Each soul is potentially divine.
The goal is to manifest this divinity within
by controlling nature, external and internal.
Do this either by work or worship or psychic control or philosophy
-- by one or more or all of these -- and be free.
This is the whole of religion.
Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples or forms
are but secondary details.

Swami Vivekananda

W H A T    I S    R E L I G I O N  ?

Shri Ramakrishna is often quoted as having said that all religions are but different paths to the same God and that, in this sense, they are all true. Shri Ramakrishna based His statement on His own experience. Having personally tried different religious paths, with utmost sincerity and zeal, He invariably reached the same Goal, finding God, always the same One God, at the end of each path.

What biographers and disciples do not generally stress with sufficient clarity, when telling about that important experience and teaching of the Bhagavân, is that His was a solitary path, that He was alone in His quest of God, and alone with God when He met Him. He had not joined any church; there was no priest, no bishop, no ulema or imam or whatever could it be, to assist or guide or accompany Him along His lonely, inner journey. This is important, very important, for it is the key to understand the true meaning of His teaching that all religions are true.

In fact, what is religion? If one looks at the various religions, one finds that the history of most of them is one of violence, murders, tortures and massacres. When one reads about Protestants and Catholics killing each other in Northern Ireland, of Hindus and Moslems doing the same in India, or Christians and Moslems in Bosnia, is that religion? When one sees that in the name of God or religion one can destroy invaluable remains of ancient civilizations, or burn somebody alive as the "holy" Inquisition used to do, or stone a woman to death, or cut the throat of one's daughter because her boyfriend is a Christian, is that religion?

All the horrors of which "religions" are guilty have one thing in common: they have a collective character, being inspired or ordered by some institution or hierarchy having power over people and wanting to keep it. Gain power, keep power, increase power: here is the devilish trinity of organized "religion", that obviously needs to control as many people as possible, and get rid of those it cannot.

What Religion really is, is perfectly described in the Bhagavadgita: it is a personal, private relationship established between God and an individual human being when the latter addresses God directly, with faith and sincerity. The same thing is said in Matthew VI,6: "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly".

Therefore, whenever we put or accept a mediator between God and ourselves, we leave Religion to enter the domain of some human institution which takes the place of God and therefore constitutes idolatry. In this domain all the so-called religions are false, for nothing can take the place of God, Who is the one and only Truth. Nothing can take the place of the Inner Christ - our Inner Self and the Root of all the Avataras - which is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

This is therefore the meaning of Shri Ramakrishna's statement: "Whether a man is outwardly a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Moslem, when he prays to his Father which is in the secret place of the heart, his Father will listen to him", as said in the Bhagavadgita (IV, 11): "In whatever way men approach Me, in the same way do I embrace them in My love (bhajâmy aham). It is My path that men tread in all ways".

This is the foundation of a truly catholic (a Greek word meaning "universal") religion, which would allow a real understanding and the mutual respect between men of different faiths, beyond and against all walls erected by churches, organizations and institutions, their dogmas and their priests. Just an example: would a Christian worshipping the Mother of Christ object any longer to a Hindu worshipping the Divine Mother under a different form? And if a Hindu believes that the Divine Mother may appear to a devotee under the form of Kali, could he deny that the same Mother may appear to a Christian under the form of the Virgin Mary?
Brahma                 Shiva
Rama            VISHNU           Krishna