All Religious Practices
are Vehicles to Purification
and Spiritual Growth

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

HOME \ All Religious Practices are Vehicles to Purification and Spiritual Growth \

 


To be a channel
for the higher power

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When man is aware of the divine part in him, he seeks to keep his awareness alive by  linking himself to a higher source. This link can be maintained by allowing himself to become a channel through which Divine Love can flow and reach others. By giving love, man will be nourished with and purified by love. Almsgiving is the practical level of this kind of spiritual flow. In almsgiving the act of giving is at the same time the act of receiving.
The Ancient Egyptians beliefs, Taoism,  Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism,Christianity, and Islam encourage compassion, love and sharing among men. They use different terms to express this essential relationship and stimulate man's awareness of the others' needs by different means. However, they all  aim at supporting man in his struggle against the egoistic tendency in order to be open to the Supreme Power's grace.


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The Ancient Egyptians: : The Ancient Egyptians' civilization is based on the denial of individuality and the emphasis on the whole. An individual was viewed as part of the whole community, humanity and nature.  The act of "sharing" and supporting others was known to provide an individual with great pleasure. Agriculture, a major activity for ancient Egyptians played a major role in bringing out those values in individuals. The nature of agriculture imposed a certain life style where every one needed help and team spirit was essential for success. The ancient Egyptians worked together spontaneously and with love and devotion. In such a society, caring for others, sympathy with the poor and the weak was part of the norms and ethics. Hathor is a symbol of natural sympathy that was greatly appreciated. Divine love was    expressed in the sympathy that should enrich man's heart. Nature, therefore is personified as a feminine principle because it provided love and care. It set an example to human beings for behaving towards each others. .


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Taoism: High moral is the main way to attain balance between yin and yang and to be in harmony with Tao. Love is a flow that spring from the heart of a balanced personality. Love does not recognize "you", and "me", it transcends the manifested diversity to the real unity. So one cannot enjoy life that is full of misery and unhappiness. It is a natural and spontaneous act to help the needy and support the poor.


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In Hinduism man is a channel for manifesting Divine love through offering gift and charity to whoever needs them. This is one way of purification. He is purified through the unconditional love where he is in a state of complete surrender to the higher and complete awareness that he is not the giver but it is God who gives. That is very clear in the Gita. Moreover, he addresses the Divine in those whom he gives. What matters is not the amount or quality of things offered. What matters is the purity of the heart that is expressing love to all. In the Gita we read:

Whosoever offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure of heart I accept. (Gita: 9: 26)`


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In Buddhism, man is guided to be a channel of love by giving True Offering. It is one that "is given with pleasure, forgetting oneself as the giver, the one who receives it and the gift itself." (TB: p. 336). True Offering purifies man from selfishness. It must be unconditioned:

…he must never abandon the disposition of charity toward all beings
(GB: 47: 10)

Teaching of Buddha clarifies that a "true offering comes from a sympathetic heart before any request is made, and a True Offering is the one that gives not occasionally but constantly. Neither is it a True Offering if after the act there are feelings of regret or of self-praise". (TB: p.334).

"True offering springs spontaneously from one's pure compassionate heart with no thought of any return, wishing to enter into a life of Enlightenment together." (TB: p. 336)

When man supports others, helps them and offers them what they need, he establishes a foundation that will grow and flourish. Man sometimes is sacrificing his whole life to save another. He does not lose real life then. He attains it.

"Offering and keeping Precepts make the foundation necessary to build a great castle on"(TB: p. 334)

True Offering is not necessarily money. It could be physical labor, compassion, or even a warm glance to others, which will give them tranquility, a smile, or warm words. It could be offering one's seat to another, or giving shelter to others.

When man is purified from greed, lust jealousy, envy and selfishness he attains truth; he becomes himself truth, and hence he experiences "a great peacefulness when everyone is happy and contented, and then one can have equal feelings toward everybody".(TB: p. 340) True offering reflects spiritual purity and helps spiritual growth.


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In the Holy Bible, when man feels the Divine Love he becomes himself a channel conveying that love to the needy. In the Old Testament Moses reminds his people of the attributes of the Supreme Power, God, their Lord "Who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. ; (De:10: 17,18)

God gives through those people who surrender to Him and His will is taking place in the world through them. In Jewish Tradition, therefore, "the Law made provision for the poor and imposed restrictions on a farmer's unbridled greed" (Oxford Dictionary of the Bible):

But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard. (Ex:23:11)

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest.

Le:19:10: And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God. (Le:19:9-10)


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In the New Testament Jesus was himself a manifestation of all Divine Love. He guided his disciples to feel how much the Father loved them. God's love spreads and felts when man opens his heart to his fellow man.

He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that has none; and this that hath meat, let him do likewise" (Lu:3:11) "But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind (Lu:14:13).

Those who follow Jesus are not attached to any material objects; they should free themselves from their egos. They would give up anything they have to the needy Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (M't:19:21)

It is compassion rather than the feeling of superiority that should overwhelm the soul of the giver.

Take heed that ye do not do your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (M't:6:1,2)


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In Islam man, spiritually speaking, does not own anything, he is given everything, even his own life as a debt from God. Almsgiving is a reminder of this fact and it is a kind of purification for every other thing he has. It is also as in the other Revelations an expression of attaching oneself to God through being a channel for His mercy and support to others who are less fortunate in their worldly life. It is remarkable that whenever prayer is mentioned, almsgiving Zakah is followed in Koran. The reason is that both prayer and almsgiving are related. When man is attached to the Higher Source he feels that what he gives is not his, it is the "right" of others. In so doing he attaches himself to the higher source. Koran describes those who has that feeling:

In whose wealth is a recognized right For the (needy) who asks and him who is deprived (HQ: 70: 24, 25) (Ali Yusuf with interference)

In Islamic teachings, almsgiving Zakah is the religious practice that gives the man the chance to be purified through doing a divine duty to the whole society. Islamic teaching puts a 1/25 percent of man's sum of money that is saved for a year to be given to the needy.  As for people whose life depends on agriculture,  they have to give tenth of their harvested crop to the poor if they depend on rain and 1/20 of the harvested crop if they irrigate their land.

It is He Who produceth gardens, with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.(HQ:6:141)

To be a channel to the higher power is not limited to giving money, every act that emerge out of love, compassion, and sympathy expose man to God's bless. "Good word is considered a gift ". "To take away a stone out of passengers way is counted as charity" (Sayings of the Prophet).
"A kind word with forgiveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury. Allah is absolute, Clement" (K 2:263).

The teaching puts a minimum contribution of man's side to his fellow brethren as a symbol for responsibility, yet almsgiving is unlimited and encouraged in the Islamic teachings.

 The parable of those who spend their substance in the way of Allah is that of a grain of corn: it groweth seven ears, and each ear hath a hundred grains. Allah giveth manifold increase to whom He pleaseth: and Allah careth for all and He knoweth all things.(HQ:2:261)

 


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Conclusion:

In all religions, people are encouraged to support each other.  In Islam, man was not left to his own choice, Zakat (almsgiving) is an  essential part in the Muslim behavior. The percentage assigned, whether, it is related to the money or the crop that is harvested are considered as  rights that should be paid to the community. However, charity is greatly encouraged. The least a person can do for the good of others is highly appreciated such as removing any dirt from the road that might hurt or endanger passenger. Prophet Muhammad encourages people to share anything, however small, together. He tells his Companions, "give anything as charity even a piece of date". In Islam there is a continuous reminder of opening oneself to be a channel for the higher source to reach the needy, on all levels physically and morally.