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Ramadan

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Jul. 18th, 2013 | 09:14 pm

I decided to jot down a few thoughts about this year's Ramadan, and then found that a friend had recently done something similar. :-)

This is the first time in 10 years that I've been fasting. I made the decision in July 2004 to pursue Amma-related Hindu practices as my main practice and, even though I had wavered in that decision by returning to salat briefly in 2010-11, and then returning to the Hindu practices once again, and then noticing that my practices were trailing off altogether, I made the decision to resume salat this past January, starting with maghrib, and I haven't turned back since. In fact, the Amma programs took place in New York and Boston this month, but I didn't attend any of them. I have effectively walked away from that experience.

It may seem like somewhat of an odd thought to have, but at some point this past January I thought what a shame it was that, so long as I continued to practice Hinduism (or continued to waver), I probably wouldn't find the time to read some of the Islamic books I had, including completing reading ones I had had for some time as well as reading some of the ones I had acquired during my in-between phase in 2010-11.

Then again, maybe that's not such an odd thought. I tried to force the issue of spiritual community for a number of years, spurred on in part by things I had read that were written by spiritual teachers (including Lex Hixon). Realistically, in my experience, in order to participate effectively in spiritual groups it is necessary to live in or near a relatively large city, and/or to have enough disposable time and income to spend on a regular basis. Not that it's necessary to give a lot in donations or fees, but it helps to have enough money to travel to events without having to worry about it.

I've decided to relax about that as much as I can. It's enough for me now to read and to pray and to make use of resources on the internet (including Shaykha's sohbets, etc.).

As I've written before, I'm perfectly capable of becoming elevated by spiritual reading and practices. On the other hand, when I feel inclined to view politically-oriented documentaries or feature films, or to read political or philosophical literature that has a bit of toughness to it, I choose to give some scope to that. I think that's another reason why it's good for me to keep my options open and my schedule as flexible as possible. Recently, after seeing the Dirty Wars film, I returned to reading my ebook version of Jeremy Scahill's book. Along similar lines, I spent some time today looking at documentaries online about the former Yugoslavia. I find that, in my reading about Islam in contemporary social contexts, I like to go back and forth between perspectives from before and after 9/11.

With the recent (and ongoing) examination of ethical failures in my department, I've begun to consider that some of the uneasiness I have felt in the department may have been a result of secrets and festering issues, and not primarily a reflection of fundamental inadequacy within myself that I could somehow (and so far in vain) hope to "cure" with what British psychologist David Smail terms "magical voluntarism." Similarly, with each cultural setback and political disappointment, I have to acknowledge that it really is a burden to live in the post-9/11 U.S.

My computer's doing automatic backup, so I'll sign off before it shuts down automatically.


Peace,

KH

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Comments {4}

mysticactive

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from: mysticactive
date: Jul. 24th, 2013 09:50 am (UTC)
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You know it may sound cliche, but I do feel that we are seeking ourselves when we seek different lineages and sacred traditions out. I think you make that explicit in the way you write. I was raised with a more dogmatic religlosity and that seems to give me a formation where ı tend to speak more about belief, doctrine and the ideals of the tradition I encounter. There are some interesting epistemic issues there, if I had time to dig into them...

Be well!

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Khalid Hussain

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from: khalid_hussain
date: Jul. 24th, 2013 10:10 am (UTC)
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Thanks for your comment. (As a re-read my entry, I found some errors that I went back and fixed.) Perhaps there is a bit of the intellectually ambitious ex-Catholic in my approach to spirituality. :-) One of my frustrations with the anti-intellectual Amma circus was that I couldn't seem to get it serve the same role of foundational spiritual discipline that, for me, is one of the strengths of Islamic/Sufi practices.

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mysticactive

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from: mysticactive
date: Jul. 24th, 2013 01:14 pm (UTC)
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I wonder what you mean by 'foundational spiritual discipline'? I ask because I had the impression that they did quite a bit of practice daily. Is that not right?

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Khalid Hussain

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from: khalid_hussain
date: Jul. 24th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC)
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Yes, there are daily practices that recommended and/or prescribed, such as at least one round of 108 repetitions of the mantra one has received from Amma and probably Amma's 108 Names. More diligent people may also do the Lalita Sahasranama (1000 Names) daily. There is also the IAM meditation technique if one has elected to take instruction in that. Most such practices carry the notion of spiritual "benefits" within the Hindu context. I had thought that if I adjusted the form of the (Islamic) practices I had been doing into their Hindu "equivalents," the practices would function comparably in my life. They would also be more in harmony with the idea of Amma being my spiritual "teacher" (even though there is little to no verbal dialogue available to householder devotees who only attend programs in the U.S. or Europe). For all the time commitment of pursuing such practices (about an hour or so of essentially sedentary practice daily), I didn't experience the same sense of spiritual refreshment and attunement that I find, say, with salat, which actually requires less of a daily time commitment. There is also the coordination of salat with astronomical cycles, which is something I missed with the other practices. I have also found that salat seems to strengthen personal boundaries in ways that are actually practically useful socially, even while allowing for some permeability of energies as well. The Amma org, in my experience, involves a lot of diffusion of boundaries, and therefore involves significant emotional and psychological dependence on other devotees in order to feel balanced and coherent. As I know well, of course, such dependence can go terribly wrong. Once I realized that, in order to heal and to rebuild other aspects of my life (such as academics and other non-Amma-based relationships), I found it difficult to continue going through the motions of maintaining social ties with the group while feeling a need to focus my attention elsewhere. I also had problems in trying to connect my experiences within the org to a more general sense of devotion to Kali or to Hindu tradition in a wider sense. Ultimately, after the initial emotionalism and "psychism" subsided, I found the experience to be neither as portable, practical, or effective as Islamic practices, which seem to suit my temperament better: that is, so long as I want to be able to function, and not just be a total emotional mess all the time in the hopes of achieving some ultimate kind of release into something or other some day.

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