By Sant Kirpal Singh, from the book "Spirituality – what it is", chapter 5
Religion, far from being a manual of spiritual truths, is nowadays conceived to be the study of scriptures, epics and biographies of ancient sages; the inferential, needed knowledge about the existence of God, dissertations and expositions of the various schools of thought as propounded by philosophers in different times and in different climes. Some people are engaged in reconciling the new thought with the old, while others lay stress upon the rules of social conduct and ethical principles as the be-all and end-all of religion. The so-called and self-styled leaders of religious thought are engaged in shouting about the importance of one or the other tenets to which they tenaciously cling. Still others consider that salvation can be had by blind faith in the ancient Master-souls who have already played out their respective roles and have left this sub-lunary planet hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago. Each one of these is so zealous in his own way that he has lost sight of the real truth, and the result is religious bigotry, persecution, inquisitorial courts, pillory, burning at the stake – and the worst of it is that all this is done in the blessed name of religion.
Religion, in fact, is the way back to God or linking the soul with Oversoul. It is the way, the path, that should lead the soul to God. But alas! through narrow prejudices, befogged understanding and petty-mindedness, it is now considered enough that one should conform to the observance of certain rites and rituals, performance of deeds of merit, wearing of particular type of apparel, keeping certain distinctive marks on the body, and following various rules of social conduct from birth till death, or reciting specific mantras and chanting verses on particular occasions.
While the whole world is busy with outer pursuits of one kind or another, the Kingdom of God lies neglected within – a lost province – and no one turns towards it. The Master-Souls point to this Kingdom, and the scriptures also speak of it in unambiguous terms. But owing to a dearth of practical persons who have realised the Truth by transcending the bodily and mental limitations, the Reality has slipped through our grasp. Religion, in the true sense, has lost its significance and has become encrusted with a mass of ceremonial and ritualistic verbiage.
There is hardly a person who can tell us of the way within the body, the method of approach to it, the prerequisites for the aspirants, and above all, be an unerring and a sure guide on the way, from plane to plane, until the goal is reached. On the contrary, many teachers who every, day cross us by the multitude, cannot help us to get out of the grand delusion. They simply ask us to pin our faith to the teachings of one or other of the ancient sages, but cannot instruct us about the way whereby those sages realised the Truth and how we can do likewise. Or else they declare that one or the other of the scriptures is a direct revelation from God, and prescribe its study as a course of discipline for the soul, little knowing that a mere record of the spiritual experiences of their authors cannot give us the benefit of the same unless we are able to make those experiences our own. The scriptures may tell us of the way out and may even describe the spiritual journey, but they cannot actually put us on the path, resolve our doubts and take us from plane to plane — all of which lies far beyond the scope of words; nor can they save us from the pitfalls and dangers that lurk on the way. Learned as they are, they can quote scriptures in support of what they allege, but are utterly lost when it comes to practical training and guidance required for self-realisation and God-realisation, of which they are as ignorant as are their audience or their followers.
The truth is that unless a person, in full consciousness, can link his soul with Oversoul or God, all his deeds and acts (individual or social), howsoever meritorious in themselves, cannot be of much avail to him. God is the ocean of utmost and restful silence. So long as we cannot have this restful silence within us, the soul cannot listen to the voice of silence arising out of the greatest depths of silence. By following that voice we can reach the source and fountainhead of the great silence called God, and be blessed forever. This grand silence is the reality, the unchangeable permanence, the truth or God, call it whatever we may. It can be realised and experienced by the individual soul but cannot be comprehended by the mind or the intellect, limited as these are by time, space, causation, etc., working in the outer world, characterized by these alone. One may bathe in the limitless ocean within, but cannot, even by flights of fancy, have any idea of it.
One cannot comprehend Him through reason, even if one reasoned for ages,
One cannot achieve inner peace by outward silence,
Not though one sat dumb for ages. – Jap Ji: St.1
While confined in the sensual plane, we cannot experience God. Only when we transcend the senses, the mind and the intellect, far beyond the physical, the mental and the causal planes, can we have the realisation of the grand beatitude.
Exalted is the Lord, and exalted His abode,
More exalted is His holy Word.
He who reaches His height,
He alone may glimpse Him. – Jap Ji: St.24
It is only with the wings of love and devotion that we can reach God, and not by intellectual wrestlings and flights of imagination. By constant practice we have to acquire, in the first instance, a state of pure consciousness, untrammeled by vacillations of the mind and thought currents, which are constantly and imperceptibly breaking in upon the soul and restricting it to their grasp alone. Spiritual life means a union of the soul with Oversoul. It is not an intellectual subject, although that is a stepping-stone or a means to an end.