Perhaps the crowning glory of Swami Satchidananda’s interfaith work is the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine—an interfaith shrine built in Yogaville in 1986. LOTUS celebrates the unity behind the diversity of the world religions. Open to people of all faiths to meditate and pray, this shrine uses the universal symbol of light as the symbol of the Divine. It is the first shrine ever built to house altars for every major faith and also faiths less well-known and those not yet known.
Intro to the LOTUS
Building the LOTUS
Dedication of the LOTUS
By Swami Satchidananda
The aim behind the LOTUS is to bring people together so that we can remember the unity behind the diversity. Before I even started building LOTUS, I seriously asked myself, “Is it necessary? Should we spend money for that? Why can’t we spend that money for the more needy people?” People ask me that question. My answer is that I don’t deny the importance of immediate service to the needy, poor, sick or hungry. But why are people poor, sick, or hungry? The reason is because we don’t care and share enough.
That is why in Yogaville we are trying to lead a life filled with caring and sharing—a life centered around the recognition of our spiritual unity. In the name of LOTUS, that’s what we are trying to do. What is it that we should see if we really want a peaceful co-existence? We should see the one unifying factor, the Spirit. If we see the Spirit in us, we realize that we are all one. The challenge given to each and every one of us is to remember that oneness behind the outer differences. When we forget that and identify ourselves with the superficial differences, we lose sight of the spiritual oneness. So, religion asks us to get back to that original state. The very meaning of the word “religion” is “to bind back;” to get back to your original oneness.
All the different religions are there to help us to achieve peace and communion. They may offer different prayers and practices, but all of these are designed to help us to commune with God. There are many different roads that lead to the same goal. Because we are one in Spirit, it doesn’t mean that we need to renounce our own path or approach. That is not unity; that is conversion. Real unity means accepting all the various approaches. That is what LOTUS and interfaith understanding are all about.
The idea behind LOTUS is not to have all faiths merge into one. If there is only one kind of flower in the garden, it’s no longer a garden. Should the flowers fight about their colors, their scents, their shapes, and forms? Should they hate each other for their differences? We seem to appreciate the variety, texture, shapes, and scents of the flowers as they blend together to create a beautiful bouquet. God created all this variety for us to enjoy and for this beauty to enrich our lives. Our aim should be to understand the unity and enjoy the variety.
To offer another analogy: Just because I love my mother, should I ask you to renounce your mother and only love my mother? I should know that just as I love my mother, you also love your mother. That is why in the name of LOTUS and interfaith understanding we are saying, “Let us love all our mothers.” You can be loyal to your parents, your religion, your country, and at the same time you can love and respect another person’s allegiances. There is nothing contradictory in that. You don’t have to renounce one to love another. Ultimately, we all aim for the same truth while walking on different paths. It is time to understand each other better and to live as one global family.
That is why my motto has always been, “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” We must do everything within our capacity to follow the principle that we should not and cannot divide ourselves in the name of God and religion. Otherwise, we are looking at the superficial side of religion and forgetting to go deep into its foundation. If we did go deep, we would find that all the religions ultimately talk about the same God, the same Truth. It is time for us to recognize that there is one truth and many approaches.
Many more people have died in the name of God and religion than in all the wars and natural calamities. Let’s not forget that. So, what is the cause? We don’t seem to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in the same spirit. We may look different, but the same spirit runs through us all. The purpose of any religion is to teach us about our spiritual oneness, to help us to live this truth: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
So, let us remember the real purpose of religion. When we understand that essentially we are one appearing as many, then all the other problems—physical and material—will be solved. Until then, they will never be solved, because the basic cause for all the problems of the world is the lack of understanding of this spiritual unity. Wherever you go say, “We may look different, but we are all one in Spirit. Hello, brother; hello sister.” We should embrace the entire universe with the understanding that God has a purpose for everybody. No one person and no one religion is superior or inferior to another. We are all doing God’s work. We should learn to live together and work toward one goal: to share and care, love and give.
May the entire universe be filled with peace and joy, love and light. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.