Peculiarities of the Six Great Religions (Hazrat Inayat Khan)

Beloved Ones of God,

The Buddhist religion has taught to humanity the sense of compassion for life in every form and in all forms. The central theme of Buddha’s teaching was ahimsa parmo dharmaha. That was Buddha’s watchword, and it means harmlessness is the essence of religion. And it is wonderful to see that, though mankind has lived for centuries on animal food, the first principle of those who followed Buddha’s message was to leave animal food, to live on a vegetarian diet. But, one might ask, ”Is that all? Is Buddha’s teaching to become vegetarian?” No, vegetarianism is a principle for becoming harmless.

The first step in becoming harmless is to become harmless to the ’one who stands next to us, to human beings. Very often you can be a vegetarian and you can be harmful too. It is recognition of brotherhood, even with the lowest creation. It does not mean that Buddha did not know the point of view of other great teachers, who did not make a remark on this subject. No, his mission was to create compassion in the heart of man. Buddha’s belief was that the only remedy for all the harm that comes to man is harmlessness. And if you study all philosophy and ethics, in the end you will find this as the essence of the whole philosophy, that all pain comes by having no regard for the pain of another. It is automatic.

No doubt it is grosser to say, ”Do not have animal food and live on a vegetarian diet.” A fine teaching on the same principle would be to be conscientious every moment of your life, realizing that, by a thought or by a word, by a glance or frown, by the tone of voice, by atmosphere, by thought or feeling, you might hurt someone. And when we look at it with this principle, life becomes so deep and so wide and so full of sense and beauty that in every direction of life we find much to be done without thinking of occult things and psychic mysteries.

Life begins to unfold its mystery as soon as compassion is created in the heart, as soon as one’s deepest feeling is wakened for all that is living, with regard for everyone one meets, for all that lives: deserving and undeserving, evolved and unevolved, foolish and wise. Then the outlook on life changes. And the result is that the soul attains that peace which is so difficult to attain in this life of woes. That statue of Buddha therefore is the example to look at: a man who has striven through life to become compassionate, as much as man can be, and to attain that peace which is most difficult to attain in this world.

There is an interesting and wonderful custom in Buddhist countries. That custom is that when a priest or a teacher dies they inaugurate wonderful celebrations. And the meaning is that people may see that the one who has devoted his life to God and truth and lived in compassion has been relieved of the woes of this world and has risen to the stage which is better still. It is as if the reward of his whole life’s trial was not given to him through death. When one looks at it from this point of view it is a very beautiful custom.

Buddha also taught meditation, and his statue is the example of the posture of meditation which he taught: the meditation of peace. The other day in New York, I heard that some students of eastern thought proposed that there should be a public statue of Buddha erected in New York. Then I heard that there was great opposition to it, so it could not be erected. So I thought, ”Imagine, hundreds of generals who have fought in wars have their statues in every place, suggesting wars and disasters, murdering and killing. If in order to balance it all there were one statue representing peace as a man who lived for humanity, not for this race or that race, a man who taught peace to the world, ind who attained peace, if there were one example, it would be worth having.”

And when we come to the Hindu religion, it is most wonderful to see what religion has appealed to Hindus: a religion that can be taught to children, and which children can be most interested in, a religion which could be taught to the souls who lived ten thousand years ago and which they could enjoy at the same time. It is the pitch of the religion that is so vast that it can fit in-with men of every stage of evolution. There are Sudras, workmen: it fits in very well with their conception. And then there are Kshatriyas, the warriors and the brave and courageous ones: it fits in very well with their idea.

There are Vaisyas, who are head to foot in business: it fits in very well with their intelligence. And there are Brahmans, so deep in thinking and such meditative people: the religion fits in very well with their conception. It is just like a piano made of one thousand octaves: you can go as low as you can, and you can go as high as you can. In the temple of the Hindus, Krishna’s statue is put in the cradle, women are singing. That is the service. Men come and join their palms in respect; from the pariah to the Brahman, everyone takes part in that worship.

Therefore naturally it gives those who wish to criticize the Brahman religion a scope to make it as savage as possible, and also it gives a scope to those who appreciate it and see in it a religion that can be as refined as possible. There is philosophy there, there is drama, there is ethics, there is art, there is music, there is beauty. Nothing that is good and beautiful and nothing that is valuable and worthwhile is left out from the religion. If you ask a Hindu, an intelligent Hindu, ”If we let you have your religion and give you no literature, no art, no science, no social life, will you be satisfied?” He will say, ”Certainly, because in the religion there is everything–there is art, there is literature, there is philosophy, there is wisdom, there is play, there is thought, there is meditation—everything.”

And when we come to the Zoroastrian religion, it is a religion of purity, purity by affirmations, and it is a religion which shows how to make a God for oneself first, which is the first step in the path of God. The scripture of Zarathustra always says, ”These beautiful flowers, where have they come from? Is it not that You have made the delicious fruits, the sweet fruits, where do they come from? Have they not been made by You? This running water, where does it come from? Is it not from the same source? Where does it go? It goes to You.”

By taking every action of life that comes through the plant, through the water, through the sun, through the wind, everything that one looks at and marvels at in nature, Zarathustra teaches one to think of that marvel connected with God, and in this way one can make God living. The whole scripture of Zarathustra is connected with it. If one goes through the affirmations of Zarathustra, it means that one wishes to make God living, to see His manifestation with open eyes, to have communication with God Himself through nature; it is a wonderful thing.

When the Zoroastrian stands up so many times during the day, either before the water or before the sun or before the wind or if he is not in nature, then before fire, and says the holy words of Zarathustra, he tries to exalt his soul, tries to come closer to his God, tries to make the God who is only a conception a living God by connecting and identifying the spirit of God with all that is living and moving on earth. It is a wonderful meditation. A man may meditate with his eyes closed for ten years and may not attain to that bliss which the one with open eyes will receive from communicating with nature, recognizing God in it, identifying his Lord with everything and all things.

When we come to the Message of Moses, we find that no nation will ever be able to make an improvement upon the divine law Moses once gave. And whenever there is any attempt at improving it, there will always be a mistake. Why? Because it is natural law, it is not man-made law, it is God-made law. The different civilizations at different times have built a law on the ground of Moses. They may forget it, they may deny it, but at the same time this is the central theme. The mission of the master was to make the corrupted world abide by the law of harmony. It is all right for a free thinker to think he will act this way or that way, but it will not do for the collectivity. For the collectivity there must be a law of harmony. And is it an easy thing to give a law? When men give a law, that law never proves to be the right law in the end, unless it is the natural law. When the law is given by God through his prophet, that has a power, that has life in it, and it is accepted; people abide by it.

I should say today that even at this time when people have gone far from the ancient law, if that ancient law of Moses was regarded, the world would become much better. If one can open one’s eyes and look into life, it seems that the world is going from bad to worse every day. They call it freedom not to abide by law. But that freedom does not lead them to anything. On the contrary, they are restless, they are dissatisfied, they are grudging, they are grumbling, they are never contented.

Besides that, there was a mysticism give by Moses known to very few, which indicated the rhythm of the universe. And it is from the rhythm of the universe that the law of numbers, the science of numbers comes. So now you can connect the divine inspiration on one side, and deep perception in the hidden law on the other side, which brought the master to give to the world the law that was necessary, and the law that was to become the foundation of the future race. Many say that they know something about the mystery of numbers, but this mystery remains hidden: it is mysticism. The mystics have called this science Zafar, and this science is a key to the hidden law of nature. Imagine that at that time there was a prophet who knew the science to such an extent that he knew the figures of the rhythm of everything: of fire, of earth, of water, of air, and of ether. If he had not had the perception of the rhythm of the cosmos, he would not have been able to give that law, that science.

And when we come to Jesus Christ, it was pure mysticism, a mysticism of love: to judge no one, to forgive everyone, to develop that quality in oneself that all without being commanded come to you; to get above what one calls the worldly knowledge and come to that knowledge which instead of making you clever makes you innocent. The master was not only innocent in his thought and word and in his atmosphere, but those inspired by him also reached that stage of innocence which is the sign of the saintly spirit.

Self-sacrifice was the central theme. And if you read the Beatitudes from beginning to end and you begin to practice any of them or all of them, you will find it is nothing but self-sacrifice, self-denial, erasing the self, while cultivating the thought of gentleness, the thought of meekness, the thought of mildness. All this shows to us that his mission was to melt the hearts from grossness, from denseness, from hardness, to soften them, to make them refined, to have them enlightened, to liberate them. His coming and going was the example that a soul is brought here to do something and then is called back. His lesson was not the lesson of mystery, yet in his lesson there was every mystery, all mystery.

Jesus Christ taught the theory of dependence on God by giving the example of the lilies. Make God living and depend upon Him for all you need and He will provide your needs. Mankind has forgotten that lesson in its earthly strife. But at the same time, whenever man comes to that lesson he will begin to find the phenomena of life: that no sooner do we give over our responsibility to God than God begins to feel responsible for us. It is this hint of the master that Sa’adi has interpreted in The Rose Garden, where he says Karsaze kare man man, (”The Creator is busy doing what I wish, but my anxiety about it is my natural illness, I cannot help it”). Sa’adi was humorous, and he has interpreted most of the wonderful sayings of the master in a most beautiful language.

”Yes,” people very often ask, ”what Jesus Christ has taught leads one to spirituality no doubt, but how can we follow it and live it in this material world?” There is a natural leaning one has towards the world, it should not be taught. We should not be taught how to be practical, we are already practical. We need not be told how to be clever, we are already clever. We need not be instructed or advised to fight with our enemy, we are already inclined to it. If Jesus Christ did not teach it, it was only in order to make a balance. We should hear something else, think of something else, feel something else than what we are naturally inclined to, in order to provide a balance.

And when we come to the message of the Prophet Muhammad, the central theme of the message is unity. He said, ”The sultan and the slave, when they come in the Ka’aba, there is no distinction for them: they must stand shoulder to shoulder. ” That was fifteen hundred years ago, and we have not learned that lesson. We are inclined to say, ”He is from another race, he must keep away, he must not come to our restaurant; he is of a different class, he must stay in his place.” Fifteen hundred years ago a man came and united his people, who were daggers-drawn against one another, divided by family feuds, saying, ”My family is greater,” and each family having its own gods.

He brought them all before one God and made them stand shoulder to shoulder, sultan and slave, with all their family distinctions, sects, genealogical records and traditions. And he said Kullo muslim in akhwanon (”All Muslims are brothers”). And do you think that brotherhood was only called a brotherhood? No, it was taught, it was lived as brotherhood; and if you wish to see the example of it fifteen hundred years afterwards, you can see it today. Bedouins, who are the most savage people living in the desert, are always inclined to fight with their knives: if there is a little cross word there are knives taken against one another. But if a third person comes and says Salu all’ an nabi (”Friends, think of your Prophet, respect your Prophet”), that is enough. Neither of them will dare go forward; they will throw their knives away at once and take one another’s hands, say the name of the Prophet and kiss them.

Besides that, the teaching of the Prophet was, ”Know your relation”: your relation to your mother, to your father, to your brother, to your children, to the helpless, the poor and the orphans in the city, to the one who is of higher rank than you, and to the one of lower rank than you. Now you must consider, ”Is it not something which needs to be studied?” It is never enough. And we can never understand fully how much there is to be learned in acting in connection with those whom we meet in everyday life. The teaching of the Prophet was simple and at the same time deep. One might think that it is too exaggerated. But at the same time there is beauty in it. I shall give you an example of a family I went to see, a Muslim family who lived the typical Muslim life.

The middle brother was very fond of music and entertainments. But when his elder brother came to visit he would not have entertainment in the house, and when the younger brother came he would not have entertainment. The reason was that he was too respectful to have entertainment, gaiety before his elder brother. And he was too conscientious to give the example of his gaiety to his younger brother. It is in that way that brothers have regard for each other. When there is such a regard between brothers, then what regard must there not be between the mother, father, children, sister, and relations in the home? If one thinks about it, one can begin to feel that it is a civilization that can always be appreciated, once it is studied and known. And the central theme of it is what? Unity.

We cannot unite with another if we have not the sense of respect, the sense of understanding the ideal. Today, when brothers grow up fighting with one another and not respecting one another, it is quite different. Brothers apart, even that relation that should be between parents and children is not to be found. Every day it is worse and worse and worse. A friend of mine told a rich man how one should regard one’s parents, that it is part of one’s honor to have regard for the parents. And this rich man, on hearing that his father was out of work, sent a letter to him, a letter of good advice, and said there was a place vacant in his office. Does the world not need instruction on that point? It always needs it.

 Besides, the Prophet’s teaching was to give the spirit, the spirit that is needed for every person. For every individual a certain spirit is necessary. The teaching of the Prophet was that that spirit must be wakened in each person. The way the Prophet treated his own daughter shows the nobleness of the spirit. He gave an example to the world: he taught his children to respect their parents by respecting children himself.

And now, in conclusion, coming to the task and to the services we are destined to render to the world. ”What is the work of the Sufi Message, its characteristic, its peculiarity?” Its peculiarity is truth. It is to bring to the world, to give to the world, to spread to the world that truth which is the essence of all religions. First the truth must be searched after, next the truth must be realized, third the truth must be lived. And it is by doing this that the Sufi will attain to that purpose which has brought him to the Sufi Movement, and that we all will attain to that purpose for which we are meant and which we are intended to accomplish.

And now in spreading the Cause, what we must do is to understand the psychology of human nature, to understand the need of the time, and to understand the best way of going forward. We must not waste time and we must not dispute with the authorities of other religions. We must give our whole thought to this purpose, which is given to us from God. Contemplate upon it, and meditate on it, and ask all blessing: that will help us to carry our work into the world. God Bless You.


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