January 30, 1993 – Dialogue with Daniel Gomez-Ibanez: “Religion is inside us”

As I recall, I had met Daniel Gomez-Ibanez in the 1980s at a very interesting international peace and spirituality conference in Costa Rica. He had emerged as the Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, a huge conference to which he was inviting Maharaj to be a featured speaker. It was to be held in August and September 1993 in Chicago.

We picked up Daniel from the airport and brought him to Gobind Sadan for a 3-day stay. He clearly seemed to be a member of our old family—those who have been with Maharaj in past lives. He acknowledged this feeling in his first words to Maharaj: “I feel like more than a welcome guest. I feel like a family member.” At the end of his lovely audience, Maharaj confirmed, “I believe that what has brought you here is God Himself, not your own choice.”

Seated in the courtyard of Maharaj’s small house under an umbrella set against the sun, Maharaj spoke to Daniel at length. As translated for Daniel by Swaranjit, Maharaj said,

Among those who love God, we are all one family. These religious divisions are fortresses made by humans. From the beginning, God has never changed God’s programme or God’s utterances. They have always been the same. Humans have used all their powers to change this sameness. The purpose of those who are saints or messengers, by contrast, is simply to deliver the message of God. They have no plans or thinking of their own.

Guru Nanak said to God, “You are the Father and the Mother. That is the kind of love I expect from You, and that is the kind of love I want to give to the people.”

Muhammad said that whenever a guest comes to your house you are blessed, because the guest carries the blessing of God. If guests stop coming to your house, you should think, “What have I done wrong?”

Jesus said to those who were following him, “You keep saying ‘Lord’ to me but you don’t do what I tell you. Those of you who don’t obey are just building temporary houses on the earth. Those who do obey are building their homes on a base deep and firm as a mountain. They will not be affected by storms and winds and rains because their foundation in faith is so strong.”

Jesus said, “Don’t collect too many things here—but do collect those things that will go with you to the next life: love, service to others, compassion for others. These will be a great treasure there. Unfortunately, you are collecting the things that will not go with you.”

The service that you give to people should be beyond divisions of caste or religion. It should be just as one human being to another. If you serve in this way, there will be no strife and we will all be like brothers and sisters. The main problem today is that we are living in these fortresses we have made, and we are too content in them to leave them.

Daniel remarked, “We are too afraid to leave them.”

Maharaj continued,

Religious symbols are just marks. Religion is inside us.

Daniel then proceeded to outline the plans for the Chicago Parliament and to request Maharaj to speak there and to participate in the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in the midst of the Parliament, which was envisioned as a blue-ribbon gathering of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders. Daniel explained that the emphasis would be on spiritual approaches to solving the world’s problems. Maharaj said to him,

There is one great weakness: Persons who have the desire to call themselves religious don’t work as they should. I would like you to see what work we are doing. We have started a definite programme of helping the poor and weak. We have been able to create food for thousands where there was nothing. Charity is only for those who cannot walk, who have no money for school fees. It is not for those who are able to work for themselves. If all religious persons would start thinking to help, then poverty can be rooted out of the world.

Daniel asked, “How can we bring that sort of cooperation among the religions? Much misery occurs in the world in the name of religion from people who don’t understand what it is but are misguided.”

Maharaj responded,

That is the most important thing. Why has it happened? People have started doing for themselves, out of greed. They wanted to get glory, power, and money for themselves and thought that doing it in the name of religion was the best way.

Keep in mind that many seminars and meetings have been held but nothing has come of it. Find out if the people who are coming have practical programmes they have put into effect. With the amount of money already spent creating and traveling to these conferences, something real could have been created to help. It is unfortunate that everyone looks to see who are the most important persons, the richest persons, the most powerful persons there. We want to do actual work.

When a few people start working in the right direction, others will follow. It won’t be solved in one or two meetings. Some work will have to be done to start it and then others will talk about it. When people get together, everyone will start working in one direction. I feel they are good people and want to do something but don’t know how.

Another problem is that these religious leaders have already been talking about some things and are a little afraid they might not be accepted.

Daniel observed, “They don’t know how to bring their organizations along.”

After giving some examples of his own meetings with certain famous religious leaders who were in fact insincere, Maharaj said to Daniel,

First decide—What is God? Is He weak and lazy? Can’t He do everything? If He can, why can’t you also? God is very powerful. He is standing there with so much to give that you will start thinking, “How much can I take?” But people don’t have faith. The tongue speaks that God is great, but inside the faith is not there. From my youth, I’m a very questioning person. But I have asked with love, and He has always answered. I’ve always prayed and said, “You must guide me, show me how it must be done.” He has always said, “Yes.” Whenever there was a doubt, I’d ask and He would give an answer.

He took me to places where there were lazy bad people, bad land, and said, “This is where you must work.” I have worked for days and nights together, and it is a success. He only looks to give you love. He doesn’t look to take anything from you.

That is the biggest problem with all these religious leaders. They don’t do this with faith. They only talk. There are always only a very few people who have vision, enlightenment.

I met many black people in America who asked me about the uprooting of Africa. I explained that their energy has all been directed to fighting, doing wrong things, sitting idle—so the result is poverty. All the treasure is there in the ground—Africa has rich soil and minerals. Therefore they must start working and then they can feed other countries. You can start factories and farms there, but someone has to do the work.

What we are wearing and eating, all is produced from the earth. All riches are in the earth. But people don’t work for it; everyone goes into the cities. They should start at the village level.

The explanation always given is that the government is not good. But what is the government? It is the people. Some politician gets up and says, “I will remove all the poverty.” He takes a list of rich people and asks how much they will give him. They ask if it’s tax-deductible; then they give some. So he’s not an honest man. He takes the money but it doesn’t root out poverty.

You can only root out poverty when you put people to work. What I feel from my heart is that there are two kinds of people—religious leaders and politicians—who if they would become all right, poverty would be gone. Especially religious leaders should practice the teachings of their prophets. Jesus said, “You can’t have two masters. If money is your master, God is not. It won’t work.”

People came to Jesus for enlightenment. He said, “First give all that you have to the poor, and then come.” A rich man said, “Shall I give up my things, my father’s inheritance?” Jesus said, “I can see what is in your mind. You cannot have two masters. Perhaps a camel can go through the eye of a needle, but I don’t think a rich man can enter the house of my Father.” He meant, if you love God, all that God gives you will be full of love also. You’re not thinking of that, but of materialistic things.

We stretch out our hands to rich people, but God is not a beggar. God is Love. God is no book. We have to just think of love, not books and such.

When you invite people to speak at the conference, they will start looking at their books to see what to say.

Daniel several times during this dialogue asked Maharaj if he could recommend any other religious leaders who could effectively contribute to the work of the Parliament. Maharaj said,

It will take some time, but good people will emerge. God is the judge.

Many people are good, and all people can become good. We have to give love to them and show them what to do. They will look into you to see if you are really practicing what you are talking about. I am 100 percent of the view that you must speak only of what you do yourself.

Maharaj recalled the UNICEF interfaith conference he attended in the United States in 1990:

At that meeting a Muslim said, “We can’t work together because we don’t speak the same language.” Buddhists were angry about use of the word “God.”

You must keep your goal in your mind, and have faith, and things will work out. You must accept that there is a Power that is King of the spirit. Once we have faith in that Power, the world will change. It has to change, because He knows how bad things are.

Daniel said, “I’ve been getting a lot of lessons in faith lately.”

Maharaj affirmed,

With faith God stands beside you; without faith, the Devil stands beside you.

What was the way that Jesus worked and held meetings? He walked along and people gathered and he blessed them. All the prophets were doing the same.

Buddhists speak of Truth rather than of God, but it’s the same thing. They have said you will reach nirvana, but they don’t say what it is. It is enlightenment. What is Truth after all? God. Those who have loved God have stood by truth.

Jesus said on the cross, “Your Will will work, not mine.” There was no difference between God and the spirit inside him, but it had to be shown in human form.

God is great, full of love. God wants to give us everything, but we don’t go toward Him. He has so much to give that it never finishes. If we work alone, we will become tired. We have to have His spirit with us. Then there is joy and we can work tirelessly. If our faith is not strong, our work will be weak. Why do we walk in drains when there is a big ocean, a flood of enlightenment?

The next day, Maharaj blessed Daniel by giving him Nam. Daniel asked for his blessings for being able to see clearly and to understand, in order to manage the responsibility of organizing the conference. He said, “I think that when one sees, one knows what one must do.”

Maharaj replied,

When we start loving Him, this is the first understanding He will give. It is inside, hidden, but it comes out when you start loving Him. Keep loving Him, and He will give you not only understanding but also the true knowledge of things.

Daniel confessed, “I doubt if I will be strong enough.”

Maharaj assured him emphatically,

You have the strength. And when you start loving God, He is waiting to give you a lot of strength and power. There are oceans, floods of Power lying with Him. You will receive so much that you will feel full, but There it never empties. It is always full.