Man is God's finest creation. At the nether pole of Creation, he forms a reflection of God and is created in His image. Ironically enough, it is only the so-called 'fallen Man' (with a 'solid body' or Annamayi Kosh- food sheath) that enjoys such a privilege, and without 'evil' he could have found himself a 'complete' vehicle- materially perfected, capable of becoming God once again.
At the half way mark in his journey, now farthest away from the soul's pristine Home, Anami, God's prodigal son, His essence, has the choice to go the whole hog through the return journey lasting countless aeons or become aware of the unique 'window of opportunity' to short-cut the return path and return Home directly and merge back in the Father. For this to happen, he must first recognize the Father, who is here in human disguise on earth to take him back. When he does return, he will find himself an 'empowered' soul thanks to the rich experience of the journey into the abyss of Creation, which he began as a mere comatose, vegetating soul.
Yet, what does Man do? He becomes so engrossed with the toys of the Creation that he forgets the Creator, forgets that the petty thrills provided by his jailer- Kaal- the Negative Power within the captivity of Brahmand, to distract him from of reality of bondage, are not worth the bondage itself. He forgets that there is really no 'free lunch' in this state and partaking generously of what appears free will mean paying up with interest at some later date- perhaps by washing dishes. He forgets, in reality, he is potentially the 'king of kings' and not a slave of Mind-Matter.
Man lives in the proverbial 'Cave of Illusion'. By clinging, how so ever hard to the shadows, he cannot reach reality, since reality is an entity apart from its shadows. The reality is: God or Truth; the shadows: those he clings to- the institutionalized religions, the rites and rituals, the superstitions, the artificial temples of bricks and mortar and the like. Indeed, until he gets to discarding the shadows, reality may never be revealed to him. But let us first examine the nature of the shadows themselves, and what they originally purported to represent and how they came to be formed. A beautiful Sufi story says all in this regard: A man called Noor discovered fire and tried to teach it to many tribes- some learnt, some did not. In fact, eventually, Noor was accused of being a sorcerer by some and they killed him for this reason. Centuries later, one tribe had reserved the secret of fire for its priests, who gained power over people through it; the second, forgot fire-making, but began worshipping the instruments of fire-making; the third, worshipped Noor in the form of an idol; the fourth, developed parables about fire-making and read his book of fire-making loudly at their fire-temple every day; only the fifth actually made good use of fire to improve their lives. The same goes today for 'Naam' or 'Holy Word'.
God is to be sought as a chetan- conscious entity, and not a jada- inert or comatose one (although even the inert is created from the conscious). Indeed, this very fundamental fact lies at the heart of the division between the 'liberating' conscious Positive or true Christ Power representing the Spirit and the 'binding' inert Negative or anti-Christ Power representing Mind and Matter. Consciousness comes from consciousness (as does flesh from flesh). While anti-Christ binds us to this inert world of the peripatetic Solar Systems, true Christ liberates us from this bondage of duality. Yet, we subscribe to the religions which do not rise beyond the 'inert' of the triple worlded Brahmand, essentially Mind-Matter worlds.
Religion today is under a scanner, even as the humankind has suddenly awoken to a realization that what was assumed to be a pathway to God, love, peace and unity is anything but.
Religious identities are our big ego trip. We cling to our religious symbols (be they 'Aum', 'Moon and Star' or the 'Cross', without even bothering to know too much as to what they stand for), establish religious dress codes (e.g. the so-called Sadhus in India wear ochre robes, but seldom know its significance: the colour of the rising Sun of the Causal Plane) and proclaim our fanatic religious cries: 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Allah-o-Akbar', 'Waheguru ka Khalsa - Waheguru ki fateh' and so on with warrior-zeal, little realizing that, just as a handful of swallows do not necessarily make summer, these symbolic identities do not necessarily confer us any Spiritual benefit. In order to qualify to be a true Sikh (Khalsa), for instance, one is required to have seen the Pooran Jyot- the lamp within. In order to qualify to be a true Christian, one should have risen on the Cross. A true Muslim should have cut the Moon in twain. It is not important whether we wear our headgear in a gurudwara (as do the Sikh) or remove it (as do the Christians), whether we wash ourselves with sand first (as do the Muslims) or with water (as do the Hindus) prior to prayer. What is required instead is sincerity of the heart. God listens to sincere yearning and sends His Son to redeem a such a seeker, even as oxygen reaches fire, automatically.
Clearly, acquisition of a religion is a mere accident of birth. We are Hindus, Moslems, Christians and the like simply because of our parents' faith; we even marry within our faith (in order to prevent dilution of identity). Religious belonging is no more than acquisition of yet another 'identity'- a mere tag we give ourselves. A perfect Master, when asked about his own religion, argued thus: "In truth, 'I' am Spirit. The Spirit is an essence of God. Therefore, my religion is the same as that of God's- therefore, if God is a Hindu, so am I; if He is a Moslem, so am I;…and so on." God is one- it is just that we see through glasses with different colours! The Christians will have it that Jesus was the 'only begotten son of God'; the Moslems claim that Prophet Mohammed was the 'last Paigambar- messenger' of God; the Sikhs will swear that Guru Nanak was the 'greatest master of all'. And the funny thing is: none today has ever met them or seen them with their own eyes!
How well do we know our own religion? Ask a Hindu the difference between their popular deities- Shiva and Mahesh (Brahm and Brahma, for that matter) or between Shakti, Saraswati or Durga (more often than not their pictures are mixed up!) and you are likely to see a red face. Ask him why the phallus and womb is worshipped by pouring water or milk over it- the result will be utter perplexity. Ask any Christian or even a Christian priest the real meaning of the Cross. Ask any Muslim how one 'can cut the Moon in twain'. The flip side is equally amusing. The Hindus and the Moslems have not seen eye to eye for ages, but put across the proposition that the stone of Abraham at Ka'ba is really the same as Shaligram or the Shiva-Ling- phallus of the Hindus representing the dynamic Vital or Mind energy that initiates creative motion in the static Matter energy womb of the 'Milky Way' or that the 'Holy Qur'an' was a revelation by Mahesh (archangel Gabriel) or that Allah is yet another name for Shiva, and you will probably be inviting a riot.
One of the biggest myths propagated in the name of human unity is that 'all religions lead to God'. Religions are moribund mystic schools. We need to examine what they profess a little more closely. Firstly, we ought to look at the 'deity' the particular religion considers 'God'- does it represent the perfect truth, or is there a higher deity still, representing a higher truth? Secondly, we should examine whether at all the 'path' of God-realization 'as tread by the preceptor of that religion' is still available to us in our own times.
Religious rituals and brute might are against civilized living. One only has to see the rivers and public air-space polluted in the name of religion. Using religion as shield one can even grab public space. Obnoxious 'sacrifices'- even human, rampant superstition (in an age of science!), even sexual exploitation, mass deaths during pilgrimages- be they to Prayag or Mecca- these are the gifts of 'institutional religion'.
No societal ritual is complete without the presence of the (paid) priests, but little do we ponder over whether these persons have any true divine sanction! The best can be said about priests is that they are social workers and the worst that they are idle charlatans who deal in goods/services that they are not really competent to provide. In order to protect their business interests, they will tell you that salvation is not to be had outside of their church. The priests perform 'mock' Baptism ceremonies with water, which is to 'receive' the Spirit into a particular faith. How can a priest possibly provide Baptism 'in the name' of a long bygone master- can a bygone physician treat the living today? We, conveniently forget that true Baptism or 'second birth in the Spirit' can only be performed by a competent Master of the Spirit with the 'Water of Life', not by some ordained minister or priest! As mythologist Joseph Campbell says, "In the lands of the truly 'twice-born', man is finally superior to the gods, whereas in the west, even the saint is required to remain within the body of the Church and the 'second birth' is read rather as being born back into the Church, rather than born out of it." In many societies and religions, Circumcision of the genitals- both male and female is the 'initiation' into the faith. But the real Circumcision- that of the 'Spiritual heart', which is at the Sahasraar, is completely overlooked.
Another 'big business' is that of proselytization or religious 'Conversion'. But what difference does it make for instance, for a blind and ignorant Hindu to be converted to a blind and ignorant Christian or vice versa? One way or the other, he still remains blind and ignorant! True Masters do not convert- they simply 'Invert' (the sensory current going outward through sensory agencies). They do not lay emphasis on religious identities, but nevertheless ask us to be good members of our own society and stick to our own religion for social purposes. More than that, a Hindu is enjoined to be a true Hindu by being able to listen to the 'Naad' within, a Christian a true Christian by being able to listen to the 'Holy Word', a Muslim the 'Kalma'…and so on, all of which really amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?
It is also logical that without a living master of the same spiritual stature as Jesus, there can be no real Christianity, without a master of the stature of Buddha no real Buddhism, and so on. Even a living Master can take an initiate only as far as he himself can go. After all, the Spiritual method of soul's ascent (Yoga) practiced by these masters cannot be had from their teachings and scriptures alone- one also needs a living master of at least their own stature in order to connect with their deity. Those who symbolically purport to carry the flag in their name today are therefore likely to be no more than mere imposters!
One might even begin to argue that if God is indeed One, do we at all need a variety of religions after all? It is indeed galling that even after having been through the 'Century of Science', the human-kind has not developed the elementary intelligence to 'see through' the massive fraud in the name of religion, the 'Organized Religion Inc.' (the biggest business single Corporation on Earth, employing every sixth human or so) has perpetrated upon human-kind for ages! Should we not instead begin to seek and demand the universal, non-denominational 'mother knowledge' behind each of these religions, which can in turn, 'explain' each of these religions? That which the 'Science of Spirituality' is. Isn't is about time the 'scientific Man' began to apply Science to matters concerning his quest for God and Truth?