Every faith has two aspects: the religious and the spiritual. Religion is its outer shell; spirituality is the inner essence. Spirituality means awakening to one’s true nature. Those who make the effort to know their True Self are the true devotees. Whatever be one’s faith, if the core spiritual principles are understood and put into practice, one can attain the ultimate goal of uniting with God. However, if we fail to absorb the spiritual principles, religion will become blind faith, binding us.
The unity of hearts is what brings about religious unity. If that unity is absent, it will be impossible for humanity to come together and work as a team for the collective good. We will only drift apart; our efforts will be fragmented and their results incomplete.
Religion is a pointer, like a signboard. The goal is spiritual experience. For example, pointing to a tree, a person says, “Look at that tree. Do you see the fruit hanging from that branch? If you eat that, you will attain immortality!” If someone were to say such this to us, we should climb the tree, pick the fruit and eat it. If, instead, we hold on to the person’s finger, we will never enjoy the fruit. This is the same thing that happens when people cling to the scriptural verses, rather than grasping, imbibing and putting into practice the principles to which they point.
Merely reading religious texts without trying to imbibe their principles is like sitting in a boat but never using it to row across to the other shore. Just like the boat, the scriptures are a means, not an end in themselves.
Due to our ignorance and limited understanding, we are confining mahatmas to the little cages of religion. The words of the rishis and mahatmas are keys to unlock the treasure of our Self. However, due to our misunderstanding, we are using those very same keys to merely argue with one another. In this way we are only further inflating our egos and imprison ourselves more and more. If this continues, understanding and interreligious collaboration will forever remain a distant dream.
Amma remembers a story. Once, a renownedartist painted a picture of an enchanting youngwoman. Whoever saw the painting fell in lovewith her. Some of them asked the painter if the woman was his beloved. When he said no, each one of them adamantly insisted on marrying her and wouldn’t allow anyone else to do so.They demanded, “We want to know where to find this beautiful lady.”
The painter told them, “I’m sorry, but actually, I’ve never seen her. She has no nationality, religion or language. What you see in her is not the beauty of an individual, either. I simply gave eyes, a nose and a form to the beauty I be held within me.”
But none of them believed the painter’s words.They angrily accused him of not telling the truth. “You are lying,” they said. “You just want to make her your own!”
The painters calmly told them, “No, please don’t take this painting at surface level. Even if you search all over the world, you won’t find her—yet she is the quaint essence of all beauty.”
Nonetheless, ignoring the words of the painter, the people became infatuated with the paint and the painting. In their intense desire to possess the young woman, they quarreled and fought with each other and finally perished.
We, too, are like this. Today, we are searching for a God who dwells only in pictures and scriptures. In that search, we have lost our way.
While mahatmas give importance to spiritual values, their followers are giving more importance to institutions. As a result, the very religions that were meant to spread peace and tranquility in the world by stringing people together on the thread of love, have become causes of war and conflict. Mahatmas are embodiments of spirituality. Their selfless lives are the abode of real religion. Thus, the shortcut to understanding spirituality and how to put it into practice is to observe mahatmas.
The power of all faiths lies in spirituality. Spirituality is the cement that fortifies the edifice of society. Living a so-called “religious life” without assimilating spirituality is like building a tower by simply piling up bricks without using any cement. It will easily crumble. Religion without spirituality will become lifeless, like an internal organ cut off from the circulatory system.
Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi