23 January 2010

Paths are Many, Truth is One

The purpose of any religion is to educate us about our spiritual unity. Everything that God created belongs to all of us and to our future generations. The entire world belongs to us, to be shared by us as one family of God. Nobody can put a label and say, "This is mine alone." All the resources of the world are given to us for our use, and we have a responsibility as caretakers on this earth.

Truth is one. That is why my motto has always been, "Truth is One, Paths are Many." The great sages and saints have experienced the same truth but only expressed it in different ways. It does not matter what name you give to the nameless Spirit. The only way to eternal peace and joy is to realize that Christhood or Buddhahood or Krishnahood. But when we miss that point, we fight in the name of Spirit.

There are so many things that can separate and divide us. We say, "I’m an American," or "I’m an Australian." "I am white," or "I am black." "I am fat," or "I am thin," "I am a boy," or "I am a girl." "I am Christian," or "I’m Hindu," or "I’m a Jew." My color may be different from your color. Her color may be different from somebody else’s color. We are all of various colors and hues because nature never makes duplicates. There is constant variety throughout the creation. But inside, we all have the same light; we are all made in the image of God. The same light is shining through many different colored lamps.

When we look at the outside alone, we will only see differences. But when we go a little deeper, we see the oneness. Don’t we say that "beauty is only skin deep." Scratch less than one millimeter beneath the surface and we all have the same color blood. So, if we see the difference, we are different; we are separate. But if we see the Spirit, we are the same. I am you, you are me; we are not different. We have all the differences and individual distinctions, but we are so much more. These definitions are what you use in order to function in this world. The challenge given to each and every one of us is to remember that oneness behind the outer differences.

God gave each of us a different costume, different makeup, a different role, in order to play our part in the world. But behind all these differences we are all one in Spirit. When we forget that and identify ourselves with the superficial differences, we lose sight of the spiritual oneness. So, religion asks us to get back to that original state. The very meaning of the word "religion" is to "bind back;" to get back to your original oneness.

When we argue about what is the right path and whose religion is best, there is something terribly wrong with our approach. Then, we are looking at the superficial side of religion and forgetting to go deep into its foundation. If we did go deep, we would find that all the religions ultimately talk about the same God, the same Truth; but somehow we ignore that common base and continue to fight over the superficial aspects.

It is time for us to recognize that there is one truth and many approaches. As long as you are a spiritual seeker, follow your spiritual path with your goal in mind. Don’t worry about other people’s paths. Whatever path you choose according to your temperament and taste, stay with that consistently while respecting all other paths. Though God can be approached through any form or name, if you keep changing from one idea of God to another, you won’t progress at all. You can’t travel on ten roads at the same time, even if they’re all going to Rome.

So, let us resolve not to fight in the name of religion. When the understanding comes that essentially we are one appearing as many, then all the other problems—physical and material—will be solved. Until then, they will never be solved because the basic cause for all the world problems is the lack of understanding of this spiritual unity. Wherever you go say, "We look different, but we are all one in Spirit. Hello, brother; hello sister." No religion is superior and no religion is inferior. We are all doing God’s work. We should learn to live together and work toward one goal: to share and care, love and give.

In order to have a better world we must learn to think of the globe as a whole. Whatever problems we face, there are also solutions. This needs a lot of cooperation and requires that everyone rise above personal, selfish interests and think in terms of the whole world.

Only by having a universal and spiritual vision can we bring positive change into the world. We are literally destroying ourselves in the name of religion. We criticize each other’s faiths, proclaiming, "Mine is the best, yours is the worst." Even the same religious groups have splintered factions. Is that the purpose behind religion? Do you think God will be happy? Because we are one in Spirit, it doesn’t mean that you should renounce your own path or approach. That is not unity; that is conversion. Real unity means accepting all the various approaches, and that is what interfaith understanding is all about.

Interfaith dialogue is designed to bring people together so that we can remember the unity behind the diversity." Sometimes people ask if the interfaith approach is an effort to have all faiths merge into one. That is not the point. If there is only one kind of flower in the garden, it is no longer a garden. Should the flowers fight about their colors, their scents, their shapes, and forms? Should they hate each other for their differences? We seem to appreciate the variety, texture, shapes, and scents of the flowers as they blend together to create a beautiful bouquet of flowers. God created all this variety for us to enjoy and for this beauty to enrich our lives. Our aim should be to understand the unity and enjoy the variety.

You can be loyal to your parents, your religion, your country, and at the same time you can love and respect another person’s allegiances. We can love our own faith and respect the other person’s faith as well. There is nothing contradictory in that. You don’t have to renounce one to love another. Ultimately, we all aim for the same truth while walking on different paths. So, in the name of interfaith understanding, we are not advocating uniformity, but universality.

There are many conferences now being organized worldwide to promote this kind of interfaith perspective. There are many peace efforts sponsored by religious and interfaith organizations working cooperatively. The time has come and the world has shrunk. We cannot separate ourselves and deny each other anymore because we are aware, more than ever, that we are a global village. It’s time to understand each other better and to live as one global family.

Each individual can do his or her own part to build a more peaceful world. By devoting a few minutes a day to meditation—to peace prayers—you can send out nice vibrations that will go around the globe and influence political leaders. If we want a peaceful world, first we must have a peaceful mind. Change the mind, you change the person; and change the person, you change the community or the society or the nation or the world.
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