WHAT IS THE VALUE OF LIFE?

WHAT IS THE VALUE OF LIFE?

What is the value of life? People do not often consider this question, because they take life for granted. We say that life has no price and it is beyond value, since no one can place a value on life. Religious people will say that life is a gift from God and is, thus, the greatest gift to anyone. But we all know that life is dear to every living creature. Every human wishes to preserve his life at any cost. Just so, every other living creature feels that its own life is very important, and needs to be preserved. The lowliest creature will try to avoid injury and to preserve its life. With life being so valuable, why do we pay so little attention to it and, so often, we relegate it to the back burners of our minds.

Observing the prevailing conditions in the world, we become aware of the fact that life is not always perceived as very valuable or “equal”. It is often said that before God we are all equal, but people change that around to say that among ourselves we are not all equal. This “inequality” is based on our human perceptions, which are often based on expediency and self interest. We can look at the value of life from various angles:

(1) Perspective. From an individual perspective life is most valuable and every person will try to preserve his life. He is motivated by a will to live – a very strong will, indeed. From this individual perspective others are not as important, for they represent the “non-self”. In any struggle to survive, the individual will put himself first, even if others would lose their lives. Perhaps, survival of the fittest is based on this individual perception, whether in man or animals. But in survival of the fittest, the fittest one does not pay attention to the value of life of the others.

Perhaps, we can take a spiritual perspective and see that life is the gift of God and very precious. As Dr. Albert Schwitzer would say: “Have reverence for life.” When life is seen from a spiritual perspective, we wish to save the lives of other people, for we see them all as children of God. Thus there are many self-sacrificing people, who are working very hard to save other people from their suffering. The saints of the world have been able to see life from this spiritual perspective, and accept all life as of the greatest value, and of equal importance in the cosmic order of things. Saints strive very hard to teach people the value of life and how to make life more meaningful and rewarding.

(2) Competitiveness. Competitiveness is widespread among people and animals. Competitiveness can be based on individuals or groups. An individual competes in as many ways as he finds it possible, in order to preserve himself. In sports one team strives for success by defeating another team. In warfare soldiers on one side think of their lives as very valuable and will sacrifice the lives of the opposing soldiers. This sort of competitiveness can also be based on greed, for acquiring things at the expense of others. Competitiveness also occurs when there are large populations, often with scarce resources. People will compete in order to stay alive, and to protect themselves and their families, at the expense of other people and their families. The struggle for survival results in competitiveness.

(3) Mental aberrations. People with aberrant mentality often value themselves and de-value the lives of others. A tyrant will rule oppressively often sacrificing the lives of those who oppose him, or do not support his tyranny. There have been tyrants throughout history, and even currently in the world, who slaughter other people, in order to further their own ends. Such people, obsessed with gaining power, are called megalomaniacs.

(4) Psychopath. The Psychopath will hurt or kill others without feeling any remorse or guilt. Yet he, himself, feels his own life to be very valuable. Perhaps, we can think of these people as murderers, rapists, child-molesters, etc.

(5) Criminals. Criminals do not value the life of others as they do their own. They can thus commit murders, undertake illegal drug manufacture and sale at the expense of causing addictions and death of others. They murder others whom they feel will get them into trouble, or threaten their profits and drug turf. Criminals do not have respect for the rights and property of others.

(6) Depression. Depression is another factor which de-values life. The depressed person will often contemplate or commit suicide without much thought to the value of his life. He feels that life is not worth living.

(7) Helplessness. When people perceive themselves as helpless, then life does not hold much value. Take, for example, droughts, poverty and famine. People are dying by the thousands everyday. Parents, helplessly, watch their children die. While the helpless people suffer and die, the armies and gun bearers hijack food convoys trying to help the starving people. They value themselves greater than the poor helpless people, and thus take the food for themselves, or sell it on the black market for profit. Often the value of life is determined by the relative strength of powers. One power, or army, or person that is more powerful, values itself more than its weaker counterpart. Similarly, the weak person or power will begin to de-value itself, because of a feeling of helplessness against a greater power.

Life is an immeasurable attribute or gift endowed with consciousness, intelligence, mind, emotions, senses, imaginations, will and judgment. All of these are intrinsic to life and are immeasurable. All have the same source, which is God, or the Supreme Being. Life itself is, thus, very valuable to all living beings. The only difference occurs in the degree of evolution of consciousness in various beings. If we are to live in harmony with nature, then we need to value all life, and to have reverence for all life.

Dr. Jagessar Das

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Stress Management

Stress Management

(Lecture delivered at the Vancouver Meditation Society, April 20, 1990)

When the mind is in equilibrium it is at peace. Our mind is absolutely still. Our body is fully relaxed, our thought is controlled, but we are fully conscious. Does one experience stress in such a state? What is stress and how do we manage it?

Stress is of two kinds. We have positive stress and negative stress. We need positive stress in life in order to do anything. What stress means is a disturbance of the equilibrium. If a car is going straight and you do not do anything to it, it will just go straight. But if you want the car to turn or stop, you have to do something to it. It is similar with stress. It has to be positive in order for us to do anything useful, because positive stress does not give us distress. That means that we are using our abilities, our mind, and our bodies to achieve something that is good for us. That kind of stress is good. You have to get up in the morning to go and work, therefore it is something useful. You get an income. But negative stress is what we want to avoid.

How do we avoid a negative stress? First of all we must realize that stress is due to the fact that things are not going exactly the way we would like. If we owe the bank money, and do not have enough income to repay the loan, then we suffer distress. We worry, lose sleep, lose appetite and become depressed. You can add a hundred stresses like that – your children are misbehaving, you or family members are sick, a friend dies, or someone takes you to court. Thing happen, so stress is always there. How do you avoid stress?

To avoid stress it is best not to develop stress in the first place. But how do you do that? You accept the fact that whatever is happening in your life is “proper” for you at that time. All the saints have taught that. According to the Law of Karma, whatever is happening to you is just. There is a saying, “Man proposes but God disposes.” You can make plans, but if they do not fit in with the Divine Law, then they may not work out for you, and you develop stress. It is because you have not developed the understanding, that whatever is happening in the course of natural law is normal and proper for you. It is said that, jaise karni, waise bharni (as you sow, so also you will reap). Why are these teachings given to us? It is for reducing stress because we must, first and foremost, realize that we are Atma. We are soul. Soul has no distress. Soul is absolutely pure. The quality of the soul is spoken of as sat-chit-anand (existence, consciousness and bliss). When bliss is within, how can you have distress?

We have distress because we do not accept that we are the soul, and think we are the body and its adjuncts. But we are Divine beings, the source of bliss. Then whatever else happens is due to the interplay of our actions, mind, emotions and feelings. But you can say that because we are human beings, we have to use the body, mind, emotions, and feelings. We have likes and dislikes. That is true. But how do you avoid stress if you say, “I am only human.” You have to think of it in this way, “I will develop positive emotions such as ‘I will love. I will be charitable. I will be kind. I will be humble. I will avoid the negative emotions of lust, anger, attachment, greed and egoism (kam, krodh, lobh, moha and ahankar.)” These are the five big obstacles to peace. These are the things we do not want because they create problems for us. We get attached to some person and, if that person dies, we go into mourning. You know that some people cannot get over that loss. They get depressed. All these things happen because of attachment called asakti. Deha asakti is attachment to the physical body. It dies. The one that you loved dearly will not come and embrace your dead body. People do not want family members to die at home. They die in the hospital or nursing home. Death comes to everyone, yet it is a source distress.

Because we have ego, we feel hurt when someone insults us. We need to get rid of the ego. Do you know why that ego is the biggest stumbling block in spiritual life? God is the source of everything, including us. What we are seeing is delusion, or Maya. It is God’s “projection” to make manifest this universe. But when we have ego, we are unconsciously separating ourselves from God. We are assuming a separate identity from God, and that is wrong. It’s called avidya (ignorance). We must accept that God dwells within, and is the source of bliss, happiness, health, strength, and wisdom. When you have all of these qualities within, then you do not accept distress in your life. Whatever comes, you are prepared to accept, and you “thank” God for the suffering. One of the great Sikh Gurus, when he was being tortured on a hot iron by Emperor Jahangir, said, “tere kiye, mitha lage” (O God, what is your will is pleasant to me.) We may not have the same fortitude, but we need to think along that line. We must always have that attitude that God is the source of bliss and happiness, and that God dwells within us as the soul.

You have to go above the mind to reach the soul, and that is what we do in meditation. You rise above the mind, intellect, ego and feelings and be neutral. In that neutral state you are attached only to God. God is “Neutrality.” God does not have favourites, gender, or religious partiality. That is why people of all religions, cultures and creeds can pray to the same God, and they all think that God is listening to them in their language. But if you look at it from an overall point of view, that same God is God everywhere. We must try to understand this, also that God’s peace is within, and we must not give way to anxieties, depressions, and worries. The very fact that the soul is within means that we have the strength to accept and endure adversities. We do not have to reduce distress from one hundred percent to fifty or twenty-five percent. We can reduce it to nearly zero by not developing stress in the first place.

 

We allow stress to stress us. For example, if someone insults us, we have a choice. Do we react to it? Do we feel vengeful and fight back? Or do we withdraw and feel depressed? Or do we ignore it? Whatever somebody calls us does not change us. It only reveals that person’s attitude and feelings. “Judge not that ye be not judged.” What does Jesus mean by that? When you judge somebody you are judging yourself. If I stay quiet and you call me a hundred names, who is being judged? I am still the same person, the same name, same weight, same height, same soul, same everything, but you are revealing your mind.

These are only a few examples I have given to help us understand why we must not develop stress, because stress is not the nature of our inner being. We allow stress to build up because of avidya (ignorance) of our true nature, our power and ability. That power is given to us by God residing in us. When we practice meditation, we attune ourselves to the Divine Being. When we are attuned to the Divine Being, there is no more stress in life. We obtain bliss.

 

Dr. Jagessar Das

dasj.kabir@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/JagessarDas

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KNOW YOUR FEELINGS

KNOW YOUR FEELINGS

You have feelings. I have feelings. All people have feelings. I think that all people know what feelings are. People can feel happy, fearful, apathetic, depressed, hurt, love, rejection and many other types of feelings. Feelings may be very superficial or short lived, or may be life long and deep rooted in the personality. Feelings are important when we have to intermingle with other people. With feelings, we express certain states of mind by which we communicate what we feel with other people. Other people will then react to our feelings, and develop feelings of their own. Feelings can sometimes be compatible and rewarding, such as mutual feelings of love and respect, feelings of empathy and compassion, feelings of mutual joy in sharing certain common experiences. Feelings can also be aggravating, or cause suffering. A depressed feeling in one may induce the same in another person, so that both would feel depressed. Anger can be contagious, as can hate and pride. These take their toll on individuals and interpersonal relationships. Yet, feelings are very important if we are to express ourselves as human beings.

Our human experience tells us that some feelings are beneficial or welcomed, whereas others are not beneficial, but are positively detrimental, and are not welcome. We like to develop the positive feelings of love, happiness, satisfaction etc. We do not like to develop feelings of hurt, rejection, loneliness and depression. We like to be with people who will help to create positive feelings in us, and avoid people who will arouse negative feelings. It is for this reason that some people become very popular, because they make other people feel happy. Other people become unpopular because they make other people sad, depressed or angry. The basic nature of all of us is such, that we do need the positive feelings, and we want to avoid the negative feelings. Why then are there so many negative feelings engendered either by ourselves, or by other people with whom we come in contact. Why do some people create negative feelings for others? Sometimes this is done unknowingly and sometimes knowingly.

In order to create good feelings in others, it is important for us to have good feelings in our own selves. We cannot have hate or disgust in our hearts, and expect to cheer up other people. We cannot have malice or disrespect and say bad things about people, and expect to make them happy. Sometimes we say things that we do not really intend to say, and we end up hurting other people. We then have to apologize, and explain that we did not really mean what we said. This is truly not a good situation in which to be. How can we avoid such occurrences?

There is a saying that if you cannot say something good about someone, then don’t say it.” Similarly, if you cannot feel something good towards others, then don’t feel it. That means to keep your mind and heart clean of all negative feelings towards other people. It is important to avoid passing judgments on other people, and, at all cost, to avoid gossiping. Never belittle anyone, or say unkind things about them. Recently, I listened to a self-improvement lecture on the television. The speaker said: “Always have respect for those who are absent.” This really means that we can never say anything bad about anybody who is not really with us. And when they are with us, we do not want to say anything bad about them anyway. One of the best ways to avoid hurting the feelings of the people is to realize that we are not ourselves perfect. When an imperfect person tries to judge, or say things about another person, what is said may also be imperfect. If we realize our own imperfection, in the human sense, then we must accept that other people may also have imperfections. We are all really in the same boat. This is why it is taught that we must not judge other people. The golden rule also states that we should not do onto others what we would not have them do onto us. Stated positively, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Realize that God dwells in the hearts of all people. To say something that hurts the feelings of others is to make that divine part of you stained with negative attributes. At the same time, you are pouring negative feelings into another being who has divinity within him. If you truly understand this, which is a basic spiritual teaching, then you will cease hurting the feelings of other people. The rewards will be great for you, and for others, in terms of having purity in the heart manifesting as purity in thought, word and deed. Once this purity is experienced, a great burden of all the negativities, hostilities, rejections, depressions etc., will be removed. Your life will become sublime. Contemplate what Satguru Kabir said, “I went searching for evil people, but I could not find any. When I searched my own heart, I found that no one was as evil as me.”

Dr. Jagessar Das

www.kabir.ca

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TRAPPED IN THE WEB OF LIFE?

TRAPPED IN THE WEB OF LIFE?                        

No one has freedom! We are all caught in the web. This web has no ropes, is invisible, yet it binds powerfully. This web is ubiquitous. It snares has whole world. Actually, most people are happy to be caught in this web, but there are others who would like to extricate themselves from this powerful web.

You may ask, “What is this web?” Think about your life for a moment. You’ll quickly note that you are bound by desires and longings, by passions of anger, hate, jealousy and so forth. You are bound by attachment to fame, family, religion, work, belief systems, habits and personality traits, desires of innumerable types, and various obligations that need your attention. These are only a few of the invisible ropes that bind you in this web. Without mindfulness and introspection, a person is not consciously aware of the web in which he is entangled. Not being fully aware, he does not even know that he’s caught in a web and therefore ought to seek freedom.

But you contend that this is life, and there’s no need to seek freedom. We need to understand what freedom means in this context. It does not mean freedom that you are free to ignore your life’s responsibilities and be a vagabond. Nor does it mean you live in isolation, shunning contact with other people. It also does not mean not to have love in your heart for others. This freedom is one of detachment, one of freedom from the effects of Karmas, one of being fully engaged with your own consciousness as it relates to universal consciousness. This freedom means that you recognize that you are spirit or soul, connected with the universal spirit we call God. Be aware that God is “absolute freedom,” and the spirit that we are partakes of that freedom. God is Spirit, and we as spirit cannot be separated. God’s omnipresence ensures that He is with us, and in us as the life force and consciousness animating all of us.

At this point I would like to quote two of Kabir Saheb’s sakhis that have relevance in this essay:

“When I was born everyone was happy while I cried.

Let me live such a life that I approach death happily, while others cry.”

“People are dying all the time, but they do not know the secret of dying.

Kabir says, “Die in such a way that you do not have to die again.”

 

You may say this is a horrible topic, talking about death. We all have to die so it is not a horrible topic at all! Why else are we talking of Freedom? And all religions are talking of Freedom, Salvation, Nirvana, Moksha, Satori and other terms. Some religions teach of going to Heaven or to Paradise. Can we really go to these “places” if we are trapped in a web? Let’s expand on these two sakhis:

These two popular sakhis of Kabir Saheb are teaching about karma. In the first one he is pointing out what all of us know. But he wants to teach us that we must have freedom before death. This means that all of our karmas are abolished. We have purified our thoughts, words and actions so that there are no karmic effects remaining. It is the state of
moksha. Kabir Saheb taught that moksha must be obtained while living, while we have our faculties with us. If we had not obtained moksha while living, then we will not obtain it after death. We would have to be reborn in order to work out our karmas. Only then can we die in freedom. So we depart “laughing” while others cry at our death.

In the second sakhi Kabir Saheb teaches us that people are dying all the time but they do not “know” the secret of dying. We ought to die in such a way that we do not have to die again. This also means to obtain moksha, so we do not have to be born again and die again.

Inevitably, we have to work out our past karmas. Kabir Saheb explained what we have to do in the Brahm Nirupan (my publication), such as Dhyan Yoga (Yoga of Meditation), attributes to cultivate, remembrance of the Name, and actions that are forbidden, among others. By practicing these, and following the guru’s instructions, we will work out our karmas and obtain moksha. Our awagavan (cycles of birth and death) will come to an end, and we will enjoy bliss, a state “that passeth all understanding” and also described as Sat Chit Ananda (Existence, Consciousness, Bliss.)

While observing the above, we need to keep in mind that we are doing everything in God’s name for our welfare and that of our family and society, and to do everything with humility, love and cheerfulness.

May Kabir Saheb’s blessing be with everyone!

 

Dr. Jagessar Das

 

 

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VEGETARIANISM, HEALTH AND SPIRITUALITY

 

VEGETARIANISM, HEALTH AND SPIRITUALITY

 

(A Continuing Discussion)

 

Amrita: “From what you have been saying, Deviji, it makes health and ecological sense to be a vegetarian. But the majority of the world’s people do not think about these things. Actually, many people think that animals were made as food for us. To me, it appears contradictory that people follow religions, and then kill living beings for food. Perhaps you can discuss this matter further.”

 

Deviji: “I am glad that you have raised this question, Amrita. The fact is that most people do not follow their religious teachings in diet as in other things, such as rituals, creeds and observances. Lord Buddha, after whom Buddhism was formed, never taught people to eat meat. He is called the Compassionate Buddha. When he was fed meat on one occasion, he became quite ill. But a large number of the Buddhists are meat eaters, and there are 376 million Buddhists in the world. Similarly, the Christian Bible teaches not to kill, as one of its commandments. And there are about 2.4 billion Christians in the world. In the Bible, in the first book of Moses, called Genesis, Chapter 1, Verse 29 states: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” The Bible also relates the story of Daniel when he proved to King Nebuchadnezar that a vegetarian diet was superior to the meat diet that the King served at his court. Daniel asked the King to be allowed to remain a vegetarian, and in a few days his wisdom surpassed those of his meat-eating colleagues. He was able to interpret the King’s dreams by his insight. The others could not. He was also much healthier in body and mind.

 

There are approximately 1.15 billion Hindus in the world, and their scripture teaches them to practice ahimsa (non-violence). Unfortunately, many Hindus are also not vegetarians. However, on an average, more people in India are vegetarians than in most other countries. There are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Allah is said to be the Merciful. It is difficult to conceive that a Merciful Allah will instruct his followers to be violent towards innocent creatures. As you can see, girls, there are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world, and most of them are instructed through their scriptures not to kill. This clearly shows that most people are supposed to be vegetarians. Being vegetarians will fulfill their religious obligations much better than being meat eaters.”

 

Rachna: “It is truly amazing and quite interesting, Deviji, when you explain vegetarianism in the light of religious teachings. It appears that the natural and proper diet for human beings is the vegetarian diet. I wonder if people will ever pay much attention to this aspect of spiritual life!”

 

Deviji: “It is very interesting to speculate what people in the world will do. Religions have been around for thousands of years and, so far, people have not really lived up to the true spiritual teachings. There are a few people who pay attention to religion, and try to live up to its principles. But the majority, unfortunately, do not make much effort to pursue a true spiritual life. As the world population increases, and violence in the world increases, and as land becomes scarce, people may gradually realize that it makes a great deal of sense to live as vegetarians. Violence begets violence. Violence against innocent creatures results in violence among people. Every action has a reaction. The action towards killing any creature cannot go without producing a reaction. Unfortunately, the reaction has to be endured by human beings.”

 

Amrita: “Perhaps, another way to look at this issue of diet is to compare all animal meat with human flesh. Animal meat is not really different from human meat. They both consist of muscles, nerves, blood vessels and blood, lymphatic vessels and connective tissue. People will not think of eating human flesh, and since animal flesh is so much like human flesh, I would think that people should abstain from eating them.”

 

[The religious populations are for 2012 from Wikipedia]

 

Dr. Jagessar Das

 

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RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES #1

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES #1

 

People all over the world, belonging to different religions and different cultures, practice certain rites and ceremonies, and hold certain beliefs that are not logical, and which serve to hinder their spiritual progress. Many times a whole religious system will become a victim of such practices and beliefs. Sometimes the ones in “religious” authority teach and perpetrate these beliefs and practices. In religious life, as in any other walk of life, people must practice that which makes sense, and which is conducive to their material and spiritual welfare. But many people believe and practice what have been handed down to them, without examining the value of those beliefs and practices. As human beings, endowed with the faculty of “Vivek” or rationality, especially in spiritual matters, we should try to believe and practice those things that make universal sense. This will be possible only if we examine our beliefs and practices with an open mind, and be willing to make changes, rather than to adhere to certain things that serve to keep us in spiritual bondage.

 

Take for example the offering of gifts to departed ancestors practiced in many cultures. These gifts take the form of food, clothing, flowers, incense or other materials as ordained by certain religious precepts. The major religions teach that the soul is Eternal. They also teach that people will reap what they have sown. According to the Law of Karma, people need not reap in this life time all of what they have sown in this current lifetime. They can also reap them in another lifetime, and actions performed in previous life times can be reaped in this lifetime. This holds true because the soul is Eternal and will keep on changing bodies until it attains perfection in union with God. Now, after a soul departs from its discarded body, it must take on another body in order to reap what it had sown. The soul in “limbo” cannot accept anything. It must have a body before it can accept anything. Otherwise it will be like expecting electricity to do some work when it does not have anything through which to work, such as a television set or any other electrical device.

 

Let us speculate for a moment that the departed soul has been reborn and is now in the world somewhere. To whom is the devotional person making his offerings? Suppose that soul is born within his own family, or perhaps is his own child, and his child is beside him as he is making his offering to the departed soul. Suppose the person takes his child along to offer gifts to the departed not realizing that that departed soul has already taken birth and is going along with him to offer gifts to himself? The practice becomes meaningless and foolish. That is why Guru Kabir fought against such practices that lead to self-deception rather than self-illumination. In one of his sakhis he said, “Offering a handful of rice to his departed father, he makes a crow his father.” (The crow eats the handful of rice left outside for the father.)

 

Lets us take another example. Many people of all religions believe in holy shrines, temples, rivers, mountains, statues, etc. Many believe that visiting the holy shrines or bathing in the holy waters, or circumambulating holy temples, and praying to statues will remove their sins. They give magical powers to these various places. If bathing in the holy rivers, e.g. Ganges, can remove peoples’ sins then, after the bath, all these people should have perfect lives. But this is definitely not the case. If sprinkling holy water from any holy river can purify or heal anyone, then all his accumulated ‘karmas’ should be removed, and he should have perfection. But this also is not the case. The Law of Karma is exact and will operate in spite of all the holy pilgrimages and baths. The most holy shrine is the “temple” in one’s own heart. If one would visit that temple where God manifests as life and consciousness, then he may be able to attain freedom from sins. No shrine that exists outside of one’s self can have any greater power than that shrine that dwells within the Self. When you go to a holy shrine God goes along with you, because He is that living, conscious presence that animates you. Why then go into all the trouble to visit “holy places.” Why not go inside and “visit” with God directly? Think about it!

 

Dr. Jagessar Das

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SATGURU KABIR

SATGURU KABIR

Satguru Kabir is widely known as one of the foremost mystic saints of India. He taught that God dwells within you as the Soul, and the only place that you can find God is within yourself. He taught that nobody was ever able to find God by searching elsewhere. And he laid great emphasis on finding God within. He impartially said, “I, Kabir, stand in the public marketplace and I wish the welfare of all people; I am neither a friend of anyone nor am I an enemy of anyone.” When he was asked whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim, he said, “If I say that I am a Hindu, I am not; if I say that I am a Muslim again I am not. What am I? I am this body made of the five gross elements and the great mysterious power of God dwells in me.”

In India, at his time, there were great turmoil and misunderstandings within two major world religions – Hinduism and Islam – and he observed that each one fought in its own way to preserve its identity, and to uphold certain religious beliefs, traditions and rituals. He observed that the Hindu say that to him Lord Ram is very dear; and the Muslims say that it is Rahim, or Allah, but they fight and kill one another, and neither of them fathoms the mystery of God dwelling in the hearts of both of them. He told them both, “O my dear brothers, from where have you found two gods? Don’t you know that you worship the same God?” In his teachings he further stated, “You and I are of the same blood, and the same life force manifests in all of us. The same God produced all of us. By what type of cunning intellect have you separated yourselves?” He taught that all people, no matter to what race, culture or religion they belonged, ultimately worship the same God, and the same God is equally accessible to all people, regardless to their castes, creeds, traditions, and cultures.

I would like to quote a great scholar, Professor Charlotte Vaudeville, a French writer, who stated, “Kabir is one of the best known and most revered name in Indian tradition. From the Punjab to Bengal and from the Himalayan frontiers to South India, he has long been hailed by Hindus and Muslims alike as a great mystic and bold religious reformer. His name has travelled far and wide in the Indian sub-continent and, thanks to the admiration of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, he is not completely unknown even in the west today. In the literary field too, Kabir ranked very high. He is often hailed as the father of Hindi literature and even some times placed on par with the greatest Hindi poet Tulsidas, the author of the great epic – Ramayana. In Indian religious history Kabir is unique; to the Hindus he is Vaishnava Bhakta, to the Muslims a Pir, to the Sikhs, a bhagat, to the sectarian Kabir Panthis he is an avatar of the Supreme Being, to modern patriots, Kabir is a champion of Hindu/Muslim unity, to neo-Vedantins a promoter of the modern religion i.e. the religion of man, in modern progressive circles today, Kabir is held in high esteem as a social reformer, a bold enemy of Brahmanical pride and caste distinctions, a revolutionary whose scathing attacks on caste prejudices, the principles of untouchability and all forms of social discriminations are forever famous and comforting to the enlightened Indian mind, like a breeze of fresh air. To modern India Kabir appears as a symbol of non-conformity, of all that is free, noble and challenging in the Indian tradition.” (A Weaver Named Kabir, Charlotte Vaudeville)

I would like to quote another writer, Ezekiel, in the book entitled Kabir: the great mystic, “Within the range of reason, Kabir is a most uncompromising rationalist. In the intellectual field he is the most clear brained intellectual. Among the learned he is the most learned, though he is ignorant of the alphabets. He quotes the Shastras, the Puranas and the Vedas with an authority before which the learned shiver and the betrayers of holy lore call for the hangman’s rope. Kabir’s songs seek nobody’s approbation, they seek no sanction, ask for no approval, search for no popularity, invite no commendation, crave no compliment. They stand independent of these considerations, and they constitute the most uninhibited literature, the freest of free writing ever produced by a saint. They are the most fearless of hymns, for they launch assault on the very foundations of institutional religion and the self-appointed custom officers of the gates of heaven.”

Charlotte Vaudeville again observed that there is hardly an ethical or spiritual truth in northern India that has not taken the form of a sakhi ascribed to Kabir. The biographer Nabha Das, who has written on the life of many saints, states in his book “The rosary of the saints”: “He held that religion without devotion was no religion at all. And that asceticism, fasting and alms giving had no value if not accompanied by adoration.” Satguru Kabir is often called the Indian Luther, for he tried to change the hypocrisy and the false piety that was being practiced in the name of religion.

Another writer J.S., a British scholar, wrote, “His best utterances are probably the loftiest work in the Hindi language. And hundreds of his couplets have laid hold of the common heart of Hinduism.” Another researcher and writer on Indian saints named Dwivedi (a modern critic) thinking of Kabir’s genius, said, “Tender as a flower, hard as a diamond, his poems are embodied with diamond-like quality, the transparency, multifaceted brilliance and mysterious flow of the pure diamond. They also have the piercing quality of the diamond pointed arrow.” In S.S. Das’s words, “They pierce the hearts of the listeners and remain there. Kabir was undoubtedly a great poet, one of the greatest in India. As a mystical poet he has probably never been surpassed.”

Dwivedi further stated, “Kabir was a dictator of language. Language trembled before him. Another writer W.G. Orr stated, “For share vigor of thought and rugged terseness of style, no later bhakti writer can be brought into comparison with him.”

We see from these foregoing quotations that Satguru Kabir held a very high place in spiritual circles, in literally circle, and in devotional literature. When the former President of India, Shri Zail Singh visited Kabir Chaura in Varanasi, he said that the teachings of Satguru Kabir was of such great value for uniting humanity in love and brotherhood, that he wished that his works could be translated into all languages and be made available to all the people.

Really, what Satguru Kabir wanted to teach people was to find God, for God is the source. God is your inner being. God speaks intuitively within you, and there is no point in your wasting your time, effort and money in trying to find God anywhere outside of you. He said that if you were truly searching for God, you would find Him in a moment, as He is in the breath of your breath, and he is the source of your consciousness and life. He taught to love one another. He said that people speak of love, but they do not have love in their hearts. It’s merely words. But those who are truly immersed in God twenty-four hours a day, are the knowers of love.

When people were being pedantic and argumentative about their book learning, he said, “O my brother! You are quoting to me what you have read in the books, and what I am telling you are the facts I have seen with my own eyes.” He further stated that people have read thousands of books, but they have not become truly learned. If they learned the one word “Love”, they would be truly learned. On humility he taught, “O Kabir! I am just like the dog in the hands of God. His leash is around by neck. Wherever He pulls, I willingly go.” He further stated that water never stays in the high places, but goes to lowest. If you are thirsty and you stoop very low you can quench your thirst. But if you stand tall and proud, you will remain thirsty. On devotion he said, “The person whose mind is full of lust, anger, greed and attachment, cannot do devotion to God. Only the brave one who can free his heart from caste distinctions and lineages can really do devotion to God. Essentially, Satguru Kabir taught non-violence, and it is comforting to know that Mahatma Gandhi, whose mother was a Kabir Panthi, is said to have sucked in non-violence from his mother’s milk, and that is why he was so famous in India for his non-violent methods, in trying to liberate India from the British rule. Further the poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, also recognized Satguru Kabir as a great teacher. The late Martin Luther King Jr., USA, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, practiced the same principles of non-violence taught by Satguru Kabir. The father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar was born a Kabir Panthi and he fought strenuously to free the oppressed masses from ostracism and suppression practiced by the high castes. He taught that they all have God within them, and caste before God is non-existent, for God created them all. God is their father, and we are all His children, and as his children we owe allegiance to Him and to one another. He taught us to perform service, to feed the hungry, to clothe them and not to be condescending but loving towards them.

Satguru Kabir’s teachings hold a very important place in our lives, and his teachings will be well followed if people all over the world would take the time to learn about the teachings of this great spiritual master of India, Satguru Kabir.

 

Dr. Jagessar Das

 

 

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U. N. INTERNATIONAL DAY TO ELIMINATE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

U. N. INTERNATIONAL DAY TO ELIMINATE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

“One of the most devastating human rights violations:

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.
Gender inequality persists worldwide. Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will require more vigorous efforts, including legal frameworks, to counter deeply rooted gender-based discrimination that often results from patriarchal attitudes and related social norms, as stated by the UN Secretary-General, in his latest report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Some intolerable facts:

Violence against women is the most extreme form of discrimination. According to the aforementioned report, on the basis of data from 2005 to 2016 for 87 countries, 19 per cent of women between 15 and 49 years of age said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in the 12 months prior to the survey. In the most extreme cases, such violence can lead to death. In 2012, almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to 6 per cent of male victims.” United Nations

Domestic violence occurs in all parts of the world, in all countries, in all cultures, in all socio-economic groups, and in all religious and non-religious groups. We need to examine why domestic violence occurs and what are the possible remedies to alleviate this grievous situation that occurs in so many homes. Families are disrupted and broken; they are subjected to economic, social and emotional hardships. It is a problem common to human beings everywhere. In this article I shall examine domestic violence from different angles and try to make a coherent sense out of it, and suggest possible solutions.

First of all we can categorize domestic violence into (a) Physical (b) Verbal and (c) Passive. Physical violence is immediately obvious and results in direct use of physical force, and often with weapons. Physical violence results in physical injuries and/or death. Often various weapons are used such as guns, knives, iron bars, wooden bats etc. I have knowledge of a husband who stabbed one of my patients in the abdomen with a knife. He was arrested and imprisoned. We are aware of several Indo-Canadian women who were murdered by their husbands in the last several years. We are sadly aware of the Bangladeshi professor, Rumana Manzur, who was studying at U. B. C. for her master’s degree in political science, and was blinded by her husband on a visit to her home in Bangladesh. This year she graduated from U. B. C. with a law degree.

Verbal violence is also immediately obvious and takes the form of verbal abuse, criticism, insult, defamation, shouting and impoliteness. It often results in lowering of self-esteem of the victim, and a lack of emotional and psychological support, as well as chronic anxiety and depression.

The passive violence may be called passive aggressive violence. It is not immediately obvious and consists of passive resistance to the needs or expectations of others. It also consists of withdrawal of love and emotional support, apathy, and manipulation of events in order to cause emotional or perhaps physical harm to the victim.

The physical and verbal violence can be thought of as direct violence because they are quite obvious that the perpetrator of the violence is attacking the victim. The passive aggressive type of violence is indirect and it is not immediately discernable. For example, if one partner in a marriage has a certain need, then the other partner will deliberately not fulfill that need, without necessarily saying anything. A simple example would be that the wife would like her husband to buy some ice cream, but he purposely “forgets.” Another example may be between two friends, one of whom would like to go to a party, and the other sabotages the going by making some excuse about having other commitments. Passive aggressive violence often manifests as procrastination, sulking, irritability, and argumentativeness, deliberately doing everything very slowly or protesting without justification. There is often resentment and obstruction of efforts of others, and also unreasonably criticizing or scorning people in authority. Some of these characteristics are contained in the diagnostic criteria for psychiatric problems.

Perhaps we can try to figure out the causes of domestic violence. It is quite obvious that anger is involved. Hate, ego and pride are often also involved. Anger can occur very quickly, at the spur of the moment, so to speak, whereas hate, pride and ego are more pervasive and long lasting. Other conditions such as greed, jealousy and selfishness are also present in committing domestic violence.

Since it is common human nature to love that which is good, and which brings peace and happiness, and to dislike that which brings harm, it is obvious that whatever can remove domestic violence will be a great asset to all humanity. Foremost among the attributes to be developed is love and compassion for others. There must also be respect and good communication. It is essential to allow other people to express themselves and to achieve self-actualization and growth. In other words, one must not stifle the aspirations of another. To achieve a state of peace one must exercise self-control. Self-control does not occur automatically by merely thinking about it. One has to constantly practice self-control of all the negative emotions that lead to violence. One of the surest antidotes for domestic violence is to live a spiritual life. This recognizes the intrinsic value of other people. In the final analysis, if you truly love others as you love yourself, then you will definitely not practice violence. The golden rule is not to do to others what you would not like them to do to you. Treat others with love, understanding, compassion and forgiveness, and your life will be enriched, and the lives of those around you will also be enriched. But these attributes need to be taught from childhood by parents, teachers and religious authorities for them to serve a useful purpose in later life.

Dr. Jagessar Das
Email: dasj.kabir@gmail.com

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KABIR SAHEB’S RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY

KABIR SAHEB’S RELIGIOUS PHILOSOPHY – A WAY TOWARDS COMMUNAL HARMONY

I was introduced to the poetry of the mystical saint, Kabir Saheb, from my 9th standard Hindi textbook and since then, his poems have remained a deep inspiration for me. Hence, it was this impact of Kabir Saheb’s poetry that inspired me to study Kabir Saheb’s life and philosophy in my 12th standard History Research. Through my project, I tried to evaluate the importance of Kabir Saheb’s legacy today, and how his religious teaching can inspire us to move towards communal harmony.

I am from India, where Hindu – Muslim rivalry is an ongoing topic of discussions. There are constant communal riots where innocent people are killed in the name of religious fanaticism. In this context, Kabir Saheb’s Philosophy came to me as ray of hope towards peace and tolerance. For instance, Kabir Saheb says in one of his sakhis that “He resides neither in the temple nor in the masjid or church.” This highlights Kabir Saheb’s appeal to the masses for one God. He drew ideas from a range of religions to express this idea of an Ultimate Reality – from Islam, he took the terms Allah and Khudha, from Hinduism – he draws the concept of Nirankar and Atman. His teaching of Nam-Simran has also become a Sikh practice. This diversity of terms used by Kabir Saheb conveys the message of unity amongst the religious groups.

Another aspect of Kabir Saheb’s philosophy that touched me was his criticism against empty ritualism. At a time when Brahmanical norms and orthodox Islamic laws were very strong, Kabir Saheb raises his voice against the practices adopted by Hindu and Muslim groups. He advocates the inner devotion for God, and a natural unity with Him, rather than mindlessly praying to God without any belief and love for Him.

Kabir Saheb, for me, is not only a preacher of religious harmony but also a source of knowledge and everyday inspiration. I always remember Kabir Saheb’s doha of “aisee vani boliye, mann ka apa khoye. apna tan sheetal kare, auran ko sheetal hoye.”

Whenever I converse with people, Kabir Saheb’s teachings help me to speak in a positive way. Also, during the times when I start procrastinating in my work, I remember his doha, “kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab. pal mein parlaya hoye gi, bahuri karoge kab.” This teaches me the importance of time, and motivates me to start working hard again.

During my research, I also had the opportunity to visit the Kabir Mandir on Idgah Road in Delhi, and I distinctively remember looking at the idol of Kabir Saheb, which was adorned with plain white clothes, and it gave me a feeling of adoration on how mere simplicity can look so peaceful and beautiful. The visit to the Mandir will always be memorable to me.

I would really like to give special thanks to Dr. Jagessar Das of Kabir Association of Canada for answering my queries and guiding me throughout. I am glad to say that I have learnt a lot from this project, and it has broadened my knowledge about life and, I am sure, Kabir Saheb’s philosophy will keep on inspiring many more young students like me in the coming generations.

Shimuran Kitahara
Delhi

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CHRISTMAS AND SPIRITUAL LIFE

CHRISTMAS AND SPIRITUAL LIFE

Christmas is fast approaching and many people, all over the world, are caught up in a frenzied activity to “prepare” for Christmas. This season has some sort of magic to make some people happy, in anticipation of family get-togethers, exchange of gifts, Christmas dinners, celebration of the birth of Jesus, etc. The same magical power also makes other people unhappy because of loss of loved ones, loneliness, poverty, illness, and those who dislike the frenzied activity, in the name of a significant religious event. It will be interesting to take a brief look at what Christmas is.

Christmas is, popularly, observed to celebrate the coming of Jesus to teach people a spiritual way of living. Essentially, his teaching is: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy mind and all thy soul,” and “Love one another,” and “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” His teachings appear simple enough and anyone can understand them. However, observing the conditions prevailing in the world, it does not appear that people understand his simple teachings, and to live by them. If people truly loved God then they could not help but love one another, because we are all “children of God.” We should not bear any anger or animosity towards our own brothers and sisters, no matter to which religion, race or culture they belong. But how can people love a God whom they do not know? They are told that God dwells in heaven and the people do not know where heaven is. God, thus, becomes an abstract entity, that is not ever-present, and the most immediate power in the lives of his children. People are also told that God is vengeful or gets angry and will punish people in hell and with fire and brimstone. Basically, the people do not know God, nor do they know where God is. How can they then have a deep and abiding love for God with all their heart and mind and soul? Dr. Albert Schweitzer stated: “To make up to itself for the fact that it does so little to prove the reality of its spiritual and ethical nature, the Christianity of today cheats itself with the delusion that it is making its position as a church stronger year by year. It is accommodating itself to the spirit of the age by adopting a kind of modern worldliness. Like other organized bodies it is at work to make good, by ever stronger and more uniform organization, its claim to be a body justified by history and practical success. But just in proportion as it gains in external power, it loses in spiritual.” Such a strong statement from a devout Christian and humanitarian goes a long way in pointing out a certain deficiency in people who try to promote and practice the teachings of Jesus.

It becomes obvious that people who follow any religion, in the superficial way that most do, that their hearts and mind and soul are not in their practice. If people were truly religious, they would ‘love one another’, but in the world we see more like ‘hate one another’. Jesus taught: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, which is the golden rule. But what do we see? It is more like, “Do unto others before they do unto you.” In other words, take advantage of people and situations so long as you can benefit yourself. Who really understands the teachings of Jesus?

Christians of all denominations comprise 2.4 billion people, or 33.5% of the world’s population. If they all put their hearts, wisdom and aspirations in the proper place, I am sure that the world will be a much happier place. But, instead, we see divisions and schisms among those who follow the teachings of Jesus. In one suburban yellow pages of the telephone book I counted forty denominations of the Christian church. I doubt that this book listed all the denominations in Christianity. How happy would Jesus be if he were to be on earth right now observing what is going on in his name? Certainly he would have been disillusioned and sad, but being a person of great spiritual stature and enlightenment, he would have imputed the situation to peoples’ spiritual ignorance or naiveté, and he would have regretted that people continued to remain ignorant, and do not make sincere efforts to be awakened spiritually.

As Christmas is approaching, it will be worthwhile for all people celebrating this event to reflect, truly, on the teachings of Jesus and to make those teachings a working part of their lives. He did not teach God to be somewhere in the abstract in a remote place. He said: “Know ye not that ye are gods and that the spirit of God dwelleth in thee,” and, “The kingdom of heaven is within.” If you realize that God dwells in you, you will also realize that God dwells in your brothers and sisters. Would this not be a marvelous realization? Would it not then truly make Jesus’ teaching meaningful to you? Would the world not then be a much happier, compassionate and loving place for all of us? Let the true spirit of Christmas be awakened in the hearts of all!

[I first wrote this article in December 1989, and I have updated it for this posting. Please note that I wrote this for Christmas, but similar ideas can be expressed for adherents of all religions.]

Dr. Jagessar Das

(In pursuit of Truth in spirituality)

https://www.facebook.com/JagessarDas

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