The Human Cohesion Project — 24 Mar 2023
About a fortnight ago this month, on the full moon, the Hindu festival of Holi, the night of Shab-e-barat in the Islamic tradition, the Jewish Purim and the Tibetan butter lamp festival came together, while Lent was already on. And Lent continues, while Ramadan and the 9-day Hindu festival of Chaitra Navaratri began together, in yet another confluence of religious celebrations that urge us to tune inwards, strengthen our connection with spirit, even as our external world crumbles.
One of my personal practices during Ramadan, particularly after The Human Cohesion Project began, has been to chant the Shahada 108 times every day, as a way to connect within. I particularly needed that practice today to centre myself, with everything that has been happening in the personal and the political space around me. Two years ago, around the same date, Sec 21 of the National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 was amended to read “The expression “Government” referred to in any law to be made by the Legislative Assembly shall mean the Lieutenant Governor.” Essentially, the law was modified to mean that one person (in this case, with certain vested interests) constituted the entire ‘government’, while democratically elected representatives in the Assembly meant nothing. In another blow today, an opposition leader was ‘disqualified’ by a court from his position as a democratically elected lawmaker in Parliament, for allegedly defaming those in power. For a lot of us who were born in a time and place where we only ever lived in democracies, the crumbling of this system, even as it has been absolutely imperfect, shakes up something deep within. Against this backdrop, any centring practice is precious.
Lā ʾIlāha ʾIllā Allah — I bear witness that you are my guiding light, that I grow towards.
Muḥammadun Rasūl Allah — I, an individual life form with a name given by my culture (Mohammed, coconut tree, lion…), serve only you, my life force. I exist as your messenger, one that conveys your existence.
The Shahada reminds us of how each of us have access to our life force that animates us, our central sun. Even as life around us may crumble, asteroids collide, comets come and go, the sun shines and stays as the gravitational centre. It is always our freewill choice to connect and journey towards that centre. There are chants and verses in other faiths that offer a similar reminder, including the Gayatri mantra in Hinduism, Psalm 23 in the Bible and the Green Tara mantra in Buddhism. If only we study and connect with every religion through the lens of nature, instead of culture, we may have a chance at reducing the strife and polarisation we cause with them.
Ramadan Kareem. May we reconnect with our true nature.
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