Monday, January 12, 2015

"I Love the Prophet Muhammad More Than I Love my Own Children"

The title of this post is a direct quote from an ordinary Muslim man living in the UK. He was being interviewed the day after after the Paris massacre. When I heard this, my first reaction was shock which was replaced with a kind of awe of the power of devotion.

I don't have children so will be the first to admit that while I have nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces whom I love very much; this love is of a different nature and quality to biological love. I can't imagine a greater love than that of one's own child. I have written posts about the power of devotion because of how it is a turning away from the ego.

For many years, I pursued a rational scientific explanation for the spiritual experiences I've had, which I write about in my book. Now, however, I have put aside the search for an explanation and have embraced the path of devotion to a Guru I won't name. There are a few reasons why I won't name Him. Firstly, the object of my devotion is personal. Secondly, experience shows that the moment the name of a Guru is written, there's always someone ready to come out and discredit it. I love my Guru far too much to take that risk. The last reason for my reluctance is because the organization set up to carry on the teaching is fiercely protective and regularly trawls the internet picking up posts with keywords which would indicate this Guru's style of teaching, as it is distinct and unique. 

On the day of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were killed, Facebook was awash with copies of past cartoon covers posted by people supporting the principle of free speech. Flipping through the covers, I felt a faint twinge of regret that I hadn't paid more attention to learning French at school. I'm sure that the translations weren't an accurate interpretation of what was meant to be conveyed.

One of the cartoon covers held my attention longer than the others, but, before I write what I am going to, I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that I don't condone barbaric acts of killing. There is no justification ever for one human being to take the life of another, none whatsoever.

However, in my opinion, there's a difference between a cartoon that is witty and thought provoking and one that can only be seen as demeaning, degrading, and derogatory. The cartoon of Muhammad which held my attention was definitely in the latter category. Interestingly, I went back onto Facebook the next day to see if I could find this cover and it seemed to have been removed.

When I first saw this cover, I imagined that it was my Guru being portrayed that way and without any intention on my part I experienced feelings of revulsion and anger. However, my years of practicing Buddhism and cultivating a witness consciousness meant I could simply observe these feelings without the compulsion to act on them. I'm in favor of the right of free speech, but with rights come responsibilities, and it seems the emphasis in this situation is on rights with very little attention paid to responsibility.

Returning to the title of this post, I find myself wondering what makes a man love a non-material entity more than the actual material presence of his own children. The Prophet Muhammad is no longer alive, so it must be some kind of spiritual transmission that adepts promise their devotees. We recognize similar notions, resurrection and reincarnation, for instance, in other religions. Notions that defy scientific scrutiny, yet are powerful and alluring enough to make one lose all sense of critical thinking so that he is willing to give his life for a principle or a promised reward. The fascination of martyrdom, or eternal life for believers in other religions, outweighs a comfortable and happy life in this world. For those that buy into this argument, the prospect of death holds no fear.

Death cartoon

Lack of fear of death presents a challenge for us in the West. Death is not in conflict with life; in fact, it is an inevitable part of existence, an extension of life, if you will. But we don't see it like this. In the West, there's a morbid fear of death, which increases when security services make statements like, "We can't protect everyone from terrorist attacks." Perhaps, if there was more openness and dialogue around the true nature of death, then such statements wouldn't strike fear into so many hearts. Overcoming our fear of death so that we can remain calm and steady in the face of any event is something that needs to be addressed.

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