Philosophy is a game for people who are not thirsty. Religion is the journey of those who are thirsty. Therefore philosophy plays with words; not so religion. Religion takes cognizance of the hints the words give and follows them. When the quest is for the lake, what can the word lake do? When the search is for life, the word life alone sounds hollow.
Let us understand a little about a profound question facing the philosopher. A tourist comes to India and he is given a map of India. What is the relationship between India and the map? If the map is the same as India then it must be as vast. If it is exactly like India, it would be useless, because you couldn’t carry it in your car, much less put it in your pocket. If it is not like India, how can it still be useful?
The map is a symbol. It is not like India and yet by means of its lines, it conveys useful information about India. You may roam the whole of India without ever seeing a map of India. Wherever you go you will find India; the map is nowhere to be seen. But if you have the map with you and understand it and use it, the journey will be made easier. By either keeping the map in your pocket, or by looking at the map and never leaving your room, you will not learn a great deal. Both together make for the fullest understanding of the experience.
Religious people the world over hold the maps to their chests as if the maps were the actuality, the totality. Scriptures, holy books, images, temples — all contain hidden pointers that keep the maps from being just a burden. The Hindu is carrying his load of maps, the Mohammedan his, the Christian his. The maps have become so numerous that the journey is now almost impossible, so weighted down are you by maps. The maps should be short, abridged, and they are not to be worshipped in themselves, but to be utilized on the journey.
Nanak drew his essentials from both the Hindu and the Mohammedan religions. He cannot be called Hindu nor Mohammedan; he is both or neither. It was very difficult for people to understand Nanak. There was a saying: “Baba Nanak is the king of the fakirs. He is the guru of the Hindus and the saint of the Mohammedans.”
He is both. Of his two special disciples, Mardana and Bala, one was Hindu and the other a Mohammedan. Yet Nanak has no place in the Hindu temple or in the Mohammedan mosque. Both doubt his position and do not know where to place him. Nanak is the confluence of the two rivers, of Hinduism and Islam. He harvested the essence from both. Therefore the Sikh is neither Hindu nor Mohammedan; they must be both or none since their religion arises out of their junction.
Now it is difficult to understand this confluence; when there is a river on the map it is clear-cut, but here two rivers have become one. Some words relate to Islam while others reflect Hinduism, and together they became hazy, but gradually the fog clears when you enter into the experience. If you keep Nanak’s words on your chest as you do other scriptures, it becomes like any other holy book — and we do find the Sikh worshipping his words as if they were the guru. Is it not astonishing how we repeat our mistakes?
Nanak went to Mecca. The priests there told him to be careful not to point his feet toward Kaaba while he slept. As the story goes, Nanak’s reply was that they should turn his feet where God was not, and, it is said, the holy stone of Mecca turned wherever they turned his feet. The symbolism means only this: wherever you turn your feet, there God is. Where will you put your feet if He is omnipresent?
I was invited to the Golden Temple at Amritsar. When I went they stopped me at the entrance saying I must cover my head before entering the place of God. I reminded them of the incident with Nanak at Kaaba and asked them, “Does it mean that right here where I stand with my head uncovered, there is no God, no temple?” We keep on repeating our mistakes. I further asked, “Then please show me a place where I can be without a head-covering. And don’t you remove your turbans while bathing, and while sleeping? Then isn’t that also an affront to the Lord?”
Man’s foolishness is the same everywhere. Whatever Buddha says, his followers paint with their own brush to suit them. And so also with Nanak. The same web is woven once a master has pronounced his words, because man’s foolishness has not changed, nor has his deafness improved. He hears, but he draws his own individual conclusions which he then follows accordingly, never putting into practice what he actually hears.
Nanak says, no matter how many songs are sung about the Lord, nobody has covered it completely. Different people sing different songs because there are many paths to reach Him. However antithetical their songs may seem there is no contradiction anywhere because they all contain the same message. The Vedas say exactly what the Koran says, but the method by which Mohammed reached is different from Patanjali’s approach. Buddha also says the same thing but his method is entirely different.
Infinite are the gates to His abode. Whichever way you go leads to His gate. Once arrived you can begin to define the gate through which you entered, and describe the path you have trodden. Another person will likewise describe his own door and his road. Besides, it is not only the path that differs, but your understanding, your perception, your emotional attitude all play a significant part.
When a poet enters a garden, he sings in ecstasy; an artist would paint a picture; if a flower-merchant comes along, he will think in terms of sale and profit; a scientist will analyze the flowers or soil to find out their chemical composition and why they grow; a drunk will be oblivious to the beauty around him, he will not even know that he went through a garden. Whatever you see passes through the windows of your own eyes which impose their own color on everything.
Says Nanak: Some sing the praise of His power — He is all powerful, omnipotent. Some sing of His benefaction and munificence — He is the supreme giver. Some sing of the glory of His attributes, His beauty — He is the most beautiful. Some call Him Truth, some call Him Shiva, some call Him the beautiful.”
Rabindranath has written: “I found Him in beauty.” This says nothing of God; rather, it tells of Rabindranath. Gandhi says: “For me, He is truth — truth is God.” This speaks of Gandhi rather than of God. Rabindranath is a poet; for a poet God resides in beauty, supreme beauty. Gandhi was no poet, he is practical, and it is natural that such a mind sees God as truth. From the point of a lover — He is the beloved.
How we see Him reflects our insight. He is everything simultaneously and also — none of these. In this context Mahavira’s reflection is wonderful. He says, “Unless and until your sense of vision drops, you cannot know Him.” For whatever you will know, you will know through your own seeing; it will be your view of knowing. Mahavira calls his method no-view. Seeing only occurs when all vision drops.
But then you will lapse into silence, because how will you speak without a viewpoint? When you are freed of your vision, you will become like Him; because you will be so extensive, so comprehensive, you will be one with the open skies. How will you speak? You will no longer be separate unto yourself, but one with the absolute. A viewpoint means that you stand apart from what you see; to have a viewpoint means that you are separate from Him.
Therefore Nanak says that all the viewpoints are correct but none is complete; when the partial is proclaimed as complete and perfect, the illusions begin. Any sect or organization claims one particular incomplete vision as perfect. One sect stands against another, whereas all sects are different aspects of religion, and no one sect is a religion. If we were to amalgamate all possible sects that have been, that are and that will be, then religion would be born. No sect on its own can be called religion.
The word for sect in Hindi, sampradaya, also means the path, that which takes you to the goal; whereas religion, dharma, means the destination. The destination is one, the paths, many.
Our deepest gratitude to Osho