Part II — 'Comments about Thomas Jefferson'

HDW 4. Sri Chinmoy offered these comments about Thomas Jefferson on 10 October 2003 during a conversation with Nripal.

Nripal: We know that spirituality — in the sense that we all understand it, that you taught us to understand it — pervaded the consciousness of so many of the founders of our country and they were able to distinguish between the highest, simplest spirituality and the practice of religion. Jefferson was the champion of the separation of Church and State and yet he was a profoundly spiritual person. People today do not really understand that.

Jefferson was able to talk about the Creator, that Being who "doth no wrong," and to use all these wonderful phrases referring to the Supreme Being, in letters and even in public laws and documents. "Almighty God hath created the mind free and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint." That was from his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Here he was writing in a law, "Almighty God has created the human mind free." What would people think about that today? They would say, "That is a violation of the Bill of Rights. You cannot do that. You are propagating religion." People do not understand that that is not propagating religion; it is recognising where the sacred and undeniable truths come from.

Somehow, someone has to come along in a leadership position in public life who can articulate the difference between spirituality, on the one hand and religion; and the distinction between the common love of God, which all religions share and fostering the establishment of religion and religious dogmas. There is a subtle difference there, but a real difference. We can see that when Jefferson starts using words like 'sacred', he is bringing in the spiritual dimension, but he is not pushing it into the realm of religion. There is a real art to his understanding and expression that has clearly been lost today.

Sri Chinmoy: Spirituality is the mother. Religion is the child. The mother has affection, compassion, sweetness, fondness, vastness — everything. The children quarrel and fight and then they come to their mother for consolation. Each child thinks that he is right, he is right and the poor mother tries to make each one feel that he is right in his own way. Then the mother tells the children, "Only love me, love me, love me. The more you love me, the less you will quarrel, fight and misunderstand each other."

Again, spirituality houses religion. If spirituality goes out of religion, religion cannot last even for a second. But, like children, sometimes religions feel they can live without the mother. Then the mother says, "All right, try in your own way." At some point they come to realise that without their mother's affection and concern they cannot live even for a second.

There is not a single person who is not spiritual. Again, there are degrees of spirituality. My spirituality need not be of the same height and depth as somebody else's spirituality. But spirituality is innate, because spirituality is in God, with God and for God. Spirituality is not made by man, whereas religions are made by men. Religions come from the experiences of human beings. In our hoary past there were some spiritual Masters and religions came from their experiences. But spirituality in its pristine form comes directly from God, from God's Vision. Religion has to learn from spirituality. Religion has to sit at the feet of spirituality, because spirituality embodies the universal, whereas manmade religion is not universal. That is why we talk about love of God. If we have love of God, then we enter into the realm of spirituality. If religion also is only love of God, then the door is open. We can go into the church; we can go into the temple; we can go anywhere we want to go.

Unfortunately, religions are all manmade. Some will say that the Indian religions came from the Vedic Seers; Christians will talk about their religion and others will talk about their religions. Spiritual figures who had a vision or experience gave it to their friends, gave it to their small world or to the vast world. Religion is getting something from within and then giving it. The quality can be excellent; the quantity can also be excellent. But spirituality comes directly from God and inundates our life-breath.

If we have love of God, then religion and spirituality will always remain inseparable. If we have true love for God and love for one religion, there is no problem. But if some religions want to exercise their supremacy, how will they express their supremacy? By trying to bind other religions, by subordinating other religions. That is the wrong process. While they are trying to bind other religions, they themselves are already bound. But once we love God in His own Way, then all the religions, which are like houses or homes, we can claim as our own. Everybody we can claim.

Humanity needs sincere love of God. When we love God, we see there is only one thing and that is spirituality. Spirituality is not a word. It is not a concept. It is not a religion. Spirituality is God's Life-Breath. God's infinite Life-Breath in an infinitesimal way He is keeping inside the heart of Mother-Earth.

I always feel and know that spirituality is the answer. Spirituality is universal. Again, spirituality does not mean only the messages that certain spiritual Masters have offered to the world. Each Master has shown a way to the Goal. Each individual has to walk along a particular road to reach the Goal. Religion will eventually surrender to spirituality. As a matter of fact, it has surrendered, but it does not want to acknowledge the fact. Religion does not want to admit that unconsciously it has surrendered to the will of spirituality.

Religion wants to maintain its separativity. But a day will come when religions, like spirituality, will be all-embracing. Either they will all love God together or, even if they love God in different ways, they will try to harmonise with each other. One religion will not find fault with the ways that other religions approach God.