Volume IX - The Unity of Religious Ideals
'Think not that I come to destroy the law... I am not come to destroy but to fulfill,' said Christ. This suggests two things. One is that to give a law is one of the principal objects of the coming of the messenger. In the traditions of the past we see that it was the divine law as it is called which governed the nations. And even now the law is necessarily based on a religious principle, which shows us that in earthly things also the divine guidance has always been considered most essential. The worldly wise do not know about spiritual things, whereas the spiritually wise are wise in earthly things also. And Christ, whose life was free from every earthly thought, and who was even withdrawn from the world, nevertheless gave to the people of his time the divine law. Krishna, with all his philosophical and mystical ideas, speaks of the law of worldly life. Today a Muslim follows most respectfully the law given by his Prophet, and recognizes with pride that his Prophet in his life experienced military service and political responsibilities, and that his Prophet was at the same time a man of the world and a man of God.
To whatever extent the world may evolve, a thoughtful man will never be able to deny the fact that it is not for everyone, for every mind, to touch the depths of thought. Whether there is aristocracy or democracy, there will always be a few souls who will have influence over many. We see that all men are different. Each has his own way to follow, and each his own purpose in life, and no one can fill the place of another. If it happens in worldly affairs that there is what is called the man of the moment, then even in spiritual affairs there may be the soul of the age. The messengers who have brought the law have been the messengers of their time, but since man today only knows about earthly affairs, he concerns himself little with the affairs of the soul. He is therefore largely unaware of what happens in spiritual conditions. Nevertheless the work of God and of creation pursues its course just the same. The Spirit, which is called Alpha and Omega, is always present and is always doing its work, recognized or unrecognized.
There are five principal aspects of the law. Firstly, the institution of marriage and of divorce is most important for the peace of the world. This law is necessary to safeguard the rights of woman, whose position is more delicate than that of man. The recognition given to marriage by the law makes an impression upon the two people involved, pointing out that they are united by law and by religion. Divorce, which is sometimes necessary to put an end to the captivity of two persons who cannot agree in living together, is also a part of the law. If there were not a religious influence, if one had not the impression that one's marriage was made before God, it would very much lessen the seriousness with which marriage is regarded. For instance today there is a way of marrying which has nothing to do with religion, and then marriage often becomes simply a matter of the law-courts. One can imagine how man considers this question when it is something that can be settled in the court. Nothing in the world can take the place in marriage of what religion gives to it.
The second aspect is the division of property and the manner of safeguarding property. The law of religion, with the justice of God, teaches man to regard the rights of others as well as his own rights. Besides, religion teaches what one may rightfully call one's own, and what ought not to belong to one. It teaches also how one should earn money, and how one should spend it. The serious aspect of religion, the thought of God and truth, which is behind all this, creates that spirit of honesty in life which religion is meant to create.
Thirdly, there is birth and there is death. When a child is born, a foundation for its spiritual development is laid if the family, to welcome it on earth, keeps in mind the thought of illumination in one form or another. They should also feel that it has come as a gift from God and remember that they, the parents, are not the only ones responsible for this child's life, but that behind them there is God who shares their responsibility.
At the death of a person, the performing of a religious ceremony gives strength to the one who is passing from this world into another world. It is also a consolation to those who think of him with love; for it brings the thought that the one who has died is called towards the source whence he came. And added to the thought which comes with death, the religious ceremony creates also in the minds of those present the thought that they are not here permanently, that life is like a caravan, and that all have to go along the same road. One goes first. The others follow in their turn. Think what benefit this thought brings! It makes pale the face of this illusory world, which yet keeps so many engaged day and night in its pursuit. It offers man an opportunity to be still for a moment and consider life, man who is always absorbed in the affairs of this world of illusion.
The fourth aspect of the law of religion concerns social life. For people meeting in a church, at a service or a religious ceremony, there is naturally the opportunity of joining together in the thought of God and of religion. Places of pilgrimage and sacred places all unite humanity in the love of God and in the feeling of unity. Think of people gathered together at an exhibition, a fair. The feeling that animates them all is only gain: to get the best of the bargain. What an incomparable difference when one meets in sacred religious thought!
The fifth aspect is political and comprises all that concerns the community or the country. It is a law, which with divine justice concerns itself with the affairs of the community and the affairs of the country. A problem, which cannot be solved otherwise, can be solved by spiritual enlightenment. Man is naturally selfish, and justice cannot exist in the heart in which there is the thought of self. Only he can look at things from a just point of view whose heart reflects God absolutely, God who is above nation, race, caste, creed, or religion.
No doubt, where there is truth there is also untruth. Where there is day there is also night. It is natural that the religious authorities should often have abused the law. When a spiritual man concerns himself with the things of the world, it is extremely difficult for him not to allow them to throw their shadow on his heart. Men, revolted by the abuse of religion, have often given up religion itself, and it is this that has made man ignorant of the divine source of the law that rules the affairs of the world.
Today man thinks that it is the work of intellectual people
to make laws. This brings constant disappointments both to nations
and to communities. The lack of order and peace throughout the
world today may be said to be caused by the want of that law
which must come from God, from the divine source. Man is too
small to be able to find the solution to the problems of this
world. That is the work of the perfect wisdom which is found
in a Personality without limitations, and with which the human
personality cannot be compared, just as one cannot compare a
drop with the ocean.