The Bible Series

For years, I have made it a point to complete a whole reading of the Bible each year. At the end of each year, I do take stock of what I have read and how it has impacted or changed my life. I have realized that every time I read, study or meditate on the Bible, I have learnt something new everytime or obtained a different perspective. These perspectives provide valuable insights when they are tied to real life challenges or opportunities.

I was confused and perplexed with my blog for a while because I was unsure of the direction I should be taking. There is an onslaught of content today via social media, streaming services that try to aim for your attention. In the midst of all these, it becomes imperative that your content stands out in terms of its quality and the takeaways it can provide to you, dear reader.

One of the greatest joys of my life is that I enjoy reading the Bible. But mere reading of the Bible, is just like reading any other book and it doesn’t sustain itself within you. Studying the Bible is a different experience altogether and it often feels like the same effect as an oasis in the middle of the desert for the wandering nomad. I have found that the perspectives which are being offered sometimes are deeply thought provoking.

We live in unprecedented times. There has never been a generation in this earth that has been as blessed with opolous amount of prosperity like we are. Every day we hear of crazy events happening in the world and we shudder, amaze or perplex. Yet we forget the basic rule is that what is happening today has already happened and will happen in the same pattern as before. There is a cyclic motion to each occurrence and the insights provided by evergreen books like the Bible cannot be discarded as ancient texts.

It is easy to see the Bible in the lens of a religious text and justify everything in form of spirituality or religion. However for whatever it has been made out to be, no religion is ever bad. It may have shortcomings especially when people misinterpret it knowingly or unknowingly resulting in nefarious outcomes. These have happened and will continue to happen. Naysayers will always use these arguments as an excuse to belittle an evergreen book. However the sad realisation that one comes to at the end of his/her life is that it was never wrong to begin with – maybe the perspective was flawed.

Hence welcome to this new series where I plan to study the Bible daily and tie it with interesting perspectives. I hope I can be regular with this series and have fun while doing it. 

Intuition

I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. Albert Einstein

a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why…Merriam Webster

Have you ever felt the inner voice that tries to talk to you before you undertake a significant task in life? It tries to explain to you whatever you are doing is right or wrong; how you should/shouldn’t be taking that step. It tries to prevent you, sometimes even instigates you to do something. It gives you a spark of an idea to start a fire within you. It tries to possess you and wouldn’t even leave you till you do what it demands of you. It can be stubborn and it can be patient yet forgiving. However most of the time, you wouldn’t forgive yourself for not listening to its voice. The ancient people believed in the intuitive insights from the seers whom they referred to as the voice from god. Buddha taught that intuition, not reason is the source of ultimate truth and wisdom. Alberta Einstein was a strong believer in the intuitive knowledge and once famously remarked: ‘I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am’.

Frederich August Kekule spent years trying to perfectly describe the aromatic structure of benzene. Being a hydrocarbon, benzene couldn’t be described a simple or normal paraffin structure. He spent years if not decades of his life researching unsuccessfully about the same till there came a day when he dreamt of a snake gobbling its own tail. As the ouroboros form (also represented in the figurines of Shiva Nataraja) whirled mockingly before his eyes, he describes the eureka moment as a flash of lightning which awoke him in the night. Bedazzled he spent the rest of his night working on his life’s worth of calculations. Eventually he came up with the ring structure of benzene that is so common today. It changed the world forever with a marked effect in the field of pure and applied chemistry. Of the first 5 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, three of the winners were his students. I do not have to explain the effect it had on the hydrocarbon age and us understanding the properties of hydrocarbons.

Let us think for a moment as to who gave Kekule that idea or intuition? What made him dream about that snake? Is it the voice of God? Is it the spirits of the world as claimed by Aboriginals or natives? The whole premise about the movie Interstellar is based on how the future humans build the tesseract for Cooper to reach out to his daughter. Any ordinary viewer of that movie would try to shrug off the strange happenings in the library that the young girl witnesses in the beginning of the movie as cinematic liberties being used to tell a story. The same viewer would be dumbfounded in the end when it turns out that it was her father who was trying to communicate with her supposedly from the future in the tesseract about the impending doom to humanity. The concept explained in the movie is Vedic in nature wherein it is mentioned that all human life is connected like the Indra’s net and there is a universal consciousness which transcends time and space.

The very concept of human understanding being directed by our future-self or even of our descendants is something very astounding. Even in the Bible there is a mention of this concept where Jesus claims to the people that Father Abraham knew about him and was glad about him. Was he the one that spoke to Abraham just as he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac? This concept bewildered the poor Israelites and could be one of the significant reasons to why they crucified him because it was blasphemous. Anything that went against their realm of understanding and/or if not was written in the religious texts was considered blasphemous at that time. A similar tale is also mentioned in the Isra and Miraj journeys by Prophet Muhammad. Did it influence the benevolence shown to the Ishmaelites by the Jews back in the Biblical times? We may never know.

Our bodies are composed predominantly of carbon. Many of the elements that comprise the cosmic matter can be found in our own bodies. Our existence on this earth is also guided by the same cosmic rules like gravity that guide the stars, planets , etc. If we think that we are matter, so we are also energy. Frances E. Vaughan in Awakening Intuition describes the vibrations of energy or vibes that extrude from people as a form of emotional intuition. It is believed in Hinduism that meditation and a disciplined control of mind provides intuitive insights and one of the main aims of Yoga is to develop that intuition. Our intuitive feelings can be strengthened if we know what we need to do in life. Just like we love to learn from the mistakes of the past, we should be able to see our future and try to develop our present through our intuition.

Intuition (is) perception via the unconscious. The unconscious is not just evil by nature, it is also the source of the highest good: not only dark but also light, not only bestial, semihuman, and demonic but superhuman, spiritual, and, in the classical sense of the word, “divine.” Carl Jung (1875-1961)

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We SHOULD do better

Have you ever wondered that whenever you do something in life, for you or for others, whether or not you are giving it your 100% ? Have you ever thought that whatever you did for them is not enough and you could do better? I believe many of you would have thought on the same lines. As human beings we are also conjurers while we are also artists. We like to put up a show, good or bad, in front of our family, friends, colleagues and even those who hate us. We as human beings, never like to be left behind. We always like to prove that we are the master of our destiny and it is our ultimate responsibility to ensure that in the ‘show of life’ that presents in front of us, we are the leader of the show.

Confused? Let me explain. Charlie Chaplin once famously said “In the end, everything is a gag”. Everything including the life that we live, is a show, a visual treat for our mind and body. When the show climaxes and ends, we inevitably die. Think about people who are on their deathbed. Most of the time they feel like an artist who has overstayed his role.

Why is the view that I am proposing in this article important? We as human beings need to understand one inevitable fact in our lives. In the end, we are just an obituary. We live finite lives and the experiences that we have are also finite in nature. Just like a good movie has to end, our lives also has an ‘expiry date’. Once we realize and accept this painful yet true fact, we set out on a mission to change the way we do things in life differently.

I don’t know if any of my readers have watched The Truman Show, where Jim Carrey brilliantly portrayed Truman Burbank, who doesn’t realize that he is living a life, which was actually a constructed television reality show. I saw that movie long time back and like many who watched the movie even wondered whether our life was infact a big show.

So what if your life was one big show? Will you have stage fright, forget your lines and bow out in shame? Or will you look at your audience and act it out from your heart. Believe me you have nothing to lose in your life, but everything to gain from portraying a stupendous performance. What will you do ?

Leadership Lessons from Jesus

One of the biggest drawbacks about the world that we live in is the fact that we are bereft of any good leaders. Every now and then, in each generation we have certain gifted people that emerge with great promise to redefine the human march to progress. They leave behind a great deal of teachings and values that the successors look up to and imbibe, till the next big idea emerges. One of the leaders that redefined the way we live even today is Jesus. The spiritual leader of billions of Christians worldwide, it is believed that thousands of years ago, he was born into a poor carpenter’s family. Being a member of a royal lineage of Jews, he was instrumental in propagating a new message of inclusiveness and salvation. The Jews under the cruel colonial oppression rejected and assassinated him because they couldn’t believe that he was the promised Messiah from their scriptures and lore. However it is believed that he was risen on third day in accordance with the scriptures and after spending weeks with his disciples he was taken into heaven. His followers known as disciples, aided by the extensive shipping lines and roads built by the Roman Empire, took his message to the ends of the world. Within a few centuries, the entire world followed the teaching of Jesus Christ and became known as Christians.

How did Jesus succeed so well? His message of inclusiveness, forgiveness, salvation, hope and grace might have been powerful and revolutionary for the people of those times. However how did this movement grow so huge and wide and became so relevant, even today? I believe there lies the answer that any successful leader needs to learn and understand.

Based on my observations over the years and based on my notes, a leader is one who needs to be at peace with God, himself, the nature and everyone around him. He needs to have the following qualities:

1. He needs to have the faith in God and himself to weather storms and if needed, walk on water.
2. Personal good should never be factored in the equation. He should empower and live for others.
3. He has to clearly communicate the following:

  • Vision.
  • What are you doing?
  • Why are you doing?
  • How are you doing?
  • Clarity of how they align with the vision.
  • Execute, learn and continuous improvement.

4. He needs to be concise, focused, creative and gracious.
5. He needs to have a team of doers, delegate and hold them accountable to deliver the vision.

If you look at the life of Jesus, one can find Jesus after being anointed by John, he:

  • First built a team of doers: fishermen, tax collectors etc. he chose them because they were not elite, but because they were doers.
  • He had a purpose, plan in place and he was a good communicator through his parables and sermons.
  • He tenaciously built his team, delegated works to them and held them accountable by the power of Holy Spirit,

I would like to conclude by one simple statement:

Leadership is vision, communication, teamwork, execution and continuous improvement.

Bible and Prosperity

Everything that the Bible teaches and shows man is that nothing is impossible. Everything is possible. Have the intention to set audacious and challenging goals and work towards it. As it is said, fortune favors the brave. Similarly unrelenting belief empowers the faithful to attempt extraordinary things.

I have been listening to Joel Osteen since 2004. It was during a channel surfing exercise that I accidentally chanced upon this tele-evangelist with Richard Gere-esque looks. He had a positive and practical aspect to his messages which was a refreshing change from many a sermon that I used to hear till then. Till date, I have listened to Joel Osteen using the Podcast app on my iPad without delay. He inherited his church from his father and within a very short period of time, the Lakewood Church became one of the largest independent churches in United States of America while all his books have become best sellers. Even though I am a strong proponent of the traditional form of church, I find no harm in listening and incorporating the positive strands from his sermons.

Couple of weeks ago, Joel’s weekly podcast was about Prosperity. He remarked that people how people alleges that he is a strong proponent of prosperity gospel. He remarked that he might or might not be a prosperity evangelist but he will never be a poverty evangelist. This made me think. Why doesn’t people like prosperity? I for one, love and aspires to be insanely prosperous. In our short sojourn in this world that we call life, all the material wealth that we accumulate wouldn’t be anyways carried off with us once we leave.

Taking this as a challenge, I decided to revisit what the Bible speaks about prosperity. Right from the book of Genesis, one can see how Adam and Eve prior to their fatal mistake, lived in a garden where everything was provided for and taken care of. Abram who lived an ordinary trader life with his family saw his wealth increase exponentially many folds once he heeded the call from God and his descendants morph into a multitude of races that literally filled the entire earth. Jacob who was shy and sly in cheating everything from his brother had the audacity to seek forgiveness and believe in the same God of his ancestor Abraham. He had to work for his fortune, but with time he became immensely rich. His own son Joseph who was close to God, ended up ensuring that Egyptian pharaohs became immensely wealthy and built amazing architectural marvels that prevail to this day. Think about David a shepherd boy neglected by his own family, became the first true king of unified Israel. His son Solomon who was not accurately chronicled by historians established one of the first truly modern empires,

What does this all mean? Compared with the message of Jesus that is sometimes reminiscent of a socialist outlook, is seeking prosperity a sin? I don’t think so. Is the Bible all about prosperity. Nope. Neither is it all about poverty. The Bible clearly says that ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you’.

Everything that the Bible teaches and shows man is that nothing is impossible. Everything is possible. Have the intention to set audacious and challenging goals and work towards it. As it is said, fortune favors the brave. Similarly unrelenting belief empowers the faithful to attempt extraordinary things. But one must have the courage to first believe it is even possible. This sets you on a march towards prosperity, where everything you dream for can be attained.

Decoding the Temptation of Christ

Temptation of Christ

This summer as part of my spiritual journey in this world, I decided to be on a different type of mission. Experience the Bible differently-i.e., by listening to it. There is an app on the iPhone called Bible Gateway where it is now possible to listen to the Bible, especially the best version of them all, the New International Version. I decided that in the course of summer, I need to cover all the 4 gospels by hearing the verses, exactly in the same way I would have rather read them normally.

Very quickly into my mission, I got absorbed with the gospels and the sayings of Jesus Christ. Many of the verses, which would have been a normal reading staple became alive quickly and started challenging me both mentally and spiritually. Suddenly a thought came into my mind as I finished each gospel is what did Jesus actually achieve here? Here was the all powerful Yahweh who single handedly formed one of the largest races of humans just because a pastoral trader Abram had the audacity to believe in his promise; appearing in the form of a carpenter’s son, just when his beloved children were crushed mentally, physically and spiritually by the brutal Roman occupation. Their religious texts had promised them a saviour, a Messiah who would redeem them from their oppression and occupation, and lead them to a new Messianic kingdom that would fill all the corners of earth.

What happened was just the opposite. Jesus appears on this earth, gathers a motley bunch of people and spoke salvation through faith in him, and conducted miracles on afflicted people across the spectrum of society and then provoked the teachers of the day i.e., the Pharisees who were pushed to their limits by this, and conspired along with the corrupt high priests in successfully crucifying him. Defying all human logic he rises again on the third day, appears to his disciples and sends them on a mission to spread the word across all the world to both Jews and non Jews. They were very successful in whatever they did and in no time Christianity swarmed the world. The Jews were mercilessly massacred a few decades later in their own country and carried away from their lands, not to return until about two thousand years later.

Is this the story of the promised Messiah to the Jews? Yes and this was exactly what was taught to me while I grew up as a Christian. But today as I listened to these gospels once again, my logical thinking was challenged by these happenings as it doesn’t make any sense. Why dint Jesus take the Romans head on, challenge them, defeat them and reestablish the once revered Solomonic Jewish kingdom of Israel? He could have established a Jewish empire that would stretch from one corner of the world to the other and by force (just like Islam) convert people into believers and obedient citizens in this new kingdom of God?
But the Bible being eerily different ensured that the story of Jesus was also the same. This contradiction made me think for a long time.

Few days ago, I found my answer. It was in the temptation of Christ by the angel turned arch foe Devil. The eternal battle between God and Devil, good and bad, right and wrong has been played out to perfection in countless forms of media and arts. This whole sequence of Jesus going into the wilderness, fresh from his baptism by his friend John the Baptist, to fast and meditate for 40 days and nights and being tempted by Devil is an ultimate Biblical play of dramatic proportions. Seeing the hungry and physically Jesus, Satan tries to provoke his divinely power to feed and care for himself by asking him to convert the stones in the wilderness to bread. Jesus replies in the negative by saying that man should not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. The significance of the breaking of bread and blessing of it and the wine in the Last supper and Christian communion ceremonies shouldn’t be missed here. Jesus clearly explains his priorities that he didn’t come here to provide the people with just about food that would meet their short term goals of sustenance, just as a normal earthly king would have done to them.

In the other temptations where Devil takes him to top of temple and jump from there because the angels would rescue him, Jesus again dashes the hopes of Devil by saying how important it is not to put God into test. This explains why even during his short lived and tragic earthly ministry he never for once called anyone to help him out and suffered all his tribulations in silence.

Thirdly when the Devil promises him the entire empires of the world only if Jesus would fall on his feet and worship him, Jesus aggressively pushes the Devil away by saying that it is important to worship the one and only God.
These three acts in the temptation of Jesus by the Devil is very important in understanding what was exactly Christ’s mission on this earth. The Jews hoped for a king and a saviour who would provide for them (bread), protect them using divine resources (angels) and lead them to a lasting and powerful empire that would stretch all the four corners of the earth. That would have him made like a mere dictator the likes of which we see and oppose even today in our modern democratic societies.

Jesus’ mission on this earth was to setup a lasting kingdom where everyone was the one and the same, where everyone cared for each other, and lived in happiness and prosperity in seeking out the truth. This is the ultimate state of nirvana, and he taught us the way to it through his life and mission on this earth.

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The holy month of Ramadan

Image

I was born and raised up in an Arab country. Being in a predominantly Muslim country, one cannot ignore the piousness that accompanies an important religious event like Ramadan. This 30 day fasting period, where all the devout fast from dawn to dusk is one awesome special occasion, especially in an Arab country. The day from morning to evening, wears a tired boring look. But it is in the evening, as the hot Arabian sun sets, when the real fun begins.

Following the ‘iftaar’ prayers, life just….explodes. Shopping malls gets crowded, people get active, parks full, music, dance and all types of festivals adorn the landscape. It is a time of celebration and rejoicing. Add to the mix the cool Arabian breeze that adorns the evening, the majestic feeling that follows is beyond words.

Ramadan used to be a fun experience while growing up. Respecting the limitations of many of the believers, the schools and workplaces worked on much reduced work schedules. This was done to ensure that everyone gets home before the fast is broken and can be with the family to have good and quality family time.

Reminiscing the Ramadan days during my childhood, there are lots of stories worth telling. The local radio stations used to have quality Ramadan programming. There was one program I used to listen to almost every Ramadan. The program was hosted by an Islamic author who used to tell some really awesome stories from the rich Arabian history starting from the wise caliphs and their caliphates, the advancements of the Arabian civilization in science, trade, culture etc. These stories showed how tolerant these rulers were at their time and how they used to treat everyone with fairness and justice. They were also visionaries and how they ensued the prosperity of the Arabic civilisation which at its prime stretched from southern Spain (Andulasia) till modern day China.

Those stories were inspiring and I used to take the time and effort to read the religious books including the holy book of Quran. The stories are so similar to the ones from the Bible and it stresses about respecting and religiously adhering to an all loving, all forgiving and all welcoming living God. Islam stresses on a much disciplined and a reverent approach to divinely matters when compared to its older cousin Christianity.

Ramadan is a very holy and sacred month for Muslims all over the world. Prior to the break of dawn, a meal called Suhoor is taken. Once the fasting begins, the faithful refrain from everything and spend time meditating and reading the Quran. It was also believed that prophet Muhammed wanted the faithful to experience abstinence to understand the life of poor, hungry and needy. The dawn to dusk period is not one of merely abhorring all the comforts of the world, but a period of prayer, discipline and enlightenment.

Zakat is another offering given during Ramadan when a fixed percentage of one’s income is given to the needy. I still remember the tale of a Keralite who went to visit one of his friends, who was then working in one of the rich Arab homes as a security guard. It was the time of Ramadan and he arrived early in the morning. The non believer friend stayed indoors during the day. In the evening, as the fast was being broken, he ventured out of his friend’s home to check out of his surroundings. Unknowingly for him, he was still in his native clothes and forgot to put on his shirt and trousers. As he ventured out of his friend’s tiny house by the gate of the mansion, he was viewed by the guests of the rich Arab who had come to the house earlier to break the fast and partake in the iftaar banquet. On seeing this immigrant in native clothes, they mistakenly took him for a poor and needy person and showered him with enough riches, that he became immensely prosperous in life. There are many stories like these that shows the magnanimity of the holy season.

It is still a challenge to complete the entire fasting requirements for a 30 day period. In places like North America, it is a daunting challenge when Ramadan falls in the lengthy summer months where the days are insanely long (about 18hrs). But such is the belief and faith of many of the believers that they ensure that they complete the entire fast with self control and perseverance.

Ramadan is indeed a holy, sacred and a revered month for millions of Muslims all over the world. It is also a visible reminder to many of the non believers the power of human discipline, perseverance and self control to overcome any challenge posed and using these experiences to instill in oneself a disciplined and enriching life.

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