As I travel around the world, doing research for my book on the world’s religions and meeting people on behalf of my teacher, Baba Virsa Singh, an extraordinary thing often happens to me: I keep meeting my sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers everywhere. We do not speak the same language, but as soon as we meet, we recognize each other. It happens especially with old women who seem to have been silently talking with God all their lives. We hug each other with great excitement, but no words are exchanged. How can one speak of this great love?
The oneness of our human family has been affirmed by Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Sikh Guru. He wrote,
Some people are Hindus,
Some are Muslims of many descriptions,
But know that all of humanity is recognized as one race.
The Creator and the Beneficent One are the same,
The Provider and the Merciful One are the same.
Let no one make the mistake of thinking there is a difference.
There is not one God for Hindus and another for Muslims. . . .
Temples and mosques are the same,
Hindu worship and Muslim prayer are the same,
All people are the same.
It is only through erroneous human thinking that they appear different….
All people have the same eyes, the same ears,
The same body, the same composition. . . .
God is the same, by whatever name,
And the messages of the scriptures are the same.
All are alike; one God created all.
As from one fire millions of sparks arise
And then settle again into the fire, . . .
So from God’s Form all things are manifested,
And, springing from God,
All shall be united in God again.
The personal experience of mystics of all religions is that of kinship with all forms of life. If you sit by a tree, you may feel that there is no separation between the energy which gives you life and the energy which has become a tree. You cannot bear to kill an insect, for if you do, you will sense its pain as your own. Human beings are of course recognized as your own family members, no matter what their countries, cultural customs, or religious designation. We are all children of the same one God, the same Love, the same Light which animates all life forms. We are all sisters and brothers.
The prophets of all religions came to teach us to recognize and love each other—to love all of Creation. How then have we sisters and brothers been divided from each other in the name of our prophets? My teacher, Baba Virsa Singh, explains that because we are not enlightened, we do not fully understand the words that the enlightened prophets have spoken to us. Furthermore, Babaji says, we have been badly misguided by those who are not enlightened but who have set themselves up as religious authorities. Out of their own self-interest, they have led us toward themselves and away from the truth as spoken by the prophets of all religions.
Why does the prophet come? When we forget, the prophet comes to remind us that God is One, whether known as the Creator or the Beneficent One, as the Provider or the Merciful One, as Love or Truth. The prophets teach us that God is love, that to be religious is to be compassionate and to serve others. The same thing was told to Moses, to Adam, to Jesus, to Hazrat Muhammad, to Guru Nanak. Why do we separate that family? We separate them because we don’t know. When we go to our religious place, the religious authority bombards us directly, saying, “You are different from others. You are higher than all, and your master is also the greatest.” But the master never said this. The master only said, “The Guru dwells in every leaf, in every hair on your body, in every breath.”
[for BBC World Service Words of Faith, 27 October, 1995]