Hazrat Inayat: The Real Meaning of Religion

This is a portion of a longer talk, in which Hazrat Inayat Khan speaks about the home as a place of religion, not in the ‘church’ sense, but as a sacred place.

Whenever the name religion is mentioned, a person either thinks of the clergymen, or of his church, or of the form of service he is accustomed to attend or of the Scriptures that he reads. It seems that life has been cut away from religion; religion has been put on one side and life on another side. We have divided religion from life and in this way humanity is not able to make use of it nor to derive the fullest benefit from religion. If one understood the real meaning of religion, one would not divide religions, one would think that there was, there is, and there will be one religion and the same religion. One would also think that all the different names are the names of one religion. If I were to give a definition of the word religion, I would say religion pertains to five different things: home, community, ideal, God and church.

If the home is not made into a church and if the home is not considered as sacred as the church and if the rooms in which one sits and writes and thinks are not considered a sacred sanctuary to meditate and make prayers, one has not understood the meaning of home. Is it home to rent a flat or to take a house and live in it with a little music or poetry? But even that is not to be found to-day. To-day there is no inclination for home. Every person, most of the people are desirous of living in restaurants, in hotels; they think it is less trouble, it saves so much expense, so much trouble in our life, it gives one time to think of many other things, it takes away the care. That is the wrong idea. In the first place, the food that is made for the generality, for hundreds or thousands of persons is not the same food which is cooked for the family. It has a different taste, it has a different influence, a different effect. Would you believe if I were to say that even to-day in the orient the Occultists prepare food for themselves by their own hands, that they see the importance of the magnetism and the influence of the food; that the food can be the greatest cure and the worst source of malady.

Besides, the one who is accustomed to sleep in a hotel one day and in another hotel another day, he does not know what it means to keep one’s own atmosphere. A room where one sleeps, where one has created one’s atmosphere, it becomes a religious place; you have said a prayer and then you have gone to rest; but all night long the prayer is repeated there, the atmosphere is praying for you and that gives a quiet, it is a harmony.

When a person lives in a home, he can naturally care not only for its cleanliness but also for the purity of its atmosphere. The ancient people always printed symbols of a religious character before their doors. Every morning after cleaning the house there were prints on the steps just before the door, that as soon as they went out they would see prints which reminded them of religious ideals. And then some twice and some three times, and sometimes five times, burnt incense in every room with the thought that the home may be purified from all undesirable atmospheres and influences. And those who came there and lived there, their atmosphere was cleared and every day there was a new atmosphere created in the home.

I will tell you an amusing experience I had once in Colombo. I was staying in a pension and I felt uneasy, restless. So I looked what was there and I found a bunch of hair in the cupboard. I said to the landlady: “How is it that I felt so bad in this room? Who lived here before, can you tell me?” “Oh”, she said, “ Don’t mention her, it takes my life out of me. As long as she lived, there was a quarrel.” The atmosphere was still there. I said: “ You have given me such a room!” This lady said: “Because I thought you were a prayerful man.”

It is therefore that in the East they always appreciated a family-life. I do not mean to say that there were no battles and wars in the family. It was just the same as it is now. But at the same time that tendency of serving another, of being useful, it was a kind of small brotherhood in the house. Maybe the people could not live up to it as they would have wished, but at the same time there was a principle also to try to live up to it. When people are divided there is that sympathy of relations. The more they are apart, the more they are far away from another, the less sympathy they have, because sympathy grows as people are together.

That was considered once a part of religion, that all those who lived together had regard, consideration for one another and they grew in sympathy with one another, not only because they lived together but because Providence had arranged it so that they were together.


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