Monthly Archives: March 2011

Angels, the ego, & the devil

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by Aubrey

I have always had a problem with the idea of Angels and the devil. I take my religion very seriously in the truth. Flying Angels and evil shadows aren’t on the same level of truth for me. I remember struggling for a long time when it came to Angels and the devil. Throughout that struggle I came to know both of them, but not as beings, as most, even the Bible would humanize and animalize them. I knew the devil was not a being and I knew Angels weren’t beings either- but acts (spirits) of God.

When God acts, or does something, the act is an ‘Angel of God’. So, that could range from the creation of the Universe to the creation of a single cell, an ’Angel’ of God was simply the act. The same for the devil; it is said he was an Angel, an act of God. The devil, too, is an angel- but a special one, one close only to man; the ego. Angels (acts of God) would surely exist if man was not around, because all of creation is an act of God. But, when I thought about the devil, I concluded that the devil would not be around since the devil lives in the hearts of man.

The devil, an act of God, an angel, tells man that things can be better than they are. Angels of God are all around doing God’s will, including the devil, the ego, who causes man to think that God is not responsible for everything around us, good or evil. The ego places distrust and confusion inside man and displaces the oneness of all things, including God. God wants it there too, to test mankind and give you and me a choice. In all that I have learned about God, I have learned that God wants us to choose, so he gave man tests and choices. Though the choice is obvious, God wants man to own our decision to choose God. But, the ego wants to put trust in anything else other than God; trust in ourselves, in technology, even in religion- and one day we will be let down by the ego, that seems the devils purpose.

All those other things I trust and have faith in, other than God, will always fall short of faith and love in God. The devil wants me to fear death. If I have faith in God, I shouldn’t fear it (but, as long as the ego has a hold of me, I will always fear it and sin because of it). The devil is all-around, it’s amazing how much control the devil has on the world today. But, I believe it has to happen, because one day we will be let down by egotistical ways, and even then God will take us in and even the most ashamed will feel the most loved…

…because the ego will tell man the worst sinners don’t deserve God.

“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”

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by Kishan Parekh

We have all heard of the famous quote above by Aesop, and even though it is ancient, the meaning behind it still rings true to this day. Over the centuries, it has played its part in countless wars and battles. Today we can see it in full force; Tunisia, Egypt, the Middle East and most recently, Libya.

Even in small groups, it is clear that success is not easy to come by when the group is divided. Many a time I have experienced this, in my school cricket team, in a lab group or even in the country I lived in. Is it so difficult to live in unity or work in unison? Why does a small event always trigger a rift in a group of people?

I believe the answer lies in the fact that not everyone thinks the same, not everyone has the same beliefs, and barring identical twins, there is definitely no one person who looks exactly like another. There is still discrimination in this world, if not against colour, then beliefs, religion or social status. Racism still lingers in most parts of the world, and through personal experience, I can tell you, it’s pretty bad. What makes all this worse is that people fight because EVERYONE believes they are right. There has to be a universal moral line to cross before conflict arises.

As a Hindu, I truly detest the caste system that is so morally wrong, sometimes I wonder how it survived for so long. It has done much greater damage to more people than slavery or disease, and for a longer period of time too. If you have been fooled into believing that it was part of Hinduism, then do not spare, there have been countless others who have too. Ancient Hindu scholars sought power, and when it was achieved they just couldn’t let it go. So they invented an ingenious social hierarchy that made them the very top and everyone else to rely on their whims. Thus they maintained their power and “religious” significance to the people.

I support the view of staying away from people who are untrustworthy or not hygienically clean, because it matters in today’s society too. Hinduism is heavily laden with the concept of mental and physical purity, so it was normal for it to happen then as it is today. But to classify people from birth or family history was just wrong; if you were born into an “unclean” family, you and your family remained “unclean” for eternity. I may be missing a whole lot of other reasons for the system, but it does not account for the fact that people had to live like outcasts all their lives.

At one point the system was as colour discriminated as the apartheid regime in South Africa. In fact, the Sanskrit name for the caste system was “varnashrama dharma”, meaning a system based on color. I am glad to say it is on the way to eradication in India, greatly helped by independence and the success the so called “untouchables” have.

At some point in time, people cannot take the unjust actions on their lives, and this is what causes the uprisings and civil wars today. People they trusted and elected to power became corrupt or just forgot about them, they just cannot let go of the power. Power is what drives men crazy, and throughout the history of mankind, it has been shown to full effect. How can we stop this? How can we prevent people from making the same mistake twice or more when it comes to power?

I don’t think anyone has the answer to this yet, and not for a very long time too, society would disintegrate. The presence of power is so built in that it cannot be forgotten easily. Some may say that moral values may bring about the good in our leaders, or even religion. But when powerful figures in almost every religion have turned out to be so corrupt, it is not very convincing as the right solution. I believe if we can accept each other’s beliefs and live harmoniously, there would be less of the fighting we see today.

As Condoleeza Rice once said, “We need a common enemy to unite us”.

What or who the enemy may be is still to be found, but for now, I guess tolerance and equality is the key.


Chaos

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by Niharika R. Bandaru

“With great power, comes great responsibility”

Uncle Ben, Spiderman

A month and a half it has been. Probably more, since I sat down to pen down my thoughts and into this blog. I push back on my chair to think of all the things I could write about, all the things that have changed the world over the past few weeks or so; maybe the uprising in Tunisia, or the protests in Egypt, or the rebellion in Libya. Perhaps the bloodshed in Ivory Coast…all such bad news…tsk tsk.

There’s a pattern in the occurrence of all these incidents as I notice. We have apparently descended into an altogether new phase of disparity, dissatisfaction and hostility. We are always fighting, killing and crying. We are destroying homes, separating families and dissolving countries of people in a squabble for power and money. Whether justice has been attained in these disturbed countries, is a huge question mark.

P-E-A-C-E has been a hard spelling to remember. We speak of humanity, religion, and Karma but we always fail to follow it. We mistreat and disrespect and get mistreated and disrespected in return. We fight, kill, resolve and then start fighting again. We have created this infinite loop of viciousness that has no exit. We fail to remember that God made us the most intelligent species for a reason; and that reason was not to supress other people or organisms, but to use this gift responsibly. The advancement of technology to the level we have today is showing us that we are capable of great things. Great good things.

Unfortunately, we are yet to realize the responsibility that this kind of potential has bestowed upon us. Achieving this is possibly a feat our race has a slim chance of achieving, for we are never satisfied. We have black holes in the pits of our souls, and our thirst for more can hardly be quenched. This is perhaps the biggest difference between Him and us.

Is there hope? Will there be peace? There is no answer to that. Perhaps my inability to write for so long has got something to do with not being able to answer these questions. Words can only go so far, and as I think about it more and more, I feel this responsibility upon me to take a part and try and make a positive change. To try and escape the rat race that has magically engulfed the human race in its deepest folds. To elevate myself to a level where I can be of help to my fellow human beings, for there is nothing above that.

An Apology to God

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by Aubrey

“With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands! In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you. You deserve praise, O Lord! Teach me your statutes!” – David

The other day I was studying for a test in the morning. My test was at 11:45am and it was 11:15am. I was studying away and after a few minutes I looked at my phone and realized it was 11:45! I was late, I had lost track of time! I packed up and started heading for my class. It was all the way on the other side of campus so I was in a hurry; I even felt my legs burning.

While passing the library, I noticed an older man leaving. I ended up walking behind him and the first thing I noticed was his socks. The back of his socks were worn out at the back of his heels to the point that there was no cloth. I noticed his shoes and the bottoms of them were worn out thin and didn’t have laces. I thought, “Maybe he used his laces for something else, like to tie something.” I smiled at the fact that they stayed on! He was older, maybe in his 60’s. I had hoped he read a good book at the library, not just getting a drink or something. He had a backpack that must have belonged to some little girl who threw it away. It was small, bright baby blue with stars on it. It was dirty, I thought maybe he slept on it. It was really small and he couldn’t quite get it around his shoulders, one of the straps never made it on his left shoulder. His skin was dark from the sun and his body was miss-shaped; he must have had some physical problems. I noticed his stride was long and he was a tall man. His cloths were ragged and greasy from the oil of his skin. He had a consistent stare. I wondered if he was embarrassed. He took a moment and ran his fingers through his thin white hair and he let out a sigh. At that moment I felt something move me to realize, “I have a couple $20’s in my wallet! Maybe he could buy new socks! I bet no one helps take care of him, so I’ll help take care of him a little.” I reached for my wallet. I was excited to help this old man out…then I realized…

I’m late! Ten whole minutes late! I looked to my right and there was the entrance to my test. I might miss my test! I should get in there! The old man walked farther and farther ahead of me…I realized I had stopped at the door. I thought to myself, “If I walk over there to give him this he might get mad at me anyways. I should just go take my test. He’s too far away from me by now anyways.” I walked into the building and arrived. We didn’t take the test until almost ten minutes later. God had already taken care of my time for me. I felt ashamed…

“So listen to the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path. The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing. But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.” – Jesus


Tension

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by Alex Petric

“But you see, David was the first blues singer. As well as praising, he was there shouting at God—you know: ‘Where are you when we need you?’ … ‘We’re surrounded.’ … ‘Your people are starving.’ … ‘Are you deaf?’ That type of thing. He’d be wailing, this militant mind, this poet musician with enough faith to believe he had a deal with God … believed it enough to get angry when it looked like He wasn’t coming through.” – Bono

Many times, I hear people who don’t believe in God, complain about how God has never done anything for them, and so they can’t accept Him as existing. I feel the problem in their approach is that they expect everything to be perfect. A relationship with God is comparable to the relationships we keep with other people. If we expect an earthly relationship to not have any fights or arguments, then we will abandon it the second that one appears. Our experience with God works in the same way: sometimes problems arise, and it’s understandable when we become angry with God. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as, in the end, our struggles with God bring us to an even deeper understanding of Him. We shouldn’t be afraid to let God know how we feel.

There is another side to this as well: we can’t always expect things to be exhilarating either. I have had many magnificent, eye-opening moments in my life where I felt very close to God. I would love to always have the same sense of wonder that I had at these moments, but things like that don’t last, and it’s probably a good thing they don’t. If they did, then the feeling would become commonplace and get old. Sometimes it can be nice to enjoy the silence, breathe, and be content with everyday life, instead of always longing for something to amaze us. In a relationship between two people, there will be many exciting moments for both, but the bond cannot be condensed down to just these exciting moments. Ordinary life experiences are just as important.

When our relationship with God is happy, joyful, and peaceful, it is a great thing, but things cannot always be this way. There will be struggles and there will be quiet times, but these help us grow in faith and understanding.

Women in Islam

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by Nadieh Esmaeil Poor

The issue of women in Islam has always been  one of the most common  topics brought up by non-Muslims during debates with Muslims. I see the whole issue as a great misunderstanding among non-Muslims, and the main reason for it is not having good, accurate resources for information and research;  in addition to the fact that some people judge religions by meeting and observing  the actions of a few followers of that religion. For example many people believe that Islam forbids women to work when they see a Muslim housewife; when in fact its a personal choice.
Islam does not regard women as inferior to men. In fact it states that men and women are created “equal” in the site of Allah. The rights and responsibilities of a woman are equal to those of a man but they are not necessarily identical with them. The status of a woman in Islam is unique and has no similarity in any other system.
Some of the basic rights of women which people might not be aware of are as follows:
· The right and duty to obtain education.
· The right to have their own independent property.
· The right to work to earn money if they need it or want it.
· Equality of reward for equal deeds.
· The right to express their opinion and be heard.
· The right to negotiate marriage terms of her choice.
· The right to obtain divorce from her husband, even on the grounds that she simply can’t stand him.
· The right to keep all her own money
· To refuse any marriage that does not please her even if the parents are insisting or forcing them.( Islam does not consider the marriage legal without the consent of any of the spouses whether its  male or female) and so on.

There are many other rights regarding the status of women in Islam for a more detailed explanation and information you can visit http://www.jannah.org/sisters/statuswomen.html

I would like to end my post with a verse from the Holy Quran regarding this matter which says, ” O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”(Quran ,43:13)

Allah knows the best.


I Am Me to Forget Who I Am

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by JC Girard

The concept is quite simple actually; but, before I talk about the title, let me explain a bit about where I am liturgically in my faith. Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Faith (a time of fasting and prayer), starts tomorrow. Traditionally, Catholics will give something indulging up as sacrifice during this time of fasting. Children will say no more PS2 or no more chocolate. Adults may give time a add an extra hour of prayer every day for the 40 days. This entry has nothing to do with Lent, but the tradition has brought on this thought…

You see, I have had a moment to sit and breathe for the first time in a long time and I have just realized that I have not yet thought of what I would like to do for Lent. I have not mentally prepared myself for this sacrifice and as I type, I am still reluctant to prepare myself. I spoke earlier about silence and understanding myself… but it seems I have yet to do that. I cannot spend 30min to prepare for the most important part of my liturgical year, how can I spend 10 minutes deciding who I am?

This is where my concept comes in to play. I recently ended any signals I was sending to a man I thought I might date in the future. I simply told him I was not ready for a relationship because I am not at that place in my life. During our conversation, he said very frequently that he “didn’t know all of this about me.” To be quite honest, the titles I was giving myself were kind of a shock to me as well! I told him I was independent, stubborn, afraid of asking for things etc. All of which are true, by the way. But none of which I had thought about until that moment. I have created this persona (who is also part of my true self, but not entirely my true self) who lives every day and walks my life for me. I’ve created this sheltered person who shows only half of me so the other half can hide (starting to make a bit of sense?). Therefore, the “me” that I am, helps to forget the “me” that wishes to be. I am not lying to myself. I am who I am. I’m simply not being 100% true to God, and therefore, I am not 100% true to myself or those around me. And that’s just not fair to you, to God, or to the “me” that has put itself on the line!!

“Who is that girl I see? Starring straight, back at me? When will my reflection show, who I am inside?” – Mulan (Disney)

Today’s challenge: Start a list of words people use to describe me frequently. I feel that’s as good of a place as any to start finding myself. Along with prayer, things should start to be more clear.