The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
September 2012 – Vol. 15 Issue 7
Among more than eighty groups participating in the City of Kirkland Fourth of July Parade was an interfaith contingent, in keeping with the theme “Celebrating Diversity.” Some sixty members of various faith communities wore t-shirts or vests with group logos and carried colorful signs and banners expressing their sense of community, such as “E Pluribus Unum” and “We Stand on the Side of Love.” The marchers were greeted enthusiastically along the parade route by a crowd of about 10,000 people.
Iftar dinners: Ramadan took place this year from July 20 through August 18. During this month Muslim communities around the world invite neighbors and friends to break the daily fast of Ramadan with them. Branch members attended three such local celebrations. On July 29th members of Seattle’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Bellevue’s Temple B’nai Torah and guests from other faith traditions, some 250 people in all, came to Temple B’nai Torah to break the Muslim fast of Ramadan and the Jewish fast of Tisha B’av. “The saddest day in Jewish history,” Tisha B’av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and other Jewish tragedies over the ages. During Ramadan the Qur’an began to be revealed to Muhammad. Periodically the Tisha B’av in the Jewish lunisolar calendar falls during the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. Rabbi Jim Mirel of Temple B’nai Torah believes that it was a historical first for Muslims and Jews to observe the breaking of these two fasts together. The evening service began with Jewish prayer and recitations from the Qur’an, continued with reflections on fasting in Judaism and Islam, readings from Lamentations by members of the Temple’s congregation, and closed with Jewish and Islamic prayers. Following Muslim sunset prayers, attendees viewed exhibits of the Torah and the Qur’an, partook of a fabulous feast, and engaged in friendly conversation.
The Muslim Association of Puget Sound invited members of the community to their annual interfaith Iftar on August 1st. A panel featuring Rabbi Olivier Benhaim of Seattle’s Temple Bet Alef, Imam Yosof Wanly of the Islamic Center of Olympia and Reverend Tom Steffan of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Bellevue explored how their faith traditions understand abundance, contentment and the common good, and how faith can help guide people through current economic and social challenges. Imam Wanly ob-served that true richness and happiness is self-contentment, while Rabbi Benhaim advised that from a place of content-ment with what we have, we can look outward to heal the needs around us. After sunset, the daily fast was broken with a snack of dates and water followed by Muslim sunset prayers and a wonderful meal and warm conversation.
Finally, on August 17th Branch members once again joined in the interfaith Iftar sponsored by the Acacia Foundation at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse. The Foundation promotes cross-cultural dialogue; emphasizes universal values such as love, truth, brotherhood, and sharing; and seeks to encourage a society where people love, respect, and accept each other as they are. A delicious buffet of home-cooked Turkish food complemented lively discussions at the dinner tables and remarks from State Attorney General Rob McKenna and the representative of US Senator Patty Murray, as well as from several attendees who shared their interfaith experiences. A highlight was the inspiring talk by Prof. Turan Kayaoglu on continuing throughout the year the Ramadan emphasis on charity, promotion of social welfare, and contact with family, friends, and community members.
Think of theosophy not so much as a body of philosophic or other teaching, but as the highest law of conduct, which is the enacted expression of divine love or compassion.
The principles of theosophy are worthless unless carried out in deeds. It is useless to pile up in the library of our intellectual life ideas upon ideas – and nothing more. The world is weighted down with mere intellectualism already. It must have something more, and that something more is the active, practical expression of those ideas in every act of life.
We cannot bring great ideals into concrete expression until we are the living expression of those ideals. Once we attune our minds to the principles of brotherhood and service, our hearts open, our minds clear, and the new light that we long for will break. – Katherine Tingley
In these critical years so filled with thoughts of war and peace, I am going to talk about the Beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." We have fought wars to determine that the dictators shall not inherit the earth; but we have not convinced ourselves that the meek can ever accomplish it. We have long been schooled in the thought that power is the only means of conquest. Have we ever thought of meekness as a force for gaining control?
Our difficulty in understanding this Beatitude is with the King James translation made more than three hundred years ago, when many words had a quite different meaning. At that time "meek" may have been a strong word, but certainly it does not render Jesus' meaning today. Furthermore, the language in which the New Testament is written is Greek, and many times it is impossible to find one English word which accurately renders a single word in a foreign tongue. Sometimes it takes several English words to convey the meaning. So it is with the Greek praos, which is translated "meek." I am convinced, after reading many modem translations, that there is no one English word that can translate the full, vigorous meaning of this Greek word.
The only way we can understand what Jesus meant by "Blessed are the praos" is to find out what the Greeks themselves meant by that word. They used it of horses which had been broken in. A young colt is no good for riding or farm work, he has to be trained to wear the bridle and to respond to his master's will. The Greeks also used praos of an animal like an ox, which has been disciplined and trained so that it can pull a plow. They used it for wild animals which have been trained to perform in a circus. Especially they used it of athletes. An athlete, if he is to succeed in his sport, has to give himself to a long period of training before he takes part in a meet, so that a Dodger player has been quoted as saying: "The most important quality of an athlete is self-discipline."
These illustrations suggest what praos means: broken in, tamed, controlled, disciplined. In the case of an animal the control is imposed from without. In the case of a human being, in the spiritual sense, the control is imposed from within. Perhaps the best translation of all is "self-disciplined."
Through the long ages the progress we have been making toward what we call civilization is nothing more than toward self-control. The arrogant, the haughty, the militant, the dictators – they rise and fall; they have their day until mankind rises up and casts them out. Some time the day will come when the ordinary people of good will, who are the vast majority of the world's population, will have made themselves sufficiently strong that no dictator will dare to rise. That is what Jesus meant: "Blessed are the self-controlled – for they shall inherit the earth." In personal life too, in our work, our homes, in our relations with other people, we must also be self-disciplined. If we are, we will achieve inner happiness, and truly we shall "inherit the earth."
Another meaning of praos is cooperative, a distinctly modern word. The horse, if he is to make a good team with his master, must be cooperative. The ox must learn to cooperate or he cannot pull the plow. The athlete too must learn to play as part of the team. "Blessed are the cooperative, for they shall inherit the earth": surely, in these years when we are thinking and working so much for world understanding, we realize the need of this quality of cooperation.
Still another meaning of praos is "humble," and this comes closest to the familiar translation "meek." Humility is often despised; yet no individual and no nation can be great without it. True humility is a decent realization of our own weaknesses, a consciousness that we are not so much greater than other people as we sometimes like to think. The person who has this quality will be tolerant. He will not think of others as inferior to him. Intolerance is just another form of fear and selfishness; the person who is intolerant is afraid, afraid others may get something which is his and which he does not want them to possess. Those who are truly tolerant are truly understanding because they have respect for other people and are willing to cooperate with them.
Thus we see that the qualities so inadequately rendered by "meek" are rich and robust: self-discipline, cooperation, humility, tolerance with understanding. Our problem, as we try to build for peace, is to make these qualities more powerful in the world. If we can build on earth an army of men and women who will be tolerant and humble – above all, who will work with their fellows in a genuine spirit of cooperation – then we shall have a chance to build that world we all desire. That army of the cooperative and self-controlled will then grow until it embraces every person on earth.