In this blog I will compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the religion I grew up learning about and my present religious beliefs with traditional and current beliefs and practices of the Hindu and The Nation of Islam religions. A little bit about Hindu and The Nation of Islam; Hinduism is a intellectual religion the goal is to enlighten individuals with truth, self love, self knowledge and peace of mind sought the meditation, the Vedas and a group of philosophical systems. The Samkhya system's philosophy divides reality into two parts the Purusha and the Self which is eternally wise, pure and free... and the Prakriti the material universe one most know the difference between the two in order to avoid confusion and delusion. The Advaita system practice belief in one reality, Self the material world is nonexistent, however we create the illusion by worrying ourselves with the issues of the physical world, for example socialism,being concerned with things that isn't meant to be control by others. We control ourselves, investing too much time into the “physical” world is a recipe for confusion and turmoil.
The Nation of Islam, which was started by Elijah Muhammad and a white man named, Master Fard Muhammad, always pointed out that one day we would all live in harmony. Although this still isn't quite true, their message under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan has evolved to fit the time (Simmons, 2009). The Five Pillars of Islam are the five basic principles, guidelines or commandments a Muslim must do his best to fulfill because they are considered God's commandments. Similar to the the ten commandments in the bible true Muslims just same as Christians should do the best without concern as to what other Christians or Muslims are involved with. And in my opinion Muslims have a greater chance at fulfilling the five pillars because followers of Islam seems to be more focus and committed to their religion than to appease the leadership. Learning from their leadership's teachings and using their lives as examples to fulfill these commandments seems to be the basis of five pillars and drawing other followers in.
The person I interviewed is my Dad and personal Guru Russell Simmons, who has been instrumental in bringing hip-hop to every facet of business and media since its inception in the late 1970s: in music with the co-founding of the immensely successful original Def Jam Recordings; in the fashion industry with the trail-blazing Phat Farm, BabyPhat, Run Athletics, ArgyleCulture, American Classics and Def Jam University clothing lines; in film with Simmons Lathan Media Group; in television with HBO’s “The Def Comedy Jam” and “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry”; on Broadway with the Tony Award winning stage production “Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway”; in the financial services industry with UniRush and its RushCard and Baby Phat RushCard; in fine jewelry with The Simmons Jewelry Co; in video gaming, mobile communications and other industries utilizing the internationally recognized Def Jam brand through Def Jam Enterprises; and in the community with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. Russell is a sought-after public speaker and regularly addresses audiences ranging from public school children and university students to corporate executives and community leaders.
Being a follower and writer for Global Grind Russell Simmons' online hip hop magazine I only thought it would be right to discuss the Nation of Islam and Hindu beliefs from his perspective. I also compare and contrast Christianity, the religion I was taught as a child and the affects it's transformation has had on my life as an adult.
1. What are some of the cultural and societal influences that has made the Nation of Islam and Christianity vital to your life?
Russell Simmons: When I grew up in Hollis, Queens there was a rehab, a mosque and a “Steak n' Take” on my corner, all of which where run by the Nation of Islam. There was also a heroin epidemic on that corner that was killing off our teenagers and young adults. Our parents would tell us that when we grow up we should make a choice to either join the army or "be a Muslim or something.” The Nation of Islam secured our housing projects, promoted dignity and transformed men with criminal pasts. Those men would then, in turn, raise refined, educated black children. Hard to dispute this. It took guys off the street and created a powerful, non-violent movement. The Nation of Islam has never been associated with any form of violence and always been about uplifting our communities and making a better future for black people. If you ask anyone from my generation, from any ghetto in this country, I promise you they have roughly the same experiences regarding the Nation's presence in their communities.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: I grew up in a Baptist church, Greater new Bethel Baptist in Opa, Locka Fl (Miami) and it was nothing like what I have experienced in churches as an adult. All of the members took care of one another. It was more of a religious family organization which seemed to care about the youth and the elderly members. After attending/visiting churches in the Tallahassee area, I understand how Jim Jones manipulated his followers into committing suicide. If the Waco massacres happened the way the media wants us to believe. I can also understand how that happened as well. It seems people in today's society are using organized religion to recruit more followers. Many of the Christian-Faith based churches I have attended in the past 3 years have had "charismatic leadership"; however the new twist is "Honor thy leader and not God. Bring me money and followers and there's a possibility your prayers will be answered". Sort of like a genie in a bottle but those needing wishes granted must compete against one another for the leader to ask "God" to grant them.
2. As a follower of Hinduism and Christianity, how do you view the world?
Russell Simmons: I have grown to learn that the world is 100% what you make it…that is the essence of the science of all of the holy books; a collective consciousness that we all go through life seeking. We journey through life trying to cleanse our thoughts, so our prayers will be answered. If we harbor hate in our hearts, then it will take much longer to reach that level of consciousness.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons:Again I can only speak based on my experience in the Christian- faith based religions here in the United States which has completely changed since I was a child. The Christian-faith denominations and non denominations are running wild and confusing their followers will soon lead to a religious war with in the United States, if the leaders don't wake up and start teaching their followers the truth instead of teaching them to follow the leader and not God. Then once the war begins then there will be a division, similar to what we see now with many separate denominations. However many denominations will come together and eventually there will only be two. The ones who actually follow God and teach truth and those that teach their followers to follow man. Which ever group of those two (truth and non truth followers) prevails after the war will then experience a successful interfaith movement comprised of the beliefs from the "majority".
3. What influences do you feel the Nation's as well as Christian leaders has had on the African American community in the past and currently?
Russell Simmons: Certainly some of their preachers were fiery, especially in their pointing out the evils of white supremacy. They said some things in a way that was hard for most whites and some blacks to digest. For example, “THE WHITE MAN IS THE DEVIL.” We have to remember the climate of the country during this time. It was an all out war and the Nation was not about to back-down. The Nation of Islam, which was started by Elijah Muhammad and a white man named, Master Fard Muhammad, always pointed out that one day we would all live in harmony. Although this still isn't quite true, their message under the leadership of Minister Louis Farrakhan has evolved to fit the time.
It is true that some blacks are still not “free” and stuck in a slave mentality, due to the lingering affects of 400+ years of slavery. It is the recognition of this condition that the Nation continues its important work in ghettos across America, giving steady doses of spirituality or sense of higher self to many men and women who need it.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: When I think about organized religion and my experiences in some of the churches that I have visited in the past three years. I think its based on control and manipulation, the religious aspect is just for show. Many churches are like corporations, their staff are paid salaries, and the pastor keeps record of each member’s salary and how much they contribute to the church. Some churches even penalized it’s members who aren’t contributing their fair share according to the bible. Using the bible for profit and as a tool of manipulation and control. I recently moved back to Charlotte, NC from Tallahassee, Fl and my experiences with organized churches there (Tallahassee) were the same once I returned here.
The nondenominational church I attended in Tallahassee, Fl was lead by a young pastor whom the members seem to have a misguided respect for. They called him “Daddy” well the women did. Mainly because they are young college students, or young women who were fatherless and seeking family , acceptance and something to be apart of. These women seemed to be very naive, vulnerable and manipulated. Their every other word when speaking to them about church was “the Pastor” or “Daddy”. The guys seemed to spend their time, when not attending church, looking for ways to get recognition from the pastor on Sunday. Behaving like elementary or middle students when working on a project that they’re wanting to be recognized for. It was insane. I must mention this church was predominantly African American.
4. In Hinduism (Christianity) what's a sin or is Karma determined by the life you lead?
Russell Simmons: Sometimes I'm amazed that we are still breathing. With the horrible abuses of the animals, the planet and human kind, it’s amazing that we are still here. But now I'm really afraid that our beloved country, America, is standing on its last wobbly legs. I'm worried that the karmic effects of our negative actions will finally come home to roost. Our lack of compassion and love could actually consume us. However, we are still being given signs from the universe, glimpses of hope and opportunities to rise up and live up to our promise. The whole world wants us to succeed. The whole world wants us to lead. The whole world wants us to be the beacon of hope that we all joyously supported on November 5, 2008 when we elected our forty-fourth president, Barack Obama.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: In the church I attended as a child I was taught sins included things like lying, being disrespectful, stealing, you know things that the "average" person would consider wrong. But in today's Christian faith based churches it's left up to the leadership to determine if you have sinned or if someone has sinned against you. And based on what you give to the church determines how you or the person who sinned against you will be dealt with. There's no redemption, repentance etc. Though the preacher may speak on it actions say otherwise.
5. What are the important practices, holidays and traditions of these religions?
Russell Simmons: "Yoga" means union with God. The state of yoga could be defined as heaven on earth or Christ consciousness. The spiritual and physical science of yoga is meant to promote consciousness whereby the yogi "can see the miracles unfolding" or be "enlightened". This space is the goal of life. All of us are searching for this peaceful existence also described as the state of "not needing anything." In the classical yoga practice, there are eight steps that are simple but easy to forget. They are as follows:
1) The Yamas (Social restraints). There are five practices and they mirror the ten commandments or restraints in all religions.
2)The Niyamas (observances)
- Asana: Physical practice of yoga. Asana means seat. All poses should be steady and joyful. This is the physical practice you see in studios. Smile and breathe every pose.4) Praniyama: Science of life-force or breath control. Practice of making the holy breath your soundtrack.5) Pratihara: withdrawal of senses6) Concentration7) Dharma meditation8) Samahdi: State of yoga union with GodI'm sitting here on vacation with my children teaching them these simple practices. Finally I tell them, "we are all practicing yogis like it or not. We are all moving toward God. Some faster than others. These practices, like the sciences of all major religions speed up our evolution."
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: Christians have created a bunch of holidays to celebrate the life and death of Jesus, Christmas as I discussed earlier, Good Friday commemorates Jesus' crucifixion and Easter Sunday this commemorates Jesus' resurrection. Because Christianity in the United States is so divided and watered down Jesus is being replaced with Pastors and Ministers who are placing themselves on a pedestal and interrupting their congregation's connection or relationship with God because of their selfish need to be worshiped and praised.
Muslims celebrate Ramadan to commemorate, and they must pray five times daily the daily practices are based around oneness with god and cleansing of the body and soul. Same a Hindus. Fasting does exist in Christian- faith based religions in the United States it’s just the meaning behind isn’t as serious in my opinion. It’s seems as if ministers pick a week or two from out of the month and instructs his follows on what to eat and not to eat as a for of control it has nothing to do with God or the religions true practices.
6. How has the practices and traditions of these religions shaped yours and your family's life?
Russell Simmons: The daily practice of meditation is precious to me. It's in the stillness and the silence that I am able to make sense of the world and the creative possibilities that help me do better in all aspects of my life. Every morning after meditation, I look through the daily newspapers and surf the internet. Some of this stuff is supposed to be pretty heavy. But honestly, at that time of the morning I'm still high as hell from my meditation and really "its all illusion".
The yogi's say life's whole pursuit is coming to a higher state of consciousness where we attain a state of needing nothing. I know that when we start to throw out our junk and start needing LESS junk- we are heading in the right direction. One of the greatest gifts I can give as a parent is passing on faith in this knowledge so that my children can be free of the disease of always wanting more and come to a place of recognition that we always have everything we need at every moment.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: After a quick assessment of my life and the things that I have experienced and things that I continued to see in others I encounter, I considered myself spiritual. My definition of spiritual is knowing that there is a higher power to which I am connected and also the achievement of knowledge of and becoming one with Self. There was a time when I was so caught up in the physical world and trying to compare myself with and meet up to the standards of others. I was confused with so many influences I didn't know which way to turn, however, I read and studied the Bible my entire life. The Bible has taught me the principles to live by, comparable to the Vedas, I even meditate and this is something that I just knew I had to do in order to have peace of mind and not allow outside influences to control me. I teach my son the same; live right, eat right and respect yourself and those around you.
I grew up baptist and I have attended several churches of various denomination throughout the United States and have found many people are just looking for something to latch on to while they compete for positions, recognition and acceptance and have no knowledge of self. Many of the people will fall for anything their leadership tells them even if it means commit crimes against another. Not only is this behavior demonstrated in churches, it exists in corporate and social organizations. Christianity has the same guidelines as Hinduism. It's just Christianity is based on and made up of confusion from the physical world. Granted their a millions of people following the principles of the Vedas or a Guru however very few really understand what it means to be One with and have complete knowledge of Self.
7. Eye for an Eye? Or turn the other cheek?
Russell Simmons: I have been told by many of my twitter followers that the reason they follow me is because I am a spiritual voice of reason. Every day I remind my “followers” to turn the other cheek, meditate to bring themselves closer to god and to try not waste their energy sweating the small stuff. I know that if they follow my advice and are able to find that stillness, the one that I have been fortunate enough to get a glimpse of, it will eventually lead them to happiness, or a state of yoga that is their birthright. I certainly can't say I’ve mastered it, but I have faith that it is possible in this lifetime. I am, as you are, a work in progress. But if you ask anyone who has known me before I started practicing these principals, they will say that the person who was nicknamed "Rush," because I couldn't sit still, is now someone who doesn't "Rush as Much."
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: In the churches from the past it was "pray about it and turn the other cheek". In today's Christian-faith based churches if the followers give the pastor enough money he will make sure the problem is dealt with and the victim will never know where it came from. It's as if the Church Leaders really believe they have the power of God.
8. What are the challenges, if any, to practicing this particular religion? What can be done to overcome them?
Russell Simmons: Young people are our most precious natural resource, and we must do all we can to give them tools that will help them stay focused and positive. Stress is everywhere, in the streets and the classroom. There¹s a mountain of scientific data that supports the fact that consciousness-based education and having quiet time at the beginning and end of the school day improves academic performance and spills over to happier and healthier young people at home.
I am excited to join in the visionary work of the David Lynch Foundation who are hard at work chasing the dream of bringing TM to a million students worldwide. I thank them for taking the lead among teachers, doctors, scientists, and visionary artists like Paul McCartney and others involved in helping youth unleash their full brain potential.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons: I find it funny that many churches have thousands of members and they ask/require their members to go out and recruit for the church. "We need more members" because they new building, that the current members are paying for, is opening soon and they want to fill it up so that they can ask for more member's and more money for another building. No one in the church is concerned about the sick unless, it a member that pays consistently and makes it worth the Pastor's time. None of the leaders are instructing their followers to witness and tell others about the Truth and choices etc. It's all about drawing people unto the Pastor, god is slowly being removed from those types of churches. It's gonna eventually lead to mass confusion, then war.
9. Is there a Heaven, Hell or does the life I live now determine my reincarnation.
Russell Simmons: America, our country is under indictment. And we will be found guilty if we don’t act. If we allow these nasty, malicious people, who harbor so much hate with views that separate us from the rest of world, to continue to tell us how to think, we will be found guilty of charge one. If we allow so-called “men of faith” who don’t practice a word Jesus Christ preached, to bully us and scare us, we will be found guilty of charge two. If we allow leaders of our country who claim that they represent us, when they really represent big business and corporate greed, to create policy in our name, we will be found guilty of charge three. If we allow leaders of a political party that only know one word, and that is “no,” to work against the best interests of our country, we will not only be found guilty of charge four, we will be sentenced by GOD to SELF-DESTRUCTION.
Arra Da Flygurl Simmons:One of the Pastors, (a college graduate), that I was under as a child taught us about those who profess no belief of God with in their groups. However they say otherwise to the public "wolves in sheep clothing". I guess this is one of the reasons I began to question Christianity as an adult. I always looking to find those "wolves in sheep's clothing". Then I also remember another friend of mine who came home after graduating college and she would tell me about "circles" that exist and how some were there for protection and how some set out to destroy those who would not conform. For years to follow those two things really stuck with me because I was always taught to believe in God and was under the impression the every one else felt the same. There were just "sinners" who would eventually choose "god" and everybody would go to Heaven because who would want to go to hell?
Conclusion:Now after learning how the Nation of Islam has such a positive influence on it's community and it's followers. Again I question Christianity, why has it transformed into a brainwashed control mechanism that is slowly but surely removing God from the basis of it's beliefs and practices. In my opinion, Hinduism is similar to a democracy the people have the choice and the freedom the worship and choose which belief system to follow under one religion, though to many this could be very confusing. The only difference is there is peace within this religion because of the practices and varied system of beliefs. The end result for the "Christian-faith denominations and non denominations who are running wild and confusing their followers will soon lead to a religious war with in the United States, if the leaders don't wake up and start teaching their followers the truth instead of teaching them to follow the leader and not God".