THE RELIGON OF LOVE
Sai Interfaith Conference at Prasanthi Nilayam
Let all Faiths exist; let
them flourish and let the Glory of God be sung
in all the languages and in a variety of tunes.
Respect the differences between the Faiths and
recognize them as valid as long as they do not
extinguish the flame of Unity. The basic Truth
in all religions, irrespective of country or race,
is One and the same. All religions exhort man
to cleanse the heart of malice, greed, hate and
‘There is only one Religion
and that is the Religion of Love’ has
been one of the famous adages of Bhagawan Sri Sathya
Sai Baba whose Divine Mission is to bring peace in the
world and in the hearts of men. At a time when the world
is riddled with arson and violence in the name of Religion,
where religious fanaticism often thrusts communal clashes,
when the human mind is compartmentalized in the name
of caste and religion, Prasanthi Nilayam, the Divine
Abode of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba witnessed an Interfaith
Conference – The Religion of Love in the immediate
Divine presence of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba on 22nd
and 23rd July 2005 coinciding with Guru Purnima Celebrations.
Participants in the Meet included representatives
from the five major religions, namely, Islam, Buddhism,
Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. They were Ahangame
Tudor Ariyaratne, the founder the Sarvodaya Shramadana
Movement of Sri Lanka representing Buddhism; Maulana
Wahiduddin Khan, an Islamic spiritual scholar, who has
set up an Islamic Centre in New Delhi representing Islam;
Father Henry Fehren, a priest of the Holy Catholic Church
who conducts pastoral and counselling duty in New York,
representing Christianity; Rabbi David Zeller, an internationally
acclaimed singer, story-teller and writer and a pioneer
of Jewish spirituality and meditation, representing
Judaism and P.S.Jayarama Sastrigal, a Sanskrit Pandit
and Scholar of repute.
Personal Profiles of participants:
Ahagammage Tudor Ariyaratne
(Buddhism) is the founder
of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka. A
former teacher at Nalanda College, he had conducted
the first Shramadana work
camp in 1958, eventually leading the largest non-governmental
organization in Sri Lanka. He had led tens of thousands
of family gatherings and meditations with millions of
people. He has Doctorates from Emilo Aguinaldo College,
Philippines, and Sri Jayawardenapura University, Sri
Lanka. The seven volumes of his Collected
Works provide a comprehensive collection of his
speeches and writings.
Dr. Ariyaratne, recipient of many awards,
including the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Prize, India, and
the Niwano Peace Prize, Japan has been the President
of the World Parliament of Religions.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
(Islam) is an Islamic spiritual scholar, who has been
a strong advocate of
peace and who has set peace as life’s mission.
He was a visionary who understood the need to present
Islamic teachings to suit the modern world and present
day language. Towards this end, he had established The
Islamic Centre in New Delhi, in 1970 and has been its
president eversince. He has over 200 titles in his credit
as publisher and his commentaries of the Holy Quran,
in English and Arabic and an encyclopedia of the Quran,
done under his guidance is ready for publication.
Maulana has represented Islam and Spirituality
at International Inter-faith Islamic and Peace conferences
on several occasions. He has won the prestigious Demiurgus
Peace International Award 2002, for his outstanding
achievements in strengthening peace among nations and
developing a complete ideology of peace.
Henry Fehren (Christianity) was ordained as
a priest of the Holy Catholic Church in 1948 in St.
Cloud, Minnesota, USA. At present he conducts his pastoral
and conselling duties in New York. He was a faculty
in several colleges and universities in the U.S. and
United Kingdom and has authored many books and articles.
On TV and Radio he expounds the universal tenants of
love and mutual acceptance of all others. He is a strong
advocate of Universality of Godhood and the commonality
of all religious faiths. He was the recipient of several
awards from the Catholic Press Association and an award
from the National Religious Press.
Rabbi David Zeller (Judaism)
is an internationally known singer, teacher, story teller,
and writer and a pioneer in Jewish Spirituality and
Meditation. He has established his spiritual teachings
beyond the Jewish Religion to Christians, Sufis, Taoists,
Buddhists and Yoga communities. After organizational
development for the Kibhutz Movement in 1970 and living
as a sadhu in India in 1971, he was professor at the
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology from 1975. He
founded the Network of
Conscious Judaism in 1980 and directed the Shevet Centre
for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation in Jerusalem.
(Hinduism) is a Sanskrit Pandit and Scholar. He received
his education at Vyakarana Siromani from Annamalai University
and has been conducting Hindu ritual worship for over
fifty years. Titles conferred on him include: Aanmiga
Chemmal, Upanyasa Thilakam & Muhavai Periyavar.
Sastrigal has authored several books, including Deepa
Sthrothram, 108 Sivarpana Vilva Sthrothram and Ganapathi
Suprabhatam and has several audio releases to his credit.
Introductory Speech by Dr.
Dr Goldstein, Chairman, Prasanthi Council, the body
overseeing the activities of Sri Sathya Sai Service
Organisations worldwide, in his introductory remarks
said: Swami is the incarnation of selfless love. He
has graciously permitted to hold an interfaith conference
in His presence. Eminent speakers from five major religions
have come to speak to you – Buddism, Islam, Christianity,
Hinduism and Judaism. What is the meaning interfaith?
Faith means religion; inter means between, indicating
the existing division. Hence, the term interfaith implies
division of religions. For us who are devoted to Bhagawan
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, there is only one religion, the
religion of love. There is only one God, He is omnipresent.
All the world religions are religions of love. The apparent
differences among different religions are one of emphasis
and not of essence. There are different languages, different
rituals and practices. But, the fundamental spiritual
basis is one. Hence, our conference is really an intra
faith conference, not an interfaith conference. Spiritual
truth is one. Intra means within. Deep within, at the
very basis of world religions, there is spiritual truth.
That is selfless love.
During the course of human civilization,
our beloved Bhagawan in His many forms incarnated on
earth to save mankind from the process of self- destruction.
Hence, the advent of world religions. The lord God who
is omnipresent, whose nature is selfless love, and who
is with us as Bhagawan Baba, intervened to save man
from his perverse propensities. The life and message
of divine incarnations were recorded and followed, and
were institutionalized by mankind. They became the religions
of the world. However, all religions are the religions
of love. To live our lives as examples of selfless love,
to serve our brothers and sisters selflessly and lovingly
is advocated by all of the world religions. Is it not
the purpose of all religions to bring us back to God?
to bring us to the realization of our divine heritage?
Certainly these spiritual principles are the basic of
Bhagawan said, the only redemption
for man is the grace of God, which can be won by constant
remembrance of God and prayer from a pure heart. The
purpose of this conference of religions is to listen
to the men of faith, representing the religions of the
world. They will speak to us in the context of their
own religion and demonstrate spiritual unity and truth
and love in the diversity of world religions. Let it
not be an interfaith conference, because there is no
difference between the deep spiritual truth of all religions.
Let this therefore become an intrafaith conference.
The divine truth is within all these religions and within
all of us. The divine truth is one.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan started his speech with a prayer.
He said: When I reached this international village,
my first encounter was with Mr. V.K. Kapur. He told
me a very beautiful story. He said that he was travelling
from Jalandhar to Delhi, and suddenly he got a heartstroke.
His heart was badly damaged. Fortunately, after this
he met Baba, and what happened was a miracle. Baba put
his hand upon his heart and miraculously he was in complete
health. Now he is leading a normal life. He is in normal
health without visiting any doctor or any hospital.
There may be many people who would have told you such
stories. Really it is a miraculous city. This is my
first visit to this place. I find it to be a spiritual
city. Everywhere I find peace, spirituality, love and
harmony. I remember the words of Swami Vivekananda.
Hundred years ago, he said, that it is my dream that
India will soon emerge as a spiritual country, a spiritual
land. I think that India is emerging in this international
city. Here Swami Vivekananda’s dream is being
The topic for this morning is Islam
and the concept of love and peace. I am a student of
Islam and I have studied Islam in detail. I can say
with conviction that Islam is a religion of love, peace
and harmony. You know the most sacred book in Islam
is Al Khuran. Khuran contains 6500 verses. I can say
that 99 per cent of those verses pertain to love, peace
and harmony, either directly or indirectly. This is
the basic teaching of Islam. The very first verse of
Khuran is about love. This verse introduces God as one
of love and compassion. The prophet of Islam said, “Adopt
the attributes of God in your life.” It means
that we have to adopt the values of love and compassion
in our life. This is the basic message of love. The
most important message of Islam is that one’s
behaviour should be human friendly. Two basic principles
of Islam is one should be God-worshipper and man-well-wisher.
Well-wisher means one who loves. So, love is the basic
quality expected of a Muslim. Islam promotes culture
of Love and love contains all human values like compassion,
tolerance etc. The Prophet of Islam says, “God
gives to love what He does not grant to hatred.”
Love makes you powerful and hatred makes you weak. Islam
promotes only love culture and not hate culture. Islam
says, “Do good deed in return to enemy’s
bad deed. You will find that your enemy becomes your
best friend.” It means that every enemy is your
potential friend. What a beautiful idea! This is a great
teaching. See your enemy as your potential friend.
I would like to narrate a story from
the life of the Prophet of Islam. The Prophet was born
in Mecca in 570 AD. He lived in Mecca for nearly 30
years. Then he migrated to Madina, another city of Arabia.
One day the Prophet saw a funeral procession passing
through a street in Madina. The Prophet was seated at
that time. On seeing the funeral procession, he stood
up in respect. One of his companions remarked, “O
prophet! It is the funeral of a non-Muslim.” The
prophet replied, “Was he not a human being?”
It means that, although there is difference in religion,
in culture, in race, the prophet found a commonality
between himself and the non- Muslim and that was love.
Love is greater than everything. There may be differences
in religion, culture, etc.; but, there is no difference
in love. You can love everyone. Love is the greatest
binding force between human beings. All are brothers
and sisters. This is the true message of Islam.
This is a great moment in my life. In 1982
July, I came here and sat at the feet of Baba and I
still remember the advice He gave me. He emphasized
both science and spirituality. And that was a great
inspiration to my work. Everyday I am with hundreds
of people belonging to all religions. But with all of
them we are able to work with great spirit of brotherhood.
Today, I am asked to speak a few words on Buddhism and
Love. In fact, the more you study religions in depth,
it is nothing but love. Lord Buddha in his discourse
said, “In the same way the mother loves and protects
her one and only child, even at the risk of life, protect
all beings.” In other words, we are asked to love
all beings. This love and kindness towards all beings
and nature ignites within us a certain divine force,
which is demonstrated by Sri Baba. He is showing clearly
that religion is nothing but love. Under His guidance
we are learning this truth. This is a unique opportunity
we have in this world today.
If love can manifest in every human
heart, what will happen? Every individual will look
at the rest of the beings with great love and kindness.
We see around us so much of suffering. So many are hungry
and poor. Love and kindness (called Mettha or Mitri)
can be translated into action. Most of you are young.
Go in search of those who are suffering and try to remove
the causes that lead to their suffering. Give water
to those who do not have water to drink. That is compassionate
action. In every sphere of life, be it mental, physical
or spiritual, we can always translate love into action.
Our entire ‘psycho-sphere’ is filled with
organized hatred and ignorance. The result is, most
of the resources in the world are spent today for evil
and not for good. Therefore, if we can create a very
very powerful spiritual force and get linked to the
Divine being we have in our presence, then we can build
in this world a ‘psycho-sphere’ filled with
selflessness and love. That is the kind of love we need
today. We have no time to lose. Lord Buddha repeatedly
said, May all beings be happy. He said, hatred never
ceases by hatred. Hatred ceases only by love and forgiveness.
In today’s world, there are a
number of religions. When religions lack spirituality,
there arise a lot of troubles. All over the world we
have problems because religions deviated from their
original path. What our great teacher Baba is trying
to do is to bring back the lost to their religions so
that the religions don’t have to fight with one
another. Please remember this – There can be only
one Buddha and one Baba for many thousands of years.
We have to make them live in our hearts.
I first met Him in 1982 and spent over
one and half hours in His presence. He explained to
me my weaknesses and without my telling Him, He gave
me guidance. Every day whatever good I do, I pass the
credit to Him. As the 80th Birthday of Bhagawan is coming,
we all have an obligation. Have that divinity in your
heart. Never allow any ill will and selfishness to come
in your way. Also believe that we can put an end to
violence and build a new world. Young people must take
Lord Buddha said, “Abstain from
all evil. Cultivate good. Purify your mind. That is
my teaching. And that is the teaching that Bhagawan
is giving us. Let us all join together and spread this
message everywhere. In my own country, you know that
there had been a war going on. When I came in 1982,
Bhagawan told me, “From next year, there will
be terrible violence in your country.” I asked,
“Can’t we avoid it?”. He said, “No,
the kind of collective bad karma you people did, will
have its consequences. But I will come one day.”
So, it is my fervent hope and also
my greatest wish that, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, coming to
Srilanka will not only usher peace into my country,
but to the world.
Lord Buddha said, “Love all.
Do compassionate service to all. That is Karuna. Learn
to get the joy of living. That is Muditha. When you
get the joy of living by doing good things, some people
will praise you and some will blame you. Accept both
name and blame with equanimity. With this four characteristics,
namely, Mettha, Karuna, Muditha and Upekha, you can
rise to the level of divinity.” Lord Buddha’s
teachings are very much on these lines, never dividing
people based on caste, creed and religion.
In the divine presence of Bhagawan,
let us all resolve that by purification of our heart
and mind and by serving everybody irrespective of who
that person is, let us build a new society where Dharma
rules and not armaments.
Father Henry Fehren who chose to speak on the theme
Non-violence said that our past was not negative and
that we had learnt from it how to distinguish between
love and religious hypocrisy. His speech began with
a flashback of an inspiring story of a woman in the
US, Ms. Dorothy Dey, who was an ardent follower of Bhagawan
Sri Sathya Sai baba and a strong advocate of Non-violence
who had spent the whole of her life doing works of mercy
in New York City. She had established a House of Hospitality
in New York for the poor which had become a Centre of
Non-violence. She had even established a Weekly Paper,
Catholic Worker, and sold
it for a penny a copy. Even after she was diseased some
years ago, the ‘Catholic Worker’ was still
going strong. It is still being sold for a penny a copy
even after sixty years and there are number of ‘Houses
of Hospitalities’ all over the United States advocating
Non-violence. Now, Ms Dorothy is on her way to being
declared a Saint of Non-violence by the Vatican.
He said, for him, who was ordained
to the Holy Catholic Church 57 years ago, Sai Baba was
a great inspiration and his trip to India was a pilgrimage.
Referring to Sai Baba’s teaching All
people are One Family of God, he pointed out
that “Sai Baba does not condemn any religion”;
instead, says, “we can learn from them, find spiritual
good in them. For every person there is something hollow
which cannot be filled except by God. There are different
traditions of the way by which people try to satisfy
their religious longing. We must be open…open
our eyes…and be willing to learn and realize that
we are all made in the Image and likeness of God. When
we try to make God into our Image and likeness then
we will have trouble. When we think we have God in our
pocket we are most likely to do evil in the name of
Referring to Bhagawan’s teachings
Father Ferren said, “His teachings are highly
impressive. I have come to learn. We are all open minded
and willing to learn which certainly enrich our spiritual
lives. It is God who has given us identity…He
has created us and we have not brought ourselves into
this world. We do not need anything more than God. Despise
and stain others is an insult to God for they too are
children of God and God loves them and God is in them.
Jesus said I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
Sai Baba teaches God is in each one of us and therefore
to offend anyone amounts to offend God. We must see
God in other people. So we cannot do evil to someone
in the name of God. If everyone understands this there
will be peace in the world today.”
Mentioning Sai Baba’s teachings
and various incidents in the illustrious life of Jesus
Christ, Father Fehren drew the point that real love
is something which prompts one to love against hatred,
love against indifference without any expectations.
He said, “Over and over, over the years, Jesus
taught love and exemplified it and he knew that his
unlimited love for everyone would cause his torture
and death, and yet his love was unlimited. During his
agony in the garden in the night before his crucifixion,
Peter, James and John, his close disciples fell asleep
and yet he loved them; Peter publicly denied him…yet
he loved him. Judas betrayed him…yet he loved
him. Love was never easy or effortless. Scourging at
the pillar, crowning with thorns, abjured by soldiers
and bystanders, the crucifixion, nailed to the cross
for three hours, naked, and hanging there, did Jesus
condemn anyone? No, He still loved them all…and
from the cross he prayed, Father! Forgive them for they
know not what they do.” Forgiveness is part of
love and if we do not forgive we do not love, said Father
Sai Baba did not found any religion
with concrete set of laws, instead, with a great blessed
vision, He advised all to keep our own religion…and
to realize who we were and that God was living in everyone.
Recapitulating his past, he illustrated
from his own life as to how God worked mysteriously
over the years right from his school days to help him
to finally become what he is now. At every juncture
in his life, where he was forced to face obstacles,
he was mysteriously helped by the unseen presence of
God. He added, “I have had too many blessings…including
the invitation to come to Puttaparthi. Seen in misfortune,
our lives could be a blessing if only we let God have
His way. “One cannot compete with the Wisdom of
God who is within us…who fills us…who loves
us. Man proposes and God disposes.”
Concluding his inspirational and enlightening
rhetoric, quoting St.Paul from his first letter written
to the Corinthians, Summon all after us, "If I
speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do
not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal;
If I have prophetic powers and understand all wisdom
and if I have faith to move mountains but have no love...I
am nothing; if I give away all that I have…and
if I deliver my body to be burned, but have no love…
I gain nothing. Love is kind; love is not envious or
boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on
its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does
not rejoice in wrong-doing, but rejoices in the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all
things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as
for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues,
they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an
end...And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love”, Father Henry
said neither God nor Love can be defined.
Profoundly thanking Bhagawan for all the spiritual guidance
He had imparted 33 years ago when he visited Prasanthi
Nilayam, Mr. Zeller said, it was so special to be back
here and that he was immensely benefited by that guidance
from Bhagawan which helped him to go back to his path,
his tradition. Addressing the gathering, separately
to his Brothers and Sisters from India, Brothers and
Sisters from all the world traditions, cultures and
religions and from Israel, he said all are brothers
and sisters as all are children of the same God.
Strumming his guitar, this internationally
acclaimed singer mesmerized the minds and conquered
the hearts of one and all with his rapturous, spontaneous
and mellifluous singing that must surely have taken
the gathering to the ecstatic heights of the Kingdom
of Peace and Bliss. One would wonder whether the Gods
of the highest heaven would also be watching this graceful
artiste through the holes of heaven, if there be, when
he was heard in his sweet voice, singing his heart out,
praying to the Lord, in His immediate physical presence.
He sang… “This is the House, the House of
the Lord…I wish the best for you!!!”
Because of my brothers and friends
Because of my sisters and friends
Please let me ask, please let me sing
Peace to you!
Because of my brothers and friends
Because of my sisters and friends
Please let me ask, please let me sing
Peace shalome to you!
This is the house, the house of the
I wish the best for you!
This is the house, the house of the Lord
I wish the best for you!
While extending his special greetings
and honours to the representatives of all major religious
faith, referring to the conference organized here, he
said that for him it was one of the miracles in the
world today that in the name of Peace…in the name
of Love, we could be together, hear each other and open
Drawing a parallel between the human
body and the body of human kind, Mr. Zeller said, just
like the body becoming healthy due to the harmonious
function of all the organs, the body of human kind will
be healthy when all the cultures, traditions and religions
recognize each other and play their roles for the health,
peace, wholeness and love of the entire humanity, all
forms of life and creation.
Referring to his visit to Calcutta,
ten years ago, representing Judaism in the World Parliament
of Religions, he thanked Bhagawan for nudging and guiding
him back to his own tradition and also India as a whole,
the only country, according to him, in the entire planet
earth that allowed his people, the Jews to live in peace
for 2000 years.
Speaking about God and the Divine mystery
of creation, he posed a question based on His religious
philosophy: Why was the world created? When God is infinite…God
is alone. It was for the sake of relationship, for the
sake of love that God created this world. Because God
wanted so much to have someone to give that love to,
that God was willing to give up that infinite Oneness.
Admitting that he could not be too
serious, he said it was important to have three Ls,
i.e., to learn, to love and to laugh. To drive down
to the point as to how Bhagawan would take care of His
devotees even at far away places, he narrated his own
experience in Puttaparthi, in his own genial humorous
style, when he had visited the ashram 33 long years
ago as a yogi. He said he was staying outside the ashram,
bathing in the river. Having had the experience of people
taking care of sadhus, he was used to this kind of good
practice. But, to his great shock he found out Bhagawan’s
saying that, we do not feed the sadhus, you have got
to work or do not eat. He had a little bit of money
that he was saving and thus managed to buy a banana,
a little pea-nuts and tea. He was doing okay, every
morning he would come out for darshan.
Prasadam would be distributed - round biscuits - after
Bhagawan came out of the room on to the balcony. He
was never impressed with the little round biscuits,
and told himself, ‘well this is not going to fill
me up’. A man came with trays full of biscuits,
knelt down to the person beside him, lost his balance
and the whole tray poured into his lap. Yes, Bhagawan
heard him; the thought that evolved in his mind reached
him and He responded. To top it all, the whole day everywhere
people, be it in the tea shop or in the canteen, would
insist on him to have more food or offer to pay on his
behalf, saying you never had enough to eat. He woke
up in the middle of the night with stomach ache. When
he was granted an interview after a week or so, Baba
referred to the stomach ache he had in the midnight;
He enquired about struggle in meditating and concentrating
and a rosary was materialized and given which really
meant so much to him.
Acknowledging profound heartfelt thanks
to Bhagawan once again for the great opportunity granted
to him to be here by keeping His heart open to all of
them…he said: ‘it means so much...it means
so much to all of us’. He sang the song ‘Shalome’
which means peace, ‘it really means wholeness.
You can’t have peace if you do not feel that you
are all part of one greater whole’. He lamented
that what we call peace today is just a ceasefire. What
we call Peace of mind is just a ceasefire of our thoughts
for a couple of minutes. It is not real peace.
Let there be Peace…
Shalome…Peace throughout the world…
Shalome…Peace in every heart
Shalome…God Bless You, thank you so much!
Shalome…Thank you Swami, Thank you Baba!
Shalome…Thank you to the Organisers
Thank you to everybody who did so much to make it happen
Paying obeisance at the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan
and other Divine Forms and to Lord Rama, whose mantra
is the one that transports one from the Samsara (worldly)
to liberation, Shastrigal said, the purpose of any Jiva
is for realizing the ultimate reality of Godhood. We
should always have love as the first object of our lives
and we are in the very presence of love and divinity
personified. This birth with which we have been gifted
must be considered as good fortunate as we are able
to have darshan of Bhagawan who is nothing but the personification
of love, affection and kindness.
Referring to Bhagawan’s immediate
divine presence, he said that we are immensely benefited
and are fortunate for we are receiving blessings from
the deity who is present before us through His darshan.
‘Rama’ is the Taraka Mantra, that transports
one from the worldly to liberation and here we are chanting
Sai Ram, Sai Ram for the divinity that is present before
us. This is the one and only mantra that exterminates
all foes. The quintessence of the Veda and Upanishads
is Sai Rama Mantra. Sathya Sai Rama Mantra is the one
that lifts up everyone from the Samsara or transmigratory
existence to the place beyond spatio-temporal confines;
it is the Mantra which helps you at the appropriate
In the 86 years of life of Panditji,
he had two miraculous cures from Bhagawan, which otherwise
would not have been possible. For the last fifty years
it is the opulence of Bhagawan that made him free from
all ailments which he has been suffering from. He owed
his walking and talking in the Divine presence to the
Grace and Blessings conferred by Bhagawan.
With his profound knowledge in Sanskrit
and understanding of Spirituality and ritualistic worship,
Panditji extolled the Divine Persona in Bhagawan by
composing instant verses praising His Divinity.
Concluding his speech Shastrigal once
again thanked Bhagawan for having given such a wonderful
opportunity which he attributed to the merits of his