SECTION ONE: RELIGION (weeks 1 and 2)

from the Unity of Religious Ideals


The required exercises for this section

1) Reflect upon your religious/spiritual journey and then gather your discoveries into a form and length which you find appropriate.
You might decide to share your journey through a poem, music or some other form of expression.
The purpose of the exercise are: (a) to help the student become aware of the richness he or she brings to the course and the perspectives from which one has learned to view religion and related themes, (b) to establish at the start that this course of study is not aimed only at the intellectual level of understanding but also seeks to promote your spiritual growth, and (c) to provide the person who will read and comment upon your work with a deeper understanding of your being.

2) Hazrat Inayat Khan teaches the unity of religious ideals and not religious uniformity. What is the difference?

CHAPTERS from the Unity of Religious Ideals


      Perhaps a person belongs to the best religion in the world. He does not live it, but belongs to it. He says that he is a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Jew. He is sure it is the best religion, but at the same time he does not care to live it--he just belongs to it, and thinks that belonging to a certain religion, which is an accepted religion, is all that is needed. And people of all different religions have made it appear so, owing to their enthusiasm, and forced by their mission in life.

      For they have made facilities for those who belong to their particular religion, saying that by the very fact of their belonging to that particular religion they will be saved on the Day of Judgment, while others, with all their good actions, will not be saved, because they do not belong to that particular religion. This is a man-made idea, not God-made.

      God is not the Father of one sect; God is the Father of the whole world, and all are entitled to be called His children, whether worthy or unworthy. And in fact it is man's attitude toward God and Truth which can bring him closer to God, Who is the ideal of every soul. And if this attitude is not developed, then, whatever a man's religion be, he has failed to live it. Therefore, what is important in life is to try and live the religion to which one belongs, or that one esteems, or that one believes to be one's religion.

     But one must always know that religion has a body and has a soul. Whatever body of religion you may touch, you touch the soul; but if you touch the soul, you touch all its bodies, which are like its organs. And all the organs constitute one body, which is the body of the religion, the religion which is the religion of Alpha and Omega, which was and which is and which will always be. Therefore the dispute, "I am right and you are wrong," in the path of religion is not necessary. We do not know what is in the heart of man. If outwardly he seems to be a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, we are not the judge of his religion, for every soul has a religion peculiar to itself, and no one else is entitled to judge its religion.

      There may be a person in a very humble garb, without any appearance of belief in God, or of piety or orthodoxy, and he may have a religion hidden in his heart which not everybody can understand. And there may be a person who is highly evolved, and his outward conduct, which alone manifests to people's views, may appear to be altogether contrary to their own way of looking at things, and they may accuse him of being a materialist or an unbeliever, or someone who is far from God and Truth. And yet we do not know; sometimes appearances are merely illusions; behind them there may be the deepest religious devotion or the highest ideal hidden, of which we know very little.

     For the Sufi, therefore, the best thing is to respect man's belief, whatever it may be, his ideal, whatever it may be, his way of looking at life, even if it be quite different from one's own way of looking at it. It is this spirit of tolerance that, when developed, will bring about the brotherhood which is the essence of religion and the want of the day.

     The idea that you are different and I am different; your religion is different and my religion is different; your belief is different and my belief is different--that will not unite, that will only divide humanity. Those who, with the excuse of their great faith in their own religion, hurt the feeling of another and divide humanity, whose Source and Goal is the same, abuse religion, whatever be their faith.

      The Message, whenever, at whatever period it came to the world, did not come to a certain section of humanity; it did not come to raise only some few people who perhaps accepted the faith, the Message, or a particular organized Church. No, all these things came afterwards. The rain does not fall in a certain land only; the sun does not shine upon a certain country only. All that is from God is for all souls. If they are worthy, they deserve it; it is their reward; if they are unworthy, they are the more entitled to it. Verily, blessing is for every soul; for every soul, whatever be his faith or belief, belongs to God.

     In the ancient Sanskrit language the word for religion is Dharma, which means duty. Now, there are two things in the world, one of which we may describe as free choice of action and the other as duty. Everybody follows either the way of free choice or the way of duty. As an example we may think of the child who sees the fire, and wants to touch it, and does so. This action will show a certain disagreeable result which teaches the child a certain thing. This teaching might also have come to the child as a warning from the parents, telling the child that the result of the action would be burning. The child might thus refrain from doing a certain action for the reason that it accepted the warning of the parents before burning its hand.

     Every child is born in life a pupil, one who is willing to learn and willing to believe. As the Prophet Muhammed says: "Every soul is born on earth a believer; it is only afterwards that he turns into an unbeliever." It is certain that if one had not been born a believer one would never have learned the language of one's country, because if anyone had tried to teach the words and one had refused to accept the teachings as true, one would never have learned the names and character of things. For instance, if it were said, '"This is water," and one had not believed it, and had thought, "It is fruit," then one would never really have known what was water and what fruit. A child is born with the tendency to believe and learn what it is taught.

     The divine life has a certain capability to give life, and it gives this life as teaching to the children of earth, and this teaching is called Dharma, religion. Religions are many and different from one another, but only in form. Water is one and the same element, and formless, only it takes the shape of the channel which holds it and which it uses for its accommodation; and so the name water is changed into river, lake, sea, stream, pond, etc. So it is with religion; the essential truth is one, but the aspects are different. Those who fight about external forms will always fight, those who recognize the inner truth will not disagree, and thus will be able to harmonize the people of all religions.

     Dharma has been given from time to time to the world, at times quietly, and sometimes with a loud voice; but it is a continual outpouring of the inner knowledge, of life, and of divine blessing. Those who stick to their old forms, closing their eyes to the inner truth, paralyze their Dharma by holding onto an old form while refusing the present stream that is sent. As life is the cause of activity, so such persons lose their activity; they remain where they are and are as dead. And when man has been thus paralyzed and shut out from further spiritual progress, he clings to outer forms which are not progressing.

      There was a time when the message was given while the people were wanting a messenger to come. During the time of Jesus Christ there were thousands and millions waiting for a messenger to come from above. The Master came, and did his service, and went away. Some realized then, and some are still waiting. But the One Who claimed to be Alpha and own religion, hurt the feeling of another and divide humanity, whose Source and Goal is the same, abuse religion, whatever be their faith.

      The Message, whenever, at whatever period it came to the world, did not come to a certain section of humanity; it did not come to raise only some few people who perhaps accepted the faith, the Message, or a particular organized Church. No, all these things came afterwards. The rain does not fall in a certain land only; the sun does not shine upon a certain country only. All that is from God is for all souls. If they are worthy, they deserve it; it is their reward; if they are unworthy, they are the more entitled to it. Verily, blessing is for every soul; for every soul, whatever be his faith or belief, belongs to God.

     In the ancient Sanskrit language the word for religion is Dharma, which means duty. Now, there are two things in the world, one of which we may describe as free choice of action and the other as duty. Everybody follows either the way of free choice or the way of duty. As an example we may think of the child who sees the fire, and wants to touch it, and does so. This action will show a certain disagreeable result which teaches the child a certain thing. This teaching might also have come to the child as a warning from the parents, telling the child that the result of the action would be burning. The child might thus refrain from doing a certain action for the reason that it accepted the warning of the parents before burning its hand.

     Every child is born in life a pupil, one who is willing to learn and willing to believe. As the Prophet Muhammed says: "Every soul is born on earth a believer; it is only afterwards that he turns into an unbeliever." It is certain that if one had not been born a believer one would never have learned the language of one's country, because if anyone had tried to teach the words and one had refused Omega is never absent; sometimes he appears on the surface, sometimes he is reserving himself.

     When directed by the new spiritual inspiration, law, morals, education, and all departments of life come to new life; but if the spiritual current is lacking, then there is no further progress in the forms of life. People mostly think that the spiritual message must be something concrete and definite in the way of doctrines or principles; but that is a human tendency and does not belong to the divine nature, which is unlimited and life itself. The divine message is the answer to the cry of souls, individually and collectively; the divine message is life, and it is light. The sun does not teach anything, but in its light we learn to know all things. The sun does not cultivate the ground nor does it sow seed, but it helps the plant to grow, to flower, and to bear fruit.

     The Sufi Message, in its utter infancy, strikes the note of the day, and promises the fulfillment of that purpose for which, now and then, the blessing from above descends, for spreading love and peace on earth and among men.

The Religion Heart

      If anybody asks you, "What is Sufism? What religion is it?" you may answer, "Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which one thing is most important, and that is to seek God in the heart of mankind."

     There are three ways of seeking God in the human heart. The first way is to recognize the divine in every person and to be careful of every person with whom we come in contact, in our thought, speech, and action. Human personality is very delicate. The more living the heart, the more sensitive it is. But that which causes sensitiveness is the love-element in the heart, and love is God. The person whose heart is not sensitive is without feeling; his heart is not living, it is dead. In that case the Divine Spirit is buried in his heart.

      A person who is always concerned with his own feelings is so absorbed in himself that he has no time to think of another. His whole attention is taken up with his own feelings. He pities himself: he worries about his own pain, and is never open to sympathize with others. He who takes notice of the feeling of another person with whom he comes in contact, practices the first essential moral of Sufism.

     The next way of practicing this religion is to think of the feeling of the person who is not at the moment before us. One feels for a person who is present, but one often neglects to feel for someone who is out of sight. One speaks well of someone to his face, but if one speaks well of someone when he is absent, that is greater. One sympathizes with the trouble of someone who is before one at the moment, but it is greater to sympathize with one who is far away. And the third way of realizing the Sufi principle is to recognize in one's own feeling the feeling of God; to realize every impulse of love that rises in one's heart as a direction from God; realizing that love is a divine spark in one's heart, to blow that spark until a flame may rise to illuminate the path of one's life.

     The symbol of the Sufi Movement, which is a heart with wings, is symbolical of its ideal. The heart is both earthly and heavenly. The heart is a receptacle on earth of the Divine Spirit, and when it holds the Divine Spirit, it soars heavenward; the wings picture its rising. The crescent in the heart symbolizes responsiveness. It is the heart which responds to the spirit of God that rises. The crescent is a symbol of responsiveness because it grows fuller as the moon grows fuller by responding more and more to the sun as it progresses. The light one sees in the crescent is the light of the sun. As it gets more light with its increasing response, so it becomes fuller of the light of the sun. The star in the heart of the crescent represents the divine spark which is reflected in the human heart as love, and which helps the crescent toward its fullness.

     The Sufi Message is the message of the day. It does not bring theories or doctrines to add to those existing already, which puzzle the human mind. What the world needs today is the message of love, harmony, and beauty, the absence of which is the only tragedy of life. The Sufi Message does not give a new law; it wakens in humanity the spirit of brotherhood, with tolerance on the part of each for the religion of the other, with forgiveness from each for the fault of the other. It teaches thoughtfulness and consideration, so as to create and maintain harmony in life; it teaches service and usefulness, which alone can make life in the world fruitful, in which lies the satisfaction of every soul.

     When we think of the different religions which are known to humanity, we shall find that each of them brought to the world the message of love in some form or other. And now the question arises, who brought religion in the world? And the answer is that religion has always existed in the heart of man. Religion is the outcome of the heart, and among all races, however primitive, a certain religion has existed, perhaps incomprehensible to people more evolved in different directions. For religion is instinctive, and as it is instinctive, not only in the world of man but also in the lower creation one sees a glimpse of religious tendency. For instance, one finds among pet animals, such as the dog, the cat, or the horse, some such faithful creatures, and sometimes one has such experiences with them that one cannot today expect from mankind.

     Besides this, the absorption that one sees among the birds, the little sparrows in the morning absorbed in the beauty of nature, so to speak, singing a song, a hymn to God: that all is religion, if we can understand it. For man has made his religion so narrow that he is not able to appreciate the broad religion of nature. By being narrow he has named his creed a religion, or the particular place of worship religion, or the book religion, or the form of service religion. If one would only think it is religion when one goes in the woods, in the forests, and stands alone in the forest near the silent trees standing in contemplation through the summer and winter, through all seasons! That silent contemplation, what does it give one, what thought arises? It lifts one up and makes one think that there is a religion.

     One may call it a legend or a superstition or a story, but still there are experiences; we have the experience in India with the cobras: they never bite unless someone hurts them. The affection and the attachment that the doves show to their mates is something to learn and to understand. And there are many instances, many experiences of thoughtfulness, of consideration, and of the nature of attachment that one sees in the lower creation, and that make one think that there is an instinctive religion.

      Then there are stories known in the East about the elephants. In the herd of elephants there is one who always leads them and he has a stem of a tree in his trunk, and he goes on feeling the earth to see if there is a pit, or if it is a good way for the elephants to pass. And if there was a pit, he gives a warning to his followers, that they may not fall victims to this. When we consider the birds we see that there is among them a leader who knows and understands the coming and the continuing of rain and storm, and according to that he guides them, and they all follow him. By what is it all accounted for, this taking care of those who depend upon one, and then yielding, responding, trusting someone who guides one; it is not only in the human beings, but even more in the animals.

      And man, who is always supposed to have a religion and thinks that he has a religion, has always opposed in all ages the ones who have served him, those who have wished to awaken him from his errors. The saints and the sages and the great souls who have continually tried to work for him, they have always had to suffer and they were the ones who found opposition from all directions. And in this way man has shown a lesser tendency to religion than the animals.

     But now, coming to understand what is the religion of the heart: It is said by the Sufis, "Ishq Allah, Mahbud Li'llah," the same that one reads in the Bible, that "God is love." And if God is love, where is He to be found? Is He to be found in the seventh heaven or is He to be found in the heart of man? If He were so far away as to be in the seventh heaven then it would be most unfortunate for man to be kept far away from the very life and the very reason of his being. And it is toward this realization that God is in the heart of man that all religions have taught in different ways and different forms.

     So many in this world only know the word "love"; to understand what love is or to speak about it or explain it is impossible. For whoever tries to express love makes an effort in vain; it is like trying to express God in words. Neither can God be expressed in words, nor love. There is a saying of a Persian poet who was an emperor, "I was destined to have so many slaves serving me, but from the moment love was born in my heart I became the slave of my every slave." The moment love is produced, that person does not need to go and find out where the Truth is, the Truth is born.

 For it is the loving one, the loving heart which is capable of understanding, of comprehending Truth. The reason is that the Truth is not outside of self, it is within us. For instance, when a person's heart is melted by a terrible suffering in life, it is then that what he says, or what he thinks, or what he does, in all is a fragrance of love. What is called in the Bible, "tongues of flame" or "words of flame," what are they? It rises when love has risen, it revivifies the thought, word, and action.

     What, generally, man knows about love is the give and take: "If you give me twelve pence, I will give you a shilling." For as long as one sees life in the form of business, in the form of give and take, he does not know love, and it is a great pity, when, after knowing something of love, the heart has turned cold and bitter. And what reason is there? The reason is this, that when one digs the ground one must dig until the water comes. But if one digs halfway, then there is no water, there is mud.

     But what is love? Love is a continual sacrifice. And what does sacrifice mean? Sacrifice means forgetting of the self. As Rumi says in his poem, the Masnavi: '"The Beloved is all in all, the lover merely veils him. The Beloved is all that lives, the lover a dead thing." But what is this death? The death in life is life. Can anyone say, "I practice in life to be good," or "to be religious," without having the love element? But what use can his religion be if he is praying perhaps all day, or seems to be all goodness, if there is no love in his heart; what use is his religion to him?

     The power of love is seen in all things, and in whatever form it acts, it shows a great virtue. One does not know always what power love has behind it, that there is nothing in the world which is more powerful than love. Think of the hen with its little chickens. At the time when they are so young that they seek her protection, if the horse came, if the elephant came, she would fight in defense.

     And how man has abused the word love; how he uses in his false pretenses the word love? What happens is that man has made a false world and in this false world he is so absorbed that he cannot see the reality. It is for this that the saints and the sages and the upraisers of mankind have been sent from time to time, because he is in a dream and he cannot awake from it. And of what does he dream? He dreams of this false world that he has created.

     And what is religion? Religion is what breaks away the barriers of falsehood and guides man toward the Truth. What we call kindness, helpfulness, gentleness, meekness, or humility, what do all these virtues come from? Are they all not made of love? They are different forms of love. That shows that there is only one stream of virtue and that is love, and all different virtues that man knows, they are all different drops falling in different directions.

      And the idea of right and wrong, good and bad, we can find among all different people in different ways, but in love we all unite, whether from East or South, or West or North, for no one who is thoughtful will argue that cruelty is virtue and kindness a sin. Therefore, from the point of view of love we can all unite in one conception of good and bad, of right and wrong. All that is guided by the principle of love has its virtue and all that is done by coldness, it is that which is wrong.

     When we think of the condition through which humanity has passed in all different times--in the name of religion there have been wars and battles--one wonders if it was taught by the religion. Not at all; religion was the pretense, that men by this pretense wanted to cause bloodshed, absorbed in selfishness. And if ever there has been a kind of accusation against any religion in the world, it is not against the religion, it is against the misunderstanding of that religion by the followers of that religion.

     Think of the life of the great Master Jesus Christ who was the soul of religion. One sees that from beginning to end there was nothing but love and forgiveness. The best expression of love is that love which is expressed in forgiveness. Those who came with their wrongs, errors, imperfections, before the love that was all forgiven; there was always a stream of love which always purified.

     If people had followed the idea of forgiveness and of tolerance, humanity would not have come to the condition to which it has come today. The hatred and prejudice and bitterness that exists today between nations is beyond words to explain. And if there were one religion or a thousand religions, if that were to go on, one would doubt if there be a religion. It seems that man has now the profession of it, but what is needed is to live it. Why is humanity not coming together more? It is the lack of tolerance, the lack of forgiveness, it is the lack of love. And there may be a thousand different schemes that people will make in order to make the conditions better, and every effort made in that direction is worthwhile; but at the same time there remains a question: what effort would be most worthwhile?

     It is the waking of the divine Spirit which is called love, which has been buried in the heart of man. There are many political institutions, social institutions, and moral institutions, but what is most necessary today is the wakening of the religion of the heart. It does not matter what religion they profess if they know the depth of the religion, which is love. And then, all the different forms, the forms of religious service and the forms of prayer, behind them what secret is there? The secret is to prepare the heart for that bliss which only love can give.

     The school of the Sufis, in whatever age, has been the school of the mystics. Its religion has been the religion of the heart, and it is therefore that there is a verse of Abul Allah, who says, "Qur'an, the Bible, or a martyr's cry, all these my heart can tolerate, since nay religion is love alone." For the religion of love is the religion of tolerance, the religion of love is the religion of forgiveness.

     The life in the world is such that it is as difficult for the rich as for the poor. A world such as this, made by falsehood, has its blows, continual blows, that a person of good heart has to stand. And there is only one safety from all these blows that might destroy the heart altogether: it is to learn how to tolerate, to learn how to forgive. For everyone says or does or thinks only according to his own particular evolution, and he cannot do better. Why not, therefore, tolerate? Why not, therefore, forgive? And if there is intolerance, then there must be a continual reciprocity; it is giving and taking intolerance. It means killing the element of love and giving life to the element which is death itself.

     And if there is any inspiration, any revelation, that also is attained by a loving heart. The life's purpose is to make use of this shrine which is the human heart and which was made for God. And if there is a shrine and no God, the shrine is purposeless. And if there is a heart and the heart has not yet attained to that ideal, the only ideal which is worthy of love, that heart has not yet attained its purpose.

     But no doubt it can be worthless if a person says, 'I love God, but I do not love mankind." That profession is worthless. It is like saying, "Friend, I love you very much, but I cannot look at your face." The creation is the manifestation of God. It is in the art of the artist that we recognize Him. If we refuse to acknowledge the art, we do not know the Artist. The man who does not express his love, who does not forget himself in love, expressing it as respect, tolerance, and forgiveness, does not know religion.

     Of course this is the first step, that one loves those one meets on the surface of the earth. Someone asked a great teacher if he would initiate him in mysticism. The great teacher answered, "Young man, have you ever loved?" The young man said, "I have not." The great teacher said, "Then go and love first; then come to me, that is the second step."

     No doubt the love of the human being which is not progressive and has not developed to the love of God is not yet perfect. For love is for the real Beloved, Who really deserves it and Who alone deserves it. As children learn the lesson of home life by playing with dolls, so the soul that learns, learns in human love and completes his study in the love of God. And the love of God is that which is the purpose of the whole creation; if that were not the purpose, the creation would not have taken place. As the whole creation is from God, then it is of God. If it is of God, then it is the manifestation of love, and the manifestation of God is purposed to realize the perfection of love.

The Present Need of the World

  If one truly observes the present condition of humanity, no one with sense will deny the fact that the world today needs the religion. Why I say the religion, and not a religion, is because there are many religions existing today called a religion, but what is needed today is the religion. And now coming to the question what the religion must be--must it be a new religion? If it were a new religion, it could not be called the religion; then it would be like many religions. I call the religion that religion which one can see by rising above the sects and differences which divide men, and by understanding the religion we shall understand all religions which may be called a religion.

 I do not mean that all the religions are not religion; they are the notes. But there is the music, and that music is the religion. Every religion strikes a note, a note which answers the demand of humanity in a certain epoch. But at the same time, the source of every note is the same music which manifests when the notes are arranged together. All the different religions are the different notes, and when they are arranged together they make music. You may ask why, at each epoch, all the music was not given, a single note? The answer is that there are times in the life of an infant when a rattle is sufficient; for the violin another time in life comes.

 During the time of the Chadians, Arabs, Romans, Greeks, different religious ideals were brought. To the few music was brought, to the many only a note. This shows that this music has always existed, only that man in general was not ready to grasp it, and so was given only one note. But the consequence was that the person who was given the C note and the other who was given the G note fought together, each saying, '"The note given to me is the right note." There have always existed souls who have said, "G is right," and others who have said, "C is right." All are right notes, and when they are mixed together, then there is music.

 This shows that there is an outer substance of religion which is the form, and the inner essence which is wisdom. When wisdom has blessed the soul, then the soul has heard the divine music. And the words of Christ, "I am Alpha and Omega"--what do they mean? That it was only when He came as Jesus? No; that music belongs to Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Those who tuned their hearts to listen to music, who elevated their souls high enough, they heard this divine music. But those who played with their rattle, their unique note, they disputed one with the other. They would have refused a violin: they were not ready for it; they would not have known how to use it.

 Today the world is starved more for religion than ever before. And what is the reason? The reason is that some simple souls, attached to the faith of their ancestors, held their faith with esteem, considering religion necessary in life; but many souls, with intelligence and reason and understanding of life, rebelled against religion, as the child, when grown up, throws away his rattle; he is no longer interested in it. So today the condition is that religion remains in the hands of those who have kept it in its outer form out of devotion and loyalty to their ancestors' faith; and those who are, so to speak, grown up in mind and spirit, and want something better, they can find nothing.

 Their souls hunger for music, and when they ask for music, they are given a rattle, and they throw away the rattle and say they do not care for music, the soul's music, and without it their life becomes empty. How few recognize this fact, and fewer still will admit it. The psychological condition of humanity has become such that a person with intelligence refuses the music. He does not want the music; he wants something, but he calls it by another name.

 I will tell you my own experience in the Western world. Traveling for ten years, I have come in contact with people of intelligence, thinkers, men of science; and in them I have seen the greatest yearning for that religious spirit. They are longing every moment of their lives for it, for they find, with all their education and science, that there is some space empty in themselves and they want it filled. But, at the same time, if you speak of religion, they say, "No, no, speak of something else; we do not want religion." This means they know only the rattle part of religion and not the violin part. They do not think that a thing exists which can be different from a rattle and yet there is a perplexity in themselves, a spiritual craving, that is not answered even by all their learned and scientific pursuits.

 Now, therefore, what is needed today in the world is a reconciliation between the religious man and the one who runs away from religion. But what can we do when we see even in the Christian religion so many sects, one opposing another; and, besides the Christian, the Muslim religion, the Buddhist, Jewish, and many others, each considering their own and thinking the others not worth thinking about. Now to me these different religions are like different organs of the body, cut apart and thrown asunder. Therefore, to me personally it seems as if one arm of the same person were cut off and rising to fight the other. Both are arms of the same person, and when this person is complete, when all these parts are brought together, then there is the religion.

 Then what is the effort of the Sufi Movement? To make a new religion? No; it is to bring together the different organs of the one body, which is meant to be united and not thrown apart. You may ask what is our method. How do we work to bring about a reconciliation? By realizing for ourselves that the essence of all religion is one, and that that essence is wisdom, and considering that wisdom to be our religion, whatever be our own form. The Sufi Movement has persons belonging to many different faiths among its members. Do you think they have given up their own religion? No. On the contrary, they are firmer in their own faith by understanding the faith of others.

 From the narrow point of view, fault may be found because they do not hate, mistrust, and criticize the religion of others. They have respect for the scriptures that millions of people have held as sacred, though those scriptures do not belong to their own religion. They desire to study and appreciate other scriptures, and so to find out that all wisdom comes from the one Source--the wisdom of the East and of the West. The Sufi Movement is therefore not a sect; it can be anything but a sect. And if it ever became one, it would be quite contrary to the idea with which it has been begun, because its main idea is to remove differences and distinctions which divide mankind. And this ideal is attained by the realization of the one Source of all human beings, and also the Goal, which we all call God.

The Coming World Religion

  There are many prophecies and several beliefs on this subject, but what is most needed is to understand what religion means. The present religion, or the coming religion, or the past religion, are for those who divide the Truth, which is one, into many. In point of fact, what was is, and what is will be. Was this idea not supported by Jesus Christ, who said: "I have not come to give a new law; I have come to fulfill the law"? If Jesus Christ said this, who else can come out and say: "I give you a new religion"? There cannot be a new religion; one could as well say, "I wish to teach you a new wisdom." There cannot be a new wisdom; wisdom is the same, which was and is and always will be.

 There arises a question in the heart of the inquirers, "Then what is this variety of religions which has engaged humanity for years in conflict with one another, so that most of the wars and battles were fought in the cause of religion?" This only shows the childish character of human nature. Religion which was given and is given, wherever it is given, religion which was given for unity, for harmony, for brotherhood, was used by childish human nature to fight and to dispute and to engage themselves in battles for years and years. And the most amusing thing for a thoughtful person is to think and see how this has given in the past history a most sacred character to war, to battle, and called it sacred war, or holy war.

 And the same tendency of making war with one another, which began in their religion, persisted in the time of materialism; the same tendency turned into war between nations. And, at the same time, the differences and distinctions which existed between the different faiths and beliefs still exist, and that prejudice and that difference and the bigotry which existed between nations, still exist in a smaller or greater degree. What does it show? It shows that the meaning of true religion has not been understood by the majority. Therefore, the mission that religion had to fulfill in connection with humanity still remains to be fulfilled. And it is at that fulfillment that Jesus Christ has hinted: "I have come to fulfill the law, not to give a new law."

 Religion can be seen from five different points of view. The first, religion which is known to us as certain dogmas, laws, or teachings. And when we think and see the condition of the world, we see that the law is now given by the nation. Every nation now is responsible for the order and peace of the people.

 Besides this, the second aspect of religion is the church and the form of the service. In this there are differences, and there will always be differences; it is a matter of temperament, it is a matter of tendency, and it also depends upon the customs and beliefs of the people who have inherited that tendency from their ancestors. Some have in their house of prayer different forms and different ceremonies which help them to feel elevated; the others have a simple service. The one appeals to the former and the other appeals to the latter.

 No doubt the world is evolving to uniformity, and as now we see no very great difference between the forms, the form of everything-of different customs of greeting, of dressing, and many other things--so people are coming to a certain uniformity. At the same time, when we look at the subject from a different point of view, we shall find that uniformity very often takes away the beauty of life. In the countries so civilized and advanced, where the architecture and houses are all on the same plan, where all are dressed in the same way, people become so tired that they like to go to a different country and see houses distinct and different one from the other, and also the people.

 For instance, the method of writing music and the form of notation for the whole Western world is the same, but the distinction between the music of the French, Italians, Germans, Russians, gives a stimulus to the lover of music. And so it is in the distinctions of the forms. To want to make all people live alike and act all alike means to turn all people into the same form and same face, and what would happen then? The world would become very uninteresting. It is like tuning all the keys of the piano to the same note. It is not necessary to change the notes of the piano. What is necessary is to know the way of harmony, to know how to create harmony between the different notes.

 The third aspect of religion is the religious ideal, the Lord and Master of religion, the Lord and Master that a soul has esteemed as the ideal. It is something which cannot be discussed, something which cannot be argued upon. The less spoken about it, the better it is. It is the outcome of the devotion of a sincere heart which gives birth to that ideal which is too sacred to mention, an ideal which cannot be compared, an ideal which cannot be explained. And when the followers of diverse religions come to this question and dispute over their ideals, the sacred ideals of which they have only some tradition--which they have not known, but of which they have only had a tradition--and wish to prove one better than the other, they merely lose time and they destroy that sacred sentiment which can only be preserved in the heart.

 The religious ideal is the medium by which one rises towards perfection. Whatever name a person gives to his ideal, that name is for him, and that name is most sacred for him. But that does not mean that that name limits that ideal. There is one ideal, the divine ideal. Call Him Christ, and let the same Christ be known by different names, given to Him by various communities. For instance, a person who has a great devotion, a great love and attachment for his friend, is speaking about friendship in high words, and he is saying what a sacred thing it is to become friends; but then there is another one who says: "Oh, I know your friend, what he is; he is no better than anybody else."

 The answer to this idea is given by Majnun, in the story told by the ancients, where someone said to Majnun, "Leila, your beloved, is not so beautiful as you think." He said, "My Leila must be seen with my eyes. If you wish to see how beautiful Leila is, you must borrow my eyes." Therefore, if you wish to regard the object of devotion of whatever faith, of whatever community, of whatever people, you will have to borrow their eyes, you will have to borrow their heart. There is no use in disputing over the points of history, over each tradition in history; they are often made by prejudice. Devotion is a matter of heart, and is made by the devotee.

 The fourth aspect of religion is the idea of God. There will always be fights and discussions about it; one says, "The God of our family is one, and the God of your family is another." There have always been fights. In the old times there was a dispute between the people saying that the God of Beni Israel was a special God; and so every community and every Church made its God a special God. If there is a special God, it is not only a special God of a community, but a God of every individual. For man has to make his own God before he realizes the real God. But that God which man makes within himself becomes in the end the door by which he enters that shrine of his innermost being, the real God, Who is in the heart of man. And then one begins to realize that God is not a God of a certain community or people, but that God is the God of the whole Being.

 And then we come to another aspect of religion, which is not necessarily the law or the ceremony or the divine ideal or God, but which is apart from all these four. That is, something living in the soul, in the mind, and in the heart of man, the absence of which keeps man as dead, and the presence of which gives him life. If there is any religion, it is that particular sense. And what is that sense? The Hindus have called it, in the Sanskrit language, Dharma, which, in the ordinary meaning of the word, is duty. But it is something much greater than what we know in our everyday life as duty. I do not call it duty, but life itself. When a person is thoughtful, when a person is considerate, when a person feels the obligations that he has towards his fellow man, towards his friend, towards his father or mother, or in whatever relation he stands to man, it is something living, it is something like water, which gives the sense of the living soul; the soul is not dead.

 It is this living soul which really makes a person alive. And the person who is not conscious of this, this tenderness, this sacredness of life, he lives, but the soul is in the grave. You do not need to ask that man what is his religion, what is his belief, for he is living it; life itself is his religion, and this is the true religion. The man conscious of honor, the man who has the sense of shame, who has the feeling of sincerity, whose sympathy, whose devotion is alive, that man is living, that man is religious.

 It is this religion which has been the religion of the past and which will be the religion of the future. And religion, if ever it was taught by Christ or any other great ones, was to awaken in man that sense which is awakened when this religion is living.

 lt does not matter into which house you go and pray, for every moment of your life then is religion. Then it is not a religion in which you believe, but it is a religion which you live.

 What is the Message of Sufism? Sufism is the Message of digging out that water-like life, which has been buried by the impressions of this material life. There is an English phrase: "A lost soul." The soul is not lost; the soul is buried. When it is dug out, then the divine life springs out like a spring of water. And the question is, what is digging? What does one dig in oneself? Is it not true, is it not said in the scriptures, that God is love? Then where is God to be found? Is He to be found in the seventh heaven or is He to be found in the heart of man? He is to be found in the heart of man, which is his shrine.

 But if this heart is buried--the heart which has lost that light, that life, that warmth--what does this heart become? It becomes as a grave. There is in a popular song in English a beautiful line which says: "The light of the whole life dies when Love is done." That living thing in the heart is love. It may come as kindness, as friendship, as sympathy, as tolerance, as forgiveness--in whatever form this living water rises from the heart, it proves the heart to be a divine spring. And when once this spring is open and is rising, everything that man does as an action, as a word, as a feeling, it is all religion; that man becomes religious.

 If there is any coming religion, a new religion to come, it will be this religion, the religion of the heart. After all the suffering that has been caused to humanity by the recent war, man is beginning to open his eyes. And as time will pass he will open his eyes to know and understand that the true religion is in opening the heart, in widening the outlook, and in living the religion which is one religion.

The Sufi's Religion

  Religion in the ordinary sense of the word, as known by the world, is the creeds. There are not many religions in the world, but there are many creeds. And what does creed mean? Creed means a cover over the religion. There is one religion and there are many covers. Each of these covers has a name: Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, etc., and when you take off these covers, you will find that there is one religion, and it is that religion which is the religion of the Sufi. And at the same time, a Sufi does not condemn a church or creed or a certain form of worship. He says it is the world of variety. Everyone must have his choice of food, his choice of dress, his choice of expression. Why must the followers of one faith think that the others are heathens or pagans?

 The Sufi thinks that we all follow one religion, only in different names and different forms; but behind names and forms there is one and the same spirit and there is one and the same truth. The pity is that the orthodox priests and clergy disagree among themselves about it; even in the colleges and in the universities, when students study theology, they study without interest. A professor told me in Switzerland that "we have read many books of religion. I was a professor of theology; but we are taught in the college to study without taking deep interest in the subject, to be neutral." But that is not the attitude to become inspired. Our attitude must be that of interest, of sympathy, of friendliness toward that religion and toward the Teacher who has brought it.

 I began to study the Bible in my early youth and my devotion towards Christ and the Bible was as great as that of any Christian, or perhaps more. And so it is with all scriptures. If you have sympathy, if you have interest in all you study and read, then it is living, then it inspires you, you are benefited by it because of your love for truth. The same truth is common to all, but the tendency of the academic study of religion is to find where the differences are. They would be most interested in knowing where Christianity differs from Buddhism and where the Jewish religion differs from Islam. Their interest is in the difference instead of in the synthesis, where we meet.

 It is in the meeting ground of different faiths that there is the sacred place of pilgrimage. In India, in order to teach this idea, they have made a place of pilgrimage where two rivers meet. When there is one river, they call it sacred, but the most sacred place is where two rivers meet. It is the same thought that every stream of Divine Wisdom which we call religion is sacred, but most sacred it is there where two streams meet. And when we realize that, we make the real pilgrimage in the spirit.

 And now, coming to the idea of what religion consists of. The first thing in religion is the idea of God. What is God? Some say that "my idea of God is that He is in the highest Heaven, that He is the Creator, that He is the Judge of the Last Day, that He is the Forgiver." And there is another one who says: "My idea is that God is all, God is abstract, all is God, and if anyone believes in a personal God, I do not believe it." Both are right and yet both are wrong. They are right if they see the other point of view and they are wrong if they see their own point of view. Both see the God-ideal with one eye. One sees it with the right eye and the other with the left eye. If they see with both eyes, then the vision is complete.

 It is indeed an error on the part of man to limit God in the idea of a Personal Being, and is wrong in the person who believes in the Absolute God to efface the Being of God from his conception of it. As they say: "To explain God is to dethrone God." To say that God is abstract is like saying: "God is space, God is time." Can you love space? Can you love time? There is nothing there to love. A beautiful flower would attract you more than space. And nice music will attract you more than time. Therefore the believer in the abstract God has only his belief, but he is not benefited by it. He may just as well believe in no God as in an abstract God. Yet he is not wrong. He is uselessly right.

 The most advisable thing for the believer of God is to first make his own conception of God. Naturally man cannot make a conception of something he does not know. For instance, if I told you to imagine a bird that you have never seen, which is unlike any bird you have ever seen, you would first attach to the bird wings, then you might see the head of a cow, and then perhaps you would imagine the feet of a horse and a peacock's tail. But you cannot imagine any form which you have not seen, which you have not known. You have to embody from your mind a form which you already know. You cannot make a conception which you have never seen or known before. Besides, it is the easiest thing and it is the most natural thing for man to conceive of any being in his own form.

 When man thinks of fairies or angels he sees them in human form, and therefore if a person conceives of the God-ideal, even the highest and best way of conceiving will be in the highest and best human personality. There is nothing wrong about it. That is all that man can do. God is greater than man's conception, but man cannot conceive Him higher than he can. Therefore, any man's God is in his own conception. It is useless, therefore, to argue and to discuss and to urge one's own conception upon another. For the best way a person can think of God is in the way he is capable of thinking of God.

 And then the next aspect of religion is the ideal of the Teacher. One says that: "My teacher is the Savior of the world, the Savior of humanity. My Teacher is divine, my Teacher is God Himself." And there is another who is ready to oppose it, saying that it is not true, no man can be called divine and no one can save the world, each one has to save himself. But if you look at it from the Sufi's point of view, the Sufi says: "What does it matter if a man sees in someone he adores and worships and idealizes, God Himself?. After all, this whole manifestation is God's manifestation.

 If he says that in that particular Teacher he sees the Divine, there is nothing wrong about it. Let him call his Teacher Divinity. I am sorry for the one who does not call his Teacher the Savior." Besides that, we each have an effect of our deeds on the whole cosmos and if a high soul was called by someone "the Savior of the World," it is not an exaggeration. One wicked soul can cause such harm to the whole cosmos, and one holy soul by his life on earth can do so much good, directly and indirectly, to each being in the world, because each soul is connected with the whole cosmos. But for the Sufi there is no dispute about it.

 If a Buddhist says: "Buddha is my Savior," if a Christian says that Christ is divine, if a Muslim says that Muhammed was the Seal of the Prophets, if a Hindu says that Krishna was the expression of God, the Sufi says: "You are all justified; you each have your name, individually or collectively. You are calling my Ideal. All these names are the name of my Ideal. You each have your own ideals. I have all these names as the name of my Ideal. I call my Beloved: Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Muhammed. Therefore all your ideals I love, because my ideal is one and the same."

 And now comes the third idea in religion, and that is the idea of the form of worship. Perhaps in one religion there are candles lighted and there is a form of worship. And there is another religion where even a song is not allowed to be sung in the church.

 In another religion they call out the name of God and pray the Lord with movements. In another religion they have put a statue of Buddha on the altar as the sign of peace. These are different expressions of devotion. Just as in the Western countries by nodding and in the Eastern countries by raising their hands, they salute one another. It is the same feeling, but the action is different. What does it matter if one greets in this way or in that way; is it not all a greeting? The Sufi says, so long as there is real devotion, it does not matter in what way it is expressed. For him it is the same.

 Once I was traveling from England to the United States, and on the ship on Sunday there was a Protestant service, which I attended, and everyone thought I was a Protestant. Then there was a Catholic service, and when I went to the Catholic service, people began to look at me, doubting if I was a Catholic or a Protestant. After that, there was a Jewish service, and when I went, they began to think that, if I was a Rabbi, why did I go to all these services? To me every one of these services was an expression of devotion; for me they were not different. The form makes no difference, it is our feeling. When our feeling is right, if we are in the church or in the marketplace or in simple nature or in our own house, we always will express our sincere devotion. Therefore a Sufi's form of prayer is all forms of prayer, and in every form he feels that exaltation which is the principal thing to experience in religious life.

 There is another 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 law-giver 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, "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, "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 even a fine man 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, not learned and taught. The great mistake is that people confuse 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 that 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 could not be Truth. Truth stands above words. Words are too rigid to express Truth. Even such 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 steppingstone, 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 ends 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 a 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 nothing 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.

Supplementary Readings

  Purity of life is the central theme of all religions which have been taught to humanity in all ages. Purity of life has been their central idea, and they only differ in the way of looking at it. It seems that purity of life has not only sprung from religion, but is the outcome of the nature of life; one sees it in all living creatures in some form or other, so to speak working out its destiny. One sees this tendency in the animals, who look for a clean place to sit, and among the birds, who go to the lake or river to bathe and clean their feathers. In humanity one sees the same tendency even more pronounced. A man who has not risen above the material life, shows this faculty in physical cleanliness, but behind it there is something else hidden, and that which is hidden behind is the secret of the whole creation, or the purpose for which the whole world was made.

 Purity is a process through which the life rhythm of the spirit manifests. It has worked for ages through the mineral, the vegetable, the animal, and the human kingdoms, passing through and arriving with all its experience of the way at that realization where the spirit finds itself pure in essence, in its pure and original condition. The whole process of creation and of spiritual unfoldment shows that the spirit, which is life and which in life represents the divine, has wrapped itself in numberless folds, and in that way has, so to speak, descended from heaven to earth. And the next process is to unwrap itself, and that unwrapping may be called the process towards purity. THE SUPPLEMENTARY PAPERS  - RELIGION - Purity of Life

We need today the religion of tolerance. In daily life we cannot all meet on the same ground, being so different, having such different capacities, states of evolution, and tasks. So if we had no tolerance, no desire to forgive, we could never bring harmony into our soul; for to live in the world is not easy and every moment of the day demands a victory. If there is anything to learn it is this tolerance, and by teaching this simple religion of tolerance to one another we are helping the world. from: The Problem of the Day

 The question is not what religion one follows, but how to live one's religion. When religion has lost its hold on inner life and faith, there is nothing left.  from: The Problem of the Day

We do not know under what guise a person preserves his religion. It may be hidden somewhere in his heart; perhaps it does not show outwardly. No doubt, if no one were able to express his religious sentiment there would be no communication possible, and that is why it is very necessary in society that we should communicate our deepest religious sentiments. from: The Problem of the Day

 The prophets have brought the Divine Message from time to time. It took so many years for them to deliver it to the world, and so many years for it to spread after those who brought it had passed. So many years it took for the people to practice it and to  get benefit out of it.  And many more years it took for the same to become corrupted, which has always caused the decline of religions. No doubt that that ended that cycle, and a new cycle began with the same process all over again. The Message Papers - Free Will and Destiny in the Message  August 2, 1923