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Realm of Religion

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Nanak has divided existence and its quest into four realms. The division is very scientific and worth understanding. He names the realms: Religion, Knowledge, Shame and Grace.

The section of religion deals with the expression of dharma, the law, the rule, that governs the whole of existence. The Vedas refer to it as rut, which means unchangeable law -- what Lao Tzu calls Tao. From rut is derived rutu, the seasons. At the time of the Vedas, the seasons were so regular and clear-cut that there was not a moment's difference from one year to the next. Spring would come on the exact day, the rains would start the very day they were supposed to. Man has disturbed nature completely so that the seasons are no longer seasons. The word rutu was given specifically to the seasons for they worked exactly according to their timetable, following an unchangeable law. There was a system at work. Because of man's so-called knowledge, everything has gone haywire; even the seasons have gone off the rails, so to speak.

The West is now much more concerned about this state of affairs, giving rise to a movement around a new branch of science: ecology. Ecologists insist that nature be not tampered with. They believe that man should leave nature to God if he wishes to survive. Changes in nature bring about changes in the surroundings, which are being destroyed, and we are approaching a point that is dangerous for mankind.

The art of knowing the most intrinsic discipline of the supreme law of life is called dharma, religion. Buddha used the Pali word, dhamma, to mean the rule.

When a Buddhist monk says, "Now I surrender myself to the law," he lets go of his self to seek shelter in the supreme law "through which I was born and in which I shall dissolve." To know truth is to know this rule.

To express this fundamental law of life, Nanak says, is the basis for the realm of religion. We live, but we live by our thoughts. We think a thousand times before we take a single step. And the more we think the more our steps fall in the wrong place. Whatever steps we take without the intrusion of thoughts invariably lead us right. You eat your food but you do not think about digesting it. The rule digests the food. Try this experiment: after meals concentrate on the stomach and the process of digestion -- you will end with an upset stomach. As soon as you interfere with the unconscious law you create chaos within. Every night you sleep. One night ponder at length on how you fall asleep, how sleep comes, and what happens -- you will pass a sleepless night. It isn't strange that people who think a great deal suffer from insomnia.

Life goes on! The trees never think about when they should let the flowers bloom. The tree knows from its very roots. It does not think, for all its mechanisms are built in. The rivers flow towards the sea. Do they have any sense of direction? Do they have any maps? An unconscious rule guides their waters towards the ocean.

This gigantic universe works without thoughts; and nowhere do we find a single mistake or mishappening. Everything works according to the rule -- except man. Man has gone wrong for he does not obey the rule; instead he is guided by his thoughts. He thinks: Should I do this or not? Is this right or wrong? What would be the outcome if I...? Will I gain something? What will people say? In the haze of smoke created by a thousand-and-one such thoughts, the straight line of life gets hidden and lost. He who works in a state of no-thought is an enlightened being.

So religion is not wisdom, nor a decision of your intellect. Religion is a quest by a man who is tired of his intelligence, who is harassed by it, who has tried every direction and finds himself a helpless failure in the end. Such a man lets go of his intelligence and then says, "Your will, not mine, O Lord! Take me where You will." This Nanak refers to as the divine order.

Don't imagine this to mean that there is a huge person sitting somewhere issuing orders, that there is a supreme father, the Supreme God! The rule works without the orderer, the rule is God Himself. We have to use words that people can understand; so also we have to make use of symbols, signs. Foolish people often cling to symbols; so they think God has hands, mouth, limbs, that he sits on a throne and dispenses justice and gives orders. If we do not obey his orders, we are irreligious; if we do, we are relifious. If we don't obey, He will be displeased and angry and then punish us. If we obey He will reward us.

This is all useless nonsense! You are attaching too much importance to mere symbols. Only the law exists. There is no one sitting there on high who works the rule. When you move in harmony with the rule all wrong actions stop on their own, for the rule knows no wrong. Then when the right actions accumulate through you, the melody of joy begins to play. When your actions are right they will spread a fragrance of happiness and joy all around. This fragrance signals that your actions are correct.

When something wrong happens through you the shadow of sorrow will surround you. The greater the wrong, the greater the anxiety and worry and suffering. Don't look upon suffering as a punishment, but rather as the outcome of wrong action.

If a man leaves the straight road and wanders into a jungle and then thorns prick him, he understands that he has gone off the track. Not being on the road, there are bound to be thorns. The man looks for the right track and gets back to the road; now no thorns prick him because there are none. When you hit against a wall and hurt your head, the wall is not punishing you. What has the wall to do with you? When you find the door you can go out easily without hurting your head.

It is just like this. The day you begin to recognize the law, you will have found the door. As long as you are oblivious of the rule you will keep knocking your head against the wall. How many times have you hurt yourself, how many wounds do you bear on your head? These are wounds you have gathered over millions of births that are oozing, festering, and causing endless pain. And you think someone is punishing you.

No one is punishing you; you are reaping your own harvest. Always bear in mind whenever you are unhappy you have gone against nature; whenever you are ill you are out of harmony with nature. Illness is a warning, a hint to you; as such it is helpful and for your own good. If there were no illness you would never know when you have left nature's path, or when you have gone against the eternal arrangement of life. Then you will keep wandering with no way for you to come back. Suffering and sorrow turns you back to God. This is why you remember Him when you are in pain and sorrow. In joy you never think of Him.

The saint prays: "Oh Lord, let there always be a little suffering as a reminder, so that we remain constantly in prayer, always calling out to you. If there is no pain or sorrow, we shall have no excuse to call You. In happiness we forget you; we shall be lost!" Suffering means just one thing: you have wavered in religion somewhere, somehow. Do not blame others, nor your fortune, nor be angry with God. Take it as a hint, a warning, and try to find out where you have slipped. Where have you gone against nature? Then try to fall in line with nature -- for that is religion.

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