by Murshid Hidayat Inayat-Khan

The Unity of Religious Ideals
The followers of all religions believe in wisdom. Christians feel that there is wisdom in being Christian; Jews feel that there is wisdom in being Jewish; Muslims feel that there is wisdom in being Muslim; Hindus and Buddhists as well as the followers of so many other religions known or unknown to the world also feel that there is wisdom in the religion to which they are attracted.

Nevertheless, each one that truly discovers wisdom is relieved thereby from identifying with the limitations of religious differences. Wisdom, which raises above all distinctions and differences, is in itself the truest definition of the term religious insight. Wisdom is not a religion, nor is it a cult or a school; wisdom is an ‘open door’, an attitude of inner sympathy towards all beliefs, recognizing the illusions in all speculative interpretation of Truth.

Truth, however, is not necessarily what one might think it to be. It is not glimpsed only in physical experience, nor solely seen in thought, nor found in the feeling heart alone, but is only revealed fully at a still higher level of consciousness, where boundaries vanish and the self no longer separates reality from illusion. It is a level where there are neither limitations nor opposites, with no relationship to any framework of preconceived ideas, such as those expressed in all dogmatic interpretations of Truth. When trying to explain God, one fashions an individual concept, limited to the horizon of one’s own thinking.

But again, there are as many Truths as there are seekers after truth. This formulation could be illustrated as follows: If one took six or seven different glasses, each of a different color, and poured water in them, the water would appear red in one glass, blue in another, green in a third, and so on, although it would be the same water in each. In the same way, all religions are in their origin of divine inspiration, but, like the image of water in different colored glasses, as soon as heavenly inspiration is reflected in human thought, it acquires the color of that thinking. We then call one color Hinduism, another color Buddhism, another Islam and still other colors are called Judaism, Christianity, and other religious denominations. Therefore, since the origin of all religions is of divine nature, they can only be understood inasmuch as one is prepared to recognize in each one the unity of religious ideals. At this level of understanding, all religions appear to be so many derivations of one and the same impulse, the cry of the heart, the longing of the soul for Truth .

All religions, which manifest periodically as sparks of light, have been inspired in all times by the all-pervading Message of compassion that has always been and shall always be offered to mankind. The religious reformers formulated their teachings on the level of the cultural standards of the followers, but from age to age, the moral and spiritual values of religions are variously interpreted by the “callers from the pulpit”, and also variously understood by the followers of the followers, who go on forever pursuing one dogma after another, not realizing that these do not always have anything in common with the original word.

Religious ideals, which were originally offered as a helping hand toward the realization of truth, tend to be confined within different religious forms and to be clad in various illusionary garments by those who do not see that the means to attain an object cannot be the goal; the goal is further still. The path is the means of reaching the goal but if one argues over the authenticity of the path, one is misled by the differences and can never reach the goal.
Each religion strikes a characteristic tone, and when all blend harmoniously together as a divine symphony, one then encounters the reality of a perfect unity of all spiritual ideals. However, this does not mean indulging in a federative initiative; it only means discovering the golden thread running through all religious structures, which reveals a profound oneness at the level of the original inspiration, interwoven within all religious expressions.
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image: "Frame" Fazalunissa Carole Harmon

One can only be really attuned to a particular religion if one’s heart is open to all religious beliefs, with the same love and understanding for each, and with the understanding that wisdom takes it for granted that some very specific dogmas might have made sense at the time that they were preached, but don’t necessarily apply any more in our world today, where science has taken over the responsibility of such subjects as health and education, which used to be part of the basic structures of ancient religion. In our century and with the development of science and communication, it has become clear that each religion did have a special purpose to fulfil at a particular period of human evolution.

Hazrat Inayat Khan came to us with a call for the unity of religious ideals. This call implies being liberated from such feelings as ‘my religion’ as opposed to ‘your religion,’ because there is only one religion and several interpretations of the one Truth. Through the ages there has been one religion after another, but each one came as a confirmation of the previous one.

The religion of our time is destined to be the religion of the heart, and since there are many hearts, there are many religions, although all religions spring forth from one and the same heart, the temple of God, wherein, when wisdom prevails, Love, Lover and Beloved are one.