Archives for the ‘ Lectures ’ Category

The Spiritual Fruits of Ramadan

By • Aug 11th, 2016 • Category: Islam

Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, because it opens up vast opportunities for spiritual rejuvenation and personal growth. True fasting is not about starving the stomach, but the Carnal Soul; it is not about losing weight, but vices. This lecture will explore the spiritual dimension of Ramadan. We will discuss 3 important fruits of Ramadan: 1) Self-control; 2) Heart and soul purification; and 3) Spiritual transformation.



The Meaning and Practice of Piety

By • Dec 16th, 2015 • Category: Islam, Lectures, Uncategorized

Piety is a critical concept in religious spirituality and mysticism. It is also cherished in all world religions. In fact, piety is the bedrock of the Islamic value system. The Quran informs us that God does not judge a person’s worth by gender, race, blood lineage, IQ, financial wealth or even religious affiliation; rather, piety is God’s yardstick to judge human beings. This lecture explores piety as it relates to spiritual growth and development.



Faith and Science

By • Jul 23rd, 2015 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

Science and religion are two powerful forces that have shaped our civilization. In pre-modern era, the province of religion used to be much bigger than today; it reached into the law, government, arts and sciences. Overtime, the ‘legitimate’ and ‘acceptable’ domain of religion shrunk considerably as modernity set in, and ‘specialization’ became a dominant theme in social organization. Yet to this day, religion and science interact in our daily life- and sometimes they collide. So the question is: what is the nature of the relationship between religion and science? Are they destined to negate each other? How can these two powerful forces live side by side in peace?



Spiritual But Not Religious

By • Mar 27th, 2015 • Category: Mysticism

Before the 20th century, the terms ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ were perceived to be synonymous. If someone aspired to lead a spiritual life, she would join a religious tradition. In the modern West, however, there is a shift in people’s attitudes towards religion, one of which is the separation of spirituality from religion. A growing number of people consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. They want a connection with God and are interested in daily moral behavior that fosters such a connection. Yet, they do not affiliate with any organized religion such as Islam and Christianity. The ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ (SBNR) movement in modern West has peculiar resemblances to another spiritual movement in early Islam that ultimately led to the creation of Sufism (a spiritual tradition which Rumi belongs to). This lecture examines the similarities and differences between the modern-day SBNR and Islamic Sufism.



Pitfalls of Religious Life

By • May 28th, 2014 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

Religion has been a major force shaping human history. It survived the Age of Reason, Enlightenment and Modernity. And by all accounts, it is still quite pervasive in the personal, social and political life of the contemporary world. Even though authentic religion is a force for compassion and justice, religious life is not without peril or pitfalls. It can make people intolerant, violent and full of prejudice. In this lecture, we will explore a few pitfalls of religious life.



Rumi’s Teachings on Soul Development

By • Mar 5th, 2014 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

Our contemporary materialistic culture conditions us to view success in terms of wealth, power and status. This preoccupation with external prosperity comes at a price: neglecting our ‘inner’ life and soul. We tend to forget that happiness is ultimately experienced, and takes shape, in our inner space (or soul). It should come as no surprise to us that our materialistic accomplishments and professional advancements do not often translate into a happy state internally; because, we tend to look for happiness in all wrong places. Spiritual masters, such as Rumi, argue that to experience lasting joy and self-fulfillment, we must nourish and enrich our soul. In this presentation we will explore Rumi’s teachings on the promise and perils in soul development.



Jesus Through the Eyes of Muslims

By • Dec 20th, 2013 • Category: Islam, Lectures

Outside Christianity, no culture surpasses Islam in devoting so much loving attention to Jesus. The Quran, Islam’s sacred book, extensively covers the story of Jesus’ life and mission. It confers many honorable titles on him such as the “Spirit of God”, “Word of God”, and “Messenger of God”. It is precisely due to Quran’s characterization of Jesus as the “Word” of God that Muslims became fascinated with the sayings of Jesus. He also became an inspiration to generations of Muslim mystics, such as Rum, Hafez and Ibn Arabi. In fact, Jesus plays a significant role in Islamic Sufism. In this lecture, we will draw a sketch of the contours of the Muslim perception of Jesus Christ.



Islam and Secularism

By • Nov 21st, 2013 • Category: Islam, Lectures

In the past few decades, the West views Islam largely as a challenge – and a threat- to secular society. The rise of Islamically motivated political movements in the Middle East and Africa has alarmed Western analysts and policy makers. However, the point often overlooked in the discussion is that secularism is largely a product of the West; it has its roots in the Western experience with religion (i.e., Christianity) and the failures of the Christian Church in organizing public life during the Middle Ages. But contrary to popular perception, authentic Islam is not inherently opposed to secularism. In this lecture, we will explore the fundamental teachings of secularism and what authentic Islam has to say about them.



Faith And Social Activism

By • Aug 24th, 2013 • Category: Interfaith, Lectures

Religion has been a powerful force shaping the human history. However, the social impact of world religions has not been uniform. At times, world religions have been a force in the service of compassion, peace, justice and equality; while at other times, they have promoted hatred, fanaticism, discrimination and naked brutality.

Unfortunately today, religion is increasingly becoming a destabilizing force in the life of many nations- and in the international scene. For the sake of world peace and prosperity, it is important to remind ourselves what the founders of world religions aspired to promote in human life, something the Dalai Lama so eloquently summed up: ‘the whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility and forgiveness.”

In this lecture, we will explore the founding principles of world religions, and the challenges facing them in the modern times.



The Path to Inner Perfection

By • Jul 7th, 2013 • Category: Lectures, Mysticism

There is an age-old debate about the source of human happiness and self-fulfillment. Rumi, one of the world’s most renowned mystics, argues that the path to joy and happiness runs through ‘inner perfection’- by looking ‘inward’ to fully realize our humanity. In contrast, the modern lifestyle which is rooted in materialism, defines happiness in terms of finance, luxury and consumption- constantly turning our attention ‘outward’. Yet despite vast increases in material well-being in modern times, most studies show that people do not feel happy. Something is clearly amiss.

Rumi would not be surprised by these modern trends. He would say that the problem lies in our looking ‘outward’, embellishing the external aspects of our life in the vain hope of feeling better inside. This is a wrong prescription.

This lecture will explore Rumi’s teachings on ‘inner perfection’ as a vehicle for attaining joy and happiness.