By Sant Kirpal Singh, from the book "Spirituality – what it is", chapter 3
Remembrance of God is the main thing before us to find the way back to Him. The purpose of all devotional exercises, places of worship and pilgrimages is the same. The human body is the veritable temple of God.
There is one and only one common objective of the various forms of devotion as prescribed in different scriptures: How to love the Lord and how to realise Him. Various writers, in different times and in different climes, have in their own way pointed out this path leading to God. It may be likened to a game of archery, in which so many archers participate and discharge their arrows at the common target. An Indian saint said, "Each one in his own way talks to us of his own beloved. O Rajab! the target is one but the archers are countless."
In the holy Quran (Surat Nahal-5th Raku) it is mentioned that from time to time different forms of worship were introduced by God-sent Master-souls according to the needs of the age in which they lived. Omar Khayyam, a great Persian Sufi poet, discloses, "The temples and the mosques, or the churches and the synagogues, are alike for the worship of God. The gong and conch perpetually produce therein rapturous strains of the music of life. The arch in the mosques, the cross in the churches, the altar in the temples and the lamp in the synagogues are just different symbols for the worship of the divine beloved.
God cannot be realised outside oneself, even in the holy places of worship, no matter what their denomination might be. To realise Him, one has to enter into the laboratory of the human body which in the truest sense of the word is the temple of God. Real worship and devotion are purely internal and mental processes, unconnected with and independent of any and everything outside the human frame. All that is required is purity of mind. With an ethical background, one can worship God anywhere under the blue sky, for the whole world is a vast temple of God, and there is no place without Him, including the specific places of worship described above. In fact, wheresoever devotion kneels in humility, that place becomes sanctified.
In the holy Quran (Albukar) it is mentioned, "All the universe is His. Turn wheresoever one may, East or West, one would face God, for He is both omnipresent and omniscient.' Again, "For the ignorant, God lives only in man-made temples, mosques or churches, but the really awakened find Him only within themselves – the God-made temple of the human body."
Al-Nisaee Sahib affirmed, "For me the whole world is a holy mosque; wherever the fixed time of prayer comes up, my followers may perform their prayers then and there."
All is holy where devotion kneels. – H. O. Wendell
Maghrabi Sahib tells us, "Thy beloved is within thee but thou art ignorant of it and goest to find Him without, from place to place. To go to a mosque in search of one who is the very soul of thy soul, is nothing short of tragic waste of time. The ignorant bow down before a mosque, while the wise are engaged in purifying the mind, which is the throne of God Himself." The former is just sham and tinsel, and the latter is the actual reality.
The true Kaaba or the altar of worship is, therefore, the Satguru – a personality in whom the light of God shines. Tulsi Sahib says, "Woe be to thee, O indweller of the God-made mosque, for thou goest for worship to the man-made temple." Kabir Sahib also speaks thus, "As Kabir proceeded on a pilgrimage to Mecca, God met him on the way and He reprimanded him and sternly enquired as to who told him that He was there and not here." Guru Amar Dass said, "This body is the veritable temple of God. In it alone shines the light of God." (Parbhati M.3). Christ also stated, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you." (I Corinthians 3:16.) And again, "Ye are the temple of the living God." (II Corinthians 6:16.)
Hafiz of Shiraz spoke in the same terms, "The object of my going to the temple or the mosque is to unite with thee, O Lord! Except this, there is no other idea in it." Again he maintained, "Say not that Kaaba is better than a temple. In fact, that place alone is the best where one may witness the glory of his beloved."
Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, clearly puts it down thus: "There is no difference between a dera and a mosque, between Puja (Hindu way of worship) and Namaz (Mohammedan form of prayer), as both serve the same purpose. All mankind are one and the same and the idea of diversity is but a myth. The same God has created the angels and the spirits, as also the Turks and the Hindus, and in fact, men of all denominations. The outer variety in mankind is the result of physiological conditions prevailing in the various parts of the world. Yet all of them are on the same pattern, with similar eyes, ears, bodies, and their physical structure is made out of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. Allah of the Moslems and Alekh of the Hindus are the names of the same entity. The Puranas and the Quran speak of Him alone."
In fact all religions extant on earth point to the same reality. In all scriptures it is said that a search for Him in the outside world is of no avail, and it is only through the grace of a Master or the Guru that the Lord is made manifest within. All places of worship, wherever these may be, are made of water and clay. When God is omnipresent, why need one seek Him in temples and mosques alone? He is right within us, nay, is the very soul of our soul and we live and have our being in Him. But this truth dawns only when a Sant-Satguru (Master-soul) helps in bringing it home to us through actual experience.
Where shall I go, when I see His glory within?
The mind saturated in Him has no distractions.
One day greatly obsessed, I prepared a sandal paste,
And started for the abode of Brahma,
when the Master told me that He dwelt
in the folds of the mind."
Wherever I go, I see houses of water and clay;
And yet I see Thee in fullness in everything.
I have searched for Thee in the Vedas and the Puranas,
and all scriptures repeat the same.
Why should I wander elsewhere when Thou art right here?"
O Satguru! I would like to make a holocaust of myself at Thy feet,
For Thou hath saved me from all delusions and snapped all bonds,
Ramanand now lives and rests in Brahma,
The word of the Master burns to ashes myriads of karmas. – Basant Ramanan
Guru Arjan stated, "Some address Him as Ram and some as Khuda. Some call Him Gosain and others Allah. He is the Kaaran and Karim or the Kirpa Dhar Rahim. He is the creator giving out merciful glances all the world over. Some go for a bath to the sacred rivers, while others go for a Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Some worship Him and some bow their heads in silent adoration. Some engage in the study of the Vedas and some read sacred books of other religions. Some put on white raiments and some the blue apparel. Some are called Hindu and others Turk. But O Nanak! one who has known His will (by becoming a conscious co-worker with Him), he alone may know the mystery of God." -Ramkali M.5
The sacred lore of the Hindus is in Sanskrit or in Hindi, and that of the Mohammedans, in Arabic or in Persian. Guru Granth Sahib of the Sikhs is in Punjabi, while the Bible of the Christians is in Hebrew, Greek, Latin and English. The various expositions, the commentaries and annotations of these are in the different languages that were in common vogue at one time or another. Alt these scriptures, whatever their language (for language counts not with God), simply serve the purpose of creating in us a desire, a yearning, a craving, a longing and love for God. They are the means and not the end, for God is an unwritten law and His is an unspoken language. He is beyond all tongues, for none can reach Him. No particular tongue has any special merit, for it is just a vehicle of expression and nothing else, so that one may narrate and listen to the loving stories of God. Hafiz therefore beautifully indicates:
O Hafiz! in the matter of love, there is no difference between Turkish and Arabic or other languages.
The tales of love may be narrated in any of the languages that may be known to thee.
The various peoples of the different lands are just like so many sons of the same father and flowers of the same garden, though gifted with different colours and fragrance. Living in the lap of the same dame nature and under the same blue canopy, we have narrowed ourselves through petty prejudices and short-sighted vision, into various religious sects and orders. Religion, as the word literally implies, is a 'way-back' or re-linking with the source. Instead of vouchsafing liberation, religion has, like the proverbial 'blanket-bear,' taken hold of us in its iron grip, from which it is not possible to escape.
To explain the proverbial expression 'blanket-bear': A bear was swimming down a river, when a man standing on the bank mistook it for a blanket, and jumped into the water to fetch it out. But when he caught hold of it he discovered his mistake, and when he wanted to swim back, he could not do so, for the bear had caught hold of him instead in his strong grip and would not let him go. Those standing on the side of the stream asked him to come back. He said he would like to come back, but the blanket-bear would not let him go. Such is the condition in which the people of the workaday world are drifting these days. The awakened one revolt at this sad state of affairs. When both the mosque and the temple constitute the house of God and are lighted by the light of God, why should there be so much bother about them?
The object of worship in a temple or in a mosque, or in any other religious place, is to find out the same beloved. When, in spite of apparent differences in form, shape and colour, two stones, if struck together, produce the same sparks, it is strange that two different types of worshippers fail to produce the same result. It is simply because neither of them has understood real worship.
All religions have as their ideal, self-knowledge and God-realisation, but in the very name of their respective religions, the Brahmans and the Sheikhs (the religious heads of the Hindus and the Mohammedans) and the heads of other sects – all preach hatred and ill will against one another.
The institution of paid preachers has in these days converted religious centres into commercialised markets with stock-in-trade of falsehood, hypocrisy and deceit. Truth, faith and devotion have been banished from them. True lovers of God, therefore, dissociate themselves from such a horrible state of things.
Bulleh Shah pathetically describes this sad state of affairs of his time as "Dharamshalas (places of worship) serve as entrepots for the swindlers, and Thakur-Dwaras (houses of God) as houses for the thugs and cheats. Mosques shelter merciless butchers, while the true lovers of God stand apart from all these."
The seeds of enmity and hatred between man and man are sown by the very people who themselves are victims of stark ignorance. Pandora-like, they know not what mischief they unleash into the world by their thoughtless utterances. Such persons are styled in the scriptures as Manmukh, or the mouthpiece of the mind, for they do things thoughtlessly and their actions are all steeped in and saturated with selfish greed. Their tongues wag, cutting deep chasms right and left into the very vitals of the people, and injecting poison into the depths of their minds. Whosoever comes into contact with them and drinks of their words, not only catches the infection of discord and inharmony, but becomes blood-thirsty towards his own kith and kin. Mohammedans call such persons Kafirs (heretics).
The sole object of such Manmukhs (slaves of the mind) or Kafirs (heretics) is to ingratiate themselves into name and fame, to trample down the legitimate rights of others, with a view to amassing for themselves ill-gotten gains, and to possess pelf and power which do not really belong to them.
As opposed to Manmukhs or Kafirs, there are the Gurmukhs (or the mouthpiece of Guru). They are the prototype of philanthropy and the reservoirs of love, shedding the beneficent light of love around their fellow beings. They recognise the essential unity of all humanity embedded as it is in the root cause of God. Islam calls such people 'Momins.' "They have regard and respect not only for the prophet of Islam but for the prophets of all other religions whose names have been mentioned in the Quran, as also for those whose names have not been mentioned therein." They see the essential unifying link that runs through all, and do not look to the seeming differences in non-essentials.