Religions and People of the Book
All religions that exist today are based on books, which people call scriptures. Some religions have many books. Most of those who call themselves religious are followers of the precepts and knowledge as they appear in the scriptures. Many people know verses, commandments and written prayers by heart and at times they even quote them to support their arguments in religious matters. Books are made of paper, ink and words, then why do people give much more importance to them rather than to God or Truth Itself?
Any rational person will understand that truth or its experience has to do with the individual, not with books or the words that are contained therein. All religions of the past and the present have originated through a prophet or an enlightened master. Besides, there have been many people who have created sects to propound their own opinions about God, life, death and so on. Amongst these, there have been fakes who have tried to take advantage of the ignorance of their followers.
All races say that their respective religion comes directly from God, and also that their religion is superior to all others. Some nations believe that apart from their books and their prophets all else is demoniacal. Let me here ask a few questions to one and all: How many among those who are followers of their scriptures and prophets have an iota of experience of what has been written down in those scriptures? Who can say with absolute conviction whether their guru or prophet really tread the earth?
If we have to follow what has been written in the scriptures without questioning or reflecting on what they command, then what is the place of logic, and thus of the mind, in religion? If one man has become a prophet or a guru, why cannot others do likewise? All religions say that our essence is part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, then why can we not experience it? Do the religions existing today teach how to be our essence, that is, godliness? Were the contexts, in which the different prophets and enlightened beings evolved and taught, the same?
All the great ones had experienced the same spirit from within, the difference lies only in the way they expressed it. If one prophet laid emphasis on the greatness of God, another one praised His beauty and still a third one talked about It as ineffable peace. But they are all referring to the same Supreme Spirit. Not everything that a prophet says can always be practical: we have to choose only those things that can help us to experience the inner truth, then all else will become clear to us. Our behaviour will flow spontaneously from the experience, without being in conflict with the circumstances that come on our way whatever be the epoch in which we find ourselves.
Life is a constant change; ready-made answers or solutions do not help. I will even say that it is ugly. Each era, each circumstance has its own challenge which calls upon our inner abilities to become manifest, thus giving us the opportunity to grow in a unique way. We cannot have a general formula as this would prevent the tapping of our inner potentialities. Truth and its infinite virtues are concealed in the depth of our being and not in books, which are based on the personal experience of the one who has written or spoken it. For example, Bhagavad-Gita is the experience of Krishna, it is not meant to be learnt by heart and recited. We can certainly learn from it so that we too have the urge to go through the experience.
In today’s world we have problems and challenges that differ from those of the past, therefore the solutions too should be different. For example in ancient India, if a king did not have any son to succeed him and continue his family lineage, the king had to marry another woman. He could remarry if he still did not get a son from the second wife. At that time, it was very natural as it was not known that it is the father’s chromosomes that determine the sex of the child. But today things have changed. One can, not only have recourse to artificial insemination, but even choose the sex of the forthcoming child.
The marriage system of the Hindus is something from the past, therefore people do not understand the implications and cannot maintain even one of the oaths they take. How many people understand how great a responsibility they are taking when they go around the fire? Do they know that it is an oath taken in the presence of the gods? Do they know the consequences of not keeping such an oath? But there is something called culte des ancêtres, that is, we simply follow what parents and great-grand parents have done. Society will find it strange and even sacrilegious if couples live together or have children without undertaking any rituals. People do not even know why man and woman come together. Their knowledge is limited to the fact that we have to come together for the purpose of sexual pleasure, having children and a partner who would help in difficult moments and in old age.
Religion means scientific approach to oneself first, then to our relationship with the external world. What have books got to do in it? If a scripture cannot create the desire in a person to experience his soul, then what is the use of such a scripture? And once the soul has been experienced, what is the use of a scripture? Words are means to express a truth, why be attached to them? Seek rather to experience the truth. Let us give scriptures their value, but let us not stop at them because by so doing we stop growth, both spiritual and material. It is said that the tenth incarnation of Vishnu will come on a white horse, and most Hindus have taken the white horse in a literal sense. Is not a car’s engine capacity expressed in terms of horsepower? Literal interpretation of the scriptures has led people astray. Man and the universe are the only true scriptures that exist; God is the only aim. Once God is attained, both man and universe are left aside.
Nature operates according to a set of laws to which man’s evolution has to conform to, both on the material and spiritual planes. Man already is a reservoir of virtues. Whatever we find in the scriptures come from the depth of an enlightened being. If we become enlightened, we too will be recipient of such virtues and wisdom. Therefore instead of following the scriptures blindly, we should learn how to become pure in body, mind and heart.
We have always been looking at life through the distorted visions of others. And they are nothing but the visions of prophets, saints and enlightened beings that common people have distorted. Those people had looked at life directly, their visions were their own experience and experience cannot be transmitted. What they did was that they taught ways and means for us to experience the same and lo! We have distorted their language and have thus become blind followers. We do not want to take the pain of seeking for ourselves; we prefer to be followers or people of the book. And today we can have innumerable interpretations and commentaries of one and the same scripture. What to take and what to reject? People follow religions and books according to their minds and feelings, and are thus deprived of the sublime experience that is acquired only when books and religions are relinquished.