What is religion? The essence of religion is spirituality. Religion is in fact another name for spiritual science. Whereas other sciences are external in nature, religion is a science that studies the internal man.
Man has two facets of personality at the same time—body and soul. Both need sustenance for their health and progress. Material things—food and water—sustain the body. If someone is deprived of food and water for long, he will lose physical health. If such deprivation continues for a long period of time, then he or she will be starved to death. If man does not receive spiritual food, he will be starved spiritually. Religion boosts man’s inner personality. Religion is a guarantee to man’s spiritual life.
The same is the case of religion. Religion is man’s spiritual food. Religion is in fact a representation of truth. Truth is religion and religion is truth. Everyone is in need of religion, whether rich or poor, powerful or powerless. Religion provides man with a starting point for one’s life. One who is deprived of religion will also be deprived of the starting point of his life.
At the Centre for Peace and Spirituality, we explain that true religion is the answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’ Religion tells man the secret of creation. It provides man with the right philosophy of life. It is a guidebook of life, bringing man out of the darkness of ignorance, and ushering him to the light of reality.
Religion makes man a good citizen. It gives man a moral code that helps him to lead his life in society as a truth-loving human being. It enables man to become a no-problem person for others. It makes man a giver and not just a taker.
Religion is man’s companion, in his difficult times. It is the art of crisis management. It saves man from falling victim to crisis, rather he drives intellectual sustenance from the times of crisis.
Religion is a sign of intellectual health. It enables one to convert negative experiences into positive results; to change his minus into plus; to see the thorns in the form of flowers; to turn the enemy into a friend.
Religion is not merely a set of rituals. Just being born into a family or being associated with some group does not make one a religious person. These are all outward things. These are not the real essence of religion. The actual reality of religion is internal realization, which is above all outward things.
Religion produces the right thinking in a man. It enables man to see things, which common eyes cannot see. It enables man to learn lessons, from the past; and see the future in the present. It makes man a superman. In short, religion is the source of human progress.
There are two aspects to our world. One pertains to the visible world, and the other to the invisible world. The visible world can be likened to an iceberg. Only a very tiny part of it is observable, while the major part of it remains hidden from the eyes, being submerged within the water. Religion enables man to see the major part of this iceberg, and he is able to cross the surface of the sea to the deeper level—that is, to the bed of the ocean.
Repeatedly, we find such occasions in life when man feels he is helpless. When he feels that all the ends of life have slipped away from his hands. At that point in time, religion appears to him as his saviour. It saves his sinking ship. At that juncture, religion becomes a source of courage and conviction for him.
True religion is the source of all positive ethics. True religion gives man the power to forgive the offender. It raises him above greed. The feeling of envy is uprooted. He treats people with tolerance. He honours people without any discrimination. He saves himself from committing injustice, always sticking to the path of justice. He treats even his enemies with justice and fairness. In society, he becomes a giver rather than just a taker.
True religion makes one a man of principle. He becomes a man of principled character. It develops in him self-control and self-discipline. A religious man, in his nature, is a predictable human being. One can predict his behaviour in advance.
A religious person is a serious-minded and honest person. He is ever ready to reckon himself. He develops within himself a self-corrective mechanism. This quality keeps rejuvenating his personality.
How does religion produce these refined qualities within man? It does this as the end of religion is connected with God, who is the source of all goodness. God is thus a source of inspiration for everyone. True religion makes one God-oriented. It produces God-oriented thinking. A religious man’s life is a God-oriented life. This is the thing which makes a religious person unconquerable. A religious person develops communion with God, and such a person becomes far more powerful than even the sun, the moon, the mountains and the seas.
Here, I would like to quote an incident which shows in symbolic language how a religious person—a person who has complete faith in God-becomes an unconquerable man. He is a person whom even the tidal waves fail to disturb his peace.
Once a ship sailed from the American coast for Africa. It was still in the way when it was hit by a severe storm in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship began to shake violently. All the passengers panicked. They began running helter and skelter. It seemed imminent that it will sink any moment.
In this hour of panic, one passenger caught sight of a girl in a corner of the ship, playing with her doll. The passenger asked the girl: “Do you know what is going to happen? The child asked in all innocence “What is the matter?” The passenger replied: Our ship is hit by a storm, and it is going to sink.” The girl continued to play with her doll and replied: “You know my father is the captain of the ship. He is not going to let it sink.”
This incident relating to the girl gives us a picture of a religious person. A truly religious person never falls prey to frustration. He does not get disturbed in times of crisis. He never loses courage. He always lives in hope. In every situation, he is in a position to say:
“God Almighty is the captain of my ship. He is not going to let it sink.”