Gurudev was a unique phenomenon of twentieth century spiritual teaching. There are many teachers who are sectarian, who teach their particular philosophy, religion, belief, creed or doctrine evolved through the centuries. Their religious beliefs and practice become crystalised into a set theology that sometimes does not hesitate to maintain that this is the one and only way. This is the right way. People who follow any other path are tottering in their blindness. They are in darkness, they will lose their way, and they will not attain the goal.
In shining contrast to this type of excluding dogmatism, Master represented a great departure that perhaps was the need of the times to heal suffering humanity from the trauma of many wars fought upon the basis of religious beliefs. The Vedic religion has regarded all these various beliefs and faiths as so many paths leading to the one Reality, because any concept of the ultimate Truth, that which is the source and origin of everything that exists, has to be one and one alone.
Truth cannot be two. Reality cannot be two. Reality must needs be one only.
Truth is undivided. Truth can only be one. The learned may refer to It in various ways. That does not make It more than one. It does not multiply the Supreme Being or make it many. Paths may be many, but the goal is ultimately one.
Thus proclaiming this truth in gentle terms in his own persuasive way, Gurudev said, “Why unnecessarily fight and quarrel. Feel the underlying oneness in this apparent diversity of faiths and beliefs.” He gently proclaimed, taught and practised this in his daily life by observing all the great days of festivity in the religious calendar including Christmas, Buddha Jayanti etc.
So much so that of the orthodox, hidebound exponents of Hinduism took up issue with him. They said, “What are you doing? You being a sannyasin belonging to the Shankara Advaita Vedanta parampara must only preach Advaita Vedanta. You must propagate that alone Gurudev’s reply to them was, “Oji, what you are saying is quite right, quite right, and what I am doing is not wrong” That was Gurudev’s way.
And to some extent this was also the message of the medieval Maharastrian saints. Even though their devotion might have been directed to some aspect of God or some deity enshrined in a shrine, ultimately they knew that all these modes of worship, directed and done through different manifestations of the Supreme Being, ultimately reach one and only one. All rivers having different sources and flowing in diverse directions ultimately reach the same identical ocean waters.
Nivrittinath, the elder brother of that amazing Maharastrian foursome of three brothers and one sister–Nivrittinath, Jnaneswar, Sopandev and Muktabai–says, “O Lord, You are our mother, You are our father, You are our relative or closest associate. And You are the one and only support of our life–mata pita bandhu tuhi ho hamare, Jeevana sahare Krishna pyare–O beloved Lord Krishna.
“When we have You as our all-in-all, we do not mind whether in this life we come across happiness or sorrow. We look upon both with equal eyes. We have sought refuge at Your feet, and there we find everything. We have support, we have strength, we have solace, and, therefore, it does not matter what experience comes. We do not care. Sukha dukha dono hame ekasa hai, sharana me aye bhakta tumhare. Sometimes there is a variation: charan aye sharan me aye.
“We find You everywhere. Therefore, we are constantly with You. In our mind, in our meditation, in the earth or in the skies, the heavens, there is only one–that is Krishna. In our body He pervades from the top of the head to the tip of our toenails. In our mind, being the Indweller, He pervades. Mana me hai Krishna, tana me hai krishna, bhuvana gagan me Krishna Krishna.
“In the inner eye of the mind of Nivritti, what does he behold? If he cannot find that which he was looking for outside, he finds it enshrined in the altar of his mind or interior. The door of Nivritti’s mind opened up and when he looked in the open door, what did he find? There he found the beloved of Nanda sitting there. Nivrittike manake khule hain kivade usame basa hai Nanda dulare.“
Thus the devotee experiences the Lord, and experiences himself or herself in relation to the Lord–closer than the closest, nearer than the nearest, dearer than the dearest, the all-in-all!