Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues in China:International spotlight is proving uncomfortably hot.

DUBLIN-When the International Olympic Committee in July 2001 awarded China the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese citizens were ecstatic. But what potentially could have been China’s proudest moment has turned into something of a public relations minefield as world media probe China’s human rights gains and abuses. Among key issues raised is religious freedom, with China watchers reporting ongoing restrictions on freedom of worship, particularly for unregistered church groups, arrests, detention in labor camps and confiscation of Christian literature.Hosting the Olympic Games provides China with a unique opportunity to showcase its stunning economic development.But with an estimated half a million foreign visitors expected and over 20,000 journalists, the government fears it will also be a prime opportunity for dissidents and human rights activists to present their cause to the world media.As Liu Junning of the China Cultural Research Institute pointed out recently, “Chinese leaders want the country … put in the limelight. But the light is very hot.”Chinese citizens can now choose their own careers, travel abroad, own a car and establish a business. But Christians cannot legally hold a prayer meeting in a private home, share a church service with foreign Christians or interact with foreign Christian organizations. China still bans religious education for children under the age of 18 and limits the publication of Bibles and other religious materials.Many Chinese Christians see little good coming from the Olympics in the way of religious liberty. Some point to a government crackdown on unregistered house churches over the past year, as evidenced in a 2007 report issued in February by the China Aid Association (CAA), and an unprecedented expulsion of foreign missionaries in 2007 as part of a “clean-up” in preparation for the Games.Others fear religious persecution will increase after the Games as the world’s media moves on from China.The government has stepped up an official campaign against human rights activists and lawyers in recent months – and increased its suppression of religious believers, particularly members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups.
Protestant Crackdown
State security officials summoned house church leader Lou Yuanqi of Huocheng County in Xinjiang for questioning last Friday (May 16) and detained him for “inciting separatism,” according to CAA. That was only the latest in a series of raids and detentions. On January 23, police raided and severely beat members of a house church in Yunnan province, CAA reported. The raid occurred after two church members, Chen Xiqiong and Liang Guihua, visited the Xishan District’s Public Security Bureau office to request an account of items, including Bibles, which had been taken from the church and burned by police in December.Also in December, authorities in Shandong arrested 270 house church leaders who had gathered for training in Linyi city. According to CAA, officials released 249 of the leaders but sentenced 21 senior leaders to between one and three years of detention in labor camp.Another three house church leaders were detained in Shandong on May 8.Police arrested 46 Christians at a house church meeting in Kashgar, Xinjiang province on April 13. They released 44 Christians after ordering them to confess their illegal Sunday worship activities and study a government handbook on religious policy. Two other Christians, Ding Zhichun and Ma Wenxiu, were sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention. CAA also said officials had launched an “Anti-illegal Christian Activities Campaign” in Xinjiang.Officials have arrested at least three Uyghur house church Christians in recent months. Police arrested Alimjan Yimit (or Ahlimujiang Yimiti in Chinese) on January 12 and accused him of endangering national security. Officials had previously closed Alimjan’s business in September and accused him of using it as a cover for “preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity.” His trial has now been rescheduled for Monday (May 26), according to Compass sources. Osman Imin (Wusiman Yaming in Chinese) was arrested on November 19, 2007, accused of “leaking state secrets” and sentenced to two years of labor camp. Compass has confirmed that a female believer arrested earlier this year also remains in detention in Xinjiang. (See “China: Trial Delayed for Uyghur Christian,” May 13.)The worse may be yet to come; CAA sources are predicting a severe crackdown on all unregistered house churches beginning on June 1.
Catholic Restrictions
Authorities are also restricting Catholic activity, closely guarding bishops in the official Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and keeping underground bishops in forced isolation. Several Catholic priests remain in detention in labor camps.In February, Yie Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said he hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would visit China during the Games. In March, however, he lashed out against an alleged “power grab” from the Vatican council and accused it of being “double-faced” in seeking diplomatic relations with Beijing.China has consistently denied the absolute authority of the Pope over Roman Catholicism, appointing its own bishops and encouraging Chinese Catholics to maintain greater loyalty to the Chinese government.The country officially recognizes five religions – Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. An official patriotic association for each religion controls adherents’ activities and governs the appointment of clergy. Officially there are 16 million Protestant believers and 5 million Catholics, but these figures exclude members of unregistered churches. Compass sources estimate there are 60 million additional Christians: 10 million in major house church networks, 35 million in independent rural house churches and 15 million in independent house churches.Oddly, last year Yie of Religious Affairs said in two internal meetings in Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Science that the total number of Christians in China had reached 130 million, according to CAA.
Appealing for Greater Liberty
In late March, the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), a coalition of several groups working for global religious liberty, issued a statement encouraging Christians around the world to pray for the Chinese church in the lead-up to the Olympics.The statement acknowledged advances in religious freedom in China over the past 40 years but called on the Chinese government to honor its recent declaration that believers have an important role to play in the development of society. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the national committee of the National People’s Congress, had said in early March that the state “should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion.”He also said the Chinese government should guide religious leaders and believers to make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony. “We hope and pray this [government declaration] will translate into the removal of remaining obstacles to the full expression of faith and an end to serious violations of religious freedom,” the RLP said in its statement.
As in the days of Noah...



Religion of Soul - Religion of All

Saint Tara Chand Ji Maharaj generally used to say in his discourses– Brahamana (a higher cast in Hindu cast system) is that man who has dissolved himself into Brahamic (cosmic) consciousness. He does not accept donation, but tries to give, whatsoever he has, to the needy, indigent and destitute. Power of Word, the Creator, reveals in his soul which fulfills all his desires. The Lord of imaginations (Kalpavriksha) accepts his offerings of Love and devotion and provides all the treasures of life to him. Saint Charan Das says-

Brahmana is that who identifies Brahman (God) in himself

Becomes introvert and seeks the vision of Lord

His senses cease to travel outward

He nurtures compassion for every creature

He becomes devoid of passions, anger, lust, greed and ego;

Brahmana is that who possesses these virtues.

We are devoid of internal treasures embedded in the deeper layers of our Self because we have not identified the hidden enrichment inside. The actual bliss lies inside but we are groping outside in the gloomy world of passions and grief. We are adopting lopsided approach which create imbalance in our life energies. The outer achievements are dominating over the spirit of rationale and wisdom which has created imbalance between the inner and the outer world. The result is tension, instability, selfishness, individuality, unhealthy competition, nepotism, communalism and terrorism.

The reason of this imbalance is that we have not awakened the spirit of Wisdom seated in the middle of eyes (Third eye); the Lord of which gives all the orders; all the actions originate from this sphere (Ajya Chakra) of actions. Ajya means command, Chakra means sphere. All commands emanate from this sanctioning authority. All the senses respond to the mandate of this housing spirit. But the inner Self of this sanctioning authority has been sleeping in his den for innumerable lives. We have not made efforts to awaken its power which is sleeping encoiled for many past lives. When it awakens, the life force starts dancing which is seen and enjoyed by the devotee, the yogi.

The Hindu scriptures have called this state as the ‘Awakening of Serpentine power’. It is called serpentine power as it opens its vistas of light like the expanding and contracting face of a snake. Sri Aurobindo has called it Psychic being who is the actual representative of Supermind and master of transformation in this phenomenal world of actions and reactions, and cause and effect. It is the immutable spirit which dwells in the mutable spectrum of physical consciousness. It is the glimmering spark of eternity amidst the fort of dark forces of relative existence. Bhagwat Gita has narrated this power as Kshara Purusha; the mutable Spirit of universe which goes on changing upto the time this cosmic play persists. This Kshara Purusha is the Lord of Works and Psychic being remains in its fold as the representative of Supreme Being, the Satpurusha. It coordinates and commands all the activities of this Ksaras Purusha in any individual existence. Upto when this psychic Being is not awakened, its spirit remains liable to mutability and perishability and remains the instrument of the changes of time, space and causation. It follows the principle of cause and effect. Its eternity does not manifest in its self. Its bliss does remain unveiled and disguised. The friability and fragility of its grounded nature becomes slave of lust and passions. Problems, sorrows and grief of the lower nature remain integrated part of its spirit. This state of helplessness and weakness of the spirit is called ‘Jiva’ in Hindu jurisprudence. When this spirit identifies its natal strength of Real nature, Para-prakriti, Para-shakti or Radha, it awakens and the higher nature of imperishable, intangible and immutable Purusha descends into the brittle regime of Ksara Purusha and dismantles the domain of illusion and hallucination. This immutable spirit has been called as Aksara Purusha, Aksara Brahman or Shabd Brahman; the eternal and imperishable power of Supreme Being which manifests through the melody of celestial Song (the Word Power) in the universe.

This Aksara Purusha or Brahman is the Lord of knowledge; the originator of all the streams of mental consciousness from where outflows all the gnosis of visible and invisible spheres of the existence. Discriminative power of mind and wisdom are the results of the outpouring of this Sun of luminous knowledge. Lord of Works draws its vitality from this Sun of gnosis. This Purusha has also been called Savitri-Surya or Gayatri-Surya. This sphere of consciousness is the golden womb, Hirnaygrabha; the womb of universe where lies all the seeds of this universe. The universe takes birth from this womb of Lord of knowledge; the Aksar Purusha.

There is third layer of consciousness which reconciles the opposition of Ksara and Aksara, mutable and immutable, God and non-God, thesis and anti-thesis. All the physical, vital, mental and spiritual forces become satiable in this stratum of consciousness. All works, all knowing and unknowing plunges into the ocean of Bliss of this Purusha (Soami), the Satpurusha or called Purushottama in Gita. Sri Aurobindo calls this state of bliss as the Supramentalisation of the being. This realization of the Self can come through self-giving as it is the inherited legacy of the Lord of love and devotion. The fortified spheres of Ksara and Aksar can only be surmounted and churned through the intense longing of love and devotion for Satpurusha. This realization goes beyond all the boundaries of abysmal lows and sublime highs. All the limitations and perceptions of life, mind, gods, and non-gods, virtues and non-virtues get vanished after taking a sip of the ambrosia, Amrit, of the sanctity of Satpurusha.

The path of self-realization starts with the awakening of sleeping power lying within ourselves. It is called opening of Third eye. Buddha says it Divya Chaksu, supernatural eye of brightness. Mahavir Swami says it Param Jyoti, the supreme Light. Hazrat Muhammad calls it Noor; Light as the embodiment of Allah. Jesus Christ calls this experience as the Light of the world. In this experience, supernatural powers of gods and goddesses of goodness and virtue shower their grace on the yogi. The endowed grandeur of cosmic energy starts flowing unobstructed through the yogi as through a vessel of Supreme Being. But this opening of third eye is the initiation of spiritual realization. It is the opening of consciousness of Ksara Purusha, the Lord of Works or Virat Purusha, from where all the physical and gross form of cosmos originates. It is the starting of celestial or heavenly experience.

Kapil, an Indian sage, calls this state of realization as the attainment of the power of discrimination, Vivekkhyatiprapti, and intuition. Patanjali Rishi narrates it the vision of cloud of Virtue, Dharammegha Samadhi. Sankaracharya, Sri Aurobindo and other seers of reality have called it the experience of Samprajyat Samadhi, a state of trance where all unknown becomes known. Vedic literature says when the Sun of Truth rises, the dark of ignorance vanishes; tat satyam suryam tamsi ksiyantam. This Sun of Gnosis remains refulgent for ever within the soul of yogi; adityavat prakashyati tat param. When this Sun shines inside the Soul of yogi, every kind of knowledge starts flowing towards him; yasmin vijyate sarvam vijyatam.

When yogi surpasses this experience of refulgence, he reveals the truth in the form of superconscient light; not visible even with the supernatural eye of the Being. The fervour and intensity of this light becomes so dense that it is not visible through the celestial eye of gods; the Third eye. This is the experience of Sahasrara; the seat of Param Purusha (Supreme Being). This experience has been known as the realization of Nirvikalpa (beyond all alternatives), Asamprajyat (beyond all knowledge) and Nirbeej (devoid of all the seeds of happiness and sorrows) Samadhi. Christian mystics have called this state as the ‘Dark night of Soul’ or ‘Dark Secret’; the experience of which was engrossed by Prophet Moses on Mount Sinai. In this experience he was enveloped by a cloud of darkness when he approached the abodes of God. It is a blissful experience where the spirits of God and non-God get immerged into the ocean of Bliss of transcendental Eternal. The experience of Sahasrara has been considered just a milestone in Radhasoami Yoga. It is the lower seat of Brahamic (Cosmic) consciousness.

Osho opines that upto when the Ajya Chakra, is not awakened, man cannot break the shackles of slavery. He always remains in bondage of physical, economical, social and religious slavery. A slave of many masters, inner slavery as well as outer; an instrument in the hands of whimsical and unflinching forces of lower nature. Once released from the clutches of one master, he is incarcerated in the prison of another. He can not give command; he is not capable of giving command. He can only accept the orders because his power of Command, Ajya Purusha, is sleeping.

Tantric philosophy says that senses are the food of third eye. This eye is hungry for many lives because it has undergone through the trance of deep sleep thereby losing its sense of intuitive discernment. The gate of its sensibility has been locked. Key is missing. Key which can awaken the serpentine power has been lost. The treasure can only be unearthed with the key of wisdom and the power of true discrimination. This enclosed bud can open its petals of wisdom only through the incense of psychic enlightenment. Once this psychic awakening is realized, the gates of benevolence and magnanimity will open. All the treasures of life and knowledge will become accessible. The adamant and obdurate walls of ego and ignorance will shatter and their consciousness will ultimately transform into the gnosis and bliss of superamental Power. The impressions of grief and hunger will vanish from the mantle of humanity. The sense of self-giving will dominate the sense of wit and the doors of ‘Heaven on Earth’ will be opened to the aspiring humanity.

The sign of true religion is that it makes a man independent and provides redemption. It does not imprison him through the temptation of heaven and fear of hell. God lives within and it can be revealed by self-giving as love and devotion is the soul of supreme Realization.

This realization is complete in all the respects. It fulfills a person in totality. The beauty and outpouring of enlightenment from the Self enriches the depleted consciousness of body, life, mind and psyche.

Darkness is nothing but the depletion of light. Sorrow is nothing but the depletion of joy and bliss. Poverty and hunger is nothing but the depletion of faculty of mind and physique. Anger is nothing but the depletion of love. Vanity is nothing but the depletion of compassion. Greediness is nothing but the depletion of the spirit of self-giving. Communalism is nothing but the depletion of vastness of religion. Terrorism is nothing but the depletion of spiritualism from the core of the heart. Soul, being integral part of bliss, eternal splendor and consciousness, love, compassion, sacrifice and grandeur of the Supreme Being, impregnates all these qualities. All the virtues flow exuberantly and dwell inherently in the religion of Soul and Self-realization.

God governs all because he exceeds all and dwells in all. Hence the religion of Soul is the religion of God and the religion of all. That is why the religion of Soul is capable to replenish all the depleted energies of an individual as well as the whole humanity and the whole existence. It is a converging and enlightened state of all the diverging and combating energies and vital forces of the universe.


Gary Baumgarten said...

The crackdown on religious dissidents in China in advance of the Olympics will be the topic of my show, News Talk Online on Friday July 18 at 5 PM New York time.

Go to and click on the link to join in the conversation. There is no charge.