One Religion – Nataraja Guru

When people are seen to be bound together by common articles of faith or by patterns of behavior in group life, we recognize what we call religion, to which the belief and the behavior belong together. To give an example, if some people go to church on Sundays, while others do not do so but prefer to go to their churches on Saturday, we are at once able to say that there is some difference in their religious behaviour. We could question them, after observing this difference, to find if there are other specific characteristics by which we could classify their adherence to one or other religious group. We have no right to attribute to them characteristics that are neither observed in their behaviour nor
known to form a body of beliefs belonging to such a group. Thus, Trinitarians will tell you that they believe in three aspects of divine manifestation. Unitarians will deny that, and would prefer to represent themselves as believing only in one aspect of divinity. We would be perfectly justified in not mixing these sects, and in treating them as belonging to distinct religious groupings.

One has either to be objective or subjective in fixing the specific characteristics of any religious expression. If one should say, “I believe in Christ, but I neither go to church nor behave in any way which is in conformity with this belief, we cannot classify him at all. We can at best recognize in him a pseudo-religionist.


Keeping in mind this method of diagnosing and classifying visible religious formations or believers in doctrines about some spiritual value dear to each religion, if we should look round and try to recognize the religious groups in this world,we could at once make the most striking of classifications of all religious people into two broad groups. There is no religion which does not offer some consolation or happiness to its followers. In other words, unhappiness cannot be held out as an ideal or end to be attained by any religion at all. Nobody aspires for unhappiness. It is impossible to think of such a negative value as motivating any serious group of religionists. We could of course find freaks who might insist on saying that they are aspiring for unhappiness. If we should admit
happiness to be the common ideal or end in view, motivating any religion whatsoever, it would only be deriving a corollary from this general statement to say that every religion has got some high human value on which it pins its faith. The Buddhist speaks in terms of nirvana, and the Christian in terms of a life eternal where one could be as perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. Hindu salvation consists of escaping rebirth altogether, and the true believer in Islam wants to obey the will of Allah, the Most High, so that on the Day of Judgement Allah should be pleased with him instead of being angry. Jehovah and Jupiter or Zeus are also Most High Gods of other prophetic religions. The Prophetic Religions are those that are concerned with an event in the future called the Day of Judgement, on which they have to face God and give a good account of themselves. There are religions which have this apocalyptic touch more pronounced than others. When this futuristic orientation is weak, we begin to recognize certain religious formations whose unity lies in merely following past habits and conventions.

Members of such groups are often referred to as ‘pagans’ or ‘unbelievers’, fit to be treated contemptuously by the groups who claim to be true believers. Thus, we begin to recognize in religious life two dominant groups: those who believe in the Day of Judgement, and those who do not give importance to that event in the future. These are characterized by the terms ‘prophetic’ and ‘pagan’ respectively.


After making this initial distinction between prophetic and non-prophetic or pagan religions, we could examine other items of belief or patterns of behaviour as implying some value conducive to the happiness of the group in question. Viewed in this way, we could distinguish other so-called pagans who do not believe in a God representing the side of light or intelligence, but who tend to substitute material objects or elements in the place of the highest of intelligent principles. They go under the name of animists or materialists. The Ionian and Eleatic philosophers of pre-Socratic times belong to such a group. Pythagoras himself was not recognized by the Athenians, and was treated contemptuously because of his glorification of mere mathematical entities or values.

There were also those who were nearer to the side of matter than to the side of the spirit, who were classified philosophically as hylozoists. The values that they attached importance to in regulating their lives were not spiritual entities at all, but tended to glorify matter as against spirit.

From Thales through Heraclitus to Empedocles of Agrigentum, we have a whole hierarchy of such animists or hylozoists who were essentially materialists, and who are thus to be ranged on the opposite side of what was respectable in the eyes of philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Thomism and Augustinianism had their origins in Dionysius the Areopagite, as also in Plotinus of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonist context. Abraham, the common ancestor of Christianity and Islam, laid down that idolatry was completely reprehensible – even as bad as stealing or murder. Hindus would certainly stand condemned completely in the light of such an uncompromisingly prophetic attitude. Unbelievers could be trampled under elephants’ feet in view of the teaching of the Quran understood in such a light. Many events in the history of India could be cited as examples of this kind of one-sided fervour. Hinduism, however, is not without its insistence on a God representing light or wisdom rather than the forces of darkness.


Now, if we turn our eyes in the opposite direction and see what the scientific attitude has meant in the realm of religious belief, we can easily concede that there have been many martyrs on the side of scepticism, as well as on that of belief. Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei were martyrs to science as against the early Christians, who were martyrs to belief when persecuted by Romans. If it is possible for martyrdom to exist on both the sides of scepticism and of belief, we can easily see how they form a part of a human nature which accommodates them both together in accentuated forms in the same phenotype called homo sapiens.

Buddhism is a religion which is essentially non-theological, but this does not mean that rational or ethical values are not glorified and held up as absolute values, as dear to the believers in them as any other, theological, divinity could be. In other words, it is a high value conducive to happiness that is to be found within the essential content of any religion, whether theological or rational. Each religion wants to avoid suffering and to promise happiness through some belief or behaviour. Seen from this perspective, even communism could be said to be a religion, or at least a surrogate of religion – only it promises, instead of heaven, a classless society or a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is possible in this way to compare all religions whether known as sceptic, rational, or as based on a belief in God.

All religions must have a norm in which an absolute value is held up as the most important one within its system of reference. If this structural norm common to all religions, whether orthodox or heterodox, could be visualized in a true scientific spirit of open and objective criticism, it would be possible for us to establish a comparative study of all expressions involving a high value to which both sceptics and believers might happen to be equally attached. Religion would thus include all possible surrogates of religion, and even what passes for scepticism (which, as we have seen, claims its own martyrs). Scepticism is a form of negative belief which can be as intensely fanatical as any other so-called belief, which mere label should not mislead us. There are believers who pass for sceptics, and vice-versa.


When we are able to take a normalized position between the extremes of the two major tendencies which the Bhagavad Gita, calls the black and the white courses – distinguishing the two rival paths in spiritual progress throughout the long course of human history – we shall be able to see that every religion has at its core a promised value for which one avoids what is taboo and adopts what is recommended. What is profane in one religion need not correspond to what is taboo in another. To a Muslim eating pork is taboo, but to a Sikh it can be a qualification of some sort at least. Long hair is likewise laudable for a Sikh to wear; while shaving one’s head is orthodox to the other of the two rival faiths, historically developing like bodies and antibodies in bacteriology. The same historical conditions can produce both the body and the antibody. Accentuating one tendency can result in sowing the seeds of another. Thus, idolatrous and iconoclastic tendencies add vim and vigour to each other, and fan feuds by ambivalent exaggerations when over-stressed.

What we wish to achieve by these varied examples is merely to point to a way in religious life which avoids unilateral exaggerations or excesses. Pontius Pilate said, “What is Truth?” Truth is not even a two-sided affair, but its polyvalence conforms to at least a four-dimensional quaternian structural pattern. All religions have premonitions of this verity distinguishable in one passage or another of their revealed or sacred books, which could be brought into view through the study of comparative religion. Modern science has brought us to the same structural pattern seen in terms of the four-dimensional universe which is at present being accepted from the side of physics. Even from the side of metaphysics, the same fourfold structural pattern prevails.

A normative integrated Science of the Absolute can alone fully reveal the common structural features underlying all religions, so that the believer in one religious formation could see eye to eye with his rival in the opposite camp, even as the blind men in the fable could reach agreement only when they could examine the totality of the elephant about which each of them had known only some particular aspect. It is the total structure of the absolute value of happiness implied in all religions – at least in structural outline – that can save the situation, avoiding by such unitive understanding all conflicts in the name of a high spiritual value representing the common aspirations of all human beings, however different they might be in temperament. Viewed in this light, humanity can belong to only one religion, which is that of Absolute Happiness through an absolutist way of life. When the underlying unity of all religions is thus made evident to all intelligent men, holy wars will become outmoded as not in keeping with the dignity of the human race, which biology itself qualifies as being endowed with understanding by the term ‘homo sapiens’.

Nataraja Guru (1895 – 1973), a seer and the disciple of Narayana Guru, has integrated Dialectics (Yoga Sastra) with Modern Science. He got his PhD for the thesis ‘the personal factor in educative process’ from Sorbonne University under the guidance of Henry Bergson (1859 – 1941), one of the greatest masters in both Philosophy and Biology. Nataraja Guru’s works include -

The Life and Teachings of Narayana Guru
Vedanta Revalued and Restated
Autobiography of an Absolutist
The Bhagavad Gita, Translation and Commentary
An Integrated Science of the Absolute (Volumes I, II, III)
Wisdom: The Absolute is Adorable
Saundarya Lahari of Sankara
The Search for a Norm in Western Thought
The Philosophy of a Guru
The Word of the Guru
Towards a One World Economics
Memorandum on World Government
World Education Manifesto
Experiencing One World
Dialectical Methodology Anthology of the Poems of Narayana Guru 

Courtesy- One-World University of Unitive Understanding

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