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 \

 


Revelations direct man
to be attached to
the Supreme Power

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All Revelations guide man to be attached to the spiritual power of a higher source in order to generate the life of the spirit and to purify the heart This is true for. The Ancient Egyptians, Taoism,  Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


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In ancient Egypt, Acknowledging the Higher Spiritual power as a source of life and a continuous giver makes prayers meaningful. Prayers for the dead are the well known prayers; group prayers were held after the passing away of a person that is, to help him in his afterlife journey.

Temples were built in certain architecture design and in ascending manner, illustrating that path that man takes along the way of his life to attach to the divine.


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In Taoism: Embracing the oneness is realized partly through  meditation, which  is an essential means to train the soul to achieve its goal. There are three basic requirements for meditation: belief , perseverance, and will power.  "Progress in mastering belief, perseverance and will power is like climbing rugged mountain peaks: courage is needed  to reach the highest heights"  (Ching- Yuen 1997:23).  Embracing the oneness means that we achieve Tao mind where there is recognition of  not "otherness".

The Way is endless
Yet mindful practice brings calm and order.
With perseverance and determination
Our belief is firm
Internal external, the dynamic, and passive,
The path is harmonious,
Detaching Self mindfully
from the world  (Ching- Yuen 1997:26)


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In Hinduism, attachment to the higher source is expressed through Yoga, and chanting of holy words from Veda,and the name of Brahman: Aum. The word yoga in Sanskrit refers to "union"; union with God.

In yoga attachment to God, or the Supreme Atman happens when attachment to anything else stops completely. Sense control is very essential for the holy meeting between man and God to take place:

When the mind runs after the roving senses, it carries away the understanding, even as a wind carries away a ship on the waters (Gita: 2: 67)

Yoga, therefore, is a training for getting away from sense distraction to be available for being connected to God. It is a practice for attaining "purity of the spirit": Focusing enables man to get attached a Higher Source. "Yoga attempts to explore the inner world of consciousness and helps to integrate the conscious with the subconscious…. Our present dimensions are not the ultimate limits of our being." (S. Radhakrishnan: The Bhagavadgita, p. 193).

There taking his place on the seat, making his mind one-pointed and controlling his thought and sense, let him practice yoga for the purification of the soul (Gita: 6: 12)

"…the chief condition is a disciplined disinterestedness. We must develop the power to see things as a free undistorted intelligence would see them. For this we must get ourselves out of the way" (S. Radhakrishnan: The Bhagavadgita, p. 195).

The Attachment to the source of all life liberates man from his own limitations and as such makes him really free. The process of achieving this spiritual goal is described as follow:

Shutting out all external objects, fixing the vision between the eyebrows, making even the inward and the outward breaths moving within the nostrils, the sage who has controlled the senses, mind and understanding, who is intent on liberation, who has cast away desire, fear and anger, he is ever freed (Gita: 5: 27, 28)

Attachment also takes place by chanting the name of the Absolute: Aum. The invocation of the name repeatedly helps persons to feel His presence. It helps in controlling all the "roving senses", and feeling one with the Divine Presence.


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Buddhism guides man to be attached to the One Truth through meditation. Focusing keeps the mind right and tranquil and helps it realize its pure essence. Once it is purified from the passions of worldly life, it is prepared for being enlightened. Enlightenment, as far as meditation is concerned, is realized through the ability to remove the interference of senses and thoughts. That would allow the process of awakening to take place, so that one becomes attached to Truth only. Recitation of the name of Buddha helps the process of focusing. The goal of meditation is to "be born in all purity of the white lotus" (TB: p. 218).

Samadhi is a "state of deep meditative absorption, single pointed concentration on the actual nature of things, free from discursive thought and dualistic conception". Continuity and discipline in meditation and concentration is needed for purifying the spirit from the negative actions done out of ignorance. Meditation leads to spiritual growth and is supposed to supply man with "unlimited compassion, skill and wisdom".


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In the Holy Bible, attachment to the Supreme Power was taught to man so early with Prophetic Revelation. Man learnt to "call upon the name of the lord (Ge: 4: 26), and to fall on his face seeking the Holy Presence. Then regular prayer in which both Moses and Jesus taught their people to address God by holy took place. Reciting them invokes the divine within

In the Old Testament, Abraham "called upon the name of the Lord" (Ge: 12: 8) That was, and remains one way to remind oneself with the presence and manifestation of the Supreme Power. Moses guided his people to be attached to their Lord to keep the purity of the heart. Moses tells them sincerity and devotion should advance their search for God's support.

"if ..thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." (De: 4: 29)

Moses guides them to express their seeking the LORD by remembering His words in the morning and night, telling them to their children. Moses' teaching became the wording of the Jews' prayer.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.(De: 6: 4-9)


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In New Testament Jesus reminds his disciples that they need the support of the Supreme Power all the time,

"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Lu:18:1).

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (M,t:7:7)

The holy words in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples expresses man's aspiration for being connected with the Father, the Higher Source, and the Supreme Power. The prayer is:

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
(M't:6:9-13)

Remembering God and calling his name is the way for getting strong enough through spiritual nourishment. That is the way to be saved from the temptation of evil. That is the meaning of being "purified"


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In Islam, attachment to the higher source may be achieved to through regular prayers. Prayers are means of purification and spiritual growth. Prophet Muhammad gives an image of the five regular prayers as a pure river in which man washes (his spirit) five times every day sending away any taints of defilement.

Regular prayers denote rich meanings and deserve continuous retrospection.

Prayers are done according to a certain order. When they start a round rakah in the prayer, people must read the opening Surah of the Koran. This Surah includes wordings of Allah that are meant for man to say when he wants to address Him. It starts with praising God, and emphasizing that He is the one that we worship and ask for support. It ends by a request that God may guide our steps to the righteous path. Reading this Surah means that we really address God by His words. In such a moment, focusing on the meaning of each word and phrase, believing they are God’s words, then we allow the divine part within to overwhelm our whole existence. This Surah is usually followed by another small one, or some verses. Reciting holy words invokes the divine within man and connects it with its Origin.

Each time prayer includes a number of rounds raka’at (2, 3, 4).

One starts each round raka’a standing straight, focusing his attention to pray. Straightness denotes among other things, seriousness, readiness, and respect. This position indicates that man is making himself ready to address God and to receive His enlightenment. Then he bows with his upper half where the mind and heart form one horizontal line. While it might be obvious that man honors Allah through this bow, it also means that mind and heart together are ready to receive God's illumination. Then he stands straight again preparing himself to the coming stage: sugood prostration in adoration, which is complete surrender to Allah. That is the way he ends a round to start a new one. In the middle of the prayer as well as in the end, man sits on the floor in a certain posture, called el-taheyyat where he addresses the prophet. By so doing, the spiritual presence of the Prophet is confirmed. He ends the prayers by turning right and then left saying: assalam alaykum wa rahmatu'llah wa barkatuh Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah upon you.

People in Islam have one direction all over the world when they pray. It is the Center that they focus upon. This center is called Ka’aba as baytullah the Holy Home. They also name it Kebla direction. Turning the face to the direction of the Holy Home connote that God's message will remain on earth and should be sought herein.

Daily practices of prayers are distributed around the day and with the movement of the Earth around the Sun. The Sun as the Center, around which the earth revolves, symbolizes Truth as the central goal of man, around which his life revolves. Observing times (dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, night) reminds man all the day long of his relation to Allah.

We can also speculate upon each time of prayer. The dawn time points to the rise of Light pushing away the darkness. Prayers would support man to overcome darkness that is enveloping his life. The noontime symbolizes the state in which the power of Light is all prevailing. The afternoon is a stage in which the Light is about to decline. With the sunset man starts a stage of darkness. Night prayer points to a stage where man is encircled with all darkness with no ray of light, yet he keeps on seeking the Supreme Power. Praying in all times would help man focus of his ultimate goal of life. That is to be attached to Allah. With the rotation of the Light and darkness, he purifies his sour and empowers his will.

Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. (HQ: 29: 45)


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Conclusion:

Out of the belief in the Supreme Power, all Revelations advise man to enlighten his inner self  by attaching one self to the Supreme Power,  and they provide ways for this attachment. For ancient Egyptians, prayers for the dead are the most known, it points to the belief in the ability to ask the Supreme Power for mercy for the deceased. In the revelations of the Far East, prayers are meant to provide man's inner voice with a chance to recognize its originator.
Regardless of its different expressions, meditation is an established way for enabling the spirit to emerge and for the insight to perceive reality. Yoga practices target the Union with God; in Taoism, prayer aims at embracing Tao. In Buddhism, prayers enlighten the mind and the heart.   In Judaism and Christianity, there are certain wording by which man addresses God, yet man can also choose and create his own words to ask God for His support.
In Islam, prayers include all the concepts that exist in other religions.  There is the prayer for the dead, which has certain rules. Focusing on the heart to open the channel with the higher source through divine words, is the main goal of the assigned prayers. Islam arranges the times of prayers so that man would awaken his spiritual awareness all through the day. Man also expresses his relationship with Allah through certain movements.