If we want to attain God, first we must understand that there is only one principle of Divinity. This one Divine nature reflects in all that we see. Each religion is like a vessel in which the sun’s reflection is visible. The vessels may have varied prices and values. But the sun that reflects in them has no variations in its worth. It remains the same. But the narrow-minded people of today think weirdly. A small illustration: there is a vessel filled with oil. The moon’s reflection is seen in the oil. Now what should be done to remove the moon’s image from that? Man tries to heat the vessel hoping that the moon will vanish. What does an intelligent person do? He analyses as to what is the basis of the reflection? It is the oil! So if oil is thrown out, the reflection of the moon will not be seen anymore. There is no use heating the vessel. Similarly, our body is a vessel. To sublimate what is reflected in this, we are putting the body through tortures and punishments. What kind of torture? Fasting! In the name of some vow to God, we stop eating food and weaken our bodies. Weakness of the body further leads to weakness of the mind. Why all this? “Aham Vaishva Naro Bhootwa Praninam Dehamashritah”. (I am within you as the fire principle.) Whatever you may consume, think you are feeding God. You shall be sanctified. Do not consume with the ego that it is you who eats and relishes. God Himself says, ‘I am Vaishvanara in each being’. So, if we maintain that feeling whatever we eat becomes an offering to God. It is God within the body that relishes what is fed. Who created the digestive system within this body? Who is responsible for birth and death? That distinguishes the man of reason.
Starting from the Ekadashi day or any festival day, some observe fast even for 3 to 4 days and later they eat double the quantity of food! In the Madhva sect, Bhishma Ekadashi is an important occasion. Bhishma Ekadashi is a rigorous vow. Just as Bhishma himself vowed and followed a rigorous lifestyle, people observe a rigorous fast on that occasion. They do not even swallow their saliva. It is that strict. This goes on for 3 days. On the fourth day, they eat sumptuously. Madhva’s sect has a peculiar philosophy: ‘Don’t give up and if you give up, don’t take up again.’ This is their staunch nature. It is fine if such things are followed meticulously. But, all religions have their weak points. They start the Bhishma Ekadashi vow. What do they do over the 3 days of fasting? Batter and prepare flour for Dosas and let it set nicely. After the three days, the Dosas will come out deliciously fluffy. That is why this custom is mocked at as, ‘What is observed is Ekadashi, what is eaten are 40 Dosas!’ If one is prepared to eat 40 Dosas why should one fast at all? Of course, not all are like that. Only some are like that. Similarly, take the case of the Vaishnavites. What is the meaning of Vaishnavism? The one who contemplates on the all-pervading nature of God (Vishnu) is a true Vaishnavite. Vishnu itself means all pervasiveness. He is in this world spreading infinite limbs. He is found everywhere. So, if they really believe in this philosophy, how can they entertain differences among fellowmen? Thus in all religions, some of the principles are believed by the followers, but no efforts are made to practise and experience them using their faculties of discrimination and reasoning.
Students! Do not get into religious differences. There is only one God in all religions. Respect all religions with that feeling. Experience the essence of all religions in your own religion. Do not get into arguments. Do not criticise any religion. Such criticism is dangerous. You may undermine some other religion, but it ultimately amounts to undermining your own religion. Salute all beings for they are verily the forms of the Divine.
“Sarva Jeeva Namaskaram Keshavam Pratigachhati”
The salutations offered to anyone reach God Himself.
With such an equal attitude, foster love, believe in universality and attain the omnipresent Lord. This is the substance of true religion.