Discovering the Essence of All Religions


Master talked about great saints from all religion. But I never found anywhere Master taking about Mahavira or any other Jain Saints. Was there any special reason for this? In Jainism the main emphasis is on liberation thru meditation and right living. As per Jain principles as far as I heard and read, liberation is not possible without leaving all inner as well as outer belongings and it claims that even Ram and 3 Pandavas became Jain muni and became Siddha. They had to leave even their clothes...

—KJ, India


Dear KJ,

You are right, Yogananda taught to revere the saints of all religions, he strongly advocated unity amongst religions, and even called his various temples “Church of All Religions.”

Each day, in every group prayer we say at Ananda, we humbly pray to the “saints of all religions.”

However, Yogananda concentrated mostly on Christianity and Hinduism, less on Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Taosim, etc.


In the book Conversations With Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda reports the Master’s answer to that question:

A visitor, who had read Autobiography of a Yogi, though he wasn’t an SRF member, came to converse with the Master. I took notes at their meeting.

“May I ask, out of curiosity,” the visitor said, “why, although you call this a ‘Church of All Religions,’ you place so much emphasis on the Christian religion?”

“Actually,” the Master replied, “we place emphasis on two of the world’s great religions: Christianity, and Hinduism. We concentrate especially on the teachings, rather than on the religions, of Jesus Christ and of Krishna.

“I do so because that was the wish of Babaji. He and Jesus Christ together sent this mission. They are the first in our line of gurus.

“The wish of them all was expressed to me by Babaji, particularly: to interpret the Christian New Testament, and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, and thereby to demonstrate the essential oneness of the truths of both religions.”

His visitor had, of course, implied something more also: Why didn’t the Master teach all religions?

On other occasions the Master answered this question also, though perhaps on the occasion I’ve described he didn’t feel inspired to go more deeply into the matter with this particular person.

To complete his meaning, therefore, I should explain that he said also that his mission was to show the essence of all religions.

It was never his purpose to compare various scriptural passages intellectually, in order to show their similarity.

In other words, he did not teach syncretism. That would have meant merely skimming the surface of truth.

His mission, and that of our line of gurus, was to show the essential oneness of truth itself. It is at their deepest level that all religions are one. For this purpose, it sufficed to show the oneness of only two of the great world religions.

Outwardly, Hinduism and Christianity are very different.

Yet both have produced saints of high spiritual attainment.

To know God is the eternal need of mankind. All people need to understand their need for personal, direct communion with the Lord.

“Self-realization,” the Master predicted, “will someday be recognized as the essential truth of every religion in the world.”

His prediction referred not to his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, except insofar as that organization promoted this ideal.

What he was referring to was the eternal principle itself: Self-realization.

This principle is destined, in the present Dwapara Yuga, to become accepted everywhere. The true purpose of religion, regardless of its diverse dogmas and “credos,” is union with God, the eternal Self pervading the whole universe.

But, KJ, you might be glad to hear that Yogananda did mention Mahavir in his most famous book, the Autobiography of a Yogi.

In his chapter about Mahatma Gandhi he wrote: “As I was bidding the Mahatma good night, he considerately handed me a bottle of citronella oil. “The Wardha mosquitoes don’t know a thing about ahimsa, Swamiji!” he said, laughing.

Yogananda then explains ahimsa in a footnote: Harmlessness; nonviolence; the foundation rock of Gandhi’s creed.

The footnote tells how Gandhi was born into a family of strict Jains, who revere ahimsa as the root-virtue.

Jainism, a sect of Hinduism, was founded in the 6th century B.C. by Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha. Mahavira means “great hero”; may he look down the centuries on his heroic son Gandhi!

Still in his Autobiography, Yogananda recounts his colorful visit to South India, stating: “Near-by stands the world’s largest statue, carved out of an immense boulder by the Jains in A.D. 983 to honor the saint Comateswara.”

So here you have a second Jain saint to which Yogananda publically paid honor!

About the Jain principles you mention, “meditation and right living” and renunciation: these are universal principles of Self-realization, as Swami Kriyananda explained above: they are part of the essence of all religions.

God bless you to become a Siddha yourself,