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Religion: Blessing or a Curse
The Unquestioned Answer
Quintessence of Life



We usually hear from the so-called religious people that there is a God who has created this universe and human beings are here to worship Him. Also, good people will be sent to heaven and bad people to hell. According to these people, God the Creator is separated from His creation, hence, there is always a distance between the human beings and God. Consequently, people go to their places of worship with this attitude. Here some questions arise like if this is the way God exists then how can a prayer be possible? This is because such people will always be afraid of God; while prayer arises out of love and one cannot love while he is afraid. Another question relates to sins because if there is a devil then ultimately God is the cause of sins. If He had not created the devil, there would have been no sins. If God is Compassionate then there can be no justification for the creation of devil.

However, there is another group of people who are found almost in every religion. These people have been called by different names in different religions but their teachings are the same. They understand religious scriptures through their hearts and not from their heads. They do not make an object of God. According to them, God does not exist somewhere on the top of the sky rather He exists everywhere. In other words, Creator is not separated from its Creation. It has been said in the Quran: "God is the light of heavens and earth."

This Quranic verse clearly says that the Creation viz. heavens and earth are not separated from its Creator. To elaborate it further, one knows that light is not only a source of life rather it also exposes existence, hence whatsoever exists is visible only due to presence of light. It is just like saying
"Sun is the light of the day" indicating that 'sun' is very much present in the 'day'. In fact 'sun' and 'day' are not two but one. The Hindus represent God Shiva as a dancer - NATRAJ that reflects the idea that this changing universe is nothing but the different movements of God. One knows that dance cannot be separated from a dancer. As long as dancer is dancing, dance is coming out. One cannot conceive a dance without a dancer. This reflects the same understanding that the Creator and the Creation are one! This is why Buddha never talked about God directly because to talk about something is to confine it in words and make an object of it, instead he used indirect methods to cultivate an understanding of the Universal Consciousness or God. Though later religious beings like Moses, Christ and Muhammed (peace be upon them) started talking about God, but it was for the teaching of their disciples so that they could approach reality with a single-mindedness, otherwise God is not such a presence which could be talked about! God is just 'HU'-- not visible yet pervades everything, cannot be pinpointed yet everywhere. It is said in the Quran “God is nearer to you even from your jugular vein”. Such a presence cannot be talked about! It is like saying '‘a river’ where we try to convey a flowing thing through a frozen word. The word ‘river’ actually means ‘rivering’ because the water is continuously changing. Since, mind cannot create specific words for such phenomena; frozen words are created just to develop an understanding - a thirst for the real meaning.

Buddha was passing through a forest with his chief disciple Ananda. Due to autumn, the path was covered with fallen leaves. While walking, Ananda asked from Buddha whether he has delivered the whole message to his disciples or more needs to be conveyed. Buddha stopped there and picked up a handful of leaves and told Ananda that only this much message has been delivered out of all the fallen leaves in this forest. Buddha further said that, it is not that he does not want to say rather the nature of his teachings is such that more cannot be said!

Such a teaching requires a different medium of communication, which is beyond physical senses. This medium can never be perceived by looking away from oneself, rather one needs to understand self, which is the key to understanding all.

There is a saying of Hazrat Ali (KAW):‘Whosoever has recognized himself has recognized God’. This saying becomes meaningful only, when no distinction is made between the Creator and the Creation. Only, then an understanding of the self can be regarded as an understanding of God.
At this point, one may think that if the Creator and the Creation are one then what is the point of worship, heaven or hell, good or bad?
What is the need to understand oneself? In a sense, it is true as Zen masters say that to realize oneself is like selling water by the river. In Indian scriptures, it is said, "It is putting legs on a snake to help him walk." The following Sufi poem reflects the same point of view:

How can a beggar become a Sultan?
Bah! How can a fly become Solomon?
How can this beggar become the Sultan?
When he already is the Sultan?
Bizarre, Bizarre and rare indeed
Since one is the same as the other
How can this become that?

The problem arises because a person exists in his mind and mind always divides. This feeling of separation from others makes a person more egoistic with time and unless he drops his ego, he cannot realize his real self i.e. God. An allegory can be given here that although the reality of a drop and ocean is water but a drop is a drop and an ocean is an ocean. To become an ocean, a drop has to dissolve in ocean i.e. a drop has to come out from the form of the drop. Although the whole tree is hidden inside the seed but a seed must die to give birth to a tree. This is the whole problem as when a person is born, society starts to condition him according to its way. He is given a name and he starts considering himself as the name. He starts recognizing himself through the eyes of others. This conditioning is so strong that he even wants to understand God according to his own learning from the society. In other words, his search for the God is to confirm his own pre-conceptions about the God. This is why, when a philosopher came to Raman Maharishi - a Hindu spiritual master and told him that he had come from Germany just to learn from him. Maharishi answered, “Then go somewhere else because here we teach unlearning.” This has always been a problem with the man; that he has tried to understand religious scriptures with his conditioned mind, hence
so many different religions. The following anecdote by Maulana Rumi reflects the same idea:
‘Four people were given a piece of money. The first was a Persian. He aid, ‘I will buy with this some angoor’. The second was an Arab. He said, ‘No, because I want inab’. The third was a Turk. He said, ‘I do not want inab, I want uzum’. The fourth was a Greek. He said, ‘I want stafil’. Because they did not know what lay behind the names of things, these four started to fight. They had information but no knowledge. One man of wisdom could have reconciled them all as such a man could know that each in his own language wanted the same thing, grapes.

To them, a person must drop his conditioned mind, which is responsible for the development of his conventional self, only then can he realize his real self. They say, unless a person becomes one with his true self, he will not feel contented rather lead a miserable or dull life. The celebration in his life will be missing even if he is a King as he himself keeps on creating hell under the influence of his ego. There is a Sufi story:
A man’s boat was capsized in an extremely cold weather. He ended up in an island where food was not a problem, but freezing temperature was unbearable. While shivering and trying to create fire, he started remembering God for help. He even desired hellfire so that he could get rid of the extreme cold weather. An angel appeared out of nowhere and carried that shivering man to the hell.
To his surprise, there was no fire to be experienced in the hell rather it appeared as cold as the island was! He told the angel that this could not be the hell as there was no fire. The angel replied, “This is hell, but everyone brings his own fire.

 Ego can never have a feeling of fulfillment as it works like a begging bowl, which can never be filled, even with all the worldly treasures. Ego divides and this division results in selfishness, jealousy, hatred etc., because if a person magnifies 'me', he will try to make himself superior to others consciously or unconsciously. The word 'person' is significant here. It has come from a root 'persona'. In ancient days, Greek actors used to wear masks according to their roles in the drama while hiding their original faces. These masks were known as 'persona'. Actually, this is what a 'person' is! His personality consists of different masks for different situations without knowing who the real person is!
A Russian mystic Gurdjieff has rightly said,
‘A person is like a house where no one knows who the host is!’
To see oneself in its reality, one requires a certain level of understanding, which usually comes through meditation, where one is able to encounter oneself in a most natural way. He is able to see his so-called extra-ordinary personality in an ordinary way. This is possible only when one has gone beyond the self-imposed artificial masks (persona). Consequently, he develops an attitude of compassion towards his fellow beings as his individuality (original face) rather than personality (masks) reflects others as mirror with no feeling of superiority over them. This is why Bokujo - a Zen Master said to one of his disciples to look for his original face - the face which he had before birth and would have after death. This saying reflects the same point of view where masks are to be negated for the original face, only then the truth is found. This truth which reveals itself after the negation of masks is the real self which is God. As, when Mansoor Hallaj (RA) uttered, ‘Anal Haq’ i.e., ‘I am the truth’, it was not the voice of his ego rather the reality asserted itself in and out of him. Another event of the similar nature took place when, at the time of crucifixion, Pontius Pilate asked the Christ, ‘What is the Truth?’, Christ kept quiet. He again asked and again the Christ did not speak. In fact, this was the answer that Truth cannot be said! Truth is the being of Christ and not the words he said. Hence, Truth is the presence of the Realized Being. Just as Truth is deathless and omnipresent, Realized Beings always exist in the world so that one lighted candle kindles many other candles. Now the question arises, when truth is beyond words, what is the purpose of religious scriptures, which are full of words? They say, religious scriptures are here to create thirst for the truth enabling a person to see the limitations of his personality in the mirror of teachings imparted through these words.
It is not that this realization is only for some special people, rather each one of us has a potential ready to be tapped upon as the reality of each and everything is one.

Fakhruddin Iraqi (RA) has said:
That magic spring that gives eternal life
Is in your heart
but you have blocked its flow
Likewise, to them, worship does not mean a distant relationship between God and the worshipper rather it is a way to recognize one’s reality. This point of view is very much based on the following Hadith:

‘God was a hidden treasure; He loved to be recognized; hence created the Universe’.

This Hadith clearly says that the purpose of Creation is none other than the recognition of God. Since, they see Creator and Creation as one; recognition of one’s reality means the same thing as the recognition of God.
Although, they observe all the outward religious practices but their attitude is different. They do not demand anything from God.

‘A young child's doll was broken. As she cried over the tiny pieces, she said to her brother, “I am going to pray to God to put the pieces together”.
“Do you expect God to answer your prayer?” he asked.
“You will see that God will answer” she predicted.
A few hours later, when the brother returned, he asked her, “Well, has God answered?”
“Yes”, she replied, pointing to the pieces. “He said, No!”.

In the same way, they do not pray or visit holy places in the hope of getting into heaven or avoiding hell.

‘Once  Rabia Basri (RA) was going with a pail of water in one hand and a burning torch in the other. When people inquired about it, she replied, “I am going to burn the paradise with the torch and extinguish the hell fire with the water as people do not pray for God instead to earn paradise and to avoid hell.”

Such places rather provide them with a milieu saturated with an immaculate feeling of God. They feel surrounded by a fragrance of spiritual fulfillment.
As far as the presence of devil is concerned, it is a symbolic way of representing ego, which not only gives a feeling of separation from other human beings but also from God. To them, Adam is not a historical figure rather every human being is an Adam. An individual is born innocent like Adam living in the paradise, but with the development of ego, he tastes the fruit of separation, which brings all sorts of problems, and he loses his heaven. However, with trial and error, he restarts his journey towards his initial state because unconsciously he remembers his life of pure innocence. There is a story in the Bible that:

"Once there was a man who had two sons. One of these sons had turned out to be a rebel and left home while the other continued living with his father. After many years of separation he decided to come back. When his father heard the news, he arranged a great welcome home party where the whole city was invited. The other son felt a little bit jealous and asked his father, “how come you are celebrating for such a rebel son who had left you?” The father answered, “his absence for so long has aroused a great feeling of love and we are going to celebrate this occasion whole-heartedly?”

Needless to say, the father is God and the loyal son represents the nature consisting of rocks, plants, animals and angels etc. who are always following the given code of life. In other words, they are doing what they are programmed to do without digressing an inch from the given path. The rebel son is of course the human being.