In "Voices of Faith," religious leaders answer readers' questions.
We need very little
A.M. Bhattacharyya, an active member of Hindu community: From the Hindu viewpoint, plain living and high thinking are the characteristics of a spiritual life. Mohandas Gandhi, reverently known as Mahatma (Great-soul), led an exemplary spiritual life. He lived on simple vegetarian food, covered his body with a plain garment and resided in a modest cottage.
Over two millenniums ago, Sage Patanjali formulated a step-by-step spiritual process a person should practice to move up in a spiritual life. This system of yoga, known as raja yoga, has eight limbs or parts. So, this process is called "eight-limbed yoga." A spiritual aspirant has to practice and master all parts, step by step, to attain the fullest spiritual illumination.
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The first step is to embrace ethical principles, such as non-harming, truthfulness, non-theft, continence and generosity. Next is the observance of internal and external cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study of scriptures and devotion to God.
After establishing purity of mind and thoughts, the spiritual aspirant takes the third step to practice firm and pleasant sitting postures. Next is the control of life-principles that enable a person to breathe properly and to think and act judiciously.
The last four steps are detachment of mind from sense objects, practicing concentration of mind within a center of spiritual consciousness, meditation and finally absorption in transcendental consciousness.
Moderation is key
Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Council: Humans are mortal beings and need regular intake of nutrition to ensure that their mind and body function optimally. A balanced diet provides all essential nutrients that we need to keep us alive and healthy. In rare cases it may be possible to train one's mind and body to survive on a minimum amount of food and water, but this compromises good mental and physical health and is not conducive to sound spiritual life.
Islam recognizes both the limitations and capabilities of human beings, and its laws and regulations are based on this recognition; the rules emphasize moderation and balance in everything that we do.
For example, the Qur'an says: "Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters (Chapter 7, Verse 31); and again: "Eat of the good things we have provided for your sustenance, but commit no excess therein..." (20:81). These verses not only tell us that eating and drinking are part of our biological needs but also remind us about doing so in moderation and to avoid waste.
Knowing that in today's world there are 1 billion people who remain hungry and another billion who have no access to clean water, one cannot but marvel at the Islamic teachings that were revealed some 1,400 years ago, imploring us to use these vital resources in moderation and not waste them.