The universality of religion1

The Universalist Church of New York is for all the religions of the world. It is a growing family with one home. This home is the embodiment of Heart. Heart is the embodiment of Truth. Fulfilment is there where Truth is.

Why do we need religion? We need religion because we want to go beyond the finite in order to commune with the Infinite. It is not only possible but inevitable, for in us there is a conscious being which envisions God's Reality in totality.

Religion is a spontaneous experience and never a theoretical knowledge. This experience is immensely practical and we can use it consciously at every moment of our earthly existence.

Religion has never been thrust upon man. It has sprung from the very need of his inner being. When this inner being comes to the fore and looks around, it feels God's all-permeating immanence and when it looks up, it feels God's all-transcending Transcendence as its own divine heritage.

Religion has two lives: outer and inner. It offers its outer life to the universal love and service. It offers its inner life to meditation and God-realisation.

Religion in the physical is an unconscious cry for God, in the vital a blind struggle to possess God, in the mind a constant fight to capture God, in the heart a selfless surrender to sit in the Lap of God, and in the soul a consciousness-boat that longs to ply between the shores of the ever-transcending Infinity and the ever-blooming Immortality.

Immorality wants to blight religion. God says to religion: "Fear not, my child, I am giving you the indomitable strength of morality." Egoism wants to suffocate religion. God says to religion: "Fear not, my child, I am placing you in the ever-widening vastness of universality." Death wants to devour religion. God says to religion: “Fear not, my child, I am making you the embodiment of immortality.”

Science and religion. They say that science and religion are always at daggers drawn. It is not true. Science plays its role dynamically in explaining the immanent God. Religion plays its role divinely in interpreting the transcendent God. Science deals with the physical world, while religion deals with the inner and spiritual world. Mind is the teacher and nature is the professor of science. Heart is the teacher and soul is the professor of religion.

Philosophy and religion. Philosophy and religion are two intimate friends. Philosophy reaches its acme of perfection when it is inspired by the faith, vision, experience and realisation of a soulful religion. With the help of alert and sound philosophy, religion frees itself from the snares of superstitions, vagaries and fantasies.

Morality and spirituality in religion. Morality in religion is a steady journey towards an ideal life. This journey at times appears to be a never-ending one. Nevertheless, it embodies an approximation to the ideal visualised. Spirituality in religion is fully aware of its inherent, implicit infinity. It transports an aspiring individual into the living abode of God. The infinity that spirituality reveals in religion is actualised and materialised with a spontaneous inner urge. The religious aspirant's hope flies into certainty, struggle enters into conquest, will-power is beckoned by absolute fulfilment.

Individuality and universality. Universality does not and cannot mean an utter extinction of the mounting individual flame in the human heart. On the contrary, when an individual transcends himself in the continuous process of universalisation, then he will have the full assurance to abide in the deeper, vaster and higher realm of Light, Peace and Power, and then alone will he eventually grow into his own true self, his self eternal. No doubt, at the very beginning, he will apprehend a deplorable conflict between individuality and universality. But this apprehension of his does not last for good, for the self-same conflict is the harbinger of a most convincing concord, a pure amalgam of unique transcendence.

Religious faith. Religion without faith is a body without life in it. Religious faith is a transforming experience and not a mere idea. Faith has the magic key of self-discovery. Self-discovery is, in fact, the discovery of Reality. Faith makes religion an active participant of the divine love, harmony and peace. Finally it transports religion into the all-delight of the Beyond.

Sin in religion. It is true that the conception of sin looms large in religion. What is sin? It is nothing but an experience of imperfection. This imperfection exists simply because creation is still in the making. Perfection must needs dawn on creation. It is a matter of time. Creation is action, a constant movement, forward, upward and inward. Evolution is the immortal song which is perpetually sung by creation. Today's sin is imperfection personified. Tomorrow's virtue is perfection embodied. Two things comprise God's entire creation: the finite and the Infinite. When I, the finite, go up, it is my self-realisation. When God, the Infinite, comes down, it is His Self-manifestation. When I enter into Him, his Highest, He presents me with His Unity. When He enters into me, my lowest, I offer to Him the multiplicity with which He Himself entrusted me when my soul descended on earth, Him to reveal, Him to fulfil.

All religions are in essence one, inseparable. Each religion is an unfailing path leading to the eternal Truth. "United we stand, divided we fall." This oft-quoted maxim can adequately be applied in today's talk. The united strength of all religions knows the supreme secret that no individual religion is to be looked down upon. If the united strength is wanting, then no religion can stand up, head erect. Religion is one. The teeming religions are its significant applications. Religion does not change, but religions must undergo vicissitudes, so far as the outer forms, customs, habits, rituals, circumstances and environments are concerned.

I am majestically proud to be here at the Universalist Church, for it is here at this opportune time that my heart voices forth the truth the Religion which is universal is the core of all religions, and the realisation of this universal Religion is not the monopoly of any particular group. Any individual, irrespective of caste, creed or nationality, can have the realisation of this universal Religion if he has dynamic imagination, creative inspiration and fulfilling aspiration to assimilate the spirit of all religions.

I am a Hindu. I am proud of my Hinduism. My Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion, has taught me: Aham Brahma, I am the Brahman, the One without a second. You are a Christian. You are proud of your Christianity. Your divine religion has taught you: I and my Father are One. Now, if I am a Hindu in the purest sense of the term, I must be a Christian to the marrow, for deep within me, what I see, feel and become is the universal Truth. Likewise, deep within you, what you see, feel and become is the universal Truth. What is Truth? Truth is our divine Father. A child does not mind when his physical father is addressed as Brother by one. Uncle by the second, Nephew by the third, and Friend by the fourth. He is equally happy in each individual approach to his father. Similarly, when religions approach the Truth, our divine Father, each in its own way, we must be supremely happy, for each religion wants the Truth and the Truth alone.

This talk was given on 24 May 1967 at 8:30 p.m. at the Universalist Church of New York City, 67th Street and Central Park West. Sri Chinmoy spoke at the invitation of the Reverend Leonard Helie, Director of the Universalist Church.

Sri Chinmoy, AUM — Vol. 2, No.12, 27 July 1967, Boro Park Printers -- Brooklyn, N. Y, 1967