WHAT IS THE BEST RELIGION?

ਸਗਲ ਮਤਾਂਤ ਕੇਵਲ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਭਗਤ ਕੈ ਮਨਿ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮ ॥:
Sagal mataant keval hari naam. Gobind bhagat kai manni bisaraam:
The essence of all religion is God's Name alone.
It abides in the minds of God's devotees (sggs 296).
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So many forms of man-made religion have been described in the human history; the whole world is practicing them in some form. However, very rare and fortunate ones practice them in Truth or Intuitive Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan...), while the rest of us practice them with only limited view of our sense-blind minds.

The Lord is One but His names are infinite. Hence there are infinite paths and opinions. What is needed to Realize Him is the Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan...), which can be attained by engaging in Shabad-Vichaar.

  • ਅਸੰਖ ਜਪ ਅਸੰਖ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਅਸੰਖ ਪੂਜਾ ਅਸੰਖ ਤਪ ਤਾਉ ॥ ਅਸੰਖ ਗਰੰਥ ਮੁਖਿ ਵੇਦ ਪਾਠ ॥ ਅਸੰਖ ਜੋਗ ਮਨਿ ਰਹਹਿ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Asankh pooja asankh tap taayu. Asankh granth mukhi ved paath. Asankh Yog manni rahahi udaas: Countless are meditations, countless are loves. Countless are worship services, countless are austere disciplines. Countless are scriptures and recitations of the Vedas. Countless are Yogis, whose minds remain detached from the world (sggs 3).
  • ਗੋਂਡ ॥ ਮੋਹਿ ਲਾਗਤੀ ਤਾਲਾਬੇਲੀ ॥ ਬਛਰੇ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਾਇ ਅਕੇਲੀ ॥੧॥: I am restless and unhappy (without the Divine Name). (Just as) without her calf, the cow is lonely; ||1|| (sggs 874).
The underlying function or the ultimate objective of any genuine religion is killing of the physical ego (Haumai) or falsehood, resulting in what is called Self-realization. In other words, the purpose of external religion is to prepare and train people so that they can know and understand Truth and their relationship with Truth. Therefore, a genuine religion would teach living entities Oneness and as to what will bring them Inner Perfection (Jeevan Padavee...) and Freedom from material bondage (Maya).

Thus, a religion is not merely a declaration of noble objectives or talks, but it is an action to fulfill them. In other words, religion is meant to be practical, not theoretical; for it's good to speak wisely, but the best of all is to act wisely (true Karanee...). It is the science of the fulfillment of the inner yearning of man. Any external religion devoid of this central intention cannot be called a true religion. It may be called a mundane business, but it certainly cannot be called an a genuine religion.

This brings us to the basic question: What is the best religion? Does Gurbani provide answer to this question? If yes, are we aware of the Gurbani's position and Teaching in this context? With the help of the Divine Guide of the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), this Reflection will attempt to reflect on as to what constitutes a True or Eternal Religion.

First, let us find out as to what constitutes a religious person. Gurbani declares that a person cannot be a religious unless he possesses the Spiritual Wisdom or Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan). However, unfortunately, many of us try to become religious before gaining the Divine Kowledge (Aatam-Giaan...). Which is like placing a cart before the horse!

  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਜਹਾ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਤਹ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਜਹਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਤਹ ਪਾਪੁ ॥: Kabeeraa jahaa giaanu tah dharamu hai jahaa jhoothu tah paapu: O Kabeer! (Within a person, if) there is Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom, Divine Knowledge, Aatm-Giaan...) there is Dharma; (if within him) there is falsehood, there is sin (sggs 1372).
  • ਜਿਨਿ ਆਤਮ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਚੀਨ੍‍ਆਿ ॥ ਸਭ ਫੋਕਟ ਧਰਮ ਅਬੀਨਿਆ ॥: Jini aatam tatu n cheenhiaa. Sabh fokat dharma abeeniaa: Whoever does not Realize the Essence or Reality of the Soul (ਆਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਅਸਲੀਅਤ...), all his Dharma is of no value - worthless (sggs 1351).
As time and again indicated in the Gurbani, man's Eternal or True State (Joti-Svaroopa...) is his True Religion. The above verses make it very clear that one cannot be a truly religious person without knowledge of his Essential Being (Mool...) - believing in one's own Aatmaan only, and discarding the consciousness of the physical body. After realizing one's own True Nature or Dharma as the Joti-Svaroopa, one becomes linked to Mool within (Source, Origin Jot...) .
  • ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੫॥: Iou kahai Nanaku man toon joti saroopu hai apanaa moolu pashaanu ||5|| (sggs 441).
  • ਆਤਮ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਾਮ ਮਹਿ ਆਤਮੁ ਚੀਨਸਿ ਗੁਰ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥: Aatam mahi Raam Raam mahi aatam cheenas Gur beechaaraa: God is in the Soul, and the Soul is in God. This is realized through Reflecting (on the Teachings) of the Guru (1153).
One can go across a river by mere swimming. However, in order to cross an ocean, one needs the help of a ship. This material world is likened to an dreadful ocean of desires and fears (Maya). In order to overcome such mighty ocean, one requires the help of a ship of Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam-Giaan...) attained through the Shabad Vichaar.

Due to lack of Spiritual Awareness, we become victim of seductive objects (lure of Maya) that seduce our respective sense-organs. One who has no knowledge and understanding of the Mool with (Source, Origin Jot...) and who grossly identifies himself with his gross body and the false ego-sense becomes unfit for receiving Spiritual Wisdom. According to the Gurbani, such person cannot ascend the Divine Ladder of Truth.

Where the Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan or Divine Knowledge) is to be found? It is hidden within, says the Gurbani! It cannot be perceived by just reading books, rolling beads, listening to sermons, attending meetings or seminars, attaining degrees or titles, and then turning around giving lectures to others or repeating what we have heard. This Intuitive Understanding (Aatam-Giaan) is gained through thorough Shabad-Vichaar. With the Pure Understanding of the Gur-Shabad comes the storm of Spiritual Wisdom, which totally blows away our doubts, bonds of Maya, all concepts, duality, imaginations, stubborn mindedness, emotional attachment, desires, fear, greed, self-conceit, enviousness, evil-mindedness, bad habits, weaknesses, fanaticism, unrighteousness, and so on.

  • ਪਉੜੀ ॥ ਙੰਙਾ ਙਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਮੁਖ ਬਾਤਉ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸਾਸਤ੍ਰ ਕਰਿ ਭਾਤਉ ॥ ਙਿਆਨੀ ਸੋਇ ਜਾ ਕੈ ਦ੍ਰਿੜ ਸੋਊ ॥ ਕਹਤ ਸੁਨਤ ਕਛੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਊ ॥ ਙਿਆਨੀ ਰਹਤ ਆਗਿਆ ਦ੍ਰਿੜੁ ਜਾ ਕੈ ॥ ਉਸਨ ਸੀਤ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਸਭ ਤਾ ਕੈ ॥ ਙਿਆਨੀ ਤਤੁ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਾ ਕਉ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰੀ ॥੫॥: Paurree || Nangaa giaan nahee mukh baatayu. anik jugat sastar kari bhaatayu ...: Paurree. Nangaa (a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet), spiritual wisdom (experience of God-Consciousness) is not obtained by mere words of mouth. It is not obtained through the various debates of the Shaastras and scriptures. They alone are spiritually wise, whose minds are firmly fixed on the Self. By just hearing and telling stories, no one attains Yoga or Union with God. Spiritually wise lives God's Will. Heat and cold (or likes and dislikes) are all the same to them. Unto whom God bestows His Grace, he, by becoming the Gurmukh, contemplates the essence of Reality ||5|| (sggs 251).
  • ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਹੈ ਮੀਠਾ ॥: Giaan dhiaan gur sabad hai meethaa: (That person to whom) the Gur-Shabad tastes Sweat, (for him) Gur-Shabad is Giaan (Spiritual Wisdom) and Dhiaan (Inner Reflection, meditation, etc.). (sggs 162).
A false pride of being a religious person becomes veil to one's own Oneness with his Mool within, thus a block to one's own Spiritual Enlightenment. Due to ignorance of the Mool, one falls victim to entanglements of useless religious rituals and garbs, which bind one to body-consciousness (Maya). Accordingly, the Gurbani emphasizes that the religion is not a matter of outer rituals or dogmatism. It is a man's Inner Surrender of his falsehood to his Mool within.
  • ਬੰਧਨ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਹਉ ਕੀਆ ॥: Bandhan karma dharma hayu keeyaa: A false pride of being Dhaarmic will bind or entangle one to this material body (sggs 416).
  • ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਸਭਿ ਬੰਧਨਾ ਪਾਪ ਪੁੰਨ ਸਨਬੰਧੁ ॥: Karma dharma sabh bandhanaa paap pun sanbandh: The religious rituals are all entanglements; the bad and the good are all bound up with them (sggs 551).

As indicated in the Gurbani, realization of one's Eternal or True Nature (Joti-Svaroop) is his True Religion.

What is the Essence of all Religion? How can one abide in this True Essence of the Divinity within (i.e., Mool)? According to the Gurbani, the Essence of all religion is in the Lord's Name (or Naam-Giaan). It abides in the Heart of those fortunate ones (the Gurmukh) who have Internally Surrender their falsehood unto their Mool within.

  • ਸਗਲ ਮਤਾਂਤ ਕੇਵਲ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ ॥ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਭਗਤ ਕੈ ਮਨਿ ਬਿਸ੍ਰਾਮ ॥: Sagal mataant keval hari naam. Gobind bhagat kai manni bisaraam: The essence of all religion is God's Name alone. It abides in the minds of God's devotees (sggs 296).
  • ਹੋਇ ਨਿਮਾਣੀ ਢਹਿ ਪਈ ਮਿਲਿਆ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੁਭਾਇ ॥: Hoi nimaanee dhahi paee miliaa sahaj subhaai: In humility, I bow down in surrender to Him, and He naturally met me (sggs 761).
  • The Lord says, "Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I will deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear" (Gita 18-66).
Man's mind without the Divine Name (Naam-Giaan) is foolish like a frog. The foregoing verses make it very clear that there is only one True Religion in the universe becoming immersed in the meditation on the Naam (Giaan). Which, according to the Gurbani, has nothing to do with any religious garbs, rituals or dogmas. In fact, the nature of the Naam is said to be totally opposite to such outer and superficial beliefs. Once the Naam (Giaan) is Awakened within, everything else will follow. Forms and names which symbolize the Truth are only indications; they are not the Truth itself, which transcends all conceptualizations. In other words, the Truth transcends the very mind which seeks to conceptualize names and forms in the first place.
  • ਕਾਹੂ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਕਿਤੈ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਧਰਮਿ ॥: Kahoo jugati kitai n paaeeai Dharma: (Naam) cannot be obtained by any devices (cleverness, contrivance, ਹੋਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਢੰਗ ਨਾਲ, etc.), and any religious rituals (ਧਾਰਮਿਕ ਰਸਮ ਰਿਵਾਜ, etc.) (sggs 274).
  • ਭੇਖ ਅਨੇਕ ਅਗਨਿ ਨਹੀ ਬੁਝੈ ॥ ਕੋਟਿ ਉਪਾਵ ਦਰਗਹ ਨਹੀ ਸਿਝੈ ॥: Bhekh anek agani nahee boojhai. Koti upaav dargah nahee sijhai: Wearing various religious robes, the fire (of desire) is not extinguished; even making millions of efforts, one will not realize God (sggs 266).
  • ਮੈ ਅਵਰੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਪੂਜਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਵਸਿ ਰਹੇ ॥ ਭੇਖੁ ਭਵਨੀ ਹਠੁ ਨ ਜਾਨਾ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸਚੁ ਗਹਿ ਰਹੇ ॥੧॥: Mai avar giaan n dhiaan poojaa Hari Naam antari vasi rahe. Bhekh bhavnee hath n jaanaa Nanakaa sach gahi rahe ||1||: God's Name dwells deep within me, I know no other wisdom, meditation or worship. I know nothing about religious robes, pilgrimages or stubbornness; O Nanak, I only hold tight to the Truth ||1|| (sggs 843).
For the Spiritual Progress, Peace and happiness, good population in the society is very essential. Without the practice of proper religious principles outlined in the Gurbani, there will be an increase of unwanted population (Manmukh, Saakat, Asant...) in the human society, causing hellish life for their families and rest of the human community. The Gurbani declares such people to be unwanted burden on this earth. When such people become leaders in the community, their irresponsible activities bring chaos, frauds and corruption in the society. Consequently people forget True Religion and the ultimate aim of life.
  • ਵਿਸਰਿਆ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਨਾਮੁ ਤੇ ਭੁਇ ਭਾਰੁ ਥੀਏ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Visariaa jin Naam te bhui bhaar theeae ||1||Rahaaou||: Those who have forsaken God's Name are burden on this earth || Pause|| (sggs 488).
  • ਜਿਨੀ ਐਸਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਿਓ ਸੇ ਕਾਹੇ ਜਗਿ ਆਏ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥: Jinee aisaa Har Naam na chetio se kaahe jag aae Raam Raaje: They, who did not contemplate on such a Name of God, why did they come in this world? (sggs 450).

Godly Principle pervades in everything and everywhere; including the body. As indicated in the Gurbani, the realization of this Ultimate Truth is very simple; as simple as winking of an eye or crushing of a flower in the palm! It is so because the Truth is very simple, and open to all. It is simply loving the Mool within! That's all.

However, deluded mind makes simple things complicated because it will read complex and far-fetched meanings in simple things. People want complexity because they are not contented with simplicity. This is why so many man-made religions have come into existence with their own complex adherents and antagonists! Although these religions often start good but later turn bad when they fall in the hands of those who want name and gain. Consequently, they end up in worthless rituals and ceremonies, paths, traditions, absurd doctrines, stupid and frightening concepts of God; creating fake fear of hell and death, and expectation of far-off heavens, etc.

The True Spirituality (or True Religion) begins where the external religion ends. Consequently, the Enlightenment is not the product of customary religions; for only Spiritually Awakened and Mature (the Gurmukh) can grasp the simple Truth in all its nakedness. The Gurmat (Divine Teaching of the Gurbani-Aatam-Giaan...) is opposed to exclusive claims of any religion, including the Sikhism itself. The Gurbani proclaims that for anyone who is determined to practice the Truth there is only One Religion.

  • ਏਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥ ਪੂਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਤੇ ਜਾਣੈ ਜਾਣੁ ॥੩॥: Eko Shabad saachaa neesaan. Poore Gur te jaanai jaan. Eko Dharam drirai sach koee ||3||: The Shabad or Naam is the Insignia of One God. Through (this) Perfect Guru, the All-Knowing God is known. If someone grasp this thing, there is only one Dharma of Truth ||3|| (sggs 1188).
Thus, the religion Gurbani talks about is not the formal or customary religion, but that Eternal Religion which underlies all religions, and everything else which brings us face to face with the Divine Light, because it is inherent in the Soul itself. Therefore, in the Gurbani, the word religion does not mean sectarianism. It not only transcends all sectarian labels, but also gives them harmony and reality. It bestows on the sincere disciple a Spiritual Insight or Illumination (Aatam-Giaan...). Practice of anything less than this will bring nothing but obstructions in the form of dogmatic fanaticism, bigotry, intolerance, hatred, cruelty, differences, unmeaning rituals, lip worship, conflicts, wars, and so on; which will only take us farther away from the Truth.
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਰਹਰਾਸਿ ਹਮਾਰੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪੰਥੁ ਅਤੀਤੰ ॥੩॥: Hari kirtan rahraas hamaaree Gurmukh panth ateetam ||3||: The God' Kirtan is my occupation (vocation, ਮਰਯਾਦਾ...); and to live as the Gurmukh is my Panth (ਧਰਮ-ਰਸਤਾ, religious Way) that keeps me free (dead, separated, etc., from Maya - ਮਾਇਆ ਤੋਂ ਵਿਰਕਤ) ||3|| (sggs 360).

Thus, the key to becoming a truly religious person is in becoming a Gurmukh (Spiritual Being...).

Many of us think that the wars that are fought in the name of religion in the world are prompted by religion. If we truly reflect on it, we will realize that they are really not prompted by religion. Since most of us are not true Spiritual Beings, people have the tendency to consider one's own adopted external religion superior and thereby insist that others should join and follow it. This is the cause for most of the wars fought in the name of religion and God.

  • ਮਨਿ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਮਹਾ ਬਿਸਲੋਧੁ ਨਿਰਪ ਧਾਵਹਿ ਲੜਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Manni hirdai krodh mahaa bislodh nirap dhaavahi larhi dukh paya ...: Hearts and minds filled with the horribly poisonous essence of anger, the kings fought their wars and obtained only pain. Their minds were afflicted with the illness of egotism, and their self-conceit and arrogance increased (sggs 445).
  • ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਬਪੁੜੇ ਭੂਲੇ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਗਵਾਰ ॥: Hukam na jaanahi bapure bhoolahi phirahi gavaar: The wretched fools do not know God's Hukam or Will; they wander around making mistakes (sggs 66).
A truly religious person (the Gurmukh) refrains saying something bad to others he wouldn't want them to say to him. Thus, those who have understood the True Religion will not attack beliefs of others because they realize how much it would hurt if someone else did the same to them! They would never rejoice in another person's suffering; for they always look to their Spiritual Wisdom to find ways to help others overcome their problems. Such persons become loving!

The essence of religion, hence, is realizing Oneness of the Spirit: the Vision of Truth. This aspect of religion will ever remain relevant to the mankind, thus unchanged. Without this there can be no real Love, compassion, peace, harmony, and integration in the human society.

  • ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਸੰਜਮੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਹੈ ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Jat sat sanjam Naam hai vin naavai nirmal na hoi: The Name of God is abstinence, truthfulness, and self-restraint. Without the Name, no one becomes pure (sggs 33).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org


Updated on Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:34 PM (PST)

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