The World Religion
There are many prophecies and several beliefs on the coming world religion, but I have no desire to make any prophecy on the subject. I only wish to explain what religion means. The present religion, the coming religion, or the past religion is 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 might as well say, "I wish to teach you a new wisdom." There cannot be a new wisdom; wisdom is the same - 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, so that most of the wars and battles were fought in the cause of religion?" This only shows the childish character of human nature. The religion which was given and is given, wherever it is given, is given for unity, for harmony, and for brotherhood. But it was used by childish human nature to fight and dispute and engage in battles for years and years. The most amusing thing for a thoughtful person is to think and to see how people have given in the past a most sacred character to war and called it holy war.
The same tendency of making war with one another which began in religion, persisted in times of materialism and turned into war between nations. The differences and distinctions which existed between the different faiths and beliefs still exist, and that prejudice and bigotry which existed between nations still exist in a smaller or greater degree. What does this show? It shows that the meaning of true religion has not been understood by the majority. Therefore that mission that religion had to fulfill for humanity still remains to be fulfilled. 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: first, religion which is known to us as certain dogmas, laws, or teachings. When we think and see the conditions 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.
The second aspect of religion is the church and the form of the service. In this, of course, there are differences, and there will always be differences; it is a matter of temperament and 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; others have a simple service. One appeals to one and the other appeals to the other.
No doubt the world is evolving to uniformity. Now we see no very great difference between forms, different customs of meeting or dressing, and many other things. 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. People in the countries so civilized and advanced that the architecture and houses are all built the same and who all dress the same become so tired that they go to a different country and see houses and people distinct and different from one another.
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, Italian, German, and Russian, gives a stimulus to the lover of music. And so it is in the distinctions of forms. To want to make all people live alike and do 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, how to create harmony between the different notes.
The third aspect of religion is the religious ideal, the Lord and Master of the 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. The less spoken about it, the better it is. The devotion of a sincere heart gives birth to that ideal which is too sacred to mention, an ideal which cannot be compared or explained.
When the followers of diverse religions dispute over their ideals - the sacred ideals 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 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 most sacred for him. But that does not mean that that name limits that ideal. There is only 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 great devotion, great love and attachment for his friend, speaks about friendship in high words and says what a sacred thing it is to become friends. But then there is another who says, "Oh, I know your friend; he is no better than anybody else." The answer to this idea is given by Majnun in the story told by the ancients. 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 and you will have to borrow their heart. There is no use in disputing over the points of each tradition in history; they are 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: "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 and the people said that the God of Beni Israel was a special God; so every community and every church made its God a special God. If there is a special God, it is not the special God of a community, but the 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, which is in the heart of man. Then one begins to realize that God is not God of a certain community or people, but God is the God of the whole being.
We come to another aspect of religion, which is not necessarily the law or the ceremony or the divine ideal or God; it is apart from all four. It is something living in the soul, the mind, and the heart of man, the absence of which keeps man dead, and the presence of which gives him life. If there is any religion it is in 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; I call it life itself.
When a person is thoughtful, when a person is considerate, when a person feels the obligations that he has towards his fellowman, his friend, his father or mother, or in whatever relations he has to man, this is something living. It is like water which gives a sense of the living soul; the soul is not dead. This living soul really makes a person alive.
The person who is not conscious of this tenderness and this sacredness of life lives, but his soul is in the grave. You need not ask that man with the living soul what is his religion or 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, who has a sense of shame, who has the feeling of sincerity, and whose sympathy and devotion are alive, that man is living and that man is religious.
This religion has been the religion of the past and will be the religion of the future. 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. It does not matter in which house you go and pray, for every moment of your life then is religion. 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.
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 light, life, and warmth - what does this heart become? It becomes a grave. There is a popular song in English which says, "The light of 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, or as forgiveness. In whatever form this living water rises from the heart, it proves the heart to be a divine spring. When once this spring is open and rising, all that man does as an action, as a word, or as a feeling, is all religion; that man becomes religious.
If there is any coming religion, 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 passes, 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.