Thursday, December 11, 2008

Religion and Spirituality

On the face of it, both appear to be the same but there are some very subtle differences.What we commonly understand about Religion is that it is all about worshipping a particular God or Gods.What most of us do not understand is that at the core of each accepted religion in the world,the basic truth and essence is to attain God/the Supreme Being/the Creator,who dwells actually within us!Many methods have been described to do so,and most have been modified by the so called “guardians”(priests,religious leaders etc)who have done so largely based on their interpretations.Their interpretations were very often coloured by their paucity of understanding the truth as it actually is and resulted in misconceptions being passed down the ages.The “original” saints who understood God and realized Him had formulated sets of teachings which got twisted around to suit the ‘guardians” and disciples they left behind.We,therefore,came to believe that God could be found only by such and such a person or in such and such a place,meaning a temple/church/mosque or any place of worship and that He could only be achieved by resorting to practices laid down by that particular religion.Some religious teachers also tought that if you did not believe in their religion then you had,perhaps sinned and that you would never be able to achieve salvation,that if you did not do what God wanted you to,He would punish you(what you should and should not do was and is often decided by these religious teachers/priests etc.) They even went to the extent of saying that all other religions should not be tolerated as it was wrong to do so.Some waged wars to convert others to their faith.So many unrealized religious leaders have deviated so much as to instill hate in their followers and egg them on to commit acts of terrorism leading to the killing of so many innocent people,even of their own faith.They label it as ‘Jihad”….which ultimately leads to the death of the person committing the act himself.This is the danger of ill understood religion.

Religions,as we can now perceive have deviated from their original purpose of teaching us that God resides inside us,that we are part of Him and that our aim is to go back to Him!This is the essence of spirituality.Religion can lead us to Him by invoking spirituality in us but only if we take the trouble to understand its true essence.

Spirituality teaches us that to know and to achieve God we must learn to know ourselves first,(as we have been made in the image of God) and to look within(and not search for Him outside in temples/mosques/churches or other places of worship only).He is omnipresent and resides everywhere,in each and every being since every being is a part of Him,having originated from HIm.Since He is present inside the breast of every human being,where is the difference between one human being and another?Is it so difficult to fathom that we are all interconnected?we truly are interconnected,as we all originate from the same source and each and every one of us is basically the same,(though we may look different).At the core we are all one.

Spirituality makes us realize that God is very compassionate and whatever He does is for our good.He keeps giving us choices at every step,the type of seeds we sow depend on the type of choices we make.If we choose to be jealous,envious,hateful,wicked,unkind,angry... ultimately the same will come back and haunt us and lead to suffering,hurt,misery,feelings of sadness etc.On the contrary,by sowing seeds of love,affection,help,kindness,compassion…we ultimately experience the same. We,therefore, must learn to be compassionate to our fellow beings,for by hurting them we are actually hurting Him and us in the process.We need to be patient and kind to others.There is so much truth in the saying”this world is like an echo…it all comes back,the good,the evil and the generosity….so give the world the best that you have and the best shall be returned to you”(author unknown)
In a nutshell,by attaining the “spirit”dwelling inside us we attain God as the spirit or soul is a part and parcel of Him.At the present time no religion teaches us the correct method of attaining Him but insists on rituals and dogmas.We,have,therefore,been made to believe that worshipping God only means chanting/singing/preaching to appease Him,then ask God to grant us a favour! Are we not being selfish?
By looking within we can realize God and can become ONE with Him.A spiritual person,once successful in seeking Him within (by the opening of his third eye,at the centre of the forhead) gradually transcends all the so called rituals and ‘sees”the beauty of His creation everywhere,in the beauty of flowers,chirping of birds,the gently flowing water in a river,the myriads of colours in the sky,the beauty of the sun rising or setting.He appreciates the sound of silence by hearing the soothing music,always playing inside his breast!Slowly but surely he progresses to become part of Him when “bliss”at all times becomes a reality in the form of that all pervading light,the light of enlightenment.He learns just “to Be’,when feelings of hate/anger/jealousy/fear cease to have any meaning because for him only love and Bliss matter….love for all in the true sense of the word,since that is all that matters.
Jesus Christ has said “That which is born of the flesh is flesh;that which is born as Spirit is Spirit”.Swami Yoganand Paramhans has so beautifully interpreted it to mean that unless we can transcend the body and realize ourselves as Spirit,we cannot enter the kingdom or state of the Universal Spirit.He further quotes a Sanskrit couplet of the Hindu scriptures:”If thou canst transcend the body and perceive as spirit,thou shalt be eternally blissful,free from all pain”.
All this is certainly possible but with the help of a god realized “guru’/teacher/Swami who has actually traversed this entire path himself and is part of Him.There have been such teachers in so many faiths namely Jesus Christ/Prophet Mohammed/Gautam Budha/Kabir/Guru Nanak….but have we listened to their core teachings? We revere all of them since they knew and felt God,which is what we should strive to do….but only by following their true teachings and by alighning ourselves with our spirit/soul by looking within where He resides.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Politics Of Religion

The Politics of Religion:

It is of utmost importance to understand that only after God created this entire universe that man could “create”religion and started worshipping Him in different forms .God created man in His mirror image while man,due to his ignorance and ego developed so many faiths and religions.How and why has this come about?
Many of us understand that we are “spiritual beings having a physical experience”on earth,meaning thereby that the essence of our being is the “spirit”or soul which resides in all of us and is in reality a part of God with whom it has to ultimately matter how long and how many births or incarnations it may take.We continue to repeatedly come back on this Earth based on our karmas and our desires,every time being given a chance to attain Him and evolving further in the process.Unfortunately we have forgotten our connection with Him.Many prophets,saints,gurus have incarnated on this earth to remind us of this truth but most of us do not heed their teachings since what they teach us is at variance to the popular beliefs and teachings in our temples,mosques,churches etc. while some of our so called religious teachers instill in us to differentiate between all other religions,telling us that God belongs to us.They teach us rituals,making us believe that by doing such and such a thing/worshipping in a particular manner/ fasting /wearing a particular type of dress/giving sacrifices/bathing in holi waters etc we are going to achieve God.If this alone were true they should be the first to become God Realized! If by bathing in holi waters alone one gets connected to God,fish and other inhabitants of that water would be the first to realise Him!Sant Kabir pointed this out long time back but when are we going to understand this?
Not only Kabir but ,Jesus Christ/Prophet Mohammed/Guru Nank/Gautam Buddha and so many of the present day saints who have realized God in His entirety have been trying to teach us that that there is only one God who does not belong to any particular religion but to all of us.All of them have come with the same message,that God is within us and that we should realize His presence within us.Since time immemorial they have tried to explain to us the method of uniting with Him.Some of their disciples imbibed the method in its true form and were blessed with becoming One with him while so many others either misconstrued it or twisted or moulded it according to their convenience. Those who believed in Christ called themselves Christians,while believers in Allah came to be known as Muslims,so also Jews,Hindus,Jains,Budhists….so on and so forth and the net result is in front of us……only rituals in the place of religion or people of one faith or religion fighting with those of other faiths or religions. The cause of most of the unrest and wars at the present time(even in the past have been because of this,the crusades being one example and the present ongoing massacres in various parts of the world by misguided and brainwashed terrorists being another).

All God Realized saints tell us that we all come from the same source/Supreme being which obviously means that we are all connected in one way or the other and since He resides inside all of us,we must treat all of His creations as one. Many of us who have an inkling of our previous births may have realized that we were often of a different religion than our present one,meaning that the soul does not differentiate between faiths.Does this not prove that God treats all of us the same way and to Him it does not matter in what form we worship Him?
It can be safely concluded that terrorists do not have any religion since God is all-loving,compassionate and does not expect us to harm or kill innocent beings.