Spirituality and Religion
God is one, but at the same time He is many. A tree is one, but it has so many branches. When you look at a branch, you feel it is the tree. When you look at the leaf, you feel it is the tree. Similarly, God may be seen differently from different angles. But He is the same God. All religions are part of one God-Tree. This God-Tree has many branches, flowers and fruits. If you climb up a tree and rest on a particular branch, will the tree be displeased? Similarly, if you take a flower or fruit, no matter from which branch, the God-Tree will be pleased, for each branch is part and parcel of the Tree itself.
Is there any real difference between one religion and another?
There is no fundamental difference between one religion and another, because each religion embodies the ultimate Truth. Each religion is right, absolutely right, because each religion conveys the message of Truth in its own way. There is only one Truth, but it is called different names by different people. Your religion may say one thing, and my religion may say something else. But our religions will never differ when it is a matter of the highest Truth.
The ultimate Goal of every religion is to realise the highest Truth. On the way to our Goal, we may misunderstand each other. Why? Precisely because there are many roads that lead to the Goal. Some will follow one road and some will follow another road. Each road will be able to offer inspiration. One person will say that his road is by far the best because it is pleasing him. Another person will say that his road is the best. But when both reach their destination, they will be at the same Goal: Truth. In Truth there is no conflict; Truth or God-realisation transcends all religions.
God has made many roads
Leading to Him
Since God wants to please
Each individual in his own way,
As He Himself wants to be pleased
In His own way.
What are the qualities of a true religion?
There are two kinds of religion: false religion and true religion. False religion wants to change the face of the world by any means, even by foul means—by hook or by crook. True religion wants only to love soulfully the heart of the world. True religion has a universal quality. It does not find fault with other religions. A false religion will say that it is the only valid religion and its prophet is the only saviour. A true religion will feel that all prophets are saviours of mankind.
A false religion tries to exercise its Himalayan supremacy over other religions. A true religion only sympathises with other religions. It wants to experience its oneness-ecstasy with all religions, founded upon its own soulful cry. It wants to become inseparably one with all religions by virtue of its tolerance, patience, kindness and forgiveness. Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion. Again, a true religion knows perfectly well that it is the Supreme Pilot Himself who is loving and piloting each religion, and at the same time forgiving the weaknesses and shortcomings that each religion unfortunately embodies.
A true religion is one that, down the sweep of centuries, will love mankind with all its imperfections. And on the strength of its oneness-love it will try to bring about a new world—not by force, not by lording it over others, but by becoming inseparably one with others.
A true religion has the capacity to show its followers the invisible truth. A true religion has the capacity to make its followers feel the incredible Love divine. A true religion has the capacity to grant its followers the seemingly impossible
reality: perfection within and without.
Aren’t all religions really worshipping the same God?
There is one absolute Supreme. All religious faiths worship the same God, but they address Him differently. A man will be called ‘Father’ by one person, ‘Brother’ by another and ‘Uncle’ by another. When he goes to his office, he is called by his surname. When he mixes with his friends, they will call him by his given name. He is the same person, but he is addressed in different ways, according to one’s connection with him. Similarly, God is addressed in various ways, accord-ing to one’s sweetest, most affectionate feeling.
What is your opinion of those religious sects which fight with other sects in the Name of God?
I feel very sad when religious sects quarrel and fight in the Name of God. If they really love God, they will not kill others in His Name. Love means oneness. If we have oneness, how can we fight? We fight only because we do not feel love for others, because we have not yet transformed our ignorance into oneness-reality.
In our own being there are many members—the body, vital, mind, heart and soul—and we claim all of them as our own, very own. The body, too, has so many parts, but when we want to achieve something, all the parts work together. In exactly the same way, when we want to do something good for mankind, then all the religions can and should work together.
Since we all have the same Source, we all have the same ultimate destination. Since “all roads lead to Rome,” and we are all heading ultimately to the same Source, it is ridiculous to fight against others who are following different roads. Some people may choose a very short and direct road, while others may take a longer route. Some may want to fly, while others are content to walk.
When all religions work together, they can achieve something great and good for both God and humanity. It is the collective prayers and good will of the followers of all the world’s religions that will bring down the highest Love and Compassion from Above. And it is only God’s Love and Compassion descending into humanity’s heart and life that can change the face and fate of the world.
How can religion overcome a narrow outlook and develop a real acceptance of all other religions as true and necessary?
Religion as such cannot overcome this narrow outlook. Only when religion takes help from spirituality, its elder brother, does it become possible to overcome this narrow outlook. Religion sees God, but spirituality makes the seeker become God. Religion can go as far as believing in the Light or even seeing the Light. But spirituality goes much higher, much deeper. It helps the seeker grow into the Light itself and become one with God-Consciousness and God-Light.
Religion stops at seeing the reality; it does not want to grow into reality. Spirituality, like religion, sees what the reality is, but then it goes one step ahead and wants to consciously grow into the reality itself. So if religion takes help from spirituality, then it is quite possible to overcome all the narrow outlooks found in religion.
Spirituality is not merely tolerance. It is not even acceptance. It is the feeling of universal oneness. In our spiritual life, we look upon the Divine not only in terms of our own God, but in terms of everybody else’s God. Our spiritual life firmly and securely establishes the basis of unity in diversity. Spirituality is not hospitality to another’s faith in God. It is the absolute recognition of the other’s faith in God as one’s own.
“If you accept me in my way,
Then you are good.”
“You do not have to follow my way.
Follow your own way soulfully
And reach your destined goal.”
What does God like best in a religion?
What God likes best in each religion is a oneness-heart. First let each religion tolerate the others. Once tolerance is there, then let each religion go one step further. Let it recognise other religions also. Once recognition is given, each religion has to sincerely feel that other religions are as good as it is. It has to feel that each religion is right in its own way, that all are equal.
Tolerance of others exists only as long as there is a sense of separativity. Once a particular religion gives due value to other religions and sees their existence as an expression of Truth, then that particular religion can go high, higher, highest and deep, deeper, deepest. Seeing and establishing its conscious oneness with all other religions, it can claim that there is only one religion. When a religion comes to realise that all religions form one eternal religion, one eternal eye of Truth, one eternal heart of Truth, then that religion is perfect. This kind of discovery and achievement God likes best in all the world religions.
What is the role of religion in the process of God-realisation?
Each religion is like a house. In the beginning, you have to live in a house; you cannot live in the street. But a time comes when your consciousness expands and the whole world becomes your house. At that time you cannot be bound by the limitations of any one particular house. You accept all religions and, at the same time, you go beyond the domain of religion and achieve conscious oneness with God.
Each religion is like a river. When the river enters into the God-realisation-ocean, it has played its part. At that time, the river becomes the ocean itself; it has become one with the Source.
If you follow a religion, you are on the road to your destination. But if you want to reach the ultimate Truth, then you have to concentrate, meditate and contemplate. That does not mean that you will not go to your church or synagogue anymore. But if you feel an inner call deep within your heart to run fast, faster, fastest towards your Goal, then you have to practise the inner life, the life of self-discipline and meditation.
Religion will tell us there is a God. It will tell us that we have to be good, we have to be kind, we have to be simple, sincere and pure. But spirituality will say that it is not enough just to know that God exists. We also have to see Him, we have to feel Him, we have to grow into Him. This we do through prayer and meditation.