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Friday, December 18, 2009

Am I a Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Pagan or a Maya?

The trends in spirituality and the emergence of a new conscience

Am I a Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Pagan or a Maya?

Mike Ghouse

To be with 8,000 people representing 250 faith expressions is an experience of life time. From Atheists to Zoroastrians and every one in between, including the native and earth based traditions from every corner of the world attended the event to hear each other and heal the earth. Indeed, that was the theme of the conference and a whole lot of uplifting conversation took place, and we hope it materializes into service. We have to do our individual share of work.

The conference meant different things to different people, but most went home with a feeling that learning about other faiths enriches one’s own tradition without depreciating the other. The search paves the way to witnessing how others express their devotion to the creator in their own unique way. It was an awesome feeling.

The Pagan prayer circle tempted me to get on the loud speaker and tell every one to join and listen to the words that were being chanted; we appreciate the earth, the nature, the people and the food, it was a beautiful expression of gratitude. Many of us do not perceive Pagans, Wiccans and other earth based and native traditions to be as divine as our own. Ever think of it as arrogance?

Those who are yet to graduate in spirituality, miss out the beauty and serenity of each tradition. Rejecting the stereotypes we ascribe to other groups, and finding the truth is one’s own responsibility as it sets one free. No matter what your Rabbi, Pastor, Imam, Pundit, Shaman or clergy tells you about other faiths and other people, ultimately it is you in your solitude who has to deal with your conscience. The responsibility is yours. Prophet Muhammad told his own daughter that she will not automatically get a free pass to heavens, she has to earn it through service to fellow beings (he did not say Muslims).

A few weeks ago, at the dedication ceremony of the Maya cultural center at Felipe Carillo Puerto in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, a service initiative of the Memnosyne Foundation, people of different traditions like the Maya, Toltec, Shinto, Christian, Muslim and the Wicca gathered around the ceremonial fire to offer their supplication. Each one took turn to express his/her gratitude to the creator and mother earth that nurtures and sustains us. It was an awesome sight to see their devotion to the creator, they way they see it and feel it. If we are biased, tainted and brainwashed, we cannot see the beauty in each faith and miss out God’s creation.

Am I a Jew, Hindu, Muslim or a Pagan?

Many a members at the parliament are working to reach a higher level of consciousness and awakening. I just want to share the trends in spirituality and some of the efforts we are making. At the event in Yucatan, I was able to share the Hindu Prayers at one of the sacred Snotes (Underground well connected to a river stream) of the Maya people along with the Muslim prayers. Then the India Association in Dallas held a prayer vigil for the Mumbai blasts, I read the Jewish prayers, some of my Indian friends thought I was a Jew and it sort of confirmed for some of them that I must be a Jew.

Since Mayan traditions resemble closely with the Hindu traditions, I recited the Hindu prayers in Sanskrit and rendered its English translation. The Jainism's Namokar Mantra would have been ideal, but I had forgotten it, now after the parliament, I have it down. I had to quench the curiosity about Hindu Prayers by a Muslim. If we were to write the Hindu, Mayan, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any prayer in Sanskrit, Maya, Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili or Latin by generalizing God's name - simply ‘God’ instead of Yahweh, Jesus, Allah or Brahma; then you do not see a whole lot of difference in each prayer. Try it, you may feel the serenity and the barriers built up by the clergy may fall and you may sync with humanity and feel the universality of your soul. If you put a noose around God, God gets constricted, but if you free God from your own imaginative clutches, God becomes free to be had and loved by every human. Ever think of letting God be free? No one owns God.

The wisdom is same no matter what language or where it originates or what religion expresses it. For nearly ten years I have been reciting the prayers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Hinduism, Baha’i and Sikh Prayers when and where they are not represented. God willing, I will learn the traditions of the indigenous people as well. I have spoken in behalf of Atheists in the Unity Day Programs. The indigenous people focus on harmony ‘Armonia’ and balance as the centrality of their traditions. Indeed, that is the real purpose of religion; to bring balance to the self and what surround; life and environment.

A few asked me if it wasn't a conflict to recite Hindu prayers, heavens no, all religions want an individual to be peaceful with one-self and what surrounds him or her; life and environment. If you aspire for the spirituality, which every religion finally lifts you up to, then you do not see the conflict, but see the harmony, as the Mayans say "Armonia". I hope and request each one of the person reading this to be in others shoes and experience the essence of each beautiful tradition. Learning about other faiths does not mean infidelity to your own; indeed, it enriches your own faith knowing that all faiths bring freedom to one's soul.

The world is changing, people have been stuck with affixing labels to prayers, names etc, the change is coming; this is the century of co-existence, simply known as Pluralism. By the way Pluralism is not a religion; it is an attitude of respecting the otherness of other and accepting the genetic uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us. People will appreciate the essence and beauty of each faith. It is difficult for a few to cross the line, they find comfort in confining the religion to be an exclusive idea, it' ain't. If you see the wisdom and beauty of other faiths without prejudice, you have achieved the Mukti, Moksha, Nirvana, Nijaat, Salvation or freedom

I hope every human understands the beauty and wisdom of their own faith, and for the sake of sustainable co-existence they would value the principles of “we, we and us” that religions inculcate so beautifully and learn the co-existence aspect of their own tradition. I was reflecting upon the range of caring for minorities in United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Uganda, Sudan, Australia, Belize the Amazon basin or elsewhere in the world. The problem is universal, let’s visit our own self and strip in us, what we think is evil in others. Peace begins with me, if I am not at peace, I cannot expect others to be. If my heart is not free from hate, prejudice or ill will, I cannot ask others to be free from it.

I predict an emerging new conscience where we see us as a connected universal humanity.

Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and civil societies. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and numerous Blogs are listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Next Blog - the overview of the week in Melborune


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