Broadly speaking there are three aspects to all religions. There are sacred symbols, there are rituals and there are values. Symbols across religions will vary, while some consider Om as sacred, some will consider the Star of David holy, other will consider the cross holy, still others will consider the fire worthy of worship, etc. Rituals too will be different at least on the surface. Some will face east and pray, others will ring bells, some will bow down, many fast on certain days, etc. There is a great variety of symbols and rituals among all the religions of the world.
The value systems though, of mostly all religions are almost the same. ‘Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt tell the truth, etc.’ Friendliness, compassion, love, brotherhood are the values stressed by almost every religions text.
It is interesting to note that all the major religions of the east, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism have managed to exist pretty harmoniously together, respecting and celebrating the diversity among the symbols and rituals. There may have been a few fiery debates, but never has there been loss of life over the religious beliefs of the east. The religions of the west Christianity, Islam, Judaism however have been forever fighting, and now have managed to bring their fight to the east as well.
When the value systems of religions are almost exactly the same, what are people fighting about? When I pray, I face east, you face west, so, let me kill you. For me the cross is sacred, for you the crescent moon, so let’s fight. These fights over symbols and rituals are so childish. All these quarrels also stem from a childish concept of God. People all over the world need to realize this. Religion is the banana skin, Spirituality is the banana. Religion is important and can take you up to a point in your evolution. After that for Religion to make sense, you will need to get to the core of Religion which is Spirituality. I like to say, Spirituality is what Religion wants to be when it grows up!
(Indian) Spirituality is the uniting force. Spirituality accepts that there are many, many ways to the same goal. And so accepts all and celebrates life in all its glorious diversity and never ever puts a human life as more valuable than an idea. When you practice Spirituality, yoga, meditation, then you do focus on one way, but you also respect all other ways. As H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, broaden your horizons but deepen your roots.
Terrorism comes from the seed, ‘only my way is right, all others are wrong’. To weed out this seed and destroy it forever, a broad based multi religious and multi cultural education system needs to be put into place. The division in the whole world and especially in India that has been done on caste and beliefs by corrupt politicians and religious leaders for their own short-term gains will crumble away only when Spirituality is given utmost priority. Otherwise, like so many foolish people, we will be left wildly waving the empty banana skin of religion after having thrown away the fruit of Spirituality!
Fear may work for a limited period of time. Love may take a lot of time to begin its work, but for the long haul, it’s the only choice. That’s how, even though India has been invaded and plundered umpteen times in the past 1000 years, and despite of all our internal problems, India still manages to be a force to be reckoned with. Indian Spirituality is an open secret for the world to learn from. More importantly for us Indians to learn again and again the lessons of the great Seers, Sages and Rishis of yore and take our rightful place on our glorious planet.