(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)
Religious Gatheka Number 61
Whenever the name religion is mentioned, a person either thinks of the clergyman, or of his church, or of the form of service he is accustomed to attend or of the Scriptures that he reads. It seems that life has been cut away from religion; religion has been put on one side and life on another side. We have divided religion from life, and in this way humanity is not able today to make use of or to derive the fullest benefit from religion. If one understood the real meaning of religion, one would not divide religions, one would think that there was, there is, and there will be one religion and the same religion, and one would also think that all the different names given to many different religions are the names of one religion.
If I were to give a definition of the word religion, I would say religion pertains to five different things; home, community, ideal, God and church. If the home is not made into a church and if the home is not considered as sacred as the church and if the rooms in which one sits and writes and thinks are not considered a sacred sanctuary to meditate and make prayers, one has not understood the meaning of home. Is it home to rent a flat or to take a house and live in it with a little music or poetry? But even that is not to be found today.
Today there is no inclination for home. Every person, most of the people, are desirous of living in restaurants, in hotels; they think it is less trouble, it saves so much expense, so much trouble in our life, it gives one time to think of many other things, it takes away the care. That is a wrong idea. In the first place the food that is made for the generality, for hundreds or thousands of persons is not the same food which is cooked for the family; it has a different taste, it has a different influence, a different effect. Would you believe if I were to say that even today in the Orient occultists prepare food for themselves by their own hands, that they see the importance of the magnetism and the influence of the food; that the food can be the greatest curse and the worst source of malady.
Besides, the one who is accustomed to sleep in a hotel one day and in another hotel another day, he does not know what it means to keep one's own atmosphere. A room where one sleeps, where one has created one's atmosphere, it becomes a religious place; you have said a prayer and then you have gone to rest; but all night long the prayer is repeated there, the atmosphere is praying for you and that gives a quiet, it is a harmony. When a person lives in a home, he can naturally not only long for its cleanliness but also for the purity of its atmosphere. The ancient people always printed symbols of a religious character before their doors. Every morning after cleaning the house there were prints on the staircase just before the door, that as soon as they went out they could see prints which reminded them of religious ideals. And then some twice, and some three times, and some five times, burnt incense in every room with the thought that the home may be purified from all undesirable atmospheres and influences. And those who came there and lived there, their atmosphere was cleared away and every day there was a new atmosphere created in the home.
I will tell you an amusing experience I had in Colombo, once I was staying in a pension and I felt uneasy, restless. So I looked what was there and I found a bunch of hair in the cupboard. I said to the landlady: how is it that I felt so bad in this room, who lived here before, can you tell me? 'Oh,' she said, don't mention her, it takes my life out of me. As long as she lived, there was a quarrel.' The atmosphere was still there. I said: 'You have given me such a room!' This lady said: 'Because I thought you were a prayerful man.'
Besides this, whether it is nurses or whether it is physicians or whoever it is, those who are at home with you, in your illness, in your moments of despair they can help you more than others. It is therefore that in the East they always appreciated a family-life. I do not mean to say that there were no battles and wars in the family. It was just the same as it is now. But at the same time that tendency of being useful, of serving one another, it was a kind of small brotherhood in the house. Maybe the people could not live up to it as they would have wished, but at the same time there is a principle also to try to live up to it.
When people are divided there is not that sympathy among relations. The more they are apart, the more they are far away from one another, the less sympathy they have, because sympathy grows as people are together. That was considered once a part of religion, that all those who lived together had regard, consideration for one another and that they grew in sympathy with one another, not only because they lived together, but because Providence had arranged it so that they were together. And when this ideal reigned in the house, then with the neighbor there was the same tendency. In the apartment-house a hundred persons are living, or perhaps three families are living there. One family does not go out, or the other family living just next door, their inclination is of turning their back, that they may not go the same way of the other. It is in this way that we have taken away what we called home-life and made it a business-life. It is therefore that very often even if people live in rooms or hotels or apartments, when they come home, there is not that feeling of home because the atmosphere has not been created.
And now we come to what is called community. The community today is based not on the attitude of bringing happiness to one another but is is mostly arranged by their common interest in a certain profession or in a certain work. People are in the same community because they are all working in the mines, or because they are all postmen or all chauffeurs or all workmen. And mostly that community is specially formed in order to give a blow to another community, not for the love of one another. It is only for that purpose. If their interest is interfered with, a blow is prepared; the stronger the blow the better it is. If the community was formed with a religious ideal in it that people will help one another spiritually, if there was friendship and sympathy. Instead of that, the idea is that how can we become strong as a community in order to stand for our rights and to look for our benefit.
There were times that communities were composed with a religious, with a spiritual ideal, that they were just like one family, that each member of the community was related to the other in the ideal of God, in the thought of the spiritual ideal, in the thought of serving one another, of being useful to one another. The other day I have heard of a new community-system. Someone was saying that he was thinking about a reconstruction, that people must not have a kitchen in each home because it takes away much time and place, that each street must have one kitchen where hundred or two hundred or five hundred houses will have one kitchen and in that kitchen all the food will be prepared and served. When it comes to that, then even the choice of food has gone and that and that sacredness of the food has gone and the atmosphere of the house has gone.
Already the people are living mechanically in different homes. But then the home only becomes a kind of protection from the heat and the cold and nothing there will be to recognize in it the significance of a home. In the same way the political parties are formed; that is another community. That is a community of workmen on one side and of political parties on the other side, a community formed not because they love one another so much but because there is a certain rule they have to pass. It is for that purpose, for eight days, to pass that particular law, they are united. Then there is another community in order to raise the prices of things that are sold. Besides this you see no other communities that will join hands in spiritual progress and in helping humanity. It is such communities we need and it is such a community which may be called a religious community.