Finding Inner Peace

ross bishopFinding inner peace can be difficult. We meditate, do yoga, read books, go to workshops, learn mantras, hang affirmations on our refrigerators and yet we remain troubled. What are we missing? Is it just that we are not sufficiently spiritual? Are we not doing it right? That is how it feels much of the time.

Years ago I learned about spirituality through Zen meditation. I sat morning and evening, religiously (if you will pardon the pun), seven days a week, at least twice a day. I got calm, my breathing deepened and the world slowed down as I began to focus on what was really important in life. My friends noticed the changes occurring in me. I went deep. I touched a place of inner peace and calm I had no idea even existed.

Bliss? Hardly. It scared the heck out of me! I had to quit for a while. I had never known that level of openness and feeling that vulnerable shook me to my core. It would be some time before I had the courage to go that deeply or feel that vulnerable again. Fortunately, the experience planted something so deep and powerful in me that I could not ignore. I had to pursue it. So here I am, 30 years later, eternally grateful for an experience that literally scared the daylights out of me. But the fear I experienced then is the same fear that keeps most people from finding inner peace today… continue article

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Muhammad’s Perspective

by Ross Bishop

The Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad, (may Allâh’s grace be upon him), between the years 609 to 632 AD. According to legend, The Qur’an was communicated to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. I am not a Muslim, but I must confess that I find the Qur’an to be the most moving and compassionate book I have ever read. There is a quality about it, especially reading between the lines, that is truly moving.

Having said that, the Qur’an is still a channelled work, and as all channelled works do, suffers from the inevitable contamination by the channeler. Muslims will argue the point, but I will let the record speak for itself.

The Islamic faith is a set of obligations between man and God. In Muhammad’s view God was an old testament, black and white, fundamentalist God, who punished his children when they got out of line. Make a mistake and there would be a penalty. In Muhammad’s world there was little wiggle room, not much room for mistakes or learning or growth. Step out of line and you were in trouble.

Like fundamentalist Christianity, if you fall off the wagon, swift retribution is sure to follow. The God of the Qur’an is not without compassion, but it is not God’s essential nature. He might forgive, He might not, and as it is said, “Allâh knows everything.”

In Muhammad’s world, the only way to live was to have a completely virtuous and spiritual life.That is an admirable goal, but also a rather unrealistic one. No one I know can do that! And I think that becomes a trap for Muslims (and fundamentalist Christians). That’s why there is so much sexual frustration amongst some Muslims and Christian fundamentalists.

Where Christ shared the essence of God through stories and parables, The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to be more authoritative because it represents the direct word of God, not unlike the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses. By attaching themselves to God in this way, fundamentalists are able to claim a self-righteous perfectionism that easily slips into a pretense of supremacy. “Surely those who disbelieve in the Messages of Allâh, for them is a terrible punishment. And Allâh is Exalted in Might, Possessor of power of retribution.”(Qur’an 3:4)

Where Christ is held in great reverence as a prophet and expression of God’s truth by Muslims, Muhammad is a man, one chosen by God to be sure, but a man nonetheless, like Moses. Often, people make the error of analogy: the Qur’an is to the Christian Bible as Muhammad is to Jesus. In fact, something like the opposite is the case. For Muslims, the Qur’an, especially in its recited form, is an incarnation of God on earth, and is thus not just a book, nor even a holy text deserving of respect, it becomes God in the flesh.

The Qur’an lays down general principles and it is left to the Sunnah and Hadith to explain how to bring the principles of the Qur’an into daily life. The problem is that there are many Hadiths of questionable origin. This is where all religions in their various ways, come off the tracks. Each has pronouncements where some well intentioned stuffed shirt says, “This is what He meant and how you should live your life.”

Complicating matters, around 900 A.D., Islamic law became rigidly and inflexibly fixed because scholars of the Islamic schools felt that the essential questions had all been thoroughly discussed and finally settled. Up to that time, Islamic law had been adaptable and growing, but after that, it became increasingly rigid. This is an inherent problem faced by people who are emotionally invested in a particular view. It is very difficult for them to imagine a world that is different. They become “paradigm blind.”

This sort of thinking affects people in all walks of life. As an example, in 1881 the U.S. Commissioner of Labor said that the United States along with most European countries, had about exhausted the possibility of further economic growth: “The market price of products will continue low, no matter what the cost of production may be. The day of large profits is probably past. There may be room for further intensive but not extensive, development of industry in the present area of civilization.”

The Jews, whose religion is also based in the Old Testament, did not fall into the trap of rigidity. Through The Talmud they have adapted and interpreted the Torah (the first six books of the Old Testament) to be more flexible, something traditional Islamists and fundamentalist Christians have chosen not to do.

In the new Testament, Christ tells us of of a loving and compassionate God, a kind father who forgives and loves his children, who does not judge and apparently has given up on the smiting business. This is the God that I have come to know.

My work with people over the years has shown me that each of us comes in with issues forgiveness,Christ,that need to be resolved (called karma in some traditions). We come to earth to live in an environment where we can make mistakes, foul up our lives if we chose, mess with other people and eventually straighten out and realize the truth about ourselves. This rough and tumble existence is God’s creation. He understands that there will be missteps and plenty of mistakes – HE EXPECTS THAT. And he forgives, because he knows that every mistake, every error in judgement also contains the seeds of growth. Muhammad takes a different view.

I believe that the Qur’an can be split into two parts – pre and post Mecca. The Surahs, or chapters, written in Mecca were dominantly kind, gentle and compassionate. But in those early years, Muhammad’s teachings were also soundly rejected by Meccan society. After suffering years of rejection, he moved with his followers to Medina, where he was welcomed by all but the Jews.

Thus began a 10 year religious war between Mecca and Medina. During that time a number of attempts were made on Muhammad’s life. After these events, the Qur’an, which as I say, had been a document of peace and harmony, took on a more combative and aggressive tone. Islamic scholars have found ways to dance around these inconsistencies, but they are there. Unfortunately, Muslims validate these later Qur’anic passages as more legitimate.

Fanatical groups have taken to the Medina passages to justify violence, particularly the intolerant puritanism of the Wahhabi and Salafi creeds. Wahhabism was founded by the eighteenth-century evangelist Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula (modern day Saudi Arabia) and has directly given birth to ISIS.

‘Abd al-Wahhab sought to rid Islam of the corruptions that he believed had crept into the religion. He advocated a strict literalism in which the Qur’an became the sole source of legitimate authority, and displayed an extreme hostility to intellectualism, mysticism, and any sectarian divisions within Islam.

According to the Wahhabi creed, it was imperative to return to a presumed pristine, simple, straightforward Islam, which could be entirely reclaimed by literal implementation of the commands of the Prophet, and by strict adherence to correct ritual practice. Importantly, Wahhabism rejected any attempt to interpret the divine law historically or contextually, with attendant possibilities of reinterpretation under changed circumstances.

Wahhabism treats the vast majority of Islamic history as a corruption of the true and authentic Islam. Furthermore, Wahhabism narrowly defines orthodoxy, and is extremely intolerant of any creed that contradicts its own. Wahhabism is the version of Islam practiced in modern Saudi Arabia and is the curriculum of Saudi funded schools (madrassas) throughout the Middle East.

Young Muslims, having little real education (other than from a Wahhabi sponsored radical school), a limited future (because Islam effectively blocks anything but small businesses), lash out at the one they are told is responsible for their problems – The Great Satan. And we, of course, oblige them with 15 year wars against Islam and terror weapons like drone strikes. Everyone in the Middle East knows or is closely related to someone the U.S. military has killed. Let that sink in for a moment as you try to understand why they are furious with us, or why some of the more radicalized Muslims might want to strike back.

copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2016

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