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Curiosity led to spiritual transformation for @ishwar #worldreligions #guestpost #religion #bookish
I stumbled upon the Bhagavad Gita when I was 21. I was visiting the ISKCON temple in Bangalore with some friends and bought it from the gift shop. I was always a voracious reader since my childhood in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India. Every time I passed by a book shop, I would invariably be drawn inside to peruse the collection. And I would always walk out with at least one or in most cases a lot of books. It did not matter what the subject was, if there was a book to be had - I would get it and always finish reading it, no matter how boring or exciting it was. My reading thus far ranged from Complete works of Shakespeare to Socrates to Sherlock Holmes to Psychology to Artificial Intelligence to every Computer Science book in the local Library.
The Bhagavad Gita stayed with me, unopened and unread, for the next few years while I enjoyed the carefree days of youth in full throttle, in terms of both work and frolic. Until one day, while living in Dubai, I bumped into the guardrails of life and had to slow down. It was like a high speed car that suddenly swerves out of control after seeming to be merrily defying the laws of Physics for the longest time. I had to stay home for a few months and get rest, both physical and mental, while my buddies resumed after settling me down.
With a lot of time on my hands and nothing much to do, after I finished reading every book I had recently bought, I finally opened the Bhagavad Gita. I had already read the complete Mahabharata in my early teens but that translation only briefly mentioned some ‘magical teaching’ from Krishna to Arjuna and moved on with the more dramatic details of the war. Growing up in India meant that one already knew that ‘the’ book with all Hindu mystical knowledge was the Bhagavad Gita. So my expectations were very high as I finally began reading it. A few chapter in, I started skipping the commentary and focused directly on the original Sanskrit Shlokas and their direct Translations. I finished reading it in about a month and the end was anticlimactic. Nothing special happened.
I did not feel any wiser. I wondered what all the hype was about. On the back cover, I saw heaps of praise for the Gita by legends like Gandhi, Einstein, Emerson, Thoreau, Hesse et. al. But, for the first time in my life, I had been totally underwhelmed by the contents of a book which was so highly praised. I shrugged it off but continued to be intrigued in the back of my mind by this unusual experience. Soon, I theorized that the cause of this disparity must be me and not the Gita. It seemed safe to assume that, if important learned people across the world had found the Gita mesmerizing and I did not - I’d bet on them instead of myself! So I decided to re-read the Gita and try to see what the big deal was. And this transformed my life!
When I read the Shlokas for a second time, something deep inside me felt good. I also realized that this book was to be read differently than other ones before. Each Shloka was like a unique creation of Nature which deserved your full undivided attention and rumination. I started reading a Shloka each morning before leaving for work and would wonder what it meant at lunch time or while waiting in the elevator. More than intellectual meaning, I found that this process just made me feel good and calm. This time, it took me many months to finish the second reading of the Gita. And then I re-started it all over again!
To my surprise, I discovered that the Bhagavad Gita was not talking about abstract topics that start rearing their head post retirement as you realize your proximity to end of life. The Gita had strong and practical opinions and advice on how to deal with the incessant struggles of life in youth and middle age. Me and my friends had been and continued to experience years of seemingly fruitless struggles in professional and personal life, punctuated by occasional fleeting moments of success. The Gita talked about how to deal with these incessant ups and downs of life. It had guaranteed recipes on how to deal with crushing defeats and disappointments and how to stay cool and collected in the midst of the chaos that is life. The more I read it, the more I realized that this right here in my hands was a handbook on how to survive life as we go through it. It seemed to me that Spirituality was like getting into the habit and routine of staying Fit. You cannot leave it for ‘later in life’ when you think you will really need it. Ironically, it would be too late by then to ‘start’ being Fit. You have to start the journey of Fitness when you are Young and keep it interweaved in your daily routine as you go through middle and old age. It’s the same for Spirituality. And just like Physical Fitness, Spirituality helps you along the journey to better bear the vagaries of life.
As I was finishing my fourth or fifth reading of the Gita, I stumbled across the Holy Bible of a dear friend of mine. Curious and eager to know if reading it will give me a similarly tantalizing experience as the Gita - I decided to read it cover to cover. However, the physical composition of the Bible was very different from the Gita. The Bible had 66 Books, each with many Chapters, spanning 1000+ pages and the Gita was just 23 short chapters. I could not find any quick spiritual gratification as I read through the first few hundred pages of the Bible. But my old habit of never leaving any book unfinished came in handy. I stayed the course patiently as months went by. And then slowly I started feeling that magical supernatural authoritative voice speaking to me through the Verses of the Bible. To make things even more interesting, I felt that it was the same magical supernatural authoritative voice which had spoken to me through the Shlokas of the Gita. I was skeptical at first but as I continued reading the Bible and eventually finished it almost a year later, I was fully convinced that although on the surface the messages of the Gita and the Bible were different - the magical supernatural authoritative voice speaking to me from the core of both was the same. This was the second transformation in my life.
Over the course of the next 5 years, I then went on to read the Holy Quran, the Dhammapada, the Tao te Ching and eventually all the Sacred Texts of the 12 Major world religions - Bahai, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Shinto, Taoism and Zoroastrianism. I felt sublime joy, peace and satisfaction as I read these holy books. And I would always feel the same magical supernatural authoritative voice speaking to me from all of them.
As I read through the almost 5,000 pages of these various books, my reading experience was uneven. I had to wade through long stretches of passages and pages and pages of text which seemed mundane and then would stumble upon Verses that seemed like amazing gems and diamonds of wisdom. It was like going on a multi day hike into the mountains across rugged terrain in the hot sun and cold wind braving hunger and thirst - to periodically stumble upon some sweet magical fruits that I would collect and bring back. I was addicted and felt that I never wanted to give up this magical experience of reading and re-reading these oceans of wisdom. But, I felt that as I go through life, both my reading prowess and the amount of time I would have left over after work and family would keep diminishing.
So for my own future self, I figured that as I read these books, I should start noting down selected teachings and quotes in a separate place. This way, as I grew busy with life, I could easily get my ‘dose’ of wisdom and inner peace by quickly opening this collection of selected quotes and reading a few of them. That is how I ended up with this collection of about 1,000 selections from the teachings of all the World Religions.
I hereby humbly share and present this priceless and unique collection of teachings with you. Reading these teachings through the years has helped me stay humble and aware of as well as thankful for all the miracles in my life. My sincere hope is that by reading them, just like me, you will also get joy, peace, tranquility, wisdom and practical everyday guidance on how to deal with the ups and downs of life.
Thank you, Ishwar, for the insightful spiritual journey. Readers, scroll down to read more about Ishwar’s new release.
Title: Nectar of All World Religions
Author: Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar
Genre: Non Fiction/Religion & Spirituality
Like a bee that goes to all the flowers in the garden and collects their essence to create Nectar - Ishwar read over 5,000 pages of the Holy books of all major 12 world religions over a period of 5 years. From these books he selected 1,000 quotes to capture the Essence of their Teachings and Wisdom. These selected quotes are presented to you in this book.
This book is unlike a typical one which you read from cover to cover. Each line and verse has been chosen for its depth and breadth of wisdom. Ishwar's suggestion for you is to read one verse per day and fully appreciate it, what it means to you and how it can be applicable to you in your everyday life. You could find a way to weave this into your daily routine. For ex. by setting up a recurring reminder on your Calendar. As you read and fully appreciate the teachings of your own religion in this book - the hope is that the learnings would be valuable to you in dealing with the ups and downs of life. You could also read about other religions and soak their wisdom. This can help expand one’s mind and perspective on life & the varied rich traditions around the world. Such an expanded view can help us control the tendency to ‘generalize and otherize’ people i.e. discriminating against ‘all those other people’ based on their race, country, skin color, gender, religion, caste, creed, political affiliation or orientation. The world will be a better place If all of us can collectively reduce this otherization and become more empathetic towards each other. These selected quotes are presented ‘raw’ without any commentary or analysis. Because Ishwar believes that adding commentary would be akin to him standing next to you on top of a mountain peak and talking incessantly. He would rather escort you to the towering mountain peak or the majestic ocean and fall silent to let you commune with it, to let it fully and deeply sink in and give you the unlimited joy, peace and tranquility that it naturally emanates.
Selection from Kitab I Aqdas:
Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty.
Glorified be God, the Lord of Might and Majesty, of Grace and Bounty.
Glorified be God, the Lord of the kingdoms of earth and heaven.
Reflect, O people, on the grace and blessings of your Lord,
and yield Him thanks at eventide and dawn.
He, definitely, is the Pardoner, the Bounteous, the Gracious,
the One Who absolves the repentant.
Selections from Dhammapada
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world;
by non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
Little though one recites the sacred texts,
but puts the Teaching into practice,
forsaking lust, hatred and delusion,
with true wisdom and emancipated mind,
clinging to nothing in this or any other world,
one, indeed, partakes of the blessings of a holy life.
Ever grows the glory of one who is energetic, mindful and pure in conduct,
discerning and self-controlled, righteous and heedful.
By effort and heedfulness, discipline and self-mastery,
let the wise one make for oneself an island which no flood can overwhelm.
Do not give way to heedlessness; do not indulge in sensual pleasures.
Only the heedful and meditative attain great happiness.
Selections from Bible (King James Version)
Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you, when people shall scold you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for His sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust do corrupt,
and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust do corrupt,
and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Selections from Confucian Analects
Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.
When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them.
In the Book of Poetry are three hundred sections,
but the idea behind all of them all may be summarized in one sentence
'Having no morally corrupt thoughts.'
The Master said,
At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning.
At thirty, I stood firm.
At forty, I had no doubts.
At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven.
At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth.
At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without transgressing what was right.
Learning without thought is labor lost;
thought without learning is perilous.
Selections from Bhagavad Gita
Those who are wise lament neither for the living nor for the dead.
The nonpermanent appearance
of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course,
are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons.
They arise from sense perception,
and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.
Those who are seers of the truth have concluded
that of the nonexistent [the material body] there is no endurance
and of the eternal [the soul] there is no change.
This they have concluded by studying the nature of both.
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time.
It has not come into being, does not come into being,
and will not come into being.
It is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval.
It is not slain when the body is slain.
The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon,
nor burned by fire, nor moistened by water,
nor withered by the wind.
This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble,
and can be neither burned nor dried.
Selections from Quran
In the name of the merciful and compassionate God.
Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the worlds,
the merciful, the compassionate, the ruler of the day of judgment!
You we serve and you we ask for aid. Guide us in the right path,
the path of those you are gracious; not of those you are angry with; nor of those who err.
Definitely, God is mighty over all.
Serve your Lord who created you and those before you; that you may fear!
who made the earth for you a bed and the heaven a dome;
and sent down from heaven water, and brought forth therewith fruits as a sustenance for you;
so make no peers for God, the while you know!
How can you disbelieve in God, when you were dead and He made you alive,
and then He will kill you and then make you alive again, and then to Him will you return?
Selections from Acharanga Sutra
A person that does not comprehend and renounce the causes of sin,
descends in a cardinal or intermediate direction,
wanders to all cardinal or intermediate directions,
is born again and again in manifold births,
experiences all painful feelings.
A wise person should not act sinfully towards earth,
nor cause others to act so, nor allow others to act so.
He who has the true knowledge about all things,
will commit no sinful act, nor cause others to do so.
Knowing pain and pleasure in all their variety,
and seeing their life not yet decline,
a wise person should know that to be the proper moment
for entering a religious life.
Subduing desire by desirelessness,
he does not enjoy the pleasures that offer themselves.
Desireless, giving up the world, and ceasing to act,
he knows, and sees, and has no wishes because of their discernment.
Selections from Tanakh
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
God is with you in all that you do.
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Who has made person's mouth?
or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
Selections from Guru Granth Sahib
By His Command, bodies are created; His Command cannot be described.
By His Command, souls come into being; by His Command, glory and greatness are obtained.
By His Command, some are high and some are low;
by His Written Command, pain and pleasure are obtained.
Some, by His Command, are blessed and forgiven;
others, by His Command, wander aimlessly forever.
Everyone is subject to His Command; no one is beyond His Command.
The Commander, by His Command, leads us to walk on the Path.
True is the Master, True is His Name-speak it with infinite love.
Selections from Tao te Ching
Conceived of as having no name,
it is the Originator of heaven and earth;
conceived of as having a name,
it is the Mother of all things.
Always without desire we must be found,
If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.
Where the Mystery is the deepest
is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.
So it is that existence and non-existence
give birth the one to the idea of the other;
that difficulty and ease
produce the one the idea of the other;
that length and shortness
fashion out the one the figure of the other;
that the ideas of height and lowness
arise from the contrast of the one with the other.
The sage manages affairs without doing anything,
and conveys their instructions without the use of speech.
Selections from Zend Avesta
Purity is for person, next