You know how people come to India to attain spiritual enlightenment and all that?
Well, I had no such intention, but today I believe I met a small hindu god in the form of an electrician. Yesterday night, as I came back at 2 am (after a very much delayed flight and a one hour wait for a taxi from the airport) I arrived dead tired to the apartment and found that there was no electricity in the apartment. Being way to tired to bother about it I just went to sleep and hoped for better luck the day after.
Normally, in any Indian middle-class household you'll have an inverter (basically a large battery) that tides you over during the regular power-cuts. However, as I woke up in the morning the power was still off. A couple of hours later the staff from the electricity company arrives – they say that there was no errors on their side and it was a problem of "private" sort.
So, another call to an electrician causes my god to arrive. Just as he entered the house, without even having touched any wiring the light and all the fans magically turn on in the flat!
Attached is Agni, the God of Fire, who's son, Pavaka, is the god of electrical fire.
In most places in the world Ramadan have already or will soon be starting. It is the month where the Qu’ran was revealed and it’s one of the most holiest months. To all my muslim friends around the world, I just want to wish you a great month ahead of introspection and spiritual connection.
Having a period of increased introspection and reflection is not a bad thing, and removing or limiting food is one part of focusing your mind. It’s something you could easily try yourself, even being an atheist or agnostic. If a month sounds long, then why not a week?
Jewish holidays don’t make much appearance in my life however I didn’t miss the start of Chanukah (the festival of lights) on Sunday.
We had been visiting the Musée du Cinquantenaire, when we heard music from a distant – coming closer we realized it was the Jewish community in Brussels hosted a party and concerts.
The background of Hanukkah is the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem that had been overtaken by Syrian Greeks around 165 BC. After the temple once again was dedicated to the Abrahamic God a celebration was held for 8 days – which now is the celebration of Chanukah.
One of the central pieces of celebration is the lighting of the hanukkiah (the well-known eight branched candelaber). The Chanukah is, unlike many other jewish holidays, not of biblical origin and therefore there are less mandatory practices.
On a side note, I have been (again) hooked on Matisyahu for the last few days.
It’s great music, however the question of Jerusalem will have to wait for another day.
So, from my earlier post you now know that I am observing the muslim fast during this month of Ramadan (until 30th of September). However, Muslims are not the only ones who have regular fasts, in fact some kind of abstention from food is prescribed in most religions – and gluttony, which would most accurately relate the Wests “everyday” relationship with food, is even a cardinal sin in Christianity.
Buddhists wouldn’t say they fast, however many buddhists monks actually eat only once per day – before noon. This is quite comparable to the muslim fast. The general stance of the Buddha, who tried (unsuccessfully) an almost complete fast in search for enlightenment, is to (as always) use the Middle Way as guidance and avoid eating excessively but also not starving yourself. From what I’ve read it seems spiritual Buddhist laymen and women often also observe the one meal per day during one or two days per week.
The major day of fasting in Judaism is Yom Kippur (October 9th this year) which encompasses a full 25 hour period without food or drink. Similar to why Islam practices Ramadan during the month Mohammed recieved the first parts of the Qur’an, so is Yom Kippur a mark of when Moses had recieved the second part of commandments from God.
For the full list of fasting, see this Beliefnet article.
The common thread in all fasting in religions seems to be that it is practiced in order to be able to completely focus on introspection, prayer/meditation and the higher being. By practicing self-restraint and keeping being in control of your actions you will enhance the skill that will allow you to abide by the many other rules that apply all year around.
Yesterday marked the beginning of the month of Ramadan, during which, according to Islam, is the month when the Qur’an was revealed to Mohammed. During this month most of the around 1.2 billion Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. The fast not only means refraining from food and drink but also other things like sexual activity. All believers are encouraged to be extra mindful of God and observe the rules and commandments.
Since my girlfriend is Muslim I decided that it was a good opportunity to try how the month of Ramadan feels to pass through – while at the same time supporting her – and even though there are certain feelings that I wouldn’t be able to understand without being a person of the book myself, I do believe that the feelings related to self-restraint and focused introspection is available to anyone.
Over the next month (I am aiming for being able to keep the fast for that long) I will update you on my reflections and progress here.
Image by babasteve.