Once in a rare while we are lifted high on the wings of grace. Last week was an extraordinary week filled with laughter, tears, joy, inspiration, friendship, and hope. We celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Ananda and dedicated our new Temple of Light. For the thousand people attending it felt like we were raised out of the mundane world and into an astral heaven for a few days at least. Many people told me that their lives will never, can never, be the same after feeling God so close and tangible.
One of the highlights at the Temple dedication ceremony on Saturday, July 6, was a panel of eight spiritual leaders representing the various world religions. We have built niches into the outer walls and placed there sacred religious symbols, making the Temple of Light truly a temple of all religions, as Paramhansa Yogananda did with his temples, which he called “Churches of all Religions.” On Saturday the panel of eight teachers spoke about how light shines from each of their faiths. A dear friend made a comment afterwards that was shared by many: “I have read, heard about, and longed for interfaith unity. Today I experienced it. Now that we know what it is, we must go forward and share it with others.”
What I personally found most inspiring was that, no matter the outer expression of different religions, the essence is the same. Here are a few of the themes that each religion expresses in its own way:
A Search for Universal Truth. Each speaker talked about the quest for higher consciousness. Rabbi Ted Falcon added that these principles are easy to talk about, but the real challenge is to do the work needed to make them real in your life.
Compassion. Every religion recognizes the need to help others, whether it is expressed by Jesus as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or by Buddha as the noble eightfold path. As Daljit Singh told us, “Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, tells his followers that they must share whatever they have with all, whether it be wealth, merit, or talent.”
Love. Love is central to all paths — the love that has manifested the world, and is the fastest path to God. Imam Jemal quoted Mohammed: “God told me in a dream, ‘O beloved humanity, I cannot be contained in the space of the earth, I cannot be contained in the space of the heavens, but I can be contained in the space of the pure, loving heart.’”
Light. Since we were dedicating the Temple of Light, we ended our ceremony by having each representative light a votive candle from a central flame. They then carried their light and placed it before the symbol of their religion. Then, one by one, they each prayed, “May the light of Hinduism [Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Self-realization, all religions] bless this temple and the world.”
Then, nearly a thousand people joined their voices as one, singing Swami Kriyananda’s wonderful song, “Thy Light Within Us Shining.” At that moment we were united with one another, with each of the great religions, and with God. As the song says, “In inner freedom of the heart, our night has turned to day.”
May the one light unite us all.
P.S. I urge you to listen to the presentation of that sacred day. Here is the link:
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