image by axinia
When speaking on the subject of ideal life, the words of the Prophet of Islam may be quoted, where he says, ‘Every soul has
its own religion.’ This means that every soul has a certain direction, which it has chosen, a goal to attain during life. This goal is
a certain ideal, which depends on the soul’s evolution.
Religion in the East is not made into a thing apart from one’s life, as in the West where business, profession, and other things
on the one side of life, and going to church one day in the week on the other side, together constitute religion, with a prayer
before going to rest. But, strictly speaking, life is religion. When one has that ideal before one with whatever occupation one is
concerned, business, industry, domestic life, or whatever it is, one carries it out, trying to be worthy of it, that is religion.
In the Hindu language, the same word, Dharma, means both duty and religion. Both are expressed by one word. ‘This is your
Dharma’ means: ‘This is your faith.’ How beautiful the thought is! Whatever kind of duty it is, so long as you have an ideal
before you and are performing that duty, you are walking in the path of religion.
We, with our narrowness of faith or belief, accuse others of belonging to another religion, another chapel or church. We say,
‘This temple is better, that faith is better.’ The whole world has kept on fighting and devastating itself just because it can not
understand that each form of religion is peculiar to itself. Therefore, the ideal life is in following one’s own ideal. It is not in
checking other people’s ideals. If a certain thing is one’s ideal, that does not mean that another person will agree that it is best
to offer prayers ten times a day. He may be doing better by following his religion in his shop than by going to a mosque and
offering up a prayer twenty times a day. Perhaps somebody with that ideal cannot see that the other person’s way is an ideal
also. Leave everyone to follow his own ideal.
A person may say that a religious ideal is the true ideal, or a moral, spiritual, or a practical life. Many people say it is much
better to be in the world, to live in the world. Others say it is better to live away from the wicked world, to get away and live in
the forests, the jungles, or the caves. They say, ‘This is the only way to live.’ Others say, ‘Just make merry, eat, drink, and
enjoy life.’ But others again say, ‘The good life is in the service of man. As much service as we can give, as much kindness, as
much love, that is the ideal.’
If we ask a hundred people, we will hear of a hundred ideals. Everyone thinks that he who follows his ideal is the best person,
and whoever follows another ideal is wicked. Sufis, mystics, ascetics, in spite of all their high ideals, have been killed,
beheaded, and tortured by different religious authorities, because these religious authorities had a different ideal, and were
convinced that their own ideal was right and the other wrong. They said, ‘My Church is the only Church which exists, the only
one, which can teach you the real truth.’ Is it not true that every Church or every faith in which there is a willingness for others
to join, thinks that its ideal and its belief is the best to follow? That is man’s foolishness. He wishes everyone to follow the same
ideal as his. He does not know that the prophets whom the world may follow, often could not get their brother or their wife or
their child to follow them!
If we read the history of Abraham, Moses, or Mohammad, we see what happened. It was difficult for their own people to
follow them, however many other followers they may have had, because every soul has its own peculiar ideal, and it wants to
go on towards it.
True preaching would be asking everyone to develop his own ideal, however wrong it might appear to the outsider at the
moment. Let each one develop his faculty of doing right in his own judgement. One will see that in time he will develop the real
thing, because in him is the light of God and it will never misguide him.