“I did not ask to be born,” he said. “I did not ask for my eyes. I did not ask for my face. I did not ask for my ears. I did not ask for my hands. I did not ask for my feet. I did not ask for anything that one may call a Body. I did not ask for I did not even know what even a body was. I did not ask for my Parents. I did not ask for my Family. I asked for none of these things for I had no idea of what they were. I did not ask for companionship. I did not ask for friendship. I did not ask for food to eat, for shelter nor for warmth. I asked for none of these things for I knew not what they were. I was in no lack or want of any such thing.”
“Who are you to not ask or need for such things?”
“All I know, all I remember, all I recollect, and know to be true, the one certain thing, that I am a soul. Yet I did not even ask to be a soul.”
“I did not even ask for my name. All these, given not by myself to myself. Given unknown and unbidden by the Giver of All. For what purpose, for what reason unknown to me and I shudder to ask. That I cannot ask.”
“If all such have been given and given in abundance with no memory of my calling for them, who is the Giver that gives as such? Pray tell so that I may give thanks and thanks in perpetuity. All I ask is to whom I offer this thanks. For thanks and much more is due. That is the only thing I can ask. To know where the offering of gratitude is to be placed.”
“But first I must pay attention to this Body ahead of that offering. Where is the place for wadhu (ablution)?”
Andy McDonald is a Labour Party Member of the UK Parliament for the Constituency of Middlesbrough. He is a Shadow Secretary of State for Employment Rights and formerly Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
During the Dialogue we cover topics such as the importance of Dialogue, Right to Protest as one of the cornerstones of Democracy, Toxicity of Social Media & Spirituality. He ends the Dialogue with a powerful quote from Maya Angelou.
It was during my travels in Colorado, Arizona and Utah that I was for the first time exposed to the mysteries of the Native American spirituality. I was then enabled to feel more vividly the reality of a spiritual universe which the Native American experienced all around him. For him things seen were as much mysterious as things unseen. Perception of the ordinary was mingled with visions from the beyond. Hence, he could pass from this world to the next with great ease. Death rested light like an eagle feather upon his mind, and life, all life, was a trail of a world that was ceaselessly passing into spirit.
The Native American would withdraw for days in complete loneliness, abstaining from all food and drink, waiting to receive a vision. He was not the maker of visions. He was just a recipient. All his preparation was to purify himself and to turn himself into a clean and empty cup into which a vision could be poured from above.
It appears we have lost the capacity to prepare for such an undertaking. We have even corrupted the very word, vision, at times beyond recovery.
Our visions end up in ideologies, repressive regimes, and lead up to deeper enslavement of the human spirit. We create nightmares out of our visions. Look at the fate of great ideas in religions as well as the secular life of the so-called advanced cultures. We no longer believe in the native, in the inherent and in the inalienable capacity in each one of us to aspire to a vision, strictly personal and yet of extraordinary significance for our relations with others.
We try with all the strength at our disposal to abolish from within our educational system every possibility of a visionary perspective. Our education rests on a systematic emptying of such subjective resources. We end up as slaves of an anonymous body of knowledge with which we do not have any personal relationship whatsoever. Most of us experience total exhaustion and emptiness at the end of our academic career. There remains no possibility of our intellectual discipline and all the effort that goes with it leading to a deeply felt experience of the knowledge we have tried so hard to gather.
We could have made our classroom a pathway to personal experience, our teaching an aid to expect a vision at the end of our intellectual journey. Once upon a time it was so easy, so natural. The teaching then was interwoven with a visionary preparation. We now, on the contrary, move from procedure to procedure, from methodology to methodology, from one school of thought to another. We erect insurmountable barriers between our native spontaneity as seekers of visions and our consciously acquired knowledge. We have lost the unspeakable art of forming a unity of both, wherein a rigorous intellectual discipline brings the scholar to that threshold where a vision bursts upon him with both suddenness and peace, when he as a thinker is turned in to a seer.
There are still a few teachers amidst us whose words invoke in us not only great meanings but also great vision. There comes a moment in our lives when a word becomes a vision, and a vision becomes a word, a living word.
In 1995 inter-faith pioneer Professor. Syed Hasan Askari (1932-2008) delivers his speech on “Spiritual Humanism” in Hyderabad, India, which would be the last time he visited the city from which he began his career in the 1950s. In his own words he talks about his spiritual journey in three stages: Religious Diversity, Discourse on Soul & Spiritual Humanism as an alternative approach.