B U L L E T I N

Happy New Year!

1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Answers to questions about Hinduism

Indeed, all religions are pluralistic to the core, but its practitioners are not. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Bahai, Buddhism are pluralistic faiths. Most people get that right a few don't. The problem is not with religion, it is with the people.

What exactly is karma? Is God female? And other answers to questions about Hinduism.
by Sheetal Shah

1. Hinduism’s core principle is pluralism.

Hindus acknowledge the potential existence of multiple, legitimate religious and spiritual paths, and the idea that the path best suited for one person may not be the same for another. The Rig Veda, one of Hinduism’s sacred texts, statesEkam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti, or “The Truth is one, the wise call It by many names.”
As a result of this pluralistic outlook, Hinduism has never sanctioned proselytization and asserts that it is harmful to society’s well being to insist one’s own path to God is the only true way. Hindus consider the whole world as one extended family, and Hindu prayers often end with the repetition ofshanti – or peace for all of existence.

2. Caste-based discrimination is not intrinsic to Hinduism.

Caste-based discrimination and “untouchability” are purely social evils not accepted or recognized anywhere in the Hindu scriptural tradition. The word “caste” is derived from the Portuguese “casta” — meaning lineage, breed, or race. As such, there is no exact equivalent for “caste” in Indian society, but what exists is the dual concept of varna and jāti.
Sacred texts describe varna not as four rigid, societal classes, but as a metaphysical framework detailing four distinctive qualities which are manifest, in varying degrees, in all individuals. Jāti refers to the occupation-based, social units with which people actually identified.
There are four varnas and countless jātis. In theory, the numerous jātis loosely belonged to one of the four varnas, but were not limited to the traditional profession of the varna in ancient India. Over time, however, varna and jati became conflated and birth-based.
The four varnas — and the most common professions belonging to each — were:
  • teachers, scholars, physicians, judges, and priests (brahmanas)
  • kings, soldiers, administrators, city planners (kshatriyas)
  • businessmen, traders, bankers, agricultural, and dairy farmers (vaishyas)
  • laborers, artisans, blacksmiths, and farmers (including wealthy landowners) (sudras)
A subsequent fifth category, now known as the “untouchables,” emerged more than 2,000 years after the Rig Veda (the first Veda) to categorize those jātis which, for various reasons, did not fit into the four-fold varna structure.
Many of these jātis performed tasks considered ritually impure, physically defiling, or involving violence, such as preparing and eating animal products. However, no sacred text or book of social law ever prescribes this fifth category. Rather, Hindu scripture emphasizes equality of all mankind.
Ajyesthaso akanishthaso ete sambhrataro vahaduhu saubhagaya
No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to prosperity.
The term “caste” in modern India is primarily understood to mean jāti rather than varna and is a feature across all religious communities. Discrimination on the basis of caste is also outlawed. Generally, neither varna nor jāti have bearing on one’s occupation in modern India, but may still influence lifestyle, certain socio-cultural practices, and marriage.

3. Karma is more than just “what goes around comes around.”

Karma is the universal law of cause and effect: each action and thought has a reaction, and this cycle is endless until one is able to perform virtuous action without expecting rewards.
The Bhagavad Gita, III.19 and III.20 expounds on this:
Tasmad asakta satatamKaryam karma samacaraAsakto hy acaran karmaParam apnoti purusahLokasampraham eva’piSampasyan kartum arhasi
Therefore, without attachment
Perform always the work that has to be done
For man attains to the highest
By doing work without attachment
Likewise you should perform with a view to guide others
And for the sake of benefiting the welfare of the world
Belief in karma goes hand in hand with belief in reincarnation, where the immortal soul, on its path of spiritual evolution, takes birth in various physical bodies through the cycle of life and death. Though karma can be immediate, it often spans over lifetimes and is one explanation to the commonly asked question, “Why do bad things happen good people?” or visa versa.

4. Hindus recognize and worship the feminine Divine.

Hinduism is the only major religion that worships God in female form. Hindus revere God’s energy, or Shakti, through its personification in a Goddess. Shakti is seen to be complementary and not in competition with divine masculine powers which manifest as God(s).
The Vedas are replete with hymns extolling the equality and complementary roles of men and women in the spiritual, social, and educational realms. Hinduism remains one of a few major religions in which women have occupied and continue to occupy some of the most respected positions in the spiritual leadership — including Sharda Devi, The Mother, Anandamayi, Amritanandmayi Devi or Ammachi, Shree Maa, Anandi Ma, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda and Ma Yoga Shakti.
Hindu society has, over the ages and in modern times, seen tremendous contributions made by women in nearly every aspect of life.

5. Hindu iconography is replete with symbolism.

Just as we see the endless sky and oceans as blue, we are reminded of the Divine’s infiniteness through the blue-toned depiction of some Hindu Gods. Because Hinduism teaches that all of nature is Divine, Hindus believe that God manifests in the various forms that are found in nature.
For example, the ever-popular Ganesha is depicted with an elephant head, symbolizing wisdom, as elephants are recognized to be among the wisest of animals. Hanuman, worshipped as the perfect devotee and depicted as a monkey, symbolizes the individual’s ability to quiet the ever-racing human mind through loving devotion to God and selfless service, or seva.

6. Hinduism is actually a family of six major schools of thoughts, one of which is Yoga.

Over the ages, various schools of theology developed in Hinduism through a dynamic tradition of philosophical inquiry and debate. Six schools of thought, or darshanas, are recognized as the most influential:
  • Vaisheshika: considered one of the most ancient atomic theories founded by Sage Kanada. Sage Kanada held that all matter is made up of atoms and these atoms are activated through Divine intervention. Vaisheshika and Nyaya eventually merged.
  • Nyaya: a system of logic proving the existence of the Divine as well as other core Hindu concepts such as karma. Nyaya insists that nothing is acceptable unless it is in accordance with reason and experience. The thoroughness of Nyaya logic and epistemology greatly influenced succeeding orthodox and unorthodox schools of thought.
  • Sankhya: considered one of the oldest schools of thought. Sankhya divides all of existence into two categories — Purusha(divine consciousness) and prakriti (matter). Very little Sankhya literature survives today, and there is some controversy over whether or not the system is dualistic because it propounds the existence of these two categories.
  • Mimamsa or Purva Mimamsa: interprets the rules of Vedic ritual, proffering perfection in ritual as a path towards moksha.
  • Yoga: more aptly Raja Yoga focuses on quieting the mind through an eight-limb system (Ashtanga yoga) as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for a balanced life and ultimatelymoksha.
  • Vedanta: arguably the most influential on modern Hinduism, this theology relies primarily on transcending one’s identification with the physical body for liberation. The means by which an individual can transcend one’s self-identity is through right knowledge, meditation, devotion, selfless service, good works, and other religious and spiritual disciplines. Major sub-schools of Vedanta include Advaita,Dvaita, and Visishtaadvaita.

7. Hindus believe the Divine resides in all beings.

By accepting the divinity in all beings and all of nature, Hinduism views the universe as a family or, in Sanskrit,vasudhaiva kutumbakam. All beings, from the smallest organism to man, are considered manifestations of God.
Mankind carries a special responsibility, as it is believed to be the most spiritually evolved with the capacity to not only tolerate, but honor the underlying equality and unity of all beings. In line with this idea is the commonly heard Hindu greeting of Namaste, which means “The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you.”

8. Hindus worship God, or Brahman, in various forms.

Most Hindus believe in one, all-pervasive Divine Reality that is formless (Brahman) or manifests and is worshiped in different forms (Ishvara or God/Goddess). A Hindu may choose to worship God in the form(s) of Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, or any form that personally speaks to her.
Hindus will freely worship multiple forms of God and participate in the many religious festivals throughout the year that honor the different forms of the Divine (i.e. Shivaratri pays homage to Shiva, Janmashtami pays homage to Krishna, etc).
The reason Hinduism depicts God with form is based on an acknowledgement that the average human mind finds it near impossible to mediate upon or develop a personal relationship with a Divine that is formless.

9. Hinduism is a global religion.

Though the majority of the world’s Hindus reside in India, there are substantial Hindu populations across the globe. Hindus form sizeable minorities in North America, the UK, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Fiji, and Malaysia.
In the recent past, sizeable Hindu populations existed in Bhutan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but those have diminished considerably due to human rights violations and lack of religious freedom.

10. Hinduism and Sanatana Dharma are synonymous.

The term Sanatana Dharma, loosely translated as “Eternal Law or Way,” is self-referential. The term “Hindu,” however, is a twelfth-century Persian abstraction referring to the Indic civilization they found espousing certain beliefs, practices, and a way of life on the banks of the Indus (therefore Hindu) river.
Over the centuries, the diverse followers of Sanatana Dharmahave adopted the references of Hindus and Hinduism. Other terms used to refer to Hinduism include Vedic, Sanskritic,YogicIndic, and Ancient Indian.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Sheetal Shah serves as Senior Director of the Hindu American Foundation, where she focuses on developing its public policy strategy. She practices Ashtanga yoga at Ashtanga Yoga New York and serves on the Board of the Broome Street Ganesha Temple. We asked her to list 10 things she wishes people knew about Hinduism. Ms. Suhag Shukla contributed to the article.
Sheetal Shah
Written by 
  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Celebrations of Easter, Mahavir Jayanti and Hanuman Jayanti

CELEBRATIONS | Easter, Mahavir Jayanthi, Hanuman Jayanti
 
Every human and every religious group celebrates some thing or the other in their own way, each one is different, but the essence is same; celebrations. Details in the links.
 
GOOD FRIDAY|  HAPPY EASTER | MUSLIM OBSERVANCE
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2013/03/what-made-me-go-to-catholic-church.html

MAHAVIR JAYANTHI - BIRTH CELEBRATIONS OF  MAHAVIR, FOUNDER OF JAINISM
http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2012/04/mahavir-jayanthi-birthday-celebrations.html

HANUMAN JAYANTI - CELEBRATION OF LORD HANUMAN, HINDU ICON
http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/04/happy-hanuman-jayanthi-hindu-festival.html
 



Thank you

Mike Ghouse, President
America Together Foundation
(214) 325-1916 text/talk

...............................................................................................................................

Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism, Islam, India, Israel-Palestine, Politics and other issues of the day. He is a human rights activist, and his book standing up for others will be out soon | He is producing a full feature film " Sacred" to be released on 9/11 and a documentary "Americans together" for a July 4 release.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com - Mike is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Observing Passover as the Last Jew in Pakistan

I am a 27-year-old Jew living in Pakistan.
It's a statement that has elicited shock, warnings, threats and intense curiosity ever since I moved from Morocco to Karachi, the country's largest city in the homeland of my parents.
That Pakistan isn't friendly toward Jews won't surprise anyone. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment is rampant. I'm the only openly Jewish person here that I know. I'm sure there must be others in hiding, passing as Zoroastrian, Muslims and other faiths. They're on my mind as we enter Passover, when we commemorate the ancient Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt.
"Pakistani Purim isn't possible but I'm glad I can do Pakistani Passover."
It was one of the thoughts I had to myself last June while leaving Jorf Lasfar, the port city where I worked in western Morocco, my home country for most of my life after my birth in Pakistan. I was traveling to Saudi Arabia to bid farewell to my coworkers at the headquarters of the construction company where I was a construction planning engineer. You see, drinking alcohol, a Jewish ritual obligation on Purim, is illegal for nearly everyone in Pakistan. Non-Muslims can obtain permits to purchase it at the rare luxury hotel or in the few government-certified liquor stores, but the legal hoops and potential harassment aren't worth the trouble. Yet, the foods of the Passover seder are much easier to find.
I'm Pakistani and Jewish, though my family had become estranged from the land because of its faith, while the faith itself -- a small but well-known historic community in Karachi -- long ago became a strange, dangerous thing itself in the land of my ancestors.
Flying over Karachi last year, looking at land my mother Sindh province, I couldn't help to say to myself "مونجو سندھ." In the Sindhi language, it means "My (lovely) Sindh."
I had returned.

One of the gravestones at Karachi's Jewish cemetery.
My city, Karachi, once had a thriving Jewish community of about 1,500 people. They were a mix, many of them being Bene Israel Jews who had migrated from Mumbai, India, where a Jewish community still exists today. Among Pakistan's Jews were my Persian Jewish maternal grandparents, who left the central Iranian city of Yazd to have a better life in Karachi during the British Raj. They stayed after the creation of an independent Islamic Pakistan 1947, with my maternal grandfather working as a merchant who bought bulk goods and resold them in the rural areas and smaller cities outside Karachi.
Around the same time, with the creation of a new Muslim state and an independent, mostly Hindu India bringing about one of the largest global mass migrations of Hindus and Muslims across their borders, the climate for Karachi's Jews grew worse. The small but well-established community had a synagogue, a Jewish graveyard, a Young Man's Jewish Association, the Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund, and the Karachi Jewish Syndicate charity. One by one, as families left, grew old or went into hiding, the institutions ceased to exist.
My maternal grandparents assimilated by hiding their Jewishness because of increasing anti-Semitism and mob attacks, especially after the establishment of Israel -- Pakistan has never recognized it as a legitimate state -- and the Arab-Israeli wars that followed. The pre-partition Indus Valley pluralism of my Sindh changed for the good of the Muslim masses, bad for the non-Muslims and ugly for the Jews. When citizen registration started, my maternal grandparents registered their only child as a Muslim Pakistani girl.
My mom grew up secretly Jewish. She fell in love with and married my father, a secular-minded, non-observant Muslim man who loved and cherished her regardless of her religion. Living in Saudi Arabia with my father, who worked in construction, she moved to Pakistan to be near relatives who could help care for her child as she gave birth to me. This is how my Jewish soul got packaged into a Muslim Pakistani identity. We soon moved back to Saudi Arabia to be with my father, and I lived in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as we followed his projects. I was raised by Pakistanis in the Arab world, but whether or not I am a Muslim from Islamic point of view or Jewish under Jewish law, I have chosen Judaism.
After arriving in Karachi last year with part of my intention being to restore Karachi's decrepit old Jewish cemetery that was overgrown with vegetation, fear started to creep into my enthusiasm. I pushed myself to overcome it. I believe in the right to freedom of religion, and I went to the office of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority, commonly referred to as NADRA, to follow up on an unanswered request to change my registered religion from Muslim to Jewish. There, an official told me that, as per policy, changing my religion from Islam to any other faith would not be allowed. Only non-Muslims are allowed to change their registered religion -- to Islam -- he said.
When I asked why there was this double standard, he looked at me quietly for a few seconds and asked me, "Are you a Qadiani?" The derogatory word is frequently used to talk about Ahmadiyya Muslims. He repeated his bureaucratic statement and shooed me away. This is how my Pakistani ID says I am a Muslim named Faisal, my birth name. In my eyes, I'm Fishel the Jew.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Fishel Benkhald stood with a "Je Suis Charlie" sign at Do Talwar, a major landmark and traffic circle in Karachi.
I wish I could single handedly change things. I can't, but at least I can take baby steps. One is trying to clean and preserve the derelict old Jewish cemetery in Karachi. That's why my plan for the second Seder on Passover is to have it there and invite any two Sindh province residents, regardless of their religion and creed. (I'd invite more than two, but space and food is limited).
Dear Pakistanis, consider this an open invitation to join me for the Passover Seder in a country that sadly is forgetting its Jewish past.
There are other difficulties before that dinner happens. I need to find a bakery that can prepare matzo so I have unleavened bread, otherwise I'll have to just use regular crackers. There's plenty of radish or lettuce for the maror. For the charoset, I'll finely grate apples and peanuts because it goes well with taste of parsley used for karpas. The beitzah, or boiled egg, reminds me of something my mom used to say: "When the world boils you, you become harder, keeping firm on your true path." It's easy to find lamb shankbone for the beitzah (Halal, of course). For reasons I mentioned already, I'll use grape juice instead of wine.
I hope that by observing Passover and persistently lighting Shabbat candles, I can shed some light on Pakistan's tolerant and welcoming past and ignite hope for its future.
Maybe, one Passover in the distant future, the Jews of Pakistan will be free.

Observing Passover as the Last Jew in Pakistan

Hey Fishel, I am with you in spirit of Passover and there a millions like me, they just need to speak up. Happy Passover!  Here is my annual write up: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2015/03/festivals-of-world-passover-jewish.html

Shame on the self appointed guardians of religions, all of them. Religion is about bringing sanity to an insane world, that very same religion is used to promote insanity, hatred and prejudices.  We have to get the silent majority worked up with passion to speak out for a peaceful world, where every human's space is respected, sustenance is guarded and nurturence is defended.

People have to take this up, at least let the books be right. 


 
Thank you.

Mike Ghouse, President
Foundation for Pluralism | Pluralism Center
Studies in Pluralism in Public Space, Work Place, Religion, Politics, Culture and Society.
 www.FoundationforPluralism.com | http://FoundationforPluralism.blogspot.com |

# # #  


CEMETERY
Observing Passover as the Last Jew in Pakistan

Courtesy Huffington post
I am a 27-year-old Jew living in Pakistan.
It's a statement that has elicited shock, warnings, threats and intense curiosity ever since I moved from Morocco to Karachi, the country's largest city in the homeland of my parents.
I understand the questions. I've faced them all myself leading up my decision to make my home here.
That Pakistan isn't friendly toward Jews won't surprise anyone. Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment is rampant. I'm the only openly Jewish person here that I know. I'm sure there must be others in hiding, passing as Zoroastrian, Muslims and other faiths. They're on my mind as we enter Passover, when we commemorate the ancient Israelites' freedom from slavery in Egypt.
"Pakistani Purim isn't possible but I'm glad I can do Pakistani Passover."
It was one of the thoughts I had to myself last June while leaving Jorf Lasfar, the port city where I worked in western Morocco, my home country for most of my life after my birth in Pakistan. I was traveling to Saudi Arabia to bid farewell to my coworkers at the headquarters of the construction company where I was a construction planning engineer. You see, drinking alcohol, a Jewish ritual obligation on Purim, is illegal for nearly everyone in Pakistan. Non-Muslims can obtain permits to purchase it at the rare luxury hotel or in the few government-certified liquor stores, but the legal hoops and potential harassment aren't worth the trouble. Yet, the foods of the Passover seder are much easier to find.
I'm Pakistani and Jewish, though my family had become estranged from the land because of its faith, while the faith itself -- a small but well-known historic community in Karachi -- long ago became a strange, dangerous thing itself in the land of my ancestors.
Flying over Karachi last year, looking at land my mother Sindh province, I couldn't help to say to myself "مونجو سندھ." In the Sindhi language, it means "My (lovely) Sindh."
I had returned.

One of the gravestones at Karachi's Jewish cemetery.
My city, Karachi, once had a thriving Jewish community of about 1,500 people. They were a mix, many of them being Bene Israel Jews who had migrated from Mumbai, India, where a Jewish community still exists today. Among Pakistan's Jews were my Persian Jewish maternal grandparents, who left the central Iranian city of Yazd to have a better life in Karachi during the British Raj. They stayed after the creation of an independent Islamic Pakistan 1947, with my maternal grandfather working as a merchant who bought bulk goods and resold them in the rural areas and smaller cities outside Karachi.
Around the same time, with the creation of a new Muslim state and an independent, mostly Hindu India bringing about one of the largest global mass migrations of Hindus and Muslims across their borders, the climate for Karachi's Jews grew worse. The small but well-established community had a synagogue, a Jewish graveyard, a Young Man's Jewish Association, the Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund, and the Karachi Jewish Syndicate charity. One by one, as families left, grew old or went into hiding, the institutions ceased to exist.
My maternal grandparents assimilated by hiding their Jewishness because of increasing anti-Semitism and mob attacks, especially after the establishment of Israel -- Pakistan has never recognized it as a legitimate state -- and the Arab-Israeli wars that followed. The pre-partition Indus Valley pluralism of my Sindh changed for the good of the Muslim masses, bad for the non-Muslims and ugly for the Jews. When citizen registration started, my maternal grandparents registered their only child as a Muslim Pakistani girl.
My mom grew up secretly Jewish. She fell in love with and married my father, a secular-minded, non-observant Muslim man who loved and cherished her regardless of her religion. Living in Saudi Arabia with my father, who worked in construction, she moved to Pakistan to be near relatives who could help care for her child as she gave birth to me. This is how my Jewish soul got packaged into a Muslim Pakistani identity. We soon moved back to Saudi Arabia to be with my father, and I lived in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as we followed his projects. I was raised by Pakistanis in the Arab world, but whether or not I am a Muslim from Islamic point of view or Jewish under Jewish law, I have chosen Judaism.
After arriving in Karachi last year with part of my intention being to restore Karachi's decrepit old Jewish cemetery that was overgrown with vegetation, fear started to creep into my enthusiasm. I pushed myself to overcome it. I believe in the right to freedom of religion, and I went to the office of Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority, commonly referred to as NADRA, to follow up on an unanswered request to change my registered religion from Muslim to Jewish. There, an official told me that, as per policy, changing my religion from Islam to any other faith would not be allowed. Only non-Muslims are allowed to change their registered religion -- to Islam -- he said.
When I asked why there was this double standard, he looked at me quietly for a few seconds and asked me, "Are you a Qadiani?" The derogatory word is frequently used to talk about Ahmadiyya Muslims. He repeated his bureaucratic statement and shooed me away. This is how my Pakistani ID says I am a Muslim named Faisal, my birth name. In my eyes, I'm Fishel the Jew.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Fishel Benkhald stood with a "Je Suis Charlie" sign at Do Talwar, a major landmark and traffic circle in Karachi.
I wish I could single handedly change things. I can't, but at least I can take baby steps. One is trying to clean and preserve the derelict old Jewish cemetery in Karachi. That's why my plan for the second Seder on Passover is to have it there and invite any two Sindh province residents, regardless of their religion and creed. (I'd invite more than two, but space and food is limited).
Dear Pakistanis, consider this an open invitation to join me for the Passover Seder in a country that sadly is forgetting its Jewish past.
There are other difficulties before that dinner happens. I need to find a bakery that can prepare matzo so I have unleavened bread, otherwise I'll have to just use regular crackers. There's plenty of radish or lettuce for the maror. For the charoset, I'll finely grate apples and peanuts because it goes well with taste of parsley used for karpas. The beitzah, or boiled egg, reminds me of something my mom used to say: "When the world boils you, you become harder, keeping firm on your true path." It's easy to find lamb shankbone for the beitzah (Halal, of course). For reasons I mentioned already, I'll use grape juice instead of wine.
I hope that by observing Passover and persistently lighting Shabbat candles, I can shed some light on Pakistan's tolerant and welcoming past and ignite hope for its future.
Maybe, one Passover in the distant future, the Jews of Pakistan will be free.