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Welcome to Jeroensjourney 2!
Dear reader, Beste lezer,
 
Welcome to the weblog that follows on jeroensjourney.punt.nl. Here I will update you on my experiences in Thailand and India, and my personal inner or spiritual journey. After my healing journey described on jeroensjourney.punt.nl (with also information about Buddhism, meditation, Taoism and other healing practices), this weblog, from early 2007, relates about further healing and spiritual growth for an increasingly happy and true life.
 
With love from Asia,
 
Jeroen Deva Geetesh (jeroensjourney@gmail.com)
(I check this e-mail not very often, so let me know, on my blog, that you sent me an e-mail)
 
P.S.:
Je reactie is van harte welkom!     
Reactions are very welcome!
Religious beliefs in India
 
Dear reader,
 
 
Lees meer...
Maakt religie de wereld, en mensen, beter?
 
Dit is een interessante vraag. Al als student kwam ik in aanraking met Christenen die impliciet of expliciet beweerden dat je door je te bekeren tot Christen een beter mens wordt. Nou ben ik niet iemand die blind dingen gelooft omdat iemand me het verteld of omdat het ergens beschreven staat, dus ik ben eens gaan opletten. En de eerlijkheid gebied te zeggen dat ik voor die stelling (Christenen zijn betere mensen dan ongelovigen) nooit echt steekhoudende bewijzen in de 'echte' wereld heb kunnen vinden. Ja, ze voelen zich vaak beter, maar dat is natuurlijk iets heel anders.
 
Zojuist las ik een stukje op een andere weblog (http://perfectio.punt.nl)  met de titel: "Atheisten zijn asocialer". Dat pakte me. Ga ik hier lezen dat het geloof mensen toch tot socialere, liefdevollere, 'betere' mensen maakt?
 
Het stuk vind je op de website van perfectie, maar in kort kwam het erop neer dat onderzoek had aangetoond dat:
1. Mensen na het lezen van religieuze teksten alruistischer handelden
2. In kibboetsen (Israel) bleken de mannen, die vaker moeten bidden dan de vrouwen, altuistischer dan de vrouwen.
Het artikel (in The Economist) vermelde ook dat:
3. Bovengenoemde onderzoeken gaan over gedrag binnen de eigen groep. Of mensen buiten de eigen groep ook altruistischer handelden was niet onderzocht.
 
Mijn reactie op het stuk op Perfectio volgt hieronder:
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The trouble with language
 
Hello there,
 
 
A different writing style
 
As an experiment, Ijust wrote some blogs in Dutch and with a bit more humour than usual and received some interesting reactions. One, thank you Byanca, was: "I get a very different impression about you after reading this!". That's interesting. Of course my writing changes when I write in my mother's tongue, but also puttig some 'extra' wit and lightheartedness in it changes the whole 'feeling' of the text. And still it is the same Jeroen writing. Fascinating, isn't it?
 
 
A different language, a different mood, a different meaning
 
There is something else. I speak quite a number of (European) languages, and I notice that my way of speaking and my mood changes, when I speak another language. Also, some things are easier to express in one language than in another one. A part is habit, but I find the more objective, scientific writing on spirituality often easier in English than in Dutch. How do I translate the word 'mind' in Dutch? [de geest? het denken, mmm, I prefer 'mind']. And how can I distinguish between 'consciousness', 'awareness' and 'mindfulness' in Dutch? For me they are all dfferent but all that comes up in Dutch is 'bewustzijn', anyone an idea? maybe Drs. H?].
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What 'religious' really means - part I
  
Dear reader,
 
I asked you about your ideas about the word 'religious'. And before receiving any of your reactions I wrote my own ideas about this particular topic underneath.
Finally you get my, lengthy explanation about what I think 'religious' really means.
 
As most of you would know, I have been on a healing and/or spiritual journey for almost two years now and apart from all kinds of therapies and methods for healing, it has brought me in contact with different religions. First with Buddhism and later (again) with what many people don't consider a religion, with Taoism. And now, just starting, with Hinduism. But it has also brought me in contact again with the first religion I ever got to know about: Christianity. At the same time I have made a very very small step to learn a little bit about the religion of Islam (see here my blog about the Islam in India and Islam in general).
Lees meer...
What 'religious' really means - part II
 
 
Connecting
 
The truly religious person connects, rather than devides. No surprise if 'religion' means to reconnect.
He brings together, rather than separates. Or more precisely; he understands that the separation his ego so desparately clings to, never existed. That he is part of nature, not separate from it. That all is connected, interdependent. That there is no separation between him and the other, between him and God, between body and mind, etc., etc. All are part of the one. The one interconnected universe.
 
When confronted with someone who, or something that, challenges his ideas, opinions and beliefs, the truly religious person is curious and studies or tries out these new views and perspectives. Curiosity, not self-righteousness and judgment are his attributes.
 
 
Knowing, not knowledge
 
The truly religious person looks for wisdom through experience, not knowledge through study
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Religieus? Religious?
 
Dear reader, Beste lezer,
 
GB: I wrote about my experiences in Jodhpur and called the city a religious city. But what does that mean? Religious? I would like to have your understanding of the word 'religious', before I give you my definition.
 
NL: Ik schreef in mijn vorige blog over mijn ervaringen in Jodhpur en noemde de stad een religieuze stad. Maar wat betekent dat eigenlijk? Religieus? Ik zou graag jouw idee horen over het woord religieus voordat ik mijn eigen definitie geef.
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Where:   Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
When:    16 April 2007
 
Meeting a French Hindu in Jaipur
 
Dear reader,
 
After 3 days in Jaisalmer and 2 days in Jodhpur I had only one day left for the capital of Rajasthan the city of three milllion souls six hours from New Delhi, before heading back to work and street design in the office near that city.
 
I arrived at 5 am at the railway station. A young Indian man jumped from the platform on the footboard (treeplank) of the open door of the train while the train still had a considerable speed. He started a chat and ended up offering me a ride to my hotel for 30 rupees, which seemed reasonable to me. I was anyway happy enough I didn't have to go looking for transport at 5 am. Not that that is ever difficult in India but I awoke at least I few hours earlier than I would have liked to.
 
 
Heading into town
 
After sleeping on the roof terrace of the hotel (I could only get the room at 7 am if I didn't want to pay an extra night), a nice breakfast and my taoist morning exercises, I felt ready to explore the city.
With a cycle rickshaw I headed into town to do one of the walks in the booklet my boss in Delhi had leant me. My first impression: indeed a bigger city. And.....a lot of hassle. Cycle rickshaw riders that would't leave you alone, people that want to sell you all kinds of things and many beggars. In terms of hassle this was the worse I had experienced so far in India, but I was in a good mood and it didn't bother me to much. Staying friendly to the cycle rickshaw driver who keeps following you and asks you for the tenth time if you want a ride is a great way to practice loving-kindness. Agreed, I didn't always succeed, as the day progressed and the temperature rose over 40 degrees, it became quite tiring at some stage.
 
 
 
My second encounter with Hinduism
 
Of course I had visited quite a few Hindu temples over the last months in India, but I had only had one previous Hindu religious experience: in Delhi (click here). Now I walked into one of the big Hindu temples in Jaipur and found people standing and talking, but also kneeling and even belly-down flat on the floor.
 
Hindu temple worshippers. No-one worships like a real Hindu: belly-down on the floor
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Where:   Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
When:    14 - 15 April 2007
 
Religious Jodhpur
 
Dear reader,
 
The second place I visisted in Rajasthan after Jaisalsmer was Jodhpur. A city of about a million inhabitants which kept his rural feel. Still far west, with very few cities nearby, the city is still relatively isolated (although not as much as Jaisalmer at the very end of the railway line), and that might have helped to keep it's particular character.
 
 
The blue city
 
Of course two days is not enough to have a good picture of the city, but let me give you my impressions and share my experiences in the blue city. The sandstone coloured town of Jaiselmer is dubbed the 'golden city', Jodhpur with its blue painted houses is nicknamed the 'blue city'. Originally the blue colour was preserved for Hindu-people of a certain caste. I think the caste of the Brahmins (priests), but I am not hundred percent sure. Now everyone is allowed to paint his house in blue and it makes the old city a special place to be.
The blue city of Jodhpur
 
The fort city
 
I already wrote about the impressive fort of Meharanghar, that rises up steep above the old city of Jodphur in a previous blog, so will not spend any more time on this. But of course it is another characteristic feature of this special city.
 
 
The religious city
 
I somehow found the city of Jodhpur the most religious city I have visited so far. In Jodhpur religion seemed everywhere. I woke up at the chanting of the neigbours accross the narrow alley that my guest house (Yogi's Guest House) was on and the manager of the Guest House was busy with bells a number of times a day to do his 'puja', Hindu prayer. The owner my lovely guest house, so I was told was a Buddhist from Nepali origin, hence the photograps of Buddhist monks on the wall, alongside, let that be said, Hindu wall paintings.  
So during my last dinner just before catching the night-train to Jaipur, while chatting with my fellow Swiss travellers I was listening to Nepali or Tibetan religious music "Om mani padme hum.....", while the huge and beautifully lit fort of Meharanghar towered above us. A very special experience.
 
Everywhere in the narrow streets, but that I have seen in most Indian cities, there were small 'street, neighbourhood or private' temples such as the one in the picture below.
Small temple in one of the streets in Old Jodhpur
 
 
Religious women
 
One of the things I noticed was that women in their 20's and 30's wore a thin head scarf on or over their hair. You see that all over India and it looks beautiful, more like a nice fashion item than a religious attribute. However in Jodhpur there was something different: whenever I looked at one of these women, and yes, they are often very beautiful so that is a pleasant thing to do, they would pull the scarf over their face so that I couldn't see their face and our eyes would not cross. A more subtle way than the permanent head and face-covering veils of the muslim women here, but the principle is the same. Do then all mayor religions have this obsession with or fear for sexuality? (apart from Taoism and Tantric Buddhism...) It seems like it.
 
Another experience. I had dinner in a nice garden restaurant beside a pub/disco. After dinner I decided to have a look. After sipping my bier and reading my book and listening to the music (I was a pretty tired after a long day of walking in the heat and not into socialising), I decided to have a go at the dance floor. The whole place looked modern with western dressed youngsters and loud local and international pop music with heavy beats. But when I stepped on the dance floor, where at that moment only about 4 western women and one man, all part of the same group, where dancing, I was ticked on the back by the 2 by 1 meter security guard: "sorry no access for single men". "What is this?" I thought, but it all made perfect sense if looking at a woman's face is already considered inappropriate, then the risk that unmarried people of the opposite sex dance together should of course be ruled out. But nothing in the place had prepared me for this. Anyway, I was tired enough and had no problems heading home for a good night of sleep.
But, yes, the dogmas of religion can be a bit of a curse.
 
 
Friendly people
 
Whatever to think about the above: I found the people of Jodhpur the nicest people I had met sofar in India. Very, very friendly. Many times did men (not women indeed) greet me and ask me where I came from in a very friendly way. Kids wanted their photographs taken and my guest house owners where the nicest ones I met, who ended up giving me a discount on departure, bring me to the railway station and were always ready to help or assist with whatever I needed.
Later back in the office in Delhi I told about the friendly Jodhpurians and my colleagues told me that in Jodhpur they always address people with an additional polite form in Hindi. So that makes sense. So they are orthodox religious, but that also came with a friendliness and politeness that I found very pleasant.
No, Jodhpur was a very pleasant place to be. If you are not looking for a place to flirt with Indian girls it is definitely a place worth visiting. I really liked it.
 
All the best to you,
 
Jeroen
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Copy-paste from an author that I greatly admire for the books she wrote about Buddhism and Taoism. Apparently she also knows a lot about Islam.
 
This is must-read stuff for all who think that it is Islam that is to blame for funamentalist muslim violence, rather than the individuals who lost the plot themselves. For me it remains clear. It is not "we" against the Islam, it is the tollerant atheist Westerners, the moderate Christians, the peaceful and moderate Muslims, etc., etc. against the fundamentalists and the intollerant and xenophobes. The holocaust that put all "the jews" together as one and evil is only 60 years ago. And now many Westerners are doing the same with "the muslims". There must be another way.....
 
Take care,
 
Jeroen
 
 
Karen Armstrong 
 
The True, Peaceful Face of Islam

THERE ARE 1.2 BILLION MUSLIMS IN THE WORLD, AND ISLAM is the world's fastest-growing religion.  If the evil carnage we witnessed on Sept. 11 were typical of the faith, and Islam truly inspired and justified such violence, its growth and the increasing presence of Muslims in both Europe and the U.S. would be a terrifying prospect.  Fortunately, this is not the case.

The very word Islam, which means 'surrender," is related to the Arabic salam, or peace.  When the Prophet Muhammad brought the inspired scripture known as the Koran to the Arabs in the early 7th century A.D., a major part of his mission was devoted precisely to bringing an end to the kind of mass slaughter we witnessed in New York City and Washington.  Pre-Islamic Arabia was caught up in a vicious cycle of warfare, in which tribe-fought tribe in a pattern of vendetta and counter vendetta.  Muhammad himself survived several assassination attempts, and the early Muslim community narrowly escaped extermination by the powerful city of Mecca.  The Prophet had to fight a deadly war in order to survive, but as soon as he felt his people were probably safe, he devoted his attention to building up a peaceful coalition of tribes and achieved victory by an ingenious and inspiring campaign of nonviolence.  When he died in 632, he had almost single-handedly brought peace to war-torn Arabia. 

Because the Koran was revealed in the context of an all-out war, several passages deal with the conduct of armed struggle.  Warfare was a desperate business on the Arabian Peninsula.  A chieftain was not expected to spare survivors after a battle, and some of the Koranic injunctions seem to share this spirit.  Muslims are ordered by God to 'slay (enemies] wherever you find them!" (4: 89).  Extremists such as Osama bin Laden like to quote such verses but do so selectively.  They do not include the exhortations to peace, which in almost every case follow these more ferocious passages: "Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them' (4: 90). 

In the Koran, therefore, the only permissible war is one of self-defense.  Muslims may not begin hostilities (2:190).  Warfare is always evil, but sometimes you have to fight in order to avoid the kind of persecution that Mecca inflicted on the Muslims (2:191; 2: 217) or to preserve decent values (4: 75; 22: 40).  The Koran quotes the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, which permits people to retaliate eye for eye, tooth for tooth, but like the Gospels, the Koran suggests that it is meritorious to forgo revenge in a spirit of charity (5: 45).  Hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and must cease the minute the enemy sues for peace (2: 192-3).

Islam is not addicted to war, and jihad is not one of its 'pillars," or essential practices.  The primary meaning of the word jihad is not "holy war' but "struggle." It refers to the difficult effort that is needed to put God's will into practice at every level personal and social as well as political.  A very important and much quoted tradition has Muhammad telling his companions as they go home after a battle, "We are returning from the lesser jihad [the battle] to the greater jihad,' the far more urgent and momentous task of extirpating wrongdoing from one's own society and one's own heart. 

Islam did not impose itself by the sword.  In a statement in which the Arabic is extremely emphatic, the Koran insists, "There must be no coercion in matters of faith!" (2: 256).  Constantly Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book" who worship the same God (29:46).  In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, "O people!  We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another" (49:13)-not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.

So why the suicide bombing, the hijacking and the massacre of innocent civilians?  Far from being endorsed by the Koran, this killing violates some of its most sacred precepts.  But during the 20th century, the militant form of piety often known as fundamentalism erupted in every major religion as a rebellion against modernity. Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion.  Fighting, as they imagine, a battle for survival, fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate principles of their faith.  But in amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all our scriptures, they distort the tradition. 
It would be as grave a mistake to see Osama bin Laden as an authentic representative of Islam as to consider James Kopp, the alleged killer of an abortion provider in Buffalo, N.Y., a typical Christian or Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 worshipers in the Hebron mosque in 1994 and died in the attack, a true martyr of Israel.  The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it.

Karen Armstrong has written many books on religion, including Islam:  A Short History, published last year by Modem Library  
 
Notice: Reproduction of multiple copies of this article is strictly prohibited, and that users need to request permission directly from Time Inc.
 
Copyright © 2002 Time Inc. All rights reserved. http://www.daar-ul-ehsaan.org/peaceful~islam.htm
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The Islam in India
 
Dear readers,
 
I continue to stumble on people on punt.nl who are fighting a crusade or jihad against Islam. Although I completely understand their anger about intolerance (against other religions or western culture) of a small group of funamentalists or derailed teenagers, the hateful language that seems so present these days in my homecountry does not make me happy, to say the least.
That some people who call themselves Muslims use their religion to justify horrible deeds is not the fault of Islam or Mohammed. Nor is Jesus to blame for the crusades. So let's call a spade a spade. A criminal is a criminal. Whether he uses God, Allah, the Bible, the Koran or his bad temper as an excuse.
 
Sometimes it is good to go somewhere completely different. Here in India, countless wars have been fought between Hindus and Muslims and currently both religions are strongly represented in the country. More than 80% of the Indians are Hindu, but still 12% are Muslim, which makes the Indian muslims one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world with some 150 million people. Generally muslims and hindus live peacefully together. There are cases of Hindu fundamentalism and violence against Muslims as well as cases of Muslim fundamentalist violence, but these are exceptions.
 
The interesting difference here is that Islam, dates from much, much longer ago than the Islam of immigrants in the west. City names such as Ahmedabad and Allahabad show that, as do ancient Mosques. One of the biggest Mosques in the world is the ancient mosque of Jama Mashid, here in Delhi, which dates from 1658. I visted it on the one hour when it was only open for Muslims to pray, but I will be back.
So here in India, Indians are Muslim and others are Hindu and yet others are Christian or Buddhist, rather then immigrants or Marrocans or Turks as is the case in Holland.
So they are just fellow etnic Indians who lived here for ages that have a different religion. Like in Holland different people support different soccer clubs or like different sports or food.
 
Walking around in India, where many people show their religion with Muslim 'hats' (how you call these) and Hindu turbans, it is not such a big issue. Because the us-them devide that is created in the West between 'us' the Dutch or Westerners or Christians, and "them" the immigrant muslims is not as big. They have a different religion but share the same Indian history and languages. Do we need another 400 years before we will be able to peacefully and tollerantly live together in the West? I hope not.
 
Peace be with you,
 
Jeroen
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