I often get asked that question, especially when dressed in traditional Vaishnava attire, the answer in the words of my spiritual master Sankarshan Das Adhikari, “Religion is one, to know yourself, and be yourself. To know God and to love God”, and he continues “Religion, singular, is one. Religions, plural, is politics.”.
Indeed, it is true that religion in its form as politics has been used for all sorts of terrible goals, subjugation, division, domination, control, politics, and so much more. But then, again, in the words of my spiritual master’s spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, “It is something like that, that a man in the market, he has been cheated simply by counterfeit currency. He is disappointed that there is no real money. But actually that is not a fact. The government is there, and the currency is there, the real currency.”
So yes, there is real religion, and that real religion is beyond all material designations.
I often say “I’m past the labels, I’m all about – Do you knwo who God is? Do you really love God, or do you just want God to be your order supplier? Do you serve God’s creation or do you hanker for the Universe to serve you?”
Religion, the word, comes from the Latin “re-ligio”, to reconnect. “re-connect”, that means we were once connected and are now disconnected. And for a connection, there must be two connection points and some sort of mechanism to connect. And this is the essence of religion, and these are some tests I use to determine if I am on the right path or if I got side-tracked…
- Do I care about material sense gratification less or more than before?
- Do I feel upset that someone doesn’t agree with me?
- Am I equipoised in honour, dishonour, wealth, poverty, health, sickness, happiness, distress?
- When I discuss God with someone, is it about serving them or is it about feeding my own ego?
- Do I know better now than before who I am? Do I act accordingly?
- Do I know more about the identity and nature of God than before?
- Do I really love God? I mean, do I really LOVE God?
- Am I serving more or better than before?
In the Bhagavad Gita, the divisions of faith are clearly discussed, and there are different means of attaining to pure Love of God according to one’s current position. But no matter which genuine tradition of religion you pursue, the effects of the Pure Love of God are the same.
- From Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Bhakti Yoga
- TEXTS 6-7:
- But those who worship Me, giving up all their activities unto Me and being devoted to Me without deviation, engaged in devotional service and always meditating upon Me, having fixed their minds upon Me, O son of Pṛthā – for them I am the swift deliverer from the ocean of birth and death.
- TEXT 8:
- Just fix your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.
- TEXT 9:
- My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.
- TEXT 10:
- If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.
- TEXT 11:
- If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.
- TEXT 12:
- If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.
- TEXTS 13-14:
- One who is not envious but is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor and is free from false ego, who is equal in both happiness and distress, who is tolerant, always satisfied, self-controlled, and engaged in devotional service with determination, his mind and intelligence fixed on Me – such a devotee of Mine is very dear to Me.
- TEXT 15:
- He by whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anyone, who is equipoised in happiness and distress, fear and anxiety, is very dear to Me.
- TEXT 16:
- My devotee who is not dependent on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains, and not striving for some result, is very dear to Me.
- TEXT 17:
- One who neither rejoices nor grieves, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things – such a devotee is very dear to Me.
- TEXTS 18-19:
- One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoised in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contaminating association, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and who is engaged in devotional service – such a person is very dear to Me.
- TEXT 20:
- Those who follow this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engage themselves with faith, making Me the supreme goal, are very, very dear to Me.