for all in the Middle East.

* 9/14: Birthday of Margaret Sanger (1883), non-violent advocate for education, autonomy, and responsibility concerning sexuality, reproduction, and birth control.

* 9/15: Day the first woman was ordained a Congregational/Unitarian minister in the U.S. (1853).

* 9/16 eve: Laylat al-Qadr/Night of Power--Commemorates the first revelation of the Qur'an to Muslim Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel in 610 CE. The Qur'an says: Let there be no compulsion in religion.

* 9/17: Christian feast of St. Hildegard von Bingen (d. 1179)--mystic who sang praises to the Holy Spirit as Grace (Caritas) and Wisdom (Sapientia). She recognized the Holy Spirit to be the feminine aspect of the Holy Trinity, and found Her everywhere in Nature.

* 9/18 (2:44 p.m. EDT): New Moon.

* 9/18 eve to 9/20 eve: Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year (Year 5770)---Commemorates Creation of the World by Elohim, the one universal Deity; begins ten days of self-examination and penitence for harm done.

* 9/18 to 9/21: Iroquois Squash Ceremony--in thanksgiving for the squash harvest.

* 9/19: Appearance of Our Lady of La Salette, Mother of the Harvest (France 1846).

* 9/19 eve to 9/22 eve: Eid al-Fitr--Muslim festival celebrating the end of Ramadan.

* 9/19 to 9/28: Navaratri/Durga Puja--Hindu festival of Great Goddess Maha Devi as Durga, Protector of the Powerless; celebrates Her destruction of evil and restoration of cosmic order.

* 9/21: International Day of Peace--Day to demonstrate for peace with justice throughout the world.

* 9/22 (5:18 p.m. EDT): Autumn Equinox--Marks the beginning of Autumn and point of equal daylight and darkness; celebrates the bounty of Mother Earth with feasting and aiding those in need.

* 9/22: Old Slavic Dozhinki--At the end of the grain harvest, God Jarilo/Lado betrays Goddess Morana/Lada, and he returns to the realm of the dead. Moranas anger and sadness causes the world to become dark, cold, and dead.

* 9/22: Day the world's nations committed to protecting the skys ozone layer from harmful chemicals (1988); day to mourn continuing air pollution.

* 9/22 to 9/23: Coya Rayni--Inca festival honoring Moon Goddess Quilla; focus is on purging sickness and evil.

* 9/23: Taoist festival honoring the Shen of Winds, West, and Autumn; thanksgiving is made for the harvest. Taoists live simply, respect life, and recognize the equality of all.

* 9/23: Aki-no-Higan--Day Japanese Buddhists mark the time of change by meditating on the impermanence of life.

* 9/23: Beginning of Libra (the Scales of Lady Justice).

* 9/24: Yoruba/Santeria feast of Obatala, Orisha of Peace and Justice.

* 9/25 (A 11/5): Old Egyptian festival of Neter Amen-Ra-Atem, the Great God, and Neteret Amenet-Rait-Mut, the Great Goddess.

* 9/25: Indigenous Peoples' Day--Day for celebrating the life-affirming spiritual traditions of indigenous peoples world-wide.

* 9/26 to 10/3: Navapad Oli‑‑Jain period of fasting, recitation of holy scripture, and meditation on the principles of right knowledge, right faith, right conduct, and right penance.

* 9/27: Baha'i feast honoring the one Deity as Mashiyyat - Divine Will.

* 9/27 eve to 9/28 eve: Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement--Jewish day of fasting, prayer, reconciliation, making reparation for harm done, and helping those in need.

* 9/28: Birthday of Confucius (K'ung Fu-Tzu) (551 BCE). He taught that societal harmony could be realized when individuals acted with loving care for family, concern for friends and neighbors, benevolence to strangers, and respect for all.

* 9/29: Feast of Michael, Angel of Protection, and Uriel, Angel of Justice.

* 9/30: Christian feast of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), Soul of the Universe, and source of faith, hope, and love.

* 9/30: Birthday of Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207), Sufi saint and poet. He believed the soul to be one with Deity, and thought ecstatic experience of Deity could be attained with music, whirling dance, and chanting Deitys holy names.

* 9/30: Birthday of Elhanan Winchester (1751), Universalist who exhorted people to lives of personal ethics and social reform.

* 9/30 eve to 10/1 eve: Demokratia--Old Greek festival celebrating democracy, constitutional government, and justice under law. Zeus Agoraios, Athena Agoraias, and Themis were honored.

The Spirit of Rosh Hashanah


Wish you all the best on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
Leshana tova tikateiv v'techateim." and
"Leshana tova tikateivi veti"

Mike Ghouse

Rosh Hashanah
Joy and Judgement
Jacqueline O' Sullivan explains the annual celebration.

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) takes place in the month of Tishri (September and October on the Gregorian calendar) and commemorates the anniversary of Creation. It is on this day that G-d opens the Book of Life and observes his creatures, deciding their fate for the coming year.

It is a time of restricted rejoicing because, even though it celebrates HaShem's kingship, the celebrations are muted in acknowledgement of the great judgment taking place.

As is customary in Jewish festivals, observance begins on nightfall the day before Rosh Hashanah. Celebrants prepare by bathing, receiving haircuts, donning special clothes and giving treats to children.

Certain types of work are forbidden, though there are some exceptions. Food preparation and the carrying, transferring or increasing of the fire is all permitted. Women of the household light commemorative candles before sunset of the first night and a half-hour before sunset on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, reciting blessings over them.

Though G-d opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah the judgment is not final. The book is 'sealed' on Yom Kippur, ten days later. The time between these two festivals is known as Shabbat Shuva (The Shabbat of Returning). This is a period for self-reflection in which to justify your existence to G-d. Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish celebration that lasts for two days, signifying the importance of this date in the calendar.

Prayers play an important part in the proceedings. Intense and lengthy devotions on Rosh Hashanah vary from those normally uttered on Sabbath with even the familiar prayers containing subtle differences. Following the evening prayer people will wish each other a Good New Year. There are also specific greetings for each sex. A man is wished, "Leshana tova tikateiv v'techateim." A woman is bid, "Leshana tova tikateivi vetichatemi." . The Yiddish equivalent is a "gut yoar."

Following lunch on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the ritual of the Casting is performed. Crumbs of bread are tossed into water after the Torah verse, "And you will cast all their sins into the depth of the sea." The hems of the worshippers' garments are shaken alluding to the fact that sins are being cast away.

One of the essential elements of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar. The shofar is made from an animal's horn, preferably a ram. The cow's horn is not acceptable, nor is any animal horn that's a solid piece.

The horn is blown 100 times every day of Rosh Hashanah upon the command of HaShem with different meanings attached to the varying sounds. The Tekiah is one long 'blast' with a clear tone. The Skevarium is a 'broken' sighing sound of three short calls. The Teruah is the 'alarm' of a rapid series of nine or more quick short notes.

The command to blow the shofar comes from the Torah, but no explanation is attached. Rabbis have provided different reasons. It acts as a reminder for the soul to enter into repentance. It is also a warning to the Jewish people not to fall into temptation. It calls to mind the blasts blown by Moses when he ascended from Mount Sinai for the second time, after pleading with G-d for mercy for the Jews who had worshipped at the alter of a false God.

The shofar blower recites two blessings - the community must listen to the blessings and respond 'Amen' to both. It is forbidden to speak once the first blast is sounded until the last one is blown.

The Jewish New Year takes place around September/October, and is considered one of the most important and serious holidays (or High Holy Days) in the Jewish calendar. As well as being a time for celebration it is also a time for reflection and repentance for sins committed in the previous year. In synagogue, people pray to God to forgive them for their wrongdoings and to give them a good year - during the service a Shofar, or ram's horn, is blown, to alert congregants to the seriousness of the festival and the fact that God is deciding their fates for the coming year - which will be sealed on the Day Of Atonement ten days later. This period is known as The Ten Days Of Repentance and is traditionally a solemn time.

However, Rosh Hashanah is also a time for celebration - other traditions include eating apples dipped in honey in the hope that this will lead to a sweet year.

Mike Ghouse

Spirt of Navaratri

The Spirit of Navaratri

Among the popular festivals celebrated in India, Navaratri is among the longest.

Like the other festivals of India, Navaratri is rich in meaning. At one level, Navaratri signifies the progress of a spiritual aspirant.During this spiritual journey, the aspirant has to pass three stages personified by Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. Then, he or she enters into the realm of the infinite, wherein one realises one's Self. Navaratri, which literally means 'nine nights,' dedicates three days each to worshipping the Divine in the forms of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The tenth day, though, is the most important; it is known as Vijayadashami, the 'tenth day of victory.'

The reason behind the worshipping of Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati lies rooted in the philosophy that the attributeless absolute can only be known through the world of attributes—the journey is from the known to the unknown. Hence it is said that Shiva, who symbolizes pure consciousness, can only be known through Shakti, who represents divine energy. That is why people worship Shakti, also known as Devi, in Her various manifestations.

Inner Meaning of Navaratri Worship

The different stages of spiritual progress are reflected in the sequence of celebrations during Navaratri. During the first three days, Durga is worshipped. She personifies that aspect of shakti which destroys our negative tendencies. The process of trying to control our senses is akin to a war for the mind which resists all attempts at control. So the stories in the Puranas symbolically depict Devi in the form of Durga as waging war and destroying the asuras.

However, getting temporary relief from the clutches of vasanas does not guarantee permanent liberation from them. The seeds of the vasanas will remain within in latent form. Therefore, we should supplant them with positive qualities. The Bhagavad Gita refers to these qualities as daivi-sampat, literally "Divine wealth." Correspondingly, we worship Lakshmi during the next three days. Lakshmi is not just the giver of gross wealth or prosperity; She is the Mother who gives according to the needs of Her children. Only one endowed with daivi-sampat is fit to receive the knowledge of the Supreme. Accordingly, the last three days of Navaratri are dedicated to worshipping Saraswati, the embodiment of Knowledge. She is depicted as wearing a pure-white sari, which symbolises the illumination of the Supreme Truth.

The tenth day is Vijaya Dashami, or the festival of victory, symbolising the moment when Truth dawns within. Significance of Navaratri for Householders However, Navaratri is not only significant for spiritual aspirants; it has a message for those who lead a worldly life as well. They should invoke Durga's help to surmount obstacles, pray to Lakshmi to bestow peace and prosperity, and contemplate upon Saraswati in order to gain knowledge. These three ingredients are just as necessary for a full and complete worldly life. In reality, when we pray like this, we are but invoking the Shakti that is within ourselves.

Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are not different entities, but different facets of the singular Divinity. Some of the spiritual practices associated with Navaratri include fruit and milk fasts, japa (mantra chanting), chanting of hymns dedicated to Devi in Her different forms, prayer, meditation and recitation of sacred texts including the Devi Mahatmya, Sri Lalita Sahasranama and the Durga Saptashati.

Navaratri, Dussehra and the Ramayana Navaratri highlights the principles elucidated by the Ramayana. This is hinted at in the other name by which Vijaya Dashami is known in India, Dussehra. "Dussehra" is derived from "Dasha-hara," which means "victory over the ten-faced one." This ten-faced being ("Dashamukha") is none other than Ravana, Lord Rama's adversary. His ten heads symbolise the ten senses (five of perception and five of action). Ravana's manifest extrovertedness stands in contrast to Dasharatha, Lord Rama's father, whose name can be taken to mean "one who has controlled his ten senses." That he is father to a Divine Incarnation suggests that only when one is able to subdue all ten senses can one realise the divinity within.

In similar allegorical fashion, Sita, Rama's consort, represents the mind. As long as the mind remains wedded to the Self within, so long will bliss ensue. That is why Rama and Sita are depicted as enjoying a harmonious and satisfying relationship, both amidst palatial comforts and the privations of the forest. As soon as the mind withdraws from the Self and turns outwards to worldly objects, bliss ceases, and sorrow follows.

In the Ramayana, Sita becomes distracted by a golden deer, actually an asura (demon) in disguise, and starts coveting it. Rama counsels her on its true nature, but Sita remains deaf to his words of wisdom, and insists that he captures it for her. Rama orders Lakshmana to remain with Sita and protect her from danger, while He pursues the deer. As soon as Rama hunts it down, the magical deer treacherously calls out, in Rama's voice, to Lakshmana and Sita for help. Hearing this, Sita is convinced that Rama's life is in danger and tells Lakshmana to hurry to Rama's rescue. Lakshmana, who represents tapas (austerity), recognises that the situation is a trap and tries to advise Sita accordingly. Sita arrogantly rebuffs his explanations and orders him to leave at once. Seeing no other way out, Lakshmana leaves in search of his brother. Before leaving, he draws a line on the ground and warns Sita not to cross the line.

This line, the Lakshman rekha, marks the limits of morally permissible behaviour. Because Sita trespasses into forbidden territory, she has to suffer the consequences: she is taken captive by Ravana. Only after this ten-headed egoist gets destroyed, only after the ten senses are controlled, is Sita reunited with Rama. The story of the Ramayana is relevant to us as well. If we wish to progress spiritually, we have to first make efforts to control the negative tendencies. Only then can we cultivate the positive ones. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna enumerates the signs of a Jnani (one who has realised the Self), not because an ordinary person can recognise such signs, but so that we may cultivate those qualities. Likewise, Amma says that we should read stories about Lord Rama so that we may become Rama Himself, that is, imbibe His noble qualities.


A deeper meaning of the festival Navaratri suggests the spiritual growth of a person, where one needs courage to stand up for others and protect the weaker and be able to fight the evil and their temptations. This is the first requirement of spiritual growth - to take a firm against the evil and for the good. The second requirement is to fulfill one's needs, treat the guests and help the poor. For this one needs money and the next three days of Navratri are dedicated to the worship of Lakshmi so that she would bless us with the necessary money to be put to good use. Learning virtues and good qualities and upholding one's responsibility as a sacred duty is the next requirement to the spiritual growth. Finally, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped so that she blesses us with power of knowledge and helps us to attain spiritual enlightenment.

The 9 nights festival of Navratri begins on the first day of Ashwin of the bright fortnight. The festival comes to an end on the tenth day of Vjay Dashmi or Dussehra, when the idols of the Goddess Shakti are immersed in the river. Dussehra, is thus, considered auspicious for beginning mantra incantation and renouncing the world as 'Sanyasi'. However, Navaratri has a message for people who lead worldly life too. It teaches us to surmount obstacles with the help of Durga, thank and pray to Lakshmi for her blessings and gain knowledge with the blessings of Saraswati. This done, we can find Shakti (power) within ourselves. We must also understand that Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati are different facets of a single entity, thus, representing that Mother Goddess bestow us with wealth, prosperity and knowledge and protect us too.

Mike Ghouse
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