May 17, 2011

Journey Towards Awakening

Photo Description: Mountains of Xinjiang
Photo credited to flickr / by shanghaisoundbites

According to Wikipedia, a pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith. Many religions attach spiritual importance to particular places: the place of birth or death of founders or saints, or to the place of their "calling" or spiritual awakening, or of their connection (visual or verbal) with the divine, or to locations where miracles were performed or witnessed, or locations where a deity is said to live or be "housed," or any site that is seen to have special spiritual powers. Such sites may be commemorated with shrines or temples that devotees are encouraged to visit for their own spiritual benefit: to be healed or have questions answered or to achieve some other spiritual benefit.

I am not talking about the kind of (most respectfully) religious pilgrimages stated above, or which the people typically perform for fulfillment of religious obligation. I am nothing talking religious.

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What I actually mean in my post here is just a ‘journey’, or simple journey, to be made intentionally in search of some moral or wisdoms—for experiencing, somewhere during it, the Spiritual awakening. Pure from any greed for benefit or reaching the destination, the journey will lead ultimately into the holistic experience of life, unraveling the hidden spiritual potentials lying within human. The wisdom lies within journey itself, apart from the idea of destination. The experience completes the thought.

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Here It is apt to quote a beautiful poem “Ithaca” by Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933) and translated by Rae Dalven.

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon—do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your heart does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy

you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

May 16, 2011

"I lived in the garden of Allah"—A writing in favour of fatalism

 Photo is credited to Flickr/jackwickes

I came across a beautiful British writing suggesting the importance of fatalism as believed by Arabs and its importance to help man stand against worries. I am quoting it as follows.

    "So I did as Lawrence suggested: I went to live with the Arabs. I am glad I did so. They taught me how to conquer worry. Like all faithful Moslems, they are fatalists. They believe that every word which Mohammad wrote in the Koran is the divine  revelation of Allah. so when the Koran says: "God created you and all your actions," they accept it literally. That is why they take life so calmly and never hurry or get into unnecessary tempers when things go wrong. They know that what is ordained is ordained; and no one but God can alter anything. However, that doesn't mean that in the face of disaster, they sit down and do nothing. To illustrate, let me tell you of a fierce, burning windstorm of the sirocco which I experienced when I was living in the Sahara. It howled and screamed for three days and nights. It was so strong, so fierce, that it blew sand from the Sahara hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean and sprinkled it over the Rhone Valley in France. The wind was so hot i felt as if the hair was being scorched off my head. My throat was arched. My eyes burned. My teeth were full of grit. I felt as if i were standing in front of a furnace in a glass factory. I was driven as near crazy as a man can be and retain his sanity. But the Arabs didn't complain. they shrugged their shoulders and said, "Mektoub"..."It is written."

    But immediately after the storm was over, they sprang into action: they slaughtered all the lambs because they knew they would die anyway; and by slaughtering them at once, they hoed to save the mother sheep. after the lambs were slaughtered, the flocks were driven southward to water. This was all done calmly, without worry to complaining or mourning over their losses. the tribal chief said: "It is not too bad. We might have lost everything. But raise god, we have forty percent of our sheep left to make a new start."

    I remember another occasion, when we were motoring across the desert and a tire blew out. the chauffeur had forgotten to mend the spare tire. So there we were with only three tires. I fussed and fumed and got excited and asked the Arabs what we were going to do. they reminded me that getting excited wouldn't help, that it only made one hotter. The blown-out tire, they said, was the will of Allah and nothing could be done about it. So we started on, crawling along on the rim of a wheel. Presently the car sputtered and stopped. We were out of gas! the chief merely remarked: "Mektoub!" And, there again, instead of shouting at the driver because he had not taken on enough gas, everyone remained calm and we walked to our destination, singing as we went.

    The seven years I spent with the Arabs convinced me that the neurotics, the insane, the drunks of America and Europe are the product of the hurried and harassed lives we live in our so-called civilization.

    As long as I lived in the Sahara, I had no worries, I found there, in the Garden of Allah, the serene contentment and physical well-being that so many out of us are seeking  with tenseness and despair.

    many people scoff at fatalism. maybe they are right. Who knows? But all of us must be able to see how our fates are often determined for us. For example, if I had not spoken to Lawrence of Arabia at three minutes past noon on a hot August day in 1919, all the years that have elapsed and molded time and again by events far beyond my control. the Arabs call it mektoub, kismet—the will of Allah. call it anything you wish. it does strange things to you. I only know that today—seventeen years after leaving the Sahara—I still maintain that happy resignation to the inevitable which I learned from the Arabs. that philosophy has done more to settle my nerves than a thousand sedatives could have achieved."

- from the writing "I lived in the Garden of Allah"
by R.V.C.Bodley (Descendant of Sir Thomas Bodley founder of the Boldeian Library Oxford, and author of Wind in the Sahara).
Text Credit: "How to stop worrying and start living", book
by Dale Carnegie

Photo is credited to Flickr/JD image