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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Many Faiths, One Truth by HH Dalai Lama

Many Faiths, One Truth by HH Dalai Lama

I am pleased to share the following article by Dalai Lama following my commentary.

The undefined purpose of religion is to bring tranquility and peace to one and what surrounds him/her; life and environment. To be religious is to be a peacemaker, to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.

If one is open to seeing the beauty and wisdom in each faith, he or she will enjoy the life to the fullest extent and find answers to the doubts and fears in each one of the traditions. The ultimate in religious experience would be the centrality of the creator and many paths of wisdom to find that elusive equilibrium within oneself.

As a mother loves her children and wants the best for them and as the teacher wants his students to do well, the creator God wants all of us to get along and live in harmony. Lord Krishna sums it up very well in Bhagvad Gita; whenever there is adharma (un-righteousness), I will emerge among you and restore the righteousness. Didn’t Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Nanak, Gandhi, MLK and other peace makers do just that? History is replete with the story of social justice; indeed, the sole purpose of peace makers was to bring justice to the society.

It is that love of God for us, that he has reached out to every nook and corner and every nation and community. Qur’aan adds, “ to every nation and every tribe, I have sent a peacemaker (prophet, messenger or any other name you want to call) so that they remain guided to live in peace and harmony” Indeed, a metaphor is used that he send 124,000 Prophets, meaning an infinite number. You will find similar expressions in every spiritual and religious tradition, hell, even the ones who do not believe in the creator the way religious people believe, also aspire for peace and harmony, which is central to humanity and human aspirations.

Poet Mohammad Iqbal wrote, “Mazhab nahi sikhata aapas may bayr rakhna” religion does not teach one to have barriers or animosity towards each other. Rabbi Gordis writes, “if we can genuinely see the essence of each faith, then we will focus on finding solutions rather than missionizing each other”. Learning about other faiths need not mean infidelity to your own, but that learning enriches one to know how other faiths have aspired to bring peace and tranquility to their followers.

This article by Dalai Lama is inspiring, and I have found myself writing and drawing from different scriptures including the eulogy I wrote about my late wife Najma, two years ago, where I found myself flowing in many paths towards one truth; living in peace and harmony.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/


Many Faiths, One Truth
By TENZIN GYATSO
Published: May 24, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/opinion/25gyatso.html

WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how na├»ve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.

Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.

Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.

An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.

A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.

I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.

Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.

Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”

Reflections on forgiveness

Dear Rabbi Lerner,

 

 I applaud you for the stand you taken on justice; we have to stand up for Justice to every one of the seven billion of us, it ain't justice if it protects me at the cost of others and most certainly it will have an adverse effect on others.  To have sustainable peace, security and justice for me, I have to make sure others receive the same; I cannot be secure if others around me are not and on the corollary, I cannot have peace when others around me don't.

 

Krishna sums it up very well in Bhagvad Gita; whenever there is adharma (un-righteousness), I will emerge among you and restore the righteousness.  Didn't Moses, Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Nanak, Gandhi, MLK and other peace makers do just that? History is replete with the story of social justice; indeed, the sole purpose of peace makers was to bring justice to the society.

 

The fraction of Muslims have caused the world to stereotype Muslims, likewise the fraction of Jews are causing the same. I am glad you are standing up to the extremists amongst Jews and I will continue to stand up against extremists among Muslims.

 

As a society we have to develop educational programs to bring comfort to the extremists among us and help mitigate their imaginary fears.  They can certainly reflect their phobias and imaginary fears, but not ascribe it to their faith.

 

Interfaithing is one of the answers, and it is NOT about uniting religions, it is about hearing each other to remove myths and falsehoods about other faiths and learn to live without fear of the other.

It is in our interest to live freely; it amazes me how a few of us keep living in fears every moment of our lives, and much of the fear is imaginary - like a child being afraid of the boogey man that ain't there.

 

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

 

 

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Tikkun  to heal, repair and transform the world  
A note from Rabbi Michael Lerner  Join or Donate Now! 
 

Editor's Note:

 

Every night since the attack on my home by right-wing Zionists, I've been saying a prayer of forgiveness for them. While the political meaning of that act, and of the demeaning of critics of Israel, will be explored more fully in the July/August issue of Tikkun, on the spiritual level it is very important to not let negativity, even terrorism or violence, get the upper hand by bringing us down to the same level of anger or hatred that motivates those who act violently attack  or those who demean and attempt to delegitimate the critics of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

 


If we are to build a world of love, we have to constantly work against the impulse to respond to anger and hatred with our own angry or hateful response. So,  every night,  I work on forgiving those who have assaulted my home, those who publicly demean me or Tikkun or the NSP, and those who spread hatred against the many people in our world who legitimately critique the policies of the State of Israel toward Palestinians.

 


It was in this context that I thought I'd forward you some notes taken by therapist Linda Graham at a recent weekend retreat on Forgiveness conducted by Jack Kornfeld and Fred Luskin. Fred is author of Forgive For Good and Jack is the author of The Art of Forgivenes, Loving Kindness and After the Ecstasy The Laundry (and teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California). Linda Graham who took these notes is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Francisco--her website is www.lindagraham-mft.com

 


--Rabbi Michael Lerner  RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org   www.spiritualprogressives.org

 

P.S. if you haven't signed up for the conference yet, please do so now at www.spiritualprogressives.org/conference.

 

 

 

Reflections on Forgiveness
   
1.  Both Jack and Fred gave many examples of the universality of suffering, injustice, betrayal, both on an international scale, like the multi-generational hostility and strife in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in Southeast Asia, in Ireland, in Africa, and on the deeply personal scale of blame-shame-built walls with the parents, partners, children we want to hold nearest and dearest.  We hurt people and are hurt by people because we are people.  Experiences of loss, betrayal, hurt are inevitable when human beings are caught in the human conditions of greed, hatred, ignorance.  There is such poignancy to the struggle when we are caught ourselves in blame, resentment, bitterness.  Our pain becomes encased in neural cement and we're stuck.  Forgiveness practice is a choice we make for ourselves to not perpetuate that suffering.
 
Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.  - Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

2.  Both Jack and Fred agree that forgiveness is a process; it's not a one-shot deal.  It's a daily and lifelong practice to move through layers and layers of hurt and grief and re-open the heart to compassion and kindness.  In this sense, forgiveness is independent of content.  I.e., it doesn't so much matter who did what to you or who; it's our response that is the practice.  Blame-anger-hatred keep us physiologically aroused.  When feel we're still in threat, it's not safe to forgive.
 
Fred said that not forgiving, staying in bitterness, anger, hostility, is like drinking a cup of poison and waiting for the other person to die.  Jack mentioned two prisoners of war being released to return home.  One asked the other, "Have you forgiven our captors?"  "I'll NEVER forgive them!" the second one replied.  "They still have you in prison then, don't they?"
 
The choice is ours, and the responsibility to choose is ours, to create conditions for happiness or bitterness.  Loving kindness and other practices outlined below regulate our bodies back to the open, compassionate state where it is possible to forgive.
 
Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregores revenge, and dares forgive an injury.
            - E. H. Chapin
3.  Jack and Fred offered similar understandings of what forgiveness is: the inner peace and wise perspective that allows us to keep our hearts open in the face of injustice, betrayal, harm.  We are simply poisoning ourselves when we don't.  And what it is not: a bypass of condoning, pardoning, forgetting, false reconciliation, appeasement, sentimentality.  Neither is forgiveness necessarily bringing to complete resolution every individual complaint or grievance, however legitimate.  It's a practice, daily and lifelong, to keep the heart open in the face of trying circumstances.
Forgo your anger for a moment and save yourself a hundred days of trouble.
           - Chinese proverb
4.  Both Jack and Fred anchor forgiveness practice in a deeply felt sense of our own goodness, our own innate capacities for wisdom and love, our Buddha Nature.  (See Exercises below to access this felt sense.)  To remember that we, and all beings, are "nobly born." And that the capacity for kindness is as hardwired into our neural circuitry as the tendencies to contract in pain and suffering.  This helps us bypass our body's adrenalin reactions that fuel our sense of personal threat and drama, and allows us to re-open into a spacious calmness; from there we can forgive.
 
We consciously reflect on (or learn from research) the benefits of cultivating kindness, compassion, gratitude, equanimity in the face of sorrow, hurt, grief to support our forgiveness practice.  All of these pro-social practices are Wise Effort: the path of choosing to end suffering, in all its forms, and to cultivate the wholesome in all its forms.  Even if we don't know how to forgive very well, we have compassion and forgive ourselves for lack of that skill. Forgiveness is the culmination of a long series of practices to open the heart.
 
5.  Then we begin to cultivate a willingness to let go of our personal suffering, our personal drama, our well-rehearsed personal stories and identities of victimhood, our personal complaints and bitterness that create a state of mind and heart where kindness and forgiveness are biologically impossible.  Those neural pathways of contraction and protection are well-established.  It's so easy to go into complaining, criticism, contempt.   We have to be willing to soften that neural cement.  We have to stop adrenalizing to be safe enough to be kind.  We have to set an intention to stop being in contention with the world, to stop projecting our disgruntlement onto the world, to give up resentment, bitterness, entitlement. Not deny our pain, but not to linger  We're not indifferent, but we're not stuck in drama either.   Understanding, compassion, grief, forgiveness are the open-hearted response to a human life's vulnerability to change. The willingness, the intention, re-sets the compass of the heart so we can re-claim our larger self, our larger consciousness, our larger kindness that can open to compassion for ourselves.  These practices put us back on the track of integrity, dignity, and possibility.  There comes an awareness beyond self, and eventually to compassion for others who have acted in misguided or harmful ways.
When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.
          - Catherine Ponder
 
6.  Both Fred and Jack emphasized the necessity of honest grieving over harm experienced as we cultivate this willingness, this intention to practice forgiveness.  The heart needs to feel its legitimate pain before it can be moved to let it go.  Being stuck in blame can create a sense of victimhood, but honest grief work can help the underlying hurt, fear, anger resolve and move through, making the practice of forgiveness digestible and workable.
 
Let the pain be pain, not in the hope that it will vanish but in the faith that it will fit in, find its place in the shape of things, and be then not any less pain but true to form....That's what we're looking for: not the end of a thing but the shape of it.
            - Albert Huffstickler
 
7.  Forgiveness is a process that happens over time, layer by layer.  Start practicing forgiveness where it's easiest - your dog for tearing up the carpet or your child for spilling potato salad all over the kitchen floor.  Yourself for losing your cool in rush hour traffic or forgetting to pay the phone bill on time. Then "broaden and build."  Practice forgiveness in more and more challenging situations or with more and more challenging people where the stakes get higher until you're ready to tackle the "unforgiveable" with courage and care.  Life is full of "forgiveness moments," big and small, where we practice over and over again remaining open-hearted.
 
You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.
- Lewis B. Smedes
 
 
8.  Begin doing a formal forgiveness practice (see Exercises below for Jack's exquisite meditations on forgiving one's self, asking forgiveness from another, offering forgiveness to another.  You can include forgiving life for things not going the way you want them to go, too.)  In the Buddhist monasteries, monks practice forgiveness 300 times until it becomes a natural practice of the heart.  Even if you do forgiveness practice only five minutes a day, do it every day, day after day,  Once a day brings you to 300 times to establish the practice less than a year.  Five minutes three times a day brings you there in a little less than three months.
 
It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed our own.
            - Jessamyn West
 
9.  Include all layers of processing experience in your forgiveness practice. When we feel something in our body, it feels so real to us "it must be true." It can be hard to change that neural reactivity.   Sometimes working in somatic-based trauma therapy is necessary to release bodily-held rage, hostility, defensiveness or collapse into powerlessness.  We do have to stop adrenalizing before we can feel save enough to forgive.
 
Sometimes we have to learn new skills in experiencing and expressing the intense emotions that sometimes erupt as we focus on experiences that need our forgiveness.  We learn to take responsibility for our emotional experience, having compassion for ourselves in moments of  "there I go again."
 
We give up all hope of a better past and patiently, perseveringly re-structure our thoughts and belief systems, especially any lingering feeling like the universe revolves around us in an entitled way, or clinging to an identity as a victim.  Forgiveness practice doesn't re-write history, but it does allow us to re-write our story of our history.  We can re-perceive ourselves as hero rather than victim for all the courage and resiliency it takes to learn and grow enough to forgive.
 
The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.
            - Alden Nowlan
 
10.  Finally, our forgiveness practice shifts our perspectives.   We begin to take things less personally.  We see that my pain is part of the pain of all human beings, universally.  We see that the suffering of every life is held in a larger consciousness that holds all the arising and falling away of all of existence. We begin to trust in something larger than our separate personal lives.  We begin to see that forgiveness practice doesn't necessarily end suffering, but it makes life livable.  We see that forgiveness practice is a tremendous catalyst for growth and healing;  we become a forgiving person.  (Like becoming a loving, compassionate, open-hearted person.)   We claim the undeniable goodness of our life.
 
 
 
 
 
     Poetry and Quotes to Inspire
    
 
Life without forgiveness is unbearable.
            - Jack Kornfield
 
Between a stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  The last of human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances.
            - Viktor Frankl
 
I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.
            - James Baldwin
 
The person who betrayed you is sunning themselves on a beach in Hawaii and you're knotted up in hatred.  Who is suffering?
- Jack Kornfield.
 
When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future.
            - Bernard Meltzer
 
Forgiveness and reconciliation are not just ethereal, spiritual, other-- worldly activities. They have to do with the real world. They are realpolitik, because in a very real sense, without forgiveness, there is no future.          
            - Desmond Tutu
 
 
For Someone Who Did You Wrong
 
Though its way is to strike
In a dumb rhythm,
Stroke upon stroke,
As though the heart
Were an anvil,
The hurt you sent
Had a mind of its own.
 
Something in you knew
Exactly how to shape it,
To hit the target,
Slipping into the heart
Through some wound-window
Left open since childhood.
 
While it struck outside,
It burrowed inside,
Made tunnels through
Every ground of confidence.
For days, it would lie still
Until a thought would start it.
 
Meanwhile, you forgot,
Went on with things
And never even knew
How that perfect
Shape of hurt
Still continued to work.
 
Now a new kindness
Seems to have entered time
And I can see how that hurt
Has schooled my heart
In a compassion I would
Otherwise have never learned.
 
So

 

How not to deal with Muslims in America

The following article may evoke different understandings, not everything we read or see is 100% digestible, but there are parts that certainly stand out.
 
Salisbury writes, "That a Muslim immigrant would not think twice about this simple civic act speaks volumes about the power of American society and the actual day-to-day lives and conduct of Muslims in this nation, particularly immigrant Muslims."
 
There have been studies done extensively where someone is murdered or raped in day light where no one pays attention, in many a incidents no one wants to get involved. Secondly there is other side of human beings; civic responsibility. I am pondering over the writers assumption that a Muslim immigrant would not think twice... civic responsibility is a human characteristic regardless of the religion one believes in, just as destruction is the characteristic of the deviants.
 
Nias, lays out a great truth, " "If one person is bad, they are going to say everybody for this religion." That is wrong and is stereotyping and that is one of the things that worsens a given situation. It is no worse than stereotyping Italians, Irish, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, Arabs and others. 
 
Mike Ghouse
_________________________________________________
 
Citizen Alioune
How not to deal with Muslims in America
by Stephan Salisbury
 
Alioune Niass, the Sengalese Muslim vendor who first spotted the now infamous smoking SUV in Times Square and alerted police, is no hero.
 
If it were not for the Times of London, we would not even know of his pivotal role in the story. No mainstream American newspaper bothered to mention or profile Niass, who peddles framed photographs of celebs and the Manhattan skyline. None of the big television stations interviewed him.
 
As far as the readers of the New York Times are concerned – not to mention the New York Post and the Daily News – Niass doesn't exist. Nor does he exist for President Obama, who telephoned Lance Orton and Duane Jackson, two fellow vendors, to thank them for their alertness in reporting the SUV. The New York Mets even fetedJackson and Orton as heroes at a game with the San Francisco Giants.
 
And Niass? Well, no presidential phone calls, no encomiums, no articles (though his name did finally surface briefly at a New York Times blog several days after the incident), no free Mets tickets. Yet as the London Times reported, it was Niass who first saw the clouds of smoke seeping from the SUV on that Saturday night.
 
He hadn't seen the car drive up, because he was attending to customers – and, for a vendor in Times Square, Saturday nights are not to be taken lightly. Niass was alarmed, however, when he saw that smoke. "I thought I should call 911," he told theTimes, "but my English is not very good and I had no credit left on my phone, so I walked over to Lance, who has the T-shirt stall next to mine, and told him. He said we shouldn't call 911. Immediately he alerted a police officer nearby." Then the cop called 911.
 
So Lance got the press, and he and Jackson, who also reported the SUV, have been celebrated as "heroes." As the Times interview with Niass has made the Internet rounds, there have been calls for the recognition of his "heroism," too.
 
These three men all acted admirably. The two other vendors did what any citizen ought to do on spotting a smoldering car illegally parked on a busy street. But heroes? In the case of Niass, characterizing him as a hero may in a sense diminish the significance of his act.
 
A vendor in New York since 9/11, he saw something amiss and reported it, leading him into contact with the police. That a Muslim immigrant would not think twice about this simple civic act speaks volumes about the power of American society and the actual day-to-day lives and conduct of Muslims in this nation, particularly immigrant Muslims.
 
This was a reasonably routine act for Orton and Jackson, but for Niass it required special courage, and the fact that he acted anyway only underscores what should be an obvious fact about Muslims in post-9/11 America: they represent a socially responsible and engaged community like any other.
 
Assault on American Muslims
 
Why do I say that his act required courage?
 
Like many Muslim immigrants in New York City and around the country, Niass senses that he is viewed with suspicion by fellow citizens – and particularly by law enforcement authorities – simply because of his religion. In an interview withDemocracy Now!, that essential independent radio and television news program, Niass said that, in terrorism cases, law enforcement authorities view every Muslim as a potential threat. Ordinary citizens become objects of suspicion for their very ordinariness. "If one person is bad, they are going to say everybody for this religion. That is, I think, wrong."
 
As far as Niass is concerned, terrorists are, at best, apostates, irreligious deviants. "That not religion," he told his interviewer, "because Islam religion is not terrorist. Because if I know this guy is Muslim, if I know that, I'm going to catch him before he run away."
 
The New York Police Department Intelligence Division, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement all routinely run armies of informers through the city's Middle Eastern and South Asian communities. In the immediate wake of 9/11, sections of New York experienced sweeps by local and federal agents. The same in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, and communities on the West Coast – everywhere, in fact, that Muslims cluster together.
 
I've been reporting on this for years (and have made it the subject of my bookMohamed's Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland). Despite the demurrals of law enforcement officials, these sweeps and ongoing, ever widening investigations have focused exclusively on Muslim enclaves. I have seen the destructive impact on family and community such covert police activity can have: broken homes, deported parents, bereft children, suicides, killings, neighbors filled with mutual suspicions, daily shunning as a fact of life. "Since when is being Muslim a crime?" one woman whose husband had been swept up off a street in Philadelphia asked me.
 
Muslim residents have been detained, jailed, and deported by the thousands since 9/11. We all know this, and law enforcement and federal officials have repeatedly argued that these measures are necessary in the new era ushered in by al-Qaeda. A prosecutor once candidly told me that it made no sense to spend time investigating or watching non-Muslims. Go to the source, he said.
 
Radicalization Is a Problem of Limited Proportions
 
There are many problems with this facile view, and two recent studies – one from a think-tank funded in large part by the federal government, the other from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and the University of North Carolina's departments of religion and sociology (using a U.S. Department of Justice grant) – highlight some of the most glaring contradictions.
 
The Rand Corporation studied the incidence of terrorist acts since Sept. 11, 2001, and found that the problem, while serious, was wildly overblown. There have been, Rand researchers determined, all of 46 incidents of Americans or long-time U.S. residents being radicalized and attempting to commit acts of terror (most failing woefully) since 9/11. Those incidents involved a total of 125 people. Think about that number for a moment: it averages out to about six cases of purported radicalization and terrorism a year. Faisal Shahzad's utterly inept effort in Times Square would make incident 47. In the 1970s, the report points out, the country endured, on average, around 70 terrorist incidents a year. From January 1969 to April 1970 alone, the U.S. somehow managed to survive 4,330 bombings, 43 deaths, and $22 million of property damage.
 
The Rand report, "Would-Be Warriors: Incidents of Jihadist Terrorist Radicalization in the United States since September 11, 2001," argues that ham-handed surveillance and aggressive police investigations can be, and often are, counter-productive, sowing a deep-seated fear of law enforcement and immigration authorities throughout Muslim communities – whose assistance is vital in coping with the threat of Islamic terrorism, tiny as it is here.
 
Family members, friends, and neighbors are far more likely to know when someone is headed down a dangerously radical path than the police, no matter how many informers may be in a neighborhood. "On occasion, relatives and friends have intervened," the Rand researchers write. "But will they trust the authorities enough to notify them when persuasion does not work?" And will the authorities actually use the information provided by family members when they receive it? Don't forget the perfunctory manner in which CIA officials treated the father of the underwear bomber when he tried to report his son as an imminent threat.
 
The second study, conducted by a research team from Duke University and the University of North Carolina, found similarly small numbers of domestic terror plots and incidents since 9/11. The report identifies 139 Muslim Americans who have been prosecuted for planning or executing acts of terrorist violence since Sept. 11, 2001, an average of 17 a year. (Again, most of these attempted acts of terror, as in the Shahzad case, were ineptly planned, if planned at all.) Like the Rand report, the Duke-UNC study highlights the meager numbers: "This level of 17 individuals a year is small compared to other violent crime in America but not insignificant. Homegrown terrorism is a serious but limited problem."
 
The Duke-UNC researchers conducted 120 in-depth interviews with Muslims in four American cities to gain insight into the problem of homegrown Islamic terrorism and the response of Muslim Americans to it. Why so few cases? Why so little radicalization? Not surprisingly, what the researchers found was widespread hostility to extremist ideologies and strong Muslim community efforts to quash them – efforts partially driven by a desire for self-protection, but more significantly by moral, ethical, and theological hostility to violent fundamentalist ideologies.
 
Both of these reports underscore the importance of what the researchers call "self-policing" within Muslim communities. They consider it a critical and underutilized factor in combating terrorism in the U.S. Far from being secretive breeding grounds for radicalism, the Duke-UNC report argues, mosques and other Muslim community institutions build ties to the nation and larger world while working to root out extremist political fundamentalism. It was not for nothing that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed instructed his 9/11 hijackers to steer clear of Muslim Americans, their mosques, and their institutions.
 
The UNC-Duke report urges federal and local officials to work aggressively to integrate Muslim communities even more fully into the American political process. Authorities, it suggests, should be considering ways of supporting and strengthening those communities by actively promoting repeated Muslim denunciations of violence. (Such condemnations have been continuous since 9/11 but are rarely reported in the press.) Public officials should also work to ensure that social service agencies are active in Muslim neighborhoods, should aggressively pursue claimed infractions of civil rights laws, and should focus on establishing working relationships with Muslim groups when it comes to terrorism and law enforcement issues.
 
The Times Square incident – and, yes, the small but vital role played by Alioune Niass – illustrate the importance of these commonsensical recommendations. Yet the media has ignored Niass, and law-enforcement agencies have once again mounted a highly public, fear-inducing investigation justified in the media largely by anonymous leaks. This recreates the creepy feeling of what happened in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: the appearance of a massive, chaotic, paranoid probe backed by media speculation disguised as reporting. A warehouse raided in South Jersey. Why? No answers. A man led away in handcuffs from a Boston-area home. Who is he? What is his role? Was he a money man? Maybe. But maybe not. Suspicious packages. Oddly parked trucks. Tips. Streets closed. Bomb squads cautiously approaching ordinary boxes or vehicles. No answers – even after the all-clear rings out and the yellow caution tape comes down.
 
More importantly, the controlled flow of anonymous leaks to the mainstream press has laid the groundwork for the Obama administration to threaten Pakistan harshly – even as Iraq and Afghanistan sink further into deadly and destructive fighting – and to ponder extreme revisions of criminal procedures involving the rights of suspects. The administration's radical suggestion to suspend Miranda rights and delay court hearings for terrorism suspects amounts to a threat to every American citizen's right to an attorney and a defense against state power. Is this the message the country wants to send "the evil doers," as President Bush used to call them?
 
Or have we already taken the message of those evil doers to heart? Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen taken into custody on American soil, disappeared into the black hole of interrogation for more than two weeks – despite President Obama's assertion to a CIA audience over a year ago that "what makes the United States special … is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy, even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when it's expedient to do so."
 
When the going gets tough, as Attorney General Holder made clear on Meet the Presson May 9, the tough change the rules. "We're now dealing with international terrorists," he said, "and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face." None of this is good news for Muslims in America – or for the rest of us.
 
Stephan Salisbury is cultural writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His most recent book is Mohamed's Ghosts: An American Story of Love and Fear in the Homeland.The latest TomCast audio interview in which he discusses the words that changed our world since Sept. 11, 2001, can be heard by clicking here or downloaded to your iPod by clicking here.
 
[Note to Readers: If you are interested in reading the Duke University-University of North Carolina study, it is available by clicking here, as is the Rand report by clicking here. (Note that both are .pdf files.) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's aversion to contact with U.S. Muslims is mentioned in evidence presented at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui and can be found in .pdf format on page 36 of defense exhibit 941 here. For another view of just how overblown the Islamic terrorist threat in the U.S. is, check out Tom Engelhardt's "Fear, Inc."]
 
Copyright 2010 Stephan Salisbury

Monday, May 24, 2010

interfaith, intra-faith, pluralism, religion & spirituality

ABSTRACT: Interfaithing is NOT about uniting religions, it is about hearing each other, and learning to remove myths and falsehoods about other faiths and live without fear of the other. Much of the fear is imaginary - like a child being afraid of the boogey man that ain't there. Let the goodness in you find the goodness in others.

Link: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/interfaith-intra-faith-pluralism.html

###

Interfaith conversation is NOT about uniting religions, it is about hearing each other to remove myths and falsehoods about other faiths and learn to live without fear of the other.

It is in our interest to live freely; it amazes me how a few of us keep living in fears every moment of our lives, and much of the fear is imaginary - like a child being afraid of the boogey man that ain't there.

I draw the following from the book presented at the May partnership conference of World's religions in Chicago.

"The Parliament of World's religions is making a world of difference;

- The council seeks to promote interreligious harmony, rather than unity
- The council fosters convergence, rather than consensus
- The council's work is based on facilitation, rather than formal organizational structures.

Religious an spiritual communities can make a world of difference as they express their identity in relationship to other groups, while acting in service to the common and global good."

To be free from fears and phobias, we must resist the temptations to denigrate the other, instead we need to dig in beyond the dished out negative versions of the other. Finding the truth is one’s own responsibility and it sets one free from the misery of ill-will.

INTERFAITH: It is learning about different faiths and seeking to find the truth about other faiths. In the last decade, the inclusiveness has stepped up from Monotheistic faiths (belief in a singular version of the creator) to Polytheistic (Many representations of the creator) to earth based traditions, and now the inclusiveness includes every one whether you believe or not believe things about the creation.

INTRAFAITH: That is the dialogue within different denominations of the same faith. For example Christianity includes Catholics, protestants, presbyterians, Methodist, Baptists, Evangelists and a whole range of followers who focus on Jesus as a saviour. Among Islam there are Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Isamili, Shia, Sunni, Wahhabi and other traditions. Then there are emerging new traditions that focus on the essence of what each faith does in creating a beautiful society.

PLURALISM: Is about developing the attitudes of respecting the otherness of other, one does not have to subscribe to any (or no) version of God to be a Pluralist, but it implies respecting everywhich way one acknowledges the creator and lives his or her life in harmony with others with all the uniqueness. To lead a good moral life one does not have to believe in God, morality is fundmental to living in peace with others. One does not have to believe in God to live a normal life and life of harmony with others. Attitude of co-existence is a necessiity.

RELIGION: You may want to consider the possibility of the following definition; the purpose of religion is to bring peace and balance to an individual and balance with what surrounds him/her; life and environment. By the way, every religion, spiritual, earth based or humanistic tradition is beautiful, it does bring peace to the follower. As they say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I would say, faith is in the heart of the believer.

SPIRITUALITY: It is what one becomes when he or she considers the whole world as one family, one is in tune with the nature and everything that nature is made of. Distinctions of race, faith, appearance don't matter, what matters is living and working together in harmony with our differences. When you truly become spiritual, to borrow the Hindu term, you become Brahma, and everything belongs to you and you belong to every one - when you achieve that, you are free from all the elements of insecurities.

ARROGANCE: Arrogance is the root cause of all problems in the world, the arrogance that my nation, my religion, my culture is superior to the point of believing that others is inferior. One cannot be religious and spiritual if one is loaded with ill-will, malice, hate etc.

Think about this formula; Arrogance and spirituality (religiosity) are inversly proportional to each other. That is higher the arrogance lower the spirituality and vice versa.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the genetic uniqueness of each one of us, then cionflicts fade and solutions emerge.


Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

FEEL FREE TO WRITE YOUR COMMENTS HERE:

www.Foundationforpluralism.com
www.WorldMuslimCongress.com
www.MikeGhouse.net

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Religious discourse and the Parliament of Religions; a new paradigm

The work of the Parliament of world's religions is a reflection of what most people in the world want regardless of their religious, spritual, humanistic or societal background; to get along with others and focus on creating goods and services rather than negating the otherness of other.

The world is changing quite rapidly, while conflicts continue to rage, a new dimension is emerging vividly and growing strongly every day.

My visit with the visionaries at the Parliament of World’s religions in Chicago this week reaffirmed and encouraged my belief that the world is moving towards a new paradigm “Co-existence” also known as “Pluralism”. Pluralism is nothing more than an adjustment in one’s attitude towards others; it is indeed respecting the otherness of other and accepting the Genetic ( ~ God given) uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us. If we accept 7 billion unique thumb prints and understand the existence of 7 billion DNA compositions, then why not accept 7 billion beliefs? If we can learn to accept that, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

The folks at the Paraliament of world's religions are a model of humillity; they are committed to serve humanity with blinders on them and I admire them for the their committment. It was an overwhelming joy to know that there are people out there who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. Please visit their site and find out more about each one of these Mahatamas; the great souls.

Those of us who feel insecure about the interfaith movement and fear losing our identity or diluting it, please be assured that the goal of the Parliament is NOT to UNITE religions, but to facilitate a platform to learn about the others first hand and work together for the common good of mankind. 90% of religion is about doing common good, only 10% of it is rituals that give it its own uniqueness.

This learning process will restore integrity within us when we do not allow our heart to hate or harbor ill-will towards others; it restores the truth in us when we shed the myths about others; it will make us feel pure and clean when we do not allow falsities about others even if our Rabbi, Imam, Pastor, Pundit, Shaman or Clergy tells us otherwise, none of them is responsible for our anguish in our solititudenal moments of our life. Finding the truth is our own responsiblity and the truth frees us from fears and myths.

There is no proselytization element in any of the events the Parliament facilitates. You may love the theme in Melbourne, “hearing each other and healing the earth”. Indeed, that is the need of the day; hearing each other first hand.

The work of the Parliament is a reflection of what most people in the world want regardless of their religious, ethnic or societal background; to get along with others and focus on creating goods and services rather than negating the otherness of other.

The need for social cohesion for societies to operate smoothly without giving up an ounce of any one’s identity has strongly emerged now, this is a new paradigm in the history of mankind. No one has to be like me, act like me, believe like me for us to get along. Australia is greasing all its wheels (communities) and working towards creating a smooth functionable society with all its components working towards a common goal; be yourselves. Here is an article I wrote on Social cohesion address to Muslims,m "Are Muslims a part of the American story?" it is applicable to all groups - http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/04/are-muslims-part-of-american-story.html

We were skyped with Barcelona, Melbourne and Cape Town; sites of the previous three Parliament events. It was a delight to hear the work that is going on in creating societies where the diverse elements of society have come together to live and work in harmony.

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

If you are encumbered with bias about other faiths, if it pains you to see the wrongs ascribed to other religions, you have a chance to free yourselves from such burden. Learning about other faiths need not mean infidelity to your own, indeed it enhances one's own faith knwoing that every religion comes from the creator as his, her love for its creation. When my daughter was five, she jumped in excitement, gee Dad God can be worshipped in so many different ways. Indeed, that excitment has enveloped me. My faith is beutiful to me as yours is to you; and I will not claim my faith is superior to yours, as it amounts to arrogance, faith is about humility and not arrogance. Other faiths don't have to be less than good for mine to be good. Think about the freedom you find when you beleive in it.

Deep down we crave for this world, here is an opportunity to be in tune with that self; please visit the website http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/ and http://www.peacenext.org/ and witness the positive change that is gaining ground.

DALLAS BIDS TO HOST PARLIAMENT OF WORLDS RELIGIONS IN 2014

At this time, we are down to three Cities qualified to host the 2014 Parliament of World’s religions.; Guadalajara, Brussels and Dallas. Each city has a compelling reason to host the event and we hope the winning site will bring a positive change for the city and its suroundings and becomes a model for other cities to emulate social cohesion and harmonius co-existence with all our differences and diversity. Afterall, security and peace of each one of us is dependent on peace and security of others that surround us.

We are blessed with our visioinary religious, indigenous, humanistic and civic leadership to come together to form a Interfaith Coalition to take this movement further and build a model society of co-existence in Dallas. We hope to humbly become emulatable and contagious.

Please take the time and tell us how we can bring the most good to the world by hosting the event in Gudalajara, Brussels or Dallas. Let’s find the avenue that will have a ripple effect. My personal conviction is that Dallas will create the wave and momentum to embrace the world and work its way in creating cohesive societies that will bring about harmony and peace.

Dallas, Texas, May 20, 2010

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to the media and the public on issues of the day. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Thursday, May 6, 2010

TODAY IS NATIONAL PRAYER DAY Let’s pray, reflect or wish;

TODAY IS NATIONAL PRAYER DAY Let's pray, reflect or wish;

Dear God, guide us do the right thing every moment of our lives.
Dear God, guide us open our hearts and minds to fellow beings;
Dear God, guide us the humility to respect your creation.
Dear God, guide us shed the arrogance in us that we are superior,
Dear God, guide us learn to respect and accept every which way one worships you.
Dear God, guide us to become conflict mitigators
Dear God, guide us to become good will nurturers
Dear God, guide to us create the kingdom of heaven for every one of the 7 billion of us

Amen
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/today-is-national-prayer-day-lets-pray.html

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

National Prayer Day, Thursday, May 7, 2010


National Prayer Day, Thursday, May 7
An Examination of Different types of Prayers
Prayer meetings Dallas Fort Worth

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/national-prayer-day-thursday-may-7-2010.html

Religious Greetings: Every religious greeting is indeed a short prayer, wishing others to be at peace. When I greet you, I am invoking the goodness in you to connect with the goodness in me. It incorporates both the elements of altruism and selfishness. May you be drenched in peace, showered in peace and speak, think and talk peace and I will do the same, together we can create positive energy. Every religion has consciously embedded the positive conditioning in its greetings.

A few religious greetings: Bahai – Alllahu Abho; Buddhist - Buddha Namo; Christian - Peace to you; Hindu – Namaste; Islam - Salaam; Jain - Jai Jinendra; Jewish - Shalom; Sikhs-Satsri akaal; Wicca- May you be in tune with the earth; Zoroastrian – Hamazor Hama Ashobed; and similar wishing is part of every tradition of the world.” or Hamaasho bed - May your words bring peace to everyone around you. Amen

The National Prayer day is observed in all cities of the United States of America. Check the local listings for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner events. I will be attending all the three events and request you to join.

Please note that a healthy change has occured in the last few years due to the collective efforts of the community, there was a time when other denominations and faiths were excluded, but that is history now and Thank God for he inclusionary, pluralistic attitudes of Priests, Rabbis, Imams, Pastors, Pundits and Shamans.

MORNING

Prayer breakfast is held in every City; please make sure you invite people of every faith and no faith to express their wishes for the well being of the creation. Thank God willing, I will be attending the Dallas Metrocrest Mayors prayer breakfast.

AFTERNOON

At Noon By the Thanksgiving Square at The Tower Club, 1601 Elm St. Ste. 4800, Dallas, TX 75201. Details at http://thanksgiving.org/ Rev. Bill Lesher will be speaking.

EVENING

NETIA National Day of Prayer Service, Thursday, May 6 from 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. Southlake Town Square - North East Tarrant county Interfaith Association

FRIDAY DINNER

Join us for Friday Dinner – It is a dinner to raise awareness of the Parliament of the World’s Religions event possibly coming to Dallas. It is a big event, you may want to be a part of it. It’s on Friday, May 7, 2010 between 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Details at: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/dallas-dinner-invitation-this-friday.html

COMMENTARY ON PRAYER AND SUBJECTIVE WELL BEING

The authors have examined six different types of prayers in their article, “Prayer and subjective well-being”. Their research was an attempt to find the utility of the prayers in the form of well-being of an individual. Broadly they have classified the prayers into two categories; prayers focused on one’s needs and prayers of gratitude. They have included a range of religious practices to give validity to their research, however, on the conclusions they have drawn on obligatory prayers, more research is warranted.

The category of prayers focused on one’s needs are; confession, supplication and obligatory prayers where as the adoration, thanksgiving and reception are focused on God. The first category is a need based transaction whilst the second one is sort of altruism, “I don’t need any thing, but I am grateful for what I have” it is more like a gratitude prayers.

They have identified the value of well-being in terms self-esteem, optimism, meaning in life and satisfaction with life. Indeed, life is about balance, an inexplicable spiritual balance, it is a dynamic value and every moment that balance is present, well-being results, well being can be further defined as feeling secure, feeling beyond conflicts and free from anxiety and fear. Isn’t psychology about restoring an individual to his normal self?

Whether it is evolution, creation or Big bang, the fact is we exist. Out of the phenomenon came matter and life. Matter is programmed to be balanced and it continuously seeks its own equilibrium. For instance the planet Jupiter is precision programmed to circumambulate around the Sun and it precisely does that and has been doing for ever that we can imagine. Life was not put on that kind of trajectory, it came with a regulator called “mind” to manage that balance. Because we are part of the large universe, and are interconnected, altruism is embedded in us naturally, but we lose it at times, just as the stars fall off from the perfectly precise universe.

Well-being is like being home, feeling secure and free from anxiety. We can view the work of authors from selfishness and unselfishness point of view as well. I believe unselfishness is natural in us, selfishness creeps in when that elusive equilibrium is lost in us and the insecurity drives us to seek it back, and at time causing others insecure. Thus prayers that have the positive effects in sustaining the well-being of an individual appear to be less ego-focused and more focused on God such adoration, thanksgiving and reception. On the other hand prayers that were considered negative, adding uncertainty and doubts were related with prayers like confession, supplication and obligatory prayers.

The authors have made an assumption on the obligatory prayers for Muslims and Jews, who feel the obligation to pray five or three times a day respectively. They do with gratitude and joy and not out of obligation, however a few do out of obligation to insure that God will not be displeased with them, but that is an exception and not a rule. The assumption needs to be re-examined.

An example of restoring the spiritual balance can be explained with a simple example; when some one does some good to you, your spiritual balance receives the good and off goes your balance with indebtedness. Unless you say thanks to the giver, or thank the creator or a simple mental thank you, your spiritual balance remains off. On the other side of the transaction the giver may not expect a thank you, but not receiving one creates an imbalance, it is an incomplete transaction for him/her and only a thank you or an acknowledgement would do that in normal circumstance, but the ones who give have figured out balancing themselves with or without a return. The same equation can be applied to the idea of forgiveness. The role of a therapist is to restore normalcy to an individual or a group.

Indeed, prayers do add to the well-being of individuals who are oriented to the religious idea of prayers. For the spiritualists it is restoration of balance in one’s life, balance in the sense of being normal, being home free from anxiety. As a friend who prays for the well being of others, I would be including prayer to suit the faith tradition of the individual.

References:
Whittington, Brandon L. and Scher, Steven J. 'Prayer and Subjective Well-Being: An Examination of Six Different Types of Prayer', International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 20:1, 59 – 68

http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2009/04/mike-ghouse-honored-by-rcc.html

Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He Presides the Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress and Co-Chairs the Center for Interfaith inquiry. He is a board member of the Dallas Peace Center and Memnosyne Foundation and a former commissioner at the City of Carrollton. Mike is a Dallasite for three decades and Carrollton is his home town.

His life mission is to open people's hearts and minds towards fellow beings by mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. He is a peace maker and an educator with two Masters Degrees and working on his doctorate in Psychology. He has two books on the horizon; Pluralism 101, it is all about respecting the otherness of other, and Basic Islam- everything you always wanted to know about Islam. He has authored over 800 articles on the subjects; many of them are published in the newspapers and magazines around the world. His work is reflected at 3 Websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

An Examination of Different types of Prayers

According to William James (1902/1994), prayer is “the very soul and essence of religion” (p. 505).

Prayer is an attempt to create a meaningful relationship with a deity. Thus, it plays an important role in the religious meaning system (Park, 2005; Silberman, 2005). Different forms of prayer add different things to this meaning system. However, little attention has been paid to the differing psychological experiences that people attempt to create for themselves during prayer. Rather, the majority of current research views prayer as an undifferentiated concept. We expect that not all types of prayer will have positive effects on well-being.

In the current study, we used a more nuanced measure of prayer (Laird, Snyder, Rapoff, & Green, 2004), which measures five prayer types: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication, and reception. Furthermore, we assess obligatory prayer, which plays an important role in Islam and Orthodox Judaism. We seek to examine the relationship of these six prayer types with psychological well-being.

To our knowledge, only one other study (Ai, Tice, Huang, Rodgers, & Bolling, 2008) has looked at how different prayer types affect psychological outcomes. In their study of postoperative coping they found petitionary prayers predicted optimism and in turn well-being, whereas conversational prayers predicted higher levels of stress. However, their study used Poloma and Gallup's (1991) somewhat limited measure of prayer types. This measure uses single-item dichotomous measures of each prayer type, rather than more psychometrically sound measures. Moreover, whereas two of Poloma and Gallup's prayer types (ritual and petitionary prayer) are similar to those used in our study (obligation and supplication), the other two types of prayer in Poloma and Gallup's typology (conversational and meditative prayer) seem to combine various aspects of prayer types.

SIX TYPES OF PRAYER

We measure six types of prayer in the current study. Five of these are embodied in the original Laird, Snyder, Rapoff, and Green (2004) prayer scale. Prayers of adoration are prayers focused on the worship of God, without any reference to circumstances, needs, or desires (Foster, 1992; Laird et al, 2004; Lewis, 1964).

Prayers of thanksgiving are expressions of gratitude towards God, made in reference to specific positive life experiences. Supplication “taps requests for God's intervention in specific life events for oneself or others” (Laird et al., 2004, p. 252). Prayers of confession involve the admission of negative behaviors, and a request for forgivness. With prayers of reception, “one more passively awaits divine wisdom, understanding, or guidance” (Laird et al., 2004, p. 252). Baesler (2002) described receptive prayer as “characterized by a contemplative attitude of openness, receptivity, and surrender, resulting in experiences ranging from peaceful/quiet to rapture/ecstasy” (p. 59).

Although Laird et al.'s (2004) framework presents a much needed inventory with which to assess prayer, we have added an additional component: obligatory prayers. These prayers represent an important component of some religions, such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam, where followers are required to pray three and five times a day, respectively. These required prayers consist primarily of fixed prayers repeated at each worship time.

Poloma and Gallup (1991) examined a similar concept of “ritualistic” prayer, which was positively associated with negative affect. However, their study did not include Orthodox Jews and Muslims, the population for whom obligatory prayers appear most relevant. Furthermore, their definition was narrow and did not allow for original obligatory prayers, only recited ones. Our study aims to look more deeply into obligatory prayer and further the understanding of the elements at play.

Overall, our study aims to measure prayer in a way that appreciates its complexity, using measures with adequate psychometric properties. This measurement will allow us to see how different types of prayer relate to well-being.

Do All Prayer Types Equally Affect Well-Being?


DISCUSSION

Our results confirm the well-established finding that prayer can have positive effects on psychological well-being. However, we also found that only some types of prayer have positive effects: adoration (pure worship of God without reference to specific events or needs), thanksgiving (thanks to God for specific positive outcomes or circumstances), and prayers of reception (prayers focused on opening oneself up to closeness with God).

In contrast to these positive types of prayer, three types of prayer could be classified as negative.3 Prayers admitting one's sins to God (confession), prayers asking God for specific things (supplication), and prayer performed out of a sense of requirement (obligation) all seem to affect psychological outcomes in an undesirable way.

The prayer types that had negative effects—especially supplication and confession—are aimed at getting something from God (material help and forgiveness, respectively). Obligation is motivated by avoiding the consequences of violating God's commandments. Such extrinsic religious activities may be less likely to contribute to subjective well being (Pargament, 2002).
From a slightly different perspective, however, the different prayer types can be seen as differing in terms of how they relate to the self.

Negative prayer types seem to be particularly self-focused, compared to the positive types. Confession and supplication, in particular, require the person praying to focus almost entirely on themselves—either on their past wrongdoing or on their needs and desires. God's role is to supply the praying individual with something (e.g., forgiveness). On the other hand, in adoration, thanksgiving, and reception, the individual who is praying is focused almost entirely on God. To a large extent, these egoless forms of prayer are an attempt to give something to God.

A finding connecting the egoless aspect of prayer to well-being connects prayer to other religious practices. Many religious or spiritual practices do not incorporate prayer—or even a god-figure to whom prayer could be directed. However, many of these non-Abrahamic religions (e.g., Buddhism) do include practices that emphasize the negation of ego. If prayer affects well-being predominantly by allowing worshipers to enter into an egoless mode, then it may work by the same mechanism as do other religious practices (e.g., meditation and mindfulness; see, e.g., Brown & Ryan, 2003; Shapiro, Oman, Thoresen, Plante, & Flinders, 2008).

Research on these questions, though, must also address an important shortcoming in our findings. As with virtually all research on the effects of prayer, our research is correlational and cross-sectional. The causal direction that explains the relationship between the various prayer types and well-being cannot be determined with this methodology.

A reverse causal direction is not implausible; those with lower psychological well-being may be more likely to engage in the negative prayer types, and vice versa. Use of alternative methodologies—especially experiments—is needed (not only on this topic, but in almost all areas addressing the role of spirituality or religion on mental health, physical health, and well-being; Thoresen & Harris, 2002).

Religion and Meaning

Our data provide support for the meaning-system perspective on religion (cf. Park, 2005; Silberman, 2005). In addition to the more tangible ways in which religion may contribute to our psychological and physical health, research from this perspective suggests that our attempts to make meaning from our life experiences are enhanced by our religious practices and cognitions, and this enhanced meaning adds to the beneficial aspects of religion.

There is no reason to think that someone whose prayers predominantly take the form of thanksgiving, adoration, or reception should receive more social support or practice better health behaviors (commonly cited causes of the religion/well-being relationship) than those whose prayers take the form of confession, supplication, or obligation. Rather, it is the content and meaning of the prayers that differentiates these different forms. The fact that these different forms of prayer have different effects on well-being cannot easily be accounted for by differences in other factors.

Prayers of Obligation

Another innovation of our research was the development of a scale to measure obligatory prayer. Although the findings in the current study can only be said to be preliminary, the data support the fact that we have successfully measured obligatory prayer. Those participants who identified themselves as members of the faith traditions that prescribe prayer at certain times (Muslims, Orthodox Jews) reported a much higher level of obligatory prayer than other groups, supporting the validity of our measurement.

Obligatory prayer correlated significantly with all of the other prayer types—particularly with adoration (see Table 2).4 It is worth noting, however, that the size of this correlation varies widely among different religions. For example, among Muslims, the Obligation and Adoration correlation is r = .30, among Catholics it is r = .46, and among all Jews it is r = .51; however, among Orthodox Jews, the Obligation-Adoration correlation is only r = .15, and among Protestants it is r = -.15. This variation shows that it will require further research, situated within specific religious traditions, to understand obligatory prayers. The all too common practice of ignoring religious affiliation of respondents—with the resultant bias toward Protestant Christianity—leads to an incomplete picture of the nature of obligatory prayer (and of religious practice in general).

One important aspect of that nature is its content—or rather, its lack of content. Although the other five prayer types that we have studied are defined by the actual content of the prayers, prayers of obligation are defined by their role in the religion—that is, by their obligatory nature. The specific requirements often include ritual elements (i.e., reciting the text of specific composed prayers or specific verses from holy books such as the Bible or the Qur'an); however, these ritual texts have content. That content most likely mimics aspects of adoration, reception, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving. To the extent that the ritual elements of obligatory prayer do have these other elements, we would expect that the effects of the prayers will mimic the effects of the more content-based prayer types. The negative aspects of obligatory prayer may result for those who pray only out of a sense of obligation.

Directions for future research on obligatory prayer, therefore, include examining the emotional/psychological reactions of those who pray through a sense of obligation. An examination of how these individuals view their obligatory prayers, and their emotional reactions to them, would be very informative about how these prayers affect adherents to these religious traditions.

CONCLUSION

The results of this study highlight the complex, multidimensional nature of religion. Our data suggest that these different prayer types have different effects on psychological well-being. These differences in well-being appear to be driven by differences in the meanings that praying individuals give to their relationships with God.

We have suggested that the prayer types which had positive effects on well-being are distinguished by their egoless nature, whereas the prayer types that had negative effects were more ego-focused. This may connect prayer in the Abrahamic faiths to other religious practices such as Buddhist meditation.

We have also validated a scale to measure prayer as an obligatory behavior. Further research on this concept seems highly desirable. That research, however, cannot limit itself to Christian populations, for whom obligatory prayer may seem a foreign concept. This research must explicitly include participants, such as Muslims and Orthodox Jews, who practice obligatory prayer as an important part of their observance.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Morning at Martin United Methodist

Sunday Morning at Martin United Methodist
Bedford, Texas, Sunday, May 2, 2010.

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/05/sunday-morning-at-martin-united.html

It was a delight to share and learn with the attentive and receptive members of the Martin United Methodist Church in Bedford, Texas. Ann Garner, my friend who invited me to speak chose the topic “understanding Islam”.

I moved from generalities of creation, evolution, big bang to existence, and the idea of co-existence that gave birth to religion, as an expression of love by the creator to provide guidance to his/her/it’s creation.

The essence of Islam can be summed up in one word; Justice. Justice brings a sense of security to the people, knowing that every action has a reaction and that no one escapes the accountability makes one feel secure which germinates into peace for the individual and the society.

Islam is the word that describes one’s submission to God’s will, and what is God’s will? It is no different than a parent’s desire for their children to do well and get along amicably. Islam is about Justice and responsibility to be good, and to do well.

There is no such thing as a Muslim God or Christian God, God is simply the creator of the universe, the one and only creator. Monotheism at a macro level means raising our little gods to be one single God that is everything to every one, an all embracing, all encompassing God. It is the idea of removing conflicts between people by elevating all of us from individual selves to a universal self.

As in governance, politics, civil socieites and your own work place, the guidelines are usually written to be just to every one, most people get it and follow it, some don't. Same goes with religion, not all Christians follow the example of Christ, not all Muslims follow the just principles laid down in Islam, not all Hindus follow the basic tenets of co-existence embedded in Hinduism or Jews follow the idea of justice focus in their own religion. The problem is not religion, it is the individuals who don't get it.

The motivation of the Neocons* (the frightened souls in every faith) is to control others, they operate out of fear and not love. Look at the actions of those rascals and the majority of people - all of us in all traditions and faiths want to get along with each other and mind our own business - a few don't. Let's focus on them and help them get out of the trenches rather than look to blame their religion.

The Qur'an stresses repeatedly the fact that, "had He so willed, He would have guided you all aright" (6:149) - the obvious implication being that He has willed it otherwise: namely, that He has given man the freedom to choose between right and wrong, thus raising him to the status of a moral being

[2:148] Each of you chooses the direction to follow; you shall race towards righteousness. Wherever you may be, GOD will summon you all. GOD is Omnipotent.

[10:99] had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. Do you want to force the people to become believers?

2:148 (Asad) for, every community faces a direction of its own, of which He is the focal point. [123] Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself: for, verily, God has the power to will anything.

[2:256] “The Quran states very clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. There is no need for compulsion, since the truth is elf evident

[5:48] For each (community) among you have We have appointed a way of providence (in conduct.)( Shir'ah=a way to a watering-place/path where everything meets/gets nourishment) and way of life (minhaj=open road, path of life). And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto, you. So, outdo one another in doing good to the society. To God you will all return, and He will then make you understand wherein you differed.

The Quraan further guarantees the mankind, when you do good (harmony, balance and peace) to people around you and the environment you will earn God's grace (a place in paradise). By the way the very first and last verses of Quraan are addressed to humanity and not any particular group including Muslims.

I went over the basics that makes one a Muslim, the principles laid down in the form of rituals to create that environs of peace, togetherness, humility and a sense of responsibility for the self and others around us.

As usual, we as the people have not taken the time to understand each others faiths…whatever we have learned, we have learned the perceived or cooked up negatives about the other. That goes against the very basic of religion, every religion; to bring peace to oneself and what surrounds one; life and matter.

The Question and Answers were very much of intellectual in nature from the inquiring minds.

My personal mission of life is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, that’s what my mentors Prophet Muhammad, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Buddha, MLK and a many of the great souls did. Every religion is beautiful and works for the believer.

I humbly state that my religion is beautiful to me and works for me, as yours works for you. I will not claim my faith to be superior to any, it amounts to arrogance and God knows, arrogance is the root cause of all conflicts and it is averse to the very idea of Islam; Peace. I will be happy to speak in your place of work, church or social gatherings about Islam, Pluralism, peace, civil societies and co-existence.

I thank Pastor Steve, Ann Garner and the dear members of the church who made our exchange meaningful and peaceful.

I also want to thank the members of the Church for pronouncing the name "Memnosyne Foundation" in unison.

May God continue to open our hearts and minds towards each other. Amen.

REFERENCE LINKS TO MY CONVERSATION:

1. Apology to Jews, Christians and others
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/01/unlike-jews-or-christians-17.html

2. Quran on civil conduct on dialogue
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html

3. Quraan on Pluralism
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2009/08/quraan-and-pluralism.html

4. Origins of Islam o phobia
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/03/islamophobia-and-quraan.html

5. Diversity is God's intention
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2010/02/diversity-is-gods-will-quraan-548.html

6. Quraan and Global Ethics
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2010/02/quraan-and-global-ethics.html

7. For a partial list of articles:
http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/08/all-articles-listed.html

8. If you hear a verse of quraan that does not sound right to you, it is because you are reading the mis-translation - check the verse out for yourselves and find the truth at: http://www.islamicity.com/QuranSearch/

9. Mission of our organization World Muslim Congress http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/WorldMuslimCongress/Articles/Mission-Statement.asp

* Neocons - http://hatesermons.blogspot.com/2008/03/neocons.html

YOUR COMMENTS
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Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam, India and Civil Societies. He Presides the Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress and Co-Chairs the Center for Interfaith inquiry. He is a board member of the Dallas Peace Center and Memnosyne Foundation and a former commissioner at the City of Carrollton. Mike is a Dallasite for three decades and Carrollton is his home town.

His life mission is to open people's hearts and minds towards fellow beings by mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. He is a peace maker and an educator with two Masters degrees and working on his doctorate in Psychology. He has two books on the horizon; Pluralism 101, it is all about respecting the otherness of other and Basic Islam- everything you wanted to know about Islam. He has authored over 800 articles on the subjects, many of them are published in the newspapers and magazines around the world. His work is reflected at 3 Websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/