Esteemed Friends,

Just as the different paths of spiritual practices are but varied approaches to the Divine through one or another aspect of our human nature, even so, the various religious systems that exist in this world today are ever so many ways of approaching the one Supreme Cosmic Reality. It is transcendental and It cannot be encompassed within the confines of the limited experience of our finite senses or our finite inner cognising instruments of mind and intellect. It is known as ‘Para’ in the Sanskrit language and can be translated into ‘that which transcends’, ‘that which is beyond’.

There are many effective, equally valid religions. They are, therefore, to be equally reverenced, equally recognized and equally cherished — not merely tolerated. For it is not so much a question of tolerating another's point of view, but rather being able to understand it from his or her viewpoint.

“In whatever way beings approach Me, even so do I go to them” (Bhagavad-Gita, Ch. 4, 11). This is the maxim par excellence for people of all religions to adopt in their approach to other religions. Religions are apparently different outwardly, but they are essentially one. They all exist for one great spiritual purpose. That great purpose is to re-ligare — to ‘once again bind (man) back’ to the Supreme Cosmic Source of man’s being. Actually, there is never any loosening of this bond or breaking of the connection between you and that Being. You ever abide in Him. It is because you have lost your spiritual awareness that you are regarding yourself as some other being — non-spiritual, material, physical, gross, and phenomenal.

Due to this lesser, obscuring consciousness, you are not able to experience and feel that essential spiritual connection between you and the Supreme Source of your being. But, again and again, the Scriptures declare that there has never been a separation! It is impossible, for He abides within you as your innermost Self, and you abide in Him. You cannot abide anywhere else, for He is infinite, all-pervading, omnipresent!

It is not only that He brought you into existence, but also there is an essential non-difference between the essence of your being and that Supreme Being. The sages and seers who realized That Being within the deepest depth of their spiritual consciousness were given the supreme inner experience that that Supreme Being is one and non-dual. That Being alone exists. That Being is the one and only Eternal Reality. They realized, ‘ekam-eva-advitiyam Brahma’ (‘Brahman is one only without a second’), ‘neha nanasti kincana’ (‘There is no such thing as diversity’).

Therefore, ‘sarvam khalvidam brahma’ (‘All this verily is the Supreme Absolute’) became a fact. It had to be recognized. It was the Truth. Since that Supreme Essence or Principle is one and non-dual, then the many that we see must necessarily be the outcome of that one Supreme Being. Even as various kinds of cloth are constituted of cotton, even as different types of gold ornaments are made only of gold and different kinds of pottery are only clay, even so, the innumerable names and forms of this universe are, in essence, but one Being in a glorious cosmic manifestation. Therefore, the appearance of the many does not invalidate the non-duality of the one Supreme Principle. It alone prevails, non-dual, one without a second.

All religions have come into existence in order to take man back to the eternal source of his being. Not only take him back but to bind him back, bring about a total and enduring abidance in the Divine Spirit. How? Either by the love of his heart, through devotion, prayer, adoration and glorification; or by the penetrating analysis of the intellect, constantly dwelling upon It, enquiring about It from all the various facets; or by concentrating all the scattered rays of his mental powers into one powerful ray and focusing that ray upon the concept of that One, Supreme, non-dual Divine Reality through the inner, mystical process called meditation. Or by trying to approach It by feeling the presence of that Being prevailing everywhere and directing his entire life, love and thoughts into a continuous stream of service unto that Supreme Reality appearing in all forms of life existing on earth, thus making himself a servant of the immanent God indwelling all His creation.

All religious systems ultimately are ascending movements in the direction of the one, supreme, non-dual Cosmic Reality who is the source and origin of countless billions of universes, known and unknown. All religions move in that direction and have the same objective - to once again bring the human nomad into direct contact and permanent relationship with the Universal Being. The means may be different, but the way is one, directed towards one ultimate destination, that is God and God-experience. Call that Being by any name — it is the supreme, transcendental experience of the Cosmic Source and origin of your Being.

This has to be recognized and lovingly preached with firm faith and conviction; and it has to be brought to the knowledge of the masses. It is the great responsibility and the supreme duty to man as well as to God and one's own honesty, of all learned ones who are the custodians of the various religions, not to preach difference but rather to proclaim this inner, essential spiritual oneness. That is the one and only fact that man needs to know, and then alone humanity will gradually become one […].

Religion is love. Religion is recognizing the presence of God everywhere and in everything as a living truth; and real religion is to live a life emphasizing and manifesting this truth through the love of all that exists. Until religion becomes what it is meant to be, the fate of humanity will always be conflict, hatred, disunity and disharmony. Only sorrow can come of it, not joy, not peace, not prosperity. Religion must now assume a different role, its true authentic role. Until now it has lost its direction […]. It has emphasized the non-essentials of religious forms. It is the Spirit that has to be emphasized, not the form. Form cannot affect the essential unity of the Spirit within […].

There should be a resurgence of the essential religion, the real religion. There are not many religions. There is only one religion: man's path back to God, the individual's ascent to the Universal Reality, the cosmic phenomenon of the human being once again linking himself to his Divine Source and Abode. This is religion. Now, the unified religious policy of global humanity must seriously engage itself in this new role as proclaimer of oneness, of harmony.

All religions exist and prevail in order to raise the human spirit towards its essential divine status, so that man's nature becomes filled with the godlike qualities of love, compassion, kindness, purity and with everything that is sublime, beautiful, holy and sanctifying. Man's heart is the right field for the play of these sublime, godly qualities such as harmony, understanding, unity, selflessness and a spirit of service. This is real religion. This is true practice of religion - to be a true child of God, to be a true witness to His all-perfection […].

Religion can and must become a great unifying force, a great force for unity and harmony. Then we can say indeed that God has spoken to man and that religion has now come to take its rightful place in human society. It will fulfil its destined, sublime role of making man aware of his spiritual nature and his oneness with humanity. For within all, that same Light of God dwells as the true eternal identity.

 

*This talk first appeared on the website of the Divine Life Society (D.L.S) and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the General Secretary, D.L.S., Rishikesh, India. It was also published in Chidanandam. The Joy of Knowing Him (Rishikesh: Divine Life Society), 2009, pp. 69-74.

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