By Sant Kirpal Singh, from the book "Spirituality – what it is", chapter 7
Worldly people generally believe that ethical codes of individual and social conduct, as enjoined in all religions, are the be-all and end-all. They fix their faith on one or another of the scriptures, or simply depend blindly on ancient religious heads of past ages. This is not spirituality but narrow sectarianism, which, like parasitical willows, thrives and grows fat on the word religion. As a result, the very spirit of religion itself is smothered and is reduced to mere rites, rituals and ceremonies. The poor psyche, possessed by these empty trumperies, sham and tinsel, is so overwhelmed with narrow prejudices that it begins to indulge in a devil's dance of wholesale killing and destruction.
The pity is that all this is done in the name of religion. In this way, religion, which originated with the sole end of bringing about a reunion of individual spirit with God, goes underground. Spiritual sanctity, which is the kernel and life-principle, gradually disappears under the dust of ages and the mass of verbiage. The so-called exponents of religion, not being persons of self-realisation, engage in intellectual wrangles and confine themselves to the philosophical and polemical part of religion. In their enthusiasm to show off their learning, they begin building theories upon theories, with not an iota of practical wisdom in them. Religion, meant originally as a practical field for the play of the spirit, is thus reduced to a platform for political, social or philosophical disputations.
As sects grow, the hydra-headed sectarianism displays theories with innumerable forms and rituals. Each sect claims to be the sole guardian of the religion and custodian of the correct religious beliefs and ideas, little knowing that religion is not a bundle of theories but a practical subject concerned with the freedom of soul from the bondage of mind and matter. In their enthusiasm, they forget the reality and lay stress on outward observances and performances. The present-day religions are now no more than social orders and are chiefly concerned with keeping society in a state free from corruption. Religion, in the true sense of the word, as the way back to God, is but one – an inner process – but, unfortunately, we have cut so many channels outwardly that we cannot now think of it apart from the mess that we have made of its sacrament. The leaders of each sect preach respect for a particular individual or a particular book that they hold in esteem, but not for all the scriptures and all the saints and sages, past and present.
So instead of seeing the universal light common to all mankind, we run after a ray here and a ray there and discard the sun of spirituality that is at the core of all the religions. In this way we so dwarf our visions and mental horizons that we cannot see anything beyond our noses, and gradually begin to lose sight of Truth, the eternal and unchangeable permanence, and cannot tolerate what others have to say. With smoke-coloured glasses, we look darkly at everything with a sense of doubt, distrust and suspicion. It is we who build and set up narrow limitations, grow thorny hedges to protect our petty beliefs, to the exclusion of what the Master-souls have taught since the day of creation. Religions, thus, have grown into rigid watertight compartments, protected preserves for individual game, incapable of expansion to embrace the totality of existence, the entire universe, which is the manifestation of the living principle of God.
The church dogmas have built institutions out of the eclectic and elastic teachings of the Masters, and instead of their living and soothing touch and influence, we are confronted with the rigid forms and creeds set up by those who followed the founders of the great religions. These men work as so many fetters for keeping us enchained and enmeshed. Whosoever thinks freely and tries to escape their clutches is dubbed a heretic and an apostate, is persecuted, excommunicated, exorcised, as if he were an evil spirit. Such leaders are, however, far removed from the universal religion of love. Human birth is the highest in the creation, and the greatest benefit that accrues from it is the possibility in the human life of reaching God and acquiring love for His creatures, in whatsoever form; but, unfortunately, with his moorings cut off from the reality, man has made an enemy of man, and instead of being the lovers of God and His devotees, men have constituted themselves the custodians of religion and leaders of men.
To be worldly is but to turn one's back on God
And to pine for and hear the tales other than those of God. – A Mohammedan Saint
Ye can gain the merit of all the teachings and preachings,
If ye turn away from the world and commune with Truth. – A Mohammedan Saint
This earth, instead of being a veritable heaven, for which we so zealously wish and pray every, day, has turned into a veritable hell of mutual distrust, class jealousies, communal hatreds, national antagonisms and international discord. Self-aggrandizement at the cost of others has become the rule of life. While talking of peace, we actually preach unrest, disharmony and discontent. All this is nothing but the natural concomitant of narrow sectarianism, born of the dark ignorance in which we are steeped to the very marrow of our bones. Instead of making us lovers of God and all humanity, we are enchained to our particular societies and consider it a heinous crime to go to other societies.