A map is not the destination, a plan is not the house, a sign-post is not the town – similarly, religion is not God. A map, a symbol or a plan has to be read and understood. The plan for a building cannot be read by anyone save an expert, an architect, engineer or contractor. Religion, too, is like a map which has to be read and understood. The map of religion is read and explained by an enlightened being.
An enlightened being is one who has known the truth that man, God and the Universe are three aspects of one reality, thus he is part and parcel of the Divine. His inner nature is Pure Consciousness filled with love, silence, bliss and infinite other virtues. The enlightened being knows that his centre is immortal and free from all forms of sorrow, though it resides in a mortal body. And because he is enlightened, he knows how to read the map that is called religion and also how to make use of it. These days, an enlightened being is a rare gem.
Religion has two aspects: the gross and the subtle. Symbols, parables, scriptures, rites and rituals reflect the external and gross form of religion. They are concrete, while inner divine feelings, prayer, worship, devotion and other experiences constitute the abstract and subtle form of religion. Enlightenment, or the experience of Truth or God, is beyond all these. Therefore, I maintain that God is not religion. By understanding religion correctly, we can take the right direction which leads to God. A very grave situation has taken hold of man: he has mistaken the map for the destination. It is the greatest delusion that has encroached upon his mind. No wonder man himself is responsible for this state of affairs. Therefore, the solution to the problem, too, is within himself.
Buddha has rightly put it when he says, “I am pointing to the moon, but you are looking at my finger!” A sign-post points towards a destination, it is not the destination. It is only a fool who will say by looking at an arrow which points towards a particular direction, “I have found the village or the town.” To behold the moon, it is important to look beyond the finger. Similarly, it is important to go beyond religion to attain God. Use religion as a means, then transcend it. We have got stuck with the means, the end is utopia for us. The situation is so critical that even if we realise the illusion in which we are, we are not ready to make the necessary effort to get out of it. So much so that when someone who has attained tries to teach us the truth, we revolt against him. In some cases, he can even be nailed to the cross.
Nearly all religions of the world advocate pilgrimage to a sacred place. Though this is an invitation for a journey to the inner world, people go elsewhere to perform the same rites and rituals mechanically. For example, in some religions, the devotee goes seven times round the temple without even questioning the symbolism which underlies such a rite. Man has seven layers of his being. Going round the temple is, in fact, meant to remind him that now he is on the first rung of the ladder but the purpose of his life is to attain the seventh sky within him.
But man is so engrossed in his dream-world owing to his mind which is 95.5% unconscious, that he blindly performs the religious practices without understanding and awareness. This, however, does not imply that religion has to be looked down upon. Instead, we have to go deeply into it through study, reflection and learning under the guidance of an enlightened being so as to gain the key to open the inner door.
To behold the moon, it is important to look beyond the finger. Similarly, it is important to go beyond religion to attain God.
But man is so engrossed in his dream-world owing to his mind which is 95.5% unconscious, that he blindly performs the religious practices without understanding and awareness.
God is not religion. By understanding religion correctly, we can take the right direction which leads to God. A very grave situation has taken hold of man: he has mistaken the map for the destination.