Humanity has made incredible progress in the twentieth century. Revolutions in the fields of science and technology have changed the face of the earth. Now we stand at the threshold of a new millennium ready to witness the glories of an era beyond the imaginations of the most revered of philosophers and thinkers.
In direct contrast to the spirit of this age of enlightenment, religion continues to be unbelievably mixed up with superstition, idol worship, and miraculous events. Scientific thinking, universal education and individual investigation of truth are the hallmarks of the twentieth century but the followers of different religions do not read the Holy Books themselves. They depend more upon indirect knowledge gained through the so called spiritual masters—god men, priests, sadhus, gurus, pirs, tantriks, etc. True religion, which is the science of union with God, has unfortunately been replaced by magic, voodoo, tantra, occult, spiritism, spiritualism, hypnosis, and the like.
The true spirit of religion has been lost to the extent that it is increasingly being perceived to be the forte of the illiterate. Religious or political leaders exploit the innocent masses in the name of religion and inflict disunity, division and even war on the suffering humanity. On the other hand, this breaking away from religion has resulted in a woeful lack of moral and spiritual values in modern civilization.
In India, petty beggars wearing saffron robes cheat the masses by performing magical tricks. They pretend to have the knowledge of the past and powers to look into the future. These fakirs often suggest remedies to their credulous clientele to ward off evil influences of planets basing their calculations on astrology, palmistry and numerology. Astounded at first by their miraculous powers, the layman becomes an easy victim of their designs. By the time he realizes his mistake, he has suffered substantial material loss, not to mention the emotional trauma he has undergone.
The divine avatars and the true saints in India showed people the right path while warning them not to be misled. Most of the time this was done at a great personal loss to themselves. They made efforts to enlighten the masses about the eternal truths enshrined in all religions based upon the Word of God. This often resulted in their persecution and, at times, even death at the hands of their enemies belonging to the priestly class who perceived these saintly figures as threats to their positions of worldly power and riches.
This book is written primarily to wean the readers away from the quest of the miraculous. Its purpose is to guide them to the path of spirituality shown in our days by the latest Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh. He is considered by His followers to be the Promised One of all peoples and religions. One of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is that religion must be in accord with science and reason. His followers, the Bahá’ís, see no conflict between religion and science, in fact they perceive their roles to be complementary.
This book was initially written as a paper to be presented at a Seminar organized by the Association of Bahá’í Studies in India. It now includes views of the better known Prophets of God, as well as saints and sages, and social reformers of India. References have been included from most of the Divinely Revealed Holy Books.
I am very grateful to my colleagues, the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India, who have patiently heard me expound my views on the topic. My special thanks to Prof. Mangesh Teli who diligently reviewed the book and made valuable suggestions. Almost miraculous was the appearance of Mr. Michael W. Thomas from Australia, who suddenly landed up in Chandigarh with a tiny but powerful laptop computer without which this work may not have seen the light of the day in this form. A word of appreciation must also go to my wife, Manju, who throughout the period of refining the work, not only gave much encouragement, but also took care of our ‘precious gems’, Aaron and Ashish, and kept serving tasty and filling snacks.