Building a Global Interfaith Community Somerset County Cultural diversity Coalition

Many Faiths, One Truth

By TENZIN GYATSO, Published: May 24, 2010, New York Times

WHEN I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior. Now I see how naïve I was, and how dangerous the extremes of religious intolerance can be today.

Though intolerance may be as old as religion itself, we still see vigorous signs of its virulence. In Europe, there are intense debates about newcomers wearing veils or wanting to erect minarets and episodes of violence against Muslim immigrants. Radical atheists issue blanket condemnations of those who hold to religious beliefs. In the Middle East, the flames of war are fanned by hatred of those who adhere to a different faith.

Such tensions are likely to increase as the world becomes more interconnected and cultures, peoples and religions become ever more entwined. The pressure this creates tests more than our tolerance — it demands that we promote peaceful coexistence and understanding across boundaries.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.

An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.

A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.

I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.

Take Judaism, for instance. I first visited a synagogue in Cochin, India, in 1965, and have met with many rabbis over the years. I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears. And I’ve learned how the Talmud and the Bible repeat the theme of compassion, as in the passage in Leviticus that admonishes, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too — as expressed, for instance, in the Bhagavad Gita, which praises those who “delight in the welfare of all beings.” I’m moved by the ways this value has been expressed in the life of great beings like Mahatma Gandhi, or the lesser-known Baba Amte, who founded a leper colony not far from a Tibetan settlement in Maharashtra State in India. There he fed and sheltered lepers who were otherwise shunned. When I received my Nobel Peace Prize, I made a donation to his colony.

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I spoke at the National Cathedral in Washington, pleading that we not blindly follow the lead of some in the news media and let the violent acts of a few individuals define an entire religion.

Let me tell you about the Islam I know. Tibet has had an Islamic community for around 400 years, although my richest contacts with Islam have been in India, which has the world’s second-largest Muslim population. An imam in Ladakh once told me that a true Muslim should love and respect all of Allah’s creatures. And in my understanding, Islam enshrines compassion as a core spiritual principle, reflected in the very name of God, the “Compassionate and Merciful,” that appears at the beginning of virtually each chapter of the Koran.

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the author, most recently, of “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together.”


The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions. Founded in Iran in 1844, it now has more than five million adherents in 236 countries and territories. Baha'is come from nearly every national, ethnic and religious background, making the Baha'i Faith the second-most-widespread religion in the world.

The Bahá'í Faith arose from Islam in the 1800s based on the teachings of Baha'u'llah and is now a distinct worldwide faith. The faith's followers believe that God has sent nine great prophets to mankind through whom the Holy Spirit has revealed the "Word of God." This has given rise to the major world religions. Although these religions arose from the teachings of the prophets of one God, Bahá'í's do not believe they are all the same. The differences in the teachings of each prophet are due to the needs of the society they came to help and what mankind was ready to have revealed to it.

Bahá'í beliefs promote gender and race equality, freedom of expression and assembly, world peace and world government. They believe that a single world government led by Bahá'ís will be established at some point in the future. The faith does not attempt to preserve the past but does embrace the findings of science. Bahá'ís believe that every person has an immortal soul which can not die but is freed to travel through the spirit world after death.

More Resources on Bahá'í

Bahá'í Books - Check out the most popular books concerning Bahá'í.

Sacred Texts of Bahá'í -

Bahá'í - Article on Bahá'í at the web site of the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance.

Interfaith gathering


Hindu Dharma, or Hinduism, is the faith based tradition of over one billion Hindus, who live in the Indian sub-continent, as well have large populations in many other countries through out the world. The original name of Hindu Dharma is Sanãtana Dharma, where “Sanatan” means "universal” and "Dharma" signifies both a belief system and a sense of "moral duty" at every stage of life that harmonizes social order in accordance with the cosmic order. The universal principles of Dharma guide human conduct and the social order to sustain human life in harmony with the nature.

Unlike other religions, Hindu Dharma did not originate from a single prophet, a single book, or at a single point in time. The foundations of this oldest religion of humanity were laid many thousands of years ago in India by ancient sages, who had realized God through their spiritual pursuits, and taught their disciples the eternal principles they had discovered. These sages did not want to be proclaimed the only messengers of God, thus establishing Dharma as a set of principles rather than persons or dogmas. These principles are laid down in Sanskrit scriptures that include four Vedas, 108 Upanishads (also called Vedanta), Ramayana (life story of Sri Rama), Mahabharat (the largest epic ever written), Bhagvad Gita (the Divine Song – i.e., the words of Sri Krishna) and numerous other volumes in local Indian languages.

Hindu religious thought is based upon the belief in One Supreme (called Brahm), faith in the reality of the spirit (ãtman), and faith in the spiritual order of the universe. Through their spiritual experiences, the ancient sages discovered that there are many different ways to attain the the Supreme), based on the emotional, intellectual and spiritual development of the individual. Enormous diversity is thus an essential feature of the religious life of Hindus. This doctrine is expressed in the following revelation of the Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture: "Ekam sat vipraha, bahudha vadanti." That is “Truth (the Supreme) is One, sages call It by various names”.




FOUNDED: Judaism began about 3,700 years ago in the Near East, chiefly Canaan (now Israel) and Egypt.

FOUNDERS: Abraham, who started the lineage, and Moses, who emancipated the enslaved Jewish tribes from Egypt.

MAJOR SCRIPTURE: The Torah (the Old Testament and the Talmud).

Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha'i faith all originated with a divine covenant between the God of the ancient Israelites and Abraham around 2000 BCE. The next leader of the Israelites, Moses, led his people out of captivity in Egypt and received the Law from God. Joshua later led them into the promised land where Samuel established the Israelite kingdom with Saul as its first king. King David established Jerusalem and King Solomon built the first temple there. In 70 CE the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered throughout the world until 1948 when the state of Israel was formed.

Jews believe in one creator who alone is to be worshipped as absolute ruler of the universe. He monitors peoples activities and rewards good deeds and punishes evil. The Torah was revealed to Moses by God and can not be changed though God does communicate with the Jewish people through prophets. Jews believe in the inherent goodness of the world and its inhabitants as creations of God and do not require a savior to save them from original sin. They believe they are God's chosen people and that the Messiah will arrive in the future, gather them into Israel, there will be a general resurrection of the dead, and the Jerusalem Temple destroyed in 70 CE will be rebuilt.


Buddhism 535 BCE

Buddhism developed out of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama who, in 535 BCE, reached enlightenment at the age of 35 in Nepal and assumed the title Buddha, which means "one who has been awakened." Long after his death the Buddha's teachings were written down. This collection is called the Tripitaka.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must go through cycles of birth, life, and death. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely to liberate sentient beings from suffering.

Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, which are the essence of Buddhism: there is suffering, suffering has a cause, suffering has an end and there is a path that leads to the end of suffering. He saw that all phenomena in life are impermanent and that our attachment to the idea of a substantial and enduring self is an illusion which is the principle cause of suffering.

Truth is universal – it applies equally to all human beings. Everyone must cultivate such universal truth. Speak truth, Speak pleasantly and do not lie. When you adhere to truth, one will walk the right path. What you feel in your heart, speak with your tongue. What you speak with your tongue put it into action. That is the true nature of Buddhist path.

It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the true Buddhist path can be summed up as:

The greatest achievement is selflessness.

The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.

The greatest precept is continual awareness.

The greatest generosity is non-attachment.

The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.

The greatest patience is humility.

The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.



FOUNDED: Shintoism began around 2,500 -- 3,000 years ago in Japan.

FOUNDER: Each of the thirteen ancient sects has its own founder.

MAJOR SCRIPTURES: Kojiki (Record of Ancient Things), Nihongi(Chronicles of Japan), a later work, Yengishiki (Institutes of the period of Yengi), and the Collection of 10,000 Leaves are the primary works, but they are not regarded as revealed scripture.

Shinto is an ancient Japanese religion, closely tied to nature, which recognizes the existence of various "Kami", nature deities. The first two deities, Izanagi and Izanami, gave birth to the Japanese islands and their children became the deities of the various Japanese clans. One of their daughters, Amaterasu (Sun Goddess), is the ancestress of the Imperial Family and is regarded as the chief deity. All the Kami are benign and serve only to sustain and protect. They are not seen as separate from humanity due to sin because humanity is "Kami's Child." Followers of Shinto desire peace and believe all human life is sacred. They revere "musuhi", the Kami's creative and harmonizing powers, and aspire to have "makoto", sincerity or true heart. Morality is based upon that which is of benefit to the group. There are "Four Affirmations" in Shinto:

Tradition and family: the family is the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved.

Love of nature: nature is sacred and natural objects are to be worshipped as sacred spirits.

Physical cleanliness: they must take baths, wash their hands, and rinse their mouth often.

"Matsuri": festival which honors the spirits.

More Resources on Shinto

Shinto Books - Check out the most popular books ON Shinto.

Shinto - Articles on Shinto

Jainism - 420 BCE

FOUNDED: Jainism began about 2,500 years ago in India.

FOUNDER: Nataputra Vardhamana, known as Mahavira, "Great Hero."

MAJOR SCRIPTURES: The Jain Agamas and Siddhantas.

The founder of the Jain community was Vardhamana, the last Jina in a series of 24 who lived in East India. He attained enlightenment after 13 years of deprivation and committed the act of salekhana, fasting to death, in 420 BCE. Jainism has many similarities to Hinduism and Buddhism which developed in the same part of the world.

They believe in karma and reincarnation as do Hindus but they believe that enlightenment and liberation from this cycle can only be achieved through asceticism. Jains follow fruitarianism. This is the practice of only eating that which will not kill the plant or animal from which it is taken. They also practice Ahimsa, non-violence, because any act of violence against a living thing creates negative karma which will adversely affect one's next life.

More Resources on Jainism

Jainism Books - Check out the most popular books concerning Jainism.

Jainism - Article on Jainism at the web site of the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance.

Confucianism - 500 BCE

FOUNDED: Confucianism began about 2,500 years ago in China.

FOUNDER: Supreme Sage K'ung-fu-tsu (Confucius) and Second Sage Meng-tzu (Mencius).

MAJOR SCRIPTURES: The Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, Great Learning and Mencius.

ADHERENTS: Estimated at 350 million, mostly in China, Japan, Burma and Thailand.

K'ung Fu Tzu (Confucius) was born in 551 BCE in the state of Lu in China. He traveled throughout China giving advice to its rulers and teaching. His teachings and writings dealt with individual morality and ethics, and the proper exercise of political power. He stressed the following values:

Li: ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.

Hsiao: love among family members

Yi: righteousness

Xin: honesty and trustworthiness

Jen: benevolence towards others; the highest Confucian virtue

Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.

Unlike most religions, Confucianism is primarily an ethical system with rituals at important times during one's lifetime. The most important periods recognized in the Confucian tradition are birth, reaching maturity, marriage, and death.

More Resources on Confucianism

Confucianism Books - Check out the most popular books concerning Confucianism and Confucius.

Confucianism - Article on Confucianism at the web site of the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance.

Taoism - 440 CE

FOUNDED: Taoism began about 2,500 years ago in China.

FOUNDER: Lao-tzu, whom Confucius described as a dragon riding the wind and clouds.

MAJOR SCRIPTURE: The Tao-te-Ching, or "Book of Reason and Virtue," is among the shortest of all scriptures, containing only 5,000 words. Also central are the sacred writings of Chuang-tsu.

Taoism was founded by Lao-Tse, a contemporary of Confucius in China. Taoism began as a combination of psychology and philosophy which Lao-Tse hoped would help end the constant feudal warfare and other conflicts of his time. His writings, the Tao-te-Ching, describe the nature of life, the way to peace and how a ruler should lead his life. Taoism became a religion in 440 CE when it was adopted as a state religion.

Tao, roughly translated as path, is a force which flows through all life and is the first cause of everything. The goal of everyone is to become one with the Tao. Tai Chi, a technique of exercise using slow deliberate movements, is used to balance the flow of energy or "chi" within the body. People should develop virtue and seek compassion, moderation and humility. One should plan any action in advance and achieve it through minimal action. Yin (dark side) and Yang (light side) symbolize pairs of opposites which are seen through the universe, such as good and evil, light and dark, male and female. The impact of human civilization upsets the balance of Yin and Yang. Taoists believe that people are by nature, good, and that one should be kind to others simply because such treatment will probably be reciprocated.

More Resources on Taoism

Taoism Books - Check out the most popular books concerning Taoism.

Christianity - 30+ CE

Christianity was founded in the early 1st century AD, with the teaching, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. With nearly two billion professed adherents worldwide, Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world. It has dominated western culture for centuries and remains the majority religion of Europe and the Americas. Christian belief centers on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a teacher and healer of first-century Palestine. Especially dominant in the western world, today's Christianity has a wide variety of forms, beliefs and practices but all center around faith in Jesus Christ.

The primary source of information about the life of Jesus are the Gospels, four books written by different authors 30-100 years after Jesus' death. The Gospels eventually became the first four books of the New Testament. The Gospels describe a three-year teaching and healing ministry during which Jesus attracted 12 close disciples and other followers who believed him to be the Messiah. This is the basis of Jesus' title "Christ," which comes from the Greek word for "Messiah."

Jesus' teachings focused on the themes of the kingdom of God, love of God and love of neighbor. Along with some of his teachings, his growing popularity with the masses was seen as dangerous by Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government, leading to his execution by crucifixion.

Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead three days after his burial, and in so doing made it possible for those who believe to be forgiven of sin and attain eternal life. Much of Christian belief and practice centers on the resurrection of Christ. The most distinctive belief of mainstream Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity, which views the one God as consisting of three Persons: the Father, the Son (Christ) and the Holy Spirit.

The sacred text of Christianity is the Bible, which consists of the Old Testament (roughly equivalent to the Jewish Bible) and the New Testament. The New Testament contains 27 books: four gospels (narratives of Jesus' life), one account of the apostles' ministry after Jesus' death, letters from church leaders (the earliest of which predate the Gospels), and an apocalyptic work.

Nearly all Christians regard the Bible as divinely inspired and authoritative, but views differ as to the nature and extent of its authority. Some hold it to be completely without error in all matters it addresses, while others stress its accuracy only in religious matters and allow for errors or limitations in other areas due to its human authorship.

Christianity has divided into three major branches over the centuries. 1 Roman Catholicism represents the continuation of the historical organized church as it developed in Western Europe, and is headed by the Pope. Distinctive beliefs of Catholics include the doctrines of Transubstantiation and distinctive practices include devotion to the saints and Mary and use of the rosary.

2 Eastern Orthodoxy (which includes the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches and several others) is the continuation of the historical organized church as it developed in Eastern Europe. It differs from Catholicism in its refusal of allegiance to the Pope, its emphasis on the use of icons in worship, and the date it celebrates Easter. Other cultural, political, and religious differences exist as well. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism separated in 1054 AD, when the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Pope excommunicated each other.

3 Protestantism arose in the 16th century during the Reformation, which took place mainly in Germany, Switzerland, and Britain. Protestants do not acknowledge the authority of the Pope, reject many traditions and beliefs of the Catholic Church, emphasize the importance of reading the Bible and hold to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Protestantism encompasses numerous denominational groups, including Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and Evangelicals.


FOUNDED: Islam began about 1,400 years ago in present-day Saudi Arabia.

FOUNDER: Prophet Mohammed.

MAJOR SCRIPTURES:The Koran, Islam's revealed scripture, and the Hadith, the teachings, sayings and life of the Prophet Mohammed.

Islam as a Way of Life

The word Islam is derived from an Arabic root word that means submission and peace. Thus Muslims achieve peace by submitting to the Will of God. Muslims do not view Islam as a new religion. They believe that it is the same faith taught by all the prophets of God, including, Abraham, David, Moses, and Jesus. They also believe that Islam formalizes and clarifies the true faith in the one God and purifies it by removing ideas that were added in error. It is called a Deen, which is more than a religion, because it is a way of life based on universal values.

Sacred Texts

The two primary sources of guidance for Muslims are: 1) the Qur'an, containing the direct words of Allah 'the One True God' as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); and 2) the Hadith, which is a collection of the authenticated sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that describe the Sunnah or the way of the Prophet.

Beliefs (Arkan al Iman or Aqida)

The basic beliefs of Muslims (or elements of faith called Arkan al Iman) are:

1. Belief in One God Almighty as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe

2. Belief in Angels (e.g., Gabriel, Michael)

3. Belief in all the Prophets of God (e.g., Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad)

4. Belief that the Books of God are divine revelations (e.g., the Torah, the Gospel, the Qur’an)

5. Belief in the Day of Judgment (for accountability to God)

6. Belief in the Absolute Power of God (Qadr, which should not be confused with pre-destination)

Practices (Islam)

The practical duties of all Muslims, known as the Five Pillars of Islam (called Arkan al Islam), consist of:

1. Shahadah, Declaration of Faith: There is no god but God and Muhammad is His Messenger.

2. Salah (prayer), five times a day while facing the Ka’bah; Jummu’a congregational prayer is on Friday.

3. Zakat, i.e., regular mandatory donation to charity equal to 2.5% of one’s accumulated wealth over and above one’s needs, with additional optional donations to the needy known as sadaqa, in any amount.

4. Fasting for 30 days from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan during which the Prophet Muhammad began to receive the Qur'an from Allah. No food or drink or conjugal relations while fasting.

5. Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia at least once in one’s life, if one can afford it financially and can perform the Hajj rituals physically. With all men required to dress in two unstiched pieces of white cloth while performing the ritual circumambulation of the ka’bah, the Hajj represents the most powerful symbol of equality in Islam, an experience that transformed Malcolm X and moved the entire African American Muslim community into mainstream followers of Islam.

Perfection in Faith (Ihsan)

A Muslim can achieve perfection in faith by being steadfast in the six beliefs, observing the five pillars regularly, and worshipping God with such devotion that even if you cannot see God, you must believe the He sees you.

Sikhism - 1500 CE

FOUNDED: Sikhism began about 500 years ago in Northern India, now the country of Pakistan.

FOUNDER: Guru Nanak.

MAJOR SCRIPTURE: The Adi Granth, revered as the present guru of the faith.

ADHERENTS: Estimated at nine million, mostly in India's state of Punjab.

About 25 million people around the world practice Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The religion originated in the Punjab region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. Sikhs believe that all human beings have the potential to realize God through loving devotion, truthful living and service to humanity.

Sikh Gurus

The Sikh Gurus were prophets who preached a new revolutionary message to improve life on earth and to enable human beings to come closer to God. There were ten Gurus. The first, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 and spread a message of love of God, social justice for humanity and freedom from superstitions and rituals. His nine successors advanced his message and institutionalized the Sikh religion.

Instead of assigning a person as a successor, the tenth Guru gave authority to two entities: the Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture) and the Guru Khalsa Panth (community of initiated Sikhs)

Scripture G u r u G r a n t h S a h i b

The Guru Granth Sahib is a collection of revelations that offer direction on living an ethical life that brings us closer to God. The compositions in the scripture include the poetry of the Sikh Gurus, as well as writings of non-Sikhs, and are sung as hymns to local classical music. The fifth Guru personally oversaw the compilation of this universal scripture in the year 1604.

Initiated Community G u r u K h a l s a P a n t h

In 1699, the tenth Sikh Guru founded the Guru Khalsa Panth, a community of Sikhs committed to the basic Sikh values of truth, productive labor, and spirituality. The Khalsa is expected to serve society, defend the oppressed, and provide leadership for the larger Sikh community.

Sikhs initiated into the Guru Khalsa Panth can be identified by their articles of faith. Sikhs display commitment to their religion by wearing five articles of faith that signify their outward commitment to living by Sikh principles of honor, justice and love for humanity. These are:

Articles of Faith: K a k a a r

1. Kes – Uncut hair, covered by men with a turban which is optional for women who generally wear a scarf instead

2. Kanga – A small comb often placed within one’s hair

3. Kachera – Soldier shorts worn traditionally as an undergarment

4. Kirpan – A sword worn with a shoulder strap

5. Kara – A bracelet worn on the wrist

Courtesy: The Sikh Coalition

A Sikh Youth Site - Excellent Sikh site with lots of information and resources for youths and others

FOUNDED: Zoroastrianism began 2,600 years ago in ancient Iran.

FOUNDER: Spenta Zarathustra (Zoroaster).

MAJOR SCRIPTURE: Portions of the Zend Avesta (Persian).

Zoroastrianism was founded by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) in Persia which followed an aboriginal polytheistic religion at the time. He preached what may have been the first monotheism with a single supreme god, Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrians belief in the dualism of good and evil as either a cosmic one between Ahura Mazda and an evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, or as an ethical dualism within the human consciousness. The Zoroastrian holy book is called the Avesta which includes the teachings of Zarathushtra written in a series of five hymns called the Gathas. They are abstract sacred poetry directed towards the worship of the One God, understanding of righteousness and cosmic order, promotion of social justice, and individual choice between good and evil. The rest of the Avesta was written at a later date and deals with rituals, practice of worship, and other traditions of the faith.

Zoroastrians worship through prayers and symbolic ceremonies that are conducted before a sacred fire which symbolizes their God. They dedicate their lives to a three-fold path represented by their motto: "Good thoughts, good words, good deeds." The faith does not generally accept converts but this is disputed by some members.

Meditation – Recharge, Rejuvenate and Reflect Inwards

“Mind without agitation is meditation.

Mind in the present moment is meditation.

Mind that has no hesitation, no anticipation is meditation.

Mind that has come back home, to the source, is meditation.

Mind that becomes ‘‘no mind’’ is meditation”

H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

We are a nation of doers, constantly involved in doing something. We wish we had more than 24 hrs so that we could be more productive. We have become adept at eating our food, watching television, speaking on the phone and typing an e-mail, all at the same time and take pride in it.

The last two decades have been that of technological innovation where technology has become intertwined with our lives. In theory, with so much convenience and technology, we should have more leisure time and spend more quality time with our families. In a nutshell, we should be leading healthier and happier lives!!

However, our experience is contrary to this. We are constantly “tethered” to a device and are not able to disconnect from work. Even when we are spending time with family or on vacation we are addicted to our blackberries. Now, we have a new term “crackberry” to denote “crack” like addiction to the mobile devices. We are more stressed, have trouble sleeping and are looking for ways to relax and recharge. The stress is multiplied by holiday shopping frenzy, two feet of snow messing up our travel plans and the economy still showing no signs of recovery. The key questions in minds of most people are “How do I relax?” and “How can I focus on one thing?”

The answer lies in “Meditation”. The most common question that I get asked is “What is meditation?” Meditation is a state of stillness and alertness in the mind. It is a state of de-concentration or doing nothing. Most people respond to this as, “ What do you mean, Doing Nothing? I have to be doing something.“

The deep meditative state only happens when all effort stops. Trying to stop thoughts is an effort, concentrating on something is an effort. Trying to meditate is like trying to sleep. Only when you stop trying and just let go of all your efforts, can you meditate. This quieting of the mind can happen with a “Mantra” or sound that can only be given by a teacher.

Meditation can rejuvenates the system, bring peace of mind that grows stronger with regular practice while giving the body deep and purifying rest.

Rest and activity are opposite values yet complement each other. The deeper the rest our nervous system can experience, the more dynamic our activity will become and more focused our mind will become. Twenty minutes of deep rest that we experience during meditation is not just providing peace for that period of time but is helping us get rid of impressions that are distracting us, thus allowing us to be more focused, dynamic and lead life in the present moment. All this is very abstract unless one learns the Art of Meditation from a teacher. Make a resolution to give some quality time to yourself and learn how to dive deep inwards. It is a beautiful journey.

For more info on Meditation please visit http://www.artofliving.org/us-en/art-of-meditation-course. For meditation courses in New Jersey please visit http://us.artofliving.org/nj

A short bio: Vikas Chawla has a Bachelors and Masters in Computer Science. He works as a Vice President at an investment bank. He has served on the US Board of Art of Living Foundation for four years. He is a certified instructor with the Art of Living Foundation. He has been teaching meditation, yoga and breathing techniques for over 10 years.

Love cannot remain by itself -- it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service” Mother Teresa

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Matthew 10:40

“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Buddha