Question: A lot of times in the world, religion often acts as and is seen as a divider of people and a source of conflict rather than a source of unity and greater understanding for people. Why is this? And what, if anything, can be done to change this?
Jagad Guru: When a person or a society has only a superficial acquaintance with or understanding of religion generally or about a specific religion, then this is a source of misunderstanding and can lead to more conflict.
On a superficial level, various spiritual and religious practices may seem completely different from each other. But if you look deeply into the teachings and practices, especially the spiritual practices, you will find a lot of universal spiritual principles and practices that they share.
People who consider themselves to be of a particular religious faith are themselves actually not advanced in their spiritual development. Their understanding of their own spiritual path is very shallow and, in that condition, they have an even more shallow understanding of other spiritual paths. Such individuals cause a lot of conflict.
On the other hand, individuals who seriously follow their particular spiritual path and make personal spiritual advancement gradually come to the point where they transcend their superficial sectarian attitude by dint of their own spiritual advancement.
In other words, they come to understand what real religion is and they begin to recognize that people who follow other religious or spiritual paths can also come to that level of spiritual advancement if they are serious in their practices and sincere in their quest.
Question: What do you think about politics?
Jagad Guru: Let me tell you a very instructive story about a great yoga sage long ago. Although he was just a child, he was already very enlightened. His father was a very powerful king, always involved in politics and diplomacy, and he wanted his son to also get involved in politics. But his son expressed to his father, “I’m not inclined toward politics because I feel friendship toward everyone, and I want to feel friendship toward everyone; but in politics, this is very difficult.
Because in politics, it is usually necessary to see one person as your opponent and another person as an ally or friend. And conversely, people see you as their opponent or ally or friend, depending upon your political position. I wish to be a friend to all and have others accept me as their friend and well-wisher.” That’s how I feel. I want everybody, regardless of their politics, to be able to learn and apply the Science of Identity to their life.
I want everyone to have the opportunity to follow the path of yoga, regardless of their political viewpoints or alliances. If I get involved in politics, then automatically I will be denying many people the opportunity to accept the gift of yoga and apply it in their lives. So although some people may feel comfortable trying to work for the welfare of others in the arena of politics, serving in that way is not my calling.
It is just like some people feel very comfortable being involved in business endeavors—that is also not my calling. Everybody works and tries to serve in different ways, and my humble attempt to serve is as a teacher. I do not consider being a teacher superior to other occupations or that it somehow makes me better than other people who try to serve in some other way. But it is an occupation that comes naturally to me.