By Sant Kirpal Singh, from the book "Spirituality – what it is", chapter 2
What is true religion? This is the most natural question with man, and each one is confronted with it at one stage or another. We have with us hundreds and thousands of scriptures and treatises dealing with the vital problems of life, but they are not at one in their reply to this baffling question. We have, therefore, to carry on our investigation and our search for a 'correct solution,' and there can be only one. But before we launch upon this quest, we must first know the purpose of religion or Dharma. The objective which all the religions place before us is, however, one and the same-divine beatitude and the beatific vision of the Lord. All religions, then, aim at the same target, like so many archers. If we are really sincere in our profession of love for God, we must have love for God's creation, because the creator and His creation are identical. We cannot love the one and hate the other. All the saints and sages work on this principle and love humanity as such, no matter whether one believes in God or does not, for they draw no distinction between theists and atheists or agnostics. They believe in the one great family of God and all are dear to them, in spite of seeming differences in non-essentials of life.
But what do we actually see in the world? Having forgotten the basic truth of love working at the root of all religions, we are cut off from the sheet-anchor and are afloat rudderless on the sea of life. Each one of us tries to catch at a straw to save himself. The natural result is that after a brief struggle with chance winds and waters, we sink into the great oblivion, without solving the riddle of life – whence we come and where we are bound, or the why and wherefore of human life.
Love, then, is the only true religion. Saint Paul, addressing the Galatians, said: "By love, serve one another." (Galatians V:13). Leigh Hunt declared, "One who serves his fellow men, loves God and is the true beloved of God." Similarly Samuel Taylor Goleridge, in his famous poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, informed us:
He prayeth best who loveth best,
All things both great and small,
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
St. John, in his Epistle (I John IV:8), wrote, "He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love." Christ, the great apostle of peace, emphatically laid clown a cardinal principle of life in his memorable words, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." And again he emphatically declared, "Love, and all things shall be added unto thee."
Sheikh Saadi, a Muslim divine, taught the same thing, "As the limbs of a body are knit together so are the children of God. They are born of the same essence. Should any one of them suffer from ague, the others too become restless."
Sheikh Farid and other saints also repeated this truth in the same strain, "If thou wishest to meet thy beloved (God), injure not anyone's feelings." – Shalok Farid
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikhs, stated, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee that God manifests Himself to one who loves." God is love, our soul is of the same essence as of God, so it is love, and the way back to God is also through love.
Again, it is said, "The creator and His creation are one. Do no injury to His creation, O Nandlal, and incur not the wrath of God." – Bhai Nand Lal
All the holy and pious devotees have but one religion, the religion of devotion to God and love for His creation. A man is no better than a sheep or goat if he is not actuated by feelings of love and affection for his fellow men and does not share in their joys and sorrows, and lends not a helping hand in their toils and troubles. If instead of human sympathy, we are filled with ill will, hatred, jealousy, envy and animosity, and are charged with greed, avarice and self-love, and are swayed by pride and prejudices, we cannot have a pure heart capable of reflecting the light of God in us, nor can we have true happiness and bliss.
Man is the roof and crown of the creation, endowed as he is with the spirit of God. The more one loves his fellow beings, the nearer one gets to the creator. All the creation is His manifestation, and His spirit is immanent in all forms and patterns. All colours take their hue from Him. All-Pervading, His spirit works everywhere and there is no place without Him.
All reflect the self-source light,
Oh, none is good or bad. – Parbhati Kabir
The part is in the whole, and the whole in the part,
Where then the difference, when both reflect the One? – Parbhati Kabir
The difference in forms, in modes of life, in clothing and in outer observances are all due to physiological conditions and cannot affect the inner working of the soul; and they fade into vapourous nothings when one rises above the body-consciousness and enters the divine ground at the seat of the soul.
Christ always taught, "Love the Lord, thy God, with all the heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind."
"Love thy neighbour as thyself" . . . "Love thine enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven. Be ye perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." – Matt, 5:44-48
This, in fact, is true religion, true devotion and true meditation.
The human heart is the seat of God. It has been given to man in trust. It must therefore be kept neat and clean, for then alone can it reflect his light and make life truly blessed. The body is the temple of God. We keep man-made temples meticulously neat and clean but pay scant attention to the holy temple of God which we really are.
There is just one creative principle for the entire creation. All are born of the light of God and the same light shines forth in all; and, as such, none of His creatures can be dubbed 'evil.' Thomas a Kempis, in Imitation of Christ, writes, "From one word proceed all things and all things tell of Him." The Hindus call this creative principle 'Naad,' the Muslims call it 'Kalma,' and the Sikhs 'Naam.' "Truth is one and only one, though sages describe it variously," is the memorable Upanishadic text.
Sheikh Saadi tells us, "No religion is higher than the service of the people. The rosary, the altar and the apparel give not any merit. My beloved is in all hearts and no heart is without Him. Blessed indeed is the heart that manifests Him. Know for certain that God resides in all hearts and hence every heart needs to be respected."
No better than quarry stone is the Kaaba of Khalil,
The Kaaba of the human heart provides God a seat.
Of all pilgrimages, the one to the human heart is true,
It gives more of merit than the countless Mecca trips will do.
This is what the great saint, Maulana Rumi, advises, "O man, circumambulate the secret Kaaba of the heart, unlike the Kaaba of Khalil – for God made the Kaaba of the human heart."
This is what a great saint, named Maghrabi Sahib, gave out, "The performance of countless austerities and penances, each followed by acts of charity; the observance of innumerable fasts, each attended with thousands of prayers and keeping of sleepless vigils for myriads of nights, will not be of any avail to thee if thou injurest the feelings of a single individual."
Again, Hafiz cautions, "Drink wine to your heart's content, burn down the holy Quran and consign to the flames even the sacred Kaaba if you will, but injure not the feelings of any man." The things referred to are considered as sins, but Hafiz says that it is much better to commit them than to injure the feelings of any man, which is the most heinous sin of them all.
Sheikh Saadi, a Muslim divine, affirms:
The grace of God never descends until ye love His creation;
God forgives only those who work for the good of His creation.