All Religious Practices
are Vehicles to Purification
and Spiritual Growth

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

HOME \ All Religious Practices are Vehicles to Purification and Spiritual Growth \

 


To be connected
to the Supreme Power
through a higher source

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When man gives he takes. As a channel, he is connected to a higher human source. Allah gives through mediums, ad infinitum. The end giver is Allah, but his messengers, holy men, spiritual masters, or whatever names we give them, are the immediate communicators, through them, light follows and spreads.
The Ancient Egyptians,Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam stress the importance of searching for spiritual masters that can guide whomever seeks the truth.


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In the Egyptian civilization, people personified the principle of good and evil in Osiris and Set. Osiris is a spirit that left the earthly life. Horus the son continued the struggle against Set. He is the symbol of men who takes the side of goodness. Horus appears in the shape of falcon with strong outlook, pointing to the spiritual awakening.

Horus is an archetype, a symbol for everyone who succeeds to conquer the evil from within. That is the reason why he was valued and appreciated. All Pharaohs ruled by Horus name. As such, the rulers of Egypt were considered to be the source of light and divinity, and were given the name of pharaoh to describe who they are. Pharaoh means the "great house". A pharaoh should provide security, safety and love for the Egyptian population because he is spiritually enlightening.

Building the pyramid itself for the Pharaoh is a process that workers perceived to be a sublime goal. Against the used to be common idea of forcing Egyptians peasants to build those pyramids, the builders were doing their work with love and devotion. They believed in the divinity of their Pharaohs, as Christians would believe in Jesus, Buddhists in Buddha and so on and so forth. The pyramid as a tomb is a divine place because their king journey to the higher world would take place from there. Pyramids will always stand to point to the living aspect of Pharaohs.


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In Taoism Lao Tsu is the most known name that is related to Taoism. Yet, there are other sages who are attached to the development of this revelation, such as Chuang Tzu, a Taoist sage who lived sometime before 250 B.C. Also, Shui-ch'ing Tzu, is a pseudonym for the author of a commentary on the T'ai Shang Ch'ing-ching Ching, a work that's part of the Taoist canon. The date of the commentary hasn't been ascertained. As a result, the Taoists are those who follow the general principles of the Tao without giving holiness to the founders of Taoism. The Guru, or a teacher does not play the same important role that is played in other revelations.  The model to be followed in Taoism is the model of whoever attain balance between yin and yang within and lead a highly moral life. Seeing all natural manifestation in the light of yin and yang give the Sun, Moon, stars, heaven, earth, special characters and man is tough to relate himself to those natural "beings" through certain meditative practices which help him to satisfy this required balance.


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In Hinduism, the idea that man gains purification and spiritual growth by having a divine source of guidance on earth is very well established. Krishna is the Charioteer of man's psychophysical vehicle. He is not only a person, he is the Spirit that guides man from within. The Gita shows that when man is striving truly for finding truth, the guide appears to him. This is shown when Arjuna, the one who was seeking a truthful way reached such a state of helplessness and depression; his heart heard the Divine voice of Krishna. Hence, told him, "I put myself into your hands. Show me the way." It was only through responding to the teaching of Krishna that Arjuna learnt how to find his way after he was purified of the illusions of his "passions". Krishna took his hand to the path of spiritual growth and real life; a life that does not perish when the body perishes. Krishna is a manifestation of Divine Light that supports man on his way to spiritual fulfillment.

The Gita explains that it was through Krishna that Arjuna could receive the Guidance of God, the One, the Beyond. Through Krishna, Arjuna received the spiritual energy that took him out from his illusions. Through Krishna Arjuna had enlightenment and knew the source of all life. Krishna's teachings were not mere words, they were carrying such a heavenly power that evaded all darkness and let Arjuna see God, the Exalted, the Supreme Resting Place of the world. So he says:

Destroyed is my delusion and recognition has been gained by me through Thy grace, O Krishna. I stand firm with my doubts dispelled. I shall act according to Thy word (Gita: 18: 73)

Krishna stands for the great spiritual masters who represent Divine Power, and Arjuna stands for human kind who search for the truth. Krishna explains to Arjuna that he is not a person, but rather a manifestation of Truth when he tells him that he is "the Atman that dwells in the heart of every mortal creature". Clarifying that Brahman, God, Atman, Light always exists in illuminated souls, Krishna advised Arjuna, and consequently any seeker of truth to link himself with those souls and become their disciple.

From that perspective the idea of the guru in Hinduism arises pointing to the fact that they represent Krishna and they guide those who seek real living. The Gita ends by saying:

Wherever there is Krishna, the lord of yoga, and Arjuna, the archer, I think, there will surely be, victory, welfare and morality
(Gita: 18: 78)


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In Buddhism, man is purified and he grows spiritually when he is attached to Buddha, the Enlightened One. Attachment to Buddha reflects one's yearning for Truth and Buddha guides him to righteousness through the noble path:

Trust in truth, ye that love truth,

For the kingdom of righteousness is founded on earth. We can see our way and take firm and certain steps. (GB: 1: 7)

The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth.

The Buddha has proclaimed the truth;

Let the truth of Buddha dwell in your hearts.

Extinguish in your selves every desire that antagonizes the Buddha,

And in the perfection of spiritual growth you will become like unto him (GB: 2: 12)

A spiritual teacher is a symbol of Buddha because he is the one who is capable of helping a disciple to find his true nature, which is like a precious stone, or "diamond. "Pure gold is procured by melting ore and removing all impure substances. If people would melt the ore of their minds and remove all the impurities of worldly passion and egoism, they would all recover the same pure Buddha nature" (TB: p. 158). Because Buddha nature is covered by dust, man thinks that it is lost.

When one is enlightened he becomes one with a Buddha, a tathagata (one who has realized suchness; a buddha). A Tathagata is he who acquires attributes of Truth and leads others to be transformed spiritually. Their heart will be filled with unconditioned love and spiritual power that shines.

The Universal Truth sends its creating power through Tathagata:

The Tathagata recreates the whole world

Like a cloud shedding its waters without distinction.

He has the same sentiments

For the high as for the low,

For the wise as for the ignorant,

For the noble-minded as for the immoral (GB: 55: 7)

He does not impart to them at once the fullness of omniscience,

But pays attention to the disposition of various beings (GB: 55: 11)

The more one makes himself available to Tathagata, the more he is connected to Truth and the more prepared for spiritual transformation.


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In the Holy Bible men are guided through several ways to be purified by being connected to the Supreme Power through a higher source. Guiding to keep the commandments is a call to keep being connected to the prophet. It was through Moses that God addressed the children of Israel and that the Teaching were revealed. Jesus explained that it is not literal commitment to the commandments, nor is it a spiritless process; it is sign of man's keenness to follow a path to real life; a path that is trod by love of God and His prophet.

The Old Testament well clarifies that for the children of Israel, to be able to receive the spiritual power of Heaven was at the same time to believe Moses and receive his guidance. The Old Testament reveals that man's purification is always associated with receiving the guidance of a higher source on earth. "Sacrifices" and "offers" were recommended to symbolize that man needs to kill the animal side of himself to be able to come closer to the higher source.


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That concept is clarified in the New Testament. Jesus says:

"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (Joh:8:12)

"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." (M't:24:35)

"I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John X: 30),

"he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (Joh:11:25)

So Jesus told those who denied him,

"Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, you should have known my Father also." (John VIII: 19).

And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (Joh:17:26)

Jesus lives in the hearts of his followers, they should support one another always, knowing that it is the Light of Jesus that prevails.


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In Islam, purification through being connected to a higher source of guidance took several dimensions. To believe in Prophet Muhammad, as a source of guidance, means at the same time to believe in all previous Prophets and Holy Books. That teaching indicates a belief that Divine Guidance comes from One Source, and Prophets are manifestations of that Source. Koran says about Abraham, Muhammad and all Prophets:

There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow, for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day. But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise.
(HQ: 60: 6)

Islam, this way, reveals that the earth has never been, nor will be void from Divine Guidance. Islam points to Ka'aba as a symbol for the Existence of God's Light on earth all the time and expressed through the Teaching of all prophets, sages, and spiritual men.

Explicitly, the testimony of the Oneness of Allah cannot be completed without the testimony that Muhammad is His messenger. That is, we are attached to the Supreme Power, Allah, when we are linked to a higher Human Source where Muhammad represents it symbolically. Muhammad in this context is not a mere historical figure, but he is "the messenger" of Allah. "The messenger of Allah" Rasul ul llah is an attribute, an archetype, not limited to a specific personality. Ka'aba stands to point to the "impersonal" source of guidance on earth, and to the continuation of existence of Rasul ul llah or Allah Message resalatu'l lah.

Ka'aba partly conveys the meaning that Heavenly Guidance was and will remains on earth. That is why it is called Baytullah Holy Home. Baytullah is a spiritual attainment and attachment. "And when we made the home as a shelter and a protection" (K 2:125)(Our translation)

We read in Koran that Ka’aba was used long before the coming of Muhammad, it was put as the first "home" of Allah. "Lo ! the first home appointed to mankind was that at Becca, a blessed one, and a guidance to the peoples" (K 3:96 ) (Our translation). The implication of the expression "first byat" is not to be understood historically, but it is related specifically to God's Revelation to man on earth as expressed through "a guidance to the peoples". "First" denotes "old", or from the very beginning. "Becca" is a reference to Abraham call "Follow the religion of Abraham, the primordial one" (K 3:95)  where he renewed the foundation of the previous revelations through establishing the base of the Home with his son Ishmael. "And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundation of the Home, (they prayed) Accept from us. Lo! Thou, only Thou art the Hearer, the Knower" (K 2:127)

"When the Ka'aba became the Kebla or the direction towards which Muslims focus, It indicates the oneness of the spiritual source. The universality of Islam became then meaningful. It does not mean that all people will follow the rituals that assigned through Prophet Muhammad, but that the spiritual guidance spreads from one source. In other words the enlightening energy that accompanied the existence of the great event of the birth of the Prophet will continue to overwhelm the spiritual atmosphere of the earth. Ka’aba is but a symbol of that presence. This understanding is not compelling, it mainly helps to emphasize unity rather than sectarian, and homogeneity instead of heterogeneity among old and new revelations.

Ka’aba is the focal point for pilgrims, they circumambulate it seven rounds.

Here is another hint that was given in the Prophet’s teachings. The pilgrims should visit the Medina, the city where the Islamic call flourished and where the shrine of the prophet exists. There is a saying of the Prophet Hadith which states that "Those who do pilgrims and don’t visit me, they are not in good relationship with me". The prophet certainly does not reside in his shrine. Rather, he is the light and the spiritual power that prevails to whoever seeks to follow his path. His saying draws the attention to a principle that Muslim should adhere to. That is, man should establish a relationship with, and be open to the higher source of light, receiving his blessings and that Allah support truth seeker through human sources.

Pilgrimage in essence points to the complete surrender to Allah, where man kills his ego and directs his face to Allah. If he succeed to do so, he is witnessing a new birth, new life, and new resurrection. Sacrificing an animal is a reminder of the old Story of Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his son, submitting to God’s will. In such compliance, he got rid of his ego and liberated himself from any attachment except to Allah. Then the act of sacrificing his son was not necessary, and the sheep replaced his son, just to point symbolically to the killing of the lower self, and got born again by having new life.

When the pilgrim offers his sacrifice he should remind himself of that story and live it anew, and assimilate the situation of Abraham in order to know that "slaughtering the animal", is a symbol for spiritual salvation. He is connected to Allah when he receives the enlightenment of Abraham.

The pilgrim was asked to wrap himself in unstitched an clothes, that is as if he is in his coffin, he is out of that world. It is only for practical reason women cannot do the same, but their dresses are to certain extend a uniform. They cut their relations with this world, and that is why they were asked to cut their nails, hair, of shooting any animal, or hurt any instinct. They bear the real life, the life of spirit and they are ready to receive the enlightenment from the higher source.

To live by the Name of Allah and to respond to his Call, that is always the goal of life. On the mountain of Arafat piligrms chant together "labayka allahuma labayka". It is like awakening the realization that God’s call through his messenger is always there, and now is heard. They now respond because they became spiritually aware and are in the presence of Baytullah.

Pilgrimage is completed when man gets over Satan from within, he threws pebbles at certain direction, attacking a stone figure symbolizing Satan. When man is pure, he will be ready to receive life so he runs between two holy mounts called al Safa (the word means purity) and al Marwa (the word means a place that provides water for the thirsty) seven times. Pilgrimage is a complete devotion to God. Man leaves behind his social positions, status, and wealth. There should be nothing in mind except responding to God’s call.

The movement that he performs around the Ka’aba: circumambulation is the way that his life should be processed. He should have a goal, a focal point around which his whole deeds revolve. He should also open to receive from the source of light that is on earth, even though he may not know the materialized existence of that source.

Prophet Muhammad was termed as "the living Koran" "the Mercy presented to all nations"; everything he says or does comes from Divine origin. Allah tells Prophet Muhammad to tell people that he observes the presence of Allah at any moment. He is completely devoted and surrendered himself to Allah.

Say: "Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds;
(HQ: 6: 162)

When following the Prophets is reduced into imitation, and when some people under any religious authority impose the teaching rigidly the Islamic Call is deviated from its kernel.


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Conclusion:

All the revelations guide man to attach to a higher human source (Buddha, Krishna, Moses. Jesus...) that can awaken his insight. In the Far East the Guru is the continuation and representation of the enlightened men. The Idea of the Pope is supposed to serve that meaning as well. In Taoism the cosmic objects are personified and man relate to them in a mystical way.
In Islam the attachment and loving the Prophet are essential to continue the Path and reap the fruits of faith. This love in Islam is rather an approach, and orientation that guides our direction. Ka'aba represents the symbolic meaning of that direction.  Although, as mentioned in Koran, Ka'aba was there when Abraham lived on earth, but the use of Ka'aba in that symbolic way is revealed with the Prophet Muhammad. The way that pilgrimage is performed, enriches that meaning, since all the associated rites serve to clarify our attachment to the Prophet symbolically.