Question: Your disciples have come to you from many different religions — Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and others. You do not ask them to leave their religions when they join your spiritual path. Is this because you believe there is one God, and that every religion calls Him in their own language? Are all religions ways to provide us with the experience of God, independent of the historical appearance of the religion's message?

Sri Chinmoy: It is true that I do not ask my disciples to leave their religions. To me, religions are like houses. Everyone has to live in a house. But if they want to study in a particular school, they can go outside their house. In the spiritual school they have the same teacher, and they all study the same lesson. What is the lesson they study? Love of God. And love of God is the essence of all religions.

Yes, I believe in one God, one Source. Love of God is like a tree — the life-tree — and it has many branches. Each of the branches has its own identity and its own name, such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and so forth. But they are still branches of the same tree.

Even in our human life we see that the same person is called various names by different people. You call your father ‘Dad’, whereas I will call him by his surname because I do not know him. Your father’s brothers and sisters will call him by his childhood name, and perhaps your mother will have her own affectionate nickname for him. So his dear ones call him by various names, and his friends and acquaintances also address him differently. But he is the same person. Similarly, people of different religions call God by different names, but it is the same Being that they are referring to.

I also believe that all religions are ways to provide us with the experience of God, completely independent of the historical context of their messages. True, each religious teacher or prophet comes with a special message that suits the people of his time. But humanity’s ignorance and lack of receptivity are such that whenever a prophet comes, he always seems to have come ahead of his time. When God sends a prophet, a Messiah, a great religious teacher, it is definitely in order to serve Him and manifest Him during that particular period. But even though the world does not appear to be ready to receive the message that he brings, that message still plays a special role in the earth-consciousness. The teachings of the Saviour Christ, for example, have guided, uplifted and illumined humanity for almost two thousand years, and they will continue to do so for centuries to come.