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Australia’s Gold Coast says “no” to Gandhi street

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Australia’s sixth largest city Gold Coast has said no to the request of naming a street after peace icon Mahatma Gandhi.

Replying to a plea of Gandhi Monument Council headquartered in USA, Ron Clarke, Gold Coast mayor, said, “…Council’s Street Naming department will not be able to support the request.  Following Council’s Street Naming Guidelines Section S.1.4., Council will name streets of which have a historical or cultural significance of Australia and/or of those who have resided as a local resident for a considerable time.”

Right Reverend Gene Savoy Jr. and Rajan Zed, Council coordinators, in a communiqué to the City of Gold Coast, had urged to name one of the major streets of Gold Coast after Mahatma Gandhi, preferably to be called Mahatma Gandhi Marg (“marg” means path). While Savoy is Head Bishop of International Community of Christ, Zed is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism.

The Gandhi Monument Council is formed of Christian (various denominations), Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i, Native American, etc., clergy.  According to Zed and Savoy, the purpose of this Council is to commemorate Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, his commitment to world peace, and his work for the upliftment of the downtrodden.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) was one of the few men in history to fight simultaneously on moral, religious, political, social, economic, and cultural fronts. His life and thought had an enormous impact on the world, and he continues to be widely revered as one of the greatest moral, political, and peace leaders of the twentieth century.

Gold Coast; known for surf, partying, sun, active nightlife and meter maids; is Australia’s answer to Las Vegas.


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Hindus find Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew’s remarks of “common commitment” very encouraging

Pope and Patriarch

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Hindus have applauded Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew’s remarks of “common commitment for the well-being of humanity” while delivering his historical first address to Synod of Bishops at Vatican City, held from October five to 26.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that world religions and religious leaders should at least work together on common religious concerns like human improvement, peace, ecological responsibility, social & economic development, etc.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that Bartholomew’s remarks of “common concern and common responsibility” and “to transcend political or religious differences in order to transform the entire visible world” were very encouraging.

Religion was the most powerful, complex and far-reaching force in our society, so we must take it seriously. And we all knew that religion comprised much more than our own particular tradition/experience, Zed stressed.

Rajan Zed further says that in our shared pursuit for the truth, we can learn from one another and thus can arrive nearer to the truth. Our dialogue may help us vanquish the stereotypes, prejudices, caricatures, etc., passed on to us from previous generations. As dialogue brings us reciprocal enrichment, we shall be spiritually richer than before the contact.

His All Holiness, Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew and spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion followers. Moksha (liberation) is the ultimate goal of Hinduism.


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Mysticism and the Idea of Sainthood, Part 4: Saints and Medical Science

Copyright © Michael W. Clark 2008.
All rights reserved.

This is Part of a series.

Part 1 » One or Many?

Part 2 » Mysticism, Science and Politics

Part 3 » Different Interpretations

From a psychoanalytic perspective, the Freudian would say that alleged spiritual visions are fantasies stemming from the libido.

That is, the sex instinct simply attaches itself to an imagined object.

Similarly, the staunch materialist would contend that spiritual visions are mere hallucinations stemming from inner psychological states.

There is no heaven, hell nor afterlife for the materialist. Religion merely comforts weak-willed individuals thwarted by a mysterious and oftentimes harsh world.

Saints and Medical Science

Historically speaking, some of the saints might seem a bit destructive, uncompromising and obsessive.

Consider self-flagellation, hair shirts and St. Thomas More who had six Lutherans burned at the stake for heresy before he, himself, succumbed to the executioner for not sanctioning Henry VIII’s divorce.

What a mess.

In retrospect alleged saintliness and perhaps even some instances of martyrdom might seem pretty neurotic and more like the clash of rigid, judgmental personalities than some kind of holy ideal to be emulated.

If the saints of old could walk through a time machine to the present, some might seem barbarous, sadomasochistic or even insane.

But one thing is certain–because each saint lived in a distinct cultural setting, each met with a unique form of interpersonal and cultural misunderstanding and, in many cases, unspeakable oppression.

Not a few saints were taken as witches and devil-worshipers.

Joan of Arc, for instance, was condemned by an ecclesiastical court and tragically burned at the stake only to be found innocent by the Holy See 24 years later. And nearly 500 hundred years after her death she was canonized–that is, officially bestowed the status of sainthood.

As to whether some of the historical saints were psychologically disordered – or partly so – is a complex, arguably culture-bound question.

Critics of psychiatry say that aspects of this developing science are tantamount to a cultural weather vane, responding to transitory legal, economic and political influences. This kind of critique opens up debate as to the meaning of biological, psychological, social and spiritual normalcy.

One historical example favored among some anti-psychiatry and gay rights activists has to do with the psychiatric conceptualization and treatment of homosexuality.

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification of homosexuality changed in 1973. Until that time homosexuality was construed as a disorder.  In 1972 a homosexual likely would have undergone extensive therapy in an attempt to change his or her sexual orientation to the supposedly healthy norm defined by the APA.

But in 1973, not so. Suddenly it was psychologically normal to be a homosexual.1

And one only has to consider psychiatry in Nazi Germany for an extreme example of cultural forces influencing the supposedly objective medical sciences.

Contemporary medical professionals are fully aware that this or subtler form of this dynamic could recur.2

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that some pharmaceutical corporations allegedly have used uneducated, impoverished people in underdeveloped countries as human guinea pigs for potentially dangerous drug testing.3

It’s hardly surprising that prominent intellectuals like Michel Foucault, Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing question the very concepts of mental health and illness, while the psychiatrist C. G. Jung tries to redefine the issue within an apparently natural-cum-spiritual agenda of “achieving wholeness.”

More recently, the Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof envisions intense personal crises as “spiritual emergencies” that are best handled with holistically informed care.

Often, those episodes hold a powerful healing potential if understood and accompanied correctly. They are what we call a spiritual emergency.4

Conclusion

Where does all this this leave us? Are saints simply sick people hiding from the world or are they sublime seekers pointing to a greater reality?

The previous Parts 1-4 attempt to situate mysticism and the idea of sainthood within a contemporary cultural matrix.

In today’s world, a bona fide saint might be faced with unique challenges. He or she might be mishandled by an incompetent doctor, priest or insensitive friends and family members.

Historically, we’ve seen the unfortunate dynamic where family, friends and associates become angry and embarrassed, even hostile toward a potential saint. Two outstanding Catholic saints, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi, for example, were both temporarily imprisoned by their families in a misguided attempt to prevent them from pursuing essentially spiritual vocations.

And as noted, Joan of Arc was condemned to the flames and we have no reason to believe that similar, if perhaps subtler, dynamics couldn’t happen today.

As medical, religious and legal dialogue continues as to how alleged visionaries and saints are to be best handled in contemporary society, we would be wise to remember that in his own day even Jesus Christ was occasionally thought to be mad and demon-possessed (John 8:49).

And some still say that he was.

This might, in part, be due to the fact that it’s not always easy to live the Christian message as related in the New Testament.

Rethinking the idea of personal empowerment and allowing God to be our primary source of power and joy can be challenging, especially if success is measured solely through the lens of the immediately visible.

1 Meanwhile, the Catholic Church continues to regard sexual activity such as masturbation, homosexuality, contraception and unmarried sex as fundamentally disordered, opposing medical mores in these areas.

2 Milgram’s famous experiment suggests that even good people do bad things in certain circumstances. And Festinger’s research indicates that when compelled to lie some people actually start to believe in their untruths in an attempt to eradicate so-called ‘cognitive dissonance.’

3 BBC online News (South Asia): “Drug Trials Outsourced to India,” 22 April, 2006.

4 Dr. Stanislav Grof cited by Nadine Kreisberger, “Mystic Musings” in The Indian Express, 18 March, 2008.


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Applauding its mission to moon, Zed urges India to deal with poverty at emergency level

Special to Earthpages.org

Acclaimed Indo-American statesman Rajan Zed has congratulated India on the launch of ambitious Chandrayaan-1, its indigenously built satellite system, which carries an unmanned exploration mission to the moon.

It was a major milestone for India and we were proud of it, Zed said in a statement from Nevada (USA) today.

After this success, it was opportune time for India to deal with its monumental crisis of poverty, which was a biggest challenge facing India today and should be handled at an emergency level, Zed pointed out.

Rajan Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, says that although India is on track to become a global power, but her new prosperity has remained evasive for many.

Despite economic miracle, many Indians still live in desperate poverty. Inequalities in opportunities block poor people from participating in the growth process and they remain trapped in vicious cycle of poverty.

Zed argues that income gaps are widening fast in India, where about one third of world’s poor live. Wealth distribution and growth have been uneven across various economic and social groups, urban and rural populations, and geographical regions.

A large population of India works in informal labor sector, with no steady jobs and no social security. The number of poor living on less than $1.25 a day has increased. It is blight on a country, which prides herself on having joined the league of hottest growth economies.

Rajan Zed further says that problems like severe malnutrition; spiraling food prices; ineffectual government programs; lack of access to medical facilities, potable water, energy sources, sanitation; illiteracy; etc., need to be immediately dealt with.

Poverty has lead to many other societal problems, which the country faces today. Basic inequalities need to be addressed if India wants all of her people to be able to share the fruits of the growth.

Religions should also put their share in poverty eradication programs in the communities. Large corporations, which have enormously benefitted from India’s economic growth, are also obligated to cater to social and environmental concerns and should take responsibilty in poverty elimination, Zed points out.

Zed warns that India should wake up to the magnitude of the emergency of poverty. Raising people above the poverty line is an achievable task. It just needs strong political and social will. Make it a policy priority; treat it as a crisis, he adds.


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Mysticism and the Idea of Sainthood, Part 3 – Different Interpretations

Urban Saint

Originally uploaded by cobalt123

Copyright © Michael W. Clark 2008.
All rights reserved.

This is Part 3 in a series.

Part 1 » One or Many?

Part 2 » Mysticism, Science and Politics

Different Interpretations

Apart from the idea that the Catholic saints are not just spiritual but political writers, it’s also conceivable that

(a) Saints receive visions that match their innate predispositions and developmental conditioning. That is, God reveals images understandable to a saint according to his or her beliefs and cultural environment.

Another interpretation says

(b) A given saint actually creates a unique interior perception and corresponding spiritual reality.

According to this somewhat popular New Age view, we all create our own reality and truth is whatever we happen to believe in. Notions about this life and the afterlife are fully contingent upon one’s belief system and, as some would have it, desires.

While this may sound quite ridiculous to some, it is a philosophical position similar to solipsism in that it perhaps cannot be disproved by reason.

Solipsism essentially says I alone am, while the self-determination paradigm says I create my outlook and future possibilities among other individuals who also create theirs. And can we really prove either position to be false?

An additional view combines (a) and (b). This is the notion that

(c) God reveals material appropriate to a saint’s beliefs and social milieu, and sometime afterward the saint engages in a secondary, creative process of interpretation.

Those favoring possibility (b) usually maintain that it would be too disruptive for a saint locked into categories (a) or (c) to discover that other people’s truths are just as real as his or her own.

A further possibility is

(d) God reveals an absolute, immutable truth to a saint (e.g. the Holy Trinity).

According to this perspective, absolute truth exists independent of any philosophical or linguistic juggling which human beings may engage in.

The Discernment of Spirits

To complicate matters, Catholic theology stresses the importance of discerning interior perceptions which are from God from those derived from demonic powers or the imagination.

Catholic teaching says we – that is, everyone and not just saints – are continually under attack by evil and knowingly or not are in a constant state of spiritual warfare.

This notion of ‘attack’ refers not just to our own inherited and developmental weaknesses and proclivities but also to external agents of spiritual evil.

The devil, as it were, knows our weak spots and continually tries, like a hacker searching for vulnerabilities in a computer operating system, to enter and control or strongly influence the psyche so as to bring about negative effects.

The Catholic Church also recognizes the possibilities of hallucination and delusion. To what degree these mental activities are created by the person or brought about by external influences is a matter of ongoing debate.

While some of the arguably less elegant Catholic thinkers make a firm distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, arguing that mental illness is a purely medical issue whereas possession is a spiritual one, the subtler intellects in the Catholic fold consider some combination of physiological, psychological, social and spiritual factors in trying to understand the overall human experience.

Proceed to Part 4: Saints and Medical Science


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Lauding Archbishop of Canterbury for Christian-Muslim dialogue, Hindus urge him for similar parleys

Archbishop Williams prepares

Originally uploaded by scottgunn

Special to Earthpages.org

Applauding Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan D. Williams for organizing a Christian-Muslim dialogue, Hindus have urged him to have a similar conversation with Hindus also.

Acclaimed Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that it was wonderful to watch the world’s two major religions meeting together to “grow in mutual understanding, trust and friendship.” It was remarkable to see them talking about “interdependence” and urgency of “the need to understand and respect one another”.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that Archbishop Williams should invite world Hindu leaders for a similar dialogue, as Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion followers.

Rajan Zed pointed out that serious and honest interfaith dialogue was the need of the hour. Religion was the most powerful, complex and far-reaching force in our society, so we must take it seriously. And we all knew that religion comprised much more than our own particular tradition/experience, Zed stressed.

After intensive deliberations, this meeting of Christian-Hindu leaders should come up with a concrete plan about the common religious concerns like human improvement, peace, ecological responsibility, social & economic development, etc. Maybe this gathering could become an annual feature after that, he added.

Rajan Zed further says that in our shared pursuit for the truth, we can learn from one another and thus can arrive nearer to the truth. This dialogue may help us vanquish the stereotypes, prejudices, caricatures, etc., passed on to us from previous generations. As dialogue brings us reciprocal enrichment, we shall be spiritually richer than before the contact.

Archbishop Williams is the senior bishop of the worldwide Anglicans, a Christian denomination, who number around 77 million. Moksha (liberation) is the ultimate goal of Hinduism.

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