Whose God is it anyway?

“I don’t think they (people) are aggressive, I think they are possessive about their religion. That’s why problems occur” – Mrs. Sarah Cohen, speaking to Mark Ulyseas, in Live Encounters.

Is my God greater than your God?
Is my religion better than yours?
And what about atheists…God bless their souls.
And will the Mayan Calendar prove everyone wrong on December 21, 2012?

Does our reaction to words spoken by others about our beliefs, our God, tell us who we are?
Is our reaction merely the ego that resides in us like a recoiling snake ready to strike when confronted with presupposed hatred and bigotry?
Does it really matter what people say or more importantly not say about our religion?

Buddha was a Hindu.

Christ was a Jew.

So why does it make a difference nowadays? Why is there a continuing fragmentation of beliefs morphing into territorial fights for spirituality?

And why are men of the cloth – priests, gurus and “spiritual leaders” exempt from this criticism? Are they not human too?

Why do believers in a faith become filled with anger, defensive and illogical when their faith is questioned?

Is this the ego speaking?

The ego that makes every human being unique.
The ego that fills us with pride, which is sometimes misplaced.
Could it be that the ego in most cases is untrained and therefore lashes out at anything that it perceives threatens its makeshift world of spiritual beliefs?

If people descend into argument and abrasive conversation about someone’s point of belief, why do we respond thereby giving credence to a cretin whose sole aim is to challenge any which way a spiritual belief. Is it so important to confront such people? Or is it wise to listen to their words and contemplate its meaning “before” dismissing them not in anger but in love.

The truth is – If God is with us, who can be against us?
If we have such faith we do not need to joust with those of little faith.
We probably do this because our ego is immature and has yet to find its level.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

A message from Mother Mary – Mark Ulyseas

Sini Joy with her statue of Mother Mary

“Mother Mary’s son is coming soon so we should be prepared for that and therefore we must avoid committing sins, She is sad about the state of the world and that is why she is crying”, said Sini Joy, pointing to the statue of the Mother in a glass case that stood on the other side of the room.  The statue began emitting red colored tears, water, honey, milk and the aroma of jasmine within two days of Sini having bought it from a shop in Ernakulam, over 5 years ago.

Sini is a devout follower of the Mother. In fact a number of years ago a small statue of the Mother, which she had at home, began to weep. The local parish priest, Father Solomon, removed it and placed it in St. Joseph’s Church.

Sometime after this incident, Sini had a dream in which Mother Mary instructed her to install a five foot statue at her home. When she told the parish priest, he did not allow her to buy such a large statue but gave her permission to get a smaller one.

The present statue is three feet in height with a price tag of US$150. It was bought from St.Paul’s, a shop in Ernakulam and was paid for by Sini’s aunt. Within a few days the statue began to bleed red tears, honey, milk, water and also to emit an aroma of jasmine.  Father Thampy, from the Bishop’s House, Father Anthony Jacob (parish priest of Loreto), Father Sebastian (parish priest of St.Joseph’s) visited Sini’s home and inspected the statue. They instructed her to shift the statue from the inner part of her house to the front room. They even paid for the renovation of the room. Bishop Stephen Athipuzti of Allepy has set up a group headed by Father James Anaparambil to investigate the matter. They have yet to submit a report.

“Have there been any miracles “, I asked

“Yes. People have been cured of breast cancer, blindness, barren couples have had children and even a person who was paralyzed from the waist down can now walk. These miracles are for change, we must change ourselves, change from this terrible life of anger, hate and violence to one of love and peace. We must confess our sins and redeem ourselves before the Mother, before the Lord. Do you know many people from other faiths come here to pray for forgiveness, for peace, for happiness. We are going through terrible and frightening times. We must learn to love each other and to help each other,” she replied in a low voice.

“So how much money do you collect from the faithful?”

“Nothing! First I do not allow people to leave money either at the foot of Mother Mary nor do I allow them to give me anything. This is NOT about money. It is about my faith, our faith,” said Sini.

‘Are there any prayers conducted here?”

“Every day at 2 p.m. we recite the rosary and every first Saturday of the month people from all over Cochin arrive to recite the rosary one thousand times. It begins at 7p.m. and ends early the following morning at 3 a.m. We prepare food for the faithful. Some people after eating this food have told us that their ailments were cured or wishes granted.

Also, sometimes when we are praying, Mother Mary answers us by crying red tears, emitting honey, water and milk from her body and sending us the sweet smell of jasmine. The experience is beautiful and calms many of us.”

“What does your husband do and do you have any children?”

“My husband, Sebastian Joy, is a carpenter and today is my only child’s birthday. His name is Feyon Anthony and he is nine years old.”

“And what do you do?”

“I am a mother, a wife and co-coordinator of the zonal charismatic groups of sixteen churches. Take this,” she said putting a few small printed cards in my pocket, “Pray to Mother Mary and she will protect and help you. But you must help others around you whoever they maybe. We are one, all of us”.

I said a small prayer and left, humbled by the all-pervasive presence of the Mother and the nagging feeling… the answer to the question I had been searching for so long – Are there miracles, do they happen and why…

And was this the answer?

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Organized religion – a celebration of faith – Part Four

pic by mark ulyseas

In this fourth and concluding part one shall celebrate all the wonderful, beautiful and meaningful aspects of organized religion.

Note: The author comes from mixed parentage (father Indian/Irish, mother Spanish/English). He is a Hindu and Catholic with relations scattered across the globe. They include Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. He studied English Literature at a well known Jesuit college and worked with Mother Theresa (in the 70s), Hindu, Muslim and Jewish Charities.

Organized religion may be accused of heinous crimes by self appointed guardians of rationality who question the very essence of its origin, ridicule its dogma and mock its followers. Anyone has the right to voice their opinion or even cast aspersions for this is, apparently, a free world. But is organized religion so insidious and evil as it is made out to be, or, has selective memory been the cause of rancid rumination and recrimination? It is without doubt the later.

One cannot dispute the fact that violence and propaganda continue to be used, sometimes destructively, to upset the tranquility of religiosity. But this is not originating from organized religion per se but from usurpers that have adorned the mask of the faithful to preach hatred for narrow political ends. These warped aficionados of the absurd prance in front of the media extolling the virtues of their own self importance…announcing the dispatching of death squads to senselessly killed unarmed innocent people. And this is just one example of how one organized religion is being misused by people with morals that are elastic.

History is strewn with instances of murderous religious activity which is the result of hunger for power – to subjugate people and fool them into believing that the fight is about Faith. During these upheavals there have been many followers from organized religion that have contributed their time, money and lives to help the defenseless and disenfranchised even though the later may be of another faith. So who remembers these devoted emissaries of peace and love?

The Middle East gave the world three great religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And yet we face the insurmountable task of bringing peace to the region. Mohammad and Ashkenazi, my friends from the region believe that they are brothers in alms, begging for peaceful coexistence without the stench of putrefying political ambitions of ‘religious gendarmes’ who claim they represent the faith, an untruth and an embarrassment to organized religion.

Art, poetry, music, education, health care, agriculture, infrastructure and business are some areas that have benefited from organized religion’s involvement in a country. The poor marginalized people continue to be provided succor through development programs that seek to uplift their wretched lives to an acceptable standard of living – clean drinking water, wholesome food and hygienic living conditions. All this is best reflected in areas where natural calamities have occurred. The presence of committed workers of organized religion providing aid in often dangerous situations is now a common daily occurrence.  Some are killed, others kidnapped but still more volunteers continue to come forward because their ‘faith’ is stronger then the frightening reality awaiting them in some war ravaged zone.

India, home to a bouquet of organized religions, has thousands of charities run by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and others : Free health camps (family planning, eye operations, immunization, pre and post natal care, creches for migrant workers etc.),  midday meals, human and animal shelters, clothing, adoption centers and even micro interest free finance to assist women in setting up small businesses.

Some organized religions like Jainism have built hospitals with donations from people of many religious denominations to treat injured animals, tame and wild, without any charge; these also include board and lodging for our feathered friends with broken wings etc.  This is ‘Insaanyat’ (humanity) and most followers of a faith practice this. It is when some renegades discard the concept of humanity, of having humanity for the defenseless/under privileged, that desecration of others beliefs begin. And, at this flash point  power hungry politicians jump on the bandwagon to squeeze the most out of a horrid situation disregarding the blood that is spilled.

Amidst the mayhem of a modern world organized religion is like an anchor for the faithful. It soothes the soul, maintains a balance between the sublime and the ridicule.

The image of mother and child that appears in many organized religions is reflective of the sanctity with which woman is held. A respect for the mother. A genuflection that transcends the trivial words of those that seek to denigrate a belief that is beautiful and soul sustaining.

Organized religion is all this, and much more.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Organized religion – Why is God male? – Part Three

pic by mark ulyseas

Part Two in this series presented the viewpoint that organized religion continues to be part of a criminal world – crime & punishment. I thank the following people for spending time responding to Part One & Two: duckham, goaway, jamie_macnab, newsjunkie, haymaker, dickgreendoxon, peterbarnett, roj, cymbeline, candess

“A woman’s experience of giving birth, lactation and menstruation are alien to man and therefore this prompts man to view the woman as a lesser of the two sexes, basically unequal” – Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex.

So does God feel the same?

Apparently organized religion has unequivocally projected God or the Creator as a male. Why? Why is God not female, unisex or even asexual? For instance, it is Our Father in Heaven and not Our Mother in Heaven.

Why do we use the terms Mother Nature, Mother Earth and not Father Nature and Father Earth?

Could it be that the subjugation of woman originates from organized religion that has projected God or the Creator as a male entity: The Holy Trinity, Yahweh, Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva, Allah etc.

Some examples of organized religion’s exercise in misogyny.

Bible – The woman’s role is evident in the Adam and Eve saga. The man was seduced by a woman to eat the apple from the forbidden tree.

Qu’ran – Men are to rub dirt on their hands if there is no water to purify them following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).

Hinduism – The pathetic end to Draupadi (Mahabharata) and Sita (Ramayana).

There are numerous examples in organized religion that paint a lurid image of woman while at the same time honoring mothers. Is this a puerile paradox that confirms the findings of Simone de Beauvoir?

Organized religion has an apparent obsession with virgins. The Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ was a virgin and based on this premise the Catholic Church has propagated this concept/belief. Virginity is a recurring theme in the Bible.

In Islam it is believed that a man who enters paradise will be received by 72 virgins.

Judaism – There is much discussion about virgins in temples. In the Jewish scriptures virginity appears for the first time in Genesis.

Hinduism – an excerpt from the Puranas – “The sun-god said: O beautiful Prtha, your meeting with the demigods cannot be fruitless. Therefore, let me place my seed in your womb so that you may bear a son. I shall arrange to keep your virginity intact, since you are still an unmarried girl”

So basically the man can have sexual relations and still be “clean” while the woman must be a virgin to keep her purity till of course a God has intercourse with her or she gets married. One wonders about the fate of a woman who does otherwise?

Does it really matter if Our Blessed Mother Mary was a virgin? And that the Lord Jesus Christ was the immaculate conception? Mother Mary was the mother of Jesus and this should be enough to honor her.

Obviously Man has played the primary role in organizing religion to suit his needs, social, sexual and political to subjugate Woman.

Could it be that organized religion has downgraded the woman of her divine right  by emphasizing her sexual fallibility, while promoting the myth of man’s infallibility by distorting the truth in the Scriptures?

To be concluded in Part Four…

Organized Religion – Crime & Punishment – Part Two

pic by mark ulyseas

Part One in this series centered around the question of whether organized religion is a necessary evil or a business. This writer has received many emails extolling the virtues of organized religion and berating him for being a fashionable atheist. Unfortunately, the later is incorrect and the former, debatable.

Organized religion has continued to be part of a criminal world. It subjugates women (whipping, burning, deforming their genitals, stoning and more); threatens wayward followers with Hell; propagates the concept of bad Karma like returning as a dog in another life or whatever; uses social ostracization as a weapon and more; promoting mindless acts of killing innocent unarmed people with the reward of being welcomed and serviced by virgins in the Afterlife.

Leading organized religions of the world have been responsible for wars, genocide, mass murder, annihilation of civilizations, torture, and more. And this continues unabated -pedophilia, rape, sodomy, pillage, abuse of human rights.

So why is it that organized religion generates so much violence, hate and other criminal activity when it is supposed to be promoting, peace, love and salvation of the soul?

It is said that history, as we know it, is written by victors and rewritten by those who fiddle with Holy Books to suit individual megalomaniac agendas.

The Lord Jesus Christ was Jewish not Christian, Lord Buddha was Hindu not  Buddhist, and Prophet Muhammad (?). None of these “Holy Men or Prophets” started a business. Yet their teachings have been distorted by self appointed men of the cloth who have engineered splinter groups that now number in the thousands – each preaching a ‘niche’ brand of theology, each garnering a slice of the profits in cash and kind.

On the sidelines stand the Jews, who claim to be the chosen people of God. They rightly remind the world of the genocide they suffered in the last century but periodically commit acts of inhumanity against Palestinians.

And, have we forgotten the Spanish Conquistadors who destroyed a civilization and welcomed conversion, often with the sword? And what about the Crusades against the Muslims? And what did the Muslims do after this in the name of Allah?

Organized religion has insidiously divided society, countries and destroyed vibrant and flourishing cultures. The flock is conditioned like sheep to follow the shepherd who carries a stick, a warning to those that seek an egress from stifling rituals and costly ceremonies. Interestingly most people become defensive when this subject is broached. Examples of saints and their service to mankind, miracles etc. are quoted as if these are certificates of merit and good behavior. It is reasoned by followers that there is more good than bad in organized religion.

If this is so, then why is there a steep rise in murderous activity, the Us and Them factor, the exclusive ‘believer’ clubs and regional religious rhetoric according to race, color, language and caste? Surprisingly this is not restricted to the Middle East or Asia but is present and flourishing in North America, where ironically the term “family” reigns supreme; it implies admittance to a religious affiliation on a national scale permeating all stratas of society, a powerful influence on policy makers.

Organized religion also fosters a curious blend of racism and colonialism – civilizing nonbelievers in dress, language, rituals and peddling the dream of everlasting life by presenting exclusivity of Beliefs, the last word not the good word. And in many other cases circumnavigating the minefield of casteism to lure the gullible to the Brotherhood. The litany of phrases and euphemisms sandwiched between well packaged utterances and displays of sagacity sets the trap.

People continue to fall prey because they are like dogs, Pack animals. And it is the Pack that gives them an identity and a sense of security; the price includes succumbing to the surreptitious machinations of organized religion and its byproducts, crime and punishment.

In the words of Hannah, a Russian musician and a close friend, who lost her grandfather in the Gulag during Stalin’s era, “People need organized religion to protect them while they are busy surviving life”.

Could it be that organized religion with its debilitating side effect is singularly responsible for the ongoing dilution of Faith?

And/or have we confused organized religion with Faith?

To be continued in Part Three…

Organized Religion – a necessary evil or a business? – Part One

So what is the difference between an international brand of chocolate and organized religion?

Organized religion is a business. It is a transnational corporation that thrives and feeds off the insecurities and superstitions of humankind. It is managed by apparently well meaning self appointed guardians of morality that interpret the words of a “man of god” in an insidious manner, twisting truth to present a palatable and surprisingly believable product to seduce people into hoping for a better life in this world and the next.

Salvation is supposedly attained by renunciation of existing beliefs (whatever they may be) and embracing a well packaged brand that gives the consumer a sense of belonging to a tribe with the clothing, symbolism in the form of cheap trinkets hawked at outlets outside places of worship – branches of the corporation; and rituals that create an atmosphere of mindless religiosity, the music adding an emotive aspect to the experience.

Those at organized religion headquarters have been fine tuning the brand over the ages to adjust to changing social patterns and more importantly to stem any exodus of faithful consumers to another brand, new or old.

With the advent of mass electronic media it is now possible to market the product in real time. Images of pomp and pageantry, ceremonies and consumers in deep pray/ obeisance present a convincing USP – unique selling point.

It has been said that organized religion is necessary to keep the consumers occupied with living a good life by faithfully following the specifications of the product. Thus, society becomes civilised and obedient?

Interestingly it is organized religion that has created schisms between consumers. It is organized religion that uses violent methods to promote, inculcate and convert consumers to another brand. Entire civilisations have been either wiped out or converted to another brand through political skullduggery by merchants of death representing organized religion.

So is organized religion a necessary evil and a profitable business?

Promoters of organized religion argue that the system works effectively by keeping consumers in a docile and deluded state of mind. It reaps rich dividends for those that control the brand. It is used successfully in the formation of social circles that offer exclusivity to those that seek to be seen to be a part of the club (a mile high club?).

It generates revenue but doesn’t have to pay taxes. All donations are not accounted for and these usually slip into a few pockets. It helps in real estate by investing in places for consumers to congregate and the ancillary industries that crop up around it….like the manufacture and peddling of religious paraphernalia etc. Some have their own banks while others prey on the faithful for propagating the illusion of the brand. All in all it is a win win situation.

Some established brands occasionally slip in the ratings but these are just hiccups because there is always a wily brand manager who reorients the disillusioned consumers by inventing non existent threats to the brand spiced by sudden miracles. Through the ages spurious brands namely cults have cropped up like abscesses on the established brands and have diverted some of the profits. Many have been dealt with severely without remorse or legality and the faithful consumers reminded of the penalties of digressing.

Others that constitute proprietary firms like gurus etc. are one off brands that have created a niche for themselves, a kind of top end brand meant only for those escaping organized religion and/or their society’s constricting lifestyle. In this instance cash has been the preferred medium for enlightenment.

The mission statement of each organized religion is unique only to its propagators/consumers. For those not in the flock every brand appears to be the same and hence, “new age fallacies” are proliferating at a swift rate much to the consternation of the promoters of leading brands.

Competition between brands continuously ignites wars, creates well meaning terrorism and, in numerous instances, perpetuates subjugation of women and children; the woman is perceived as a vessel for the male libido, production unit for future consumers and an evil influence on man by making him do things he wouldn’t do in the normal course of his insignificant existence.

Organized religion and its side kick, the unorganized sector/small scale industry of proprietary firms, are doing brisk business in reaping souls and rich dividends.

So what is the difference between an international brand of clothing, chocolate, soft drink or religion?

To be continued in Part two…

The Lies of Truth

This is a creative leap into the abyss of life.

“I smile when I’m angry

I cheat and I lie.

I do what I have to do

To get by.

But I know what is wrong,

And I know what is right.

And I’d die for the truth

In My secret Life”

–         Leonard Cohen

What is truth?

The lies of truth is plain to see for all. It mocks all things that represent beauty, love and spontaneous joy.

And why is this so? Is truth like a camera that never tells a lie? And is the picture itself a lie personified and that’s why it tells the truth?

One has heard on numerous occasions, ‘I speak the truth’. The echoes of falsehoods in emptiness are evident in these words for we all see, feel and ‘do’ truth according to our own conditioning. What is truth to one is a lie for another.

Let us ask ourselves this question – How often have we believed in truth only to be disillusioned by the looming spectre of half truths and lies intrinsically melded to fool even the most discerning truth seeker?

There are those among us who don’t want to know the truth. We want to live our lives devoid of the self consciousness that demarcates these two impostors – truth and lies. We translate thoughts, actions and pre-actions according to our own convenience while all the time our hearts and minds are jousting for a place in the only truth that exists – reality – what you see is what you get – much like a prostitute who knows who she is and what she stands for.

‘I shall love you forever’ – this is a momentary half truth that dissolves into an eternity of unintentional deceit for the words spoken merely pander to the moment in a lifetime and is then smothered in lies that we use to convince ourselves of our own selfish actions.

And when religion confronts us with truths that are presented as divine declarations how can we argue with divinity? Are these man made to convince the ‘faithful’ to believe in a truth that does not exist?

Truth has often been used to surreptitiously rape innocence, to intrude and colonise the inner spaces of our being.

Someone once said that if one told a lie long enough it would become the truth. Maybe this is the path to finding the truth.

Questions, questions and more questions, yet answers seem to be evading the reality of existence. As children many among us have been told ‘truths’ by our parents, teachers and peers only to discover later in life that they were not so!

To me one of the main culprits of this is organised religion and culturally fertile societies for they are breeding grounds for truth. Words of wisdom impregnate the truths and bring forth a rich crop of self serving half truths and lies.

And then there are the oppressed and repressed societies that brainwash unsuspecting people by frightening them with the horror of the wrath of god if they didn’t follow the ‘laid down truths’.

How does one define the truth? What is it made of? How does it react when it comes in contact with people and their perceived gods?

Truth is like an amoeba in its ever changing form. It is made up of lies and delusions and when it comes in contact with people it morphs into a religion and then becomes the truth that all believe in for fear of the unknown.

There are people out there who specialize in ‘speaking’ the truth. They risk their personal and professional lives in this belief. But is their truth the ‘real’ truth or is it a symptom of hallucinations that reside deep within and tortures the soul prompting it to spew out the truth which in essence could be a lie for someone else or worse still, an assumption. Probably this is why these people are not welcome in a society that thrives on ‘conditioned and synthetic’ truths.

Truth has been handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes there has been a hiccup followed by revelations extinguishing part of the truth and adding another dimension to it.

Truth is constantly being taken for granted. In fact, we refer our beliefs to what we hear, read or see on the pulpits or in the media. ‘I know it’s true because I saw it on TV’.

Through the ages, the merchants of spin have controlled the lucrative social, cultural and religious set ups with deliberate intent to manufacture the ‘truth’ that is a palatable intoxication which is then fed to the benign bovines (people). Hence, we move around in a herd ruminating on prayers and living within a frame work of rules replete with superstitions and interrupted by births and deaths. This is like a rope slung through the sensitive nose of a cow. When it is pulled by perceived ‘truths’ we follow in its direction. Thus to walk an independent life is highly unlikely for it brings pain, the pain of unbelonging. As humans are pack animals a different path is often taken only by courageous people who believe in a truth which is sadly based partly on doubtful inheritances of the truth.

Some seek the truth like blind people looking at a rainbow. They cannot see it and rely solely on what is being described to them by someone else. Others create the truth out of their own fantasies and peddle this spurious brand to all and sundry.

Reality is the only truth – what you see is what you get. Attempting to translate this warps our perceptions and addles our values and reasoning. Let it be. Let reality be the ‘electric cow poke’ to prod us on our way towards death. Let us take one day at a time and live life to the fullest with hearts bent on peace, joy and togetherness.

And when the time is nigh, truth will show itself, one day.

Till then let us continue to co-exist with the lies of truth.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om