Religion is One
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is from the book Self-Realisation.
Children of Immortal Being!
Peace be unto all! Without peace there is no joy, and a joyless life is a valueless existence, for it is a struggle, a pain, a process of becoming a “not-itself, a self discrepancy.” The reign of peace, therefore, means the freedom of life, the liberation of mankind, the salvation of all beings. All strive for peace, all want unperturbable happiness. All crave for eternal life. If we think and breathe, it is for this purpose; if the wind blows and the water wriggles, it is towards this end. Nothing changes, and nothing moves even a bit, if not to perfect itself, to become the whole and self-sufficient, to break down the barriers that limit its scope and jurisdiction of existence. The process of this kind of urge and movement in thought and act, man calls Religion.
Religion is not a dogma or a comfortable fancy or a hobby of a certain group of people. Religion is the expression of the Universal impulse to live the Divine Life, an inherent impulse which none can resist. Every person thinks differently, and yet, thinks towards the One Supreme Being. Differences are in the roads and the ladders and not in the city reached or the roof climbed over. The lower distinctions can be brought together and reconciled only in the light of the higher unity of the Truth. Man is a combination of the animal and the Divine, God and brute crossed at a point. Every individual has both these characteristics in him. The brutal propensity hurls him down to difference, misery, battle, bloodshed and death, and the Divine reality lifts him up to the rich and splendid realm of glorified and purified plentitude of the immortal Essence. Religion is the answer to the call of this higher impetus from the one Real God who is seated in the heart of the Universe as its very life itself.
Therefore, ardent religionists! Can you not account for religious wars, for poverty, for grief, for restlessness? The seed of the perpetration of evil is sown by the lack of ability to apprehend the nature of wisdom, truth and justice. It is not the human aspiration but the subhuman propensity that ravages the very values of life through contempt for alien temperament and hatred towards the other inhabitants of the earth. It is a great mistake that the boys and girls of today are spending their career in “education for a job, bread and comfort,” neglecting the central realities of true civilisation and culture. It is imperative that all schools and colleges should, if they intend to work for the happiness and freedom of mankind, include as the most important item in the curriculum, the art of perfect living, of the essential values of life–virtue, love, purity, truth, universality, wisdom and justice, which constitute the very heart of religion, religion which soars high up to the possibility of cosmic salvation. There is no life in the education if it is destitute of the religious consciousness, for religion is the very meaning of life’s purpose, the one aim of the struggle for existence. If religion is rejected, there is nothing left in the mortal except a heap of bones and a mass of flesh.
Why modern man has despised religion is because he understands by religion an outburst of the irrational spirit. Far from it! Religion is the light that enlivens the most rational life, the manifestation of the eternal glow of intelligence that peeps through even the mightiest genius of the world. There can be no civilisation without religion if it is destitute of spirituality. That religion which aims at nothing more than a happy life in the world is only materialistic utilitarianism and not a solacing religion. Materialism is a crude product of a want of proper illumination and insight into the true essence and hence, it is not worthy of consideration. An impure heart and a conceited brain cannot understand religion. True religion begins where intellect ends. Religion is neither emotion nor scholarship, but knowledge that is direct and immediate, a faith born out of the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Gospel of the Buddha, the teachings of Christ, all have sprung from an impersonal source, though this impersonality is made known to us only when it expressed itself through personalities. No intelligent men of the world can say that he has reached the zenith of intelligence; knowledge grows and widens when experience deepens itself. Many rank materialists have turned into great spiritual heroes, which shows that the shallow world cannot satisfy the deep spirit in man. This one Spirit is common to all and therefore religion must be one, and not two or many. Though shirts and coats may be many, the person is the same who puts them on.
Therefore, fight not, argue not, be not intolerant, O happy sons of God! Blossom ye joyous flowers of the garden of the earth. There is no Asiatic or European or American, no Hindu or Christian or Moslem, but there are sons of God, worshipping Him in the temple of the Universe, there are seekers of Truth who are studying in the vast school of Nature, there are human beings who are marching towards the Divine Being, there is the finite stretching itself to the Infinite. Therefore, peace is thy birthright, religion is the way, universal brotherhood is the ideal, spiritual perfection is the one goal of each and every inhabitant of this vast earth. Mere bread for the body is not enough, religion is the bread of the soul, without which life is but death and civilisation is a mere mockery.
May you all realise the aim of true religion. May perfect peace reign over the whole world! May the Almighty Lord bless you all!