In the beginning our ancestors groped in darkness searching for why they were here in the first place, what it meant to be alive and their ultimate destiny in the midst of endless challenges and disappointments. The people who asked these and similar questions felt the LOVE of the Universe and saw the possibilities of life. Those who resigned themselves to the circumstances of their environment on the other hand saw nothing exciting about life and blamed everyone including themselves for the same challenges and disappointments. There was no organized religion then but our ancestors who lived with a purpose realized that they were not alone and that they could rely on the Universal Spirit that manifests within and around them. This did not just happen to one group of people or a few selected individuals; it happened to people all over the world irrespective of their deeds, position in life, birth circumstances or beliefs. The same is true for you and I who are on the same journey and we can still connect with the Mystery that pervades the whole universe and within us and benefit from the same guidance and love our ancestors enjoyed.
Things have changed since the days of our first ancestors. Religion as we know it today probably evolved from individuals to families to villages and to cultures. In the process many cultures emerged with different versions of what it meant to be alive each claiming to have the real thing and exterminating or demonizing others who happened to have a different viewpoint. But let the record show that people of different faiths, believers and non-believers have enriched our world in different ways and written their names in letters of gold. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), a Hindu and a great Indian leader, taught us the importance of ahimsa, the doctrine of non-violence. Akbar (1556 – 1605), a Moslem credited with being the greatest Moghul Emperor wanted both the Hindus and the Muslims to be united. He was generous and just to a fault. Mother Teresa (1910-1997), a Catholic Nun, lived her life to help the poor, the sick, the orphaned and the dying and became a light to all of us. Swami Vivekannada (1863 – 1902) another great Indian teacher and a patriot saint is credited with raising interfaith awareness and bringing Hinduism to the world stage. Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), a Civil War veteran, an American political leader and an agnostic was one of the pioneers of the Free Thought Movement. Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, is a Buddhist leader who teaches the importance of compassion as the source of a happy life and lives an exemplary life. Thích Nháº¥t Háº¡nh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, helped to rebuild bombed villages, set up schools, establish medical centers, and resettle families left homeless during the Vietnam War. His teachings and practices cut across religions making him one of the greatest humanists of our time. The list goes on and on to roedean school include Atheists, Sikhs, Jains, Mormons, Quakers, Santerians and many others who have sacrificed their lives for our good and let this serve as a LIGHT to all of us that our beliefs may be true to us but they are not the TRUTH! The common factor among these people is their humanity not their religion. Albeit their religion or lack of it may have provided the path they walked to enlighten us but the fact remains that they are all human beings like us.
Let the record also show that no religion has been saved, sheltered or secluded from the devastation we face as a people on this planet. Natural disasters have spared no religion in the past and will spare no religion in the future. Churches, Temples, Mosques of all religions have been affected in different ways by natural disasters. Further no religion has been immune from human actions in the past and none will be spared in the future. There are many examples on record in which humans have carried out massive destruction of rival churches, temples and mosques. Let the record also show that humans have carried out unbelievable atrocities against other humans in the name of their Gods or religion. And in all these cases the Gods never advised their followers to desist from their evil ways and the fact that they succeeded in carrying out their evil plans makes the victims deserving of what happened to them because their Gods did not also protect them. However, it appears that these actions have nothing to do with the Gods but have everything to do with human desire to enslave others and downright human wickedness. The Gods are put in place to legitimize their actions!
The truth is that no one was born with a religion tattooed on her forehead. Each of us was born to a certain geographical region and into a certain family. In most cases we adopted the religious and spiritual traditions of our parents. We are Hindus because we grew up around Hindus. But this is not always the case. Some who disagreed with their parent’s religions later in life often choose different path. Thus today it is not uncommon to find a Buddhist in a Christian family or a Christian in a Hindu family. It is all about what makes sense, what feels right, what affirms our freedom, what gives us peace of mind and where the SPIRIT leads us. Thus if there is any truth to religion at all it would depend on the individual, not the religion.
There is nothing wrong however in believing that your religion is the only true religion but there is something really wrong when you begin to force your religion on others or when you begin to judge others based on your religion. The dangers of making any religion the TRUTH is the power it gives to the people who believe in it. According to the Introduction to the Universal Holy Book “that will be the day the world will go down in darkness again. It will be slavery, holocaust, ethnic cleansing, genocide and every evil imaginable by the human mind”. We may look down on others and rejoice from the belief that we alone have the Absolute Truth and walk like Gods to terrorize our neighbors but we should never forget that we live in a changing Universe. What touches others also touches us and we should not for one minute think that it would not happen to us. So when next you think about being on top of the world and terrorizing your neighbors turn it around and be on the receiving end. You will soon realize that it does not feel good when you are the one who is victimized.