The Prophets of Ben/ Israel, #1
What was the major difference between the prophets of the hindu tradition and those of the Jewish religion?
Essential Elements of Judaism, #1
Pir Vilayat Khan sees the accent in the Jewish religion placed upon
"making Gid a reality". This Stems from the value which is given to the
human experience and expression as opposed to the orientation toward liberation
beyond life found in the Hindu and Buddhist religions. Pleaee give examples
of this tendancy from Jewish scriptures, rituals, customs, etc.
Readings from the Unity of Religious Ideals
Abraham, whose name seems to come from the Sanskrit root Brahm, which means 'the Creator', was the father of three great religions of the world. For it is from his descendants, who were called Beni Israel, that came Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Abraham was the first to bring the knowledge of mysticism from Egypt, where he was initiated in the most ancient Order of esotericism. And the place which, on his return, he chose to establish as a center, with the idea that some place must be the world center, was Mecca, whither not only in the age of Islam did people make pilgrimage, but at all times the sacred center of Mecca was held in esteem by the pious who lived before Muhammed.
The family of Jesus Christ is traced in the ancient tradition from the family of Isaac, and Muhammed came from the family of Ishmael. The prophecies of Abraham have always been living words, though various people make their different interpretations according to their own ideas. But to the mind of the seer the prophecies of Abraham have a very deep meaning.
With his great knowledge of esotericism, he has been a great patriarch among his people. He was interested in everybody's trouble and difficulty. He was thrown in the midst of worldly responsibilities, to learn all that he might learn from it, and then to teach his knowledge and experience to those who looked to him for the bread of knowledge. No doubt the stories of the ancient times very often strike our modern ears as most childish. But it is the way they were told, and the kind of people that told them; all that makes a great difference. In the first place, there was such a scarcity of lettered people in those days; therefore, the stories were told by the unlettered, and certainly they must have improvised upon every legend they told, and pictured it according to the artistic development of their particular age. Nevertheless, Truth is there, if we only knew how to lift the veil.
Abraham's life does not only make him a Prophet, but a Murshid at the same time. He was a mystic; he gave counsel to those who came to him in need. He examined them, treated their minds, healed their souls according to their needs. The most remarkable thing one notices in Abraham is that, besides being a Prophet and a mystic, he lived the life of an ordinary human being, one with his fellow men in their times of pleasure and sorrow.
One story of the life of Abraham has been the source of great argument in the East, which is the sacrifice of Isaac. It is not only an argument in the East, but alarming to a Western mind. They can put a thousand questions to give a proper reason and justification to such an act. But at the same time, if we looked from the ideal point of view, no sacrifice for a beloved ideal can be too great. There are numberless souls whose dear ones, their beloved husbands or sons, have been sacrificed in this recent war. They could do nothing else; they had to surrender their will to the ideal of the nation, and offer the sacrifice for the cause of the nation, without thinking for one moment that it was unusual.
When we think deeply on the problem of life, there is no path in the world, whether spiritual or material, which we can tread successfully without a sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is great, and sometimes small; sometimes the sacrifice is made first, before achieving the success, and sometimes afterwards. As sacrifice is necessary in life, it is made by everyone in some form or other, but, when it is made willingly, it turns into a virtue. The greater the ideal, the greater the sacrifice it demands, and if one saw wisely the process of advancement through life in any direction, it is nothing but a continual sacrifice. And happiness comes from the understanding of this nature of life, and not being hurt or troubled by it, but knowing that it is by sacrifice, made to the end, that man attains to the desired goal.
The idea of sacrifice has existed in every religion of all ages in some way or another, and has been taught sometimes as having to part with one's possessions for the love of a higher ideal, which means that when man claims to show love for his higher ideal, and yet is not willing to give up something he possesses for it, then there is doubt about his devotion. Although sacrifice of a possession is the first step, the next is self-sacrifice, which was the inner tone of the religion of Jesus Christ. Charity, generosity, even tolerance and forbearance, are a kind of sacrifice, and it seems that every sacrifice in life, in whatever form, means a step forward, which leads to the goal of every soul.
Moses, the most shining Prophet of the Old Testament, gave to the world the Divine Law, the Ten Commandments, which in reality was the interpretation of the Divine Law that he perceived, expressed in the words of those who stood before him at that time of the world's civilization. It is interesting to notice the Sufi saying which comes from the ages, which says: "Be the follower of love, and forget all distinctions"; for in this path of spiritual attainment to claim that "I am So-and-so" is meaningless.
Moses was found by the riverside by a princess, who knew not what family he came from, or who was his father and mother. Only the Name of God came to the mind of every thoughtful inquirer as to the Father and Mother of Moses. When people compare the teachings of different religions, and readily form their opinions upon them, they are often mistaken; it is premature to make such distinctions. There comes a stage in the evolution of an illuminated soul when he begins to see the law hidden behind Nature, the true psychology. To him the whole life reveals the secrets of its nature and character, and when he gives an interpretation of these secrets to others, they become limited, for they take the color of his own personality, and the form of the thought of those to whom the Message is given. The story of Moses, as told by Sufis, is most interesting and helpful to the traveler on the path. Moses has been the favorite character of the poets of Arabia and Persia, and, in the poems of the Persian Sufis, Moses is as often mentioned as Krishna is mentioned in the poetry of the Hindus.
Moses was walking in the wilderness seeking the light when he saw from a distance smoke rising on the tope of a mountain. So he climbed to the tope of the mountain, in order to find that fire. But on arriving at the top of the mountain he saw a glimpse of the lightning which was so powerful that it went throughout his whole being. Moses fell down unconscious on the ground and when he recovered his senses, he found himself with illumination. From that time Mount Sinai was the place where he often went and communicated with God. The story is very enlightening when one can think that it is possible, that all the illumination that is desired, can come to a soul in a moment. Many think that spiritual attainment can be achieved by a great labor. No, labor is necessary for material attainment; for spiritual attainment what one needs is the seeking soul like that of Moses.
Moses' falling down upon the ground may be interpreted as the Cross, which means: "I am not; Thou art." In order to be, one must pass a stage of being nothing. In the Sufi terms it is called Fana, when one thinks "I am not (what I had always thought myself to be)." This is the true self-denial, which the Hindus called Layam, and in Buddhism is termed annihilation. It is the annihilation of the false self, which gives rise to the true self; once this is done, from that moment man approaches closer and closer to God, and stands face to face with his Divine Ideal, with whom he can communicate at every moment of his life. The law of God is endless, as limitless as God Himself, and, once the eye of the seeker penetrates through the veil that hangs before him, hiding from his eye the real law of life, the mystery of the whole life manifests to him, and happiness and peace become his own, for they are the birthright of every soul.
"I have not come to give a new law, I have come to fulfill the law," said Christ. This suggests two things. One is that to give a law is one of the principal objects of the coming of the Messenger. In the traditions of the past we see that it was what is called the divine law that governed the nations. And even now the law is necessarily based on a religious principle, which shows us that even in earthly things the divine guidance has always been considered most necessary. The worldly-wise do not know spiritual things, whereas the spiritually-wise are wise in earthly things also. And Christ, whose life was free from earthly thought, withdrawn from the world even, it is He who has given to the people of His time the divine law. Krishna, with all His philosophical and mystical ideas, speaks of the law of worldly life.
Today a Muslim follows most respectfully the law given by his Prophet, and recognizes with pride that his Prophet had in his life military service and political responsibilities, and that his Prophet was at the same time a man of the world and a man of God. To whatever extent the world may evolve, a thoughtful man will never be able to deny the fact that it is not for everyone, for every mind, to touch the depths of thought. Whether there be aristocracy or democracy, there will always be a few souls who will have influence over many. We see that all men are different, each has his own way to follow, and no one can fill the place of another.
If it happens that in worldly affairs there is what is called the man of the moment, then even in spiritual affairs there may be the soul of the age. The Messengers who have brought the law, have been the Messengers of their time, but, since today man knows only the earthly affairs, he concerns himself little with the affairs of the soul. As he concerns himself little with this question, he is very little aware of what happens in spiritual conditions; nevertheless the work of God and of creation pursues its course just the same. The Spirit, which is called Alpha and Omega, is always present and is always doing its work, recognized or unrecognized.
We can see the law in five aspects. First, the institution of marriage and of divorce is the first thing necessary for the peace of the world. This law is necessary to safeguard in life the rights of woman, whose position is more delicate than that of man. The recognition given to marriage by the law makes an impression upon the two persons, pointing out that they are connected by law and by religion. The necessity of divorce, a thing that is sometimes necessary to put an end to the captivity of two persons who cannot agree in living together, also is a part of the law. If there were not a religious influence--if one had not the impression, Our marriage is made before God--it would very much lessen the seriousness with which marriage is viewed. For instance, today there is a way of marrying which has nothing to do with religion, and often marriage becomes simply a matter of the law courts. One can imagine how man considers this question when it is a question that can be settled in the court. Nothing in the world can take the place, in marriage, of what religion gives to marriage.
The second aspect is the division of property and the manner of safeguarding property. The law of religion, with the justice of God, teaches man to regard the rights of others as well as his own rights. Besides, religion teaches what one may rightfully call one's own, and what ought not to belong to us. It teaches also how one should earn money, and how one should spend it. The serious aspect of religion, the thought of God and of Truth which is behind all this, creates in life that spirit of honesty which religion is meant to create.
Third, there are birth and death. At the coming of the child, the thought of spiritual illumination in some form or other, to welcome him on earth--this necessarily makes a foundation for spiritual development in the life of the infant; and, in the family in which the child arrives, the feeling that he has come as a gift from God, the thought that: "We, the parents, are not alone responsible for this child's life; behind there is God, Who shares our responsibility."
At the death of a person, a religious ceremony performed gives strength to the one who is passing from this world into another world, and it is also a consolation to those who think of him with love. For it brings the thought that the dead one is called towards the Source whence he has come. And, besides, added to the thought which comes with death, the religious ceremony creates also in the minds of those present the thought: "We are not here permanently. Life is like a caravan. All have to go along the same road. One goes first; the others follow in their turn." Think what a virtue this thought brings us! It makes the fact of this illusory world pale, which yet keeps so many engaged day and night in its pursuit. It offers man an opportunity to be still for a moment and consider life, man who is always absorbed in the affairs of this world of illusion.
The fourth aspect that the law of religion represents is social life. People meeting in a church, at a meeting for a service or a religious ceremony, naturally gives the opportunity of joining together in the thought of God and of religion. Places of pilgrimage and sacred places, all this unites humanity in the love of God and in unity. Think of people gathered together at an exhibition, a fair; the feeling that animates them all is gain, to get the best of the bargain. What an incomparable difference when one meets in a sacred and religious thought!
The fifth institution is the political institution of the religious law--all that concerns the community or the country; a law which, with divine justice, concerns itself with the affairs of the community and the affairs of the country. A problem, which cannot be solved otherwise, can be solved by spiritual enlightenment. Man is naturally selfish, and justice cannot exist in the heart in which there is the thought of self. That one alone can look at things from a just point of view whose heart reflects God absolutely--God, Who is above nation, race, caste, creed, or religion.
No doubt, where there is truth there is also untruth, where there
is day there is also night. It is natural that often the religious authorities
have abused the law. When a spiritual man concerns himself with the things
of the world, it is extremely difficult for him not to allow the things
of the world to throw their shadow on his heart. Men, revolted by the abuse
of religion, have often given up religion itself, and it is this that has
made man ignorant of the divine source of the law that rules the affairs
of the world. Today man thinks that to make laws is the work of intellectual
people. This brings constant disappointments both to nations and to communities.
The lack of order and peace throughout the world today, one may say, is
caused by the want of the law which must come from God, from the divine
source. Man is too small to be able to find the solution of the problems
of this world. That is the work of the perfect wisdom which is found in
a Personality without limitations, with which human personality cannot
be compared, as one cannot compare a drop with the ocean.