(To be read at the Service of Universal Worship)
Religious Gatheka Number 67
There is an aspect of religion which is what is forbidden and what is allowed, the moral and ethical conception. One religion says, this is forbidden and this is allowed; another religion says another thing and another religion still another thing. But what is this law? Where does it come from? This law comes from the conception of the Prophets or law-givers which they have gotten from the need of the community. And therefore, perhaps, one lawgiver was born in Syria, another in Arabia, another in India, another in China, and each one saw a different need for the people of that time. And therefore if we gather together the laws the religious inspirers have given, they naturally will differ if we dispute over them saying that, my religion is better and yours is worse because its laws are better and yours are worse. It is a foolish thing to do.
If one nation says that our law is better than your law and your law is worse than ours, there is no meaning in it, because nations make their laws according to their needs. The needs of every race and community and nation, sometimes, are different. Nevertheless, the fundamental principle is one and the same. To have consideration for another is the root of all the religious laws. To feel that, I am in the same position as another; if I act unjustly to another, the other is also entitled to act unjustly to me. I am exposed to the same thing. When this thought is awakened in man and sympathy is awakened for his fellow men, he need not trouble and argue and discuss about the different laws.
Friends, love is a great inspirer of law, and the one who has not love, he may read a thousand books of law, he will always accuse others of their faults and he will never know his own faults. But if love has wakened in your heart, then you do not need to study law, for you know the best law, for all law has come from love and still love stands above law.
People say that there will be justice in the hereafter and we shall all have to show the accounts of our deeds. In the first place, we ourselves do not know the account of our deeds. Besides, if God is so exacting as to ask you of every little evil everyone has committed, then God must be worse than man, because a fine man even overlooks his friend's faults, a kind man forgives a person's faults. If God is so exacting as that, He must be an autocratic God. It is not true; God is not Law, God is love. Law is the law of nature, but God's Being is not law, God's being is Love. And therefore the right conception of life and insight into right and wrong, good and bad, is not learned and taught by book-study as the Sufi says: all virtues manifest by themselves once the heart is wakened to love and kindness.
Another aspect of religion is the sacred shrines, the importance that one attaches to the church or priest or clergyman or to a certain house of prayer, to the temple, pagoda, mosque or synagogue. For the Sufi, it is not the place that is holy, but it is our faith that makes it so, and if a person has faith that this place, this synagogue, temple or church is holy, he will be benefited by it. But, at the same time, the holiness is not in the house, the holiness is in his own belief. But what we have to learn from religion is one thing, and that is the knowledge of truth. At the same time, Truth cannot be spoken in words. Truth is something that is discovered, that is not learned and taught.
The great mistake is that people confuse between fact and Truth. Therefore they neither know about Truth nor about fact. Besides, there are many who are so sure of their truth that they hammer the truth upon another. They say: 'I do not mind if you are hurt or if you are vexed, I just tell you the truth. Such hammered truth cannot be the Truth. It is a hammer. Truth is too delicate, too tender, too beautiful. Can Truth hurt anyone? If Truth was so dense and gross, sharp and hurtful, it cannot be Truth. Truth stands above words. Words are too rigid to express Truth. Even fine feelings as tenderness, gentleness, sympathy, love, gratitude, Truth is above them. Truth cannot be explained. Truth is above all emotion, above all passion. Truth is a realization, a realization which cannot be put into words because language has no words to express it. What are facts? Facts are the shadows of Truth. They give an illusion of Truth. And people dispute over facts, and in the end they find nothing.
And now the question is, how can one attain to Truth by what is called Religion? And I say, all aspects of religion help one to attain to Truth if they are understood rightly. The first aspect is God, God is like a stepping-stone, God is like a key to Truth; and if a person keeps the ideal of God away and wishes to come to the realization of Truth, he misses a great deal in life. He may come to a certain conception of Truth, but he has taken the wrong way just the same, he has wandered about; he could have come by the right way.
And the second thing is the thought of the Teacher whom one idealizes. Why must we not have a high conception of the Divine in man? It is the most beautiful thing one can have and the one who has not the high conception of a human being born in any age, in the past or in the present, that one is missing a great deal in life. It is a need of the soul to have a high ideal, an ideal which one can conceive of as a human being.
I will tell you a little experience I had in this matter. A girl was working in a factory and she was so religious that she always had the Bible with her, and the name of Christ would make tears come from her eyes. And the scientific director of that factory came to this girl, simple and devotional and knowing no science or philosophy. He said to her: 'You seem to be very religious.' 'No,' she said, 'for me Christ is everything, that is all I know.' And he said: 'But there never was a man born as Christ; look here, this is the book of a great clergyman.' He showed her. He said: 'You are what they call a religious fanatic. You will get a religious mania.' And this poor girl did not know where she was and she did not know what to believe and what not to believe; she was, so to speak, lost in the mist. The idea of a religious mania!
A material man who has no religion, but believes only in science, he also has a mania. Is there not a material mania? For many money is all that is. They have lost their religion; and their brain and thought is for money. All their life they only know of making money. And that is a mania, a material mania which is worse than the religious mania. Religious mania lasts after death, but the material mania cannot be cured by it. What the material people cannot understand is that they themselves suffer from a mania; and if you ask them if they know about themselves, you will find that they have a great mania which they do not know. They know about everybody, but they do not know about themselves.
This girl from that day gave up food; she could not eat, she could not go to sleep. She said: 'I do not know where I am. This one thing in my life I believed in and looked forward to, has been taken away. Now I do not know what to believe and not to believe.' This girl was brought to me and when I told her that the one who said: 'This is a mania,' he has a material mania, she understood, I said: 'No doubt your devotion has as greater reality than all the realities that are outside,' and she understood. Thought and feeling are more real than what is outside. Therefore an object of devotion in religion is always a most comforting thing.
And then coming to the form of worship. We have a body and since we ourselves have a form, we cannot condemn the idea of form. Besides, the life we live, it is all form, although it is illusion. But at the same time we cannot live without it. Since we have form for all material things, why may we not have a form for our prayer? There is no thing wrong about it.
And the fourth thing is the moral principle. It is natural that we must have a principle in our life whether this principle or that principle. We must have some principle for which we shall sacrifice our benefit in life.
And the fifth thing is the realization of Truth. And that realization comes by itself once we give ourselves to the seeking after Truth, because Truth is our very Self. And it is the realization of Self which is the Realization of Truth.