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Book Five


E. Rohan Amerasekera

Third Edition

I Thank all those whose writings have helped me widen my outlook.



Man seeks to end suffering and reach happiness. Minor difficulties cause worry, anxiety and suffering to the less Intelligent. Minor difficulties are to them major problems. The lesser the knowledge and understanding, the greater the problems. The lesser the knowledge, the greater also are the misdeeds and wrong actions that invite suffering. "The human mind, when it does not perceive the pure, hankers after the impure." The wiser the man, the less he seeks the impure and the happier he is but he is only relatively happy. Unbounded happiness could not be achieved while there remains much that is unknown. Perfect happiness comes only with full knowledge. Religion is the way to end suffering through knowledge. We draw conclusions from existing knowledge. While knowledge remains incomplete, our conclusions must continue to change. Hence the knowledge and the conclusions on which our religious beliefs are based will change. The pursuit of knowledge continues. Religions go on changing with knowledge. Religion is capable of adjustment and expansion and must adjust, expand and broaden its outlook with knowledge. Religions grow by taking all the knowledge that has gone before and adding to it something more. Change can only be meaningless when we have solved all the mysteries of the universe, acquired all knowledge, and have reached perfection.


Existing beliefs, and indeed existing superstitions, are not easily removed in spite of scientific advances and Philosophic reasoning. We are too attached to dogma, rite and ritual. "The treasure that is the tradition clogs us with its own burdensome wealth and philosophy ceases to move and sometimes finds it hard to breathe," says Sri Radhakrishna. We resist change. It is in our very nature to resist change and other motives only increase our resistance. We are too attached to the positions we already enjoy to welcome change. Any change that takes us away from our positions or lessens our importance is naturally resisted. Also Religion is often exploited. He, that has other interests, finds a suitable interpretation in ancient sayings to justify a stand against change. He will quote that which suits him best without regard to the Circumstances under which a thing was said in the distant past. Religious teachings throughout the ages have been interpreted by people with different mental capacities and different mental sagacities. The ignorant follow those that offer hopes of a quick release from suffering or an overnight pardon for all past misdeeds. An immediate pardon for all misdeeds is attractive but disappointment leads to religious bewilderment and bedevilment.


Much of our religious confusion is due to our inability to understand why different teachers adopt different techniques; why they did not teach the same thing, in the same way, everywhere. It is this: Each nation has its own characteristic mentality, its particular intellectual bent. Religion and philosophy are human efforts to understand the problems of life. Hence human thought and effort are subject to the influences of race and culture. Religious leaders born and bred in such surroundings could not ignore these influences. Each adopted his approach to suit the understanding of the men amongst whom he lived. They often dressed the Truth in myths to suit the weak understanding of the majority. "Speak to men according to their mental capacities for if you speak all things to all men, some cannot understand you and fall into errors," said the Holy Prophet of Islam. Prophets and philosophers adopted their approach to suit the mental capacities of their audiences. The wisdom of Prophets and Philosophers alike enriched the world. Each added to spiritual progress. The Prophets gave commands and philosophers reason. The world as a whole benefited by it all. However, we have not yet reached the ultimate in knowledge. We are still in search of knowledge. We are still trying to grasp and realize the Infinite. "Man is a spiritual being," says Prof. Arnold Toynbee, "and history is groping for higher religion. Civilization exists only to give birth to higher religions," he says. New knowledge produces new thoughts and new thoughts bring new practices. New thoughts and practices replace the old and produce religions similar to and yet different from the old.


"If a man slaps you on one cheek, offer also the other," said Christ, and changed the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" notion of revenge. The Ten Commandments he reduced to two - Love thy God and love your neighbour as yourself. He chased from the temple the moneylenders who had turned the temple into a den of thieves. His actions were intended to cleanse and purify man and set him on the road to spiritual progress. The formation of a new religion was an unintentional result of his attack against the corrupt practices of the day. Christianity has its roots in the religions of Christ's era. Christ himself and his disciples came from the old faiths. Christianity is not a new concept but a transformation of the old. Christ tried to cleanse and remove corruption which brought religion to disrepute and a new religion was born. The origins of Hinduism are not known but the original philosophies are perhaps as old or older than any other. Several religions developed from them. Differences in interpretation, disagreements with practices or expansion in thought produced new sects or new religions. Buddhism is one such. The underlying truths remain the same but there are minor differences; differences which are natural to different intellects and natural to different environments. Buddhism has spread to far away countries with differences in climate, culture and habits. The practices of Buddhism have therefore to be as different as the peoples. The custom of removing footwear is a mark of respect when entering a shrine. In colder climates the removal of footwear is not always possible. If Buddhists in colder climates give up this custom a new sect based on this difference may come into being. We seek for ourselves pleasant conditions in which to train our minds; conditions that distract the mind and take away our concentration cannot help us. The mind has to be calm and serene. Anything that brings about that condition and leads it towards right thought and right action will be favoured. Congregations may help one and solitude another. We are all different in our likes, dislikes, ways and habits. A religion has to suit the individual or he will adopt a religion to suit himself. One cannot say that his ways are better than that of another nor can he say that his religion is the best. Every religion serves an important purpose. Each helps man to lead a better life. With such wide differences in the levels of intelligence and understanding, it is not possible to have one set of rules or one religion to satisfy all. Thus we have many religions. More will be born.


Much of our religious intolerance is due to our inability to understand the purpose of religion. Religion is needed to help us to be better men and women. Any faith or philosophy that helps an individual to be better is a good religion. A man may worship a stone if that helps him to be good even for an hour. Whether we agree with another's view or not is not important. What is important is that his faith or understanding should help him and your faith or philosophy should help you. You can explain your religious views to another if you wish but if he is satisfied with his own so should you be. "Different religions contain different aspects of truth which no single religion could fully express. We have therefore to be tolerant and receptive of other views. People merely talk of religion. They are not interested in practicing it, in living it. If Christians lived by the Sermon on the Mount, if the Buddhists followed the noble Eight Fold path, if the Muslims follow the teachings of the Prophet, and the Hindus shaped their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Lord, of Saints and Sages, there will be peace everywhere," said Sri Radhakrishna. Religious tolerance is a virtue that leads to progress. We must not only tolerate but also accept and actively encourage each and everyone heading for the Truth irrespective of the road he chooses to follow. Those who seek converts spread hatred. The man who says his religion is better than another begins a quarrel. He who criticizes another religion creates ill-feeling. Religion gains by the quality and not by the number of its adherents. Those who criticize other religions should have no place in any recognized religion. "Be not like the frog in a well. The frog in the well knows nothing bigger than its well. So are the bigots. They do not see anything better than their own creed," says Sri Ramakrishna." A man may believe what he likes to believe, and he may say 'I believe this' So far he respects the Truth. But because of his belief or faith, he should not say that what he believes is alone the truth, and everything else is false," said Lord Buddha. "Let there be no compulsion in religion," says the Prophet of Islam. "If thy Lord had pleased, verily all who are in the world would have believed together. Will those then force men to believe when belief comes only from God?" "If one religion be true then all the others also must be true, " said Swami Vivekananda. "We Hindus do not merely tolerate, we unite ourselves with every religion, praying in the mosque of the Mohammedan, worshipping before the fire of the Zoroastrian and kneeling to the cross of the Christian. We know that all religions alike, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, are so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite. So we gather all these flowers and binding them together with the cord of love make them into a wonderful bouquet or worship."


All Life and Energy is God. God is the Intelligence in Evolution. God is the Finest Vibration. God is Infinite. God is indivisible. God is one yet He is worshipped by different nations under different names. In different eras different races have produced seers, sages and prophets. Each saved a portion of the world from the evil effects of wickedness and rescued some from moral and spiritual destruction. Each seer, sage and prophet is a Messenger of the Universal Intelligence. Each nation is indebted to its moral, spiritual and religious ideal. Each one of them was a leader and law-giver to the people among whom he was born. Each was an Instrument of the Universal Intelligence sent to uplift and rescue mankind. The followers of one may not regard sages and saviours of others as equal to their own and may even think that theirs is the only one but this is pure fancy. God is Universal. God cannot be divided, limited or confined. He cannot belong to a caste, race, or country. He manifests himself among all nations wherever and whenever his manifestation is most needed. There is greatness in all manifestations of God in whatever country the manifestation takes place. Each belongs to the world and not to any particular nation. A Christian who seeks Divinity in Christ alone and does not know him when He comes in the form of Buddha, Krishna or Mohamed has not realized the Divinity of his own master. It is the same with others. An intelligent man should recognize his master when the master changes his clothes and appears in a different garb. A religious man should recognize Purity and Greatness in whatever form or in whatever country a Highly Evolved Being, a Spiritually Advanced Being, appears. "He is not truly religious who does not see unity and harmony among all prophets and incarnations of the Lord, because true religion lies, not in the profession of a creed nor in the belief in a certain set of doctrines and dogmas, but in the realization of the Eternal Truth, that one and the same Being manifests himself in and through a variety of forms under different names at various cycles of evolution."


Let us ignore the differences which are mainly in the rites and ritual and look at the similarities and the underlying principles of all religions. The Brotherhood of Man is accepted and practiced amongst the followers of the Prophet of Islam. "We all come from the same source and to the same source we return," is Brotherhood as expressed in Hinduism. "Love thy neighbour as thyself," is the Christian approach. Consideration and compassion for all are qualities held in high esteem by true Buddhists. The underlying principle in all these is the same. They all stress the Brotherhood of Man. Non-Violence is yet another similarity. Violence is not of religion but is a product of wicked minds. Violence to self is as bad as violence to others. Violence to self, even in the name of religion, is nothing but a positive expression of hatred. Though committed in the name of religion violence or acts breeding hatred and ill-will are against humanity. The other did it first is no excuse. His action belongs to him, your action belongs to you. Two wrongs don't make one right. The exercise of religious duties will not atone for a wicked mind, an abusive tongue, or an act of violence. Support for any cause is won through good actions, through good example, and not by abuse and violence. It is kindness that attracts kindness. Hatred attracts hatred and violence attracts violence. "No person has drunk a better draught than that of anger, which he swallows God's sake," and again "Adhere to those who forsake you; speak truth to your heart; do good to everyone that does ill to you," says the Prophet of Islam. "If a man slaps you on one cheek offer also the other," is the Christian expression of non-violence. Ahimsa or non-violence is a true Buddhist concept. All religions also stress the importance of knowledge and correct understanding. We seek knowledge to progress. We never let pride and prejudice come in the way of material progress. Then why should we let conceit and narrow views block spiritual progress. Ignorance is the cause of all religious quibbles; lack of knowledge and right understanding cause all our troubles. Our knowledge is limited, very limited. Lord Buddha conveyed only a fraction of the knowledge he had to us. We must resist the temptation to take the fraction as the whole. There are many things we do not know. The more we learn the more we realize how little we know. Hence, the more we learn, the more humble we become. It is knowledge that we seek. It is knowledge that is important and not its source. We look for the Truth everywhere. "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," says the Christian , "Enlightenment, the entire truth," says the Buddhist, "He who leaves home in search of knowledge walks in the path of God." "The ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr," says the Prophet. Like a thread that holds beads in a chain together a common ideal runs through all religions.


"A man cannot be a Muslim till his heart and tongue are so," said the Holy Prophet. This is true of each and every religion. The wrong use of the mind and tongue brings out the crusader and the fanatic. When two vain people meet there is friction and quarrel. Ignorance of one's own religion is perhaps the prime cause of trouble. Your religion expects you to show consideration for others, but you become a bigot and a fanatic. "He is not of us who sides with his tribe in injustice and he is not of us who summons others to aid him in aggression, and he is not of us who dies while assisting his tribe in tyranny," said the Holy Prophet. Bigots and fanatics are aggressors in the name of religion and are equally undesirable.


Groups of people profess different religions but no one accepts everything in every religion; we cannot be true to ourselves and yet swallow everything, myths included. Each person has a religion of his own, a religion just like the other but slightly, very slightly different. We may not admit it but this is so. We wish to belong to a group. We shout group slogans, sing group songs but each has his own mental reservations; within us we know that we are not quite the same, we know that inside each is different. There are as many religious as there are human beings. Therefore instead of looking for differences which are countless we should seek similarities and promote principles on which we all agree. Groups formed on mental capacities arid mental sagacities instead of birth or other area of demarcation would be more satisfying religion-wise. Spiritual growth would be much faster if such groups work together. The world as a whole could benefit if such groups work together. These will not be groups within each religion but groups of like thinkers from all religions. The most spiritually advanced in all religion will belong to the same group. They will have common grounds of understanding and will not look for differences to spread hatred. The group that practices religion with truthfulness, the truly spiritual in one religion, has a common bond and has great affinity to similar groups in other religions. It is the same with groups practicing religion with ulterior motives. There is a greater affinity and kinship between the truly spiritual of different religions than between them and those of coarser inclinations in the same religion; just as oil and water cannot mix, those practising religion within cannot mix with those that only indulge in displays. The two groups though professing to be of the same religion have nothing in common. They are not on the same frequency; they are strangers. Only in name do they belong to one religion. In the broadest sense there are only two religions in the world. The Good and the Bad fall into two broad religions. Man could belong to any religion, but he will be attracted only to kindred vibrations. The good will be attracted to Good, and Bad to Bad. "He is not of us who does not order that which is good and does not prohibit that which is bad," says the Prophet of Islam. It is the manner of practicing religion and not the religion that is important.


The earth is but a tiny speck in the vast Universe and God is the Universal Intelligence, the Universal Force, the Reality. All earthly religions seek God. God does not seek Himself. God has no religion but all religions lead to God. The ocean has no tributaries but all tributaries lead to the ocean. The ocean sustains the tributaries and the ocean needs the tributaries for its own sustenance. So it is with God and Man. All religions lead to God - all prayers, all worship through whomsoever they are offered, goes to the Infinite; goes to the all pervading Intelligence, vibrating near, in and through you. If we are devoted to Christ we shall go to him, and through him we shall realize God. If we are devoted to Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed or to any other, we shall realize God through that particular form and manifestation. The Infinite Intelligence will make itself known to each through his own chosen ideal. "Whosoever comes to me through whatsoever path, I reach him; all men are struggling in the paths which ultimately lead to me - the Infinite abode of Bliss and Love. "Spiritual expansion is quite independent of and different to religious expansion. Spiritual expansion is based on knowledge and right understanding. Those who understand spiritual values find no religious differences. They have no religious idiosyncrasies. In the spiritually minded there is only understanding. Spirituality is based on understanding of and sympathy with human nature. In it there is Love and Peace. In it there is Unity in Diversity.