The Tree of Knowledge
The Path of Pure Love
It is common to find, at religious discourses, followers of one guru or faith criticizing those of other faiths because they think that their own philosophy is far superior. They tend to assess the learnedness or otherwise of a teacher according to the number of disciples and ashrams he has. If those who profess being spiritual seekers behave in this manner, what can we expect from lesser mortals? Why is it so difficult for us to respect the right of others to follow any teaching or teacher of their choice? No one who claims loyalty to any faith that advocates compassion, tolerance and understanding can afford to ignore these tenets.
“Few, among thousands of men and women, strive for perfection; and a few perchance, among the blessed ones striving thus, know Me in reality,” said Krishna to Arjuna in the Gita (7.3). Too many of us are preoccupied with unearthing details of when Krishna was born and when he actually delivered the Gita. We are more interested in knowing what Jesus looked like, and whether he really got resurrected. We tend to get ensnared in irrelevant details, and we begin to lose sight of the wood for the trees.
Few love God unconditionally. Ramakrishna would tell the story of some men who went into a mango orchard. They began counting the leaves, twigs and branches, examining their colour, comparing their size, and then proceeded to argue about who was right. The most sensible among them began eating the fruit. Similarly, a truly spiritual person is not bothered about the history or geography of God; he simply yearns for God, he is not as keen to memorise the Gita’s verses as he is to follow its teachings.
Ramakrishna Paramhansa did not spend time reading the scriptures. He advised all seekers to ‘eat the mangoes’, leaving it to the learned to pore over the details. He knew from personal experience that God could be reached via any path. He found God by following the various paths of the Hindu faith, including the Vaishnava, Shaiva and Tantric paths. He discovered the beauty of Christ and Mohammed by learning about them. At the end of each path God was there, waiting for His beloved devotee. The only qualification needed was Pure Love.
A true devotee, no matter which faith he believes in, goes through the equivalent of a crucifixion. Jesus was crucified, Meera was tortured by her in-laws, Prahlada was terrorized by his father, Kabir was ridiculed by society, Namdeva was labelled mad, Tulsidas was threatened by the upper caste and Socrates was given poison to drink. No one was spared. The Lord demands complete surrender. He resides in our hearts. But only the pure are allowed into this sacred space, and that’s why we need the guidance of a hallowed sadhguru.
Ramakrishna said that the heart was like God’s living room. So we need to keep it clean. Ramana Maharshi explained that to seek true consciousness, you must concentrate on the heart, which is the seat of consciousness – or we could say it is consciousness itself. The heart is another name for reality, he said, and this is neither inside nor outside the body.
Loving God results in ‘rising’ rather than ‘falling’ in love. Your vision gradually begins to encompass entire humankind, all living beings and inert matter as well. You become One with That. Loving an earthly being means possessiveness, and this is restrictive. That’s why you ‘fall’ in love. Loving God, however, enables us to love all. This way, you can achieve ultimate oneness of existence or Brahman.
The key to inter-faith harmony, according to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, lies in education – a multi-cultural education that encourages pluralism. Right education is that which creates a reverence for diversity in nature and a sense of belonging with the whole world. Opening up a child’s mind to respecting other religions, bringing up a child in a world that encourages human values like a sense of oneness with others, trust and compassion is the sustainable solution. When children understand that human values exist in all the great traditions; when children glimpse the humanity of believers of other faiths; and when children know that truth is expressed outside their own religion, then narrow-mindedness, the root of terrorism, will not survive.
Every child should know a little bit about all the different cultures, civilizations, faiths in the world. Then they will live in harmony, and let others live together as one family. The world as one family – we are all part of that one family. When there is wisdom, even though there are different viewpoints, there will be no conflict. Wisdom always views reality from various different angles. Honoring the diversity, finding unity in it, is wisdom. Celebrating diversity in oneness and finding unity in diversity are the two main aspects of wisdom. The only way to get rid of fanaticism in the world is through education that is broad-based, multi-cultural and multi-religious, so that a child growing up does not think that only the Bible, the Gita or only the Koran holds the truth. Then multi-cultural education takes hold, especially amongst the young and religious leaders, then future harmony is assured.
Muslim children are in Buddhist monasteries, and Buddhist children are housed in Hindu temples or churches. All religious places of worship have housed everybody as humans. We must know that we belong to one universal spirit first, and then we are human. When this basic identity is forgotten, we will continue to face the problems that we are facing today.
“Spirit loves diversity. There is not just one type of fruit, one type of people, or one type of animal in this world. Spirit loves diversity so let’s not confine the spirit to a uniform. Let’s enjoy the diverse variety of creation by honoring them all, respecting and really loving them. We used to use the term “religious tolerance”. I think that these words have become obsolete now. You tolerate only that which you don’t love. Don’t you think so? The time has come to love each other’s religions as one’s own.” Non-violence, friendliness and cooperation must come to be recognized as the new norm, as hallmarks of today’s true hero. Moreover, a sense of pride must be kindled in connection with these qualities, instead of with violence and aggression.
Progressive times require a new indoctrination – one that raises human values above everything else and promotes the oneness of humanity
Source: Excerpts from Peace and Reconciliation in South Asia: Challenges and Opportunities, Oslo (Apr 2008), Vedanta-Buddhism: Towards Global Peace (Feb 2008), World Congress of Imams and Rabbis (Jan 2005), the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders (Aug 2000) and the Universal Declaration of Human Values (Mar 2007)
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