After speaking of the role of a teacher or guide in the context of religion, Hazrat Inayat Khan now outlines several other aspects of religion that lead the student toward perfection.
The third aspect of religion is the manner of worship. There have been many in different ages who have worshipped the sun, but they have believed in God just the same. The sun was only a symbol. They thought, ‘This is a light which does not depend upon oil or anything else, something which remains.’ And then there were others who worshipped sacred trees and holy places, rocks and mountains of ancient traditions. And again, others who worshipped heroes of great repute or teachers and masters of humanity. Nevertheless, all had a divine ideal, and the form in which they worshipped does not matter.
The Arabs in the desert, where there was no house, no building to go to, stood in the open air and bowed low in the open space at sunset and sunrise. It was all worship of God. It was given in that form. The Hindus made idols of different kinds in order to help man to focus his mind on particular objects. These were all different prescriptions given by the doctors of souls. They were not pagans or heathens. They were only taught differently by the wise. Different thoughts, different ways were given to them just as a doctor would give different prescriptions to different patients in order to obtain the same cure. Therefore difference in worship does not make a different religion. Religion is one and the same in spite of a thousand different kinds of worship.
The fourth aspect is the moral aspect. Different religions have taught different moral principles. But at the same time there is one human, moral principle on which all is based, and that is justice. And this does not mean justice in principle and in rules and regulations, but it means that one, true, religious law that is in man, that is awakened in man. As his soul unfolds itself this law becomes more and more clear to him: what is just and what is unjust. The most wonderful thing about this law is that a thief or a wicked or unrighteous man may be most unjust to others, but if someone is unjust to him he will say, ‘He is not just to me.’ This shows that he too knows justice. When he is dealing with others he forgets it, but when it comes to himself he knows justice very well. We are all responsible to ourselves according to that religious law. If we do not regard it, it naturally results in unhappiness. Everything that goes wrong goes wrong for the one reason that we do not listen to ourselves.
The fifth aspect of religion is self-realization. This is the highest aspect, and everything we do leads to it: prayers, concentration, good actions, good thoughts. And how is it gained? Some say that we realize God by self-realization. But it is not so, for we can only realize self by the realization of God. Whenever someone tries to realize self while omitting God, he makes a mistake.
It is very difficult for man to realize his true self because the self he knows is a most limited self. The self to which he is awakened from the time of birth, the self which has made within him a conception of himself is most limited. However proud and conceited he may be, however good his idea of himself, yet in his innermost being he knows his limitation, the smallness of his being. He may be a most successful general, he may be a king, but he discovers his limitation when the time comes for him to lose his kingdom. Then he knows that he is not really a king. Earthly greatness does not make him great. If there is anything that can make him great, it is only the effacing of himself and the establishing of God instead. The one who wants to begin with self-realization may have many intellectual and philosophical principles, but he will get into a muddle and arrive nowhere. These are wrong methods.
There are people who say, ‘I am God.’ This is insolence, stupidity. It is foolish to say such things. They insult the greatest ideal that the prophets and saviors of humanity have always respected. Such people can never reach spiritual perfection. In order to reach spiritual perfection, the first thing is to destroy this false self; first this delusion must be destroyed. And this is done by the ways taught by the great teachers, ways of concentration and meditation, by the power of which one forgets oneself and removes one’s consciousness from oneself, in other words rises from one’s limited being. In this way a person effaces himself from his own consciousness, and places God in his consciousness instead of his limited self. And it is in this way that he arrives at that perfection which every soul is seeking.
To be continued…