Question: What attitude should we take toward religions other than our own?

Sri Chinmoy: Just as God has given us a free choice to follow any path, so we must give freedom to others to follow their own way. There are dozens of roads that lead to God. Each individual has a right to choose the one that suits his temperament, his degree of evolution and his present needs. Tolerance and acceptance are fine. We can go even further, however, and feel that the other person’s religion is as important, as necessary to him, as our own is to us.

True, when we are in a family, it is very difficult to manage when everyone is going along a different path. And there is a great temptation to say, “You are a fool, you are wasting your time going along that path.” But we must give each person the inner freedom to choose his own path. At the same time, we have the right to inspire others with our enthusiasm and devotion to our own path. But if they are not receptive, if they argue with us, it is better to offer them our light silently and inwardly. At night when everyone is sleeping and in a peaceful consciousness, we can place all our sweetest and purest aspiration into the sleeping consciousness of the one whom we want to influence. By acting silently, we may help to bring him towards our path, which we feel to be the best one for him.

You should follow your own path steadfastly, and not worry about shaking hands with another religion until you and the other person have come to your goal. If you yourself go to this temple and that temple, this church and that church, you will never make any progress. You must choose one path and follow it to the end. Then you can shake hands with the followers of other paths. If you try to shake hands in the middle of the path, you will be tempted to break each other’s arms.