-- What it is
TRUE RELIGION IS UNIVERSAL LOVE
AND REMEMBRANCE OF GOD
What is true religion? This is the
most natural question with man, and each one is confronted with it at one
stage or another. We have with us hundreds and thousands of scriptures
and treatises dealing with the vital problems of life, but they are not
at one in their reply to this baffling question. We have, therefore, to
carry on our investigation and our search for a 'correct solution,' and
there can be only one. But before we launch upon this quest, we must first
know the purpose of religion or Dharma. The objective which all the religions
place before us is, however, one and the same-Divine Beatitude and the
Beatific Vision of the Lord. All religions, then, aim at the same target,
like so many archers. If we are really sincere in our profession of love
for God, we must have love for Cod's creation, because the Creator and
His creation are identical. We cannot love the one and hate the other.
All the saints and sages work on this principle and love humanity as such,
no matter whether one believes in God or does not, for they draw no distinction
between theists and atheists or agnostics. They believe in the one great
family of Cod and all are dear to them, in spite of seeming differences
in non-essentials of life
But what do we actually see in the world? Having forgotten the basic truth of love working at the root of all religions, we are cut off from the sheet-anchor and are afloat rudderless on the sea of life. Each one of us tries to catch at a straw to save himself. The natural result is that after a brief struggle with chance winds and waters, we sink into the great oblivion, without solving the riddle of life - whence we come and where we are bound, or the why and wherefore of human life.
Love, then, is the only true religion. Saint Paul, addressing the Galatians, said: "By love, serve one another." (Galatians V:13). Leigh Hunt declared: "One who serves his fellow men, loves God and is the true beloved of God." Similarly Samuel Taylor Goleridge, in his famous poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, informed us:
"He prayeth best who loveth best,St. John, in his Epistle (I John IV:8), wrote: "He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love." Christ, the great apostle of peace, emphatically laid clown a cardinal principle of life in his memorable words: "Love thy neighbour as thyself." And again he emphatically declared: "Love, and all things shall be added unto thee."
All things both great and small,
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."
"All reflect the Self-Source Light,The difference in forms, in modes of life, in clothing and in outer observances are all due to physiological conditions and cannot affect the inner working of the soul; and they fade into vapourous nothings when one rises above the body-consciousness and enters the Divine Ground at the seat of the soul.
Oh, none is good or bad." - Parbhati Kabir
"The part is in the whole, and the whole in the part,
Where then the difference, when both reflect the One?" - Parbhati Kabir
"No better than quarry stone is the Kaaba of Khalil,This is what the great saint, Maulana Rumi, advises: "O man, circumambulate the secret Kaaba of the heart, unlike the Kaaba of Khalil - for God made the Kaaba of the human heart."
The Kaaba of the human heart provides God a seat.
Of all pilgrimages, the one to the human heart is true,
It gives more of merit than the countless Mecca trips will do."
"The Grace of God never descends until ye love His creation;
God forgives only those who work for the good of His creation."
ALL MEN HAVE EQUAL PRIVILEGES FROM GOD
All persons irrespective of sex, colour,
caste or creed; all men rich or poor, high or low, come into the world
the same way. Born, as he is, from the mother's womb by the union of sperm
and ovum, each one sees the light of the day after a period of gestation.
Kabir Sahib, a great Indian saint, while addressing a high caste priest, told him: "O Brahman, should you claim high birth and on that account special privileges, you ought to have been born in a way different from that of the rest."
Again, there is a marked likeness in the physical attributes of all men whether in the East or the West. Each one is gifted with an equal number of organs and senses. All are moved and actuated by similar impulses and instincts. The weather conditions affect them all alike. All enjoy freely the gifts of Dame Nature and participate in her boundless bounties-light, air, water and food, etc.
In every way, similarity runs through the entire creation. All persons, irrespective of their nationalities or colours, are gifted with bodies composed of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether, and live alike on this earth under the canopy of the blue sky. Disease, decay and death come to all in just the same way. No one escapes the ravages of time. So also do the remedies work in each case. God has made no distinction between man and man. Man alone is responsible for all kinds of distinctions and differences of caste, colour and creed, splitting humanity into narrow grooves of classes, groups, sects and nationalities.
All apparent religious differences
are man-made and are the result of narrowness and bigotry.
Saints and seers have one common message for the entire world. Their message is one of Universal Love. No one, indeed, can prove his love of God unless he knows how to love his fellow beings. Just as physical maladies wreck the human body, so do mental perversities. The latter so poison the circulatory system in the body, that one is badly affected by greed, selfishness, hatred, ill will and animosity, which in turn lead to perverted outlook on life. Thus man is dragged down to the level of beasts, nay, at times, man descends even lower than the beasts. Very often, the result is social and economic disintegration.
Whenever Master-souls come into the world, they tell us that all religious differences are the outcome of ignorance, individual whim, religious vanity or spiritual egotism. So-called leaders in every religion suffer from misguided fervour and narrow prejudices, so that they cannot possibly take a detached view of things around them. On the contrary, they see the world through the smoke-coloured glasses they have provided for themselves. They have no toleration for things and conditions that are not in accord with the rigid creeds of their organized sectarian or religious orders.
There is only one world-embracing universal religion, the religion of Love, based on the great fundamental truth--the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, We have through self-interest, petty, prejudices and befogged understanding, carved out narrow sectarian principalities. We have raised around us hedges and walls of hatred and antagonism thus dividing man from man, class from class, nation from nation, and country from country. In this connection, Hafiz, a great Mohammedan saint, stated:
One Reality shines both in Islam and Kufar (the man of faith, and a heretic)
and all the seeming differences in the various orders are, in fact,
It is through sheer prejudice that the Brahmans and the Sheikhs (religious heads
of Hinduism and Islam, respectively) have now different drinking bowls,
though in a wine-bar there is only one butler (the God-man), dispensing the
same wine (of Divine Love) from the same flagon to the various tipplers at the table.
Saints tell us that there is only one God of the entire universe. The Upanishads say the same thing: "Truth is one, though sages call it variously." He is the God of the whole creation and not of one religion or the other. There is, in fact, no difference between Karta (the One True Creator) of the Hindus and Karim (Merciful) of the Muslims, Ram (Sustainer of the Hindus) and Rahim (Compassionate of the Muslims). All these names are descriptive of the various attributes of God and were coined by sages, saints, rishis and munis of different denominations in their own respective languages. The Nameless Reality is One but responds to the calls of all by any name by which any individual may invoke that Power.
"The Nameless One has many names. He doth attend, by whatsoever nameOne must carefully avoid the dangers of doubt and skepticism. God alone need be worshipped and adored. He is the God of all, and each one is His manifestation. The same life-impulse works in all, and each is lighted by the same light. The entire humanity constitutes a single class by itself. Guru Gobind Singh says in this context:
He is addressed." - Maulvi Rumi
"Some keep shaven crowns, while others robe themselves in flame-coloured apparel, and still others call themselves Jogis (a sect that wear wooden earrings in their ears and are ever on the march from stage to stage). Again, some are observing celibacy in quest of the Lord, while others perform penances and strict austerities. Some are Hindus and some are Turks, while others are Imams, Rafzi or followers of any other saint. With all these differences in nomenclature, they at the root are all One- mankind- to wit, men born of and embedded in God. Call Him the Creator, the Merciful, the Donor or Rahim, for that makes no difference at all--take this as a settled truth and be not therefore bewildered by diversity in names. They all serve and worship the same God, the same Lord and Master of the Universe. All of them manifest the image of the same God and exist simply by His Love and Light alone. Many a name has the Nameless One; addressed in any, He doth attend."
Remembrance of God is the main thing
before us to find the Way back to Him. The purpose of all devotional exercises,
places of worship and pilgrimages is the same. The human body is the veritable
temple of God.
There is one and only one common objective of the various forms of devotion as prescribed in different scriptures: How to love the Lord and how to realise Him. Various writers, in different times and in different climes, have in their own way pointed out this Path leading to God. It may be likened to a game of archery, in which so many archers participate and discharge their arrows at the common target. An Indian saint said: "Each one in his own way talks to us of his own Beloved. O Rajab! the target is one but the archers are countless."
In the holy Quran (Surat Nahal-5th Raku) it is mentioned that from time to time different forms of worship were introduced by God-sent Master-souls according to the needs of the age in which they lived. Omar Khayyam, a great Persian Sufi poet, discloses: "The temples and the mosques, or the churches and the synagogues, are alike for the worship of God. The Gong and Conch perpetually produce therein rapturous strains of the Music of Life. The Arch in the mosques, the Cross in the churches, the Altar in the temples and the Lamp in the synagogues are just different symbols for the worship of the Divine Beloved.
God cannot be realised outside oneself, even in the holy places of worship, no matter what their denomination might be. To realise Him, one has to enter into the laboratory of the human body which in the truest sense of the word is the temple of God. Real worship and devotion are purely internal and mental processes, unconnected with and independent of any and everything outside the human frame. All that is required is purity of mind. With an ethical background, one can worship God anywhere under the blue sky, for the whole world is a vast temple of God, and there is no place without Him, including the specific places of worship described above. In fact, wheresoever devotion kneels in humility, that place becomes sanctified.
In the holy Quran (Albukar) it is mentioned: "All the universe is His. Turn wheresoever one may, East or West, one would face God, for He is both Omnipresent and Omniscient.' Again: "For the ignorant, God lives only in man-made temples, mosques or churches, but the really awakened find Him only within themselves- the God-made temple of the human body."
Al-Nisaee Sahib affirmed: "For me the whole world is a holy mosque; wherever the fixed time of prayer comes up, my followers may perform their prayers then and there."
"All is holy where devotion kneels." -H. O. WendellMaghrabi Sahib tells us: "Thy Beloved is within thee but thou art ignorant of it and goest to find Him without, from place to place. To go to a mosque in search of one who is the very soul of thy soul, is nothing short of tragic waste of time. The ignorant bow down before a mosque, while the wise are engaged in purifying the mind, which is the throne of God Himself." The former is just sham and tinsel, and the latter is the actual reality.
"Where shall I go, when I see His glory within?
The mind saturated in Him has no distractions.
One day greatly obsessed, I prepared a sandal paste,
And started for the abode of Brahma, when the Master told me that He dwelt
in the folds of the mind."
Wherever I go, I see houses of water and clay;
And yet I see Thee in fullness in everything.
I have searched for Thee in the Vedas and the Puranas,
and all scriptures repeat the same.
Why should I wander elsewhere when Thou art right here?"
"O Satguru! I would like to make a holocaust of myself at Thy feet,
For Thou hath saved me from all delusions and snapped all bonds,
Ramanand now lives and rests in Brahma,
The Word of the Master burns to ashes myriads of Karmas." - Basant Ramanand
Guru Arjan stated: "Some address Him as Ram and some as Khuda. Some call Him Gosain and others Allah. He is the Kaaran and Karim or the Kirpa Dhar Rahim. He is the Creator giving out merciful glances all the world over. Some go for a bath to the sacred rivers, while others go for a Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Some worship Him and some bow their heads in silent adoration. Some engage in the study of the Vedas and some read sacred books of other religions. Some put on white raiments and some the blue apparel. Some are called Hindu and others Turk. But O Nanak! one who has known His Will (by becoming a conscious co-worker with Him), he alone may know the mystery of God." -Ramkali M.5
The sacred lore of the Hindus is in Sanskrit or in Hindi, and that of the Mohammedans, in Arabic or in Persian. Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs is in Punjabi, while the Bible of the Christians is in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and English. The various expositions, the commentaries and annotations of these are in the different languages that were in common vogue at one time or another. Alt these scriptures, whatever their language (for language counts not with God), simply serve the purpose of creating in us a desire, a yearning, a craving, a longing and love for God. They are the means and not the end, for God is an Unwritten Law and His is an Unspoken language. He is beyond all tongues, for none can reach Him. No particular tongue has any special merit, for it is just a vehicle of expression and nothing else, so that one may narrate and listen to the loving stories of God. Hafiz therefore beautifully indicates:
"O Hafiz! in the matter of love, there is no difference between Turkish and Arabic or other languages. The tales of love may be narrated in any of the languages that may be known to thee."The various peoples of the different lands are just like so many sons of the same Father and flowers of the same garden, though gifted with different colours and fragrance. Living in the lap of the same Dame Nature and under the same blue canopy, we have narrowed ourselves through petty prejudices and short-sighted vision, into various religious sects and orders. Religion, as the word literally implies, is a 'Way-back' or re-linking with the Source. Instead of vouchsafing liberation, religion has, like the proverbial 'Blanket-bear,' taken hold of us in its iron grip, from which it is not possible to escape.
THE FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS
These are common in all religions and
point the same way. Religious truths, whether social, ethical or spiritual,
have a common ideal and a common objective. Man should lead an ethical
life, serve mankind, be of help to all others in this earthly sojourn,
and should know himself and then develop God-knowledge and God-consciousness
leading ultimately to God-head. The word religion, as the term indicates,
is a great binding force that links man back to his Creator, Whom he, by
his entire absorption in the mundane affairs of life, has entirely forgotten
through having become identified with the world. Love of man and love of
God, as also faith in God and living contact with 'God-in-action' or the
'Holy Ghost,' 'Ek-aunkar' or the 'Word,' is the universal religion
that has been given to the world by the saints from age to age. It is eternal
and unchangeable for all times.
All the scriptures, the world over, teach the same thing, namely, that one should engage in good and pious acts, take hold of the saving life-chord within and, riding on the Sound-current, reach the home of his Father. God is the Ideal and one should worship Him with love and devotion, and people should serve one another with love. St. Paul always exhorted mankind: "By love serve one another." The Vedas tell us to remember and worship God in congregations. (Atharv Veda: 3:30-5). There is no virtue higher than to have firm faith in God, to commune with His holy Word and to render loving service to His creation. This, in fact, is the true and universal religion, common for mankind, eternal and unchangeable.
Guru Arjan, speaking of the highest and holiest Truth at the core of all religions, refers to contact with the 'shabd Dhun,' the Sound Principle which is the primal manifestation of God and the causeless Cause of the entire creation.
"The highest and the holiest in all religions enjoins communionIt was because of this that Guru Arjan, while compiling the sacred scriptures of the Sikhs, the Granth Sahib, collected therein the sayings of the various Master-souls-- Hindus, Mohammedans and Sikhs-- without caring for their vocation in life, high or low. In it we find the sayings of Sant Kabir (a weaver by profession), Nam Dev (a calico-printer), Ravi Das (a cobbler), Dharma Jar, Baba Farid (a Mohammedan), and others of the Khshatriya class. Such godly souls come into the world, untrammeled and free, with a specific mission, the dispensation of the Saving Grace of the Lord for those who listen to them and follow their teachings. It is a proof positive of the fact that Reality, is one, though it has been named differently by different sages in different places and at different times. Such Master-souls, whenever and wherever they appear on the scene of life, impart to the erring humanity lessons m humanitarianism and godliness and instill in the people the love of man and God, but above all put them on the Path leading Godwards. They, imbued with the spirit of God, are freethinkers and try to make mankind free from the water-tight and narrow limitations of fossilised religions and religious beliefs, so that they may bask in the sunshine of God and sing of His glory.
with the Word of God, and good actions."- Gauri M.5
"There is no virtue higher than to sing of the Lord (the Divine Melody)
and to associate with His elects.
O Nanak! these boons one gets only through the writ of the Most High
and not otherwise." -Sorath M.5
"I sent you into the world to unite people unto Me,No religious barriers stand in the way of God-men. They serve as beacon lights in the stormy sea of life. In fact, they have love for all religions and actually give life and light to them all without which these gradually, in course of time, grow dull, drab and lifeless like a body without the life-giving Spirit.
And not to lead astray such as were already united with Me."
"When once the ignorance is dispelled, all distinctions between the Hindus and the Muslims, and in fact among all the sectarian people, drop off and vanish like airy nothings." - Guru Gobind SinghGod is the substratum and life-principle for the entire creation--even of the heretics and the agnostics. As He loves all, so do saints who are dyed in His very colour. Once Moses, sharing a meal with someone, felt a rude shock in the depth of his heart when he saw that his companion had offered no grace before taking the food; but God reprimanded him, for he had no business to be dissatisfied with one whom He (God) in his unbounded mercy provided with food. Such Master-souls have great and unbounded love for one and all, no matter if some of them be the worst of sinners, the most despised and hated by society. No person has a right to address God as Father, unless he is prepared to love his fellow beings as his brethren. All life springs from His and as such, there should be no discrimination between high and low, the faithful and the heretic. One may not know the Father: that is a different thing, but he is born of the Father and that is all one need know and act upon.
PLACE OF RITES AND RITUALS IN
Their Different Forms and Their Values
Rites and rituals as well as forms
and ceremonies play an integral part in each religion. The differences
in rites and rituals and in the forms and ceremonies of various religions
are determined by various considerations like climatic conditions prevailing
in different countries and the mode of life of the people. Let us, for
instance, take the case of Arabia. It is a desert country. Owing to scarcity
of water it is considered enough for an Arab to wash only his feet, hands
and face before offering prayers; and where no water is available at all,
he may cleanse them with sand instead, the ritual being technically known
as Tayamum. Similarly, in Bikaner, another desert tract, in India,
where there is dearth of water, it is commonly believed that if someone
uses more than ten pounds of water in a day, he will have to account for
his extravagance to God.
In the rest of India and other places where water is plentiful, no one sits for meditation without a full bath, to one's heart's content. Again, in the West, people would enter churches and attend the services bareheaded but with shoes on. In the East, it is quite the contrary. An Oriental would never enter a temple or a Gurdwara and attend the service unless he covered up his head and his feet were bare. The object in each case is, of course, the same--to maintain an attitude of respect and reverence for the holy precincts. Different modes of worship have been adopted in various parts of the world owing to climatic considerations, such as a cold climate in the West and a hot climate in the East.
All rites and rituals are correlated with the human body and are, more or less, part of social conduct. The ultimate object in each ease is to secure cleanliness and awareness on the one hand, and a respectful attitude on the other, before going into the presence of God. The outer forms that one may adopt to achieve the object are immaterial to God. He loves His creatures regardless of how and in what fashion they come to Him, just as any earthly father would love his children whether they were in rich attire or in tatters. Here is the question that naturally arises: When love is the universal religion for the entire humanity, how has mankind come to be split up into so many sectarian and watertight compartments, in spite of the fundamental unities in all religions? This segregation into groups is due to the differences in the articles of faith, which in course of time grow rigid and inelastic.
When Guru Nanak went to Mecca and preached worship of the Supreme God, the Muslims declared that there was no difference between his teachings and those of Islam. Guru Nanak then explained to them that his teachings centered around "Absolute Oneness," while theirs were hedged around with limitations and were, therefore, "Relative Oneness" only. He said that God sent into the world countless prophets and Master-souls to guide the people from time to time, and will continue to do so in the future. The law of supply and demand was always at work in Nature, as well as in man, and there could be no limitations to God's power to send mediators and reconcilers into the world. Similarly, from age to age and in different climes and countries, there sprang up sacred lore and scriptures like the Vedas, the Quran and the Bible, and there could be no end to these at any time.
God is Infinite and man as a finite being cannot possibly know His purpose and the working of His Will, nor can he adequately sing of His limitless attributes. The more one may advance towards Him, the greater he grows in His glory and greatness -- too deep for human insight to penetrate and understand Him. A fish living in the ocean cannot know the depth and extent of the ocean.
"Thou art an all-knowing ocean and I, a trifling shrimp, cannot sound Thy vastness."God is Infinite and all ideas of finitude that may be attributed to Him are, in the very nature of things, contradictions in terms -- the two ideas being highly incompatible with each other. He created innumerable Brahmas, Vishnus, Shivas, Gorakhs and Naths, Ramas and Krishnas, Buddhas, Christs, and Mohammeds. All of them were the torch-bearers of His light, and many. more shall come, according to the needs and requirements of the time. Man being finite cannot possibly know the Infinite and His inscrutable ways whereby He fulfills His purpose. The more a person advances in mere mundane knowledge and learning, the more he recedes from Him, and the bounds of High Glory fade from his view.
- Sri Rag M I
"Thou art limitless; how can we as limited beings know of Thee, O Lord."
- Sorath M.5