Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yoga beyond religion

Yoga beyond religion - Firoz Bakht Ahmed

I follow all the Islamic tenets in the right interpretation and spirit and so, I can say that there is no such thing as yoga being haram
(disallowed) in Islam. Rather, I have found that Islamic yoga is a reality. It is possible to employ the skills of yoga to worship Allah better and to be a better Muslim.

Issuing fatwa declaring yoga anti-Islamic by some Malaysian and Indonesian ulema is nothing but misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the fact that yoga and namaz are almost identical.

Having practiced yoga during my school days, I found that it can easily be integrated with the Islamic life; in fact the two assist one another. Not only is there no conflict, but Islam and yoga together make a mutually beneficial holistic synergy.

Both are agreed that, while the body is important as a vehicle on the way to spiritual realization and salvation, the human being's primary identity is not with the body but with the eternal spirit.

Maintaining a healthy and fit body is a requirement in Islam, which teaches a Muslim that his or her body is a gift from Allah. Yoga happens to be one of the most potential common grounds between Hindus and Muslims.

The purposes of yoga and Tariqat-e-Naqshbandi (Sufi lifestyle) are apparently similar since both aim at achieving mystical union with the ultimate reality namely Brahma or Allah. Islamic mysticism is undoubtedly impacted by the uncanny Vedic and Buddhist influences desiring to achieve mystical union with the Supreme Being or as one may also call nirvana or fana (a term used by the Sufis).

The Indian Muslims' love affair with yoga is a complex thing, born of many factors. There's the general disenchantment with strict, orthodox Islam of the myopic clerics and the accompanying pull to alternative forms of spirituality.

Yoga, according to Ashraf F Nizami's book 'Namaz, the Yoga of Islam' (published by D B Taraporevala, Mumbai 1977) is not a religion. Rather, it is a set of techniques and skills that enhance the practice of any religion. Nizami writes that in namaz, various constituents like sijdah is like half shirshasana while qayam is vajrasana in the same way as ruku is paschimothanasana.

Even Father M Dechanel wrote a book on Christian yoga recording that practicing yoga is encouraged because it is a way towards the realization of Christian teachings.

According to Badrul Islam, a yoga instructor at a government academy in Dehradun, one of the most obvious correspondences between Islam and yoga is the resemblance of salat (five-time prayer a day) to the physical exercises of yoga asanas. The root meaning of the word salat is 'to bend the lower back', as in yoga; the Persians translated this concept with the word namaz, from a verbal root meaning 'to bow', etymologically related to the Sanskrit word namaste.

Since the yogic metaphysic of Advaita Vedanta is in perfect accordance with the Islamic doctrine of tauhid (God's oneness), there is perfect compatibility between Islam and yoga on the highest level.

The 'Book of Sufi Healing' by Hakim G M Chishti clearly states that life, from its beginning till the end, is one continuous set of breathing practices. However, in Tariqat-e-Naqshabandiyah, the Sufi tradition of Islam, breathing practice has been there exactly as in yoga. The Quran, in addition to all else it may be, is a set of breathing practices.

The enigmatic and most revered Qari (one who melodiously recites Quran) Abdul Basit of Egypt, whose recitation of the Quran is considered the best till date, practiced breathing exercise exactly similar to pranayam and was able to recite a surah by holding his breath for such a long duration that even the medical experts were amazed. However, no one told the Qari that he did it with yoga.

Nowadays, yoga is commercially promoted for health and repel diseases. In fact, less exercise owing to long office hours on computers is one of diseases of modern world. Cars, motorcycles and computers are our main pulse beat of contemporary life. People no longer think about physical and spiritual exercises, which makes a good excuse for Muslims to be offered yoga practice.

Besides, many western societies are materialistic and for limitless monetary gains people would fall prey to rat race and superiority whereas their spiritual sides remain void. Forms of yoga such as Patanjali, Tantra, Sankhya and Dhyana, among others, are non-religious as even the atheists can practice them. Yoga today is a way of life for the followers of all religions.

The place of yoga in the lives of most Muslims will not be shifted by the fatwas of Indonesian and Malayian ulemas. Those who practice will practice, the so-called super-pious will frown. Even in the Middle East and Iran, yoga is a pet with Muslims.

Most Muslims in India are dazed that the all-encompassing credentials of yoga need to be debated. Let's appreciate that at this time, the pro-yoga fatwa by the renowned Darul Uloom Deoband seminary has given it a clean chit and Swami Ramdev has also given the green signal that Muslims can substitute Allah for Ohm, but was it really required?

Quite interestingly, the word Ohm, according to Urdu or Arabic alphabet, is formed from three alphabets - Alif, Wao and Meem. If we consider the abbreviations of these, Alif means Allah, Wao or wa means 'and' while Meem means Mohammed. It shows that Ohm is a confluence of Allah and Mohammed. May be some super-pious will also frown upon me on this word play.

Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social and educational issues.

Courtesy - Forwarded by my friend NARESH (This article was published in Times of India)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Do You Know Everybody's Mind?

Q: Do you know everybody's mind?

Sri Sri: You know what happened when we were coming to Surat from Mumbai in train for Mahasatsang. There were two ladies in the same train as we were travelling in. They were longing to meet me. They couldn't meet me in Mumbai and thought it would be almost impossible to meet in Surat.

Few devotees where scheduled to meet me at Valsad station. Before we could finish the train started. Me and Rishi Nityaprogya ji (Nitin Bhaiya) ran and jumped into one of the boggies. It was a ladies coach [Huge laughter]. The two ladies were sitting in the same boggie. They started crying like anything after seeing me. Then I sat with them for half an hour and spoke to them. Longing always increases but never gets completed. Love increases but never completes.

During my agnyat vaas, I asked our driver, to drive the car in some remote village. I asked him to take left and right, here and there.Then I asked him to stop in front of a small house. It was a farmers house. Once I entered the house, everybody saw me. The whole family was so happy to see me. The farmer said he wanted to see me since such a long time but never knew how to reach me. Then I also visited a few farmers near by, they also wanted to meet me since long but would never get a chance due to their duties and work. I spent some time talking to them. They all became very happy. So you never know when I'll go where. I can come anywhere, anytime. So better keep you house neat and clean.

You are the creator of your life and your reality.

Your thoughts become your actions and your actions create the circumstances in your life. You are responsible for everything that happens to you in your life.This is the simple law of as you sow so you reap. It can also be called the law of motion and emotion. Every thought that we send out into the universe comes back to us with accumulated energy of its own kind.When negative thoughts go out of our minds, they will come back to us with redoubled negative energy and give us lot of pain and unhappiness.Positive thoughts on the other hand bring in positive energy and energize us, establishing in the process peace and harmony in our consciousness.

Our actions too yield the same results.Our positive actions bring in positive rewards and our negative actions bring negative rewards. The energy that we unleash, either in the form of a thought or action, always comes back to us with increased force.Thus through our actions and thoughts we are constantly creating our own realities.

Whatever we give comes back to us. We should therefore be very careful about our thoughts and actions as they have a lasting influence on the pattern of our lives.People blame others for what happens to them. Little do they know that if any one is to be blamed it is the person himself who made it happen to himself! Wisdom is when something happens to you. Instead of looking around for excuses and placing the blame on others, look into yourself and ask yourself why you made it happen? Why you invited those conditions and circumstances into your life? Perhaps it was because you wanted to learn something out of that experience. Perhaps you wanted to strengthen some aspect of your personality or resolve some long troubling relationship.When you start accepting responsibility for the events of your life, you begin to learn more about yourself, your inner thoughts, your fears and aspirations.Out of this awareness you also start expanding your consciousness. Become aware of your thought processes and through this awareness you finally learn to change the conditions of your life.

Creating a Stress-Free Mind and a Violence-Free World - Sri Sri

There is strength in peace. There is strength in calmness. There is strength in love, but it goes unnoticed. What you cannot win with a stick, you can win with love.What you cannot win with guns, you can win through love. The most powerful thing in the world is love! We can win the hearts of people through love. The victory that comes out of ego is worth nothing. Even if you win in ego, it is a loss. Even if you lose in love, it's a victory! Making people realise this innermost strength that we all have is the challenge!

You cannot talk about love when a terrorist is at your door, but is there some way in which we can transform the world? Is there any alternative that can bring sense to people who do not listen to anything other than force? We can start thinking along these lines only when we realise that there is enormous power in love and inner peace.When we are peaceful, we radiate that peace to the people around us and they also become calm. In these times of war and disease in the world, it's so important that we all meditate a little everyday. When we meditate, we nullify negative vibrations, thereby creating a more harmonious environment around us. Being peaceful in a meditative,prayerful state, will definitely help. Don't think that you are insignificant when the world is in a problem. You too have a role to play.

Every individual — everyone who is breathing, talking, walking, thinking — has an influence on this cosmos, on this planet. So we can all radiate peace, good thoughts, good vibrations, good wishes and that will definitely make an impact on the planet.

I've seen this over and over again. When there is a conflict and you interact with both the groups involved in the conflict, they soften up. When communication breaks down, it causes turbulence, which in turn causes stiffness and rigidity. But when you re-establish communication through love, through peaceful means, through patience, it helps. One thing that is absolutely essential to avoid fanaticism or religious terrorism in the world is a multi-cultural, multi-religious education for children. It is because a child grows up thinking that other religions or cultures are bad, that he or she is ready to give up his or her life for that cause; but when a child grows up knowing a little bit about all other religions, cultures and customs, then there is a sense of belonging with everybody. I feel that when every child in the world learns a little bit about every other religion, the child will not have inhibitions or hatred towards other religions or cultures.

See, we accept food from every part of the world. We accept music from every part of the world. You don't need to be Chinese in order to eat Chinese food! You don't need to be an Italian to go to Pizzeria and eat pizzas, nor a Danish to eat Danish cookies! One doesn't have to be an Indian to listen to bhajans or sitar music!

Similarly, we need to learn to accept knowledge and wisdom from every part, and this is what has been lacking in the world.