Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Wise words - Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook


I discovered this beautiful commentary - you could even call it a poem - by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, and I thought I would post it today, because once again it follows several themes of this blog -seeing ourselves reflected in each other, in our shared humanity.  It is an inspiring insight and reading it, I am reminded of how very fortunate we are to have such wisdom available, to draw on across all of our faith traditions - wisdom's to teach us, to learn from, to guide us.  All we need do, is look.

There is one whose soul expands

until it extends beyond the border of Israel,

singing the song of humanity.

In the glory of the entire human race,

in the glory of the human form,

his spirit spreads,

aspiring to the goal of humankind, envisioning its consummation...

Then there is one who expands even further

until he unites with all existence, with all creatures,

with all worlds,

singing a song with them all.

There is one who ascends with all these songs

in unison - the song of the soul, the song of the nation,

the song of humanity,

the song of the cosmos - resounding together, blending in harmony,

circulating the sap of life,

the sound of holy joy.

       - Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

you might also like: 'Rig Veda - a song about our eternal nature' in the May archives

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Peace summit - Assisi 1986

Every human being is ultimately a pilgrim in search of truth and goodness…(if) truth is authentically lived, it opens the path to dialogue with the other, it excludes no one and it commits everyone to be a builder of fraternity and peace’

- the Vatican 2011


In Italy in 1986, ‘a milestone event in inter-religious relations’ occurred when Pope John Paul II convened the Inter-Religious Meeting of Prayer for Peace.   This historic event was held in Assisi - a city intimately associated with Saint Francis, who is famed as a leading proponent of peace and friendship.

Assisi - sourced Bing Images: free photos

Although strongly criticised by some who believed the event inappropriately combined elements from Christian and non-Christian religions,  millions around the world supported the event which was a huge success, with many of the world's religious leaders and representatives, converging to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding, through dialogue and prayer.

Gathering centre stage, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Rabbis, Japanese, Cambodian and Tibetan Buddhists, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and the Bishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama, African religious leaders and the Pope, joined with thousands of people to pray for world peace.

I believe - as many others will I'm sure, that the summit was powerfully symbolic.   It demonstrated to the world how religious barriers can be put aside for a common good, the need for people to come together for positive change, the universal power of peace and prayer, and how courageous 'enlightened' leadership - religious or otherwise, can best serve humanity 

Events such as this - and others which followed it, also serve as a visual reminder of the ‘plurality of the world of religion’, as well as the unity that can be found at the heart of them all.

You might also like - 'Advocates for peace - the Dalai Lama' in May archives and 'Parliament of the World's Religions' in Pages section

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Inner light - 'a universal experience'

'Inner light' has many names - Param Prakash in the Ramayana, Sheikinah in the Zohar, Divya Jyoti in the Upanishads, Vergo in the Veda's, Amitabha in Buddhism, Noor-e-Ilahi in the Koran, Chandna in the Sikh tradition. 

Ever since humanity sort to express it's journey on this earth, people have revered and honoured the sacred.  Personal, intimate experiences of inner light have always been recorded - symbolically and allegorically during ancient civilisations, through music, art and song, in myths and legends, scripture and sacred text, in contemporary autobiographical accounts.


Regardless of the name, the manner, culture or language it is expressed in, all of the world's main religions are united through a tradition of transcendent inner light that is universally associated with 'higher consciousness experiences'.

It is documented as being a 'timeless and eternal', self-awareness that expands well beyond the limitations of our physical selves - our ordinary thinking minds and personalities. 

Throughout the ages prophets, mystics, saints and sages have all celebrated a common tale - our human experience with 'inner light' is certainly no metaphor as sceptics have suggested.  Rather, it is a very real and often life changing encounter.

'The light that shines above the heavens and above this world, the light that shines in the highest world, beyond which there are no others, that is the light that shines in the hearts of men'.

- the Chandoya Upanishad

'If they say to you, 'Where did you come from?' say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on it's own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image'.

- Jesus

'Allah is the light
of the heavens
and the earth'.

- the Koran

'Within the domain of our mind
there is a Buddha of Enlightenment
who sends forth a powerful light'.

- The Sutra of Hui-Neng

'If I were to spend years and years imagining how to invent anything so beautiful, I could not do it, and I do not even know how I should try, for, even in it's whiteness and radiance alone, it exceeds all that we can imagine. It is not a radiance which dazzles, but a soft whiteness and an infused radiance'.

- St Teresa of Avila

'Then his soul is a lamp whose light is steady,
for it burns in a shelter where no winds come'

- Bhagavad Gita

'I entered into the innermost part of myself and I saw with the eye of my soul, such as it was, above the same eye of my soul, above my mind, the light unchangeable...He who knows truth knows that light, and he who knows that light, knows eternity'.

- St Augustine

'He who in early days was unwise
but later found wisdom,
he sheds light over the world
like that of the moon when free from clouds'.

- Dhammapada

Friday, 25 May 2012

Insight - 'Luther Standing Bear'

“There is a road in the hearts of all of us, hidden and seldom traveled, which leads to an unkown, secret place. The old people came literally to love the soil, and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. Their teepees were built upon the earth and their altars were made of earth. The soul was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. That is why the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.”

- Luther Standing Bear





Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Insight - 'Martin Luther King'

"This is the great new problem of mankind.  We have inherited a big house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together - black and white, Easteners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, cultures and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other"

- Martin Luther King

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

'Sea of Faith' conference

Even though I'm not personally involved in this event, I thought I would pop the ad up, because I am familiar with the writings and views of several of the guest speakers. 

Actually, I have recommended books by Karen Armstrong and Peter Kirkwood in my Great Reads section, so I'm confident the conference will be a worthwhile event to attend if you happen to be in Brisbane in August . 

Focusing on our 'shared Humanity and the place of Religion, Faith and Meaning as expressions of the human spirit', the conference has a great program hosted by a range of different speakers. 

Human diversity is explored, interfaith consciousness and perspectives, spiritual expression and thinking in the 21st century, and much more.

The program suggests "Difference exist between and within religions, each offering a different question and solution  to the human condition, and exemplar of the path. Yet at their core, the major spiritual traditions espouse similar ideals of one-ness, unconditional love and compassion.  Many look to universal ideals ... that move individuals beyond particular boundaries..."

For full details about the event check out

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Advocates for peace - the 'Dalai Lama'

"Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what is happening outside these communities, and we must share the good fortune that we enjoy"  

 - The Dalai Lama

I was thinking about the format of this blog in the early hours of this morning - as you do - the overall shape and development of it, and I decided to have regular postings on people - past and present - who are leading lights in their advocacy for peace and harmony.

People like the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Mata Amritanandamayi, Saint Francis of Assisi, Swami Vivekananda - to name just a few.  And even those lesser known individuals, who may not have risen to world prominence as these visionaries have, but who nevertheless work just as tirelessly for this cause.

I thought I should start this section with someone I am familiar with.  The Dalai Lama - see his Bio below - came into my life over 26 years ago.  I wrote about that experience recently in a book I am writing - a travel memoir about my time spent living in India in a Himalayan refugee community, while I researched the roles of Tibetan women.

Here's an extract of my first encounter with the Dalai Lama,

courtesy of Fiu © All rights reserved @ Flickr
'I can't remember why I agreed to go with my mother to see the Dalai Lama at a public talk in Auckland.  I had not heard of him then,  knew nothing about his background, his cause or teachings. But karma, more commonly known as the law of cause and effect, was about to play a part in our lives, connecting us all in a very profound way, the extent of which, none of us at the time, were aware of ....

All I remember of the impressions of that night was an energy, thick and fluid, that filled the auditorium in the Aotea centre with a deep, all-encompassing peace. It was like walking into and through, an unseen but palpable wall of calm.   It raised the fine hairs at the base of my neck, scattered goose bumps over my skin.   As we filed into that hushed auditorium, I knew at that moment that something very special was about to unfold.  The stage was empty. Yet I sensed a powerful presence there.

When the Dalai Lama came onto the stage I, like everyone else in the audience, was captivated. Dressed in simple maroon and yellow monk robes, his smile, spontaneous outbursts of infectious laughter and open compassionate face, gave him a charismatic presence that immediately warmed people to him. Everyone was immersed in his aura and it mattered little that his disjointed, pigeon English made it hard to understand his message.

I did not know then that the Dalai Lama is revered by Tibetans as a living Buddha. And as an enlightened being or Bodhisattva, who has incarnated back, through fourteen life times as Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion, his sole purpose on earth is to tirelessly dedicate his life, to help alleviate the suffering of humanity.'

BIO: Tenzin Gyatso - the 14th Dalai Lama, is the Buddhist spiritual leader of Tibet, and ever since his exile to India, following the Chinese occupation of his homeland in 1959, he has been a tireless advocate for peace.  His unwavering commitment and peaceful approach to finding a non-violent resolution to the conflict surrounding Tibet, saw him awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

He travels the world highlighting the Tibetan cause, speaking and teaching about Buddhist philosophy, to packed venues where thousands of people come to hear him talk about universal ideals - peace and compassion, tolerance and loving kindness.  

The Dalai Lama is also a strong advocate of the interfaith movement, believing 'all faiths turn to compassion as a guiding principle for living a good life', and has spent many years studying all of the main world religions. 

His interest in this area has taken him on pilgrimage to various holy sites around the world such as the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, the shrines of Thomas of Aquinas and the Virgin at Fatima.  He has visited temples, mosques, churches, synagogues and gurudwaras, and has met, and continues to actively engage in shared interfaith dialogue and discussion, with many of the main figureheads from these traditions  - see Great Reads in the Pages section for details about his interfaith book.

He writes, "My fellow religious believers, I ask this.  Obey the injunctions of your own faith; travel to the essence of your religious teaching, the fundamental goodness of the human heart.  Here is the space where, despite doctrinal differences, we are all simply human.  If you believe in God, see others as God's children.  If you are nontheist, see all beings as your mother.  When you do this there will be no room for prejudice, intolerance, or exclusivity...Always embrace the common humanity that lies at the heart of us all".

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Quiet reflection - 'Hafiz'


'Is it true that our destiny, is to turn into Light itself?'

- Hafiz

Great Reads

Below, you will find the titles of some books that I can recommend, should you wish to know more about the unifying similarities that are found among our world religions - I will keep adding to this post in the Pages section.

Some of these books will expand your knowledge and awareness of the interfaith movement, others will give you great insight - through wise and very beautiful reflection, into those 'eternal truths', which run through all of the world's faith traditions.

A Quiet Revolution: the emergence of interfaith conciousness - Peter Kirkwood

'From Asia to America, the Middle East to the Pacific, the interfaith movement is a driving force behind a surging revolution in belief. Kirkwood investigates the growth of interfaith communications in a time of deep transformation. This book introduces some of the key thinkers and activists spearheading interfaith dialogue - a Jewish Rabbi, Roman Catholic Priest, Muslim iman, a Korean Christian theologian - 'quiet revolutionaries', the organisations around the world, and the ideas of accepting difference and variety that are part of broader and increasingly essential interfaith networks'

Seeking the Sacred: transforming our view of ourselves and one another - Stephanie Dowrick

In this book, Stephanie Dowrick allows us to go 'beyond cultural divisions and religious cliches to discover what makes our lives sacred, satisfying and meaningful'. Through personal reflection, the shared stories of others, and beautiful insights drawn from a range of different faith traditions, she shows how 'the sacred can transform the way we understand and value life, changing forever how we interact with others and care for oursleves'.

Towards the True Kinship of Faiths: how the world's religions can come together - The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama believes that the, ‘essential task of humanity in the 21st century, must be to cultivate peaceful coexistence'. In this book, he shows how in, ‘our globalised world, nations, cultures and individuals can find opportunities to connect'. Comparing teachings and doctrines to highlight how many of the world faiths espouse and, ‘turn to compassion as a guiding principle for living a good life’, the Dalai Lama encourages,‘people with an aspiration to spiritual perfection to help develop a deep recognition of the value of other faiths'. The insights offered in this important book assist us in that goal.

The Great Transformations: the beginning of our religious traditions - Karen Armstrong

In this insightful book, Karen Armstrong traces 'the development of the Axial Age, examining the contributions of figures such as the Buddha, Socrates, Confucius, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Upanishad mystics, Mencius and Euripides. All of the 'Axial' faiths began in recoil from the unprecedented violence of their time. Despite some differences of emphasis, there was remarkable consensus in their call for abandonment of selfishness and a spirituality of compassion...In each Axial Age case, a disciplined revulsion from violence and hatred proved to be a major catalyst of spiritual change'. In her book, Armstrong shows how the sages from this 'pivotal Age, speak clearly and helpfully to the violence and desperation that we experience in our own time'.

Unifying Truths of the World's Religions: principles for living and loving in peace - C. Lundberg

This 'exhaustively researched book demonstrates that it's the principles that every major faith tradition holds in common - the unifying truths - that have the power and promise to bring us together instead of driving us apart. With over 800 quotations from sacred texts organised in an easy to understand way, this book reveals the simple but powerful philosophy that takes shape from the world's universal truths. Regardless of your faith or world view, this inspiring book will empower you to enjoy, and share, a life of greater meaning, joy and inner peace.'

Unbounded Light: the inward journey - William Williams

In this anthology, 'fifteen tales of inner light are gathered from the ancient scripturul texts of the three major religions, first person accounts from sages and mystics throughout history and the corroborative evidence of modern science. The stories center around two great mysteries - light and conciousness. From a great diversity of cultures, ages, languages and perspectives, they present a common tale - the human encounter with inner light is a very real experience'.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Understanding 'interfaith'

I think every time I have mentioned the word 'interfaith', people have looked at me blankly - it's a relatively new term.  So I decided that today I would blog about it - particularly for those of you who will come across this blog, get a good feeling about the way it is unfolding and have your curiosity stirred - hopefully enough to keep you coming back!

Interfaith is more of a movement really.  Some have termed it a 'quiet revolution', because it is a rapidly growing and evolving movement that is changing and shaping the way religions and spiritual traditions see and engage with each other.

Before, we lived in relatively secular, isolated communities, but with the advent of globalisation, science and technology, the world has 'cross pollenated' (now that's a great way to look at it!).  We now live in diverse, multi-cultural societies - especially here in Australia where 1 in 4 people have a parent or grandparent born overseas.

We are so closely connected now, that something that happens in one country, can have an immediate domino effect around the world...recent global events clearly show that ( it always amazes me that I write a blog, click a tab, send it into the ethers, where someone in Bosnia finds it and reads it - hi to that person!)

Over the last 20 odd years or so, this interconnectedness has seen the need for more spiritual interaction and dialogue between the world's faith traditions - and the wider community - in an effort to better understand each other.  Events in America on September 11 dramatically intensified this growing movement and awareness.

Interfaith organisations sprang up everywhere - particularly in the US - as people from a diverse range of faiths sought to break down shortsighted bias's and prejudices by finding a common good, 'grounded in a universal and inclusive approach to spirituality'. 

Advocates of the Interfaith movement recognise 'the universal Truth that lies at the heart of all faiths and traditions, and honour the rich diversity that exists between them, by promoting an ethic of respect, forgiveness, compassion and community'.

Theological differences 'between religions are acknowledged and respected, by honoring the timeless understanding that essentially there is One God or Source of Life with many wonderful paths leading to that Source'.

Very valuable food for thought! - check out 'Parliment of World Religions' in the pages section, to find more about the history of the interfaith movement.