HUMANISM…A CORNERSTONE OF MULTIFAITH COMMUNITY

  By  - Dr. Khalid Sohail

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel very honored that you have invited me to join you in the celebration of Religious and Spiritual Care Week. Alongside being a psychotherapist, I am also a storyteller, and I believe that every human being has a special story to share. And today I will share with you my story, a story that consists of my encounters with the disciplines of Religion, Politics, Science, Spirituality and Humanism.  But I want to make it very clear that I am not sharing this story to convert, convince or offend anybody. One of my patients once told me, “Whatever is worthwhile learning in life cannot be taught’ and Buddha stated, “One’s own experience is the ultimate teacher”. I am sharing my story as a gift and I hope you receive it with the same respect and affection as I offer it. If any of you disagree with me, you are more than welcome to talk to me afterwards or send me your comments in an email.

            Since this conference is a Multi-faith Conference, let me share with you a Jewish folktale that reflects my views about Multi-faith and Multi-cultural communities. This folktale, part of wisdom literature, is about the concept of hell and heaven.

  1. FOLKTALE OF HELL AND HEAVEN

This folktale is about a rabbi who asked God to show him hell and heaven, as the rabbi talked about those places to his congregation every week. God asked him which one he wanted to see first. The rabbi chose hell. God asked him to go towards the left and he would find a door. When he entered the door, he would see hell. The rabbi followed the directions. When he entered the room, he saw dozens of people of different ages, races and religions sitting around a big bowl full of food. All those people looked pale, weak, malnourished and unhappy. When the rabbi came close to them, he saw that each one of them had a six-foot long spoon in his or her hand. They filled the spoon with the food but the spoon was so long that they could not feed themselves. So they were all hungry and miserable, in spite of plenty of food.

            The rabbi came back and asked to see heaven. God asked him to go through the door on his right side. When the rabbi followed the directions he entered the second room, which was similar to the first one. There were the same kind of people, the same food and the same spoons. But everybody looked happy and healthy. The rabbi was surprised. When he looked at them closely, he realized that each one of them had learned to feed the person sitting in front of him or her.

            The rabbi was pleased to discover the difference between heaven and hell.

I feel that in my personal, social and political lives I have discovered the same secret. In multi-religious and multi-cultural communities, if people are only pre-occupied with their personal and tribal needs and rights, it creates an atmosphere full of anger, resentment, prejudice and bitterness and life becomes hell. We see such hell when religion joins politics and stirs up inter-faith conflicts.

2. RELIGION AND POLITICS

Such a situation was created in India in 1940s. Religious communities in India that used to live peacefully together gradually transformed into bloodthirsty communities and Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs killed each other mercilessly. Religious and political differences became more important than similarities and neighbors transformed into enemies. The conflicts between the Indian Congress and the Muslim League, reached such a crisis point that it lead to violent confrontation between Muslims and Hindus and numerous innocent lives were lost in the name of Religion, God and Nationalism.

Larry Collins and Dominic Lapierre in their book Freedom at Midnight state what happened on August 16, 1946,

At dawn Moslem mobs howling in a quasi-religious fervor came bursting from their slums, waving clubs, iron bars, shovels, any instrument capable of smashing in a human skull. They came in answer to a call issued by the Muslim League, proclaiming August 16 “Direct Action Day” to prove to Britain and the Congress Party that India’s Moslems were prepared ‘to get Pakistan for themselves by ‘Direct Action’ if necessary.

            ‘ They savagely beat to a pulp any Hindus in their path and left the bodies in the city’s open gutters. The terrified police simply disappeared. Soon tall pillars of black smoke stretched up from a score of spots in the city, Hindu bazaars in full blaze.

            ‘ Later, the Hindu mobs came storming out of their neighborhoods, looking for defenseless Moslems to slaughter. Never, in all the violent history had Calcutta known twenty-four hours as savage, as packed with human viciousness. Like waterlogged logs, scores of bloated cadavers bobbed down the Hooghly River toward the sea. Other corpses, savagely mutilated, littered the city streets. “ (Ref 1 p 35)

The conflicts between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs escalated and finally in August 1947 Pakistan came into existence and thousands of Muslim families left their homes in India and went to Pakistan to save their lives and my parents were part of those refugees. .

Although I was not born at that time yet I heard the tragic stories of how thousands of people were killed in the name of God and Religion.

  1. WAR WITH INDIA

When I was 13 years old I witnessed a war between India and Pakistan in 1965. The declaration of war changed the psyche of the whole nation. People became very patriotic and religious. Political leaders made patriotic speeches, maulanas, the religious leaders, preached special sermons and poets wrote stirring patriotic songs sung by popular singers. Many people offered special prayers for a Pakistani victory. They believed it was a Holy War, a jihad, in which they wanted Islam to win. Many nights I saw Indian planes dropping bombs and flames leaping to life in the destroyed targets. The neighborhood was often shaken by the staccato of our anti-aircraft guns firing at Indian planes, creating havoc in the skies.

      One night after seeing an Indian plane, a villager got so overwhelmed with his religious emotions that he tried to shoot down the plane with his rifle, and unfortunately the whole village got bombed. We saw the ruins and ashes the next day. The whole village paid the price for one man’s fanaticism and stupidity. Those days people became so religious that it spilled over into superstition, and there was talk of miracles. One of the stories was that when an Indian plane dropped a bomb near the River Attak, people saw an old man in green clothes and a green cap catch a thousand-pound bomb in his holy hands and quietly drop it into the river. People believed it was one of the miracles of Islam.

      People were so emotionally involved that it was not uncommon to see hundreds of men and women lined up in front of shops all over the cities to listen to war news.

      The war ended in 17 days and the public was made to believe that the Pakistani army had won. One of the heroes who received a number of medals and awards for his extraordinary performance in the war was a pilot named M.M. Alam, who shot down six Indian planes in 56 seconds, less than a minute.

      Those were the days when the whole nation was proud of their army and air force. And I was no exception. After the war the intoxication with patriotism remained for a long time as a sinister hangover. To enshrine it in the national psyche, the 6th of September was declared a national holiday. I was so impressed by the war heroes that I wanted to join the Pakistani Army myself and fight for my religion, and become a hero like M.M. Alam. (Ref 2 p 8) Thankfully my father withheld his permission.

4. RELIGION…BLIND FAITH…SCIENCE…

My faith, which was a blind faith as a teenager, came under attack when I started studying Science. While studying Physics, Chemistry and Biology, I was introduced to logical, rational and analytical thinking. According to Science, we needed proof to believe in things and to prove these things scientists used microscopes and telescopes. Science started to question my blind faith and with time the foundations of my faith became shaky. When I entered medical school and studied Embryology, Physiology and Pathology my inner conflict became worse.

Those were the days when being a committed, dedicated and practicing Muslim, I used to pray and fast regularly and I believed in God, Prophets, Scriptures, Life after Death and Miracles but Science made me question all that.

I remember spending sleepless nights as I was experiencing an intellectual nightmare. I remember the day when thousands of dedicated Muslims got together in Eid Gah, a big mosque, near my house to pray for the rain. I wondered whether prayers would produce clouds or it would rain according to the laws of nature. Can prayers change laws of nature? I asked myself a disturbing question, a question I could not answer. I was also aware that other people around me were not bothered by such conflicts.

Finally I consulted the experts but I was utterly disappointed. When I approached my professors in Medical School and asked them about my conflicts between medical texts and scriptures, they remained silent. They did not want to comment about holy books. It seemed as if they had never studied the holy books seriously and when I approached the religious maulanas in the mosques, I realized they had not studied the medical and scientific books. So I felt a double isolation. My studies in Science and Religion were like two banks of a river that did not meet. I was quite perturbed and full of doubts and there seemed no end to my conflicts.

5.  LEAVING HIGHWAY OF TRADITION…FOLLOWING THE TRAIL OF MY HEART

Finally I decided that I had to leave my blind faith and find my own solutions to my problems to resolve my conflicts. In this journey my uncle Arif, who was a poet and an affectionate man helped me a lot. One evening when I shared my conflicts with him, he told me “Son! I believe that in each community there are some creative people, whether they are scientists, artists, philosophers or mystics, who leave the highway of tradition and follow the trail of their hearts. You are one of them. Don’t worry about destination. It is the process, the road, and the journey that is important. If you are sincere in your quest, you would be successful Let me also tell you that your grandfather left the traditional belief system when he was sixty, I left it when I was forty, and I am so proud that you are leaving it at the age of twenty. I will support you all the way.” Talking to my uncle was a great help. I felt so light afterwards. He had given me the blessing to choose my own road.

After that discussion I started looking for my own solutions to my intellectual and philosophical problems.

6. HOW TO READ SCRIPTURES?

In my personal journey the first thing I learned was to read the scriptures creatively. Religious scholars and philosophers like Mohammad Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad and Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz helped me read Quran properly. They taught me that Holy Books should be read like wisdom literature. The stories in Holy Books need to be read, understood and appreciated in a symbolic and metaphorical way. They helped me not to take scriptures literally. Learning that lesson was a major breakthrough for me. They shared that the story of Adam and Eve was the story of every man and woman and heaven and hell were ‘states not places’. Such an orientation gave me new eyes and new insights into life and the world of religion. Gradually I learned that Holy Books are part of mythology created by different cultures over the centuries. They are part of the folklore that need to be read in silence to discover the secrets of life and should not be used to make laws and punish others.

I gradually realized that if people read scriptures in a foreign language that they do not understand, the scriptures become a breeding ground for rituals and superstitions and when religious sermons are delivered in alien languages, they give a lot of power to the religious leaders. Buddha criticized Hindu Brahmins that they did not speak the language of common men and women. When scriptures are read in people’s native languages and mother tongues they become sources of knowledge and wisdom and like folklore offer them insights into life and peace in their hearts. I thought it was tragic that in Pakistan most Muslims did not understand Arabic and Quran and they could not pray in Punjabi or Pushto, Sindhi or Balochi, their mother tongues. Most Muslims in Pakistan did not realize that two colonial languages from two foreign cultures dominated them: English from Britain and Arabic from Middle East. Those powerful influences had changed their individual and cultural psyche.

7. INSANITY / SPIRITUALITY…BREAKDOWN OR BREAKTHROUGH

While I was going through such a philosophical and intellectual metamorphosis I was also having a profound emotional experience at home. My father had a nervous breakdown. He was taken to many doctors, hakeems and spiritual healers but all in vain. He used to drink nearly 100 glasses of water and go to the washroom every hour. Finally when he recovered after a year of suffering, he became a very spiritual person. He not only started reading the life-stories of mystics himself he also shared them with me. I was quite fascinated by them. It was interesting that the family thought that my father had a breakdown but he believed he had a breakthrough. For the rest of his life he never suffered another emotional crisis and became a very peaceful person. His transformation remained a mystery for everyone. I sometimes wonder whether my becoming a psychiatrist was unconsciously motivated to solve that mystery.

            8. RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY

My father’s transformation and reading the biographies of saints, sadhus and mystics helped me see the differences between Religion and Spirituality. I realized that Religion was the institutionalized version of Spirituality and Spirituality was the essence of Religion. I also became aware that many Religious leaders like political leaders had used their power to judge and control people. On the other hand mystics and saints were accepting of people.

As my interest in human spirituality increased and I studied the lives of different mystics and their traditions they have followed over the centuries, I came to know that in spite of their personal and cultural differences they could be classified into three groups:

A, Theistic Tradition

B, Monistic Tradition

C, Secular Tradition

The first group of mystics who believe in Theistic Mysticism believe in a Creator, a God that exists outside and separate from human beings and the goal of mystic experience is to unite with that being. This desire to unite is inspired by love and culminates in an experience where humanity touches divinity. Such holy unity is the dream of those mystics. Many mystics from Monotheistic Religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam belong to this group. There are some mystics from the Hindu Religion who also believe in One God and belong to the same group.

The second group of mystics from the Monistic tradition believes that all that exists is God so they do not aspire for union, they rather hope for identity. Their mystic experiences make them aware that they are part of a bigger, higher, deeper reality named God and they are part of it. Many Hindu mystics, some Shinto mystics and some Muslim Sufis belong to that tradition.

The third group of mystics from the Secular tradition do not believe in a Theistic or a Monistic God, but they still look forward to a special relationship with themselves and nature that is spiritual. They believe that life has a spiritual dimension but that spiritual dimension has no relationship to God or any organized or institutional Religion. Such Secular Mysticism can be Nature Mysticism…if the experience is through Nature or Self Mysticism---when the goal is to get in touch with deeper and higher aspects of one’s Self. Such mystics believe that all human beings alongside a materialistic dimension also have a spiritual dimension and getting in touch with that dimension makes us better human beings. Many followers of Buddha in India, Confucius in China, Shinto in Japan and Secular Humanism in the West and East belong to that group.

While reading the mystic literature I became aware that human beings like electrons have a dual nature. Electrons are matter and energy at the same time. Similarly human beings are physical and spiritual beings simultaneously.

Scientists have been focusing on the physical dimension, while mystics have been exploring the spiritual dimension of human beings.

9.PSYCHOTHERAPY AND SPIRITUALITY

            I was quite fascinated to read that the human psyche that is now called mind, used to be called soul. That is why human psyche has remained a mystery for scientists, psychologists and mystics over the centuries.

            Because of the duality of nature of human beings, when we read the history of the relationship between spirituality, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, we realize that followers of the healing profession have been preoccupied in decreasing human suffering. On the other hand followers of spiritual tradition have been focusing on enlightenment. Both focus on human beings but with different emphasis. Eric Fromm in his article about Zen Buddhism and psychoanalysis wrote, “But in spite of the fact that psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism deal with the nature of man and with a practice leading to his transformation, the differences seem to overweigh these similarities. Psychoanalysis is a scientific method, nonreligious to its core.

            Zen is a theory and technique to achieve ‘enlightenment’ an experience which is in the West would be called religious or mystical. Psychoanalysis is a therapy for mental illness. Zen a way of spiritual salvation.” (Ref 3 p 123)

10.PSYCHOTIC AND MYSTIC EXPERIENCES

For people who deal with human beings suffering from psychotic experiences especially with religious content, it becomes very important to differentiate whether patients are suffering from mental illness or they are having spiritual experiences, as both encounters have a number of characteristics in common. Silvano Areiti, an American psychiatrist shares his insights in these words, “The individual who experiences mystical experiences has a marked rise in self-esteem and a sense of his being or becoming a worthwhile and very active person. He has been given a mission, a special insight, and from now on he must be on the move doing something important---more important than his life.

            ‘ In mystical experiences we have a tradition of autohypnosis. A subject puts himself into a state of a trance and projects power to the divinity…the hypnosis is time limited and totally reversible.

            ‘ The hallucinatory and delusional experiences of the schizophrenics are generally accompanied by a more or less apparent disintegration of the whole person. Religious and mystical experiences seem to result in a strengthening and enriching of the personality.” (Ref 3 p 119)

            It is apparent from this description that people who have psychotic experiences suffer a lot and need psychiatric help to control their symptoms. On the other hand people experiencing spiritual experiences bring new insights of life to themselves and others and improve their quality of life.

11.NEUROLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY AND SPIRITUALITY

In the past spiritual experiences were restricted to the domain of religion but in the twentieth century as the frontiers of science and human psychology expanded, many scientists and psychologists started studying the spiritual dimension of the human personality.  Dr. Robert Buckman in his book Can We Be Good Without God has reviewed the research findings of eminent scientists and neurologists like Dr. Wilder Penfield, Dr. Hughlings Jackson and Dr Michael Perninger. Those neurologists while investigating the neurology of epilepsy discovered that when the Temporal  Lobes of the right side of the brain were stimulated people had experiences, which were similar to spiritual experiences. Dr. Buckman under the titles of ‘ The Neurology of Theology” and “Temples and Temporals” brings those findings to our attention in these words, “Sometimes the sensations were visual or auditory, sometimes they were complex experiences…Some people felt they were near the presence of aliens. Others experienced deeply spiritual or religious feelings. Some reported that they felt they were in the presence of god, and some heard voice.” (Ref 4 p 126)

            The more the neurologists explored these experiences, the more they realized that the right and left sides of brain, though connected through a bridge called Corpus Collosum, still have independent functions. So when the Temporal Lobe of the right side sends messages to the left side, the left side feels as if the messages came from an outside world. Depending upon the personal and cultural beliefs of the people they connect the outside world with God, angels or spirits. Julian “James proposed that thoughts originating in the right side of the brain crossed over into the left, where they were not recognized as the person’s own but seemed to arrive from outside.” (Ref 4 p 134). Dr. Buckman highlights that our brains are conditioned in a way that the right side of the brain have special experiences that are interpreted as religious and spiritual by people who experience them.   He wrote, “ If the limbic system is activated by means of the right temporal lobe, a person will have an experience of the spiritual or divine type…. we all---theists and non-theists---need to acknowledge the fact that the human brain is designed and patterned to suggest to us that there is an external god, whether there is one or not.” (Ref 4 p 145)

As the research of human psychologists grew, they brought to our awareness that spirituality did not belong only in the churches, monasteries and jungles, it could be part of our day-to-day life. They highlighted that spiritual experiences were not only restricted to mystics, rather, they were an integral part of our daily life. Psychologists like Abraham Maslow are trying to study spirituality as part of human nature. They want to come up with observations and conclusions that ‘can be accepted as real by clergymen and atheists alike”.(Ref 3 p 76)

            Maslow was of the opinion that segregation of the sacred and profane, the saint and the sinner, mystic and pragmatist are artificial and unnatural. He tried to reclaim spirituality as part of humanity. He wrote “I want to demonstrate that spiritual values have naturalistic meaning, that they are not the exclusive possession of organized churches, that they do not need supernatural concepts to validate them, that they are within the jurisdiction of a suitably enlarged science, and that, therefore, they are the general responsibility of all mankind.” (Ref 3 p 77)

            Maslow believed that ordinary men and women can have extraordinary experiences, and unusual things can happen in usual circumstances. Maslow named these experiences ‘peak experiences’. Maslow even wondered whether leaving one’s day-to-day life with one’s family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, not being involved in one’s community and going to jungles and monasteries in search of nirvana may even be a reflection of escaping from one’s realities and social responsibilities. It might also reflect that one does not believe that everything in life is sacred and has the potential to be miraculous.

            The idea that the whole universe is sacred is quite well developed in Native Indian spiritual tradition, a tradition that has been fully acknowledged and appreciated neither in the West nor in the East over the centuries. When we read the writings of Chief Seattle, Black Elk and other Native Indian wise men and women, we become aware that in their worldview, human beings, animals and birds are considered part of the same family. They believe that whether they are rivers or mountains, the sun or the moon, the deserts or the galaxies, all are part of a cosmos that is holy and we as human beings are spiritually connected to them.

Chief Seattle “ Every part of this country is sacred to my people.” (Ref 3 p 80)

People who have a genuine interest in the psychology of spiritual experiences are breaking down walls and building bridges between different disciplines and traditions. They realize that we need to develop a common language in which scientists and priests, psychologists and mystics can communicate with each other.

 

 

12. WORLD TRAVELS AND LITERATURE

In the last three decades of my life my world travels have provided me with an opportunity to meet people from different cultural backgrounds and discover similarities in religious and secular traditions. When I traveled in India, I met wonderful writers and intellectuals who welcomed me with open arms and hearts. I could not believe that I used to consider them my enemies. When I traveled in the Middle East, I realized that Muslims, Christians and Jews were all children of Abraham, and being followers of monotheistic tradition, they had more similarities than differences. And when I traveled in Europe, the West Indies, North America, South American and South Africa, I discovered that we are all members of the same tribe, the same family, the Human Family. During my travels I also studied their literature and was quite fascinated by mystic poetry. I was impressed how Tagore, Kabir Das and Bullay Shah, the mystic poets of the East had so much in common with William Blake and Walt Whitman, mystic poets of the West. They all focused on the universality of humanity and offered a message of peace.

13. SCIENTISTS, ARTISTS AND MYSTICS

The more I read the biographies of scientists, artists and mystics and interviewed them, the more I became aware of their common characteristics. When I interviewed my uncle Arif Abdul Mateen a few years before he died he shared with me that there were three roads that human beings followed to get in touch with truth and discover universal laws of nature.

 

 

Scientists followed the road of logic

Artists followed the road of aesthetics

Mystics followed the road of intuition

Uncle Arif believed that if they were genuine in their search and honest in their quest then their findings should complement rather than contradict each other. He believed that genuine science, art and spirituality helped each other in the evolution of humanity. Richard Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness shared with us that life on planet earth has gone through three stages of consciousness:

A, simple consciousness of animals

B, self consciousness of ordinary human beings

C, cosmic consciousness of those scientists, artists and mystics who were ahead of their contemporaries and guided the way to evolution. Bucke compared  human beings with a lower mind with human beings with a higher mind  in these words, “The lower mind then lacks faith, lacks courage, lacks personal force, lacks sympathy, lacks affection…that is (to sum up) it lacks peace, contentment, happiness…

On the other hand, the higher mind  (as compared with the lower) possesses faith, courage, personal force, sympathy, affection, that is it possesses (relatively) happiness, is less prone to fear of things known and unknown and anger and hatred…that is to unhappiness…” (Ref 6 p 152)

Bucke believed that higher minds experience cosmic consciousness and as time passes more and more people all over the world will evolve from simple to cosmic consciousness. He shares his insights in these words, “ In our ancestry self consciousness dates back to the first man. Thousands of years must have elapsed between its first appearance and its universality just as thousands of years are now passing between the first cases of cosmic consciousness and its universality.” (Ref 6)

Bucke discussed the life stories of a number of people throughout history all the way from Buddha to Walt Whitman, who experienced cosmic consciousness.

According to Bucke’s assessment it seems as if humanity is in its adolescence and we have to go to through a number of stages before we reach the stage of maturity and wisdom.

14. RELIGION…DARK AND BRIGHT SIDES

After going through nearly three decades of soul searching and contemplation, I feel that Religion, like many other human disciplines, practices and traditions has a dark and a bright side. The dark side of Religion is experienced when political and religious leaders mix Religion with Politics to control people. Such a combination brings a lot of suffering to human beings. We have seen its painful examples in Pakistan. When the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmedis as non-Muslims, that religious community suffered a lot. Many of them had to leave the country and find refuge in other countries. And when the government of Zia-ul-Haq introduced the blasphemy law, according to which people could be jailed for criticizing Islam or the Prophet, it created a political and religious environment in which people lost freedom of and freedom from Religion. There are many innocent people who are still in jail in Pakistan because of that inhumane law. At an international level we have seen since Sep 11, 2001 how Osama bin Laden and George Bush has used God and Religion to justify their agendas. The similarities between their speeches were unbelievable. They both claimed they believed in a merciful God but were willing to kill innocent people in the name of God.

I think Religion is at its worst when it creates a theocratic state in which children, women and minorities are deprived of human rights and are made to suffer.

On the other hand the bright side of Religion comes to the surface when believers follow the spiritual path and accept people for who they are and respect their religious faiths and their cultural practices. Such an attitude brings peace in people’s hearts and harmony in their communities.

 I think Religion is at its best when the followers are inspired to get involved in humanitarian practices. Many religious organizations over the centuries erected schools for poor children, made shelters for suffering women and built hospitals for sick people from all walks of life. We have seen religious people like Desmund Tutu in South Africa, Martin Luther King Jr. in America, Dalai Lama in Tibet and Mother Teresa in India who did their best to make the world a better place to live. They were all awarded Nobel Peace Prize acknowledging their services to humanity.

15. HUMANISM…A MEETING POINT

            Over the years I have come to the realization that between all those scientists, artists, philosophers, mystics and social reformers, from different religious ideologies and secular philosophies, who are genuinely in search of truth and want to serve humanity, there is one thing in common and that is Humanism. Whether they are Religious Humanists, Spiritual Humanists or Secular Humanists they all want to see human beings find peace within themselves and harmony with others.

            I believe that one of the goals of the human evolution is for people to develop compassion and love and to learn those qualities some follow religious, some spiritual and some secular paths. Dalai Lama shared his wisdom in these words, “…although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and compassion, I am convinced that these qualities can be developed by anyone, with or without religion…” (Ref 5)

            In the last decade of my life I have also adopted a Humanistic Philosophy. Such philosophy helps me connect with people from all faiths and cultures and helps me serve them to the best of my ability. I believe the final goal of all religions and philosophies is to serve humanity and pave its way in its evolution. In my book Pages of My Heart I have shared my philosophy in these words, “ …We have reached such a turning point in history where we are forced to make certain choices individually and collectively.

            I hope that we do not proceed on the path of self-destruction ending in collective suicide and instead to decide to discover new ways of living harmoniously with ourselves, other human beings and Mother Nature. Perhaps one day we will reach that state of communal growth and human evolution where we can accept that whether they are children or elderly, women or minorities, physically disabled or mentally sick, all human beings have a right to live respectfully and grow peacefully. For our future development as a species we have to transcend the resentments based on class, race, gender, language or religious differences and anger because of the conflicts between East and West, North and South, First and Third World and many other man made divisions. Sooner or later, we have to accept that we are all human, members of the same family and our enemies are part of us, just distant cousins.

            I am quite aware that these are my personal and global dreams, but I believe that we are the product of our dreams. When our dreams are shattered we start to disintegrate individually and collectively.” (Ref 3)

 

             16. WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF MOTHER EARTH

 After Sep 11, 2001 tragedy, I wrote a poem that I would like to share with you. It is called,

WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF MOTHER EARTH

When would we realize?

We are all children of Adam and Eve

Our enemies are our distant cousins

Alienated by ethnic and religious walls

Separated by linguistic and national borders

Divided by the history of Holy Wars

 

When would we become aware?

We all belong to the same race

            The same tribe

                        The same family

                                    The Human Family

We all share

            The same moon

                        The same sun

                                    The same mountains

                                                The same valleys

                                                            The same deserts

                                                                        The same jungles

                                                                                    The same winds

                                                                                                The same oceans

When would we recognize?

We are all children of Mother Earth.     

17. HEALING PROFESSIONS…SERVING TOGETHER

Over the years I have met many mental health professionals, nuns, priests and ministers who offer their precious time in helping patients and their families to cope with their emotional problems and in improve their quality of life. I always believed that Mental Health Workers and Religious and Spiritual Counselors need to work together. We need to rise above our differences and move towards the common goal to serve our communities to the best of our abilities and my presentation today is a humble attempt in that direction.

            In the end let me share with you the story of Walt Whitman, a mystic poet of America who served soldiers in the hospital as a volunteer and helped the doctors and nurses. One of his friends shared his visits in these words, “Never shall I forget that visit----to one he gave a few words of cheer, for another he wrote a letter home, to others he gave an orange, a few comfits, a cigar, a pipe and tobacco, a sheet of paper or a postage stamp, all of which and many other things were in his capacious haversack…he did the things for them which no nurse or doctor could do, and he seemed to leave a benediction at every cot as he passed along…He performed miracles, the doctors said…miracles of healing…” Many of the soldiers remembered him years later as ‘the man with the face of a Saviour” Being a poet Walt Whitman wrote a beautiful poem describing the feelings at the sight of a slain enemy

For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead

I look where he lies white-faced and stiff in the coffin

            ,,,I draw near

Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.”

I think this poem is a wonderful expression of empathy and compassion seeing a human being even in the face of one’s enemy.

            In the end I would like to thank you for sharing the morning with me. I feel honored that I was invited for this presentation. I hope it was as meaningful for you as it was for me. 

                                                REFERENCES

1.Collins Larry, Lapierre Dominique

Freedom at Midnight…Avon Books New York 1978

  1. Sohail Khalid…. Killing In The Name Of God…Humanist in Canada Spring 2002

Quarterly Magazine Ottawa Canada

  1. Sohail Khalid…From Islam To Secular Humanism

Abbeyfield Publishers Canada 2001

  1. Buckman Robert …Can We Be Good Without God

Penguin Books Canada 2000

  1. Lama Dalai…Freedom In Exile…The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama…Harper Collins Publishers 1990
  2. Bucke Richard …Cosmic Consciousness …Penguin Books London 1901

 

 

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