Growing up, I was always searching for the universal truth, I really wanted to be religious and have faith. I wanted to know which religion was the true religion. I was jealous of those people who had a strong faith, I wanted that certainty and security, I wanted to know what or who God was.
Whilst researching all the theologies and ‘rule books’ of all the major religions, I felt conflicted and confused. I felt simultaneously attracted and repelled by separate parts of each religion. Unlike many people, I didn’t feel I fitted into a single religion. If only I could take all the pieces I felt resonated with me and ignore the other bits, but I assumed religion doesn’t work like that, religion doesn’t involve cherry picking. During my early teenage years, one of my friends told me that it didn’t matter how good of a person I was, I would go to hell if I didn’t become a strict Christian and go to Church every Sunday, that scared the sh*t out me for a while (just to be clear, that is not the opinion of many Christians).
When I moved to India, I slipped from an untraditional Christian tradition, into a traditional Hindu tradition. I automatically began to compare, contrast and search for the similarities between the religions my husband and I were born into. When you go to Church you pray, you look towards the altar, sing together, receive bread and wine which has been blessed. There will be flowers, candles and occasionally incense, there will be a sense of community. When you go to a Temple you pray, you look towards the deity, during aarti (a ritual) you sing together, receive prasad (a small token of food) which has been blessed. There will be flowers, oil lamps, incense, there will be a sense of community. I found the similarities between an Eastern worship and a Western worship, fascinating and I have found solace in both forms.
All religions at their heart value love, kindness, compassion, charity, faith, truth, peace, tolerance and forgiveness. All people should have those values too, sadly that’s not always the case (even those who would label themselves as ‘religious’). The way people from each religion worship, see the world and live their lives can be extremely different, but we humans are all different, this shouldn’t be a reason to discriminate and hate. Surely God, in his omnipresent and omnipotent splendor, would lay out more than just one road towards him/her. I now feel that wisdom can be found in every tradition, we don’t have to sign up to religious sect to feel worthy, we should concentrate on being good people.
“One should not think, ‘My religion alone is the right path and other religions are false.’ God can be realized by means of all paths. It is enough to have sincere yearning for God. Infinite are the paths and infinite the opinions.”