Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
UNITY AND UNIFORMITY
We often confuse unity with uniformity. In reality it is the spirit of unity which creates uniformity for the sake of its beauty and protection it gives. Throughout all ages both have existed: unity as the inner nature of every soul and the only purpose of life, and uniformity to help to fulfill that purpose. Unity is the goal and uniformity the means to reach that goal, but often the means has obscured the purpose. All through the ages the different religions, which have been given to man for his spiritual development with the sole idea of unity, have gradually become a kind of community or nationality. Many people who belong to a Church accept its dogmas, claim a certain name for their religion, and consider all other children of God as separate; by doing so they lose the very seed of wisdom for whose development that religion was given. This error has existed from the beginning, so that instead of touching the true spirit, people have lost reality by seeking a false objective.
Religious differences have caused endless wars and disasters for the human race. The reason of this is that the spirit of unity has not been recognized, while undue regard has been paid to uniformity. In the present age, when the spirit of religion is at its lowest ebb and only the uniformity remains, divisions of classes and discords of all kinds spring up; one party, one class against another, the spirit of rivalry, jealousy, and destruction everywhere. The effect of this has been to keep man away from the consciousness of God. Very few indeed recognize Him; all humanity is laboring under a great unrest; and yet man thinks he is progressing while all the time he only progresses towards still greater unrest.
There can never be true progress when nations and kingdoms and peoples are divided; for when the races are divided then subdivisions come, and classes and parties also become divided. The same spirit of destruction is at work all the time, and even families become separated. Unity seems to be rooted out from the hearts of men. Examples are not necessary; those who will notice it can see this state of humanity, this condition of life, all over the world.
When we seek a reason for this we find a right principle wrongly worked out. Uniformity is not a fault, indeed it is a great virtue. There is nothing wrong, for instance, in a uniform desire to help, to give service in time of need; but when the God-ideal is removed then it remains as a body without a soul, a corpse, and in the end it decays and causes foulness. However alive and prosperous the world may seem, life belongs only to the living and when the living being is forgotten it is like a light under a bushel. Man becomes so absorbed in the pursuit of money that he becomes intoxicated and regardless of the harmony and happiness of others, and even of the harmony of his own being; and then he causes destruction. We have only to think of the wars humanity has gone through, and of this latest horror, to see the truth. It all proves that progress is in the wrong direction, and that everywhere unity is lacking. The scripture given to the Jews, the Muslims, Parsis, Hindus, Buddhists, all have as their central truth the message of unity, but man has been so interested and absorbed in the poetry of these scriptures that he has forgotten their inner voice.
If only we would recognize the inner voice, we would see that the different scriptures all contain words spoken by one and the same voice. Some hear the voice, others only hear the words, just as in nature some see only the branches and others the roots of the tree; but all these different scriptures and ways of worship and of contemplating God are given for one purpose: the realization of unity. In unity resides the happiness and illumination of man, and his guidance in life. We all know unity by name, but most of us think of it as uniformity. The Vedanta for thousands of years in all its prayers and mantrams voiced this central theme: unity, the oneness of all. The Quran with all its warnings expresses in one essential sura the Being of God: that not only in the unseen, but in all that is seen there is one underlying current; and the Bible says that we live and move and have our being in God.
Of all the millions of believers in God perhaps only one makes God a reality, and that is because the picture man makes of God is as limited as himself. The knowledge of God is beyond man's reason. Man only perceives things he is capable of perceiving. He cannot raise his imagination above what he is used to, and he cannot reach beyond his imagination to where the being of God is. The secret of God is hidden in the knowledge of unity. Man thinks, 'What can unity give me? Can it bring me happiness? What is there in it?' He can get the answer by observing and studying life more closely. See what an atmosphere the harmony of ten people can create; the power of love and the influence created by ten people is much greater than that created by one. Think then what would be the blessing for humanity if nations, races, and communities were united!
No doubt uniformity can teach the lesson of unity, but its purpose must not be for worldly gain; then it is destructive. The wise in all ages have dived deep into life in order to attain unity in themselves, and in order to spread unity. In the life of the world every man has some complaint to make. He lacks something; he is troubled by something. But this is only the external reason; the real truth is that he is not in unity with his own soul, for when there is disharmony in ourselves how can we spread harmony? When mind and body are at war the soul wants something else, and soul and mind are pulled by the body, or the body and mind by the soul; and so there is disharmony. When a man is in harmony with himself, he is in harmony with all; he produces harmony and gives harmony to all, he gives it out all the time.
This is a question that can be answered by understanding our relationship with God. The innermost being of man is the real being of God; man is always linked with God. If he could only realize it, it is by finding harmony in his own soul that he finds communion with God. All meditation and contemplation are taught with this purpose: to harmonize one's innermost being with God, so that He is seeing, hearing, thinking through us, and our being is a ray of His light. In that way we are even closer to God than the fishes are to the ocean in which they have their being. It is mostly interest in worldly things that unites one man with another in order that they can make profit. How great would be this power if man would unite in true brotherhood! As long as this teaching is hidden under a bushel the methods of uniformity cannot be beneficial; they have no life. The world, in spite of any success it may seem to have today, is suffering from the wrong application of a right principle.
True life cannot be ours until unity is achieved. It is the
work of religion to promote the spirit of unity, in the knowledge
and love of God to whom all devotion belongs. Man often seeks
for psychic, occult, and magnetic powers. This is not the purpose
of religion; these developments come of themselves. Where there
is life and love, there is magnetism; love itself is the healing
power and the remedy for all pain. All occult powers belong
to the divine life, but man should live a natural life and realize
the nature of God. The only studies which are worth accomplishing
are those which lead to the realization of God, and of unity
first with God and then with the self, and so with all. It is
not necessary for us to be told that we have progressed; we
ourselves will know when our hearts go forward; and by loving,
forgiving, and serving, our whole life becomes one single vision
of the sublime beauty of God.