World Faiths Symposium Address

By H. H. Sri Swami Satchidananda
19 July 1986, Charlottesville, Virginia

Beloved friends, this World Faiths Symposium is really a great opportunity for us to come together and to understand each other and our essential unity. We all know that each mind has at least a little difference from other minds.

God—or whatever you like to call the One who created the entire universe—seemed never to make duplicates. The modem scientists say that even two snowflakes are not exactly similar. Two bodies are not similar. Two thumbs are not similar. We are all different physically, mentally, intellectually and, of course, materially too. But in one thing we are one. That is spirit. It is the same spirit that runs through every individual, everything in life.

The life force that runs through this body is the same that runs through a small mosquito. That means that we are all united in spirit. A mosquito is my own brother or sister. And that is what we call universal love, and that is what we call God. If God is love, it means that if you can express that universal love, you are none other than God.

It is to emphasize that unity in the midst of varieties that we are gathered here. That’s why it’s a world symposium, with the theme “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” There are many approaches to one Truth. All of our friends here this morning have many cultures, many approaches, but we are all here together to express that one Truth. Let us experience that one Truth.

As our Barbara Marx Hubbard said, “Thoughts are the beginning, words are the continuation, but the acts should be the culmination.” Action is most important.

My very dear friend Father Joachim Pillai said, “Find the unity within yourself.” It is true. The Bible said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” If we take time to analyze that phrase we see that it means you have to see yourself in your neighbor. Only then can you love him or her as your own self. How can we do that?

To give a small analogy: Imagine that I give you a tray of fruits. I ask you to look for the apple and pick it up. You look at everything on the tray. If you have to identify the apple, what do you need to have already within you? The image of an apple. Unless you know what an apple is you cannot pick the apple from the tray. So, to pick the apple you should have the apple in you. In the same way, to pick your neighbor as yourself you should know who your Self is. That is why the scriptures say, “Know thyself.” Then, see thyself in your neighbor. Then love your neighbor as yourself.

It’s not only the charity that begins at home; even that knowledge—the knowledge of one’s own Self—helps you to see yourself in everybody, in everything. That’s what is called Self-Realization. It begins within. It begins at home. It begins with the individual.

We talk a lot about seeing the same spirit in everybody, but unless we recognize that we are spiritual beings essentially functioning in this body and mind, we don’t identify ourselves as the Spirit. Instead, we identify ourselves with other things that we use. When you use a human body, you are a human. But when you use an animal’s body, you are an animal. When you use the body that has a black color, you call yourself black.

We usually identify ourselves with the things we use in our lives. You live in a certain country so you identify with that country and say, “I am an American.” or “I am an Australian.” or “I am an Indian.” Why? Because you happen to be on that soil, because you happen to be in a certain body. But if you recognize yourself as Spirit, you can no longer say, “Only this is my home; only these are my people.”

That limited identification has to be sacrificed. That’s why every shrine, every temple, every church has a sacrificial altar. What is it that we sacrifice? We sacrifice the little “I.” We sacrifice the part that says, “This is mine. That is mine. And the rest is not mine.” We seem to have too many mines around us. As you all know, more mines means more opportunity for explosions. We may think it’s only on the war field that mines are thrown. But we throw mines in the home. So we have to defuse the mine, change the label and call it Thine. It is very simple; once that is done then the “mines” won’t explode anymore. We should free ourselves from all these temporary identifications. In reality we are all that pure “I,” pure Self.

There is a beautiful saying in the Rig Veda: “Bring all the beautiful truths from wherever they are; and take them as your own.” That is what we should remember. Let the inspiration come from all the sources. Every source, and every individual, has something to offer. I’m not saying to get rid of your individuality. We don’t want to do that. Keep your identity and use it but don’t be limited to that. See everybody as your friend, as your brother, as your sister. There’s only one God in the heaven; we’re all God’s children. We have come to play a game, not to fight. Let’s have fun. Thank you so much.