(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)
Religious Gatheka Number 18
There are many prophecies and several beliefs on this subject, but in this lecture I have no desire to make any prophecy on the subject. I only wish to explain what religion means. The present religion or the coming religion, or the past religion, is for those who divide the truth, which is one, into many. In point of fact what was is, and what is will be. Was this idea not supported by Jesus Christ, who said: 'I have not come to give a new law, I have come to fulfill the law?: If Jesus Christ said this, who else can come out and say: 'I give you a new religion?' There cannot be a new religion; one could as well say, 'I wish to teach you a new wisdom.' There cannot be a new wisdom; wisdom is the same, which was and is and always will be.
There arises a question in the heart of the enquirers, 'Then what is this variety of religions which has engaged humanity for years in conflict with one another, so that most of the wars and battles were fought in the cause of religion?' This only shows the childish character of human nature. The religion which was given and is given, wherever it is given, the religion which was given for unity, for harmony, for brotherhood was used by the childish human nature to fight and to dispute and to engage themselves in battles for years and years. And the most amusing thing for a thoughtful person is to think and to see how they have given in the past history, a most sacred character to war, to battle, and called it sacred war, or holy war.
And the same tendency of making war with one another which began in their religion, persisted in the time of materialism; the same tendency turned into war between nations. And at the same time the differences and distinctions which existed between the different faiths and beliefs still exist and that prejudice and that difference and the bigotry which existed between nations still exist in a smaller or greater degree. What does it show? It shows that the meaning of true religion has not been understood by the majority. And therefore that mission that religion had to fulfill in connection with humanity still remains to be fulfilled. And it is at that fulfillment that Jesus Christ has hinted: 'I have come to fulfill the law, not to give a new law.
Religion can be seen from five different points of view: first, religion which is known to us as certain dogmas, laws or teaching. And when we think and see the condition of the world we see that the law is now given by the nation. Every nation now is responsible for the order and peace of the people.
Besides this, the second aspect of religion is the church and the form of the service. In this of course there are differences and there will always be differences; it is a matter of temperament, it is a matter of tendency and it also depends upon the customs and beliefs of the people who have inherited that tendency from their ancestors. Some have in their house of prayer different forms and different ceremonies which help them to feel elevated; the others have a simple service. One appeals to one and the other appeals to the other.
No doubt the world is evolving to uniformity, and as now we see no very great difference between the form, the form of everything, of different customs of meeting, of dressing and many other things so people are coming to a certain uniformity. At the same time when we look at the subject from a different point of view we shall find that uniformity very often takes away the beauty of life. The countries so civilized and advanced where the architecture and houses are all built on the same custom, all dressed in the same way, they become so tired that they like to go to a different country and see houses distinct and different one from the other, and also the people.
For instance the method of writing music and the form of notation for the whole Western world is the same, but the distinction between the music of the French, Italian, German, Russian, gives a stimulus to the lover of music. And so it is in the distinctions of the forms. To want to make all people live alike and do all alike, means to turn all people into the same form and same face, and what would happen them? The world would become very uninteresting. It is like turning all the keys of the piano to the same note. It is not necessary to change the notes of the piano. What is necessary is to know the way of harmony, to know how to create harmony between the different notes.
The third aspect of religion is the religious ideal the Lord and Master of the religion, the Lord and Master that a soul has esteemed as the ideal. It is something which cannot be discussed, something which cannot be argued upon. The less spoken about it, the better it is. It is the outcome of the devotion of a sincere heart which gives birth to that ideal which is too sacred to mention, an ideal which cannot be compared, an ideal which cannot be explained.
And when the followers of diverse religions come to this question and dispute over their ideals, the sacred ideals of which they have only some tradition, – which they have not known, but of which they have only had a tradition, – and wish to prove one better than the other, they merely lose time and they destroy that sacred sentiment which can only be preserved in the heart. The religious ideal is the medium, the medium by which one rises towards perfection. Whatever name a person gives to his ideal, that name is for him, and that name is most sacred for him. But that does not mean that that name limits that ideal. There is only one ideal, the divine ideal, Call him Christ, and let the same Christ be known by different names, given to him by various communities.
For instance, a person who has a great devotion, a great love and attachment for his friends, is speaking about friendship in high words and he is saying what a sacred thing it is to become friends. But then there is another one who says: 'Oh, I know your friend, what he is; he is no better than anybody else.' The answer to this idea is given by Majnun in the story told by the ancients, where someone said to Majnun, 'Laila, your beloved, is not so beautiful as you think.' He said, 'My Laila must be seen with my eyes. If you wish to see how beautiful Laila is, you must borrow my eyes.' Therefore if you wish to regard the object of devotion of whatever faith, of whatever community, of whatever people, you will have to borrow their eyes, you will have to borrow their heart. There is no use in disputing over the points of history, over each tradition in history; they are made by prejudice. Devotion is a matter of heart and is made by the devotee.