When most people think of religion, they think of a particular faith: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, etc. They also feel that religion is something that you can join or something that you can quit. A person’s faith can change but “Sanatana-Dharma” refers to the fundamental essence of the self, that which can’t be taken from you, that which is part of you. To render loving service to the Supreme Soul, this is real religion.
Love: The Religion Of The Soul
Jagad Guru: So tonight we want to discuss the question of religion. You know, many people they’ll say to me, “Are you a Hindu?” They’ll ask, “Are you Hindu, or are you Christian or what are you?” Because, they say, “We can’t understand this. We don’t really, it’s hard for us to comprehend because I’m watching the television show and one moment you’re quoting Bhagavad-gita and the next moment you’re quoting Jesus Christ.” So they’re trying to figure out what label to put on me. What label are they going to put on the Science of Identity? Is it a Hindu thing? Or is it a Christian thing? Or is it a Mohammedan thing? What is it? So this makes us realize that we have to explain what is real religion.
Most people, when they think of religion, what do they think of? They think of a particular faith. They think of a particular method or process. Right? They think of Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew and so on. So this is people’s idea of religion. So therefore they also feel or believe that religion is something that you can join or something that you can quit. Right? That’s why they say, “Uhh, what is your religion? What were you before that? Have you ever thought of changing your religion?” They ask questions like this. And some people, they say, “You know, I used to be a Christian, but now I’m a Muslim.” Or, “I used to be a Muslim but now I’m a Hindu.” Or, “I used to be a Hindu but now I am a Christian.” Like this. Who here has heard of this? How many people? Raise your hand if you’ve come across this idea. All of us. We’ve all come across this idea. Just like maybe some of you tonight or the other night when you are coming to our lectures, you’re thinking, “Should I go to this? I wonder if this conflicts with my religion.” This, “I’m a Christian.” Or, “I’m Catholic,” or, “I’m a Protestant.” So this is what most people think of when they think of religion. But, in fact, this is not really the proper definition of religion.
There is a quote which I’d like to read from my spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami. He writes in this connection on the word ‘sanatana-dharma’. He says,
“The English word ‘religion’ is a little different from sanatana-dharma. Religion conveys the idea of faith and faith may change. One may have faith in a particular process, and he may change that faith and adopt another process. But, sanatana-dharma refers to that activity which cannot be changed. For instance, liquidity cannot be taken from water, nor can heat be taken from fire. Similarly, the eternal function of the eternal living entity cannot be taken away from the living entity.”
Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhagavad-gita Introduction
So here we have another whole way of looking at the question of religion. That is, religion is not something that you join or quit. But rather, religion is your fundamental essence which can’t be taken away from you. Your religion is that which can’t be taken from you which is part of you. Just like, you can’t have fire without heat. You can’t have water without wetness. If there’s water, there’s going to be wetness. You can’t take it away. So the Science of Identity is actually the uncovering of your true identity, your true eternal religion. What is it that cannot change about you? What is it that you cannot change? You can change your faith. You can go from Christian to Buddhist or Buddhist to Muslim or whatever. Right? You can change that. So, obviously that’s not eternal. What were you before you were a Christian? Before you called yourself a Christian what were you? What were you before you called yourself a Hindu, or a Muslim or whatever? Obviously if something can be left behind, if you can leave behind the label or the process of Christian, or Muslim, or whatever, then it means it’s not you. It’s not inseparable from you. So it’s not your eternal identity. It’s not your eternal function. What is that which can’t be taken away from you? It is described in the Bhagavad-gita as being these two things: one, your eternality. You are eternal. And two, you are, by nature, rendering service.
So, in fact, the eternal religion, or the actual religion of the eternal living being is his function of rendering service. Everybody renders service to somebody else; everybody. Even the politicians, who are thinking that they’re trying to… that they’re going to get away with something and have all the people serve them, end up having to serve the whims of the voters. Or serve those who pay for their campaigns. Everybody’s serving. The communists are serving the state. The laborers are serving the capitalists. Everyone is serving. Even the big industrialist, who does he serve? His wife. And they both serve their children. And their children serve their teachers and their parents. If you look at the situation, you’ll find that nobody can get away from rendering service. Even it may not be desirable – that they don’t want to render the service – everybody is rendering service. They’re serving someone or something. So this natural element which is part of us, rendering service, combined with our actual identity – our essence as spirit, not material, we are not matter, we’re spirit – these two things combined make for our actual religion, our eternal identity and our eternal function.
The eternal religion of the eternal living being is rendering loving service eternally to the Supreme Being. Really, religion means the spirit soul, the part and parcel of God, rendering loving service to the Supreme Soul. This is the actual eternal natural function of the living entity.
Who am I? I am spirit soul in essence. I am eternal. I am not made of matter. I am not temporary. What is my position? I am dominated, I am not all-powerful. I’m controlled by both natural and social elements – from the law of time to the traffic light, to diseases, governmental laws, so many things. Social laws and natural laws dominate us. So we’re not God. We’re not the Supreme Soul. We’re rendering service to others also. We can’t get away from it even when we try. We end up rendering service. Even those so-called great gurus, who pose as being God, end up rendering service by having to serve the whims of their disciples by having to do all kinds of mystic tricks in order to keep those followers. So they have to serve them. Everybody is rendering service.
So we’re dominated. We’re eternal. We’re not all-powerful, yet we are eternal. We are spirit in essence, not matter. And we are actually part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. So my real religion as a dominated part and parcel of God, my real religion, my real natural function is obvious: rendering loving service to God. So this is real religion.
Real religion means that which you can’t take away from yourself. And what you can’t take away from yourself is your identity as God’s eternal servant. Whether you try to forget that you’re God’s eternal servant, whether you try to identify yourself as your temporary body or not, whether you recognize your identity as part and parcel of God or whether you deny this fact; whether you say that you are temporary and you claim that God does not exist, it doesn’t matter. You are still an eternal part and parcel of God. You are still spirit in essence and you still are, in fact, His servant. You may not be willingly serving Him but, in fact, you are serving.
Everybody is serving God one way or the other, directly or indirectly. In the material world everybody is serving God. How is that? We’re all serving God indirectly. Does anybody know how? We’re serving God indirectly because we are serving Maya, illusion. And illusion is the energy of God. Illusion, Maya, ignorance, is actually working… Material nature is working under the direction of God. Material nature is not independent from God. Material nature is not acting on its own. Material nature is not God. There is a controlling element, a controlling Being behind material nature, the Origin of material nature, the Cause of all causes. And that is God. Material nature is working under the direction of the Supreme Lord. So even those who don’t believe in the existence of God; even those of us who try to get away from God, who don’t want to serve God, even those who don’t want to serve God, we come to the material worlds and we try not to serve God, we try to imitate God, we try to BE God – even we end up indirectly serving God even though we try to deny His existence. We end up serving Him by serving our senses. By serving illusion. By serving material nature. We’re the servants of time. We’re the servants of all the laws of material nature. We serve material nature. We are under material nature’s laws and we serve material nature.
So even if we don’t accept the existence of God, or we don’t want to serve God, we still end up being His servant, indirectly. So we’re still servant of God. But the difference is, we don’t see Him. We don’t know Him. We don’t experience the loving relationship with Him that is inherently our right. Part of our identity. But we are turning our backs to it. What is naturally ours, just like wetness is naturally the property of water, what is naturally ours – that is our eternal relationship with God; that I am His servant and having this loving relationship with Him – we don’t want to see it. We’re not seeing it now because we are serving material nature. But in either case, we’re still serving God. We’re still under the jurisdiction of God. So nobody can not serve God. Either we serve God directly and experience the happiness in it, we experience the love in it, or we serve God indirectly. We end up serving illusion, Maya. So we are either the servants of Maya or we’re the servants of the Supreme Person directly. But in either case, we are directly or indirectly servants of God. Therefore, it must be concluded that our natural function is eternally rendering service to God.
So if we understand these two things, our eternal essence that ‘I am spirit soul, I’m not matter. I’m not temporary. I don’t begin with the birth of the body or the conception of this body. And I don’t end when this body dies.’ We must understand this and we must understand that by nature I am the eternal servant of God. This is my natural function.
So religion then means that I am acting on this fact. I am knowing this. If this is my eternal religion, I can’t change it. I can’t run away from it. I am eternal and I am God’s servant eternally. I can’t change these facts. This is my religion. This is everyone’s religion. That we are all the eternal servants of God. We are all spirit souls, part and parcel of God. Whether we like it or not. That means that we can’t get away from our religion. We can try to close our eyes to it, but this does not alter the fact.
So religion does not entail faith in this sense. The real definition of religion is that you are what you are. You are the eternal servant of God whether you believe it, whether you don’t believe it, whether you act on it, whether you don’t act on it. It doesn’t have anything to do with your believing it. You can’t join it and you can’t quit it! You can’t stop being what you are! And you are eternally God’s servant! That’s your religion. You can’t stop this. You can’t start it and you can’t stop it. It’s your eternal identity, you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t get away from your real religion. So this is a completely different way of looking at the question of religion or the definition of religion than that which is normally applied.
Try to understand that a particular faith or a particular process which is meant to help you achieve or realize your real identity, your relationship with God – that this process itself is not religion. Because you can change the process; you can change from the Catholic process to the Mohammedan process. You can change from process A to process B, from process B to process C and so on. So therefore the process itself is not religion. This should not be very hard to understand. Religion is that underlying truth, the Absolute Truth, which cannot change, which the process is meant to help you come to realize. The process that we are engaging in here – the chanting of particular names of God, the process of Bhakti yoga, sadhana bhakti, which you are applying, or trying to apply in your lives – this process is not itself religion.
One particular process is not itself, religion. But rather, it is meant to help you achieve or realize your real religious condition. So then any particular process should be judged according to whether or not it helps you come to this standard of understanding your identity, your relationship with God.
If, for example, you have been following a particular process from the time of your birth till today and your body’s fifty years old and you still think of religion as being something you can join or quit – you still think of religion as being a member of a particular team or something that you can join or leave, that you can declare your allegiance to or stop declaring your allegiance to it – if that’s what you think of as being religion and if you think you are a religious person because you are a member of a particular group, or team, or church, or sect, or whatever, then it means that the process has not helped you. It means that that particular process you are applying has not helped you.
If you don’t know who you are yet, if you don’t know your real religion yet, if you don’t know religion, if you don’t know who you are, that you are the eternal spark of God, the eternal part and parcel of God, that you are His eternal servant, if you are not yet tasting your relationship with Him, if you are not experiencing this exchange of your relationship with the Supreme Lord, if you’re not fixed up in this condition – then it means that you have not achieved that which you really want, what you really need. Real religion.
So if people understood what real religion means then they would not have so much fighting over this business of ‘This is the real religion,’ and ‘This is not the real religion.’ Or people would not be sucked into this wrong idea that ‘I can become religious simply by joining this team. Simply by joining this faith or this sect or this church, I am automatically a religious person.’ No.
The really religious person is one who is in full knowledge of, and is fixed up in, the absolute truth of his identity as the eternal loving servant of the Supreme Lord. And if that person achieves that condition, he achieves this understanding and he’s achieved this platform of spiritual perfection by one particular process or another, then fine. It doesn’t matter. Is this understandable? It’s not very difficult to understand.