Kabir

Kabir [1440- 1518]

Kabir was a weaver and mystic poet who lived in Benares for 120 years. He was an important influence on the Hindus and Muslims [then called Mohammedans] of his time and also a profound influence on Nanaka Shah (Guru Nanak), the founder of the Sikh religion. Many poems of Kabir can be found in the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scriptures that form the Guru of Sikhism.

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Swami Karunyananda


Swami Karunyananda came to Sri Sathya Sai Baba at age 60 and stayed with Him and served Sathya Sai Baba in Prashanti Nilayam for four decades. A common sight for the regular Puttaparthi visitor in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Swami Karunyananda happily gave up an entire service organisation to be with Sai Baba; he also directed his own devotees to become devotees of Sathya Sai Baba.

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Mahatama Gandi


Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British rule. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He is more commonly called Mahatma Gandhi; mahatma is an honorific meaning “great-soul” or “venerable” in Sanskrit.

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Mata Amritanadamayi Devi

Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known as Ammachi or Mother (or the Hugging Saint in the world’s media) was born 27 September in a small fishing village in Kerala, South India. Named Sudhamani, she was the third child in family of 8 children. Her early life was punctuated with intense devotion to Lord Krishna, right from very young age.

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Swami Vivekananda

If India were to have patron saints, then perhaps we might say that Swami Vivekananda is the patron saint – or guru – of Inter-religious encounter, or perhaps, in a more modern sense, an advocate for toleration and harmony among the world’s religions. Swami Vivekananda travelled to the Americas and participated in the inaugural Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893. We bring you excerpts from his speech on this occasion (in 2016) of the Birthday of Swami Vivekananda. (Vivekananda Jayanti)

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St George

Saint George (AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.

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Padmasambhava

Padmasambhava

(circa 755 -797)

Padmasambhava introduced Buddhist doctrine into Tibet and exorcised its demons. He is one of the historically identifiable founders of Tibetan Buddhism and of the Lamas, as Tibetan Buddhist monks are generally called.

Padmasamhhava (literally, born of the Lotus) was born in the extreme north-west of India, now Pakistan. He was already an accredited Tantric master at the Nalanda university when he was called to Tibet by King Thn-Srong Detsan (740-786). Buddhism had doubtlessly arrived in Tibet one century before, during the reign of the first king, Tri-srong Detsan (c.610-649) who had married two Buddhist princesses, one from Nepal, and the other from China.


 

However, it was only under Tri-srong Detsan that the new religion began to spread. There had been no indigenous Buddhist monks in Tibet, although many visits had been made by Indian and Chinese monks from the time of King Tri-srong Detsan. King Tri-srong Detsan invited the highly educated monk Santirakshita to his kingdom, where he began construction of the first Buddhist monastery, but could not complete his task because of the interference of demons from the ancient indigenous religion. These demons were most probably the priests themselves. Santirakshita, who was a philosopher, did not have the means to fight them, and advised the king to call in Padmasambhava who was a Tantric siddha, and therefore, an exorcist.

Padmasambhava’s journey to Tibet was a triumphant march. One by one the demons were beaten and one by one they had to swear to become loyal protectors of the Doctrine. The methods of Padmasambhava ranged from the use of ritual implements such as the phurba to the mastery of the meditation techniques of dzogchen.

The Samye monastery was opened in 779, at the same time as Buddhism was declared the state religion and the first seven Buddhist monks ordained. A few years later, the last representatives of Ch’an, the Chinese school of Buddhism which had been very influential, were expelled, and the Vajrayana school, or Indian Tantric Buddhism reigned supreme.

King Srong Detsan caused two pillars to be constructed in Lhasa which contain epigrams stating that Padmasambhava’s patron was himself, Tri-srong Detsan. These
pillars are dated 783 and approximately 790. In these edicts, the word Lama does not occur, thought the kings states “by a blessing, the orthodox religion was procured”. This ‘orthodox’ or ‘inside’ religion is still the ordinary term applied to Buddhism as opposed to the Bon Religion or other faiths.

It is significant of the enthusiasm and skill imparted by Padmasambhava that seven of the first group trained by him and his deputy attained literary distinction shown in their scrupulously accurate work of translation of Indian Buddhist canons to Tibetan language. They had remarkable attainment in both Sanskrit and Tibetan languages.

 


Bas-relief of Padmasambhava

Padmasambhava disposed of the antagonistic priests of the old Bön religion. In later times he was denigrated by the resentful older Bön tradition in relating his achievements. There are extant witnesses to his character that he was flagrantly magical and necromantic. Tibetan Buddhism has certain tantric elements which give rise to such tales. Ritualistic spells are also ascribed to the Buddha himself in certain 14th century manuscripts, which date from the era that ascribe similar ritualism to Padmasambhava.

After the persecution of Buddhism which accompanied the collapse of the monarchy (842), a popular form of the religion survived which remained faithful to the teachings of the Great Guru (Padmasambhava) whose writings were hidden and not discovered until several centuries later.

Padmasambhava is closely linked to the oldest Tibetan monastic order, Nyimgma-pa. In the course of centuries the figure of Padmasambhava, who continued the tradition of the maha-siddhas, took on an increasingly legendary character. Throughout Buddhist Himalaya, he is known as the Great Guru, or Precious Jewel (Lopon Rinpoche) and is worshipped as the Lama par excellence and is even considered by some to the ‘Second Buddha’. His birthday, (the tenth day of the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar (end of June/beginning of July) is celebrated with sacred dances, particularly at Hemis in Ladakh. He is the patron saint of the
Red-Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Coda

 


Padmasambhava is escorted by two of his female students

According to legend, Padmasambhava was born in the country of Urgyen in northwest Kashmir. He quickly mastered all the learned disciplines of his time, especially the teachings of the Tantras. In the 8th century he made his appearance in history through his mission to Tibet, then under the dominance of nature religion and the Bön faith. His campaign in Tibet came to an end with the construction of the Samye Monastery (775). Concerning the remainder of Padmasambhava’s stay in Tibet, the sources diverge, giving anywhere from a few months to many years.

Especially important among the teachings were the eight logos. For the benefit of future generations he also hid a great number of teachings in the form of texts (terma). The most important female student of Padmasambhava and author of his biography was Yeshe Tsogyel.

The followers of the Nyingmapa school celebrate the important events in the life of Padmasambhava (honoured as Guru Rinpoche) on the tenth day of each month. Thus on the tenth of the first month they celebrate his renunciation of the world; the second month, his ordination; on the tenth of the third month, his transformation of fire to water in the Kingdom of Zahor—and so forth. The best known invocation of Padmasambhava is that in seven lines:

In the Northwest of the land of Urgyen
On a blooming lotus flower
You attained supreme wondrous perfection.
You are called the Lotus-born
And are surrounded by a retinue of dakinis
I follow your example—
Approach and grant me your blessing.

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Tenzin Gyatso – The Fourteenth Dalai Lama


Ocean of Compassion

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Born: 1935
Residence: Dharamsala, India
Birth Name: Tenzin Gyatso

Dalai Lama: “teacher whose wisdom is as great as the ocean”; an honorary title bestowed by the Mongolian prince Altan Khan on the third head of the Gelukpa school in 1578. This close connection with Mongolia brought the school of Tsongkhapa into a position of political preeminence, which with the fifth dalai lama (1617-82) was consolidated into rulership over all of Tibet. Since this time, the Dalai Lama has been regarded as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, and the Panchen Lama has been venerated as his spiritual representative. Each Dalai Lama is considered a reincarnation (tulku) of the preceding Dalai Lamas. The Dalai Lamas not only fulfilled their role as heads of state. Among them are also great scholars and poets filled with joie de vivre, like the sixth Dalai Lama. The fourteenth Dalai
Lama, in exile since 1959, combines in his person a spiritual and political authority that is still binding for the Tibetan people.

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Ibn-al-Arabi

Ibn-al-Arabi
born: 1165, Murcia, Spain
obit: Damascus 1240 Abu Bakr Muhammad

 

Muhyi al-Din Ibn al-Arabi was born in Murcia into a very pious and cultured milieu. When he was seven, he and his family moved to Seville, the capital of the Almohades Empire which extended all over North Africa. At 16, having studied with Andalusian spiritual leaders, he‘ entered on the path’. He was so cultured that at an early age he was awarded an important administrative post; it was also at this time that he met and married a young woman whom he considered to be the spiritual ideal. But a grave illness which brought with it powerful visions led him to give up his career and his possessions in order to practise asceticism in strict seclusion. Several long years of pilgrimage followed, during which Ibn’Arabi met the greatest mystics in Spain and the Mahgreb, where he spent some time before a vision compelled him to go to the East. In 1201-02 he travelled to Cairo, Jerusalem, and finally to Mecca, where he was welcomed into the home of an eminent Persian sheikh and his sister.

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al-Ghazali: The Seven Obstacles

The Seven Obstacles

The following brief description of the path that the devotee travels in his journey to Jannah (Paradise) is taken from the introduction of Imam al-Ghazali’s Minhaj al-‘Abidin ila Jannati Rabb al-‘Alamin (The Path that the Devotee has to traverse in order to reach the Garden of the Lord of the Universe). This path to Jannah is no more than the devotee’s actual worship and servitude of Allah, the Almighty. However, in undertaking this journey the devotee is confronted with Seven Obstacles which he needs to overcome if he is to accomplish his goal and reach his destination. These Seven Obstacles are:

  1. the Obstacle of Knowledge
  2. the Obstacle of Repentance
  3. the Obstacle of the Barriers
  4. the Obstacle of the Four Distractions
  5. the Obstacle of the Forces
  6. the Obstacle of the Nullifiers
  7. the Obstacle of Praise and Gratitude

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al-Ghazali

The Alchemist of Happiness

Algazel, better known as al-Ghazali, was born Abu Hamid Ibn Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al-Tusi al-Shafi’i al-Ghazali in 1058 A.D. in Khorasan, Irandad, in the west of what is now called Iran. He was an Islamic theologian, philosopher, and mystic. He is considered one of the greatest theologians in Islam. Al-Ghazali made a significant philosophical contribution at a time which was important for the continuing legitimate existence of the sufi component of Islam.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century. A Lutheran pastor, he was executed for his resistance on April 9, 1945 at the age of 39 years in a Nazi concentration camp, after a long period of imprisonment. A recognised thinker, he was also a man of commitment. Until the end, out of loyalty and conviction, he became the witness of a love that preceded it.

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Anandamayi Ma of Bengal

Anandamayi Ma is a woman-saint of Bengal who lived from 1896 – 1982. Anandamayi Ma defied all conventions, initiated herself and her husband into the sacred state and often gave signs and displays of a divine incarnation. Ma was not attached to her devotees (she had many) and was honoured and venerated as a divine incarnation toward the end of her earthly sojourn. She wrote no books and gave very simple teachings to her devotees. Her name means “Ever-blissful Mother”.

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