Of all religions, the best religion is meditation on God, the pure conduct.
Of all religious rituals, the most sublime ritual is to erase the filth of the dirty mind in the Company
of the Holy. Of all efforts, the best effort is to chant God's Name in the heart, forever. Of all speech,
the most ambrosial speech is to hear God's Praise and chant it with the tongue. Of all places,
the most sublime place, O Nanak, is that Heart in which God's Name abides (sggs 266).

Along with corruption, threat and danger, the world is dominated with religious conflicts, tensions and animosity. If the purpose of religion is to cause strife, divisiveness and brutal hate, then, perhaps we should ask God to save us from such religion!

But, as we will explore in the pages that lie ahead, that's neither the purpose nor the aim of religion.

What is religion? The process of transition of Jeeva (individual beings) from materialistic consciousness to the Spiritual Consciousness is called religion. Thus, to enjoy the Divine Bliss, Eternal Freedom and Boundless Love by becoming one with the Divine Essence Within oneself is the ultimate goal of religion. In the words of a Wise Being:

"Religion may be simply defined as man's knowledge of himself, of the world in which he finds himself and of the Truth or Reality or God which transcends both. When properly understood, religion does not divide man from man, making this one a faithless sinner and that one a worthy recipient of Divine Grace. Purely known and practiced, religion is leading man, all men, to enlightenment and liberation. But religion is not always purely known—and even less often purely practiced—which gives rise to differences."

Religion is of two types: personal and organized. There is a huge difference between the two. Man's personal religion is Internal, thus Eternal. To the contrary, the organized religion is man-made, thus external and limited in the framework of time and space. The external religion is supposed to introduce conditioned Jeeva (individual being) to his Eternal Religion—God Consciousness. Thus, as the goal of religion is none other than Realization of Truth as a living reality, "here" and "now", it becomes imperative to understand these differences. It's the gross misunderstanding of religion that fuels religious conflicts, tensions and animosity, not religion itself. In this context, this Gurbani Reflection will attempt to reflect on the following:

  • Personal Religion
  • Organized Religion
  • Organized Religion And Communalism, Fundamentalism And Extremism
  • Religion Is Meant to Illuminate the Self and The World
  • Selfless Love: The Essence Of Religion

Personal Religion

As the name implies, Personal or Internal Religion is inherent in the Aatmaan (Soul or the Self) itself. In other words, it's the religion (or Dharma) of the Soul. For the Soul is Eternal, it's Dharma is also Eternal. In nutshell, it's a commitment to the highest ideals of human conduct. After all, as the scriptures reveal to us, it's the work of the Soul that most pleases his Source (Mool, Origin...)! This Eternal Religion (Soul-Dharma or Soul-Nature) which underlies all external religions, is a perfect Oneness with the One Pure Being, the Boundless Love. It's glorified in the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) as follows:

  • ਕਲ ਮੈ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਨਿਧਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਜਪੈ ਗਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਅਉਰ ਧਰਮ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਸਮ ਨਾਹਨਿ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਬੇਦੁ ਬਤਾਵੈ ॥: Kal mai eaek naam kirapaa nidhi jaahi japai gati paavai. Aour dharma taa kai samm naahan ih bidhi bedu bataavai: In Kali, God's Name is the treasure of mercy; chanting it, one obtains salvation. No other religion is comparable to this; so speak the Vedas (sggs 632).
  • ਜਿਸੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਪਤਿਤ ਪੁਨੀਤ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਅੰਤ ਕਾਲਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਫਿਰਿ ਨ ਰੋਇ ॥ ਸਗਲ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਊਤਮ ਧਰਮ ॥ ਕਰਮ ਕਰਤੂਤਿ ਕੈ ਊਪਰਿ ਕਰਮ ॥: Jis simrat patit puneet hoee...: Meditating on God, even fallen sinners are sanctified; in the end, they will not weep and wail over and over again. Among all religions, this is the ultimate religion. Among all rituals and codes of conduct, this is above all (sggs 1182).
  • ਤਜਿ ਸਭਿ ਭਰਮ ਭਜਿਓ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਟਲ ਇਹੁ ਧਰਮ ॥: Taji Sabhi bharam bhajio paarbrahm. Kahu Nanak attal ih dharma: Renounce all your doubts, and vibrate upon the Supreme Lord. Says Nanak, this Dharma is eternal (sggs 196).
  • ਰੋਜਾ ਧਰੈ ਨਿਵਾਜ ਗੁਜਾਰੈ ਕਲਮਾ ਭਿਸਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਸਤਰਿ ਕਾਬਾ ਘਟ ਹੀ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਜੇ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਕੋਈ ॥...: Rojaa dharai nivaaj gujaarai ....: Keeping your fasts, reciting your prayers, and reading the Kalma, the Islamic creed, will not take you to paradise. The Temple of Mecca is hidden within your mind, if you only knew it. That should be your prayer, to administer justice. Let your Kalma be the knowledge of the unknowable God. Spread your prayer mat by conquering your five desires, and you will recognize the True Religion. Recognize Your God and fear Him Within your Heart; conquer your egotism, and make it worthless. As you see yourself, see others as well; only then will you become a partner in heaven.  The clay is one, but it has taken many forms; I recognize the One God Within them all (sggs 480).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਅਟਲ ਏਹੁ ਧਰਮ ॥: Nanak har keertan kar attal eaehu dharma: O Nanak! Do God's Kirtan, this alone is the eternal faith ||11|| (sggs 299).
  • If you know your Soul you know your God (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

In the beginning there were no formal religions. Existed then was only Eternal Dharma. For lack of better word in English for Dharma, we will call it Eternal Religion or True Religion, which underlies all man-made religions. This Eternal Religion is known by various terms such as Word, Logos, Transcendental Vibratory Sound, Shabad, Naam, Anhata Naad, Bani, Source ("Mool"), Support ("Adhaar"), Base or Substratum, Reality, Truth, Allah, God, Raam, Parmaatam, Om, Tao, Light, Life Force, Life Current, Self or Aatmaan, Eternal Love, Soul-Consciousness, Soul-Nature, True Nature, Knowledge, Blissful Realm, Unconditioned Consciousness, and so on. Giver of all genuine religions, It's the universal foundation of them; for It's the only thing that binds man back to his Pure Being Within: the unmodified and undifferentiated Consciousness.

  • ਰੂਪੁ ਨ ਰੇਖਿਆ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਤੀ ਤਉ ਅਕੁਲੀਣਿ ਰਹਤਉ ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Roop na rekhiyaa jaat na hotee tayu akuleen rahtayu Shabad su saar: When there was no form and shape - ਹੋਂਦ (ਉਤਪੱਤੀ) ਨਹੀਂ ਸੀ - then the Supreme Shabad resided in the Unmanifest Lord - ਕੁਲ-ਰਹਿਤ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਵਿਚ (sggs 945).
  • ਅਰਬਦ ਨਰਬਦ ਧੁੰਧੂਕਾਰਾ ॥ ਧਰਣਿ ਨ ਗਗਨਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਾ ਦਿਨੁ ਰੈਨਿ ਨ ਚੰਦੁ ਨ ਸੂਰਜੁ ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਧਿ ਲਗਾਇਦਾ ॥੧॥: Arbad narbad dhandhookaara. Dharni n gagnaa hukmi apaaraa. N din rain n chand n sooraj sonn samaadhi lagaaidaa ||1||: For endless eons, there was only utter darkness. There was no earth or sky; there was only the infinite Hukam (His Command, Will, etc.). There was no day or night, no moon or sun; (God) sat in Sunn Samaadhi ||1|| (sggs 1035).
  • ਏਕੋ ਸਬਦੁ ਏਕੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਸਭ ਏਕਸੁ ਤੇ ਉਤਪਤਿ ਚਲੈ ॥: Eko Shabadu eko prabhu vartai sabh ekasu te utpati chaalai: The One Shabad (or Hukam), One God, prevails everywhere. All the creation cmes from this One (God) (sggs 1334).
  • ਸਬਦੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਧੁਨਿ ਚੇਲਾ ॥: The Shabad (i.e. Giaan or Wisdom is my) Guroo. (Not the body, but) abidance of the Consciousness (i.e., my mind or Soch-ਸੋਚ) is the disciple (of this Shabad-Guroo). (sggs 943).
  • ਸੁ ਸਬਦੁ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ ਆਛੈ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਜੋਤਿ ਸੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਹੈ ॥: Su sabad nirantar nij ghar aashai tribhavan jot su sabad lahai: Incessantly, this Shabad is in its Nij Ghar (ਨਿਜ ਘਰਿ-in its Own Real Home...); (it is) through this Shabad (one) seeks (God's) Light that pervades the three worlds (sggs 945).
  • Truth (God) is One, sages call it by various names (Rig Veda).
  • In the beginning, there was neither existence nor nonexistence, all this world was unmanifests energy .....The One breathed, without breath, by its own power. Nothing else was there ....(Rig Veda).
  • In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and Word was a God. This one was in the beginning with God, All things came into existence through him (Bible, John 1-2).

In other words, Eternal Religion of living entities is the Eternal Path inherent in the Soul itself, thus Internal or Personal. It's where sectarian religions begin. This Eternal Religion or Eternal Path is seen reflected in man-made religions. This is what takes the Soul back to God-consciousness, therefore, is eternally existent in all Jeevas (individual beings), and is at work whether one is aware of the process or not. What it means is that the search for our True Being is not this man's search or that man's search, rather, every mind (pious and sinner) is pursuing this Soul Journey, knowingly or unknowingly! No religious rituals, ceremonies, pilgrimages, observances, customs, traditions, rules and codes of conduct can alter this fact.

Thus, the True Religion is an individual Experience: Realization of the Mool (Source, Origin...) or "Kingdom of Heaven" Within. It's called by many names such as Intact Consciousness or Total Awareness ("Saabat Soorat"), Light, Love, Joy, Bliss, Peace, Spiritual Perfection, Sahaj Avasthaa (or the natural state of just Being), True Nature, Eternal Silence, and so on. This Religion of Truth is experienced when mystic connection with the Transcendental vibratory sound of Word (Shabad or Naam) is established Within. In other words, this True Religion is experienced when the Soul finds Joy in the Infinite. At this level, objectivity and subjectivity merge into each other. Because this True Religion is a Personal Experience, it cannot be told to others or crystallized in words or written down in books! The Gurbani calls it "mute's candy"; for a mute cannot verbalize the taste of a candy if asked! This is why whenever Buddha was asked to describe God, he would keep silent! Many misinterpreted his silence.

  • ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥: Naapaak paaku kari hudoori hudeesaa saabat soorati dastaar siraa (sggs 1084).
  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਢੂੰਢਿ ਵਿਗੁਚੀਐ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਵਸਤੁ ਸੁਥਾਇ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਿ ਮੁਸੀ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥: Baahari dhoondh vigucheeai ghar mahi vasat suthaai...: Searching outside of themselves, people are ruined; the object of their search is in that sacred place Within the Home of the Self. The Manmukhs (material beings), in their ego, miss it; the Gurmukhs (Spiritual Beings) receive it in their laps (sggs 63).
  • Tat tvam asi: Thou art That (Saam Veda). Prajnanam Brahma: Consciouness is God (Rig Veda). Ayam Aatma Brahma: The Self is God (Atharva Veda). Aham Brahma Asmi: I am God (Yajur veda).
  • Those who know It speak of It not, those who speak of It know It not (Vedas).

The Eternal Religion, therefore, is not an outward expression, but, it's an unique Inner or Personal Experience of each person. As It exists Within, It cannot be found in external creeds, rituals, dogmas, rites, ceremonies, codes, initiations, forms, books, external religions, sects, cults, etc. Furthermore, It can never be given by one man to another. In essence, Eternal Religion is a perfect Oneness with Pure Awareness, which embraces all other formal religions. This is the reason no man can realize Reality by and through religious doctrines, logic, philosophical speculations, and Karamkaand (ceremonies, rituals, and so on). Therefore, by turning Inward, one must in the world seek the Eternal Path for himself, and walk upon it for himself; because nobody else can do it for him! Neither it can be made to an order, nor sold in a store. That's why the Gurbani urges us worshipping Supreme Reality, not any material objects such as books, symbols, embodied beings, and so on.

  • 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).
  • ਪ੍ਰਣਵਤਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੈਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਸੋਇ ॥: Pranvati Nanak giaanee kaisaa hoi. Aapu pashaanai boojhai soi: Prays Nanak, of what nature is the Giaanee (the Wise one, the knower of the Truth...)? (A true Giaanee is he who) recognizes his (Mool-ਮੂਲ, Source, Origin, Essential Nature, etc.), such (Giaanee-ਜੋ ਆਪਣੇ ਅਸਲੇ ਨੂੰ ਪਛਾਣਦਾ ਹੈ) Understands God (sggs 25).
  • ਸੋ ਬਉਰਾ ਜੋ ਆਪੁ ਨ ਪਛਾਨੈ ॥ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਨੈ ਤ ਏਕੈ ਜਾਨੈ ॥੪॥: So baouraa jo aap na pachaanai. Aap pacchaanai ta eko jaanai ||4||: Man is crazy without Self-realization. When he knows himself (ਆਪਣੇ ਅਸਲੇ ਦੀ ਪਛਾਣ, the Reality of his Being, his True Nature, etc.), only then he comes to know the One (All-pervading Truth). ||4|| (sggs 855).

In the words of Vivekananda:

"There may be a thousand radii but they all converge at the one center, and that is the realization of God. Something behind this world of senses, this world of eternal eating and drinking and talking nonsense, this world of false shadows and selfishness. There is that beyond all books, beyond all creeds, beyond the vanities of this world - and that is the realization of God within oneself. A man may believe in all the churches in the world; he may carry in his head all the sacred books ever written; he may baptize himself in all the rivers of the earth - still if he has no perception of God, I would class him with the rankest atheist. A man may have never entered a church or mosque, nor performed any ceremony; but if he realizes God within himself, and is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world, that man is a holy man, a saint, call him what you will"....I will add that it is good to be born in a church, but it is bad to die there. It is good to be born as a child, but it is bad to remain a child. Churches, ceremonies, symbols, are good for children; but when the child is grown up, he must burst either the church or himself".

God's secrets are hidden inside the human body — Ecstasy, Eternal Love, Grace, Joy, Bliss, Intuitive Wisdom, Naam, Shabad, Amrit, Peace, Spiritual Silent, Mool (Source...), Divine Knowledge...

Man in his deluded condition, however, does not understand this Reality; he goes out searching for the Truth externally. Man's this deluded condition is compared to a deer who searches for musk in the bushes; although the musk is ever present Within its own body!

  • ਬਾਹਰਿ ਢੂਢਤ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਘਰਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਘਟ ਮਾਹੀ ਜੀਉ ॥: Baahari dhoondat bahut dukh paavahi ghari amrit ghat maahee jeeu: By searching around on the outside, you will only suffer great pain; Amrit (Nectar) is found Within the Home of your own Being (sggs 598).

Unawareness of the True Religion constitutes illusion, unreality, lovelessness or egotism (lust, greed, anger, delusion, pride, enviousness, and stubborn mindedness). Simply put: man's troubles start when his True Religion (Soul-Consciousness, Total or Intact Consciousness) is intervened by his time-bound false ego sense.

Organized Religion

Being man-made, external religion is organized and institutionalized, thus stereotyped. It's a rigid, regimented, and impersonal system which admits of no variations. A great one sums it up as follows:

"It (organized religion) thrives on temporal power. Its strength lies not in the ideals it preaches, but in the enthusiasm of those who swear by those ideals though they know nothing about them and practice them still less. Religion, so organized, is the first step towards communalism. But people who are in charge of an organized religion make matters worse: to suit selfish interests, they whip up popular enthusiasm over issues with little or no connection whatsoever with religion till they are ready to commit any violent act in the honest belief that they are serving the best interests of their dear religion. Leaders of an organized religion are the least religious. To such people the ends are more important than the means. And the ends are as far removed from God as possible."

  • ਬਹੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਧਰਮ ਨਿਰੂਪੀਐ ਕਰਤਾ ਦੀਸੈ ਸਭ ਲੋਇ ॥: Bahu bidhi dharma niroopeeai kartaa deesai sabh loi: Many ways Dharma has been appraised (or explained, described, decided, etc.); the whole world is seen practicing them (sggs 346).
  • ਸਗਲੇ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਜੁਗ ਸੋਧੇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਨ ਪ੍ਰਬੋਧੇ ॥: Sagaale karma dharma juga sodhe. Bin naavai ih mann na parbodhe: I have studied the religions and rituals of all the ages. Without the Name, this mind is not awakened (sggs 913).
  • 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).
  • Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me (Gita).

Although the function of external religions is to take man back to his True Religion — Pure Consciousness — however, practicing them in desires and fear (egoism, Mayaic consciousness), man has grown weary; through the love of duality, he is thus ruined. How did the external religion come into being in the first place?

A pure mind is Intact Consciousness ("Saabat Soorat"), a state free of the imprisonment from false ego. Every man is born with such a pure mind! However, as one grows from infancy to adolescence, one is trained to identify with the feeling of "Mine, mine", resulting in the rise of false ego or time-bound consciousness ("I-ness"). Which, subsequently, gets firmly-rooted after we marry and entangle in the achievement of various worldly desires. The moment false ego gets stronger in us, we become prisoner of cravings, fears, selfishness and delusions. Consequently, the world looks real to us! Such conditioning gives rise to false self-identification, resulting in contamination of the state of Pure Being or Timeless Awareness.

  • ਮੇਰੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਡੂਬੇ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮੁਏ ਗਵਾਰਾ ॥: Meree meree kari kari doobe khapi khapi muye gavaaraa: Continually claiming,  "Mine, mine", the mortals are drowned; the fools waste away and die (sggs 380).
  • ਬਾਲ ਬੁਧਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਸੁਖਦਾਤਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਟੇਕ ॥: Baal budhi pooran sukhadaataa Naanak hari hari taek: God is the Giver of Perfect Peace to the people with Baal-Budhi (Intact Consciousness); O Nanak, God's Name is my support (sggs 714).

Under the sway of false "I-ness", thus, man has forgotten his Eternal Religion — Intact Consciousness or Soul Nature — he was born with! The Eternal Religion man was born with is of the nature of Truth-Knowledge-Bliss. However, he has lost all knowledge of his Origin and his noble inheritance. Consequently, he takes himself to be limited and miserable. His mind has become deluded and perception dulled. As a result, he mourns and suffers. The world, thus, is full of self-inflicted pain, grief, and Spiritual darkness. In theological terms, the great majority of mankind to some degree or other is sick, blind, deaf, dumb, hopeless, weary; lost in the thick forest of Spiritual ignorance. This includes poor, rich, highly placed, educated or illiterate. Evil passions (lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment to delusion, pride, envy, and stubborn mindedness) have surrounded mortals on all sides and driven them to near madness. In this plight, to find surcease of sorrows, people invent religions, or take on any external religion or cult which happened to be near them.

  • ਦੀਨੁ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਓ ਰੇ ਦਿਵਾਨੇ ਦੀਨੁ ਬਿਸਾਰਿਓ ਰੇ ॥:  O madman, You have forgotten your Dharma; you have forgotten your Dharma (sggs 1105).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਲੇਖੈ ਇਕ ਗਲ ਹੋਰੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਝਖਣਾ ਝਾਖ ॥: O Nanak, only one thing (Truth) is of any account: everything else is useless babbling and idle talk in ego (sggs 467).

In the span of history, many man-made religions, sects or cults have come and gone. According to some estimates, there have appeared several thousands forms of man-made religion since human history began. All religions evolve from what was in existent before them. Each period and region in the world history has had its own peculiar weaknesses, needs and circumstances. Religion springs up to serve and solve the immediate problems of that particular age and generation. After serving it's own purpose in its own region and day and time, each religion eventually gives way to something else as mankind keeps changing and advancing.

  • ਬਹੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਧਰਮ ਨਿਰੂਪੀਐ ਕਰਤਾ ਦੀਸੈ ਸਭ ਲੋਇ ॥: Bahu bidhi dharma niroopeeai kartaa deesai sabh loi: Many ways Dharma has been appraised (or explained, described, decided, etc.); the whole world is seen practicing them (sggs 346).

Organized religion is like a human body: it goes through periods of inception, infancy, youth, adulthood, disease and old age (decline), followed by death. Anything which has beginning and end is limited by boundaries. Only that which has neither beginning nor end cannot be limited by boundaries. As the Divine Factor has no beginning, middle or end, the True Religion (Soul-Consciousness) also has no beginning or end. Thereby, it's Eternal and nonsectarian; for it does not refer to any sectarian or limited process. However, formal religions have beginning and end in the human history and, thereby, sectarian as well as changeable. Without Intuitive Understanding, these limited boundaries often become veil to one's own oneness with the Universal Consciousness, thus a block to one's own Spiritual Enlightenment. This is why Vivekanand says: "It is good to be born in a church, but it is bad to die there".

Different responses of man's brain forms the basis of external religion. Man's early experience was tribal for he lived in a tribal setup. This is also true even today in many parts of the world. Thus, man's formal religion in early days was tribal. Tribes are political. Therefor, being tribal, man's early religion was also political. As we find it today, this political character has been preserved in the many world religions. Further, many early tribes were warlike, restless, insecure, vigorous, nomadic, barbaric, uncultured, emotional, brutal, uneducated and so forth; competing with each other for survival. This character is also noticeable in the many man-made religions of the world. To the contrary, some tribes were Spiritually advanced, thus more cultured, peaceful and wise. As we find it today, this character has also been preserved in some religions.

As we can see, man's formal religion is not only a matter of inheritance and habit but also of geography. Although we all have come from the same One Timeless Source, however, the conceptions held by human beings about this One Truth are biased by each person's self-created veil of delusion through which all his perceptions, feelings and thoughts are filtered. Thus, for these various temperaments and mentalities, there arose the man-made need for a variety of formal religions for various expressions of the same one Truth.

  • 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).

A great one sums it up as follows:

"Religion as it is known today is an offshoot of various ethnic groups that gathered together in the twilight of human history and forged systems of law, worship, culture and belief. The unique circumstances of geography, language, communication and race isolated one group from another and differences were born and preserved: Differences of belief and custom. As these small communities varied, so did the systems which satisfied each one. From their inception they absorbed the singular thought patterns postulated by their culture and their leaders, and these distinctions were perpetuated from father to son, from Guru to disciple, from one generation to the next. The leader was the shaman, the priest, the Aachaarya, the philosopher-king....".

Organized Religion And Communalism, Fundamentalism And Extremism

Though organized religions have common goals, the creeds and dogmas they carry are different. These differences are man-made and are made at different periods of history, at different geographic areas, and also for different groups of people. Consequently, all man-made religions are not the same! If they were equally good and effective, then there would not have been bloodshed in the name of religion or God! A Wise one puts it as follows:

"To pretend that their differences are insignificant or nonexistent will not solve those differences. Understanding is the only permanent resolution, and that comes through an open-minded and courageous study of the unique strength and weaknesses inherent in each."

The teachings of all world masters can be summed up as follows: speak the truth and adhere to righteousness. This is True Dharma. This leads to the following question: then why do quarrels between religious groups are still on rampant? Because, in reality, however, it's the reverse that happens!

Consequently, instead of uniting people and taking them back to their Eternal Dharma, organized religions end up dividing them into groups implacably opposed to each other. This is paradox seeing that the essence of religion is Pure Love for God and all beings, friendship, goodwill, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility, tolerance, brotherhood, truth, honest living, justice, equality and freedom, contentment, charity, selfless service, peace, nonviolence, coexistence, patience, conciliation, piety, devotion, humanity, morality, and so on.

In truth, as the scriptures point out, it's a rare one who actually lives by these teachings. Rest of us simply use these teachings to make a good material for sermons, books, magazines, lectures, showoffs, weekend congregations, and so on. In such hypocrisy, man contradicts the world around him and inspires useless disputes. This is foolishness, which is the foundation of expansion of our false ego-sense. As long as we take refuse in contradictions or foolishness, we remain separated from the Truth. The Gurbani says:

  • ਇਕੁ ਸਜਣੁ ਸਭਿ ਸਜਣਾ ਇਕੁ ਵੈਰੀ ਸਭਿ ਵਾਦਿ ॥: Ik sajan sabh sajanaa ik vairee sabhi vaadi: When I take One God as Friend, then I look upon all as my friends. But when I take One God as enemy, then conflicts with all ensue (sgg 957).
  • ਕਾਮੁ ਕ੍ਰੋਧੁ ਲੋਭੁ ਮੋਹੁ ਨਿਤ ਝਗਰਤੇ ਝਗਰਾਇਆ ॥: Kaam krodh lobh moh nit jhagarte jhagaraayaa: Lust, anger, greed and attachment to delusion bring continual conflict and strife (sggs 984).
  • ਝਖਿ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਕਿਆ ਜਗ ਸਿਉ ਵਾਦੁ ॥ ਝੂਰਿ ਮਰੈ ਦੇਖੈ ਪਰਮਾਦੁ ॥: Jhakh bolan kiaa jag siou vaad. Jhoor marai dekhai paramaad: Why do you speak nonsense, and argue with the world? Seeing your madness (of arguing with the world instead of God's meditation or Naam-Simran, etc.), you will die repenting in the end (sggs 933).
  • God then answers, 'As I have said, your animal soul is an enemy to you and to me: take not my enemy and your enemy for your friends.' (Quran 60:1).

As discussed earlier, the formal religion was created to fill unique needs of certain time and situations in a specific geographic area, when people were not ready for anything better. People have been benefited by all such man-made religions in the days of their inception. From that standpoint, no religion is to be condemned, or denounced as false. But the trouble arises when some bigots in their absurdity insist that their religion is the only valid and, therefore, it should be applied in its entirety to all people and at all times. A great one sums it up as follows:

"The anxiety of the Prophets was the redemption of their generation from the particular weakness of the age and as such each religion had a special justification for that particular age since it served to solve the immediate problems of that generation. It would therefore be ridiculous and most absurd to insist with fanatical emphasis that the same religion should be applied in all its entirety, with ruthless bigotry, to all people and at all times" (Swami Chinmayananda).

Unfortunately, very rare and fortunate ones practice religion with Intuitive Wisdom, while the rest of us practice it with sense-blind mind (or alter ego). That's where the trouble starts! Although these religions often start good but later turn into a mess when they fall in the hands of immature disciples who want name and gain. Consequently, they end up in worthless rituals, ceremonies, paths, traditions, rules, creeds, dogmas, religious robes and symbols, pilgrimages, stubborn fanaticism, and fundamentalism; creating fake fear of hell and death, and expectation of far-off heavens, etc.

  • ਹਮ ਮੂਰਖ ਮੂਰਖ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸਭ ਕਾਰ ਕਮਾਹਿ ॥: Ham moorakh moorakh mann maahi. Hayumai vichi sabh kaar kamaahi: We are ignorant; ignorance fills our minds. We do all our deeds in ego (sggs 666).
  • 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).
  • ਅਧਿਕ ਤਿਆਸ ਭੇਖ ਬਹੁ ਕਰੈ ॥: Adhik tiyaas bhekh bahu krai: Excessive thirst for Maya makes people wear all sorts of religious robes (sggs 352).

The corruption and misuse arises when religions outlive their actual usefulness. The history of world's religions teaches us that the followings are bound to happen as an organized religion gets older and older:

  • Its theology gets transgressed and corrupted. The selfish clergy, clerics and sect leaders reconstruct the theology suiting to their own actions, desires, and hypotheses. How do they do it? They use unauthenticated historical events, writings, stories, hearsay, etc., to fabricate theological beliefs or traditions. This creates tremendous confusion and mess in the religion.
  • With the passage of time, the disciples attribute to their Messengers dogmatic statements.
  • Religion becomes institutionalized, stereotyped, rigid and impersonal.
  • It gets reduced to some basic elements such as superstitious assumptions, emotional extravaganza, ritualistic ceremonies, metaphysical speculations and ethical principles. Ultimately, the original intentions of the Spiritual Masters become forgotten and corrupted. After awhile, religion is reduced to nothing more than a mundane business. As a result, it always tries to increase the number of its followers. This is the story of world's religions.
  • Each religion then begins to make exclusive claims of uniqueness of its founder such as only their founder was true, and, thereby, only their founder's place before God is highest.
  • Some people start claiming that their God is the only authentic one and other's is not. Also, that only their religion is "a way of life" or "path" which will lead to God, rest are misleading.
  • In speculation and confusion, adherents of each religion then begin to think that theirs is the last prophet and the last religion; hence, the last word and the last history!
  • As the religion grows older, the selfish clergy, clerics and sect leaders introduce complexity and rigidity in religion because they want their religion and adherents to look different (robes, beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, etc.) than the others. This is why so many religions, sects or cults have come into existence with their own complex adherents and antagonists! This breeds differences, biases, blind hatred, intolerance, fanaticism, bigotry, religious persecution, and so forth.
  • Some begin to claim that the whole truth and all the wisdom of the ages is stated only in the scriptures of their own religion. Therefore, there can be no other religion, books, and history. The implication of this deluded belief is that if anything is not practiced in their religion or not stated in their scriptures, then, it cannot be true! Consequently, people begin to hate other religions and other scriptures. They think they are false, hence, must be destroyed. They call their blind religious zeal as "Jihaad", "Crusade", "Dharma Yudh" or "Holy War"; and perpetrate untold sufferings and cruelty on humanity in the name of religion and God.
  • Some begin to claim that their God has sanctioned them to punish and destroy others who do not accept their religion and follow their "way of life". They also make phony claims that their God will rewards martyrs in some far off heavens!
  • As an institutionalized religion grows older, it splits into numerous competing splinter groups, sects, and cults; each claiming better than the others.
  • The disputes among religions are almost always based on such exclusive claims. The outcome is in front of us: the pages of history of religion keep getting soaked by bloodshed; the air keeps getting thick with hatred and violence.
  • All religions, sects and cults see each other as competitors (as in mundane business!), hence threat to each other's security and survival. This gives rise to missionary enterprises leading to conversion of followers of other religions into their "way of life".
  • Consequently, instead of practicing "live and let live" principle, "live and let die" becomes the principle governing relations between different religious communities. You see, it's all lust and greed ("Kanic Kaamini")!

One major problem of organized religions has been that the original Messengers (for example Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and so on) had to leave the world before their work was complete; thus leaving the work to immature followers who generally made a mess of it! Let's briefly observe a few of the world religions. Please note that the idea is not finding faults here.

The Sikh religion is relatively new, and most universal in its fundamental principles. Truth is universal; for it belongs to no nation, creed, dogma or class. Baabaa Nanak taught That Truth. He inspired the entire mankind to realize the Eternal Religion of this Truth Within, which underlies all mundane religions; thus, beyond all books, rituals, ceremonies, traditions, initiations, etc. The last Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, eternally sealed these teachings along with the Sikh theology in SGGS. But, unfortunately, he was obliged to leave the world in young age; leaving his work in the hands of immature disciples. In spite of him eternally sealing the original theology of Sikhism in SGGS, it's amazing to see as to how in a short period of about three hundred years it has gone through reconstruction based on unauthenticated historical events, writings, storytellers, hearsay, and so on. What's the result? Confusion, doubts, superstitions, misunderstanding and rise of many competing splinter groups! From this case-history, we can get a pretty good idea about the pathetic condition of those religions which are even much more older than the Sikhism!

In Muslim community, for example, the word "Jihaad" is generally taken as meaning "holy war", a religious duty to fight "infidel" (or non-Muslim) to covert everybody in the universe to Islam either by persuasion or by force. But, it's so interesting to note that, according to the Islamic researchers and scholars, the Arabic word "Jihaad" does not mean "holy war" either in the Quran or in the Hadith at all! If we translate the words "holy war" back into Arabic, we find "Harbun Muqaddasatu," or for "the holy war," "Al-harbu al-muqaddasatu." Unfortunately, some Muslim writers and translators of the Quran, the Hadith and other Islamic literature translate the term "Jihad" as "holy war," due to the influence of centuries-old Western propaganda. This could be a reflection of the Christian use of the term "Holy War" to refer to the "Crusades" of a thousand years ago. However, the Arabic words for "war" are "Harb" or "Qital," which are found in the Quran and Hadith. In fact, according to Islamic teachings, it's unholy to instigate or start war. Further, Islam neither teaches revenge nor encourages the killing or oppression of non-Muslims.

  • ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵਣੁ ਮੁਸਕਲੁ ਜਾ ਹੋਇ ਤਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ...: Musalmaan kahaavan muskal jaa hoi taa musalmaan ...: It is difficult to be called a Muslim; if one is truly a Muslim, then he may be called one. First, let him savor the religion of the Prophet as sweet; then, let his pride of his possessions be scraped away. Becoming a true Muslim, a disciple of the faith of Muhammed, let him put aside the delusion of death and life. As he submits to God's Will, and surrenders to the Creator, he is rid of selfishness and conceit. And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then will he be called a Muslim (sggs 141).
  • Let there be no compulsion (or coercion) in religion (Islam). The right direction is distinctly clear from error (Quran, 2:256).

Then, what's the real meaning of word "Jihad"? According to the Islamic researchers and scholars, the word "Jihaad" means striving — striving for righteous and God-centered deeds. In its primary sense it is an inner thing, within the oneself, to rid it from debased actions or inclinations, and exercise constancy and perseverance in achieving a higher moral standard and higher awareness leading one to Spiritual Realization. When we are faced with two competing interests, it becomes "Jihaad" to choose the right one. It is a duty which is not exclusive to Muslims but applies to the entire human race who are, according to the Quran, God's vicegerent on earth. The Quran and Hadith exemplify it as follows:

  • A man asked the Prophet Muhammad: "'Should I join the jihaad?' He asked, 'Do you have parents?' The man said, 'Yes!' The Prophet said, 'Then strive by serving them!'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari #5972).
  • Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah: "'What kind of jihaad is better?' He replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!'" (Sunan Al-Nasa'i #4209).
  • The Messenger of Allah said: "...the Mujahid (one who carries out jihaad) is he who strives against himself for the sake of Allah, and the Muhajir (one who emigrates) is he who abandons evil deeds and sin." (Sahih Ibn Hibban #4862).
  • As for those who strive (Jahadu) in Us (the cause of Allah), We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good doers (Quran 29:69).
  • We have enjoined on people kindness to parents; but if they strive (Jahadaka) to make you ascribe partners with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not...(Quran, 29:8; also see 31:15).
  • So when our religion resides in a person's heart, it stays right there until it takes his heart to God and separates it from everything unworthy (Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi).
  • Prayer differs according to religion, but faith does not change by religion. Its states, its focus, and so forth, are immutable (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

Thus, in essence, the meaning of the word "Jihaad" is to rid the man's duality (illusion or ignorance, tainted consciousness...). The scriptures, including Quran, tell us that in each one of us, there are two persons in conflict: Good and evil, or right and wrong. As scriptures tell us, "good" being that which expresses truth and virtue and attracts the consciousness to God; and "evil" being ignorance and delusion, repels the consciousness from God. Every moment, under the delusive influence of the false ego, there is a Spiritual and psychological battle going on in each of us between the Soul ("good") and the blind sense-infatuated mind ("evil").

  • Man is called a rational animal; therefore, he is two things. What feeds his animality in this world is passion and desire; but the food for his essential part is knowledge, wisdom and the vision of God. Man's animal nature avoids the Real, and his human nature flies from this world. "One of you is an unbeliever, and another of you is a believer" (Quran 64:2). There are two personae in conflict in this being. "With whom shall luck be? Whom shall fortune favor?" (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

However, the trouble arises when, in Spiritual ignorance, people take literal meanings of the scriptural texts and create tremendous confusion and mess. Also, many take meanings of the scriptural texts out of context and twist them to justify their personal thoughts, deeds and idiosyncrasies. For example, in selfishness, many foolishly take literal translation of the Quranic verses and then imply that you are a believer only if you are a Muslim, otherwise you are an unbeliever (infidel or Kaafir)! How absurd and cruel! Obviously, such people have taken religion and God as a joke or a plaything; for they have no clue what religion or God really is!

Every moment in one's life, there is a Spiritual and psychological battle going on between the Soul-Nature (or "goodness") and the blind sense-infatuated mind (or "evil") under the delusive influence of the false ego. The battle field of these contending forces is the human body with its physical, mental, and Souls faculties; the field on which all activities of an individual's take place. On this battlefield, the war is raged between the soldiers of the Soul's pure discriminative tendencies and the uncontrolled activities of the ignoble, wisdom-blind mind. The Spiritual Teachers urge that the material man can realize the Eternal Bliss only if he sides with "goodness" and wins the battle between the good and evil inclinations that guide his daily activities. To this end, the man can invoke his God given power of introspection to constantly review the battle taking place in his mind in order to make sure it's the "good" that wins the battle, not the "evil". This is "Jihaad".

  • ਬੰਦੇ ਖੋਜੁ ਦਿਲ ਹਰ ਰੋਜ ਨਾ ਫਿਰੁ ਪਰੇਸਾਨੀ ਮਾਹਿ ॥: Bande khoj dil har roj naa phir presaanee maahi: O human being, search your own heart every day, and do not wander around in confusion (sggs 727).
  • ਮਨ ਕੀ ਪਤ੍ਰੀ ਵਾਚਣੀ ਸੁਖੀ ਹੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਬ੍ਰਾਹਮਣੁ ਭਲਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Man kee patree vaachanee sukhee hoo sukh saar....: To read the horoscope of the mind is the most Sublime Joyful Peace. He alone is called a good Brahmin, who understands God through inner inquiry (sggs 1093).
  • Enjoin good and forbid evil (Quran, 3:104).

There is very great difference between the institutional Christianity and the precepts and practices of Christ himself! The real mission of Jesus was to lead his disciples to realize the "Kingdom of Heaven" or the "Kingdom of God" Within themselves — a present reality to be known and entered upon in this very life, "here" and "now", not a far-off thing to be realized after death. To this end, Jesus insisted that people should turn away from sin and evil inclinations and look for the "Kingdom of Heaven" Within themselves. His role in life, thus, was to point the disciples away from the rule of the five senses, which are totally confined to the framework time and space.

  • Jesus said: "If those who lead you say, 'See, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is in and around you. When you know your selves, then you will be known, and you will be aware that you who the sons of the living Father. But if you do not know your selves, you are in poverty, and you who are the poverty" (Gospel of Thomas).
  • Jesus said: "I will give you what no eye has seen and no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind" (Gospel of Thomas).
  • Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:3). Blessed are the pure in heart; for they will see God (Matt. 5:8).
  • Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you (Matt. 5:43-44).
  • Truly I say to you, unless you turn around and become as young children (i.e., egoless), you will by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven (Bible, Matt 18:3).
  • Whosoever therefore will humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:4).
  • This is my commandment that you love one another (John 15:12).

However, his Spiritually immature disciples could not understand his sublime Message. As we know it, this turned into a bloody tragedy. In time, his sublime teachings were corrupted and forgotten. Then, many years after the death of Jesus, the Christian religion and theology was formulated and given to the world by his followers (notably Paul), who made it into a complicated mixture of Spiritual precepts and material practices, an insult to the sublime Message of a great Spiritual Master. The church thus lost the real meaning of the words of Jesus. The history repeats itself!

On the plight of eastern religions, one of the well known Vedantic teachers of the twentieth century, Swami Chinmayananda, in his own words:

"Those who believe, do so like the dumb driven cattle in a herd and there is no active enthusiasm or diligent intellectual stocktaking on their part when they hear an advice or follow a path; unfortunately, religion is not meant for the unintelligent or for the stupid. On the other hand, there is now a growing majority of blasphemers who are to be congratulated, for, their calumny is rightly directly against the false pretenders and the professional priest class. Gurudom has become, in this country of general ignorance and particular superstitions, a very paying business, wherein there need not be any investment and therefore, it is a safe activity of 'all gains and no loss'!!"

The Jewish theology claims Jews to be the God's chosen people, therefore, they were to rule the entire world! According to the Christian theology, Jesus is the only son of God! According to the Muslim clergy, unless you are a Muslim, you are an infidel (Kafir, unbeliever or lower being) and do not deserve to live unless you convert yourself to Islaam. Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, the list goes on and on, have their own exclusive claims. Such exclusive claims lead to nothing but fundamentalism, hatred, bigotry, intolerance, butchery of innocent people and persecution of godly beings. The results are in front of us!

Who is responsible for this mess of world religions? The priestcraft is crafty by nature, therefore menace to the world peace and harmony. We know it's like this. Falsehood and unrighteousness is the end result of such craftiness, making people go astray. If we sincerely look into the glorious lives of all world Masters (Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus, Muhammad, Nanak, Kabeer, Zarathustra, etc.), we will find that they all raised their voices against the corrupt priest-class of the time. They came with a vigorous mission to free mankind from the bounds of priests and their lackeys (corrupt clergy, clerics, religious leaders, etc.), and to uplift humanity from the then prevailing foolish ways to enable it to walk erect on the path of selfless Devotion and service. They sacrificed their lives to reform the masses, spread the message of righteous values among humanity, reestablish Dharma and moral order when people went astray, and to protect those who still hold on tenaciously to spiritual truth. But they were harassed, tortured, or persecuted by the priest-class. What happened after they left the scene? Their followers, down the road, did the same thing — created separate religions and priesthoods with their own complex adherents and antagonists! The history repeats itself!

  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥੩॥: Pandit mulaan jo likhi deeaa. Chhaadi cale ham kachhoo n leeaa ||3||: Whatever the Pandit and the Mullaan has written (the path of Karamkaand, Shariyat...), I have abandoned (all of that); I have not taken any of it ||3||. (sggs 1159).
  • ਹਮਰਾ ਝਗਰਾ ਰਹਾ ਨ ਕੋਊ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਛਾਡੇ ਦੋਊ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Hamaraa jhagaraa rahaa na ko-oo. Pandit mulaan shaade do-oo ||1|| Rahaaou ||: (Now) I have no quarrel with anyone anymore; because I have abandoned both the Pandit and the Mullaan (ਦੋਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਦੱਸੇ ਰਸਤੇ ਨਾਲ ਮੇਰਾ ਕੋਈ ਵਾਸਤਾ ਨਹੀਂ - the path of Karamkaand, Shariyat...). |1|| Pause || (sggs 1158).
  • ਥਾਨਸਟ ਜਗ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਹੋਏ ਡੂਬਤਾ ਇਵ ਜਗੁ ॥: Thaansatt jag bhrishat hoye doobtaa iv jag(u) (sggs 662).
  • Do not do according to their (priests) deeds, for they say but do not perform (Bible, Mt 23:3).
  • But you men (priests) have turned aside from the way, you have caused many to stumble in the law, you have ruined the covenant of Levi (Bible, Mal 2:8).
  • O ye who believe there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah (Quran, 9:34).
  • It is He Who hath sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it) (Quran, 9:33).
  • As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did (Quran, 6:159).
  • Say: verily, my Lord hath guided me to a Way that is straight, a religion of right.... (Quran, 6:161).
  • And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being True (in Faith); to establish regular Prayer; and to practise regular Charity; and that is the Religion right and straight (Quran, 98:5).

The complex and antagonistic differences of belief and custom created by the crafty priest-class gives rise to obstructions that separate man and his organized religion from God. These obstructions are dogmatic fanaticism, bigotry, blind prejudices and brutal intolerance. Man's such ignorant behavior has given birth to a serious problem — religious extremism and fundamentalism. Because of this, thousands of years of religion has been stained by bloodshed! There is nothing more devilish and hellish than a thirst for blood, fired by a religious fanaticism.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਝਗੜਾ ਪਾਇਓਨੁ ਝਗੜੈ ਜਗੁ ਮੁਇਆ ॥: Haumai jgagrhaa paaionjhagrhai jag muiaa: Through egotism, the world is caught in conflict and strife, and it dies (sggs 790).
  • ਛੋਡਹੁ ਕਪਟੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਰਵੈਰਾ ਸੋ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਸੰਗਿ ਨਿਹਾਰੇ ॥: Shodahu kapatt hoi niravairaa so prabh sangi nihaare: Abandon your deception, and go beyond vengeance; see God who is always with you (sggs 1220).

Is this the purpose of religion? Not at all! The religion was never meant for teaching or promoting hatred, communalism, extremism, blind rage, violence, vengeance, hypocrisy, brutal intolerance, oppression, slavery, injustice, bigotry, prejudices, killing of innocent people, materialism, addiction to evil passions, unfeeling towards others, wars, quarrel, persecution of godly souls, and so forth.

  • ਨਾ ਕੋ ਬੈਰੀ ਨਹੀ ਬਿਗਾਨਾ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਮ ਕਉ ਬਨਿ ਆਈ ॥: Naa ko bairee nahee bigaanaa sagal sang ham kayu ban aaee: No one is my enemy, and no one is a stranger to me. I get along with everyone (sggs 1299).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਖਾਲਕੁ ਖਲਕ ਮਹਿ ਖਲਕ ਵਸੈ ਰਬ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਮੰਦਾ ਕਿਸ ਨੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਈ ਨਾਹਿ ॥: Fareedaa khaalak khalak mahi khalak vasai rab maahi. Mandaa kis no aakheeai jaa(n) tis bin koee naahi: O Fareed , the Creator is in the Creation, and the Creation abides in God. Whom can we call bad? There is none without Him (sggs 1381).
  • Mazahab nahee sikhaataa aapas mai vair karnaa: Religion does not teach hatred towards others (Poet Dr. Iqbal).
  • Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you (Bible, Matt. 5:43-44).

Differences in religions should be appreciated, not despised. A wise one says:

"Differences in religion, arising as they do out of a variety of racial, cultural and individual experience, are to be expected and appreciated. They provide a fortress against philosophical monotony and spiritual stagnation. Though there are many who seek to convert the rest of the world to their own creed, the wise are tolerant of the beliefs of others and refuse to promote universal uniformity in culture, intellectual or spiritual spheres."

Religion Is Meant to Illuminate the Self and The World

The term "Religion" comes from "re"=back and "ligare"=to bind. Thus, from the very derivation of it, religion is that which binds one back to the Original Source (Mool, Jot...) — the One Unconditioned Consciousness that runs in and through All. Therefore, with the understanding of the term "religion", we can come to the conclusion that any method by which man regains his Original Nature or Glory is religion. Thus, religion is to be understood essentially as the science of mental integration and Self-purification. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. But, unfortunately, in ignorance and stupidity the religion is merely taken as a bundle of superstitions which needs to be fumigated at regular intervals with incense and candlesticks!

  • ਨਮਸਤੰ ਅਮਜਬੇ ॥: Namastam amajabe: Salutation to God who is beyond religion (Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Jaap Sahib 17).

By its very definition, Love of God or Self-realization is the Goal of religion. As such, it cannot countenance to hate others or to perpetrate stupid things in its name. But what can religion do if people distort or defy its injunctions? What can religion do if people are repugnant to the spirit of religion and, thereby, put curbs on its true practices ("Karanee"), and do things that are disrespectful to their own religion as well as to other religions?

The material nature (Maya) has dual reality. Specifically, everything positive in this world is opposed by a corresponding power of negativity and chaos. Just as the righteous beings have the mission of illuminating all creation, the forces of negativity and chaos are charged with the mission of concealing the Light of the Creator, and thereby darkening the world.

The scriptures and godly beings reveal to us it is the filth of false ego that has rendered man's Soul pitch dark with ignorance. The purpose of one's Spiritual endeavor, therefore, is no less than to illuminate his Soul and the entire world with the Light of the Supreme Truth. If truly followed, our Spiritual work therefore forces us to ask this question to ourselves: are we, through our own thoughts and deeds, illuminating our Soul and the entire world with That Light? Or, are we creating a mess instead?

All things, except God, are in time and space. Thus, man's deluded mind (egoism) and all man-made religions are also confined in time and space — the rule of senses, the field of mind or the field of material existence. But, God can only be found in a virtual state ("Sunn Samaadhi", "Emptiness", "Void", "Eternal Silence", "Sahaj State", "Turiyaa State", "Chauthaa Pad", "Transcendental State", or "state of egolessness"). Since man-made religions or other mental precepts and practices are not in a virtual state, one cannot find God (Pure Being, Total or Intact Awareness) in them. This is what it alludes to when the Gurbani says "other than God, all things are corrupt".

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਖਪੈ ਖਪਾਇਸੀ ਬੀਜਉ ਵਥ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥: Haumai khapai khapaaisee beejayu vath vikaar: Through egotism, one is distracted and ruined; other than God, all things are corrupt (sggs 937).

However, as Spiritual awakening is at the root of the world's religions, they can certainly aid one in his pursuit of Spiritual Perfection. The ancient sages tell us that the domain of time and space is like a net, which also has holes! They challenge man to find such a hole and jump through it. All religious traditions also contain such loopholes — escape routes to the virtual state, a world beyond names and shapes. The true and the wise ones urge us to find such a loophole and jump through it into a world beyond ours. By doing so we can truly bring Timeless Creator's Light to the world, as well as joy and fulfillment to our own Soul.

  • ਸੁੰਨ ਸਮਾਧਿ ਗੁਫਾ ਤਹ ਆਸਨੁ ॥ ਕੇਵਲ ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਪੂਰਨ ਤਹ ਬਾਸਨੁ ॥ ਭਗਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਗੋਸਟਿ ਕਰਤ ॥: Sunn samaadhi guphaa tah aasan. Keval brahm pooran tah baasan. Bhagat sang prabh gost karat (sggs 894).
  • The house of my heart is empty, devoid of desire, like paradise. Within it is no work but the love of God, no inhabitant but the image of union with Him. I have swept the house clear of good and bad -- my house is full of love for the One (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

How can religion aid man in his search for the Absolute Truth? As revealed to us by the Enlightened Beings and the scriptures, the cause of man's all troubles is the rise of false ego in his mind. Religion is meant to kill this ego. There is nothing wrong with us as the Soul or the Pure Self (Joti-Svaroopa, Mool, Jot...). The problem arises with the rise of the ripples of disturbance on the surface of Pure Consciousness which distorts seeing and understanding, creating the false sense of separateness (duality or Doojaa Bhaav) between the mind and and our True Dharma, the Soul-Nature. Man's deluded mind (false ego) is nothing but this agitated consciousness; resulting in clouding of the mind-mirror and thought-current followed by action and fruition. To put it otherwise, when veiled by the defects of our mind, the Consciousness sees diversity in an agitated state and views the external world of gross objects, leaving the man empty inside.

  • ਝੂਠੀ ਮਨ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਹੈ ਕਰਣੀ ਬਾਦਿ ਬਿਬਾਦੁ ॥: Jhoothee man kee mati hai karnee baadi bibaadu: False is the wisdom of the mind (of the fool, Manmukh...); its actions give rise to useless strifes (sggs 1343).
  • ਮਨੁ ਵਸਿ ਦੂਤਾ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਦੋਇ ... ਮਨੁ ਚੰਚਲੁ ਧਾਵਤੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਧਾਵੈ ॥: Man vas doota durmat doyi ... Man chanchal dhaavat phun dhavai: Mind is in the control of evil passions, evil intent, and duality ... Restless mind repeatedly runs after unstable things (sggs 222).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਮਨ ਮੂਏ ਕੈਸੇ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇ ॥: Bin man mooye kaise hari paayi: Without annihilating (conquering) the mind, how can God be found? (sggs 665).
  • The mind alone is the cause of bondage and liberation for human beings. The mind attached to sense objects leads to bondage and that which is free of sense objects sets one free! (Vedas, Amrit Bindu Upnishad).

This phantom called ego-mind is the only reason for the existence of external religion. The real purpose of religion, thus, is to aid man in annihilating this phantom and making his false ego worthless in the process. Religion tells us that all we need to do is set right our ideas of ourselves. So long we perceive the ego-center, there exists the sense of individuality or separateness between the mind and the Soul-Nature. Where the mind's perversions have ended, there the mind ends, and rebounds back to its Pure Being or True Dharma. To put it in other way, the essence of religion is to realize God as a living reality, "here" and "now"; for God is not a mental concept.

  • ਮਨ ਕਉ ਬਿਆਪੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ॥: Mann kayu biaapai hayumai mael: The filth of egotism clings to the mind (sggs 1149).
  • ਮਨੁ ਮੈਲਾ ਹੈ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ॥: The mind is polluted by the love of duality (sggs 121).
  • ਸੋ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਮਨ ਸਿਉ ਲਰੈੁ: So mullaan jo mann siyu larai: He alone is a Mullah, who struggles with his mind (sggs 1159).
  • ਮਨਿ ਜੀਤੈ ਜਗੁ ਜੀਤੁ ॥: Mann jeetai jagg jeet: If you conquer the mind, you conquer the material world (sggs ).
  • Restrain the mind until it dissolves in the heart. This is wisdom, this is meditation. Rest is all logic and verbal extensions (Vedas, Amrit Bindu Upnishad).

Deluded ego wants more and more pleasure: power, sex, wealth, money, and so on. It always avoids the pain. However, such duality can never be the path to God, because God is beyond both. Therefore, religion asks us to go beyond both pleasure and pain (mind's duality), a state where neither can touch you. All Spiritual Masters and genuine religions declare such a state to exist Within us, though they may not use the same language. This is the state where body-consciousness is completely subdued. This is the state where one is convinced that he is the Timeless Spirit (Soul-Consciousness) not the time-bound body.

Unfortunately, all religions have been unable to make man realize this Supreme Truth! Why? Because, in ignorance of the True Self, man does not use the means of religion to this end! Instead, he uses it to justify his abominable actions!

  • ਕੂੜੈ ਕੀ ਪਾਲਿ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਤਾ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਹੋਇ ॥: Koorhai kee paali vichahau nikalai taa sadaa sukh hoi: If the veil of falsehood is removed from Within, then lasting peace is obtained (sggs 490).
  • ਗ੍ਹਾਨੰ ਸਮ ਦੁਖ ਸੁਖੰ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਨਿਰਵੈਰਣਹ ॥: Guaanam sam dukh sukham jugati niramal nirvairanah: Those who have the wisdom to look alike upon pleasure and pain, live the pure lifestyle, free of vengeance (sggs 1357).

Religion, thus, gives a sense of direction for a safe journey in the voyage in life. It's to inspire man constantly to strive for Spiritual Perfection, for individually and collectively. It insists that man pursue Truth (also called God) under all circumstances. It urges man to take a positive attitude towards life; and look upon it as an opportunity to shape his destiny without hurting others and without hurting himself in the end. It warns man about difficulties he has to face, but asks him to grow above them by attaining a state in which whether he has pain or pleasure, he remains completely unperturbed, that is, he accepts both with equal indifference. It demands that all disparities be removed from society. It insists on equality of treatment for all. It preaches unity. It urges man to eliminate the darkness from Within and without by defeating the forces of negativity and chaos with the same level of energy that they direct at us; leading to illumination of the entire world in the process.

Beneath the outer hard crust of religion, hence, we find hard self-discipline, without which one cannot attain the religious goals. Without religion, there will be no righteousness or morality; without righteousness, man's life is a chaos. One without righteousness — truthful living — is reduced to beast.

As we can see, religion shows the purpose of life to mankind suffering in bondage. Its influence is meant to aid Spiritual evolution necessary for those engaged in worldly life as it helps develop inclination for Spiritual life. In turn, the taste for Spiritual life gives rise to Self-knowledge (Aatam-Giyan); which leads man transcend duality (or Maya), and realize God.

  • 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 religious acts are of no value - worthless (sggs 1351).
  • ਕਬੀਰਾ ਜਹਾ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਤਹ ਧਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਜਹਾ ਝੂਠੁ ਤਹ ਪਾਪੁ ॥ ਜਹਾ ਲੋਭੁ ਤਹ ਕਾਲੁ ਹੈ ਜਹਾ ਖਿਮਾ ਤਹ ਆਪਿ ॥੧੫੫॥: 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 (corrupt thinking). (Within a person, if) there is greed, there is "Kaal(u)" ( thoughts-ਫੁਰਨੇ, imagination, fancy, death of spiritual life-ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ...); and (if within him) there is forgiveness, there is one's True Self. (sggs 1372).
  • The end of all religions is the realization of God (Vivekanand).

In nutshell, religion is man's Internal Growth, which shows up in his character and actions. First and foremost, it must enlarge one's vision so that one can come out in the open to feel that one is identical with others. In other words, it must destroy one's narrow self (ego-mind), replacing it by the True Self which encompasses the whole universe. To put it otherwise, each of us is a miniature Temple, and the same Light of the Timeless Creator resides in all of us. Religion and the sages tell us that each of us is called upon to reenact the kindling of the lamp in the Temple through our own positive thoughts and deeds. If a person is a truly religious, it is because of this Self-development.

Now, what are the signs of a truly religious person? A truly religious man puts truthful living above everything else. He can sacrifice everything for Truth, but Truth for nothing. He is true in and out. He is honest in all his actions, even when he is in dire circumstances. Not only truthful, he is also loving, kind, generous, restrained, peaceful, selfless, forgiving, compassionate, wise, righteous, and so forth, for these are the qualities that make up the essence of religion, no matter under what name it's known. Nothing is secular with such a man. His mind open to everything and attached to nothing. He has abandoned all his desires, and he finds joyous satisfaction in the Self without being dependent on any external factor. His mind remains unperturbed amid sorrows, his thirst for pleasures has altogether disappeared and he is free from evil passions and fear. He does not show any hatred or utters any disparaging remarks towards other religions. Should he visit other religious places, he shows reverence, retaining the mode of his own devotion in his mind. He learned to love even the lowliest of animals, plants and flowers. "Live and let live" is his principle. He sees unity in diversity. He sees all with equal vision. He has eliminated negativity and chaos from his bosom. He is the man of steady wisdom, deep introspection, love, joy, inner beauty and peace. Whatever he does is a means towards a higher Cosmic Goal. Thus, his whole life is a prayer! These qualities of a truly religious person can be used to test how religious we are!

  • ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਸਤ੍ਰ ਪੇਖਿ ਸਮਤੁ ਬੀਚਾਰਿਓ ਸਗਲ ਸੰਭਾਖਨ ਜਾਪੁ ॥: Mitar sattar paekh samat beechaario sagal sanbhaakhan jaap: He looks upon friend and enemy alike; all that he speaks is the Lord's meditation (sggs 1217).
  • ਬੈਰੀ ਮੀਤ ਹੋਏ ਸੰਮਾਨ ॥ ਸਰਬ ਮਹਿ ਪੂਰਨ ਭਗਵਾਨ ॥: Bairee meet hoeae sanmaan. Sarab mehi pooran bhagavaan: Enemy and friend are all the same to me. For I know that the Perfect Lord is permeating all (sggs 1147).
  • The lovers (of God) ... have all become one, kneaded together by Love. When a thousand corpses are thrown into the saltmines, they all become salt -- no duality remains (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

Thus, religious man's true identity is in his inner qualities and not what he looks like, what clothes he wears, what language he speaks, how he prays, what religion he belongs to, whether he is a householder or a renuncient, whether he is an educated or an illiterate, whether he is a rich or a poor, whether he has a low or a high social status, and so on.

Selfless Love: The Essence Of Religion

The fundamental tenets in all of the genuine world religions are essentially the same: they all are Love oriented, at least in theory. Apparently, they all were motivated by a Higher desire to render selfless service to God and to his creation. Therefore, all true religious scriptures brings out the significance of selfless Love; which knows no barriers of language, religion, cast, color, creed, and so forth. It is this Universal Love that brings harmony between souls. Our lives are interwoven with the thread of Pure Love. As such, the influence of our daily actions and behavior spreads in ever-widening circles.

  • ਬਿਨ ਪ੍ਰੀਤੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ...: Bin preetee bhagti na hovayee bin Shabadi thaayi na paayi. Shabade hayu mai maareeai maya kaa bhram jaai. aam padaarath paaeeai gurmukhi sahaj subhaai: Without love, there is no devotional worship. Without the Shabad (Word or Naam), no one finds acceptance. Through the Shabad, egotism is conquered and subdued, and the illusion of Maya is dispelled. The spiritual being obtains the Treasure of the Naam with Intuitive Ease (sggs 67).
  • ਸਾਚ ਕਹੋਂ ਸੁਨ ਲੇਹੁ ਸਭੈ ਜਿਨ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਕੀਓ ਤਿਨ ਹੀ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਪਾਇਓ ॥: Saach kahon sun leho sabhai jin prem keeo tin hee prabh paaio: Listen all, I tell you the Truth: One who practices love attains God (Guru Gobind Singh Jee).
  • He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love (Bible, 1John 4:8). You must love your fellow as yourself (Bible, Le 19:18). You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Bible, Mat. 22:36-40).
  • The best type of yogi is he who feels for others, whether in grief or pleasure, even as he feels for himself (Gita 6:32).
  • A lover's food is love for God -- in his eyes a hundred bodies are not worth a bean (Sufi Poet Jalaluddin Rumi).
  • Love alone is worth hunting -- but how can you catch it in your snare? Unless, perhpas, you become His prey: Leave aside your snare and enter His! ( Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi)
  • And from beyond the intellect, beautiful Love comes dragging its skirts, a cup of wine in its hand. And from beyond Love, that indescribable One who can only be called That keeps coming (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).
  • "You want to know your Lord's meaning in what I have done? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal it to you? Love. Why he reveal it to you? For love." (God to Dame Julian, a fourteenth century God-immersed soul who lived in England).

What is pure Love? Annihilation of false ego (personal will, selfishness or false "I-ness") constitutes pure Love. It brings understanding and harmony. It chases out nonessential or unwanted things in our lives; hence bringing us face to face with our original, unselfish, and unhampered lives. The expression of pure Love speaks from a state beyond the ordinary perception of the senses; for the experience of such Love always carries with it the acknowledgment of Eternity.

In reality, however, very few ever build their character upon this foundation of pure Love. Because the majority of us do not pause to make distinction between the essentials and nonessentials in religion. Love of the Pure Self is the Goal of religion, thus essential. On the other hand, ceremonialism, creed, dogmas, rites and rituals are not the religious goal, thus nonessential. However, in fanaticism (ignorance), nonessentials are carried to the point that it gives the impression that it is an end in itself!

  • ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਕੋਟਨ ਮੈ ਕੋਊ ਭਜਨੁ ਰਾਮ ਕੋ ਪਾਵੈ ॥: Jan Nanak kotan mai koyu bhajan Raam ko paavai: O servant Nanak, among millions, there is scarcely anyone who attains God's meditation (sggs 219).

If one were to realize that "the Self in me is the Self in all", there would be no selfishness but only pure Love for all. To put it another way, the basic truth that is to be recognized is that there is only one "Self" in all God's creations. If this is understood, there will be no need for anyone to hate or abuse or criticize another. To recognize "oneness" of all beings and seeing unity in diversity is Spirituality in itself. Such person remains equipoised under all circumstances, and becomes dear to one and all.

  • ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਤੇਰਾ ਰੂਪ ॥: Jo deesai so taeraa roop: Whatever is seen, O God, is Your form (sggs724).
  • ਏਕ ਅਨੇਕ ਬਿਆਪਕ ਪੂਰਕ ਜਤ ਦੇਖਉ ਤਤ ਸੋਈ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਬਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਬਿਮੋਹਿਤ ਬਿਰਲਾ ਬੂਝੈ ਕੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਸਭੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦੁ ਹੈ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਈ ॥ ਸੂਤੁ ਏਕੁ ਮਣਿ ਸਤ ਸਹੰਸ ਜੈਸੇ ਓਤਿ ਪੋਤਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਲ ਤਰੰਗ ਅਰੁ ਫੇਨ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਭਿੰਨ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਪਰਪੰਚੁ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਕੀ ਲੀਲਾ ਬਿਚਰਤ ਆਨ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੨॥ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਭਰਮੁ ਅਰੁ ਸੁਪਨ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਸਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਸੁਕ੍ਰਿਤ ਮਨਸਾ ਗੁਰ ਉਪਦੇਸੀ ਜਾਗਤ ਹੀ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੩॥ ਕਹਤ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਰਚਨਾ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ॥ ਘਟ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਸਰਬ ਨਿਰੰਤਰਿ ਕੇਵਲ ਏਕ ਮੁਰਾਰੀ ॥੪॥੧॥: Ek anek biaapak poorak jatt dekho tatt soee... (sggs 485).

Unfortunately, we do not know our own True Self. We consider ourselves a limited and perishable entity, which leads us to identify with the body-mind-intellect apparatus. This wrong self-identity with the limited becomes bondage, which makes one extremely selfish. In other words, so long the false "I-ness" is up and active, man only deals with selfishness and evil; causing one to suffer in doubts.

Love and Truth, thus, remain alien to those of us who follow the path of worldly desires and fear (attachment of the flesh); for they want something of the sense-world in exchange for their worldly love. The scriptures thunder that pure Love and Truth cannot grow out of such mundane bargaining. The reason there is so much hatred, violence, intolerance, bigotry, and corruption in religious, political, and social life in the world is that, in utter selfishness, the majority of us serve only our senses. We use our mind, body, and wealth for selfish and unworthy purpose. In other words, our so called Love for God or mankind is self-centered; which is an indication of man's small mindedness (ego personified individuality), or one's bondage to ignorance or duality.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਸੇਵਾ ਜੋ ਕਰੇ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥ ਪੁਤੁ ਕਲਤੁ ਕੁਟੰਬੁ ਹੈ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਵਧਾਇ ॥: Manmukh sevaa jo karae doojai bhaai chit laai. Putt kalat kattamb hai Maya mohu vadhaai: The Manmukh may perform service (ਸੇਵਾ), (but while doing so, he) keeps his consciousness attached to the love of duality (not One God). Through Maya, his attachment to children, spouse and relatives increases (sggs 1422).
  • ਸਾਸਤੁ ਬੇਦੁ ਨ ਮਾਨੈ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਆਪੋ ਆਪੈ ਪੂਜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: Saasatu bedu n maanai koi. Aapo aapai poojaa hoi: No one cares for scriptures (Shaashtras, Vedas, etc.), and each person is worshipping himself (sggs 951).
  • ਪਲਚਿ ਪਲਚਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਮੁਈ ਝੂਠੈ ਧੰਧੈ ਮੋਹੁ ॥: Palachi palachi sagalee muee jhoothai dhandhai mohu: Entangled and enmeshed in the love of false occupations, the whole world is perishing (sggs 133).
  • So long as you have an iota of self-love left within you, no beloved would pay any attention to you. Neither would you be worthy of union or would any beloved grant you admittance. One must become totally indifferent to the self and inimical to the world in order for the beloved to show his face (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

Also, mere physical ties cannot be called Love in the true sense of the term. One must love all with Godlike feeling. What it means is that one should not pause to think about fruits, rewards and recognition; for he must renounce the sense of doership that "I am serving so and so". Instead, he should develop the feeling that he is merely an instrument in God's hands, and his reward is in fact that He is using him in His grand scheme of things (Divine Play: Leelaa).A sincere and true devotee (Gurmukh) will exhibit this rare quality and practice Love without expecting anything in return, while living amidst life's happenings or Maya.

  • ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਤ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਹਕਾਮੀ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕਉ ਹੋਤ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਸੁਆਮੀ ॥: Sevaa karat hoi nihakaamee. Tis ko hot paraapat suaamee: One who performs selfless service, without thought of reward, will attain God (sggs 286).
  • What sort of Beloved is He? As long as a single hair of love for yourself remains, He will not show His Face... You must be completely repelled by yourself and the world (Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi).

Love (also called "Devotion", "Bhagti"...) thus should be pure, natural and spontaneous. Such Love is of the nature of direct and immediate experience of Divinity, providing Inner Light (Intuitive Wisdom) to those who wish to pass through and beyond darkness (ignorance). Absence of Love is darkness and irreligion!

All genuine paths lead to God provided the seeker's faith is sincere and wholehearted. Therefore, a true devotee only longs for the sincere Love of the All-pervading Reality (Mool, Jot, God, Allah, Ahura Mazda, Khudaa...), who is beyond mental speculations, descriptions, material logic, scholarship, notions, time, space, causation, precepts and concepts. To such a sincere devotee, no material or celestial comforts equal this Love; for he knows that Self is the fountain-source of lasting eternal Bliss.

However, as indicated in the scriptures, this Love is bestowed upon those who seek it; meaning that one's self-effort is very essential for Spiritual-Unfoldment. Without a Spiritual effort now nothing will change in the future. Clearly, religion does not promise an easy success, it only asks that one should put forward his best efforts.

  • ਸੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਿ ਜਿਤੁ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਮਹਿ ਏਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਜਾਗੈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: So kish kar jit mail na laagai. Har kirtan mahi eh manu jaagai ||1|| ||Rahaaou||: Make only those efforts by which the "filth" (fith of Bikaars: lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride and their countless variations) may not stick to your mind; and your mind remains awake (alert or aware of the pull of Bikaars) through the Lord's Kirtan (ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਸਿਫ਼ਤਿ-ਸਾਲਾਹ) ||1|| ||Pause|| (sggs 199).
  • The Bible emphasizes self-effort as follows: "Ask", "seek", and "knock".
  • If you continue in my Word, then you are my disciples: and you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free (Bible, John 31:32).
  • According to a legend, on the night of his spiritual awakening, the angel Gabriel said to Muhammad: "Recite in the name of the Lord the Creator."
  • All souls are equal. The only difference between you and me is that I made the effort. I showed God that I love Him, and He came to me. Love is the magnet from which God cannot escape.....Get busy and weed the garden of life (Paramahansa Yogananda).

But, in the pretext of false ego, instead of practicing the True Religion our minds foolishly follow deluded concepts, precepts, notions, ideas, mental speculations, descriptions and material logic only to corrupt the true religious philosophy. In other words, in accordance with our own body-bound inclinations, desires, fear or mindset, we use the religion for our own material, social, and political selfishness and personal idiosyncrasies. This creates havoc in the humanity and makes a mockery of religion, scriptures and Prophets. This is how the man forfeits all the merits of his deeds and religion.

  • ਛੋਡਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਸੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਪਰਾਲ ...: Shodi jaahi se karahi praal ...: You will have to abandon the straw which you have collected. These worldly entanglements will be of no use to you. You are in love with those things that will not go with you. You think that your enemies are friends. In such confusion, the world has gone astray. The foolish mortal wastes this precious human life. He does not like to see Truth and righteousness. He is attached to falsehood and deception; they seem sweet to him. He loves gifts, but he forgets the Giver. The wretched creature does not even think of death. He cries for the possessions of others. He forfeits all the merits of his good deeds and religion. He does not understand God's Hukam (Will or Command), and so he continues coming and going in reincarnation. He sins, and then regrets and repents. Whatever pleases You, Lord, that alone is acceptable. I am a sacrifice to Your Will. Poor Nanak is Your slave, Your humble servant. Save me, O my Lord (sggs 676).

Religion is Realization as to "who am I", man's relationship with God and the steps needed to reach Him. It's the pure Love that will lead man to this Goal. Thus, Spirituality simply means to "discover" oneself as to what is the purpose of one's birth. It is not merely reading scriptural texts, performing worship or rituals, visiting temples, going on pilgrimage, chanting hymns, singing religious songs or Kirtans, wearing peculiar clothes, building temples or undertaking any other so called noble activity.

The inner voice of Eternal Religion, the Soul-Nature, constantly and ecstatically whispers to us: "You are the master, you are my part-and-parcel, you are my true Image, you are Me and I Am you, you and I are one and the same, go Within and see Me there". Religion, thus, is Realization of supremacy over oneself and over the material world as well. Only Spiritually awakened and mature can grasp this simple Truth in all its nakedness!

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਖੋਜਿ ਲਹਹੁ ਘਰੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਆਤਮ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੫॥: Nanak khoji lahau ghar apnaa hari aatam raam naam paya ||5||: O Nanak, search and examine your own inner being, and attain the Supreme Soul (i.e., see the All-pervading Lord within), and the Lord's Name ||5|| (sggs 1039).
  • ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਟੋਲੈ ਸੋ ਭਰਮਿ ਭੁਲਾਹੀ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਜਿਨੀ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੋ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਜੀਉ ॥੧॥: Sabh kishu ghar mahi baahari naahee... (sggs 102).
  • He who perceives Me everywhere and beholds everything in Me never loses sight of Me, nor do I ever lose sight of him. That yogi stays forever in Me, who, anchored in divine unity whatever his mode of existence, realizes Me as pervading all being (Gita 6:30-31).

— T. Singh