In terms of Islamic religion, the Kaaba, the "House of Allah," is the central shrine of Islam. Simply an ancient stone building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, it is considered number one holiest place in Islam. It is measured to be 45 feet high, 33 feet wide, and 50 feet long. It is covered with a gold-covered cover that is replaced every single year. The Kaaba is housed within the Masjid, under whose roof can hold a total of 1,000,000 worshippers. The current Kaaba is actually a rebuilt version of the original one. However, even this rebuilt version is incredibly old. The original one was torn down or even decayed. The materials used in the construction were salvaged from a ship which traveled all around the Red Sea, taking material to many places en route. Some of the other materials were used to build a church in Ethiopia. It was already the most important sanctuary in pre-Muslim times in Arabia. It is constructed of Meccan granite, and appears as a cube-like building. It has a single door facing the NE direction, and no windows. On the infrequent occasions when the Kaaba is opened, mobile stairs give access interior. Its interior includes gold and silver lamps suspended from the ceiling. There are three wooden pillars supporting he ceiling, which have been recently replaced.
The Koran confirms the traditional belief that it was built by Abraham and Ishmael, from whom the Muslim peoples trace their heritage. Its historical heritage is not known for sure, but it undoubtedly existed for centuries before event the birth of Mohammed at 570 CE. Historically, the Kaaba has involved multiple groups of peoples. It was used by Arab pagans until the Muslim forces took control of Mecca and cleansed it of all its false idols. At that point the Muslim people claimed historical identity.
The Black Stone, or the Kaaba stone, is set on the outside of one corner of the Kaaba is kissed by all pilgrims who can gain access to it. It is a dark, red brown, and now encased in a massive silver band. It is presumed to be of pre-Islamic origin, possibly meteoric. Myths claim that it fell from heaven, or perhaps that it was brought to earth by angels as a white stone in order to provide the cornerstone of the original Kaaba. It turned black by the impure touch of humans across the millennium. It is lovingly referred to as "the cornerstone of the House," or even the "right hand of God on earth." This stone was presented by Gabriel for the Kaaba and the people who worshipped within it. Muslims, in general, try to kiss, touch, or point to the Kaaba Stone, and often make circumbulations (tawaf) around it. Such circumbulations form, during the pilgrimage season, an integral part of the pilgrimage performance. This circumbulation is performed in the vicinity of the Kaaba, on the polished granite called the mataf. There is a place between the Black Stone and a raised door, against which pilgrims press their bodies in order to receive the blessings and powers that are associated with the holy house. Muslim peoples claim that it is not an idol to be worshipped, instead it is a special place from which to send prayers. The correct name for the Kaaba Stone is the Al-Hajarul Aswad.
From a Vedik perspective we can understand that also. An idol can sometimes mean a representation of something such as how the so many concocted false idols that incited the Great Prophet Mohammed to stop idol worship to begin with. Such concocted idolotry is condemned in all religious symbology as unfounded speculation. We cannot invent a method to achieve God realization, we are studying a science here. Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu rejects idolatry as well, but considers Sri Murti (Deity) worship to be the only unexceptionable means of spiritual culture. It has been shown that God is Personal and All-Beautiful, Sages like Vyasa and others have seen that Beauty in their souls' eyes. They have left us descriptions. Of course, word carries grossness of matter. But truth still is perceivable in those descriptions.
Instead of our demanding to see God, we need to develop an attitude of loving surrender that allows us to have the eyes to see God. As is revealed, it is not a cheap process, one has to pay the price, what is that price? The price is our dedication and surrender. God has everything, what can we otherwise buy Him with, it is already His, the price is our love. Pay the price and purchase the fruit, there have been so many miracles where the Lord has out of His inconceivable mercy revealed different aspects of Himself to his pure devotees who havepaid the price.
A close-up of the Al-Hajarul Aswad - black Kaaba stone
Pilgrims making for most making their once in a life-time visit to the sacred black stone.
In all the great systems of religion throughout the world symbolism has been a means by which the devoted can transcend their devotional feelings and appreciation, and faith to the Lord in His unlimited multifarious forms. I'm not talking of speculative mediums made by creative imagination, no, we are talking of authoritative methods by which we can approch Him and through which He has agreed to accept our service and prayer.
His appearing in a variety of forms disturbs some people, of some faiths. So let us explain something of the intrinsic nature of God; who He is and how He is defined by those who are worthy of approaching Him, or by the Scriptures that reveal Him! All faiths agree that He is the One True God, being free from all material imperfections, limitations and or short-comings. He is the Supreme Being full in all spiritual attributes, and is totally complete in every way. He is the One Supreme Being without any equal (Quaran 24:55. Sri Ishopanishad mantra 1.)
When we keep to these statements most everyone will agree. However, when we begin to look at the miraculous things that He has done in a myriad of places, with different devotees, at different times, suddenly there are some objections. Those persons begin to put limitations upon Him saying He can't do this, cannot appear there, or cannot be like this or that. Factually, this is our putting material confines on what we think God should be or is like. He can do whatever He wants to do, or be.
One thing that dearly needs to be made clear is that He, the Lord, His Divine Name(s), teachings, places of His pastimes etc., are all of His nature and enterage, they are as worshippable as He being in relation to Him, they are not different from Him and are His.
Ali, upon whom be peace, the Commander of the Faithful, says in the first sermon of the Nahj al-balaghah, "The beginning of religion is the knowledge of the pure divine essence, and the perfection of such knowledge lies in faith in that sacred being. Perfect belief, in turn, lies in sincere devotion at His threshold, and perfect devotion is none other than the dissociation of that Unique Principle from all the attributes of contingent beings.
"Beware, for He cannot be described with any mundane attribute, for then difference would appear between the name and the attribute. Whoever attempts to describe Him with an attribute is, in effect, creating a like and a partner for Him, or rather he is seeing God to be two. Whoever sees God to be two is attempting to divide His being. Such a person lacks all knowledge and insight into the nature of God's unique being and is blind and ignorant.
"The one who is thus deprived of vision will attempt to point to God (i.e., restrict Him to a given time and place), and whoever does this posits imprisoning limits for the Creator of all being and makes Him finite. Whoever limits and restricts Him in this way regards Him as a measurable quantity. Whoever asks: "Where is God?" unintentionally makes of Him a body enclosed within another body, and whoever asks, "In what is God engaged?" unintentionally states that certain places are empty of His being."
As one friend aske me, "Where is God?" "Where is He not?" was my reply.
The point is we have to understand that His Name and spiritual attributes are different from those of this temporal world, of dualities, frailties etc. So we can point out that there are attributes, but they are not mundane limited attributes rather they are spiritual attributes which are full of His potency.
This is important for all to understand so that each can understand that each of His attribute(s) is in itself infinite and co-extensive with the infinitude of the essence. God is free of and exempt from finite attributes that might be distinct from each other and separate from the essence.
There is a vast difference in seeing God or God's hand in the world and seeing many Gods. The analogy can be used of that of a King. The King and the power of the King are the same, the power eminates from him. So similarly When God appears or when His power is shown, or when He empowers a great prophet or saint His presence can be tangibly appreciated.
The difference is when someone tries to claim something which is false. Such as a minister in the King's government, if he tries to claim something of the King's as his own or for himself then he's punishable. When the minister admits that he's the humble servant of the King and is genuinely doing the King's work without deviation then who will not offer respects. We do not offer respects to a cheater, and we do not offer our respects to the minister for himself. But as the representative of the King we offer respects.
This same understanding should be there in the Vedik schools of theology also. The various devas - demigods, empowered beings are exactly that. They have been entrusted, empowered to perform ministerial duties in the Kingdom of the Supreme God, and for that we offer them all respect. Without that service, they are neither empowered nor worthy of such respect.
No Independent Existence:
Just as if one looks at a coconut and asks about each of the elemts thereof; what is this - pointing to the outter husk, it's coconut husk. Breaking that open and revealing the coconut kernal within, we so call it 'coconut kernal'. When that is broken too, it reveals coconut meat and coconut milk. All of them are in relation to coconut, and without coconut they have no independent existence. So in the same way the beings of this world have no independent existence without the Supreme Being, God. He is the One Independent Being (Swatantra), everyone and everything else in creation, all the living entities, even the saints, prophets, sages, rishes, even the demons, as well as all material elements are all reliant on Him for their/our existence, therefore all that is Aswatantra - or dependent upon Him.
In one sense everything is part of Him, but at the same time everything by His expanding potency appears outside of Him too. It is one with Him yet inconceivably different too. When He appears He does so as He wants, and uses the material elements and saintly associates of His entourage (parishad) to uphold relgious principles and destroy the evils of the world that afflict His interests.
Looking at the chart He has a whole realm to choose from to appear through, and does. He is completely Independent in how the creation is created and maintained under His direction. He as the Supreme Being appoints His representatives to serve universal affairs on His behalf, but He always remains totally independent, and they dependent upon Him in every regard. There's no question of there being an equal or partner or something other than the Original Supreme Absolute Being - God. This is echoed throughout the Vedik scriptures.
om pürnam adah pürnam idam
pürnät pürnam udacyate
pürnasya pürnam ädäya
“The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete in itself. Because He is the complete whole, even though so many complete units emanate from Him, He remains the complete balance.”
The Supreme Lord, the Absolute Truth, is pürna, or complete in Himself. And since this cosmic world is a manifestation of His potency, it also appears to be pürna. In other words, because this material world is an emanation from the Supreme Lord, it is nondifferent from Him, exactly as the sun’s rays are nondifferent from the sun globe, which is the source of their emanation. Similarly the living beings, who are expansions of the superior, or conscious, energy of the Supreme Lord, are also nondifferent from Him, although this nondifference is qualitative and not quantitative. The gold found in golden ornaments such as rings and bracelets is qualitatively identical with the gold in a mine, but the gold in the mine is quantitatively far superior to the tiny quantity of gold in a bracelet or ring. Similarly, although we are qualitatively one with God, being spiritual emanations of His unlimited potency, we are quantitatively infinitesimal and eternally subordinate to His supreme power. Therefore the Lord is called vibhu, or infinitely potent, and we are anu, or infinitesimal and dependent.
This is further confirmed in the Vedik literature by the statement nityo nityänäm chetanash chetanänäm eko bahünäm yo vidadhäti kämän (Katha Upaniñad 2:2:13). There are innumerable eternal living entities who are eternally and totally dependent upon the supreme singular living entity, the Supreme Lord. That dependence is not an illusion created by material existence, as stated by the impersonalist philosophers, but is an eternal relationship in which the Lord is eternally superior and we are eternally inferior. The Lord is eternally independent, and we are eternally dependent. The Lord is eternally absolute in Himself, and we are eternally relative to His supreme personality.
Although the Lord is infinitely greater than any other living being, or than all of them combined, every living being is qualitatively nondifferent from the Lord (as in the example of the gold), because all living beings are parts and parcels emanating from Him (mamaivämsho jiva-loke jiva-bhütah sanätanah [Bhagavad Gita. 15:7].).
nätah param parama yad bhavatah svarüpam
änanda-mätram avikalpam aviddha-varcah
pashyämi vishva-srijam ekam avishvam ätman
bhütendriyätmaka-madas ta upäshrito ’smi
na—do not; atah param—hereafter; parama—O Supreme; yat—that which; bhavatah—of Your Lordship; svarüpam—eternal form; änanda-mätram—impersonal Brahman effulgence; avikalpam—without changes; aviddha-varcah—without deterioration of potency; pashyämi—do I see; vishva-srijam—creator of the cosmic manifestation; ekam—one without a second; avishvam—and yet not of matter; ätman—O Supreme Cause; bhüta—body; indriya—senses; ätmaka—on such identification; madah—pride; te—unto You; upäshritah—surrendered; asmi—I am.
O my Lord, I do not see a form superior to Your present form of eternal bliss and knowledge. In Your impersonal Brahman effulgence in the spiritual sky, there is no occasional change and no deterioration of internal potency. I surrender unto You because whereas I am proud of my material body and senses, Your Lordship is the cause of the cosmic manifestation and yet You are untouched by matter.
PURPORT extract by HDG Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad.
As stated in Bhagavad Gitä (18:55), bhaktyä mäm abhijänäti yävän yash chäsmi tattvatah: the Supreme Personality of Godhead can only be partially known, and only by the process of devotional service to the Lord.
The Quran says: "Ask them, 'Show me these partners whom you worship in place of God. Have they created anything from earth or have they shared with God in the creation of the heavens ? Have we given them a book on which they rely in their ascription of partners to us?' No, the wrongdoers deceive each other with their false promises. Certainly it is God Who preserves the heavens and the earth from collapse and annihilation; were they about to collapse and be annihilated, there is none other who could preserve them. Know that God is most forbearing and forgiving." (35:40-41)
But at the same time, not subjecting Him to our mundane limitations, if He so wants to appear before us, then who are we to say He cannot. We may not understand, that is another thing, still that doesn't mean He cannot do whatever He wants, when He wants and to whomb He wants, or interact with whoever He wants according to His own sweet plan.
To Moses He appeared in the Form of a burning bush, again to Moses the mighty hand of the Lord was seen in action separating the waters of the Red sea, the sound of God that Moses heard upon the Mount when receiving the Ten Commandments, the Lord also appeared in the Form of sound to Mohammed in the cave giving him Divine instruction, and so on.
These are all Personal Attributes of the Supreme Absolute Lord.
Islam teaches that there are 99 names for the one God. Why? Because God is Supreme, He is unknowable: Bigger than that, more than that. It is hard to put a frame around the Divine.
So the 99 names are reminders of God's aspects or attributes: the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Truth, the Light, the First, the Last, the Unfathomable, the Exalter, the Abaser, the Creator. The hope is that by remembering God's names -- an act known as dhikr in Arabic -- Muslims will look at the world and witness the divine in every thing and every situation by associating with the attributes of God - Allah.
It is one of the tools that Muslims use to know their creator better. By trying to emulate the 99 ``beautiful names,'' as the Quaran puts it, Muslims try to become better people. God's names are their guide. God sets the example. During Ramadam, the sacred month when followers of Islam commemorate the time when Mohammed received sacred teachings from the Angel Gabriel, many Muslims pick one of the Names of God to meditate upon each day: Al-Karim, the Generous One, or Al-Haqq, the Truth, and meditate on it -- as one in another religion (discipline) might meditate on a mantra . . . Obviously, we're dealing with a concept that's impossible to attach words to, so these Divine Names provide a direction for understanding something about the Divine.'' They are all of Divine attribute, adjectives describing the Person God and His glories.
Personal or Impersonal?:
In religion, there are two concepts of God. One is a Personal God who is represented by Yahweh in Judaism, Jehovah in Christianity, Allah in Islam, and Vishnu and Shiva in Hinduism. In Buddhism and Taoism there is no emphasis on a Personal God. A Personal God is one who is like a super being, an anthropomorphic entity, that rules heaven and earth and has a purpose, intent, emotions and so on very similar to us jivas - human beings.
Sometimes, due to seeing such similarities, some persons opt to accept only an impersonal aspect of God, due to the frailties of man. But the difference in the two are the natures of the two; God is full in all attributes, infallible, full of all opulences, all famous, all powerful, all attractive, and eternally existing etc; us tiny souls may have some of these qualities, but the proportionate quantity that we have them is different. Sometimes an example is given of gold in a ring and gold in a mine - both are pure gold, but the quantity of the gold in the ring and the mine are different. So similarly, we may have so many attributes similar to His, but ours have less potency, and are subject to the influences of the material world such as being imperfect, whereas God is all perfect, we make mistakes, He never does, we are subject to illusion, He controls illusion and dispells it to enlighten us, and so on.
By our material limited senses surely He is the Infinite God as being indescribable, indefinable and inconceivable. However, that is not a lacking on His part, but a lacking on ours. For to some He reveals His Divine nature, He reveals His attributes, to some even His Personal Form.
If we say He cannot, then we're trying to put limitations upon Him, for He is the Unlimited Independent Absolute free to do as He likes or does not like with, and in His creation.
Some, who are of the impersonal schools argue that in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, the personal God is given these all-knowing and omnipotent qualities, but without the consideration that any description of God, is a limitation on God. The Infinite God is beyond description and without limitations.
The fact of the matter is that from the Energetic the energy comes and not the other way around. You may hear of me long before you meet me, and that is an impersonal appreciation. After meeting me, to treat me impersonally doesn't match to the full potential our a relationship, thus could be seen as being somewhat rude.
Some try to present that the Infinite God is the potential of all things and has no beginning and has no end. The truth is however, as we pointed out earlier that as far as spiritual nature of quality this may be true, but in quantity there's a vast difference in potential. For the souls of this world are subject to birth, death old age and disease, whereas God is not afflicted by such things.
When atheist reject the notion of a Supreme Being or God, they are really rejecting the concept of a Personal God. To reject the Infinite God, the Infinite Oneness, is like a fish denying the existence of the Ocean.
Examples of such impersonal inclination to the Infinite God is called "The Way" in Taoism, "Brahman" in modern day Hinduism
and "Dhammakaya" in Buddhism. The Personal God of Vaishnavism (Sanatan Dharm - before Hinduism was polytheism that it is today) Judaism, Christianity and Islam is referred to as also being the Infinite God and yet
the emphasis is on the Personal aspects of God and not the features of God.
When one embraces the the concept of a Supreme Personality as an Infinite God, one understands that there is no difference between the Personal Gods who are worshipped in different places in the world, of all races, religions, nations, and sexes. Just as the Sun in the sky may have different names in differnt places according to different cultures and languages. In America they call Sun, in Italy Sole, in India Surya, among the Maori of New Zealand Ra, but it is the same Sun, just appearing in different places to different peoples who are undergoing different karmas in different longitudes and latitudes around the world. We are talking of the same thing.
Let us look at the case for iconoclasm.
It is true that if one wants a message to reach its said destination one has to follow the authorised system of communication. Neither wishful thinking, nor any manner of inventions, or speculation will suffice nor gain one's goal.
A simple example is that of the postal system; it's not that one can put one's mail in any old box that stands by the side of the road and expect your mail to reach its destination. Only the authorised box that is approved by the postal system, established as the recognised manner of transmittance of "mail", will reach its destination or goal. Other so-called methods, boxes by the side of the road may be categorised as; a mistake - thinking that any old box or idol will be recognised as god - such a mistake originates from, a lack of accurate knowledge. Such idolatry is condemned in all the sacred scriptures of the world. Speculation; again comes from ill informed decisions as what to do and what not to do. Often people that approach in this category are desirous of achieving the goal, but are either misinformed as what to do, or think that they can indeed do anything, or try anything that they like and reach the same destination. Sometimes this is likened to one who wants to go to a valid destination say Auckland, but who not knowing the approved, and direct route heads off in the direction of Tauranga going towards Taupo...........! Some have suggested, the "liberalistic free thinkers" that there is no problem with this as in time the person may get to Auckland in due course of time. The unfortunate fact in many cases are however, that there are just as many chances that the person may not reach the destination too!
Examples of idolatry, monumentation, religious symbolism,
There have been many great men of saintly character over the centuries, to which men have been grateful, have take shelter, such guidance. The memory of such men, not mere men, but empowered saints not only give us good role models, but leave with us epitaphs to their teachings and realisation. Consequently out of gratitude to the "saint", who by proof in his personal practical example in life, the people consider him worthy by erecting a monument of him (or her), and by Divine rite he/she is established in "sainthood". By this I do not suggest that saints are made by popular opinion, yet an exemplary pure and Godly person, who genuinely does the work of the Lord and who does so in a selfless and humble manner is a saint though walking amongst us. But alas it has come these days, due to a misunderstanding of what is an idol, what is an icon and the real and personal interaction with such saints, what to speak of the Lord through such religious symbolic representations that there is no proper regard for the memory of such a person, and as such the birds come and pass stool on that form, and as for God because the human mind cannot comprehend their being a personal form other than resembling our own, which has so many faults, their deduction is that He too is formless.
Religious symbolism is universal to all religions. But how the symbols remind us of our personal relationship with God make symbolism either worthy (a form of deity worship), or unworthy (a form of idolatry). For example we see in many Christian Churches the symbol of The Virgin Mary holding her young child Jesus the Christ, truly a worshipable form. The symbol of the lamb, or the fish reminds us of events in the life of Jesus, and so of Him. However, we do not worship a lamb or a fish separately as being worshipable. In the same way the symbol of the cross, His teachings in humility, tolerance, and mercy - the cross reminds us of Him.
In the same way when we see an icon or deity of Buddha sitting in a meditative pose, we remember Him, His teachings, what He did for mankind, and out of gratitude want to reciprocate with an offering of loving gratitude, maybe by offering a flower, or a candle or a lamp. The same reciprocal mood of love is imbibed with the worship of Deities in Vaisnava or Hindu temples. Lord Krishna Himself tells us in Bhagavad Gita (the song of God) 9:27. "If you offer Me with love and devotion a leaf a flower or some fruit I will accept that......!"
Of course just like in Christianity or Islam there have been unauthorised forms presented, which have caused uproar to the devout. So in Hinduism sometimes strange forms appear and are taken by uneducated persons to be the form of God, or the various forms of God's administrative heads of the universe, are taken to be Him, or that there are "many gods". So may misunderstandings are there.
The unfortunate context that has prevailed the centuries has been that of if it doesn't fit within my particular paradigm, or angle of preaching at the moment; if it could be seen as a political threat; if it would allow or keep those people who we rule over, doing what they have been doing; ........then such religious symbolism, Deity worship has been branded "Pagan", "heathen", "sacrilegious" etc., etc. And another system put into place irrespective of it's motives and possible faults!!!
The Quran says: "Some men regard other beings as equivalent to God and love them as if they were God but the believers devote all of their love to God." (2:165) "Among His signs are the night and the day and the sun and the moon. Do not bow down and prostrate yourselves before the sun and the moon. Instead, prostrate yourselves humbly before the God that created them." (41:37)
dhyeya sadA savitr maNDala madhyavartI
nArAyaNaH sarasijAsana sanniviSTaH
keyUravAn makara kuNDalavAn kirITI
hArI hiraNmaya vapuH dhrta zaGkha cakraH
"One should meditate on the form of the Lord Who is the source of the Sun's rays. He as the primary creator is seated on a lotus, with golden bracelets, crown, shark earrings; he is golden in complexion, and holds the shankha and chakra in his hands. He alone is the cause of the Sun's shining." (Rg Veda)
Another View Of Historians And Missionaries Work.
In times just prior to Islam the unauthorised worship was rampant, it was nothing to see people worshipping all manner of men, beasts, and bizarre combinations of the two. And all to be taken as "God". With most forms of "Cleansing", the baby is often thrown out with the bath water. And this was no different in ancient times as it is today. The "authorities" of the time knew what needed to be stopped, but in order to do so had to stop all manner of worship of speculative forms of deities, they banned all deity worship. Anyone found worshiping a deity of any kind was put to death. Later as Islamic conquerors invaded such countries where deity worship pervaded as part of everyday functional life, such as in India these "upholders of the faith", the iconoclasts, either smashed every deity without discrimination; defiled the temple that the deity stood in; destroyed such a temple; then spreading ill-rumour, and editing history, "created new history", or a combination of all of the above, with which to establish their particular manner of faith as Absolute, and all others as "Infidels".
This was not particular to Islam. Christianity (in its numerous forms) did it, and are still doing it all over the world. The zealous missionaries of the 19th century forged not only new frontiers, but also forged many a history book in their attempt to convert the "pagan savages" of Africa, the Americas (South America - Hawaii etc.), India, Australia and New Zealand. In all of these countries an abundance of wealth was displayed to allure the "poor savages" (often funded by either the church or a wealthy merchant who carried a particular "faith" - or a combination of the two by which such merchants/industrialists/ or even slave traders could exploit the colonies). Just for an instant we could look at New Zealand. The Christian missions adhere to a story that these pagan peoples know as the Maori had no goal in life, and were just waiting for Christendom to come to their shores. Yet if we look back over the past hundred years at some of the things that have been done in the name of helping these indigenous people to know Jesus; the blood shed, the manipulations of land, the conscripting and sending of men to war to gain their land, laws passed defining Maori as not being eligible for various things........, unless they accepted the Bible; prejudices forced by Churchmen; ridicule and intimidation of the Maori culture, until the people embarrassed, gave it up just to survive in the Christian world of education and employment. The history books too have been carefully changed, the treasured ancestral home, and origin of these proud and cultured people almost now lost into political oblivion. Today the Maori (and other Pacific Islanders) are forced to follow western methods of dress, linguistic interaction, schooling, employment (or rather lack of it - unemployment), in accordance with the changing trends and plans laid down by colonialistic forefathers.
Although many of the people of this Maori race are trying to gain their own identity again, many (and I mean many) appear to be relics of a broken race. Their once proud warrior stature lost to degradation in public drinking houses, betting shops and hanging around the street or watching T.V. at home - a broken people. There is great concern for the Maori youth, as so many are the instigators of crime, violence, and gang activity - all symptoms of lack of identity. True that everything is a matter of personal choice, to give up their former culture or not to; to engage in something potentially harmful or not to; to allow oneself to be manipulated or not to; but we have to be honest in recognising how much influence vast amounts of money, troops and educational or re-educational propaganda can have on an environment. To which we can all thank the British Crown, and its Ministry's (the Christian Missions).
The following is an article found in the Watchtower magazine of te Jehova's Witnesses, dated February 15th 1997., pages 25-28.
"Agreement Between "God's Temple" And Idols In Greece?
On this ver hot summer day, the sun beats down on the glittering stones. The extreme heat, however, does not seem to dampen the spirites and fierce detemination of a throng of devout Greek Orthadox pilgrims who head for the chapel at the top of the hill.
You see an exhausted old woman, who journeyed from the other end of the country, struggling to keep her tired feet going. A little farther up, an eager man is heavily perspiring as he anxiouly tries to make his way through the jostling crowd. And a young gorl, obviously in pain and with a despirate expression on her face, crawls on her badly bleeding knees. The goal? To reach on time, to pray before and, if possible, to touch and kiss the icn of the celebrated 'saint'.
Scenes similar to this one are repeated all over the world at places devoted to the veneration of 'saints'. Apparently, all these pilgrims are convinced that in this wa they are follwing God's way for approaching him, thus expressing their devotion and faith."
I personally do not have a problem with asking an obviously advanced and devout soul, either in his personal form - him standing there before me, or in his deity form, either way, one of God's own, to help me in my progression along the same path towards Him. This I believe to be the intrinsic difference in approaching a genuine saint for help in one's devotional development, and going before someone like Sai Baba, and a miriad of other modern day 'saints' and asking for material boons etc.
"The book Our Orthodox Christian Faith states: 'We commemorate [the saints], and ascribe glory and honour to their holy personages....., and we ask their prayers before God on our behalf and their supplications and aid in many needs of our lives...... We recourse to the wonder-working Saints.....for our spiritual and bodily needs'. Also, according to synodic canons of the Roman Catholic Church, 'saints' are to be invoked as intercessors with God, and both the relics and the images of the 'saints' are to be venerated.
The primary concern of a genuine Christian should be to worship God 'with spirit and truth.'(John 4:24.) For this reason let us consider some facts about the way in which the veneration of 'saints' was introduced as part of the religious practices of Christendom. Such an examination should be very enlightening for everyone desiring to aproach God in a way acceptable to Him."
A few interesting statements are found here; It seems that some people don't think that they need the help of devoted God conscious souls around them. I for sure do, in fact many of us are honest enough to admit that we need all the help that we can get. Spritual life is sometimes described as being like one person reaching upwards to God, while one person extends their hand offering a hand down-ward, to those less fortunate, or less experienced or advanced in spiritual development. So not only do I pray to the 'saints' but I pray to those devotees who are around me, that I can always remain on the progressive path to pure God consciousness.
I find it a little disturbing, that always there seems to be some finger pointing within the Christian camp as to who is a real or genuine Christian.
"How 'Saints' Were Accepted.
The Christian Greek Scriptures designate as 'holy ones', or 'saints', all those early Christians who were cleansed by the blood of Christ and who were set apart for God's service as prospective joint heirs with Christ (Acts 9:32; Corinthians 1:1;13:13.) Men and women prominent and lowly ones in the congregation, all werer described as 'holy ones' while living here on earth. Recognition of their being saints Scripturally was obviously not deferred until after they had died.
After the second century C.E., though, while apostate Christianity was taking shape, the tendency was to try to make Christianity popular, a religion that would appeal to pagan peoples and be readily acceptable to them. these pagans worshipped a pantheon of gods, and the new religion was strictly monotheistic. So a compromise would be possible through the adoption of 'saints', who would take the place of the ancient gods, demigods, and mythical heros. Commenting on this, the book Ekkliasiastiki Istoria (Ecclesiastical History) states: 'For those being converted from paganism to Christianity, it was easy to recognise their abandoned heroes in the person of the martyrs and start rendereing them the honour they previously gave to the former ones...... Very often, however, the rendering of such honours to the saints came to be pure idolatry'.
Another reference work explains how 'saints' were introduced into Christendom: 'In the rendereing of honour to the saints of the Greek Orthadox Church, we find obvious traces of the strog influence that pagan religion had. Qualities that were attributed to the Olympian gods before [people] were converted to Christianity were now ascribed to the saints..... From the early years of the new religion, we see its adherents replacing the sun-god (Phoebus Apollo) with the Prophet Elijah, building churches on, or next to, the ruins of ancient temples or shrines of this god, mostly on the top of hills and mountains, at every place where the ancient Greeks honoured the light-giver Phoebus Apollo....... They even identified the Virgin-goddess Athena with the Virgin Mary herself. Thus, the gap that was created when the idol of Athena was torn down was eliminated
This is the promise of the Quran: "It is Our will that We show favor to those who have been oppressed throughout history for Me, by making them leaders and the inheritors of the earth." (28:5) "God promises those among you who believe and do good deeds that He will make you viceregents on earth, that He will firmly establish the religion He has chosen for you, and that He will bestow on all the believers safety after their fear of the enemy this, in order that you might worship Me alone and not ascribe to Me any partners/equals/couterparts." (24:55)
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