By Juniper Lesnik
Since I’ve known Meher Baba, I have also known He was Christ, Buddha, Ram, Krishna, Mohammed and so on. This gives me comfort, as an exclusive God has always felt un-Godly to me. At the same time, religion has always made me nervous. The righteousness, the violence, dogmatic moral codes. I turn away from those aspects of organized religion and with that turning, away from other aspects of what religious people do: the prayer, the services, the communities formed around a shared notion of life for the Lord. Baba said He would bring all world religions together like beads on one string. I love the idea of that kind of unity, but somehow I never imagined that as His lover, I might have to personally put that into practice.
Lately, my resistance to religion has been challenged. Face-to-face with new friends from different faiths I’ve had to look deep at my own biases, my own conceptions of God and beliefs about what it means to love Him. I’ve realized that the same thing that offends me about most religions–the dismissal of how others strive to know Him–is in me, too. I look at churches, for example, and see things that I judge–beliefs about who can enter His kingdom and restrictive ideas about which aspects of our humanity are holy and which are not. But, when I pass that kind of judgement, I am showing my own narrowness, my own prescriptions about what loving God should look like.
As I write this, my mind leaps to defend its position: “But there are churches that have nothing to do with God!” it screams. “Think of all the killing that has been done in the name of religion,” it implores, trying a new depth of persuasion. “And the hate–the categorical hatred for homosexuals or doctors who perform abortions or people who practice other religions,” says the mind, gathering steam for its point of view. “I’m right not to trust these versions of God,” the mind insists. And then, all revved up and nearly exhausting the rest of me, it falls quiet.
Out of the silence, another voice pipes up. This one speaks more softly, with less urgency. “He asks us to love each other, no matter what,” it says, cooling down the heat in my chest. “Who are you to say how others show their love for God or find their way to Him?” it asks, with a stern smile. “We are all arrows being shot toward God,” it reminds me. When I map my resistance to religion on those who practice it, I am moving away from the goal. The mind is suddenly like a runner doubling over after doing everything possible to win the race but still coming up short.
And then I realize what this battle is about, the challenge is a familiar one for me: the movement from mind to heart, letting the lighter side of me lead for once. When I do, I can see how all the ideas I hold so dearly, because they make me who I am, also separate me from others who challenge those ideas by being too much of this or too little of that. And the only way out of that bind is: Love. To love those whom we cannot love. To see Him in all things. To trust that we truly are all connected. To know, at the heart of it, He is sowing those seeds of Love in us all.