The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
August 2013 – Vol. 16 Issue 6
The Muslim fast of Ramadan marks the lunar month in which the Mohammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an, continuing an Arabic tradition of fasting during this month. Believers abstain from food and drink from dawn to sunset for the entire month. When it falls in the height of summer, Pacific Northwest Muslims fast for 19 hours. Local Muslim groups use the opportunity of iftars, or sunset fast-breaking meals, to reach out to others in the community.
On July 16th the Ahmadiyya Muslims hosted members of Bellevue’s Temple B’nai Torah in a program “Two Faiths, One God” centering on Ramadan and Tisha B’av, the Jewish fast of this time of year in remembrance of the destruction of the Temple. After reflections by Rabbi James Mirel and Muslim Irfan Chaudhry, attendees enjoyed an Iftar dinner.
On July 18th members of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) hosted some 500 members and guests at their annual community Iftar at their mosque in Redmond. After a reading from the Qur’an, MAPS board president Mahmood Khadeer introduced the video “Islam in Brief.” According to Islam, human beings are blessed with original goodness; every person is born clean and pure. Thus, on the Day of Judgment one cannot offer God the excuse that s/he sinned because s/he was born with original sin. Muslims also believe in absolute equality. Mohammad said that in the sight of God all people are as equal as the teeth of a comb. Next Dr. Sanaa Joy Carey moderated an interfaith panel on the topic of “Being Human: The Nature and Purpose of Human Life.” Rabbi Mirel of Temple B’nai Torah sum-marized stories about three couples in the Hebrew Bible which illustrate particular qualities of human nature. Adam and Eve, he said, show that people are given free choice, are open to temptation, and cannot hide from God. From Abraham and Sarah we learn that people are called to be hospitable to strangers, who may be angels, so we should treat everyone as a divine being. Also they remind us of the possibility of experiencing what some might call miracles. Mordecai and Esther, like Jews and Muslims in America, teach that it is wise to keep your faith even in a place where people don’t understand you.
Reverend Kathryn Sharp of the Community of Christ Mission Center in Bothell related the story of the Good Samaritan to indicate that by showing compassion to those in need people can imitate God, thereby demonstrating a right relationship with God and neighbor.
Catholic layperson Michael Ramos, Executive Director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, suggested that what makes us human is our acceptance of our shared humanity. If we see life as a journey from our source and returning to our source, from God and back to God, we see that the process is as important as the goal. The journey is a ministry of healing and being healed. When one suffers, all suffer. He suggested that the Hebrew phrase, tikkun ‘olam, “repairing the world,” suggests humanity’s shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform the world, to make our society whole. We need to go to the roots of our own tradition and there we will find the other – hearts will be broken open, people will join together, and the world will be adjusted.
Muslim representative ’Ali Salaam Mahmoud De Sousa opened with the prayer of St. Francis. He asked “How can we all get along? How can we be more human?” He suggest-ed that we need to do a little extra, become extraordinary. A challenging breathing exercise demonstrated how dependent we are on the Giver of Breath. A question and answer period followed.
At sundown, 9:00 pm, the fast was broken with fresh dates and water, followed by evening prayer. At 9:15 youth of the MAPS community served a delicious dinner. MAPS is making a concerted effort to be a green community, utilizing compostables and eschewing plastic bottles of water. Casual conversation and a delicious dessert of baklava completed the evening at 10:00 pm.
On August 1 the Acacia Foundation held its community Iftar at the Old Redmond School House from 7:45 to 10:00 pm. The delectable Turkish meal, served at sundown, was prepared by members of the Foundation. Rather than a long program, emphasis was on conversation around the tables among the wide variety of people attending. Attendees were reminded that one purpose of Ramadan is to experience what it is like to be hungry and thirsty, stimulating more compassion for the poor and motivating help to all those in need. The Acacia Foundation, established by Turks in the Seattle area, is an outgrowth of the ideas of Turkish scholar and religious leader, Fethullah Gülen. As he has said, “we must acknowledge that we are all human beings. It is not our choice to belong to a particular race or family. We should be freed from fear of the other and enjoy diversity within democracy. I believe that dialogue and education are the most effective means to surpass our differences.” In line with these ideas, Acacia promotes cross-cultural and interreligious understanding through personal contact, sponsoring dinners, dialogs, charitable projects, language classes and other activities that give people the opportunity to get to know each other one on one.
Mazdeans believe that from our earth arises the great world-benefiting Mount Hara that grew like a tree, its "roots" sinking deep underground to invisibly connect and nourish all of its worlds or karshvars. At its peak is attached the Chinvat Bridge of Judgment over which pass souls freed from earthly bodies to continue their unending progression through regions of bliss, or to purgation and hell, according to their "works of merit." The top of high Hara is circled by the stars, moon, and sun, from which shower down upon earth both light and life-giving waters which continuously flow in a spiraling sweep through and about the seven karshvars. The Vendidad describes how these cosmic waters and lights periodically issue anew from the peak of Mount Hara, pour down to the sea, Vourukasha, and from there flow forth as two mighty rivers, one to the east and one to the west. These circle the earth and are cleansed, to return first to the Vourukasha sea, and then to the peak of the mountain, again to descend and reascend in perpetual motion.
Centered within this vast scope of universal life and essential to it in the Persian scheme is Man, for human beings were held to be not mere earthlings confined to this globe, but in their higher parts divine agents who have since the beginning circulated, commingled, and participated in operations of macrocosmic life. It was before the material worlds had appeared, during the original creation, that Ahura Mazda had first spoken to the pre-existent spirits of the humans-to-be, who at that time surrounded him in his high ramparts like "warriors on horseback," preventing the intrusion of evil. He asked them then to assist him as his principal agents in preserving the manifest worlds from evil. Thus the Persians regarded Ahura Mazda not as a creator outside and alone, but one whose productions are accomplished and perfected by and through the spiritual power of the souls of human beings who live by the righteous Law. It is, they say in a hymn, by the souls of these men and women that the heavens and the earths are spread out and sustained, by them that "the waters flow, the plants grow, the winds blow," sun, moon, and stars pursue their beautiful paths, and by them equilibrium is preserved between the attracting forces of the creator-preserver, and the repelling forces of the disruptor-destroyer. And, in this world, it is by and through human behavior that concord will finally be achieved and evil transmuted into good, for here on this karshvar Hvaniratha the greatest strife is produced and the greatest good also.
Mazdean teachings explain that, because all creatures are equally important parts of one "Vast Individual," whatever gives pleasure or pain to one, affects for good or ill all others. Thus it behooves us to recognize all beings, whether visible or invisible, low or high, as our kinfolk. Again and again their scriptures remind us: one's wife or husband, one's family, neighbor, and "children" – the animals, vegetables, minerals, and elements – must be well treated. Animals must be cared for with kindness, plants nurtured to their full growth, metals kept bright and untarnished. Earth, rivers, and lakes must not be defiled by pollution, whether by interring the dead or disposing of waste. Air must not be spoilt with bad odors, nor fire contaminated in any way. These rules were strictly observed by the priests, who even wore masks lest their breath pollute the elements. Laymen followed these practices at home and in business. All of this demonstrates the respect and concern Zoroastrians felt for the unseen souls and intelligences of which these forms are the "shadows." The compassion and care with which they tilled the soil, watered their gardens, and tended their cattle were indicative of their conviction that in so doing they were not only benefiting and strengthening these lower life forms, but also their polar extensions, the cosmic powers which infill all beings.
Toward the ending of the fourth and final period of cosmic duration, towards the first vague beginnings of the New Dawn, the Zoroastrians believe holy Saoshyants the Savior will be born. The Zoroastrians will assist earth and her creatures to prepare for the Consummation, when human beings, becoming immortal, will desist first from eating meat, then from drinking milk, from eating vegetables and bread, and finally will live without even water. They will assist also the evil ones who, then purified from their hells of molten metal, will arise redeemed and attain the glory they had desired to possess in the beginning of Time. Then all motion and activity will cease. Infinite Time and Space will stretch out once more as a shapeless plane with even Mount Hara leveled and gone. Ahura Mazda himself, his creations and shadow, will vanish away, and there will be nothing but a boundless Void, and "All-made-perfect-in-Light."