Harry Terhanian.com

Wisdom from the son of Armenia.

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  • kareruh chee gurtzan darahbankuh gurhel. mahrtotz vurrah eenghav

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  • dzeedzaghehlov jishtmardoutiouna patzahdreh

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  • nyoun dzageeken otzuh touyn eh kashoum yev meghoun megheer

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  • paregamuh portzankee metch eh janahchoum

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  • harssdoutiounuh teezehl eh, yeghpayroutiounuh moratzehl eh

    This proverb conveys the meaning: as one accumulates more wealth, he gradually distances himself from brotherly relationships. In other words, wealth may corrupt one’s ability to maintain brotherly relationships that entail mutual respect and equal treatment.

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  • dzouiloutiounitz sev eshin guhseh “ortnyahl der”

    This proverb is used when there is an extremely lazy person. Such a person is so lazy that they don’t even raise their head to see who is standing before them. Thus they confuse a black donkey with a priest who is usually dressed in black. The lazy man addresses the black donkey as if it is a priest saying, “bless me dear father.

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  • These questions linger in the mind and we try at times to answer them. Often we just say, “who cares anyway. Just live as happily as you can, don’t do harm if you can, and hopefully there will not be too much suffering.”

    This is called the hedonistic conclusion of life. It is ultimate self indulgence. There is a strong logic to it. If one does this then hopefully he may remain pacified and not engage in killing, maiming, raping and other sorts of beast-like behavior because the beast will be satisfied by so much sense gratification that he remains pacified.

    Alas, it is not true. Almost all wars are fought for sense gratification. Israel wants sense gratification for the Jews. Nazis wanted sense gratification for the Germans, the pure race. America wants sense gratification for the Americans. The Afghanis want sense gratification for themselves and so on. War is fought for maintaining or increasing the range of sense gratification, that is, more eating, drinking, dancing, laughing, sex, etc.

    If some intruder comes into your home and starts to choke your wife, you would defend her and fight off the intruder.You would not say, “Well he also needs to enjoy his senses so let him use and abuse my wife. Never mind he is forcing her against her will and causing her extreme distress. Never mind he has broken down the door. In fact, I’ll set the table with snacks in case he gets tired and hungry raping and killing my wife.”

    The sad truth is that we do everything in this world for our own sense gratification. And sometimes we are willing to kill and maim to defend it or increase it. After all the killing we just say, “I am justified in defending my sense gratification and now I’ll continue my eating, drinking and making merry. There is no more meaning to life than this.”

    Generally, we don’t want to harm anyone, but if someone tries to harm us, then causing harm to that person may be justified. Wars are fought to preserve the our way of life. We don’t want to replace the American way by the Nazi way or the Muslim. In truth, it is the same thing clothed differently. Whether I enjoy as a Turk or an Armenian, what is the difference. It comes down to the same thing. The priest says do it like this and the imam says do it like that. The rabbi says no, do it like this and the communist says no, like that. But they are all talking about the same thing, sense gratification. Some say you can also drink and others say no sir, our religion does not allow that.

    What is religion? It is a way to control sense gratification under religious codes in order to redirect our attention to pleasing the senses of God as the first enjoyer. God gives His mercy to His devoted servant. Such Mercy completely pleases our senses without ever causing harm to others. For example, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden never ate meat. They only ate the fruits of trees. They didn’t kill the tree and actually they did not really kill the fruit. They ate the pulp of the fruit and spit out the seed that grew another tree with many more fruits. This is nonviolent living: the paradise of pacifism. This was the arrangement of God.

    This is the key to the solution. But many people won’t accept paradise. There is a correlation between meat eating (killing animals), abortion, atheism, materialistic hedonism, gambling, dishonest philosophical speculation, hunting and other types of cruelty to animals, nature, humans and war. Yes, WAR is the result of such unnatural behavior.

    By breaking the laws of God and sinning in total ignorance of the consequences one becomes more and more implicated by the laws of karma. The laws of karma are eestablished by God to help us understand that there are consequences for our actions. There are serious consequences that we are see everyday. We are all worried about the number of dead American soldiers in Iraq. But, stop to think one minute. Every year in the USA there are more than 20,000 murders. That number dwarfs the number of dead US soldiers in Iraq after years of combat. There are twenty times more killing per year of Americans in the USA than Iraq. Why can’t we do something about this slaughter going on in our own country?

    Ignoring God and His instructions on how to live peacefully, people are killing each other everyday and everywhere because they disregard the word of God and there is no end in sight as long as atheism is rampant. Those people who kill in the name of religion are also atheists. The real believers are trained to kill, but not people. They are trained to kill people’s illicit desires to selfishly enjoy the senses. Real believers are lethal killers but not of the flesh. Rather they kill false desires and attachments. There is an Armenian oud player and singer named Roupen Altiparmakian. He has written and sung an interesting song:

    Saasoun Moush mereen eh
    Van Erzeroum mereen eh

    He sings, “Sassoun and Moush ( two towns in Eastern Turkey) are ours (meaning they belong to the Armenians)
    Van and Erzeroum are ours.”

    His song exhorts Armenians to awaken their nationalism and go fight the Turks to get back their lands.

    This is the problem; the false claim of proprietorship. The concept of proprietorship is the foundation of every type of society. In capitalism, the laws of society are made to protect individual proprietorship; in socialism, the laws protect the proprietorship of the state, in communism, the laws protect the proprietorship of the community, in monarchy, the king and nobles, in fascism, the dictator and the military industrial complex, in anarchy, no one. In every society there is a foundational concept of proprietorship. All the abovementioned concepts of proprietorship are dead wrong. Because they are wrong, no one is really happy. The truthful answer to the question of who is the real proprietor is GOD. God created and He is the proprietor. Until people understand this there will never be any peace.

    The Zionists made a plan 150 years ago to repopulate Palestine and eventually declare it their modern state. Thus, all over the world there are disputes about territory that erupt and become wars. The truth is that everything belongs to God and we should only use things in His service and share all the excess equally for the benefit of all living entities.

    Understanding the correct concept of proprietorship is the first step to solve the problem of human to human violence. The second important step is to understand our true position. We are constitutionally the eternal servant of God. If we analyze the human condition, we see that everyone is a servant of someone or something. No person lives without serving. When we serve materialistic people or causes, our service can only sustain us for a short while. If I work one week, I only get one week’s salary. That salary will sustain me for a short period, then I am left with nothing so I need to serve more. I can never stop serving. However, if I serve God, then that service can sustain me eternally. This is the difference. Through service to God I become situated in my eternal constitutional position as the eternal servant of God and my service which is inseparable from me, will sustain me forever, This is called “sanatan dharma” or the quality that is inseparable from the living entity that sustains him forever. That quality is service and when the service is directed to God it will sustain us forever. Everything has a inseparable, distinguishing quality like saltiness to salt, sweetness to sugar and heat to fire. So the human being has service. Directing that service to God is the perfection of the human being.

    We suffer due to the wrongful use of free will. We direct our attention away from God and are attracted by the illusory material energy. We identify with the illusory material energy. “I am Jew, I am American, I am Jewish American, I am Turk, I am a Latino, etc.” All these false identities are temporary material identifications that make us subject to material miseries.

    There was once a frog and a fish that became friends. The fish said to the frog, “I appreciate you so much that I want to be connected to you, bonded to you. Let’s have someone tie a rope so that we are tied together and always spend time together.” The frog said, “Ypee, I would love that.” They were tied together and spent their days always together. One day, a predator bird came looking for food. The bird saw the fish near the bank of the river in shallow water. It was an easy prey. Normally the fish would stay clear of the shallow water, but because of its friendship with the frog it exposed itself. The frog seeing the bird of prey tried to jump into the reeds on the bank of the river where he would be safe. But, the fish pulled the frog into the water where the fish sought out deeper water. Because they pulled in different directions out of fear to escape death they both remained in the shallow water and the bird easily picked up the fish and with it the frog which was connected to it by the rope. Thus, they both perished where if they were not tied together they might have both escaped.

    The false attachment exposed both the frog and the fish to a predator. The natural predator of the fish also got the frog. When we falsely identify with something material we immediately expose ourselves to the reactions of material miseries that we normally would not suffer if we maintain our position as servant of God.

    The action of material illusion on us is witnessed by our becoming engaged in the service of material goals. We thus become the servant of our own lust, anger, greed envy, mental speculation all in the name of family, country, politics, race, religion. Religion which has a goal of preserving or identifying with a nationalist agenda like a National Church or Black Muslims or Jewish Zionism, etc. is also an illusion like water in the desert because our service will be directed to serving a material goal, like preserving the race or ethnic group. That religion that teaches pure love of God that has no material motive and is uninterrupted in service to God is true religion. Anything less is cheating.

    Dumbfounded by illusion we are perplexed by hunger, thirst, severe cold, indigestion and acid reflux, colds and coughs, blistering heat in summer, rains and many other disturbing elements and overwhelmed by strong sex urges and unending anger. These are some of the miseries and perplexities we experience when overcome with the idea that my essential identity is my circumstantial body. By this false identification we are harassed by the miseries caused by our body, by other bodies, and natural catastrophies. These three fold miseries are felt in the body and mind. Sometimes self interested persons who don’t understand anything about the real cause of misery pose themselves as leaders of society and further engender untold misery.

    What I am saying is that the miseries of life do not pertain to our souls. They are artificially being suffered only because we falsely think that we are this body and the body is meant for sense enjoyment. Thus we are trapped by the entanglement of sense enjoyment that brings on unlimited miseries.

    This whole mess is caused by our maintaining that we are independent of any superior being. The truth is we are always dependent on the rules of the Supreme Lord in both our conditioned and liberated states. It is by the influence of the external energy that we are blinded to the truth. We think we are independent of God. Our natural position is to serve the desire of the supreme will. As long as we refuse to, we drag on our miserable existence in the shackles of material bondage which is sex life. We are like a man being punished on the dunking stool. In colonial America, people would be punished by being placed on a dunking stool that would lower their body into a river or lake and hold them underwater until they were gasping for air and then raise them to catch their breathe and again lower them. It was excruciating punishment. This is happening to us everyday.

    It is only when we give up all our plans born of mental concoctions for sense enjoyment that we are taken off the dunking stool of life. There is a law of nature which is insurmountable. The more we want to selfishly enjoy our senses the more must suffer. This is happening everyday, yet we refuse to believe it.

    In spiritual life there is spiritual sense enjoyment. For example, one may offer delectible vegetarian food to God. After the offering the food is distributed freely to everyone. Eating such holy food is sense enjoyment but it is on the basis of service to God. It is different than eating roasted animals who were killed against their will and which are not suitable to be offered to God. A meat offering and a devotees’ veggie offerings to God are very different. One is made in lust and the other in love. One is made for material profit and the other for love of God.

    We engage our senses and mind in extensive material work, suffering insomnia at night because our troubled intelligence breaks up our sleep with various mental speculations for more sense enjoyment. We are always frustrated in our various plans by supernatural power. As long as we remain adverse to the supremacy of God, we rotate in an unending cycle of material miseries and confusing duality.

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  • koghounee inkehreh shah mee puhduhrek

    I have direct experience of this astute Armenian proverb. When I lived in Paris, I had a neighbor names Alain. He once told me that he got a expensive Stereo system for very cheap. I jokingly said, How did you do that? Did you steel it.” He laughed and said, “No, somebody else did.”

    He purchased the sound system from a professional thief. I explained to Alan that he made a big mistake. Buying from a thief only encourages the thief to rob more people. I also told Alan that such unsavory contacts with such dark people was not good. It could expose him to potential danger. Alan laughed at me and mocked that I was too much of a goody goody guy and not a realist. I was disappointed in Alan, but I remained silent after that knowing well that some people are unwilling to learn from good advise.

    Some days later, I was awakened by a desperate loud call at night. I heard a loud screaming call, “Harry, au secour!” “Harry, help!” At first I thought it was a nightmare, but I heard it a second time. I opened my window and looked up and down the street. There was nothing. I had a frightful thought. The scream sounded like Alan’s voice. I called the police who came quickly. It turns out that the thief who sold Alan his sound system tried to enter Alan’s house and steel it back. When the thief tried to enter Alan’s house, Alan woke up and quickly locked himself in his bedroom. The thief fired a muffled shot to open the door but Alain held his ground and began to scream. The screaming ruffled the thief and he left.

    Alain was very shaken by the ordeal. Later, he swore he would never again purchase stolen goods from a thief.

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  • Direct experience of God is not a difficult goal. The first question is whether you are qualified to recognize God if you see him. There was once an antique dealer who attended an antique dealer’s fair. He stopped at one table and noticed a straw basket with old coins in it. There was a a card with $60 written on it. He asked the dealer, a lady, if she would accept a counter offer on the basket with coins. She said she was ready to hear his offer. He proposed $ 20 for the basket. She scoffed at him saying it cost her more money than that to buy the basket full of old coins. He scuffled the coins in his hand and observed them. He offered$ 35 and not one penny more. She said, “I’ll take $ 40 or nothing.” He said, “Sold.” He paid the money and went home. Sometime later there was a newspaper article with the headline, “Antique dealer finds rare coin worth $ 100,000. The question is how come the antique dealer recognized that there was one coin in the basket that was very valuable and the lady antique dealer who owned the basket could not? He obviously had the training and experience that permitted him to recognize the coin whereas the lady antique dealer could not.

    If you want to recognize God you need some training so that you don’t just walk past him. When a scientist publishes his experimental findings, he publishes in such a way as to permit other scientists in other parts of the world to duplicate his experiments so that they can verify the same results. If the results are not verifiable, then there may be grounds to refute the work as unscientific. The research scientist must explain under what conditions the experiment was performed, the ingredients, the temperature, the control groups, the observation techniques, etc., etc. If a scientist in another part of the world can duplicate the experiment and get the same results, then the original work is deemed valid scientific research. In the same way, finding God is an explicit endeavor with verifiable steps and conditions. If everything is followed correctly you are sure to see God. The beginning stage is clearing away all obstacles to seeing God. There are don’t and do’s that are required to create a favorable environment for the experience. Just as the research scientist explains the conditions, materials, ambient temperature, ingredients, etc for performing the experiment successfully, one needs to eliminate four things and accept four things in order to prepare oneself to see God. The dos and don’ts for clearing obstacles follow:
    Don’ts: no meat, fish or eggs; no intoxication including coffee and tea; no sex out of wedlock; and no gambling or mental speculation.

    Dos: Chant the names of God everyday at least two hours a day, eat only vegetarian food that is first prepared for and offered to God on a home alter, read daily holy scriptures that explain the reality of God’s presence, offer humble service to God’s servants.

    These four don’ts and dos create a favorable atmosphere for realization of God’s omnipresence.
    These are the pre-conditions for the experiment to see God. What is noteworthy is that the experiment to see God is not an academic process. It is not an ascending process like everything we normally experience. If I study such and such and pass a test I get my certificate. Seeing God is a descending process. When we develop the proper attitude and qualities, God reveals Himself to us at His own sweet will. The difference is that in the material world we first desire something and then work for it. In spiritual life we first deserve and continue to work to please God. If He is pleased then He may choose to appear before us. He is not obliged. He will, however, feel obliged if we develop genuine love and devotion. He is attracted by pure love.

    The dos and don’ts’ importance cannot be emphasized too much. There are four universal principals of spiritual life: truthfulness, austerity, cleanliness and mercifulness.
    Truthfulness is destroyed by gambling and mental speculation.

    Understanding what mental speculation is and how it differs from bona fide philosophical speculation is instructive. Everything is known by the psychological action of the mind. Mental speculation is the random or haphazard activity of the brain to understand everything and making theories with hypothetical “if” and “maybe’s.”
    Villagers in Southeast Asia noticed that baby scorpions came out of rice paddy fields at a certain time every year. They speculated that scorpions are born from rice paddy fields. They did not notice that the mother scorpion first laid her eggs in the paddy fields and the heat and fermentation in the fields was and ideal environment for hatching the scorpion eggs.

    By mental speculation we propose different theories and explanations that are not based on any facts but seem plausible to our imperfect mind. There were once two fish looking at the moon.

    First fish: Hey, what’s that up there.
    Second fish: It’s a fish.
    First fish: Why is it shiny?
    Second fish: Because it is a shiny fish.
    First fish: Oh, now I understand.
    This is an example of speculation. It is assuming something as true that has no factual basis. The speculation may seem plausible because we have no information of the real facts. It is said,
    “Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation.”

    Because our senses are imperfect it is impossible to arrive at true knowledge by a process of mental speculation. Seeing, hearing, tasting smelling, touching are all imperfect ways to acquire information. We may try to perfect them by using instruments to amplify our perception. We are still limited and imperfect even with the scientific instruments. When I observe an airplane taking off and I follow it with my eyes as it rises into the sky, at a certain point, it disappears from my vision. Can I conclude that the airplane no longer exists because I saw it disappear from my vision? My vision is imperfect. The airplane continues to exist. I just can’t see it with my imperfect eyes and limited position. Even with the best telescope I will eventually lose vision of the airplane.
    There are many things I cannot perceive, yet they exist regardless of my perception. Right now there are radio waves everywhere. Unless I have a radio I cannot perceive them. It is only when I have the proper instrument that I am able to perceive them. There are many things that are present right now but I cannot perceive them. I need to purify or perfect my senses so that I can perceive them. Most of the things I perceive are within three dimensions. Yet, there is reality in 4 or more dimensions that, for now, I cannot perceive. Should I deny their existence because I can’t see or hear them?
    If I claim I will not accept any knowledge that another person gives me either through direct contact or through books, rather, I will only accept knowledge that I perceive through direct experience myself. Then the only solution is to perfect your senses. The abovementioned dos and don’ts are a proven way to improve our senses and powers of perception.

    If we reject this process saying that it is unrealistic or that anything spiritually inspired is bogus then what option do we have? The only option will be mental speculation. There is really no other “effective” way to perfect our powers of perception than the above mentioned dos and don’ts. I say this for the following reasons: The four rules of no meat eating, no gambling, no illicit sex, and no intoxication are essential for elevating the mental powers which include the physical senses. The don’ts are necessary for the cultivation of progressive qualities which are:

    Mercifulness - which is destroyed by intoxication
    Truthfulness - which is destroyed by gambling and mental speculation
    Cleanliness - which is destroyed by illicit sex
    Austerity - which is destroyed by meat eating

    In order to experience God in a sustained and practical way I can strive for these four qualities by avoiding those habits that destroy them and performing those activities that nurture them to fruition such as chanting the names of God daily, (Ex. The Hare Krishna Mantra, or other bona fide names), reading holy scripture (Ex. Bhagavad-gita or other bona fide scripture), offering vegetarian food to God and eating only after the offering, and performing unselfish acts of devotion without any expectation of pecuniary return that are prescribed by the teacher. By following these simple guidelines one will very quickly develop the qualification and strong desire to see God face to face.
    These four qualities are the universal principles of progressive spiritual life. One must develop them to be qualified to recognize and see God.

    After reading your response to my last letter I realize that you set up straw man arguments by referring to people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robinson and others like the Fundamentalist Christians.
    Lumping me in with these people is convenient for make points that seem to undermine or refute my thoughts, but, in truth, it is inaccurate. Pointing to hypocrisy or inconsistencies in other people who claim to be religious leaders or some sort of enlightened prophets of modern adherents of Christianity is a straw man argument. You set up a person who has obvious problems, knock him down and claim this justifies negating everything I have written. I am not Falwell, Robinson, or a fundamentalist Christian. What is interesting is that these persons would attack my ideas much more vehemently than you. They would reject most of what I am saying. If you are going to set up a straw man argument, then at least choose people that would first agree with my thoughts and then show that they are hypocrites.

    When I write to you, I do so as a friend and confidante who I have a lot of affection for and remember from my youthful days. Epithets and third party associations are useful tools for trying to win an argument. If I say, “You look exactly like the man that robbed my car.” That is equal to saying you are a thief. If you make allusions to Falwell, and Robinson as if to say “all you religious guys are like these two bigots,” then there is a “fog of pre-conceived assumptions” that preclude rational thought of the points made.

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  • ov pareekuhn eh kordzoum, yerpehk chareeken ou tjpahghtoutioun chen daradzvoum nra vruhah

    One can expect to be protected by the mercy of God when they occupy their time doing good to others.One must do good without any selfish goal. The best good is to instruct by example how to serve God without any hesitation or doubt. Such faithful service without any any expectation of honor or recognition inspires others and eventually ignites their desire to also serve for the betterment of others.

    When one develops the conviction that simply by serving God and sharing the fruits of such service with others, one may achieve the goals of all other endeavors for helping humanity. One need not engage in any subsidiary activities. Simply by serving God, all other goals and achievments will be obtained. Such conviction is the foundation of faith.

    One need not separately endeavor to achieve any other goal. By God’s grace all other goals will also be achieved in due course of time.

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  • This is a saying by Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, who is referred to as Gurdjieff. He was a Greek-Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher. He coined many sayings recorded in his numerous books.
    The following are culled from his “Aphorisms” that I think have some merit.

    1. Socrates’ words, “Know thyself” remain for all those who seek true knowledge and being.
    2. RELIGION IS DOING; a man does not merely think his religion or feel it, he lives his religion as much as he is able, otherwise it is not religion but fantasy or philosophy. Whether he likes it or not he shows his attitude towards religion by his actions and he can show his attitude only by his actions. Therefore if his actions are opposed to those which are demanded by a given religion he cannot assert that he belongs to that religion.
    3. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.

    4. Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.
    5. Remember your self always and everywhere.
    6. By teaching others you will learn yourself.
    7. Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.
    8. A “sin” is something which is not necessary.
    9. In properly organized groups no faith is required; what is required is simply a little trust and even that only for a little while, for the sooner a man begins to verify all he hears the better it is for him.
    10. Patience is the mother of will.
    11. Take the “wisdom” of the East and the ‘”energy” of the West and then seek.
    12. Awakening begins when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go.
    in P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous , 1949

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  • I don’t reject others because they have a different point of view. Friendship is not forcing people to see things in one way. Rather, it is a great opportunity to enrich each other with varied points of view without demagoguery.

    There are many ways of seeing the same thing. Are some right and some wrong? That can only be tested in time and with experience. Argument can never resolve this question satisfactorily. Yet respectful discussion and thought can open windows of reflection that may lead to new understandings.

    If we use the word abstract in the sense of having only intrinsic form with little or no attempt at pictorial representation or narrative content, then a whole world of personal interpretation opens up. Such a world in which one may express a quality apart from an object and see in the abstract with our limited senses and mind may be the space of the artist’s experience. Any perception TO ME is not abstract because one is experiencing it.
    It may be an illusion, but no one can deny that illusions are not experienced. While dreaming I may experience a tiger chasing after me. I scream, “Tiger, tiger” and my body is agitated and sweating from the exertion of running away in fear. When I wake up I realize that the tiger did not exist but I still feel the and see the physical symptoms in my body of sweat, strained breathing, and the vestige of fear. I experience the tiger in my dream and during the dream it was real so much so that my body reacted to the real like stimulus.

    There is an Armenian proverb that says, “otzin dehsnoghuh bahranen guh vaghnah”, one who has seen a snake will be afraid of a rope. Mistaking a rope for a snake can cause real fear and trepidation in the mind and body of the perceiver. Is the rope a snake? No. But the misperception of it convinces a person and they begin to act in a state of fear and anxiety. Is the fear and anxiety real? Yes. Just yesterday the families of the miners received the false information that the miners were found alive. All their anxiety turned to joy. Later, they were told that only one of the miners was alive and the others were dead. They were plunged in deep despair. Was the joy real? Was the despair real? Yes.

    When I say the abstract is real or objective I want to say that from perception real things happen that are measurable. Romeo committed suicide because he thought that Jultiette was dead. She was not really dead but appeared to be so. When Cezanne places two pastel colors next to each other and another person observes them from a distance, the human eye may melt those colors together and give an impression of something else to the observer. While observing, the person may become convinced that what he is seeing is real. On a hot day, I may see slicks of water on a hot asphalt road. Are there slicks of water on the road? No. However, I see them. Can someone convince me that the slicks of water do not exist? Maybe and maybe not.

    If you say there is no God and I say there is God, who can tell which is right. There was a French philosopher named Pascal. He formulated an idea called Pascal’s Wager. He said that belief in God has a fifty fifty chance of being true. It is like tossing a coin and seeing if it is heads or tails. There is always a fifty fifty chance it will be heads or tails. Pascal then goes on to say that even though the odds are fifty fifty still if one believes in God he in in a much better position than one who does not. He claims that the nonbeliever has a good chance of being a two time loser by not believing whereas the believer at most can only be a one time loser.

    If one believes in God then he will try and adjust his behavior to the moral codes advocated by belief in God. This will lead to a good life of moral righteousness. Then if there is no God at least the person led a moral life without causing much harm to himself or others. If one doesn’t believe in God then they might not lead a moral life and at the end if God exists they will be a two time loser because they caused unnecessary harm in life and they will be punished in death. You might say what if I lead a moral life and don’t believe in God. Then your chances are fifty fifty just like the believer according to Pascal.

    A famous French scientist named Jacques Monod wrote a book called Chance and the Necessity. He proved in his book that everything happens by chance in the universe and that there is no God or superior being with superior intelligence directly the ordering of the universe. What is interesting to note is that he proves in his book that everything happens by chance. However, his book did not happen by chance. If everything happens by chance, why did he accept the nobel prize for the work he did? It is all a hoax and complete nonsense. Does your art work happen by chance. Do you put the paint, brush, and easel on a table and wait for it to become a painting by chance? It is all nonsense. When is comes to money everyone is super rationale. When it comes to God, they talk the most silly nonsense.

    Accepting an illusion as truth will invariably lead to misery. The perception of misery and pain serves as an impetus to research the truth.
    When one understands the truth, they are liberated from misery and tolerate the world of illusory concepts without allowing themselves to be victims of it again.

    There is deep meaning in the statement of Jesus: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Generally, it seems that the world belongs to the powerful or to the victor, belong the spoils. How can we make sense of Jesus’ statement?

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  • ahgh sharel

    A ceremonial process to exorcize bad spirits and bad influences.

    Our Church was across the street from the Father Divine Mission. Sometimes I would look in the window of the mission. There was a prominent picture of Father and Mrs. Divine. Father Divine was black and Mrs. Divine was white. I would look at the picture of the two and wonder about them. Why were they divine? In my naive state of mind, I was convinced that almost everyone in the world was Armenian. Some years later I was shocked to find out that there were also other Armenian Churches in Philadelphia. It was a strange thought.

    I loved going to Church. My great auntie, Morkor, and I would often take the trolley from our house to the North Philadelphia subway station at Broad street. Then we would board the subway and get off at Columbia avenue. We would walk the three blocks to Oxford street. On the way we would talk about many things. She taught me Armenian prayers, havahdov khosdohvaneem - I profess my faith in God the Almighty - written by Nerses Shnorhali . I would say these prayers before going to sleep every night. She was a very proper and decent woman who had suffered greatly during the massacres but somehow was able to keep her dignity and self composure.. She was my second mother. I never heard her say anything bad about the Turks. She never spoke about what happened to her. I only found out later and it was horrible.

    Sometimes she would do the “ahgh sharel.” This was an Armenian ritual for exorcising demons and bad spirits. She would prepare salt with prayers and holy water. She had her “Narekgahtzi” prayer book. It was a book of Armenian prayers by Krikor Narehgahtzi, the great Armenian hermit priest who lived in a cave above lake Van in eastern Turkey or ancient Armenia. He wrote prolific and powerful prayers in Armenian to be recited at appropriate times during the day and night.

    The prayers were for different times throughout the day and also some were specific for certain important days of the year like Christmas. She would draw a cross on the white salt and murmur the prayers, touch the water, sprinkle it on me and then take some of the salt and begin to move her hand in a circle over my head and say prayers. I would sit in front of her and just look at her intense concentration as she exorcised the demons from me and any bad spirits that might be lingering in my body or mind. I was never sure if I was any better after the ceremony than before. It was fun seeing her do the ritual and being so close to her. Now that I think back about it, it is overwhelming.

    She once told me that in the old country, Malatia, when she was a child, she remembers witnessing Sunday Church services during the Eucharist when the Priest holds the cup of wine and says “Ahrek gehrek, ahysseh eem mahrmeenuhs,” take, eat, this is my flesh, see how wonderful is the taste. This, of course, is the statement of Jesus during the last supper when he broke bread with his disciples and offered it to them saying this is my flesh. She told me that at that very crucial moment in the liturgy she observed that the feet of the priest were not touching the ground. He was levitating above ground as he recited these very emotional words. When she told me this I was impressed. Years later reflecting on whether such a thing is possible, I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter. She was so enthralled my the passion of the moment that she saw such a thing. In fact, the Armenian Church from ancient times decided to separate itself from the Roman Church because it did not want to further contemplate in a rational sense the reality of the nature of Christ. They said that many things are a mystery and that these mysteries are revealed during the celebration of the mass. Rationalizing how many angels can fit on a needle head or whether Christ was God become man, or man become God, or both or none was not necessary. Therefore, the Orthodox Churches put emphasis on the celebration of the liturgy and the mysterious trans-substantiation of matter to spirit that takes place where the ordinary bread and wine actually become the blood and flesh of Christ.

    The fact that my auntie saw the priest levitating was important because it reflected the state of faith and wonderment she had experienced during the liturgy. This is what the Church is talking about when they say that there is a mystery that is revealed during the liturgy. There are experiences that happen in the mind and heart of the faithful person that cannot be explained rationally but yet are just as real as the so called experiences of the empiric world. It is true? For my auntie it was absolutely true. Just like Saint Bernadette, the simple French peasant girl from Lourdes, claimed that Mother Mary appeared to her during a fifteen day period in Lourdes and talked to her. Later, the Holy Mother produced a spring of fresh water near the cave where she appeared and that spring manifested miraculous healing powers.

    Are these things true? I am not absolutely sure. Yet, I want to believe that they are because I love the supernatural. The outside the box experience that is not drug induced but comes from intense experience of other states of realities, other dimensions than the three we normally experience.

    I have had many experiences that would be classified as supernatural that have convinced me of other states of reality. From my experience, these states of consciousness are attained by intense love for God. This is the secret that is accessible to all people. What is difficult is letting oneself love so intensely. We become very vulnerable and naked by such love.

    I realize today that my Morkor gave me all the love she was capable of as well as taught me to love God. It is very humbling and sometimes as I grow older it seizes me and I feel like crying because I don’t remember reciprocating that love with her. I think about it today and realize I was not able to learn how to love intensely. Such feelings only began to arise in my heart when I met my spiritual master. It was from that point on that I realized my urgent need to feel and express such love. I learned that such expression can be shared by giving and taking food, gifts, and precious thoughts.

    If we see life as a quest for attaining intense states of love, then there are only a few moments of real life in a long lifetime. That is why those moments are so vividly remembered even though they occurred in a distant past. We can’t remember so many details of past events, but we can vividly remember tender moments of sincere expression of love as if they just happened.

    The mystery of faith cannot be unraveled by dissertations. Faith means believing something is true and exists although you cannot see it or experience it directly with the senses. I know I was one year old and sitting on the lap of my mother in 1947, but I can’t experience it nor do I remember it. Then how do I know it happened? I can only remember things that happened when I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old. I have the conviction that my mother held me on her lap when I was a baby as did my Morkor, and father, and brothers. But I can’t prove it today although I have faith and conviction it happened. I could ask my brothers and they would probably say it happened. But they might also not remember specifically but speak like myself with the conviction that it must have happened because that was normal.

    Faith in God is normal. Lack of faith is strange. Just like having a father and mother is normal. Not having a father and mother is actually impossible. Every child that is born has a father and mother. There is no history in this world of a human being born without a father and mother. One may not know who they are, but it is sure they existed. Even a test tube baby has a father and mother.

    Convincing oneself that there is no original father is not normal. It a huge stretch to arrive at such a conclusion and it usually happens due to a broken history of love. Like rivers flow to the ocean and love also flows naturally to God. If man builds a dam and hinders the natural flow it becomes a broken history of the flow. The water still finds its way to the ocean but is slowed and must bypass obstacles. I am for tearing down the dams because they just get in the way of the natural flow.

    Rivers naturally flood because that is the natural way to re-fertilize the land with precious minerals from the mountains. We are creatures of love and as our love goes from one person to another it finds its way eventually to God if we don’t artificially hinder its path.

    There was once a woman named Zuhleila, who was a favorite wife of a Pharaoh’s had many privileges because she pleased the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh’s chief minister was Joseph who was a Jewish boy that was left for dead my his jealous brothers but who survived and eventually left Palestine for Egypt and miraculously became the chief minister of the Pharaoh. Joseph was very handsome and very smart. Zuhleila fell in love with him and was so desperate in her love that she couldn’t hide it. The Pharaoh became upset and banished her from the court and she fell into complete poverty and disrepute. She ended up a miserable beggar in the street. One day Joseph was on royal parade and he saw her begging in the street. He stopped and looked down on her. She smiled at him and said, “My dear Joseph, I learned to love from my intense love for you by which I lost all worldly possessions and safety. Due to this experience a wonderful world of love has opened up for me and now I have found my true love for God. I cannot thank you enough for your kindness in opening the vast river of love that was in my heart.” Zuhleila came to wonderful states of love through her worldly love for Joseph. This is the natural flow of love that actually cannot be stopped but only temporarily hindered.

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  • Dzaruh eenchkan boudough guh dah pari, kuhloughuh ainkan khohnarh guh bahee

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  • martuhn garhahchahrgeh eeshk asstuhvadz guh gadahreh - dehruh gadahreh paghtzanknehruh uhst hohkeen ahrjaneeknehree

    Man’s destiny depends to a large extent on his desires and attachments in life. If his desires are uniquely for material acquisition for his personal sense pleasures, he remains mired in the cycle of repeated birth and death. Such material desires are never satisfied and always cause trouble in the unending struggle for existence. The greed is never satisfied. Seeking greedy pleasures by exploitation of material assets and people never leads to satisfaction although its allure seems irresistible.

    There is a story that illustrates this saying.

    The Greedy Man

    There was a very rich man. He owned many valuable properties, vast forests, palatial like estates, camel caravans, verdant fields and cattle herds. His numerous servants worked day and night. They toiled to fill his silos with precious grains and cereals.

    But the rich man was never satisfied. He always desired to increase his wealth, to triple it, to increase it ten fold. He especially liked gold. He would sit for hours and admire his chests full of gold. He was charmed by the yellowish, bright color. Continually he meditated how to amass more gold.

    One day he overheard the following discussion. Supposedly, there is one night during the year, when stars from the east and west meet during a split second. They “kiss” or embrace each other and again go their ways. If, during that exceptional moment of embrace of the stars, a person loudly calls out his most cherished and passionate desire to the stars, it will immediately be fulfilled.

    That particular night is called “hampartzman keesher,” or the night of ascension.

    On the ascension night, the rich man prepared a bowl of pure spring water and a mirror. When the day’s work was finished and all his tired workers were home sleeping, the rich man left his mansion to reach the summit of a very high hill nearby. He carried the plate of spring water and the mirror. On top of the hill, he could see the vast celestial vault of the heavens “decorated” with innumerable stars.

    The rich man was amazed by the grandeur of the sight.

    His mind flashed with the thought, “I wish all the stars would turn to gold and they all belonged to me.”

    He found a suitable place to sit. He placed the plate of water so that the moon was reflected in the plate. Then he held the mirror in such a way that
    he could see the refection of the moon in the plate of water.

    He then beheld the mirror and refrained from blinking his eyes while seeing the moon’s reflection on the plate of water.

    Suddenly, the heavens because resplendent with a celestial light. A mysterious voice of nature began to speak as if the mountains, trees, hills and forests developed the power of locution and greeted one another joyfully. Suddenly, the rich man beheld a miraculous event. From both ends of the sky (east and west), the stars with lightening speed came together and “kissed” each other affectionately.

    The rich man immediately began to address them loudly.

    “Oh heaven, fulfill my heartfelt wish. Whatever I may touch let it turn to gold, gold, gold!”

    It is said that the heavens fulfilled his desire because the rich man spoke at just the right moment.

    The rich miser full of unbounded glee hurried back home to inform his wife of his amazing fortune.

    His happiness was so overpowering that he immediately embraced his wife before he even spoke a word.

    He kissed her joyfully, but then he frightfully stepped back as bitten by a poisonous snake. His wife was turned into a golden statue as if frozen in time.

    In his extreme state of distress, he touched her soft hair which also immediately turned to gold fibers and became hard like the hairs of wild pigs.

    Seeing this sad turn of events the rich man became depressed. He sequestered himself in a room and remained alone for several days without eating or drinking.

    He could not, of course, remain like that for long. After some days, he called his servants and ordered them to bring him food and drink. They quickly brought him a feast and set his table royally.

    The rich man as if crazed by the greed of a miser grabbed a piece of bread. But as soon as he touched the bread, it turned into gold. The same thing happened to whatever else he touched. Everything, including the dishes, the food and the table turned to gold.

    The rich man could not eat a bite of food even though he was surrounded by a sumptuous feast. He soon died of starvation and thirst.

    Three apples fell from the heavens. Whoever is not a miser, can pick them up and eat. The apples turned to gold in the hands of the miser.

    Man proposes and God disposes – God fulfills man’s desires as he deserves
    The question of destiny is not difficult to understand if we accept two eternal truths: man has limited free will; and the individual soul has full eternity before birth in the present body and after death of the material body. Acceptance of these two points makes the question of destiny one of individual responsibility based on the choices we made in previous lives that determine the happiness or suffering we experience in this life.
    As seen in the story of Adam and Eve’s fall, God does not interfere with our limited exercise of free will which is to either accept or refuse the instructions of God. He impartially attributes the results of our choices according to the laws of karma (action and reaction) he has established. However, at no time is the exercise of our limited free will determined by destiny. We are free, therefore, to change our destiny at any time in the human form. Nature’s law or God’s law of karma will work unchanged. But, God, the supreme controller, can change it. For example, if a man is sentenced to be hanged, no one, not even the judge can pardon him, except the king or president. He can excuse the offender. The path of wisdom, therefore, is to act in such a way as to cull the mercy of God.
    The following quote from the Bible shows that God gives man instruction to free himself from sin and lead a good life of righteousness. “Every scripture is given by God’s inspiration and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness [that is, in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose and action]. God provides holy instruction so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well-fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (Amplified Bible)
    How to change one’s destiny
    The human experience is full of bitter sweet experiences that endear and horrify us to the point of numbness. Love and hate seem to be ubiquitous are light and shadow. Duality is the dominant interminable theme of human existence. Does there seem to be any resolution?
    I have often thought of this and have come to the realization that the dualities of love and hate, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, richness and poverty, etc. are in relation to the temporary body. Whatever is limited in time is subject to duality. Once our consciousness rises to the spiritual level, these dualities no longer affect us.
    I once met a fascinating man named Mr. Mechanician. He lived in southern France in the town of Avignon. He was tanned and spoke with a wizened voice full of joy and sadness which is typically Armenian. I remarked that his Armenian was intriguing. Could he explain its origin? He smiled. I knew that many Armenians from Turkey used last names that reflected their trade, personal characteristics, their town or origin, etc. For example, I have met Armenians named, Demirjian (son of the metal worker), Bajaksouzian (son of the attractive butt), Yemekian (son of the gourmand), Dilsizian (son of the silent one), Dolmajian (son of the dolma maker), Karagozian (son of the beautiful black-eyed one), Yardumian (son of the helper), and the list goes on. All these names are derived from Turkish words.
    Mr. Mechanician proudly said that his grand father was the personal mechanic of Sultan Hamid. His family was named Mechanician by the Sultan himself. I had no way or verifying if it was true or not, but his explanation was fascinating as he was. In fact, everything about Mr. Mechanician was damn funny and sad at the same time. He had a mischevous sparkle in his sad eyes and furrowed brown wrinkles chiseled throughout his face.
    I requested him to tell me more about his history. Whenever I meet older persons I always request them to politely tell their history. He said, “My story is very, very sad. I am not sure I can tell you without crying.” I felt wetness in my eyes after hearing his statement. I asked him again to please tell me as much as he wanted to. He looked at me and clasped my hand as a father. I had only met this man a few moments before, but I felt an incredible and strange closeness to him.
    He began his story. He said he was born in a small town in Eastern Turkey. When the massacres started his whole family and relatives were murdered except his older brother who was nine years old. He was only seven. The two boys stayed together for a short time until they parted ways. he ended up in an orphanage. He remembers that his life was very hard. He was cold and hungry often. Many times he was beaten and mistreated. When he was twelve years old he ran away and somehow managed to reach Syria where he begged the soldiers of the French Foreign Legion to accept him as a servant. Miraculously they did and gradually he was inducted into their barracks. The French treated him well giving him some education, good food, clothing and work. He became a recruit when he was sixteen and was trained as a fighter. When the Second World War began, he became a member of the French Liberation Army. He remembers the campaign to liberate Beirut. The fighting on the outskirts of Beirut was intense and often was hand to hand battle because of the scarcity of ammunition. At one point he used his rifle butt to knock down and enemy soldier and was about to bayonet him when the man screamed, “Agh Mairik.” He was shocked and quickly asked the man if he was Armenian. The man said, “Yes.” Mechanician quickly asked him where he was born. The soldier replied he was from the same small town in Turkey that Mechanician remembered as his natal place. Mechanician asked him “what is your family name?” The man replied, “Mechanician.” Mechanician said, “That is my family name also.” They looked at each other. Mechanician was on the verge of bayoneting him to death. Yet, the quick exchange made him hesitate. He felt himself overcome with frightening emotions. Instead of killing the man, Mechanician raised him and they both embraced each other and began to cry. They were indeed the long lost brothers who separated on a fateful day more than twenty years before. Mechanician looked at me with his wet eyes and said, “You see, how sad the Armenian’s story is. I found my own brother on the battlefield. I almost killed him out of ignorance.” He said this is the story of my life.
    After hearing Mechanician’s story I was stunned. I kept musing about how strange destiny works. I became interested in Indian philosophy because I wanted to somehow have more control over my own destiny.
    One way to compare religions is to understand their doctrine of destiny. If you simply compare the religious doctrines of morality, they are all the same: don’t kill, be good, don’t lie or cheat, respect your parents, love God, etc. However, the real differences are discerned when you consider the nature of the soul and how it is described in the different religions as well as the doctrine of finality of the human potential. By examination of these two points, the real differences between religions is revealed dramatically. The finality of human spiritual development involves the question of destiny. Each religion has its own twist on this point. Through my studies I discerned that the Vedic tradition has the most complete information about how to change destiny.
    Being born into an Armenian family I realized that I was locked into a certain destiny by identification with my parentage. I was faced with two choices: accept it or reject it. I didn’t want to do either. Therefore, I was in a dilemma as to what to do.
    Acceptance and rejection are normal activities of the mind based on temporary preferences. One can go through life continually accepting and rejecting without ever knowing whether the truth is understood by such ambivalence. What I have always sought is a touchstone: a miraculous substance that can transform the mundane into something eternally wonderful and full of unending marvels. I have had glimpses of such a wonder through music and dance, but it has never been sustained.
    When I have witnessed the Holy Liturgy in the Armenian Church a miracle of transformation is supposed to happen during the Eucharist. The ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the blood and flesh of Christ. I have always participated in the services with this faith. Getting communion is an act of faith during which one can actually taste the transformative power of the blood and flesh of Christ. The symbolism is very powerful because the faithful feasts on Christ and attains a state of purification and beatitude by it. One introduces the blood and flesh of Christ into one’s own body and communes with Him.
    What is important for me is the idea that common bread and wine become uncommon spiritual flesh and blood. The Armenian priest becomes a spiritual alchemist who daily transforms the mundane into the transcendent reality of Christ. By ingesting that transformed matter one is also transformed mysteriously according the Armenian Church.
    This becomes a transcendental experience that requires faith to access and experience. It is the Orthodox Christian equivalent of changing destiny. One’s faith in the transcendent experience of witnessing the Eucharist is the regular transformative experience that brings the believer in direct contact with the spiritual world.
    It is a matter of consciousness and knowledge based on faith. Is the bread and wine really transformed? One can only answer this question by examining the life of the person who takes communion. Do they act in a transformed state of consciousness? One example is Saul who became Paul after he encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus.
    Saul wanted to destroy all the Jewish coverts of Christianity. He traveled far and wide to have men and women arrested. Saul was present, and gave his approval to the gruesome stoning death of Stephen, considered to be the first Christian martyr.
    One day, while Saul was on one of his journeys of persecution, as he was nearing Damascus , he suddenly found himself surrounded by a very bright light. He fell to the ground and heard a voice from the heavens say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”
    The voice was of Jesus Christ Himself. The account is found in Acts chapter 9. The incredible conversation that followed brought Paul to the realization of his error – Christianity was not a threat to the Jews, but rather the fulfillment of all that they hold true.

    Saul, the man most Christians of the time may have considered to be somewhat of a monster, had reached his day of conversion – in no uncertain terms! He was literally knocked down on the road to Damascus and directly called by God. He thereafter became known as Paul and dedicated the rest of his life to fearlessly spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Saul was transformed by his encounter with Jesus Christ sixty years after Christ was crucified and rose to heaven.

    Saul’s experience was a supernatural event very much like the Eucharist for a person of faith. In the case of Saul, his transformation was visible and sustained until the end of his life which is proof that it was a genuine spiritual experience and not a fleeting whim.
    The story of Saul is instructive. It illustrates that destiny can indeed be changed dramatically by the mercy of God and his empowered servants. God is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows everything that is going to happen. Therefore to save the living entity from future calamity God recommends (but does not force) the living entity to surrender unto Him. This is the ultimate message of the
    “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)
    Surrender to God is the essential act a human being can do to change his destiny. God knows what is going to happen in the future, therefore, He can cancel what is going to happen by His Grace. That is His omnipotent power. This point is explicitly stated in the ancient Vedic text called the Brahma Samhita 5.54. It says that Lord Krishna (God) changes the future destiny for his devotee: “Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the original Personality of Godhead, Govinda, who regulates the sufferings and enjoyments of self-interested activity for everyone from the heavenly king Indra down to the smallest insect (indra-gopa). That very personality of Godhead destroys the fruitive karma of one engaged in devotional service.”

    God takes charge of His surrendered devotee and guides him how to return to the spiritual world. This is affirmed in the Bhagavd-gita 10.10: “To those who are constantly devoted to Me with love, I give the understanding by which they come to Me.” God gives the understanding to his devotee and destroys the ignorance that shrouds the living entity’s spiritual knowledge. “To show them special mercy, I dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.” (Bhagavad-gita 10.11) God can save His devotee from the unrelenting force of destiny due to His omnipotent power. Therefore, He recommends to Arjuna in the “O scion of Bharata, surrender unto Him utterly. By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.” (Bhagavad-gita 18.62)
    When we have a mundane understanding of God, we believe He may be like oneself subject to destiny and the forces of nature. In such a deluded state of mind we entertain the thought that destiny is all powerful and even God cannot change it. Such a view was expressed by the Shah of Iran: “I have always been a very mystical person, so I accept everything that happens as the will of God, or destiny, or whatever you want to call it.” (Mohammad Reza Shah – May 1980, interview to the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland) Such a thought expressed by the Shah implies that the inevitability of destiny is irreversible.

    Everything that happens is by the will of God. However, one’s personal destiny can be reversed. Because the Shah was not actually surrendered to the will of God, he made many mistakes that ultimately led to his overthrow as the leader of Iran. Surrender to God is not subject to material destiny. It is an act that is not under the control of destiny. Surrender or non surrender to God is not predetermined. What is pre-determined are the consequences to the acts one performed in a previous life and this life. This is the correct understanding of destiny. We are always responsible for the acts we perform. At death, the consequences of our acts are determined and attributes to us in the next birth in the material world. Man can use his free will correctly, surrender to God and free himself of his destiny or consequences of the acts he performed in a previous life.

    To believe that such consequences cannot be reversed by God implies that God is impotent. This is an atheistic point of view that the Shah of Iran expressed. However, Lord Krishna emphatically says that He can cancel destiny. “I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)

    God can save us from the destiny we have created by the misuse of our independence or wrongful exercise of our free will. There is a story in the Masnavi of Maulana Rumi about the fowler and the bird. A fowler disguised himself by wrapping himself in leaves and grass so that the birds would not be frightened by his proximity to his snares. A bird approached him and asked why he was standing there disguised. The fowler answered that he was a hermit. He dressed himself in grass and leaves for the health of his soul. The bird pointed out that the fowler’s behavior was contrary to the Prophet Mohammed’s precept, “There is no mockery in Islam, and that Islam requires association with the faithful and avoidance of a solitary life.” The fowler replied that a solitary life is allowed in heathen countries for the soul’s health.

    Turning its attention to the grains of wheat that were strewed on the fowler’s bird trap, the bird inquired if they belonged to anyone. The fowler explained they were the property of an orphan who, trusting the honesty of the fowler, entrusted them to him. The bird asked if he could have some as he was very hungry. The fowler reluctantly gave his permission. As soon as the bird touched a grain of wheat, the trap closed on him and made him a prisoner. The bird blamed his plight on the trickery of the fowler. The fowler, however, claimed the bird was responsible for his own greediness because he tried to eat the food which belonged to an orphan. Rumi makes the point that it is not destiny which leads people into afflictions, but their own errors and vices. In other words, the misuse of free will is the cause of man’s sufferings.

    This same point is made by Lord Krishna:
    “Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.
    The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.” (Bhagavad-gita 13. 21,22)

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