The Truth about Truth

When I was a child reading religious materials, I glossed over the word Truth. It seemed to lack the drama that would captivate the attention of a young mind. In my youth though, I began recognising its contribution to my peace of mind and I became dedicated to upholding truth in my personal capacity. But it is only now in my 30’s, that I am beginning to grasp the enormous weight the truth (or lack thereof) has on our lives, and quite possibly, every single aspect of it.

My understanding of truth is that which is unchanging, eternal, and for the context of our physical reality, fixed for a given time and space. Truth is, it’s as simple as that. But today we have several “truths”: the perceived truth, the widely accepted truth, the politically correct truth, the economically viable truth, the convenient truth…

Scientists driven by a passion to uncover the truths of the world are often directed to study only what big money-driven companies request them to. Even the health industry whose aim should be to promote health… instead has their focus skewed and “facts” blurred by the magnetic pull of where the money is; creating “truths” or at least confusion out of poorly devised studies which aim to conclude only what their sponsors wish to see – impacting our health system, our food system, and resultingly our life spans. As a result, even those studies that expose truths are ignored, because the “accepted truth” is already too deeply rooted in society.

Wars started under the guise of bringing stability and upholding human dignity have succeeded only in degrading these very things.

Prejudices of all kinds, race, religion, gender, are often based on ill-founded misconceptions and twisted truths.

Much of politics has been pushed and pulled by “moving truths” that are spewed out without logic, fact or data, to suit what are sometimes narrow objectives, influencing millions of people none-the-less. The word honourable, used to address members of parliament, had become a meaningless rule instead of a reflection of an individual’s character.

But, despite the destruction caused by lack of truth, we are encouraged not to speak the truth, not to upset the proverbial applecart, not to inflame the influential, not to break the ill-founded norms. “Leave it be.”, they say.

The truth is our world pivots on what we perceive to be the truth. When that truth is skewed, the damage is real. But as COVID-19 breaks on our shores, I see a shift. I see many loud, threatening, prejudiced voices being forced into their homes, their messages becoming outdated and irrelevant. I see well-meaning politicians working hard, with openness and frankness. I see road-blocks for good work being removed. I see humanity coming “together” in thought, word, and deed; I see us acknowledging injustices and searching for ways to share compassion and love. I hope that force and violence will be retracting in areas of war with the personal safety of all aggressors coming under attack by an invisible enemy. I see social media platforms and government being more energetic about damping untruths. And I foresee that scientific integrity will start to find its rightful place because it is not in anyone’s best interests to ignore human health at this time. Is this the dawn of a new age of truth? I suppose it is for each of us to decide before every word we speak or write and every action we take. And as we decide, let us keep in mind that the consequences of untruth are far-reaching, so let us promote a culture of truth because our very existence may depend upon it. And, when we consider our spiritual journeys, which the seers of old describe as being the realisation of truth, it may be true that truth is the reason for our existence itself.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Attaining Stillness, Peace and Joy in times of the Covid-19 Crisis and Beyond.

Attaining stillness, peace and joy in times of the covid-19 crisis and beyond.

True stillness is a mental state and not a physical one. We could be physically isolated, only to have our thoughts jumping from place to place, person to person, and memory to memory. Yet there are those who have developed the ability to be fixed on God or the inner Self, remaining peaceful and still despite being surrounded by people and yoked by work and responsibilities.

I write this at a time when the world is in the clutches of the Covid-19 virus and we face anxiety and fear from all spheres of life. How do we maintain stillness and peace of mind in these turbulent times? The mind has to be trained to focus on the inward Self, much like muscles that require exercise. Physical solitude and isolation (when used correctly), can help us to make a start in practicing stillness when those mental muscles are still weak. Many saints and sages have turned to solitude, at least for parts of their lives, to strengthen themselves spiritually. The imposed physical solitude that most of the world now finds itself in, is an opportunity for many to tap into the peace that true solitude can offer. One’s mind is like a torch that darts from object to object. If we remove the number of “objects” that we are surrounded by, it can be easier to focus on God and our inner realities. Physical isolation can help by removing distractions, and by giving us the time to evaluate ourselves, iron out our faults, catch our wandering or negative minds and plant it back where it should be.

But despite the advantages of solitude, the changes, threats and fears that plague us at this time can easily overwhelm us and leave us lost and unsettled. How do we master our minds and use this time to find stillness when the world seems to be walking on shaky ground? In this time of physical isolation, replacing our usual worldly distractions with new worldly distractions, such as a continuous stream of Covid-19 news, may rob us of the mental benefit that physical isolation can afford us. It is important to use discretion in choosing our mental and emotional inputs, at least for those times when that choice is ours.

If you are finding it difficult to be joyous or still at this time, read on to find out if the following tips could be useful to you.

  1. How can we be calm in a time of heightened fear? In my experience, the single most helpful tool to beat fear, under any circumstance, is through surrender to God (in whatever form is dear to you). Surrendering to God is only truly accomplished once we hand over the results to God for Him to decide what is best for us. In a situation such as this one, where we cannot guarantee our safety by any reasonable means, we have to trust in the strength and wisdom of God. This may be difficult to do, but once accomplished, allows God to work and allows us to be free of worry, knowing that He knows what is best for all of us, always. This does not mean that we are not responsible for our actions or efforts, but after choosing to act wisely, handing over the results should free up mental space so that we can re-focus and get to our place of peace.
  2. In my efforts to write a book whilst managing a young family, I experienced the negative effects of trying to be constantly productive. Being in a mental-space that is always hurried can be detrimental to health and spirituality. There is great value in being productive and contributing positively to the world, but we can add even greater value when we are connected to the inner Self. To be able to do this, we should be able to slow down and switch off at the appropriate times to make mental space for meditation and prayer. It is therefore important to spend some time acknowledging that spiritual exercises deserve our attention and time.
  3. Take care of your body. If your body is ailing or even just dulled, then your mind will struggle to achieve the clarity that a vibrantly healthy body produces. See my guidelines for a healthy diet here. All parts of our being are connected in some way, and we should care for each aspect of our selves for the whole to be well.
  4. Constantly remind yourself that you are not this body or this mind; that your true Self is Spirit and that this Spirit is part of God who is all. It was Sri Aurobindo that said, “Learn to live within, to act always from within, from a constant communion with [God]. You must persist and establish the habit of living in your inner being, which is your true being, and of looking at everything from there.”
  5. Your mind usually follows your heart. First, fill your heart with God and with the desire to commune with God so that your mind easily revels in thoughts of Him.
  6. Practicing manthra chanting is an effective tool to train the mind to be still. A manthra is a word, phrase, or more that is recited repetitively. It usually focuses on God, an aspect of God or something positive. The name of God (whichever name is dear to you), is said to be the most powerful manthra in this current age, having potent purifying and transformative powers. It is a tool used by all major religions in some form or another.
  7. Surround yourself with positive influences, positive media, devotional music, and positive literature; all these things can lift your energies and assist you with keeping joyful and silent.
  8. Be pure. Choose to speak (and write) kindly and truthfully, do not engage (directly or indirectly) in actions that will cause harm to other beings. Purity will set you up for a peaceful mind.
  9. In this era of human history, even in isolation, we have access to many platforms to interact with the public and friends such as on social media. It is important to support others and to show love in this trying time. However, to guard your peace whilst sending out your messages and positive and truthful contributions, especially on public platforms, make sure not to desire the approval of others. Love unconditionally, regardless of the opinions of others, these things are only superficial and we are all ultimately connected as one. Desiring to “own” others by means of their approval prevents your love from flowing freely and distracts you from your true purpose.
  10. Meditate (or pray meditatively). Only through meditation can we discover the vast world that is beyond our senses; only through meditation can we discover our true Selves, and only through meditation can we connect to the Source of true and limitless joy and peace. Worldly joys are shallow and fleeting; joy from our source is far more wonderful than we can imagine. Only through experience can we know this joy and we can experience only by going inward. There are many techniques that can be used for meditation. Effective meditation techniques that I practice include Jyothi (light) meditation and Phyllis Crystal’s, Cutting Ties methods. However, meditation should not be a once a day exercise but a constant habit of stilling oneself and connecting with God even whilst we are going through our day.
  11. Detachment is a necessary tool to bring us peace. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the impermanence of the physical world, including objects and people. This will help us not to become attached to the attractions and distractions in our lives and will help us to operate from a more logical standing. All our relationships and all our belongings will eventually not belong to us (and truly, never do). That being said, we must also remind ourselves that the only thing that is permanent is the Spirit (God), which is also what unites us with all things.
  12. Forgiveness is necessary for sound health and peace of mind. Go through the exercise of forgiving everyone who you have had unpleasantness with, and feel yourself grow stronger. Forgiveness allows channels of love to open up and allows your positive energies to flow more freely. It is far more important to forgive than to hold anyone to account for their wrong actions.

I wish each of you all the best with finding inner peace at this time and beyond it. Remember that your happiness adds to the happiness of the whole.

I leave you with an extract from the preface of a book titled Solitude, by the Central Chinmaya Mission Trust in Mumbai. (The author of the preface simply signs off as V.B. Please contact me if anyone can provide me with the full name of the author so that I can give him/her due credit. )

” Living in solitude is living with a fresh open mind that rejects memories of the past and anxieties of the future. In solitude, the external supports are abandoned and we are alone, facing ourselves. No distractions entwine the mind or sedate it’s natural urge to understand the purpose of existence. If understanding seems immanent, we thrive on our solitude, and are unwilling to allow any other thought to invade and deter our quest for experiencing the fullness of our being. ” V.B

By Natasha Subbiah

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Similarities between Christianity and Hinduism

I make-up one half of an interfaith marriage – with two religions, Christianity and Hinduism, both being practised in our home. I, therefore, have had the good fortune of drawing from Christianity and Hinduism simultaneously and have thus been able to compare the teachings of both religions in parallel. I have witnessed in awe, the splendour of God’s love and power many times, through the beautiful narratives of both religions. I am aware that on a superficial level, Christianity and Hinduism may appear to be polarised, but the more I learn about each religion the more I appreciate that they have many philosophical similarities. From the privileged position of being exposed to both religions, here are some of the reasons I find these two beautiful religions to be comparable.

 

– 1- Value Based

Indeed the most imperative similarity is the emphasis both religions place on morality and good character displayed in virtuous thoughts, words and actions. The scriptures of both religions abound with lessons on how to live a life free from sins such as envy, dishonesty, violence, egoism, sloth and lust; it provides us with ways to practise positive values, all springing from the core value of love. Indeed the topic of love is touched on prominently in both religions, with both love for God and love for our fellow human featuring almost continuously through the scriptures.

 

– 2- Both Religions are Monotheistic (Believe in the Existence of One God)

It is widely accepted that Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which means that Christians believe in one God. But did you know that Hinduism is also monotheistic? This may not seem like the case from a cursory glance at Hindu religious practices but study of the Hindu scriptures would reveal that Hindus practice belief in one ultimate Godhead who is ultimately nameless, formless and genderless. The numerous names and forms that one would observe a Hindu praying to are creations of the one Godhead in whom God manifests. Hindus believe that God has taken on many forms and therefore names, throughout human existence (and even well before that), but that ultimately He is one nameless and formless being; much like the one God who manifests as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the Christian Religion.

 

– 3- Belief in Consequences of One’s Actions and the Ability to Redeem Oneself Through Faith in God

“As you sow, so shall you reap.” may well be the most famous idiom that has its roots in the bible. Other examples from the Bible that refer to consequences of one’s actions are as follows:

Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of  righteousness.

Galatians 6:7  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

The law of Karma described in Hinduism also describes how actions (including words and thoughts) would evoke either negative or positive consequences depending on the action and the intention behind the action.

However, both religions offer opportunities for redemption or absolution of sin through faith in God. This should not be considered to be a deviation from the rules governing consequences. However, faith in God is in itself an action (in the form of thought) that has tremendously powerful positive consequences which can absolve sin when deemed appropriate by God.

 

-4- Belief in the Power of Faith to Achieve the Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of Hinduism is described as the complete awareness of one’s union with God, which also signals the end of the cycle of birth and death (reincarnation) for that particular soul. Hinduism maps out a few methods through which one could achieve the ultimate goal. One of them is Bhakthi Yoga which is the path of faith in God. This has been described as the most joyous way of reaching God.

Similarly, Christianity places great emphasis on achieving salvation by having faith in God through Jesus. Most Christians believe that this is the sole path to God.

Hindus are not limited in the form of God they show devotion to and are free to choose even Jesus as that form, or bypass all forms to show devotion to the formless God (although this is said to be a more difficult thing for the mind to achieve).

 

-5- Belief that God is Within Each of Us

Both Christianity and Hinduism subscribe to the belief that God (or a part of God) resides within each of us. Christianity describes the phenomenon as the Holy Spirit. The Hindus describe, arguably, the same phenomenon as the Atma. In both religions there is a spiritual link between the indwelling Holy Spirit or Atma and God. So much so that the Hindu’s often refer to God as Paramatma meaning supreme Atma, probably to elucidate the connection between God and ourselves. Both religions state that the Holy Spirit or Atma and God are in essence one.

 

-6- Belief in Spiritual Benefits Acquired by Submerging in Water

Both Hindus and Christians consider water to be holy. For Hindus, submerging in water at one of India’s holy rivers (with correct intention and regard) is believed to offer spiritual purification. Christians submerge themselves in water during a tradition that is particularly significant to Christians, known as Baptism which signifies purification of the soul and spiritual rebirth, when performed with correct intention.

 

I am certain that there are many more similarities between Christianity and Hinduism and indeed between all the major religions of the world. I hope that contemplating on these similarities would infuse people of different religions with the will to connect with more sincerity, love, sensitivity and respect so that we may exemplify Jesus’ teaching of “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mathew 19:19) and usher in an era of peace on this blessed blue and green planet.

By Natasha Subbiah

For more from me, listen to my podcast, Happiness Through Spirituality: https://happinessthroughspirituality.buzzsprout.com/

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The Message Behind the Royal Wedding

“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them”, from the moment this powerful biblical quote was spoken to open the royal wedding ceremony of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle, I was struck by an undercurrent message acknowledging us all to be equals, brothers and sisters, regardless of race or nationality, with love being the only criteria earning us honour. This invitation to look beyond humanities historical social boundaries was unsaid, but to me, it was acknowledged, in the words marking the “power of love”, perhaps, the power of love to unite people across all social barriers. When mixed-race becomes the stuff of royal fairytales, this marriage may provide a spring of courage and a spark of renewal for interracial or multi-cultural couples across the world. This sentiment of love being the foremost consideration, was echoed by all the speakers of the historic wedding.

“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”

Rev. Michael Curry

Besides Britain’s elite giving a royal nod to a beautiful mixed race couple, it was touching to see the throngs of British citizens celebrating the event with as much fervour and zeal as they would have any historically typical royal wedding.

All weddings leave a tear in my eye and love in my heart, but this union left me with hope, hope for the entire world, hope that the power of love is set to break cultural barriers that society has long placed upon us, hope that love will triumph and humanity will hold hands in trust someday soon.

By Natasha Subbiah

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Changing the World Through Relationships Between People of Different Races, Ethnicities, Cultures, Religions and Nationalities

I recently had the pleasure of chatting to two dear friends who are in a loving and happy relationship despite the fact that they are from two different cultural backgrounds albeit within the same religion. This fortunate encounter reminded me that it is not just inter-religious relationships that cross boundaries, test limits and set new standards for this world, but that there are all types of people building bridges of love across all our social boundaries all around the world. It was also a reminder to me of how these kinds of relationships can teach people that associate with these pioneering couples, be it friends, family or colleagues, how love can and does transcend social and cultural groupings and that destroying these “mind-made” boundaries can and does bring more love and joy into our lives.

There may be trepidation over differences and stress over social acceptance; but it is clear to recognise the opportunity these relationships present to the couple and to those who are in contact with the couple, to learn how to love more openly, to practice reducing your ego, to experience and enjoy the diversity that God has created in this glorious planet and hopefully, to discover that different is not that different at all.

If you have found yourself in a committed relationship with somebody who is not from the same country, culture, language, race, religion or ethnicity as you, and you are worried about upsetting the “normal” in your family or friend circle, remind yourself of the opportunity you are presenting to the people you love, for spiritual growth through learning to love more expansively. Think further to the children that the two of you may produce that will not learn these boundaries from the start and will get to experience love without the fear society impresses on us. Understand the value of your position as an example to others of how the world should operate, that is, loving all without the obsession over differences in nationality, race, culture, religion or differences in sexual orientation.

Let us value each other for the souls within each of us and let us live with the hope that others will have the courage to do the same through our loving example.

By Natasha Subbiah

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How to Flavour your Baby’s Food Without Adding Salt and Sugar

We all know that added sugar and salt is not recommended for consumption by babies because their immature systems cannot cope with it. Fortunately nature has provided us with many ways to flavour our babies food while adding an extra dose of nutrition. Here are some ingredients I used to flavour my babes food when salt and sugar were a no go and even afterwards when I realised that limiting sugar is in his best interest. Also look out for harmful food additives such as Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is commonly added to spice and soup mixes.

 

SAVOURY

For stews curries and stir fries, you can throw the following ingredients into the oil before the main ingredients to add some mild flavour. It really does make a difference. Try cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, cardamom, bay leaves and curry leaves. These spices release flavour into your oil and give you a fragrant and tasty dish. The spices are big enough to see and remove before serving to your baby.

Smaller spices such as coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds can be dry roasted in a pan till fragrant and then ground to a fine powder and then added to the dish. A combination of these seeds and spices are what constitute Garam Marsala often used in Indian cuisine. Try making your own Garam Marsala at home.

Onions are an obvious addition to impart flavour to a range of savoury dishes. Add it to your oil to soften and cook till translucent or brown. The longer you cook the onions at low temperature, the more flavour they impart.

Dried and or fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley, coriander, mint, rosemary and thyme can make food more exciting for your baby.

Also try ground spices such as turmeric and paprika. Use very little turmeric since it has a strong flavour.

Coconut oil or coconut milk can add a lovely tropical note to your dish.

Adding flavourful vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin and celery can also take the bland out of your dish.

 

SWEET

This is indeed a tricky one but cooking without sugar can certainly be done. If you keep at limiting sugar you can save your sweetie’s smile and help temper his tantrums.

Try using naturally sweet ingredients to sweeten your baked goods instead of sugar. Try bananas, sweet potatoes, blended dated or raisons and other fruit. Berries not only add sweetness but also a depth and dynamism to the flavour of the dish. The absorption of sugar that comes in fruit form is slower since it comes with fibre and you add nutritional value to the dish. Remember that dried fruit packs a heavy punch when it comes to sugar, since we usually end up serving up bigger portions of dried fruit than we would if it were the fresh version. For example: don’t serve more raisons than you would grapes.

Adding spices such as cinnamon (sticks or powder) and cardamom to cooked sweet dishes also lifts flavour.

Don’t assume that your baby will not eat the unsweetened version of something just because you wouldn’t. After I realised the destructive power of sugar, I weaned my son of sugar and he now gobbles up unsweetened yoghurt with sliced almonds or fruit. Once you restrict sugar in you or your child’s diet, all foods taste sweeter than they did before. You will even relish the sweetness in your unsweetened peanut, cashew or almond nut butters.

Babies cannot eat honey under a year old because of the danger of Botulism, so don’t introduce honey too early and when you do, like with all sweet things, moderate its use.

Do not use artificial sweeteners in your baby’s food. Evidence suggests that they may be very dangerous to our health and that of your child. Better safe!

 

There are a number of flavour combinations you can create to keep your little one interested without harming his/her health with harmful salt sugar or food additives. I hope that this article inspires you to think outside of the biscuit box and come up with your own ideas from your heritage and your lifetime of food experiences. Why not try onion, sweet potato and thyme as the base flavour for your next stew and let me know if it is a hit. Share your ideas in the comments section below.

The Truth About the Meat Industry

What are the consequences of our preoccupation with choosing meat over vegetable proteins?

 

Impact on Food Security

Farm animals are forcefully bred often using crude and cruel methods of artificial insemination, to create a much larger population than would normally occur in nature. These animals have to then be fed both food and water for the duration of their lives before they themselves are turned into food. Therefore, in the meat industry, larger amounts of food are used to make smaller amounts of food. As a result, a meat meal takes a lot more resources to produce than a vegetarian meal. This ineffectual process of food production is robbing the world of food instead of supplying it with food. If more people chose vegetarian or vegan food sources and fewer animals were bred for the meat industry, then more food will be available for our starving masses and many a humanitarian crisis could be averted. Instead, according to Farm Sanctuary SA, over 50% of the world’s grain and 71% of the world’s fresh water is fed to animals in the meat industry.

 

Impact on Environment

Meat production uses more water than crop production alone since the animals (which are bred into existence for the meat industry) have to be fed water and, more significantly, the crops that are used to feed them have to be grown using water. Furthermore, faecal matter from livestock production is polluting our remaining water resources.

According to the United Nations report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, “In all, livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land and 30% of the land surface of the planet.” It is therefore a key factor in deforestation, soil degradation and loss of biodiverse habitats. At a time when climate change looms as one of humanities’ biggest threats, the report also states that the livestock sector is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a higher share than for which transport is responsible, as well as 64% of anthropogenic (as a result of the influence of human beings) ammonia emissions which contributes significantly to acid rain and the acidification of ecosystems. The well sited report goes on to state that, “In the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55% of erosion and sediment, 37% of pesticide use, 50% of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of Nitrogen and Phosphorous into fresh water resources.”

This extensive report does not cover the impact overfishing has on our underwater eco-systems or the impact of fish farming on chemical and antibiotic pollution. Fishing methods are not selective and as a result predators such as sharks and dolphins are also not immune to the fishing nets. The oceans are not able to multiply its biomass as quickly as we are fishing it, this has a knock on effect on reefs and other ecosystems.

 

Impact on Health

An article produced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine references several studies proving the health benefits of a vegetarian diet. It states that vegetarians are 40% less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters. In particular, colon cancer risk can be increased by roughly 300% with the regular consumption of meat products.

Other studies show that low fat, high fibre vegetarian or vegan diets also help prevent heart disease and can even reverse atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) when combined with other interventions. However, heart diets including lean meats, dairy and chicken are much less effective, usually only slowing down the process of atherosclerosis.

Vegetarian diets can also lower blood pressure (within just two weeks of changing diet), prevent and sometimes even reverse diabetes, prevent gallstones, kidney stones and osteoporosis, as well as reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

Breastfeeding mothers who are vegetarian have been found to have fewer environmental pollutants in their breast milk. The Physicians Committee which combines the expertise of more than 12000 physicians, go so far as to say that, ” A vegetarian menu is life extending.”

Perhaps the most scary part of the meat industry is it’s reliance on antibiotics (used because of the poor conditions animals are kept in), which is arguably causing the spread of antibiotic resistant strains of viruses and bacteria. It is said that 80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are used by the meat industry. As a parent who’s children had to rely on antibiotics in the past, this strikes fear in my heart.

 

Animal Cruelty

Most farmed animals endure severe forms of suffering including tail docking, castration, debeaking and teeth clipping (all without anaesthetic). These sensitive animals are often kept in extremely overcrowded, poorly ventilated, filthy sheds with no room to even spread their wings. They are then slaughtered at just a fraction of their natural life span or, as in the case of many egg laying hens, they die of sheer exhaustion after being genetically and nutritionally manipulated to lay more eggs than any hen would under natural circumstances. These voiceless creatures, who many believe God entrusted to us, receive little or no compassion as they are forced to endure more than any of us would, for the sake of our cultural norms or individual desires.

All things considered, one cannot help but conclude that the welfare of farmed animals are more closely linked to our own welfare than we would care to admit.

What about the Kids?

The doubt most commonly expressed when on the topic of interfaith or inter-cultural marriages is, “What about the kids?”.

I was dating my husband for 6 years before we were married, and in that time we agreed on an approach towards raising our children, considering that we would be practicing different religions in the same home. We currently have 2 young children (my eldest is almost 4 years old and my other is 1 year old).

Living in a world that is plagued by hatred and intolerance which is breeding violence and discontent in all parts of the globe, predominantly between and within religious groups; we aspire to raise our children to be free of the burden of prejudice and hate. More than that, I would like my children to grow up with an appreciation and indeed, even love, for all religions, races and spiritual paths. I try to provide my children with opportunities to be able to learn and benefit from all the world’s major religions. I would like my children to see and experience the grandeur of God in all of God’s creation, including in all loving religious practices. We would like our children to have peace and love in their hearts always for all people regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. I would like our children to appreciate the diversity of this wondrous planet whilst understanding the truth of our ultimate and absolute unity.

Given all these hopes and aspirations, we have chosen to teach our children both of our religions since we are most wealthy in knowledge of these, as well as bring in integral information from other major religions as we ourselves learn of them. I as the stay at home mother play an important role in encouraging our children to practice both religions during much of the week.

All major religions agree that God is ultimately nameless and formless, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, (including Hinduism and Christianity, which are the religions we practice); so this is what my eldest is taught. He is then taught that the different names and forms attributed to God are just God appearing to man because of His love; in different ways, in different places with different cultures and in different points in History.

I believe that children raised in a home where there is more than one religion being practiced have the unique opportunity to watch and experience love, tolerance and respect between religious groups more often than most (provided that the adults in the home act with maturity, love and respect as well as a lack of competitiveness and lack of egoism).

As I expand my knowledge on the core philosophies of religions, I see that major religions agree on moral and ethical codes of conduct and so children in multi-faith households can have access to greater wealth of resources to feed their moral and spiritual development.

Children of interfaith descent may be the bridges we need to build a more cohesive and peaceful society… world peace anyone?

Thoughts for Success in an Interfaith Relationship

Most relationships come with challenges, no different is the relationship between people of different religions or different cultures. If we see these challenges as opportunities for self reflection and personal growth then we can greatly and ceaselessly benefit from an interfaith relationship. Through the years I have noted many characteristics that I can change within myself to better serve myself, my interfaith relationship and my interfaith family. I admit that it has taken a long time for me to go through this process of refinement and I must acknowledge that I do have a long way more to go. Here are some thoughts that I keep in mind when facing the added complexities of an interfaith or inter-religious marriage, based on my personal experience.

Do not be competitive, especially on the topics of religion, race or culture. There is no room for competitiveness in love. This is an extremely damaging pastime and will win you no love or respect. Value the role of your partners religion in this world and in your partners life and accord it respect and eventually even love. It may take you some time to come to this place, but after 12 years I have feelings of peace and love for my husband’s chosen form of God and it is indeed a beautiful and natural feeling once you open your heart. This in no way takes away from my love of my own religion since my religion encourages love of all.

Not being competitive includes not speaking down on your partners religion or culture especially when you are not directly asked for a view. If you do have to disagree on a certain philosophy, do so in a respectful manner whilst acknowledging if there are aspects of that philosophy that you do agree with. I admit that I am guilty of being negative about certain aspects of my partners religion. I always abandon such a topic and I always regret it.

You should rather choose to be understanding. Understand that your partner has a different history, different experiences, different affiliations, and different fears stemming from his/her different background. Acknowledge that you may have been very different had you had the same upbringing. Try to understand why things are done the way they are in your partners religion. Try and understand your partners emotions and fears and your partners families emotions and fears based on their belief system, even though at times their fears are unfounded.

Focus on common ground instead of the sometimes superficial differences between your religions. The most important thing is that you both are likely to share common values which you have each inherited from your respective, religions, cultures and families. As I learn more about my husband’s religion, which at face value seems quite different, I find more and more in common with my own religion. Do not be tempted to constantly bring up those things that are different between your religions, these are the things which usually have no tangible impact on your physical lives.

Be supportive in your partners practice of his/her religion. Remember that there are many damaging pastimes in the alluring material world and praying to God (regardless of which name or form or lack thereof, you may choose to worship) is usually not one of them. Indeed focusing on spiritual practices and charity activities can add deep and lasting joy, peace and mental fortitude to your partners life; and can help ward off mental agitations and diseases such as depression. Be sure that, in a loving relationship, you can never be truly happy if your partner is not happy and fulfilled. Never underestimate the value of peace as a prerequisite for happiness. Spiritual practices are a significant tool for acquiring peace. Allow your partner to dip in to this inexhaustible stream of joy without him/her having to contend with your hesitancy or negativity first.

Do not speak or act in anger. When angry, take some time out to try and understand your partners words or actions better and then respond from a calmer footing. In anger we often say things that we don’t fully mean and this can cause untold and often irreparable damage. If we do act or speak in a hurtful way, apologise sincerely.

Do not be egotistical. Often we prevent ourselves from loving fully, we prevent ourselves from compromising on superficial things and we prevent ourselves from choosing to live in full joy because of our pride. For example, we stalled our wedding for over a year because we couldn’t agree on how to do it. My ego was definitely in the way. Eventually I gave in on most accounts, having a very small religious ceremony of my husband’s faith and then a larger “universal” or non-faith-specific reception. It ended up being a very loving affair but we hardly think back on that one day because we are so busy enjoying our marriage and our family. The wedding was not that important after all. I am sure I would have so much less love now had I chosen my ego over my love. However, this does not mean that we must not each insist on respect.

All of life’s relationships challenge us to be better, challenge us to drop our boundaries and expand our horizons, challenge us to live fully in love in thought word and deed. Use your interfaith relationship to find your truly wonderful True Self.

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Sending universal love to my interfaith family.