Man is too often stuck in one perception of God, founded within self-interest and ego.
"This is the excellent foppery of the world," explains Shakespeare, "that when we are sick in fortune (often the surfeits of our own behaviour) we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars: as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treacherous by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star!"
Take the Christian faith, where God begins as The Creator whose beautiful Garden of Eden cannot satisfy brainchilds, Adam and Eve. These children of God want more. They are progeny in an amusement park. God says "no" and kicks them out of paradise.
YWHW continues to judge His People: drowning Noah's peers; testing Job; offering tablets to Moses so that his people might know the proper way to treat each other.
Along comes Jesus, God's son, who frees sinners from their sins in the same manner Lincoln freed the slaves- in spirit but not in daily practice. Though Jesus is all love and perfection, he cannot save people- including himself- from the tyranny of others.
This describes one side of the elephant named I AM. But other spiritual perspectives inform human kind.
Khushwant Singh in his book, "The freethinker's Prayer Book and some words to live by" illuminates the consistencies and the inconsistencies of man's religious perceptions, humbling man with a reminder that God is bigger than any one religion or awareness or literary genius. God is, in fact, beyond the complete comprehension of any one human being or religion or culture.
Singh quotes Mahatma Gandhi, "If one has pride and egoism, there is no non-violence. Non-violence is impossible without humility." When one perceives his/her religion as the only correct perception of God, violence is the natural outcome.
Every religion contains illuminating words, given of God. Together, they form a comprehensive image of the elephant named Brahman, Baha, Waheguru or Ahura Mazda, and Elohim.
Singh expands understanding when he quotes Prophet Mohammed, "The most excellent Holy War is that for the conquest of self; therefore, let God fill my angry heart with safety and faith; for no person has drunk a better draught than one who has swallowed anger for God's dear sake."
He quotes The Bhagavad Gita, "The glory of the man of wisdom is also the glory of the man of good action. That man sees The Truth, who sees that thought and action are one."
He quotes The Guru Granth Sahib, "There are five prayers, each with a time and name of its own. First, truthfulness. Second, to take only what is your due. Third, goodwill towards all. Fourth, pure intentions; and praise of God, the fifth."
He quotes Lal Ded, also known as Lalla, "My Master gave me just one rule: forget the outside, get to the inside of things. I Lalla, took that teaching to heart. From that day, I've danced naked."
He quotes The Buddha, "As the light of the moon is sixteen times stronger than the light of all the stars, so is loving kindness sixteen times more efficacious in liberating the mind than all other religious accomplishments taken together."
He quotes Rumi, "Go and wash off all hatred from your chest seven times with water. Then you can become our companion drinking from the wine of love."
And even Mother Teresa, "Holiness is not a luxury for the few; it is not just for some people. It is meant for you and for me, for all of us. It is a simple duty, because if we learn to love, we learn to be holy."
When one embraces the story of the blind men and the elephant, William Blake's words ring true, "For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.
In this new year of 2013, may human kind travel the pathway of Victor Hugo's resolution set down in Les Miserables, "Let us not confine ourselves to prostrating ourselves before the tree of creation, and to the contemplation of its branches full of stars. We have a duty to labour over the human soul, to defend the mystery against the miracle, to adore the incomprehensible and reject the absurd, to admit, as an inexplicable fact, only what is necessary, to purify belief, to remove superstitions from above religion, to clear God of caterpillars."
Offering these and other spiritual prayers for mankind, Singh lays the foundation for a new age of peace and understanding. May it come soon.