Monday, February 28, 2011

Saint Augustine - One Love

God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. ~Saint Augustine

Shakespeare - Wasting time & Karma

Connecting Shakespeare's saying about wasting time (If you waste time, time will waste you) to the concept of current Karma of my dear Guru Nanak, I wrote these lines:

O my soul!

Karma works right here,
karma works right now too.
If you waste time,
time will just waste you.

Give someone a smile,
this world will smile for you.
Just say goodbye to hell,
as heaven waits to greet you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Maria Jose Contreras - Amor (Love)

Maria Jose Contreras said,

ama sin razon,
ama con corazon,
ama con el alma,
y con toda la pasion

which means,

Love without reason,
love with heart,
love with the soul,
and with all the passion

And I said,

A amar con todo tu corazón;
Amor con toda pasión
A amar con toda tu alma
Amor sin ninguna razón


Which means,

To love with all your heart
Love with every passion
To love with all your soul
Love without any reason

Swami Rama - A Rhyming Translation of Guru Nanak's Japji Sahib,

Following is Swami Rama's translation of Japji Sahib. This is a work in progress, as Japji Sahib has 38 steps. Only 27 have been translated until now. I like this translation because of the rhyming elements. I am trying to do my own translation of the Japji Sahib and I have only started (http://shivsangels.blogspot.com/2011/02/guru-nanak-rejoice-in-his-will.html). The one thing in addition that I am trying to do is to maintain rhymes within the steps. But this will be helpful in my exercise.


First beginning was the truth
Always has it been the truth
The present time reveals the truth
Eternity shall bear the truth. ||1||

Thinking, brooding cannot yield
A glimpse of God or silence wield
His presence by the mind revolved
On God, the problem is not solved.
Hunger is not satisfied
By goods the world diversified.
A million crafts a man possesses.
But death his crafts soon dispossesses.
How to cast the veil aside
And truth within yourself abide?
Nanak says:
Obey the law as preordained,
Accept God’s will as He ordained. ||1||

By the will of God this world
And all its myriad forms unfurled.
Countless is the Maker’s will,
Through His will does life instill.
Greatness can a man attain
If the will of God ordains.
Some are high and some are not,
Some are happy with their lot,
And others suffer in their life
With miseries and endless strife.
By His Word is Grace bestowed
Yet other tread the endless road,
And everywhere His will is heard -
Every form obeys His Word.
Nanak says:
If a man His law may know,
Humbleness in him with show. ||2||

The strong sing praises of His might,
The fortunate in Grace delight.
His virtues, merits, some may sing,
His attributes to song may bring.
Some acclaim Him through debate,
And some His powers to create;
Giving life to take away,
Again from death to life relay.
Far away He seems to be
Or close to us where all can see.
Countless beings so discourse
On God, a never-ending source.
More He gives than we can gain,
Inundated, we refrain.
God the universe sustains,
Through every age He thus maintains.
According to His own command.
The beings walk as He has planned.
Nanak says:
Happy, calm, the Lord remains,
Bliss and joy he maintains. ||3||

True the Lord, true the Name,
Devoted ones His Name acclaim.
Beggars gather at His gate
And boundless alms there radiate.
What could I give to have the chance
To find His court and feel His glance?
In early morn repeat His Name,
His majesty within proclaim.
With human birth through Karma gained
And Grace, may freedom be obtained.
Nanak says:
Know that God alone is true,
Everything does God imbue. ||4||

The Lord cannot be made or spun,
Self-existent, He is One.
The Lord if by a person served,
Honor has that one deserved.
Nanak says:
Extol the Lord and sing His praise,
Let His virtues you appraise.
With love of God within your heart,
His virtues shall your song impart.
Miseries from you will fly
And happiness within shall lie.
The Word of God to man revealed
By Guru does true knowledge yield.
Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu all
The names of Guru may we call.
Saraswati, Lakshmi too,
Parvati, these names accrue.
Unknowable the Lord remains,
Unspeakable are His refrains.
From the Guru did I learn,
God bestows to each in turn.
May I always God recall,
May never from the mind Lord fall. ||5||

His pleasure would become my bath
And seek not I the pilgrim’s path,
For what be gained from holy places
If His fancy not one faces?
All creation seen around
By its destiny is bound.
Unless good deeds a man pursue,
Neither gain nor loss accrue.
Jewels and gems and ruby sealed
Within the mind can be revealed
By Guru’s guidance if you move
Upon directions He approves.
From the Guru did I learn,
God bestows to each in turn.
May I always God recall,
May never from the mind God fall. ||6||

If one should live for aeons past
And cross the lands and oceans vast,
And gather fame and wealth and name
And all the earthly riches claim -
Yet no one on the earth will care
If favor of the Lord is not there.
Counted with worms is he
And sinners blame his infamy.
Nanak says:
To rogues and knaves Lord good endows,
And saintliness to saints allows.
But no one can return in kind
To God the goodness that we find. ||7||
For those who listen to the Word,
Higher powers are conferred.
Siddhas, yogis, peers and heroes,
The sacred Name of God they follow.
The heavens, earth, the bull and world,
Are known when Name of God unfurled.
Death cannot one overtake
When the Name of God you take.
Nanak says:
In bliss the bhaktas ever stay,
Their miseries fly far away. ||8||
Then the Name of God you hear,
Shiva, Indra, Brahma near.
When the Name of God is heard
Even sinners praise the Word.
When the Name of God is hailed
Yoga science is unveiled.
When the name of God you speak
Knowledge of the scriptures keep.
Nanak says:
In bliss the bhaktas every stay,
Their miseries fly far away. ||9||
When listening unto the Name,
Truth, contentment, wisdom claim.
When the name of God his heard
Holy merit is conferred
Like holy baths of sixty-eight
When one the Name of God relates.
When you read and hear the Name,
Honor will that person claim.
When the Name of God you hear,
A meditative state is near.
Nanak says:
In bliss the bhaktas ever stay,
Their miseries fly far away. ||10||
The depth of virtues ever flows
Upon the one the Name who knows.
When on the Name your thoughts remain,
Kingly titles may you gain.
The Name of God is like a light,
When hearing, blind regain their sight.
That which beings cannot know,
The Name of God to them will show.
Nanak says:
In bliss the bhaktas ever stay,
Their miseries fly far away. ||11||
One cannot true faith portray,
Rendering leads one astray.
Pen and paper, scribe are mute,
Describing faith will they refute.
So powerful the blessed Name
One cannot describe its fame.
The bliss of faith concealed remains
Except to one who faith attains. ||12||
Wisdom of the Lord is known
To one whose faith is truly shown.
And knowledge of the spheres unveils
To one when faith in God prevails.
The Lord His own devotee spares
From blows that his face impare.
Faith in God may death prevent,
His messenger will circumvent.
And thus the holy name we find,
Pristine in its vestal kind.
The bliss of faith concealed remains
Except to one who faith attains. ||13||
Faithfulness does clear the way
Of obstacles that way stray.
One who in the Name believes,
Honor with that person leaves.
Believers may walk along the way
Where rituals cannot them sway.
Believers by their acts are known,
Righteousness by them is shown.
And thus the holy Name we find,
Pristine in its vestal kind.
The bliss of faith concealed remains
Except to one who faith attains. ||14||
Salvation does Thy servant gain,
His relatives does the same attain.
Thy servant reaches liberation
And Guru’s students find salvation.
Nanak says:
Thy servant has no need to plead,
The Name of God fulfills his need.
If faith in God within you find,
Then one may know it in the mind. ||15||
The chosen has the Lord elected,
Peerless ones the Lord selected.
Honored in the court are they,
Beautiful in every way.
The Guru is the chosen’s core,
Attentive to the Guru more.
The works of God can have no bound,
None to speak upon them found.
The bull of dharma the earth maintains,
Through understanding truth one gains.
Other worlds than this exist,
Upon what force do they subsist?
The species, dyes, and names created
By the Lord have been narrated.
Few are there this ledger keep,
How vast the scroll, how wide and deep.
How great the power of the Lord,
How great the beauty he affords.
With boundless gifts beyond account,
No one can his grandeur count.
A single word from Him the source,
Creation then began its course;
And endless river from there sprang,
Full of life the rivers rang.
Powerless am I to say,
His majesty cannot convey.
Eternal sacrifice am I,
To Him, an offering I lie.
His pleasure is the only goal,
He who is the formless soul. ||16||
Endless are the ways to say,
And endless are the ways to pray.
Beyond a measure worships be,
The ways of faith and piety.
And so the venues of narration,
Scriptures’, Vedas’ recitation.
Infinite ascetics dwell,
And intellectuals as well.
Endless yogis in their minds
Detachment from the world will find.
Ceaseless votaries pursue
His knowledge and His virtues true.
Pious men and merciful,
An endless source is plentiful.
Endless numbers meditate
And on the Master contemplate.
Boundless heroes raise the steel,
But I cannot His doctrines seal.
Eternal sacrifice am I,
To Him and offering I lie.
His pleasure is the only goal,
He who is the formless soul. ||17||
Numberless are those who walk
In darkness and unholy talk.
Thieves and robbers countless be
And those who rule by tyranny.
Vast are cutters of the throat
And sinner who on sinning gloat.
Many are the ones who lie,
And wretches who on filth rely.
Villains who on slander thrive
Bear their burdens all their lives.
Humble Nanak them portrays
Though countless are their sinful ways.
Eternal sacrifice am I ,
To Him an offering I lie.
His pleasure is the only goal,
He who is the formless soul. ||18||
Infinite His names and homes,
Unknowable His spheres and domes.
Attempting to recount His art,
Carries sin upon the heart.
His Name and praises sing through words,
And by the Word His glory is heard.
The destiny of man is described
With letters that the Lord has scribed.
The fate of man is on his brow
But fate of God is veiled somehow.
Man receives as he ordains,
His will upon His creatures reigns.
All creation does uphold,
His glory that remains untold.
Everywhere his name exists
But helpless I, His names to list.
Eternal sacrifice am I,
To Him an offering I lie.
His pleasure is the only goal,
He who is the formless soul. ||19||

The dirt from off the hands can clean
And face and feet may water glean.
When the garments have been stained,
With soap is stainlessness regained.
When sin and vice the mind may blight,
Love of Name will set it right.
A saint or sinner can’t be known
Merely by the speech he’s sown,
But language of the heart unveils
The action that a man travails.
“As you show, so shall you reap”
The fruits of action one may keep.
Nanak says:
A person comes and then he dies,
To order of the lord complies. ||20||

Sympathy and charity,
Journey and austerity,
A little honor for one earns;
But deep within the heart must burn
A love of God to hear the Name
And faithfully believe the same.
Bathing at the source within,
Liberation gains therein.
Virtues all belong to Him,
A mortal man cannot them hem.
Worship of the Lord is true
When righteousness does one pursue.
Hail oh Lord, who Brahma made,
Maya and the Word pervades;
Oh Lord the truth and joyous mind,
Endless beauty there I find.
Which the day and what the time,
Which the week and season prime
When creation first appeared?
The mystery is yet uncleared.
A pandit, qazi, yogi tries,
The answer with the Master lies.
How can one the Lord describe,
How to praise or speak or scribe?
Nanak says:
Many claim that they are wise,
Their wisdom can the next outsize.
Great is God and hallowed Name,
What exists from God became.
If self-conceit a person binds,
The realm of God so slight him finds. ||21||

Worlds above and worlds below,
Yet no one of the numbers know.
The Vedas, Muslim doctrines find
Endless are the worlds outlined.
Only One alone pervades,
Illusory the worlds are made.
To search His width, His height, His breadth,
A man will surely meet his death.
Nanak says:
The Lord unto himself is known,
The Lord is great, is One alone.||22||

The river to the sea does flow
And where it goes it doesn’t know.
And so the one who sings His praise,
His vastness one cannot appraise.
Kingly men that wealth accrue,
Cannot a pious ant subdue. ||23||

Without an end His votaries
Or those who sing His majesties;
Without an end His deeds and alms

Or those who sing his blessed psalms.
His sight and sound no limit knows,
Mysteriously His purpose shows.
This universe, its vast expanse,
Infinity does it enhance.
His limit is in darkness veiled
And many have this thought bewailed.
The more is said, the more appends,
His limit one can know its end.
Majestic Lord, how high His station,
Name the highest consecration.
To know His height you must there go,
He alone Himself does know.
Nanak says:
The Grace of God His gifts does bring,
His Grace that brings us comforting. ||24||

Limitless His gift abound,
Cupidity in God’s not found.
Heroes from their Master ask
And thinkers in His musings bask.
Some are lost in evil’s way,
Left to darkness where they stray.
God alone his blessings give,
But some refuse and still they live.
Some consume without a care
Asking not the source’s fare.
Afflictions from the Lord may come,
To these His blessings, some succumb.
Emancipation is His will,
Liberation He instills.
In one should dare to meditate
The blows on him retaliate.
Our daily needs the Lord does give,
By His grace the people live,
But few are they who know the sign
And recognize the blessings Thine.
Nanak says:
The one who on His greatness sings,
Is values more than kingly kings. ||25||

Peerless is His character,
Priceless trade and retailer,
Precious scales, and priceless treasure,
Prized the standard of the measure,
Dear are they absorbed in prayer,
Cherished love of God is there;
Priceless mandate, peerless court,
Premiums of dearest sort,
Cherished sanction, mercy priceless,
Law of Master also peerless;
His attributes cannot be named,
Cherished more than words have claimed.
If one the Name of God recalls,
Into the depths of love he falls.
Puranas, Vedas, God announce
And scholars of the Lord enounce.
Brahmas, Indras, Shivas, siddhas,
Gopis, Krishnas, demons, Buddhas,
Rishis, devils, Gods, immortals,
All proclaim Him to the mortals.
Countless lived and countless died,
Describing God they all have tried.
If God would make them all anew
Still His virtues known are few.
As according to His will,
His greatness does Himself instill.
Nanak says:
The majesty of God is known
To He, Himself and He alone.
If one to narrate God may claim,
A fool of fools that one can Name. ||26||

Which the door, what kind of hall
From whence the Lord sustains us all?
Countless instruments abound
And boundless players there resound.
So many melodies they play,
For Him their songs they place away.
Wind and water, fire may sing,
To God his praises do they bring.
Dharmaraja Him to lauds
And by His side both scribes applaud.
Adjudications both may mete
And record of the Raja keep.
Shiva, Brahma, Parvati
Beautified sing prettily.
Indras and the devas praise
The Lord at his portal stays
The siddhas sing in meditation,
Sages sing in contemplation.
The chaste, the heroes and the calm,
And votaries chant His psalm.
The scholars, priests, the seven sages,
Sing His praises through the ages.
Celestial nymphs and beauties sing
Their songs above, below, they bring.
The gems, the shrines of sixty-eight,
Holy songs of him relate.
Warriors of courage brave,
Four sources that creation gave,
The cosmos, earth and every sphere,
The wonder of His hand revere.
Sages pleasing to the Lord,
Who the name of God adored,
Ceaselessly the Lord extol
And countless more His praise unroll.
But Nanak cannot all recall
The names of those who on Him call.
The Lord is true, the Name is sooth,
Eternal God, creator, truth.
When the universe will end,
Eternally the Lord will wend.
The Lord the worlds has manifested,
Variegated hues invested.
He sees according to His pleasure,
Acts according to His leisure.
Supreme the Lord, the king of kings,
None his will on God can bring.
Nanak says:
Naught from will of God exempted,
Will of God has theirs pre-empted. ||27||

Yaiza Varona - Inshallah

Yaiza Varona, a musicologist and composer from Tenerife (the most populous of the Canary islands, Spain), just posted a new track, Inshallah. I think it is a must listen (and bookmark Yaiza's website on your computer):



Many times, I see fusion musician taking eastern instruments and create music that is novel, but not necessarily pleasing to the eastern ears. This is not true of this awesome track, and Yaiza's music in general. I love the sarod that joins in later on. If you get to know Yaiza a bit, you will find that her music, pure and beautiful, is only a reflection of her soul.

This is how she describes what "Inshallah":

For all what we wish and leave in the hands of God. For all the hope in precious projects, for all what's new and unknown, for all the brand new starts and the funny coincidences. For all the familiars wishing well, for all our faith growing warmer in our chests, for all the unexpected curves in the road and the surprises they bring. For the ability to surpass them with health and joy ... Inshallah


Inshallah means "God willing." Canadian poet Leonard Cohen describes Inshallah in his famous song, If it be your Will. And that is what my dear Guru Nanak teaches in his first two steps to the realization of inner peace. It reminds me, again, that the purpose of life is to sing. Thanks Yaiza!

Guru Nanak: Rejoice in His Will

I have started to translate my dear Guru Nanak's Japji Sahib that is a guide to reach the peace promised by the understanding of Ekonkar. Here are the first two steps. The essence, in my opinion, remains that the purpose of life is to sing.

Step 1: Gratitude

Thinking doesnt unthaw the truth
having countless thoughts a-thousand
Silencing scarcely bring silence
sitting soundless years a-thousand
Hunger happens to still linger
Having heaps hoarded a-thousand
Like candles in the wind are wits
useless rendered a-thousand
Then how to see the light of truth
and remove all this dark falsehood?
By rejoicing in His Will, says Nanak,
and in His will being thankful!

Step 2: His Will

Its in His Will one and all
No one else does have a say
Through His Will springs all life
And His Will that makes small or great
His Will brings High or low stature
His will is what brings joy and pain
In his will are those in peace
In his will too wandering in vain
Everyone everywhere in His will
Without His will there is no one
And once His will is understood
Says Nanak "I" becomes defunct

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Leonard Cohen - If it be your will

If it be your will, that I speak no more
And my voice be still, as it was before
I will speak no more, I shall abide until
I am spoken for, if it be your will

If it be your will, that a voice be true
From this broken hill, I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will, to let me sing

From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will, to let me sing

If it be your will, if there is a choice
Let the rivers fill, let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in Hell
If it be your will, to make us well

And draw us near and bind us tight
All your children here, in their rags of light
In our rags of light, all dressed to kill
And end this night, if it be your will
If it be your will

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dalai Lama - Value all religions


"It is very important to value all religious systems. Although they may have great philosophical differences, they all have precepts for cultivating a good attitude toward others and helping them. They all counsel the practice of love, compassion, patience, contentment, and observing society’s rules. Since all religions share these goals, it is important to respect them and to value the contribution they can make." - Dalai Lama

The knowledge of "Ekonkar" can only come from humility.  That is why my dear Guru Nanak says "Ekonkar Gurprasad." It is by bowing your head in humility that you can learn. And because everything is a creation of the same ONE, there should be no ego in bowing your head.  And bowing one's head is not a physical exercise.  You can bow your head with words. Thats what makes the words above from Dalai Lama golden.  True!  Value all!

Sharon Stone - Destiny

"I am pursuing the destiny that was meant for me"

I was watching Piers Morgan's show on CNN -- they had Sharon stone on it today. She looks so different I could not recognize her. She came out sounding very spiritual and generally thankful. She made this statement when she was asked if she had the opportunity to, would she make any changes to her life. She said No.

Accepting what has happened to you gracefully is how you sing life. The purpose of life is to sing. And some people like Sharon Stone have learned.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Empedocles - God is everywhere

The nature of God is a circle, of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. ~Empedocles

Empedocles was a pre-socrates Greek philosopher (490–430 BC).  It is interesting the pantheism of Ekonkar was not just the accepted principle originating in the Vedas; it was also the concept agreed to by Greek philosophers before Socrates!

Not only this, Empedocles' notion of death also makes sense:


To the elements it came from
Everything will return.
Our bodies to earth,
Our blood to water,
Heat to fire,
Breath to air.


More uncanny similarities to my dear Guru Nanak's views:
Wise people, who have learned the secret of life, are next to the divine,[46] and their souls, free from the cycle of reincarnations, are able to rest in happiness for eternity.[47]

More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empedocles

Rumi - Lost Necklace

"You wander from room to room. Hunting for the diamond necklace.That is already around your neck." - Rumi

O Soul, that is the concept of Ekonkar -- there is no separation between you and Ekonkar.  If you are looking around for Ekonkar, you are already lost.  Understanding the true identity of Ekonkar is important.  Ekonkar lives within you, as well as surrounds you. 

Susan Guy: A pizza a day, can save your life


Apparently there is proof that a pizza a day can save a life. When an 82 year old woman stopped calling for her usual thin crust pepperoni pizza, Susan Guy, the local pizza delivery person visited her and saved her life.  Mother Teresa used to say the need for love in this world is far more than the need for food. My dear Guru Gobind Singh says "Only one who loves realizes God" (see "Prem" in my list of songs).  Our purpose in life is to sing Ekonkar, the principle of Oneness.  Showing your love is one of most beautiful ways of singing Ekonkar, making Susan Guy my angel today.  

For most people, eating a large Domino's pepperoni pizza every day would likely send you into an early grave.For 82-year-old Jean Wilson, however, her penchant for the Italian meal probably saved her life.  The Tennessee pensioner has ordered the same pizza every day for the last three years.

When a Domino's delivery driver heard she had not placed an order in three days, she insisted her boss allowed her to go around and check on her. 

Now Susan Guy has been labelled a hero after she discovered Mrs Wilson, who lives alone, had fallen and was unable to get up or reach a phone.

Before Monday's incident, few of the 82-year-old's neighbours knew anything about her, except that she has eaten pizza every day for the past three years.

Assistant manager of her local Domino's store Dale Rosado said: 'She is the first customer to call every day without fail. 'She always orders a large, thin crust pepperoni pizza and two diet cokes.' Ms Guy said: 'We make her pizza every day before she even calls, because we know she's going to call. 'But my boss told me today she hadn't called in three days.' She insisted to her boss that she be allowed to check on Mrs Wilson.



She said: 'He was like, "Naw, you don't have to do that," and I said, "Yeah I do. Clock me out if that's what you gotta do".'

When Susan Guy arrived at Mrs Wilson's house and knocked on her door, no one answered. Getting no response after banging on her windows she went to neighbour Larry Comeaux's house for help. He said: 'The pizza lady came over and knocked on the door wanting to know if I'd seen the lady across the street.'


Ms Guy added: 'And he said, "No, maybe she's not home." And I said, "Well, not home? How many times have you see her leave?" And he goes, "Never".' She then called 911 and when the police arrived they broke down Mrs Wilson's door and found her lying on the floor inside. It turned out that she had fallen on Saturday and could neither get up or reach a telephone for help.

Investigators said that it's likely her pizza-only diet saved her life. Ms Guy said: 'I'm just a pizza deliverer, that's all. I really hope she gets well soon. She treats us really well and appreciates us. And that's something we don't get in customers a lot.'

Mrs Wilson was kept overnight in St Francis hospital for observation but was not in critical condition. Spokesman for Domino's Tim McIntyre said: 'It's hard to put in words, it is so touching. We are so proud of Susan. We are going to make sure we welcome Mrs Wilson back home when she is better.'

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Saint Therese - Common Father

Therese, the great mystic, fell asleep frequently at prayer. She was embarrassed by her inability to remain awake during her hours in chapel with the religious community. Finally, in perhaps her most charming and accurate characterization of the "little way," she noted that, just as parents love their children as much while asleep as awake, so God loved her even though she often slept during the time for prayers.

This reminds me of a poem I wrote about Innocence and Pizza. I will likely publish it someday. This reminds me of my dear Guru Nanak's concept of Ekonkar which implies that there is only One father. So, we are all siblings.

I am your sibling poet Shiv
In throes of love my soul sings

St. Therese of Lisieux - Little flower

It is springtime my soul ... look the flowers are singing! Its time to be the flower that your father made you. You don't have to be the mighty rose. Just spread your perfume even if you are a little violet. Or just be simply elegant if you are a daisy. Be yourself. Ekonkar, our one father, loves you, thats why He made you the way you are!


“I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don’t receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw Him shower His extraordinary favors on saints who had offended Him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom He forced, so to speak, to accept his graces….I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way when coming to Him.…

“Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away from the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.

“And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.

“It is with great happiness, then, that I come to sing the mercies of the Lord with you, dear Mother. It is for *you alone *I am writing the story of the *little flower *gathered by Jesus.”

Other posts on "Be Yourself"
http://shivsangels.blogspot.com/search/label/Be%20Yourself

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pia Valeriana - Keep dancing your way!


This morning I woke up to read this beautiful email from Pia describing a transformation to the state of bliss. It reminds me how it doesn't need a change in a person to approach realization of bliss. It requires the realization of Ekonkar, the principle of oneness. And then all differences vanish. A Buddhist monk reminds you of the perfection preached by Jesus Christ. Angela surround you. It's a beautiful read.

My guru removes my fog
I see Ekonkar in all!

Pia Valeriana's email:

My first experience at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado was truly an awakening. Ten years ago, while participating with a small Christian group that met regularly for Eucharist and meditation, I accompanied them on a weekend retreat to this special oasis. I was immediately awestruck by the isolated beauty of the location, but what inspired me foremost was meeting Theophane the Monk. He had delivered an engaging, spiritual presentation to the attendees and I was mesmerized by his inviting presence. I had come to the "Magic Monastery" with no particular purpose, but I left searching for life's significance. And through this monk's enlivening and magical eyes that twinkled inquisitively at everything he saw, and with a sly wit that was manifested in an easy, charismatic smile, I sensed a sagacity far beyond mere words. Immediately I had to find out more about this enigmatic person and learn his secret to living well. This began a short but close friendship where ultimately I moved up near the monastery visiting with Theo almost everyday.

I suspected that the key was transcending the mundane, yet what I encountered was not a man detached from the world, but one who was intimately a part of it. He was genuine and without pretense and I admired the simple sincerity in which he lived his life. I discovered what I perceived as a missing element of my being and I wanted to be cleansed of my imperfections through the learning of timeless wisdom. I wanted to be aware like him, to be wise like him, and ultimately, to be free like him. Although he wasn't an accomplice in my pursuit of Religious Life, he most definitely was a protagonist in the discernment of its truths. We talked about that constantly. In fact, his last words to me were "Remember to keep dancing," inferring that my inner soul was questing to move through the music in my life, never succumbing to an alternate tune.

In A Path With Heart the renowned Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield states, "The wholeness and freedom we seek is our own true nature, who we really are." And I think this is precisely what Jesus implores in today's gospel when he says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Since it would be impossible for us to be perfect as god is entertained impeccable, the Christ surely is implying another reality. I believe he is compelling us to be faultless unto ourselves, thus fulfilling our god-given purpose. This is the wholeness Kornfield suggests as he continues, "Whenever we contemplate what it means to live well, we have begun the inevitable process of opening to this truth, the truth of life itself."

Being true to oneself is the key to a complete life. It's not trying to get something you don't already have or of becoming like someone else. What made Theophane, Jesus, or god special is the fulfillment of their own inherent nature. My perfection is the acceptance of my imperfection - not to exclude the undesirable, embarrassing, and incomplete parts, but to embrace and dance with it. It seems that life's quest is not so much to learn perfection but to experience, maybe even to love, its imperfection.

One thing, all things;
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
--Seng T'san, 3rd Chinese Zen patriarch

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oprah Winfrey - Be fearless

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free. -Oprah

One of the 8 words that describe Ekonkar is Nirbhau, which means fearless. In the color of Raag Sri, when there is no difference between Ekonkar and "I" this means I am fearless. If there is no difference between Ekonkar and I, I am fearless. I am not afraid of hell if I am part of creation, part of the universe, part of the physical Ekonkar as well as the metaphysical Ekonkar. That way, literally, Ekonkar takes care of me.

My guru has removed my fog
I see Ekonkar in all

Lady Gaga - I was born this way, with faith and love

Aha -- a spiritual song from a popular musician. I like it! And inspired me to write this:
I do not need to pretend,
On someone else's song depend
Or Have someone else
All my sins amend

My guru removed my fog
I see Ekonkar in all

Let others shut their eyes and pray
While I can be myself each day
The capital Him I sing away
That is the role I have to play
Because I too was born this way

- Shiv


Here are lyrics from Lady Gaga:


It doesn't matter if you love him,
Or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
'cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars

She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

"there's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause he made you perfect, babe"

"so hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

[Chorus]
I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't be a drag - just be a queen
Don't be!

[Verse 2]
Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth

In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital h-i-m (hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (love needs faith)

Another version of the song:

Lady Gaga
Born This Way

[Chorus]
I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Ooo there ain't no other way
Baby I was born-
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way


[Bridge]
Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to survive
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made
I'm on the right track baby
I was born to be brave

[Chorus]
I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

[Outro]
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brittany - Gratefulness is the mark of an Angel

My dear Guru has removed my fog and has told me there are angels to guide my path, and that they are all around you. This is a story of how I found Brittany, an angel with bigger wings than normal.

First I saw a description on her twitter:
Brittany "Everywhere at once"
"Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music -- the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls."

Such a quote tells you that the person has likely understood the principle of Oneness, "Ekonkar." You know that the person has learned well. They have read a lot and picked this out of everything that they liked. But learning well is not enough. Knowing Ekonkar, that One is all, is not enough. You need to have shed your Ego. You need to be grateful. You need to understand that you were not born with wisdom, that you learned it; and be thankful to where the wisdom came from. Those are true learners, or "Sikhs" -- the disciples of life. Gratefulness is a general sign of learners, one's who have truely understood "Ekonkar Gurprasad." These are angels in bliss.

So I asked her a question. You can call it a trick question, a test, whatever you want. I have been asking this question quite a lot these days. (I used it last week with a person who had read so much, but found that he was too full of himself. Just wanted to talk now. Listening was not his style). So this is what I asked:
"I love your philosophy (twitter description). Where did you learn it from?"
And she responded:
"hey, glad you like it! it's actually from a quote by Henry Miller. Have a great day :))"
Aha -- she is giving credit to someone else. And there was a strange absence of Ego in her message. Somewhat intrigued, I started looking at her blog. And after what I read, I rubbed my eyes. There I found the essence of my dear Guru Nanak's words in her description of herself.

I watch,
I learn,
and I experience ...

taking in
all my surroundings
with an open mind.

I find life
quite beautiful
and am
so grateful
to be here ...
now.

Is not it amazing that this description sounds like a poem, a song? If you don't understand how to live by "Ekonkar Gurprasad," read the above poem again. This is the result of a deep understanding of my dear Guru's message.

And so intrigued I went through her blog. What so many people call "God", and get a lot of people, including themselves, confused. Thats why I don't define Ekonkar as God. That is just confusing. Here is how she defines it: "Wisdom". Here is a description of "God" by a thorough student who understands the bliss of life:

you alone
have sent me here

you alone
know my purpose

you alone
know the path

oh great Wisdom,
guide me through this life

Check out her other writing at http://binnyyy.blogspot.com/. Then check where she learns from, a blog of quotes: http://muchlouderthanwordss.blogspot.com/. If you aspire to understand like her, she even provides a list of what she reads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4952772-brittany.

There are some that become angels for short periods of time, just so I can learn. And then there are those like Britanny who are angels all the time, and have become angels in a very short time in life. I try to find such angels everyday; the ones with large wings are hard to find living. I am fortunate to have found Brittany and look forward to learning from her.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Abraham Lincoln - Happiness

People are as happy as they make up their minds to be. ~ Abraham Lincoln

My master so removed the fog
That now I see just ONE in all
My husband song's I am the bride
my mind in bliss celebrates inside

Ekonkar Gurprasad!

Mother Teresa - Kind Words

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ~ Mother Teresa

One of the 8 words that my dear Guru Nanak uses to describe Ekonkar is Nirvair, which means without any enmity, with compassion and love. Love is elegant. Simple and powerful like anything elegant.

Rabindranath Tagore: My Dear Guru's Song ...

This beautiful song by Rabindranath Tagore reminds me of my relationship with my dear Guru Nanak. It is as if, my dear Guru wrote this song for me. While Rabindranath Tagore called it "My Song," I call it "My Dear Guru's Song."

The song is very beautiful, and no doubt credit goes to the great Rabindranath Tagore for inculcating such a personal feeling. However, it is the beauty of the principle of "Ekonkar Gurprasad" ("My Guru removed my fog, I see Ekonkar in all") is that everything good I look at, seems to build the personal relationship with me and my dear Guru.

Read it and imagine that your spiritual teacher, who taught you everything through his songs, is singing it to you. And you will see Ekonkar in your Guru.

This song of mine will wind its music around you,
my child, like the fond arms of love.

The song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side and
whisper in your ear, when you are in the crowd
it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams,
it will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.

It will be like the faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the heart of things.

And when my voice is silenced in death,
my song will speak in your living heart.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dont kill the message with the path


Often we try to convince people to act in a certain way to achieve a positive result. We, in our ego, forget that the path was not important that the eventual goal was important.  The message might be good, but if the person doesn't agree with the path, and therefore does not follow it, it is a waste.   

If there is something good we want to communicate to someone, something that will be beneficial to them in the future, do not force your path on them.  Try to learn the path that they took, understand it, and chances are they will try to comprehend yours.  The path that that person might take might be very different from yours.  That path might work better for them.  Their path might work better for you too. 

The message remains "Ekonkaar Gurprasad." (http://shivsangels.blogspot.com/2010/03/guru-nanak-elegance-of-ek-omkaar.html): That the universe is one, that I am part of it, that I am grateful to have learned this from my Guru, and that I am and will always be in bliss as long as I remember that. That is the central message that can bring morality without superstition.  That is the truth.

But I welcome people to take whatever path they want to take to it.  I am happy if you want morality without superstition.  I have my own path and I welcome to understand yours.  Come and tell me if there is a better way than singing Ekonkaar under the guidance of my Guru.

Convince them of the message, relating the path you took is your duty as a helpful being, but convincing any other of your path is not important, and often not constructive.

Voltaire - Appreciation

Appreciation is a wonderful thing; it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. ~ Voltaire

Reminds me why appreciation is an important way to remember Ekonkar's Oneness. For more read What is Ekonkar?

Appreciate the beauty around
and the Angels that surround.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bhai Gurdas - The light of Guru Nanak's Truth

"Guru Nanak" in Raag Bageshri:



Today I was listening to this beautiful heart felt Bhai Gurdas song about his love for my dear Guru Nanak. Listening to it again today, I wrote what it means to me when I sing this song. This is not a translation; its my interpretation:

How fortunate am I
The supreme giver
has infinite mercy upon me
and brought to me
none other than
my dear Guru Nanak
so he can guide me.

My Guru meets everyone
with a peculiar humility
strange to our world
because despite knowing so much
he brings no Ego along.
He learns freely from those
who are spiritually gifted
He shows me that the path
to attain spiritual freedom
to attain perfect bliss
is to learn from the learned
with utmost humility.
How fortunate am I

He travels many million miles
he travels far and wide
and and when his feet are washed
Particles of his noble ways
turn the wash water
into sweet ambrosial nectar
a drop of which I get to drink
How fortunate am I

With that luminious drop
all fog starts to disappear
Himself my dear Guru shows me
there is no difference betwee
one who knows everything
and the mysterious one
that no one can fully fathom
How fortunate am I

This world of ours has
those of different religions
and as many opinions,
those of disparate social strata;
some rich live the lives of king
others, paupers, just survive
they have all, in one drop.,
through his blessed vision
become ONE for me
How fortunate am I

At times when
everything looks dark
he lights my path
with the torch of the
mantra of truth, Satnam.
A drop of his light
has the immense power
to shine my heart.
My dear Guru Nanank
has removed my darkness
How fortunate am I
How fortunate am I


Timeless truth meditation ("Satnam"):


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alphonse de Lamartine - Angelic Love



To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
 ~Alphonse de Lamartine

Reminds me of lines from the Poems for my Soul:

From Giving Into Love:

The child of love plays
in the crib of giving.
Give truly in Love
Cradle truth in living.



From the poem Drive the fall to love:

New England roads, fall season,
there's no time, no drive above.
Than loving with no reason
there's no better way to love.

Water lillies and Lotus


This description helped me understand better Robert Hayden's poem Monet's Water lillies and helped me improve the poem that I wrote inspired by that, Water lillies in my soul's lake

From wisegeek.com: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-water-lilies.htm

Water lilies are aquatic plants which are frequently found along the edges of ponds, lakes, and streams. They have distinctive large rounded leaves or lily pads, and flowers which can be white, yellow, or pink. In addition to proliferating in the wild, water lilies are also cultivated for personal pleasure gardens and small water pools all over the world. The broad flowers typically have a plethora of almond shaped petals, although no less than six, along with six stamens.

There are over 70 species in the Nympheaceae family, which encompasses water lilies, and they are found widely distributed on many parts of the planet. Water lilies are also very ancient, and appear in numerous examples of art from antiquity, suggesting that they were prized for their beauty thousands of years ago, just as they are today. Water lilies are also religious symbols in many traditions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, and they are commonly associated with enlightenment and resurrection, as many water lilies close up and appear to die at night, reviving in the morning with the sunlight.
In Egyptian art, many royal representatives were depicted holding sacred lotuses, members of the water lily family, and the gods were also associated with water lilies. In Buddhism, the lotus is an important symbol of enlightenment because it illustrates beauty rising through mud and water to bloom. Because many species tightly furl their blossoms at light, the lotus is also a symbol of opening to the light.
There are three basic types of water lily: night, tropical, and hardy. As the name would suggest, night lilies bloom only at night, and close up when the sun rises. Tropical lilies are water lilies adapted to tropical environments, and some tropical lilies can grow leaves which are large enough to support the weight of a human being. Hardy lilies will grow in almost any environment, and are commonly found in North America and Europe.
The roots of water lilies are embedded in the mud, well below the water line. The mud keeps the roots moist and provides a source of nutrition, while richly oxygenated water seeps into the roots. The long, trailing stems of water lilies also collect oxygen from the water they grow in, and the big leaves readily collect sunlight for energy. Most water lilies reproduce by budding new tubers, which will densely concentrate water lilies in one area of a waterway unless the tubers are distributed by animals and the current.

Robert Hayden - Monet's Waterlilies

Monet's Waterlilies

Today as the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.



Waterlillies in my soul's lake:

This poem basically looks for true beauty.  True beauty stays despite what might physically surround you.  Despite the dark fallout from the civil war (Selma) and the Vietnam war (Saigon), the poet Robert Hayden finds peace in Monet's Waterlillies, making waterlillies a symbol of lasting tranquility.  Based on this concept I wrote a poem earlier today: "Waterlillies in my soul's lake" -
http://shivpoetry.blogspot.com/2011/02/waterlillies-in-my-souls-lake.html

Monday, February 14, 2011

Khayal - An imagination in Indian classical music

Khayal literally means imagination, thought or fancy. Khayal is that vocal genre of all North Indian vocal styles which gives its performers the greatest opportunity and also the greatest challenge to display the depth and breadth of their musical knowledge and skills. Khayal has dominated the performing art for past 150 years. Khayal is the genre of improvisational music, and hence it is the study of artist’s creative individuality and ability to render a unique khayal at each performance. Despite the presumed freedom in khayal singing, it is structured upon three main characteristics: (i) the raga (melodic mode), the taal (meter) and the cheez (composition), (ii) the types of improvisation which are acceptable for khayal such as alap, taan, boltaan, sargam and nom-tom, and (iii) the placement of these material for creation of aesthetically and technically balanced performance. Khayal is not only a distinguished, richly evolved improvisational music genre, but also a study of cultural history of India since thirteenth century onwards.

Legend, scattered commentary, and speculations suggest that khayal originated with Amir Khusrau (1251-1326). Born in North India, Amir Khusrau was a poet as well as a composer and a great musician of his time. He enjoyed importance at the courts of the Khilji rulers in Delhi. Khayal’s origin may have been attributed to Khusrau because of the rapid fusion of Perso-Arabic and Indic musical systems during his lifetime. After Khusrau, the next prominent figures in the history of khayal are the sultans of Jaunpur – Muhammad Sharqui (1401-40) and Hussain Sharqui (ruled 1458-99), who were contemporaries of Babur, the first Mughal ruler in India. The precise role of the Sharqui sultans with respect to khayal is unclear; some scholars suggest a patronage role for them. Most historians are of the opinion that neither Amir Khusrau nor any of the Sharqui sultans was the innovator of khayal, but that khayal was an outcome of the gradual process of evolution that was at work during an era of Indo-Persian amalgamation.

For khayal, the first musical evidence of court support is noted at the Delhi darbar (court) of the eighteenth century Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah Rangile (ruled 1720-48), where the musicians Nyamat Khan (Sadarang) and Firoz Khan (Adarang) composed songs that have been transmitted to the present time. It is believed that Sadarang and Adarang also formalized the structure of modern day khayal. As khayal continued to evolve in the courts throughout North India, distinct performing styles emerged into different gharanas. Three major khayal gharanas carrying the names of the princely states in which they were originally fostered, are Gwalior, Rampur (Sahaswan) and Patiala. Later Agra, Kirana and Jaipur gharanas also became prominent centers of khayal singing. Today this style of classical vocal music is even adopted by some of the instrumental gharanas such as Ithawa. Throughout most of its existence khayal has always been the music of elite patrons. Only in the twentieth century has any other group attained significant involvement in khayal.

The rendition of a khayal recital is typically divided into two parts: Bara (great) khayal and Chhota (small) khayal. During bara khayal, the artist is expected to cover a range of subjects, ideally giving importance to all musical elements such as melody, rhythm and technique, with a slow and contemplative beginning to invoke the very mood of the raga. The lyrical as well as melodic content of bara khayal compositions are devotional or romantic, and they are set in vilambit laya (slow tempo). Bara khayal is followed by a madhya or drut laya (fast tempo) in chhota khayal. Here the artist carries the mood created during the earlier part of the recital to its crescendo. The acceleration is maintained during the performance with increasing complexity of taans and interplay with rhythm. The compositions written for chhota khayal have syllabic text settings appropriate for the faster tempo. The performing ensemble for khayal consists of a lead soloist, an accompanist on a melody producing instrument such as harmonium or sarangi (bowed lute), a tabla (drum) player and one or two tanpura players to provide continuous drone. A possible addition to the basic ensemble would be a supporting singer. The role of the accompanists is to complement the lead vocals by repeating ends of phrases during short breaks.

The other forms of Indian classical vocal music include dhrupad, dhamar, tappa, tarana, thumri, hori and bhajan. Of all, dhrupad is considered to be the oldest classical vocal form. It is generally accompanied by tanpura and pakhawaj. Dhrupad compositions are set in a 12 beat rhythmic cycle. Dhamar compositions are akin to dhrupad and enjoy an identical status. They are set in a 14 beat rhythmic cycle. Because of their structured style of singing, both dhrupad and dhamar do not allow as many elaborate and extempore improvisations as khayal. Tarana is a style consisting of particular syllables woven into rhythmic patterns as a song and it is usually sung in the faster tempo. The creation of this style of singing is believed to have originated to bring out the tantrakari, or the discreteness of instrumental music, in vocal music. Tappa has its origin in Punjab. Its beauty lies in quick and intricate display of permutations of notes. Thumri is believed to have originated in Uttar Pradesh. It is the lighter form of Indian classical music. Its most distinct feature is the amorous subject matter that picturesquely portrays the play of Lord Krishna with Radha. It can be viewed as an unconstrained form of khayal singing. Hori compositions are mainly sung in the style of thumri and are associated with the festival of hori (the festival of colors). The mood is joyous and playful, illustrating the divine leela of Lord Krishna. Bhajan literally means pray (bhaj) the lord (narayan). Bhajans are devotional songs based on light classical music. It is a popular form of singing today.

Raag Bhairavi says "I miss you" - Aa jaa O Aa Sajana (Rahat Fateh Ali Khan)

My wife will be back from work soon. I was reminded of a Raag Bhairavi song by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan  while waiting for her.

Raags in Indian classical music exhibit very specific emotions, beyond just "happy" and "sad".  While this is known by some musicians, the emotions are de-emphasized in text books.  But they are more important than notes.

When someone is desperately missing one's love because they are far away, we sing Raag Bhairavi.  Whether it is "Ka Karoon sajni" more than 60 years ago, or the more recent Rahat Fateh Ali Khan song "Aa Ja O Aa Sajana" the same message is carried by the music.  This is the raag in which "Heer" is sung in Punjab.




Here is a poem inspired by the song:

Come my love, come.
Come my love, come.

Your priceless laugh
has stayed with me
My heart you've taken
but its ache is still with me

My love is lost
My eyes tiresome
Come my love, come.
Come my love, come.

So very pretty
is your love's trick
so what if it 
made my soul sick

I do not know
What will happen 
My eyes still call
Come my love, come.

For other poems: http://shivpoetry.blogspot.com

My favorite Bhairavi songs:

Natalie Brown - A valentine's gift and unrandom beauty

I love to make note of some of the best music I am hear that inspires me. Lately, I have been thinking of writing something on Natalie Brown (http://www.natalie-brown.com/).  Last night she gave me the perfect reason to ... she has a free song up today for valentines day: "I knew you were the one."  Make use of this opportunity and join her mailing list (you will get an email with the download link after signing up):
http://nataliebrown.fanbridge.com/

Natalie has been singing since she was 5, what a breath of fresh air her songs are.  All of them! She is a very hard working musician and is a perfectionist, a combination that results in awesome music in my opinion. She has a heart piercing voice and beautiful arrangements in her songs.  And on top of that, Natalie is very helpful and a genuine friend. An angel.

Usually an album has one or two good songs, and the rest are garden variety.  This is not true of Natalie's new album Random Thoughts.  Its quite unrandomly beautiful throughout.  Whether it is "I wonder", "Come Closer", and "Things that you do" -- and its hard not to fall in love with "Around the world." On Reverbnation (widget below), you can hear previews of several of her songs and you can download a full version of "I wonder".  I highly recommend  buying this album from itunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/things-that-you-do/id307458528?i=307458565






Oh ... and one more thing.  Whether you are a musician or a listener, you will learn a lot from Natalie if you watch her videos.  They include some of her music, commentary on where her music is going and interesting commentary on life in general along with thought provoking questions -- http://www.youtube.com/nataliemedia.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guru Nanak - The common sense approach to heaven

Common sense should prevail over fantasy until the fantasy can be proven.The concept of heaven seems ridiculous to me. Its like any other superstition -- hard to prove or disprove.  Ekonkaar is omnipresent -- everywhere in each thing.  There is no difference between the creator and the created.  No difference.  They are all ONE.  We are One.  'Ekonkaar'.  I am thankful that my dear Guru Nanak opened my eyes and giving me this gift.  This 'prasad'.  'Gurprasad'!

I have the most precious gift.  I am now fearless. I am not in wait.  Because I am in union.  And to me, there is no such thing as death.

- Shiv

More on heaven:

wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven

Criticism of the belief in Heaven
Marxists regard heaven, like religion generally, as a tool employed by authorities to bribe their subjects into a certain way of life by promising a reward after death.[36]

The anarchist Emma Goldman expressed this view when she wrote, "Consciously or unconsciously, most atheists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment."[37]

Many people consider George Orwell's use of Sugarcandy Mountain in his novel Animal Farm to be a literary expression of this view. In the book, the animals were told that after their miserable lives were over they would go to a place in which "it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges".[38][39]

Fantasy author Phillip Pullman echoes this idea in the fantasy series His Dark Materials, in which the characters finally come to the conclusion that people should make life better on Earth rather than wait for heaven (this idea is known as the Republic of Heaven).

Some atheists have argued that a belief in a reward after death is poor motivation for moral behavior while alive.[40][41] Sam Harris wrote, "It is rather more noble to help people purely out of concern for their suffering than it is to help them because you think the Creator of the Universe wants you to do it, or will reward you for doing it, or will punish you for not doing it. [The] problem with this linkage between religion and morality is that it gives people bad reasons to help other human beings when good reasons are available."[42]

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/faith/heaven-a-fools-paradise-1949399.html
Why do the majority of Britons still believe in life after death? Heaven isn't a wonderful place filled with light – it is a pernicious construct with a short and bloody history, writes Johann Hari

Wednesday, 21 April 2010
John Lennon urged us: "Imagine there's no heaven/It's easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky." Yet the religious aren't turning to Lennonism any faster than Leninism. Today, according to a new book by Lisa Miller, Newsweek's religion correspondent, 81 per cent of Americans and 51 per cent of Brits say they believe in heaven – an increase of 10 per cent since a decade ago. Of those, 71 per cent say it is "an actual place". Indeed, 43 per cent believe their pets – cats, rats, and snakes – are headed into the hereafter with them to be stroked for eternity. So why can't humans get over the Pearly Gates?

In reality, the heaven you think you're headed to – a reunion with your relatives in the light – is a very recent invention, only a little older than Goldman Sachs. Most of the believers in heaven across history would find it unrecognisable. Miller's book, Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife, teases out the strange history of heaven – and shows it's not what you think.

Heaven is constantly shifting shape because it is a history of subconscious human longings. Show me your heaven, and I'll show you what's lacking in your life. The desert-dwellers who wrote the Bible and the Koran lived in thirst – so their heavens were forever running with rivers and fountains and springs. African-American slaves believed they were headed for a heaven where "the first would be last, and the last would be first" – so they would be the free men dominating white slaves. Today's Islamist suicide-bombers live in a society starved of sex, so their heaven is a 72-virgin gang-bang. Emily Dickinson wrote: " 'Heaven' – is what I cannot Reach!/The Apple on the Tree/Provided it do hopeless – hang/That – 'Heaven' is – to Me!"

We know precisely when this story of projecting our lack into the sky began: 165BC, patented by the ancient Jews. Until then, heaven – shamayim – was the home of God and his angels. Occasionally God descended from it to give orders and indulge in a little light smiting, but there was a strict no-dead-people door policy. Humans didn't get in, and they didn't expect to. The best you could hope for was for your bones to be buried with your people in a shared tomb and for your story to carry on through your descendants. It was a realistic, humanistic approach to death. You go, but your people live on. So how did the idea of heaven – as a perfect place where God lives and where you end up if you live right – rupture this reality? The different components had been floating around "in the atmosphere of Jerusalem, looking for a home", as Miller puts it, for a while.

The Greeks believed there was an eternal soul that ascended when you die. The Zoroastrians believed you would be judged in the end-time for your actions on earth. The Jews believed in an almighty Yahweh.
But it took a big bloody bang to fuse them. In the run up to heaven's invention, the Jews were engaged in a long civil war over whether to open up to the Greeks and their commerce or to remain sealed away, insular and pure. With no winner in sight, King Antiochus got fed up. He invaded and tried to wipe out the Jewish religion entirely, replacing it with worship of Zeus. The Jews saw all that was most sacred to them shattered: they were ordered to sacrifice swine before a statue of Zeus that now dominated their Temple. The Jews who refused were hacked down in the streets.


Many young men fled into the hills of Palestine to stage a guerrilla assault – now remembered as the Hanukkah story. The old Jewish tale about how you continue after you die was itself dying: your bones couldn't be gathered by your ancestors anymore with so many Jews scattered and on the run. So suddenly death took on a new terror. Was this it? Were all these lives ending forever, for nothing? One of the young fighters – known to history only as Daniel – announced that the martyred Jews would receive a great reward. "Many of those who sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt," he wrote and launched us on the road to the best-selling 1990s trash 90 Minutes in Heaven. Daniel's idea was wildly successful. Within a century, most Jews believed in heaven, and the idea has never died.

But while the key components of heaven were in place, it was not the kumbaya holiday camp it has become today. It was a place where you and God and the angels sat – but Jesus warned "there is no marriage in heaven". You didn't join your relatives. It was you and God and eternal prayer. It was paradise, but not as we know it.

Even some atheists regard heaven as one of the least-harmful religious ideas: a soothing blanket to press onto the brow of the bereaved. But its primary function for centuries was as a tool of control and intimidation. The Vatican, for example, declared it had a monopoly on St Peter's VIP list – and only those who obeyed their every command and paid them vast sums for Get-Out-of-Hell-Free cards would get them and their children onto it. The afterlife was a means of tyrannising people in this life. This use of heaven as a bludgeon long outlasted the Protestant Reformation. Miller points out that in Puritan New England, heaven was not primarily a comfort but rather "a way to impose discipline in this life."

It continues. Look at Margaret Toscano, a sixth-generation Mormon who was a fanatical follower of Joseph Smith in her youth. Then she studied feminism at university. She came back to her community and argued that women ought to be allowed to become priests. The Mormon authorities – the people who denied black people had souls until 1976 – ordered her to recant, and said if she didn't, she wouldn't go to heaven with the rest of her family. She refused. Now her devastated sisters believe they won't see her in the afterlife.
Worse still, the promise of heaven is used as an incentive for people to commit atrocities. I have seen this in practice: I've interviewed wannabe suicide bombers from London to Gaza to Syria, and they all launched into reveries about the orgy they will embark on in the clouds. Similarly, I was once sent – as my own personal purgatory – undercover on the Christian Coalition Solidarity tour of Israel. As we stood at Megido, the site described in the Book of Revelation as the launchpad for the apocalypse, they bragged that hundreds of thousands of Arabs would soon be slaughtered there while George Bush and his friends are raptured to heaven as a reward for leading the Arabs to their deaths. Heaven can be an inducement to horror.

Yet there is an unthinking "respect" automatically accorded to religious ideas that throttles our ability to think clearly about these questions. Miller's book – after being a useful exposition of these ideas – swiftly turns itself into a depressing illustration of this. She describes herself as a "professional sceptic", but she is, in fact, professionally credulous. Instead of trying to tease out what these fantasies of an afterlife reveal about her interviewees, she quizzes everyone about their heaven as if she is planning to write a Lonely Planet guide to the area, demanding more and more intricate details. She only just stops short of demanding to know what the carpeting will be like. But she never asks the most basic questions: where's your evidence? Where are you getting these ideas from? These questions are considered obvious when we are asking about any set of ideas, except when it comes to religion, when they are considered to be a slap in the face.

Of course there's plenty of proof that the idea of heaven can be comforting, or beautiful – but that doesn't make it true. The difference between wishful thinking and fact-seeking is something most six-year-olds can grasp, yet Miller – and, it seems, the heaven-believing majority – refuse it here. Yes, I would like to see my dead friends and relatives again. I also would like there to be world peace, a million dollars in my current account, and for Matt Damon to ask me to marry him. If I took my longing as proof they were going to happen, you'd think I was deranged.

"Rationalist questions are not helpful," announces one of her interviewees – a professor at Harvard, no less. This seems to be Miller's view too. She stresses that to believe in heaven you have to make "a leap of faith" – but in what other field in life do we abandon all need for evidence? Why do it in one so crucial to your whole sense of existence? And if you are going to "leap" beyond proof, why leap to the Christian heaven? Why not convince yourself you are going to live after death in Narnia, or Middle Earth, for which there is as much evidence? She doesn't explain: her arguments dissolve into a feel-good New Age drizzle.

True, Miller does cast a quick eye over the only "evidence" that believers in heaven offer – the testimonies of people who have had near-death experiences. According to the medical journal The Lancet, between 9 per cent and 18 per cent of people who have been near death report entering a tunnel, seeing a bright light, and so on. Dinesh D'Souza, in his preposterous book Life After Death, presents this as "proof" for heaven. But in fact there are clear scientific explanations. As the brain shuts down, it is the peripheral vision that goes first, giving the impression of a tunnel. The centre of your vision is what remains, giving the impression of a bright light. Indeed, as Miller concedes: "Virtually all the features of [a near-death experience] – the sense of moving through a tunnel, an 'out of body' feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, and intense memories – can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilliser frequently used as a party drug." Is a stoner teenager in a K-hole in contact with God and on a day-trip to heaven? Should the religious be dropping horse dope on Sundays? But Miller soon runs scared from the sceptical implications of this, offering the false balance of finding one very odd scientist who says that these experiences could point beyond life – without any proof at all.

But even if you set aside the absence of even the tiniest thread of evidence, there is a great conceptual hole at the heart of heaven – one that has gnawed at even its fondest believers. After a while, wouldn't it be excruciatingly dull? When you live in the desert, a spring seems like paradise. But when you have had the spring for a thousand years, won't you be sick of it? Heaven is, in George Orwell's words, an attempt to "produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary". Take away the contrast, and heaven becomes hell.

And yet, and yet ... of course I understand why so many people want to believe in heaven, even now, even in the face of all the evidence, and all reason. It is a way – however futilely – of trying to escape the awful emptiness of death. As Philip Larkin put it: "Not to be here/Not to be anywhere/And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true". To die. To rot. To be nothing. We wouldn't be sane if we didn't seek a way to leap off this conveyor-belt heading towards a cliff.

So yes, there is pain in seeing the truth about Heaven – but there is also a liberation in seeing beyond the childhood myths of our species. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, written in Babylon 4,000 years ago, the eponymous hero travels into the gardens of the gods in an attempt to discover the secret of eternal life. His guide tells him the secret – there is no secret. This is it. This is all we're going to get. This life. This time. Once. "Enjoy your life," the goddess Siduri tells him. "Love the child who holds you by the hand, and give your wife pleasure in your embrace." It's Lennon's dream, four millennia ahead of schedule: above us, only sky. Gilgamesh returns to the world and lives more intensely and truly and deeply than before, knowing there is no celestial after-party and no forever. After all this time, can't we finally follow Gilgamesh to a world beyond heaven?


BBC
Where is salvation.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p003k9lf
egypt - greek - roman - britain


http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heaven-hell/
Heaven and Hell
First published Fri Oct 3, 2003; substantive revision Mon Oct 6, 2008
The language of heaven and hell as well as the doctrines associated with this language have their origin in the great monotheistic religions of the Abrahamic tradition — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The philosophical issues surrounding these doctrines have much wider significance, however, for every religion promises certain benefits to its adherents, and those benefits require by way of contrast some costs incurred by those who do not receive those benefits. The philosophical issues that arise out of the vivid imagery in western culture concerning heaven and hell arise quite naturally in nearly any religious context, though they are surely more pressing in some. Here the focus will be on the problems arising for the doctrines in the great monotheist traditions, and especially within Christianity, since it is within the latter context that these issues have been primarily discussed and it is the tradition with which western philosophers are the most familiar.

The doctrines of heaven and hell are doctrines concerning the afterlife. Recent theological work that denies existence beyond the grave (e.g., MacQuarrie) has sometimes included metaphorical reference to heaven and hell as aspects of one's present earthly life, wanting to retain the deep personal significance of our choices involved in talk of heaven and hell without endorsing the substantive metaphysical thesis of life after death. Though there may be a point to such metaphors, the doctrines of heaven and hell involve a commitment to the idea of an afterlife and to an eschatological significance of our present lives beyond the grave.

The doctrines of heaven and hell play an important social function as well. Even atheists have often held that the doctrines ought to be taught, even if false, because of the motivation they provide for good behavior. Here, however, the focus will be on the purely cognitive issues involved in the doctrines: whether they are true or false, and the kinds of arguments used to defend a view on the matter.

•1. Hell
◦1.1 The Punishment Model and The Traditional Conception
◦1.2 Alternatives to the Traditional Conception
◦1.3 Problems for Such Views
◦1.4 Alternatives to the Punishment Model
•2. Heaven
◦2.1 Primary Concerns
◦2.2 The Issue of Justice
•3. The Possibility of a Unified Account
•Bibliography
•Other Internet Resources
•Related Entries
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1. Hell
The usual approach in Christianity to the topic of heaven and hell proceeds in terms of a group of contrasts, contrasts between punishment and reward, between grace and reward, or between mercy and justice. With regard to the doctrine of hell, the dominant approach conceives of it in terms of punishment. On this basis, one might expect the doctrine of heaven to focus on the concept of reward. Though the concept of reward plays a significant role in the Christian doctrine of heaven, the primary role is played by the concepts of mercy and grace. This fact raises the issue of the degree of fit between a conception of heaven and a conception of hell, a topic we will return to later, but for purposes of this section, the important point to note is the centrality of the contrast between punishment and reward in the standard conception of hell.
1.1 The Punishment Model and The Traditional Conception
The primary philosophical criticisms of the doctrine of hell have focused on whether it is fair or just for someone to be sent to hell, and these criticisms reinforce the centrality of the punishment model in discussions of the doctrine of hell. The traditional characterization of the the punishment model involves a commitment to four separable theses:
(1) The Punishment Thesis: the purpose of hell is to punish those whose earthly lives and behavior warrant it.
(2) The No Escape Thesis: it is metaphysically impossible to get out of hell once one has been consigned there.
(3) The Anti-Universalism Thesis: some people will be consigned to hell.
(4) The Eternal Existence Thesis: hell is a place of unending conscious existence.
We can call this particular elaboration of the punishment model “the traditional doctrine of hell,” and it, or a minor modification of it, is the primary doctrine of hell found throughout the history of Christianity. The minor modification arises from the doctrine known as the harrowing of hell, according to which between the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, he preached to the inhabitants of hell, some of whom accepted his message and thereby went to heaven. The doctrine of the harrowing of hell thus implies the falsity of the No Escape Thesis, since according to that doctrine, some have escaped hell. The modification of the traditional view is only minor, however, since the escape in question results from a unique and unrepeatable event, so that it is not possible for anyone apart from this special event to escape from hell. This modified No Escape Thesis yields a minor modification of the Traditional Doctrine, but one with little philosophical significance for the question of the justice or fairness of hell, since there is no distinction whatsoever between the modified view and the traditional view once the central events of Jesus's death and resurrection have been completed, and the questions surrounding the justice or fairness of hell do not involve any special considerations of the location in history of those who end up in hell.
This characterization of the traditional view of hell leaves open whether hell involves the same punishment for all in hell, or whether there are differences in the degree of punishment. The strong version of the traditional view maintains that the punishment is the same for all, and a mitigation of this strong view argues that the traditional view is correct but needs to be supplemented by a clause specifying how some people deserve harsher treatment in hell than others.
The standard argument for the traditional view of hell appeals to a principle concerning when punishment is justified, and this argument claims that punishment deserved is not simply a function of harm caused and harm intended, even though such considerations take center stage in usual non-teleological theories of punishment. The traditional view of hell cannot be sustained by appeal to a theory of punishment of this sort, for it would be at best contingent that hell is the appropriate punishment on such a theory. To defend the traditional view of hell, something stronger is needed. According to defenders of the traditional view, punishment deserved is also a function of the status of the individual one has wronged, and they argue that all wrongdoing constitutes a wrong against God, and that wronging God is as bad a thing as anyone could do — they are infinitely bad thereby justifying an infinite punishment.
This argument would seem to be vulnerable at the point where it requires that all wrongdoing involves wronging God. Critics of the argument wonder how this could be. People generally do not intend to harm God or to defy him in some way when they act wrongly, though of course both are possible. Defenders of the argument appeal to the ideas of ownership and dependence in response to these charges. One can wrong the Rockefellers, for example, by destroying their property, whether or not one is aware of whose property is being destroyed. Moreover, one can wrong parents by harming their children, whether or not one has any acquaintance with the parents (and even if, by some bizarre metaphysical reasoning, one has become convinced either that the particular child in question is parentless or that no one has any parents).
Attention to the parent/child analogy is particularly instructive, for there comes a point in time at which parents are no longer wronged by harms done to their offspring, though they presumably will still be angered and offended by such actions. There is no precise cutoff point at which the parents are no longer wronged, but the moral difference here clearly has to do with the degree of independence from the parents that has been achieved. Middle-aged and fully competent adults normally have achieved such independence, whereas infants clearly have not.
Regardless of the vagueness of the concept of the dependence relation between parent and child, the relation itself is useful in a defense of the idea that all wrongdoing wrongs God. If one endorses the doctrine of divine conservation, according to which God sustains the universe at every moment of existence, one has grounds for thinking of the relationship between God and created things in a way that supports the idea than all wrongdoing wrongs God. For created things are even more dependent on God that the smallest infants on their parents, so if degree of independence is the right way to think about the conditions under which wronging offspring fails to wrong parents, no such degree of independence is possible between God and his creation.
The defensibility of the claim that all wrongdoing wrongs God has been taken to be the linchpin for a successful defense of the traditional doctrine of hell, but that claim is false. Even if all wrongdoing wrongs God and is therefore, in an objective sense, infinitely bad, it does not follow that an infinite punishment is deserved. A little attention to homicides and ways in which one can cause the death of another human being shows the inadequacy of such an inference. Causing the death of a human being is a very serious matter — in an objective sense, we may assume that it is among the worst things a person could do. Even so, punishment deserved is not simply a function of the badness of the action. The killing might have been accidental, for example, or it might have been done for the sake of justice, as in cases of capital punishment or in carrying out a just war. These examples show that even if an action rates very high on the scale of badness, other factors can diminish the severity of punishment deserved and, in some cases, eliminate it altogether. Included among these other factors are the intentions, plans, and goals of the person in question, and depending on what we find here, it is possible for a truly bad action to warrant no punishment at all—as often happens when people lose their lives in car accidents. The proper perspective, then, is to view the traditional view as being undermined if no defense can be offered for the claim that all wrongdoing wrongs God, but that a full defense of the traditional view requires more than this claim.
1.2 Alternatives to the Traditional Conception
Difficulties involved in defending the traditional view, such as those just noted, have led, throughout the history of Christianity to denials of both the Traditional Doctrine and the minor modification discussed above. Various alternatives have been proposed, but all of the standard non-traditional doctrines still endorse the punishment model. Annihilationism in its usual form, or the related position called Conditional Immortalism (see Cullman and Robinson), understand hell primarily in terms of a reference to the state of non-existence. Such views thereby adopt the Punishment Model, clarifying it with theses (1)-(3) above, but denying the Eternal Existence Thesis. Second Chance theories, which hold that it is possible to choose heaven after finding oneself in hell, also accept the punishment model. They affirm all of the traditional conception of hell except for the No Escape Thesis, which they deny. Universalists, those who believe that everyone will be in heaven on grounds that a loving God could not allow anyone to suffer the disaster of eternity in hell, accept all of the traditional conception of hell except for the claim that some people will be consigned to hell eternally (see Talbott). These alternatives to the traditional doctrine of hell compose all of the historically prominent options within the Christian tradition, and it is instructive to note that it is very rare to find "in the pew" any alternative to the traditional view that rejects the first thesis above, the thesis that identifies the purpose of hell in terms of punishment.
In each case, the perceived need for an alternative to the traditional view concerns the injustice or unfairness of hell on the traditional construal of it. The same concern can prompt a different kind of alteration of the traditional view, one that denies that heaven and hell are exclusive and exhaustive of afterlife possibilities. For example, the need for a doctrine of limbo, the place of abode for unbaptized but innocent or righteous individuals, addressing the issue of the eternal destiny of children short of the age of accountability or those who have never heard the Christian message, is best viewed as arising from some perceived injustice involved in the Traditional Doctrine. The doctrine of purgatory, the state in which those who have died in grace expiate their sins, might be viewed in this way as well, though it is also possible to view purgatory as a part of heaven, albeit not as blessed as other parts.
1.3 Problems for Such Views
Each of these views accepts the same underlying core picture of what hell is like, what I have termed the Punishment Model of Hell. Each of these positions begins from this model, and each view offers a mitigation of the perceived severity of the Traditional Doctrine. Each thus begins from the assumption that the Traditional Doctrine is unacceptable because it is simply unjust, or perhaps, unbecoming to a loving God. In this regard, it is a bit ironic to note the same problems plague these alternative views. Annihilationism, for example, views the cessation of existence as somehow preferable to unending conscious existence in hell. A primary difficulty with this response to a perceived inadequacy of the traditional view is that our ordinary conceptions of punishment, however, view capital punishment as a far more severe kind than life imprisonment. If the traditional view is embellished with vivid images of the sort that appear in Jesus' parable of the Lazarus and Dives, or in Dante's descriptions of hell, Annihilationism can be seen as preferable. Still, the fundamental tenets of the traditional view described above do not involve these embellishments, and without them, it is not clear how Annihilationism could be seen as less problematic than the traditional view; if anything, it appears to raise greater concern about the justice of hell inasmuch as capital punishment is more severe than life in prison.
Universalism has an advantage over Annihilationism in this respect, for it contains no features that appear to raise greater concern about the justice of hell than the traditional view. The fundamental issue for it is that its most promising variety fails to solve the problem of the perceived injustice of hell. Universalism can be offered as a contingent thesis or as a necessary one. If it is offered as a necessary thesis, the thesis that it is metaphysically impossible for anyone to end up in hell, it faces difficulty in explaining how human freedom is involved in any substantive way in determining one's eternal destiny. For no matter what one's choices or attitudes, no matter what one wishes or desires, one will end up in heaven on this view. Given this implication of necessary Universalism, the most common form of the view is a contingent one, according to which, even though it is metaphysically possible that some end up in hell, as a matter of fact no one will. The problem for this version of Universalism, however, is that it fails to solve the problem it was intended to solve. For the traditional understanding of God does not portray him as good as a matter of happenstance, but rather as an essential feature of him. So if it is a merely contingent fact that all are saved and thus avoid hell, this universalist position still allows that it is possible for some to end up in hell, but if the traditional doctrine of hell threatens to undermine God's goodness because some actually end up in hell, contingent Universalism equally threatens to undermine God's goodness because some might end up in hell. Contingent Universalism thus only modally masks the underlying problem of the perceived injustice of hell.
Second chance views fare no better. Some views that go by that name are not alterations of the Traditional Doctrine of Hell at all, but merely insist that because of the severity of hell, persons deserve a second chance to avoid it after death (notice that nothing in the above four theses requires that presence in heaven or hell occurs immediately after one dies). Yet, if such a second chance is deserved, it is hard to see why the same considerations would not justify a third chance if the second chance were passed on, thereby launching an infinite sequence of delays of consignment to hell. The regress cannot be endorsed, since being in that condition would itself constitute residence in hell, with the possibility of escape (since it would be a condition of eternal separation from God, barring escape). So second chance views that try to allow second chances prior to consignment to hell must explain how the regress is avoided.
Other second chance views claim that consignment to hell cannot be postponed, but that escape from it is not impossible; all that is needed to get out is the same change of heart, mind, and will required in one's earthly life to be fit for heaven. One difficulty for such a view is theological rather than philosophical, for such views fail to be truly eschatological accounts of heaven and hell. Eschatology is the doctrine of the last things, and one feature of this idea of culmination or consummation is that there is a finality to it. In Christian thought, this idea is expressed vividly in the idea of a final judgment, and any conception of the afterlife that treats residence in heaven and hell in the geographic way in which we think of residence in, say, Texas or California, simply does not fall into the category of an eschatological doctrine at all (see Hebblewaite). If heaven and hell are conceived of as mere extensions of an earthly life, where people can pack up and move at will, such a conception has more affinity to religious perspectives that espouse endless cycles of rebirth than to religions including an eschatological dimension.
This theological issue raises an important point, for a tension exists in the doctrines of heaven and hell between regarding how much continuity is to be expected between this earthly life and the afterlife. One example is the eschatological issue above concerning the loss of the idea of the notion of finality in the afterlife. Another example is hinted at above, concerning geographic assumptions about where one might reside (see Kvanvig). These latter ideas, together with perceived difficulties with the traditional view, lead to the doctrine of limbo. The greater a view is inclined to model the afterlife on our present earthly experience, the greater will be the temptation toward geographic conceptions of the afterlife and quasi-reincarnational views. The alternative is to view heaven and hell as the exclusive and exhaustive eschatological options, because to be in heaven is to be with God and to be in hell is to fail to be with God. The fundamental philosophical issue here is similar to the issue of how much anthropomorphizing is allowable in one's theology. Regarding both the issue of the nature of God and the nature of the afterlife, the question is how much of our present experience is allowably introduced when addressing these issues, and at what point an account involves the unwarranted extension of our present experience to theological topics radically different from that experience.
In all these ways, typical alternatives to the traditional view fail to deal with the fundamental problem of the traditional view, and face enormous difficulties because of it. The fundamental problem for the traditional conception of hell is that people receive an infinite punishment for less than infinite sin. One standard reply to such a complaint is that it matters not only what the character of your sin is, but also who the sin is against in determining appropriate punishment. Such a response, however, presumes some way of ranking individuals so that sinning against beings higher on the scale is more wrong than sinning against beings lower on the scale. Furthermore, this ranking will have to yield the result that sinning against God deserves infinite punishment whereas no other sin does. This position is difficult to maintain. Even if it is granted that sin against God is infinitely bad, punishment deserved is not directly correlated with the seriousness of wrong done. Causing the death of a person is the worst thing one can do to a human being, but some ways of doing something so seriously bad do not deserve any punishment at all (accidental killings, for example, or perhaps killing in a just war). Punishment deserved must be a function both of seriousness of wrong done, and some information about the intentions of the person doing the wrong. Furthermore, the latter information can sometimes yield the result that little or no punishment is deserved at all, even though the action performed seriously wrongs someone.
1.4 Alternatives to the Punishment Model
This fundamental problem with the traditional view leads to positions on the nature of hell that deny the Punishment Model. Hell is conceived on this alternative model in terms of something a person chooses. Hell may be a place where some people are punished, but the fundamental purpose of hell is not to punish people, but to honor their choices. There are a variety of conceptions of hell falling within this alternative model (see Adams, Kvanvig, Lewis, Stump, and Swinburne), and many of the same issues that face the Traditional Model arise here as well. For example, if hell is what a person chooses, what exactly is the content of the choice? If we think of the fundamental issue of heaven and hell as one concerning whether or not one's destiny will be with God, a natural view is that the content of the choice is either to be with God and all that requires or to reject that option. If so, the issue of annihilation is a central issue for the Choice Model, for there is no possibility of existing without dependence on God (a result that follows from the doctrine of divine conservation). Furthermore, God's perfect goodness constrains him to aim for our perfection always, so a choice to be independent of God, if fully informed, would be logically equivalent to a choice for annihilation.
Many of the same alternatives arise for the Choice model as arise for the Punishment model. One already noted is the issue of whether hell is conceived in terms of annihilation or in terms of eternal existence apart from God. Another issue is whether the Choice model is committed to something like a second chance alternative. At first glance it seems that it would amount to a second chance view, insofar as one's capacity to choose differently from what one had chosen in the past remains. One way to argue that the Choice model involves no commitment to a second chance view is to argue that there is no chance of escaping hell even on the Choice model if the choice needs to be rational and the most persuasive rational considerations that would prompt such a choice have already been exhausted. In a similar fashion, nothing about the Choice model itself argues against universalism, though the fundamental importance of freedom on this model might provide a basis for arguing against the idea that it is metaphysically impossible to avoid heaven.
2. Heaven
This discussion of the doctrine of hell reveals how Christian thought on the doctrine has centered around the question of the justice of hell. Reflection on the doctrine of heaven, however, has not focused as much on issues of fairness or justice, though such issues are sure to arise. Instead, the primary concerns about heaven have centered elsewhere.
2.1 Primary Concerns
The primary topics in thought about heaven concern whether true happiness or blessedness is possible for those in heaven (perhaps one's memories never fade sufficiently to allow perfect blessedness, or perhaps the suffering of the damned in hell prevents such bliss, or perhaps no matter what heaven is like, it will become tedious or boring at some point), why faith or belief in God is a prerequisite for presence in heaven, and whether it is possible to leave heaven once one is there. The first issue is independent of one's conception of hell, for no matter how hell is conceived, it is an infinitely less valuable than presence in heaven, and awareness of this fact, given anything like our present psychology, would interfere with perfect blessedness. Some have argued that seeing the suffering of those in hell will add to the blessedness of the experience in heaven. This idea taps into an important aspect of human experience, for it is a common reaction to enjoy seeing people get their just deserts. Furthermore, there is something to be said in favor of the idea that it is appropriate to have a positive emotional response to seeing justice done. Still, such a response only helps if one adopts a punishment model of hell, for on the choice model, the concept of just deserts is not central. Finally, the problem of tedium is hard to find compelling, even though it is equally hard to find a compelling response to it. Perhaps it is a failure of imagination that leads to the problem, but if it is, the same failure of imagination will prevent us from finding a convincing reply to the difficulty. The second issue is primarily one in soteriology, which would take us well beyond the topic of this entry, and the third issue, about whether one could leave heaven once there, mirrors the questions regarding the doctrine of hell concerning escape from it. This concern is heightened for theological perspectives that view Satan as having once been present in heaven only to fall from it, for such views cannot maintain that it is impossible to get out of heaven once there. Perhaps they might hold that such is impossible for humans only, but it is hard to see what could justify such a distinction. In any case, the standard explanation for why it is either impossible to leave heaven or why no one would ever in fact choose to do so appeals to the blessedness of the beatific vision itself, the experience of which is held to be so much greater and more blessed than the anything hoped for by the redeemed that nothing could or would be capable of turning the satisfied soul to look elsewhere for satisfaction.
At its core, this concern about whether it is possible to leave heaven or escape hell is a threat to the idea of finality or culmination involved in traditional eschatology. The concerns raised from this quarter show how difficult it is to conceive of the afterlife as both a continuation of personal existence, including those aspects of being a person that seem so central, such as freedom and autonomy, and yet as a culmination involving finality. One can retain aspects of freedom and autonomy for personal existence when one argues that no one will ever leave heaven or escape hell, that no one would do so, or even that any such choice would be completely unmotivated and hence inexplicable. The stronger claim that it is metaphysically impossible to leave heaven or escape hell presents greater challenges, however, for such a position is harder to reconcile with the presence of freedom and autonomy so central to our conception of survival of death as persons; and yet, such metaphysical impossibility is the most natural position to endorse when one's conception of the afterlife is a truly eschatological perspective involving the ideas of finality and culmination.
2.2 The Issue of Justice
There are also two indications of concern about the justice of heaven in Christian thought. The first is reflected in the central position of the doctrine of justification in Christian theology. This doctrine presents in summary form the entire point of the Christian faith: that through the saving work of Jesus, the broken relationship between God and humans is restored, with the result that those redeemed by God in this way come to share his presence in heaven. The philosophical task of the doctrine traces to St. Paul's argument of the first chapters of Romans that God is both just and a justifier of sinners; that there is no logical conflict inherent in this conjunction, in spite of the fact that a classic example, both in ordinary thought and, pertinent to the mindset of St. Paul, in the Hebrew Bible of an unjust judge is one who lets the guilty go free. The doctrine of justification, that is, undertakes to show that there is no contradiction between the claims that God is perfectly righteous, just, and holy, that human beings are sinners, and that God justifies such human beings, i.e., grants them heaven in spite of their not deserving it. Without an adequate doctrine of justification, Christianity could no longer view heaven as primarily the culmination of God's gracious response to the human condition. Instead of having a doctrine of heaven centering on the concept of grace, one could at most have a concept of heaven focusing on the concept of reward: heaven would be a reward for those sufficiently responsible in the lives and behavior to God's requirements.
The second aspect of the history of Christian reflection about heaven that signals a concern for the justice or fairness of it is the doctrine of purgatory and the correlative partitioning of heaven so that differential rewards are given to different individuals. The doctrine of purgatory holds a special place in this regard, however, for it is one thing to think that some individuals deserve a greater reward than others, and it is quite another thing to think that some individuals must undergo the inconvenience of purgatory in compensation for failures of the past or for the purpose of character development in preparation for the more blessed experience of (other regions of) heaven. Whereas the point of the doctrine of justification is to relieve Christianity of the charge that its understanding of heaven threatens the righteousness of God, the point of the doctrine of purgatory can be taken to rebut the claim that God's bestows his grace in a profligate manner. There is both the sense of unfairness involved in granting the same heavenly experience to those redeemed only at the last moment “between the saddle and the soil” and those whose youthful redemption is followed by lifelong service and faithfulness to God, and a sense of incoherence in maintaining that true blessedness can be experienced by those whose lives and character are still bent and twisted by sin. True blessedness comes only when one's desires for the good are satisfied, and for those who desire otherwise, such is simply impossible.
3. The Possibility of a Unified Account
Given human nature, it is not surprising that the issues of justice that arise regarding the doctrine of hell have received much more attention than those surrounding the doctrine of heaven. Most of us are more comfortable getting benefits we do not deserve or gifts that are inappropriate than we are shouldering burdens that are not ours or suffering pain we do not deserve. The fundamental point to notice here, however, is that the doctrines of heaven and hell are not separable in this way. They are intimately linked, and the account one accepts of one constrains the kind of account one can develop of the other. These points may seem obvious, but they are ignored regularly, especially in discussion of the nature of hell. If we think of hell as a place of punishment, the logical contrast would seem to indicate that heaven is a place of reward. Yet, the Christian conception denies that heaven is fundamentally a reward for faithful service; it is, rather, the free and gracious gift of a loving God, unmerited by anything we have done. Another way to put this tension is to note that explanations of presence in heaven and presence in hell seem to have little in common. On the usual position, presence in heaven is explained in terms of God's love, not his justice or fairness, whereas presence in hell is explained in terms of his justice rather than his love. Such explanations are at best incomplete, for love and justice often pull us in different directions regarding how to treat people. Some ways of treating people are just, but unloving; and some ways are caring, but less than fully just. At the very least, some explanation is required concerning the interaction of the motives God has in establishing heaven and hell.
More can be said, however. In the Christian view, God's fundamental motive must be conceived of in terms of love rather than justice. Justice has no hope of explaining the two great acts of God, creation and redemption; only love can account for them. If so, however, one's account of hell ought to accord with this hierarchical conception of God's motivational structure as well. In particular, it will not do to portray God as fundamentally loving until we reach the point of discussing the nature of hell, and suddenly portray God as fundamentally a just God--God simply couldn't be fundamentally both without engendering paralysis in cases where the two conflict. In some way, the tnesion must be addressed and resolved.
The most straightforward way to give a unified account of heaven and hell is to portray each as flowing from one and the same divine motivational structure. Whereas the Punishment Model of Hell has difficulty proceeding in this way, the Choice Model seems much better suited to such an account. For if hell is constructed to honor the choices that free individual might make, it is not hard to see how a fundamentally loving God could construct it in this way. For in truly loving another, we often must risk losing the other, and part of loving completely requires a willingness to lose the other completely as well. Such a unified conception of heaven and hell, where both are grounded in and explained in terms of God's love, comports well with Dante's conception of hell: hell was built by divine power, by the highest wisdom, and by primordial love.
Adopting a unified account of heaven and hell does not by itself yield a complete view of heaven and hell, even when the unified account portrays both heaven and hell as issuing from the Divine motive of love. Even if one denies the punishment thesis of the traditional view, there is still the question of the other three theses. Depending on which theses are accepted, the choice model can be developed so as to involve a kind of annihilationism, or universalism, as well as the choice view closest to the traditional view of hell, the choice view that endorses all of the theses of the traditional view except the punishment thesis.
Still, many of the same difficulties arise for these views in the context of the choice model as arose in the context of the punishment model. Annihilationism would be hard to portray as a mitigation of the harshness of hell, since hell is no longer being conceived primarily in terms of punishment (though nothing about the choice model requires denying that hell involves punishment motivated by love). Universalism in its necessary form still will be difficult to reconcile with notions of freedom and autonomy, and contingent universalism will need a defense that doesn't advert to the unloving character of hell and the jarring thought of how a loving God could allow someone to suffer the ultimate disaster of hell as conceived in the traditional view of hell. Moreover any version of the choice model will need either to jettison the eschatological ideas of finality and consummation or offer some explanation of how these ideas can be affirmed in the absence of the kind of finality that rests ultimately on a divine decree.