From a careful and unbiased study of the sacred books of the world we find that there is one Reality, which is our goal. That Reality is termed God and by various other names. God made man and man made worldly religions. Such religions were made for the uplift of man. We have to make the best use of them so that ultimately we may know ourselves and then know God.
Religion has two aspects: One is the social side, or the outward side. The other aspect is the inner religion, the spiritual side. We have to start with outer forms of religions. Man issocial; he must remain in some society.
Rituals and ceremonies vary in different religions
Each society has its own various ceremonies and rituals, its own scriptures, its own mode of saying prayers. This is the non-essential side. We have to remain in' some social religion because man is a social being--and to remain in some social religion is a blessing. But that is an elementary step---our going to churches or other holy places of worship, saying prayers, reading the scriptures, observing certain ceremonies, and rituals. All these go to create love in us for God.
But if our performance of rituals, reading of the scriptures or attending the churches or other holy places of worship does not even create in us love of God and constitutes mere mental gymnastics, these lead us nowhere. That does not mean that you are not to live in any social religion. You are to do so. If you revolt against it, you will have to form another society.
Suppose there are ten thousand people of your views. Then you will have to form a separate society and make certain rules to go by. After some time you find that a certain rulehas proved defective and must be amended. So you go on amending the rules.
All the same this has to do with your outer selves. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Similarly, social religions were made for man, but man was not madefor social religions. The purpose of remaining in any social religion is just to know oneself and then to know God. That is one aspect of religion. The other aspect is the observance of certain rituals and ceremonies. These vary in different religions, but you will find their purpose is nearly the same.
For example, in some churches to sit bareheaded is a mark of respect. In India, to sit with one's head covered is a sign of respect. That is a custom there. Apparently, there is a difference between the two observances, but the purpose is the same. Both signify that whenever you sit in the presence of God, just remembering Him, you should sit in a respectful posture.
These are, however, non-essentials. The purpose is the same, no doubt. Apparently, some differences exist, but those differences do not affect in any way the purpose of the church.
Those who follow the letter of the rule, simply forget the spirit and fight only for the apparent differences. In Arabia, where there is a dearth of water, there is a custom that whenever you say prayers, you should just wash your hands, feet, face, and then sit for prayers. In other countries where there is an abundance of water, they say that until you take a bath, it will not be right to sit for prayers. That is only an apparent difference on account of the climatic or geographical conditions of the place.
Look to the purpose for which religions were made
We have to live in some social religion. So it is better to remain where you are. Do not change, if it can be helped. While there, what should you do? Just read the holy scriptures--the sayings of the Masters--you have, and try to understand what they say, and live up to them.
This is what you find: All Masters who came in the past were the children of Light, and came to give Light to the world. They did not come for any special religion or special country. They came for all humanity.
It is now time to cast aside the trivial differences that exist--the non-essentials. We should just look to the purpose for which they were made, and open our eyes to the Reality that we are all worshipping the same God. These were meant to represent that Reality which exists.
Now you will find, from the standpoint of all religions, that God the absolute is beyond what is known and manifested. That is something even beyond what is supporting and creating all creation. That Reality is at the back of everything.
The ultimate teaching of all social religions is just to love God
The ultimate goal of all religions is God, and that we should be able to see God. Leaving the non-essentials, what do they tell us? They say, Love thy God. This is said by all the religions. When you see and come in contact with God, only then, truly speaking, can you love God. At present, your loving God is practically impossible. Simply on the emotional side, you sometimes say certain things, but you have no contact with that Reality, and true love does not arise, and does not last.
When the Pharisees and the Sadducees went to Christ they returned in silence, because an intellectual man speaking to a man of realization cannot stand before him. While the latter sees certain things and then speaks, the intellectual man simply quotes verses from the holy scriptures which he has read, and afterwards he cannot reconcile things.
Naturally, when they came to Christ, they became quiet. Then they gathered together and came up to Him.
"Now, Master, what is the greatest commandment in thelaw?" What did he say? Jesus said unto them:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thysoul and with all thy might. This is the first and greatest of allcommandments. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt lovethy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang allthe law and the prophets.
The ultimate teaching of all social religions is just to love God. As God resides in every heart, love all humanity, all creation. For the love of God, you are to love all humanity. If we havelove for all humanity, all other commandments follow. He whom you love, are you going to kill him? Are you going to rob him of his property? Are you going to bear false witness against him? No, not in the least.
So on these two commandments hang all other commandments. The Sermon on the Mount, the Eightfold Path of the Buddha, the Niyama yama and Sadachar of the Hindus all speak of the same thing, in their own languages and, of course, in their own ways.
Live up to what the scriptures say
If we live up to what the scriptures say, there will be peace on earth, and the Kingdom of God will surely come on earth. Then there will be no danger of any war. What a pity: these things are given in our holy scriptures, but we follow, if at all, the letter of the law at the cost of the spirit. That is the cause of discord.
All Masters came to unite men, not to separate man from man. They were the lovers of God, and they taught men how to love all humanity. You will see, this is one side of the thingthat we have before us. We are to love all humanity because God resides in every heart.
The holy scriptures, with all the rest of the sayings about the various aspects of God, have not been able exactly to say what God is. Some phase of it, some part of it they did express, out of loving devotion. But from there we can only deduce some idea of God.
Man's highest thought of God never has and never can measure the Eternal, but it constitutes self-revelation. Your highest thought of God is not the measure of God, but the measure of our own hitherto unknown propensities. Each Master has been saying the same thing: When I attempt to speak of the highest, I cannot. I become as one dumb. How then can we express it? Even out of the love and intoxication they have of Reality, they give out something, but it still remains as unsaid as ever.
This is what the scriptures lay down. I told you this is the outer aspect of religion--social religions. When you think that God resides in every heart, you will not kill anyone. You will respect each man, when you know for certain that God resides in every heart.
When we live up to what the scriptures say, we should all love God. Naturally, we will have respect for all others, for all living things.
True temple of God
The human body is a true temple of God, in which God resides. The body is the true temple of God. All Masters say so. If the body is the true temple of God, how then can we destroy or kill it?
Wrong preachings are given by ministers of the various religions instead of giving out the truths which are already in our scriptures. They have been simply proclaiming that their religion, their fold, is the highest and others are in the wrong. The result is, division between man and man and, of course, clashes between class and class. They will be ready, excuse me, just to destroy so many true temples of God--human bodies--for the outer temples which we raise with our own hands.
God resides in temples not made with hands. He resides in the true temple of the body that you are carrying. Of course, we are to maintain our outer temples (bodies) and keep themclean and chaste. These bodies are the temples of God. If the right preaching is given you will see love between man and man. Paid services, in almost all religions, I would say, have gone to make matters worse.
God has given equal privileges to all
Now, some people think that they have special privileges. Well, God gave equal privileges to all. You see the outer form. Each has two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, a mouth, two arms,two feet and two legs. The outer construction is the same, and the inner construction is also the same. Each man has lungs, stomach, brain. God has given equal privileges to all. They are born the same way; they die the same way.
When men suffer from fever, irrespective of whether they belong to one religion or another or one country or another, they suffer the same way, and there is the same remedy to cure their fever. When you go to a doctor, an adept in medicine, and tell him that you have fever, he gives you some medicine. He will give the same treatment to anyone else for the same trouble.
I mean that the outer expression, the outer privileges, are the same for each man, as given by God. The inner privileges are also the same. We are souls. God is a limitless Ocean of All-consciousness. We are conscious entities, drops of the Ocean of Life. Of course, our conscious self is hemmed in by mind and matter. It is given over so much to the organs ofsense and identified with the body that we cannot now differentiate ourselves from the body.
The inner disease is also the same. Masters are physicians of the souls which have been given over to the influences of mind and matter. They tell us how to analyze the soul from the outgoing faculties, from the organs of sense, and rise above body-consciousness to know oneself, enter into the Kingdom of God and know God. All mankind suffers from the samedisease.
We are all one
Well, for God there is no East or West, no North or South. All creation is one. God is One.
Where do we stand now? We are all one. All Masters, all the holy scriptures say that we are the children of God. Prophet Mohammed says that we are members of the same family of God. The Sikh Masters also say that we are all brothers and God is our Father. The Christian scriptures and all others say the same thing.
Mankind is one, and God is One. We are worshippers of the same God. When we are worshippers of the same God the archers may be many, but the target is the same then, naturally we should have love for one another. You will find that two drunkards will embrace each other irrespective of whether they are of the east or the west, or belong to one religion or the other. But do you find that among those who profess to be lovers of God--between followers of one religion and those of another? They are lovers so far as their own faith is concerned. If they are lovers of God, they all should sit together and love one another.
The heads of the various religions are supposed to have contact with God. Whether they reach Him or not, that is another question altogether. But they are supposed by their followers to have seen God and to be one with God. They also profess that they are Godmen themselves. If so, why should they not love and embrace each other? There is one God overhead. It is all one humanity. We all are the same soul--conscious entity.
Man made social religions for the uplift of man. We have to make the best use of them. The best we can have out of the social religions is to know ourselves and to know God. Ofcourse, we have to lead an ethical life. An ethical life is a stepping-stone to spirituality. These are the teachings of all Masters who came in the past.
The highest form of religion
As lovers of God, we should love all humanity. Having been born in any religion, it is a blessing to remain in it. Nevertheless we should rise above so that we become lovers of God,and then all mankind will have one religion.
Guru Nanak was once asked: "What is the highest form of religion in your opinion?" He replied: "Well, look here. I take all humanity, alt men, as reading in the same class, seeking God. We are all classmates and I consider men the world over as classmates for the same ultimate goal." We should love one another.
The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, was asked: "What do you think about man?" He replied: "All mankind is one--I tell you the whole truth--whether he is wearing a hat or a turban or is a recluse in a yellow or a black gown." That makes no difference. These are the outer forms.
Excuse me if I ask you: What is the religion of God? He is all-consciousness. He made all men equal. Did He stamp anybody that he was such and such? No.
When you know yourself, you will analyze yourself from the body and discover who you are. When you rise above body consciousness then you will find out. Religions pertain only tothe outer forms of our life. We have to make the best use of them.
Our ultimate goal is to have love for God
I have love for all social religions. That is all right. But the point is these social religions should go to help us on the way, to love God and to love all humanity. This is our ultimategoal. And further, to know ourselves and to know God, and have a first-hand experience of that Reality. Although that Reality cannot be expressed in words, still it can be experienced.
True religion is the first-hand experience of oneself, with his own Self and with God. That is the only true religion you have before you. There is the outer religion, and here is the inner religion. When you think everyone is all equal, then you will have love for all.
Our ultimate goal is to have love of God. Those persons or human beings whose souls came in contact with God, became the mouthpiece of God. They spoke as inspired by God. They are called Masters, or Godmen. We love them also for the sake of our love for God.
What did Christ say? He said:
No man knoweth the Son, but the Father;Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son,and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.
That is why your love goes to them especially. They have had a first-hand experience and they are competent to give us a first-hand experience of that Reality within. They tell us how to rise above body consciousness, to know ourselves and to know God.
Then we see with our eyes, no testimony is required. That is why we love all Masters who came in the past--whether they came here or anywhere else. You have to love God "with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind." Those who have loved God that way have merged their will in the Divine Will; they become the mouthpiece or conscious co-workers of the Divine Plan. Therefore, we love all Masters who came in the past.
Follow the true import of the holy scriptures
Further, we revere all scriptures. What are these scriptures after all and what is their value to us? They are the recorded experiences of the past Masters, the experiences that they had in knowing themselves and those they had of God within themselves. They also revealed to us the things that helped them on the way and things that retarded their progress. In short, they gave us an account of their journey Godward. A description of all that formed the subject of all the holy scriptures. All saints deal with their pilgrimage to God. They tell us of the Godway, the halting stations, the various regions they passed through and what they found there; their pilgrimage on the way and their first-hand experiences at each place. They have thus left for us a fine record for our guidance.
All holy books from ages past are but footprints on the sands of time for the love-borne seekers after God. Those who are lovers of God naturally have love for all the scriptures. Kabir,the great Saint of the East, tells us: Say not that the scriptures are false, for he who does not see Truth in them is in the wrong. It is a pity that though we can read the scriptures, we cannotfollow their true import until we see for ourselves what those Masters experienced within themselves, or until these are explained to tls by one who has had that first-hand experiencewith himself and with God as those Masters had. Only then will we be following the true import of the holy scriptures. Otherwise, reading of the scriptures from morn till night, without following what the scriptures say, will lead us nowhere.
That does not mean that you should not read the holy scriptures. Read them by all means, but try to understand them rightly. When you have understood them, try to have those experiences in your own self. Only then will you be fully convinced of what they say. They may be likened to records of different persons visiting the same place - say Washington or Philadelphia - and describing it, each in his own language and in his own peculiar way.
We can read all these holy scriptures, but we cannot follow their true import until we seek the help of someone who has seen and had the experience these describe.
I would say that today in the twentieth century, we are rather fortunate. Why? We have all the fine records of the experiences of the Masters who came in the past. Had we come five hundred years ago, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs would not have been with us. Had we come, say 1500 years earlier, the holy Koran would not have been with us. And if we had come before 2000 years, the Bible would not have been with us. If we had come before the time of Zoroaster orthe Buddha, or any one else, their scriptures would not have been with us. What I mean is that today we are fortunate in having with us these valuable records of the Masters who came in the past. They tell us what they experienced with themselves and God. The only thing needed now is to have someone who has had that experience which is given in those holy scriptures. He will be able to tell us the true import of things, and also he will be able to give us a first-hand experience of these things.
So for the love of God we love all Godmen. For the love of God, we love all the holy scriptures. There are so many pages of the book of God that have been written to guide the erring humanity. Many more may be written whenever any Master comes.
We have respect for all holy places
Further, we love all holy places of worship. Why? Because there people gather together to sing the praises of the one and the same God--in their own ways, of course. If we love somebody and someone happens to be praising him, we stand and hear how he describes him. So we have love for all holy places of worship for the love of God. Also, we love all places of pilgrimage, for they are the spots where once lived some Master, some Godman, who was one with God, who became the mouthpiece of God. It is for that alone that we have respect for all holy places where such Masters lived.
We love God first; God resides in every heart; therefore we love all humanity. For the same reasons, we love all Godmen, for they have known God. We love all holy scriptures, becausethey speak of Him and are valuable records of the experiences of the past Masters. Again, for the same reason we love all holy places of worship, whether temples or mosques, churches or synagogues. They are meant for chanting the praises of the Lord.
You remember, when Christ came, he entered the Temple in Jerusalem and turned out those who misused or defiled it. He told them: "You have made the house of my Father a business house." Such a man, who is a lover of God, what will he say'? He will say what the Vedas say. The Yajur Veda says: Well, O people, let us all sit together and sing the praises of the Lord and worship the same God. But there are false ways of preaching that separate man from man. There is no common place where we can all sit together and worship the same God.
We are lovers of the same reality
Again the Rig Veda says: Gather ye in thousands, and worship God and chant His praises. We are all lovers of the same Reality. We are all for the same Truth. There are thousands of lovers, but the Beloved is only one. We may call Him God, or by any name we like. We are lovers of the same Reality. Outwardly speaking, we have different social religions. Blessed you are. Remain where you are. To live in some social religion is a blessing. That is a helping factor. As with a midwife who helps at the birth of a child, so with social religions which help us in that way towards spirituality, in knowing ourselves and in knowing God.
Whenever Masters came, they never touched the outer forms, but simply said: Remain where you are. By changing your outer forms, rituals, this and that, you will not be able to have a first-hand experience of God. Those are only helping factors on the way, paving the road to spirituality. Make the best use of them.
Real religion starts where world philosophies end. All these outer forms of the social religions are limited only to the man's material existence. The Kingdom of God, if you know yourself and know God, will open of itself when you rise above body consciousness. There the alphabet of the teachings of the Masters begins. The true religion starts from there. That is transcendental. That is above the organs of sense. When you come above, you will rise above the senses. It requires practical self-analyis, to know yourself and to know God.
This is the goal before us. The subjective side of all religions is the same. In the objective side, you will find some slight differences in non-essentials, but you will find their purpose is the same.
The question remains the same for all humanity---to know our Self and to know God. We have said so much about the outer things, the outer holy places of worship. God made man after His own image, and man made all these holy places of worship after the image of man. Churches are either nose-shaped or dome-shaped. And so are temples of other religions. In mosques, we find places of worship in the form of semi-circular arches whose shape resembles the human forehead.
The true temple of God is the man's body and that you have. We just have to tap inside. When you transcend the body, there the ABC of true religion starts. That is the one destiny for all humanity. It has never been different.
Live up to what the scriptures say
The Masters, whenever they came, taught two things: ethical life of clean and chaste living with love for all men and all creation. Be chaste; don't think evil of others even in thought, word or deed. Be truthful and love all humanity--hatred for none and selfless service for all. This is the first part which they take up for all mankind, irrespective of whether they belong to one religion or another.
No religion commends hatred for anybody. The question was put to Christ: "How should we behave with others?" He inquired: "What did Moses say to you?" He was told: "A tooth for a tooth and a nail for a nail." He said: "That was only because of your hard-heartedness." They asked: "What do you say, Rabbi?" Christ answered: "Moses also said, love thy neighbor as thyself." They further asked him: "What about those who are our enemies?" And what did he say?He said: "Love thine enemies."
Now, we all are embodied souls. The lover of God has love for all souls. The soul is a conscious entity of the same essence as of God. In fact, we form a true brotherhood. We are one with God, one in God, and those who are lovers of God, naturally will have love for all humanity. Outward things will not matter. When you know yourself and know God, you come in contact with God, and then you will find Him immanent in every form and naturally you will have love for all. That is the permanent rock, I would say, on which humanity should stand, never to fall. The outer self sometimes gives way and we fall into the error that we preach against. There have been two great wars so far. Fought by whom? By those who were in name the followers of the same Savior and followed the same religion. Then, it comes to this, that they were not living up to what the scriptures of the Masters say. They simply say: "I profess this religion or that."
Get ready to see God
If we but live up to what the scriptures say, irrespective of country or religion, we will get ready to see God. After all, man is man. All religions are comprised of men, and men are the same everywhere. This is just like being students in any school or college. Why do you study? For the sake of gaining knowledge. You may join this college or that, that makes no difference. When you get your degree, you are seldom asked from which college you got your degree. They call you agraduate.
Similarly, all the social religions were made to turn out perfect men believing in the oneness of God. The word university simply means having one purpose in view. And the purpose to have in view is to understand man: who he is, what he is, and what is his relation to God. But this goal has been lost sight of. The means have become the end, and outer knowledge, instead of leading us to inner knowledge, is being studied for its own sake.
The preaching done by paid men in all religions has made matters worse. Otherwise, the men of realization say: "The true temple, if any, is man's body itself." All the scriptures bear this out. All is holy where devotion kneels. Wherever you have devotion, sit down in sweet remembrance of the Lord and say your prayers.
The same God is worshipped by all of us
My Master used to emphasize the need for a common ground where seekers of Truth, irrespective of their faiths, could gather together. There should be no social forms or rituals, there should be no temples or anything of the sort. Let them remain in their own social religions. The purpose of a man's life and the ultimate goal of the social religions is toknow oneself and to know God. How to analyze yourself from the body, open your inner eye and enter the Kingdom of God.Those subjects should be dealt with there.
In India, we have an Ashram in Delhi, and we have no temple there. People come to me and ask: "Well, what particular temple have you raised?" I always tell them: "Man's body is the true temple of God. I have love for all temples of the social religions, but here I have none." And for the other temple, the whole world is the temple of God, the earth below and the sky overhead. We have a grassy ground over there where we can accommodate 25 to 30 thousand people. Ofcourse, we have a long shed to give us protection from rain or sun, if necessary. We have all the scriptures over there, for the reason that they speak of the same valuable experiences whichthe Masters had in their lives.
Men come there. They are seeking after Truth. To follow certain outward observances is not the be-all or the end-all. They are only the means to an end. Make the best use of them.
But until you rise above body consciousness and know yourself and know God, there is no liberation, no return to the True Home of the Father.
These are the elementary steps we take. That is all right. But take a step further from where you are. Rise above the body consciousness, open the inner eye and see the Light of God within and enter the Kingdom of God, reach your True Home, the home of your Father. This is the ultimate goal of all religions.
But there are wrong ways of preaching, I would tell you. Instead of uniting man to man, they are separating man from man; since the ministers themselves have no first-hand experience of that Reality, they must tell their people that man is man and God is God.
All men are equal for God, and the same God is worshipped by us all. Naturally we have love for one another. But we find that social religion is like a golden watch, studded with gems and jewels, which does not give us any time whatsoever. We have our social religions. Each social religion has the work before it to turn out perfect men: Be ye perfect even as thy Father which is in heaven is perfect. But instead of turning out perfect men, they are simply strenghting their own folds. Naturally, when you say this fold is higher than the other, there is a clash between class and class, and we sec no true progress.
My point is, we have one God, the same God. Each religion does not have its own God. The same God is worshipped by all of us. Let us embrace each other and sit in amity, love and accord, to sing praise of the Lord as one family. Since we are lovers of God, we have to love all Godmen, Masters who came in the past or who may come in the future. Our respect goes out to all of them. We have love for all the scriptures, because they speak of the same God and record the experiences that the Masters had with themselves and with God. And we have love for all holy places of worship, because they are meant for singing praises of the Lord.
So all mankind is one, and we are worshippers of the same God. We have different forms, outer forms, we belong to different religions outwardly, but our Beloved is the same. If weonly keep that in view before us, we will be at peace, we will have peace on earth and goodwill among men. There will be no danger of war or anything of that sort.
Excerpt from the first of four talks given in Philadelphia, Pa. during Sant Kirpal Singh's 1955 (first) tourof the West.