Upcoming Q&A Show! Drunk Jesus!

Have a question about God or religion but no one can give you a satisfactory answer? Are you recovering from a cult or a victim of religious abuse? Now you can directly ask Jesus in our upcoming Q&A show Drunk Jesus.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel PermanentWavesTV to stay tuned!

We're launching VERY soon, so you'd want to be notified when we do!



Disillusioned with organized religion, millions of people turn to secular humanism, neo-atheism, New Age thinking, Eastern religious practices, and mysticism while others retreat from spirituality altogether. A more satisfying and transformative option is to embark on a quest to discover what is real to you. Using time-tested tools of investigation into your own sense of self, you can examine your present beliefs, explore the nature of reality, and ultimately expand your identity and awareness.

God Without Religion introduces this age-old approach to self-inquiry for today’s readers. Step by step, it offers a bridge between organized religion and self-realization for anyone questioning traditional dogma or its legacy of divisiveness. It also assists in overcoming limitations and notions of exclusivity promoted by modern-day movements. Included are 17 universal techniques for developing a personal understanding of the underlying substance of existence and broadening your view of yourself, others, and all of life.

Since Sankara Saranam’s groundbreaking book God Without Religion was published 10 years ago by The Pranayama Institute, Inc., thousands have been enlightened by his teachings and revelations. Now, in this special 10-year anniversary edition published by BenBella Books, Sankara returns with new insights and a renewed message of spiritual guidance and inspiration.

This updated edition includes new details about Sankara’s personal experiences with each technique. These highly relatable new passages will help you connect with each concept in a personal way, so that you can discover—or rediscover—your own spiritual path to clarity.

Today, you can watch Sankara expound on pranayama and his theory of reality on Permanent Waves TV, a production company that makes entertaining and engaging content available for free on Youtube. He has several shows about to launch this April, including Drunk Jesus, a hilarious comedy show where he answers questions from real people as the inebriated savior in heaven. You can ask him your own questions!

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay tuned!


Winner of Five Coveted Awards!


God without religion award foreword magazineGod without religion award independent publisherGod without religion award foreword review nautilusGod without religion awardGod without religion award usa book news


Over Thirty Endorsements!

"A commonsense approach [leading to] the clear understanding that we are all one."
Melissa Etheridge

"God Without Religion advocates a more intelligent and thoughtful approach to the spiritual life . . . and offers positive ways to develop a spiritual viewpoint."
Thomas Moore
Author of Care of the Soul and Dark Nights of the Soul

"A spiritual masterpiece."
Rev Dr Michael Ellner
President, HEAL (Health Education AIDS Liaison-NYC),
Co-author of Quantum Focus, and winner of the IMDHA Pen and Quill Award


"Packed with stimulating ideas and accessible wisdom, this is a guidebook to ‘worshipping through wondering’ . . . Fantastic!"
Tim Freke
Deep life philosopher and author of The Mystery Experience


"[A] fine, fierce, wise, and deeply helpful book."
Andrew Harvey
Author of The Direct Path and Sun at Midnight


"Offers hope and relief."
Fred Alan Wolf, PhD
Theoretical physicist, author of The Yoga of Time Travel, and a National Book Award winner


"This book's bold message is vital."
Larry Dossey, MD
Author of Healing Beyond the Body and Reinventing Medicine


"A courageous, stand-out book for readers ready to part the veil of illusion."
Meredith Jordan
Author of Embracing the Mystery


"One of the most extraordinary books of our time..."
Hank Wesselman, PhD
Anthropologist and author of The Spiritwalker Trilogy and The Journey to the Sacred Garden


"A rare book, combining spiritual insight and practice with social criticism and an appreciation of the many contradictions of modern life."
Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD
President, Intuition Network; author of The PK Man and former host of Thinking Allowed, a national public television series.


"An inspiring, positive, wonderful book ..."
Joseph Dispenza
Author of The Way of the Traveler and Live Better Longer


"A breath of fresh air ..."
Hal Zina Bennett, PhD
Author of Writing Spiritual Books


"Hope for the survival of peace-loving people in the world."
Dilipkumar Mohanta
Professor of Philosophy, University of Calcutta
Editor of The Journal of the Indian Academy of Philosophy


"A treasure, a pearl of great price ... a worthy companion on anyone's path."
Robert Ransom Odom
Internationally published author, columnist, and spiritual teacher


"Beautifully articulated. ... A work appropriate for anyone in search of spiritual meaning."
Michael Shermer
Publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist with Scientific American, and author of Why People Believe Weird Things and The Science of Good and Evil


"A provocative challenge ... to the smug assertions of those who would claim to know the truth."
Robert S. Alley
Professor of Humanities, Emeritus
University of Richmond


"The genuine seeker must utilize both the critical mind and the generous heart. God Without Religion honors both."
John J. McGraw
Author of Brain & Belief: An Exploration of the Human Soul


"There is no question that this is a timely work inspired by eternal truths."
Elliot R. Wolfson
Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University


"God Without Religion offers a refreshing attempt to provide humankind with a modernized spiritual road-map for use in our eternal quest to comprehend God."
Arun Gandhi
From the Foreword to God Without Religion


"A powerful book [that] could liberate the world of religious strife and lay a sound foundation for a global ethic."
Ingrid Shafer, PhD
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma


"Extraordinary, elegant, beautiful, informed, practical. . . . It is good medicine in a troubled world."
David Carson
Author of Medicine Cards


"This practical as well as theoretical volume encourages people to have direct, firsthand experience of the divine, unmediated by the trappings of organized religion."
Mary E. Hunt, PhD
Co-director of Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual


"Strong resonances to the Vedic/Upanishadic concept of 'an expansive sense of the self'. . . . Regardless of one's personal views on religion, changing the outlook of societies that identify themselves within a paradigm of narrow, ethnic boundaries is an imperative that needs to be taken seriously."
T. S. Rukmani
Concordia University, Montreal


"[God Without Religion] succeeds largely because it does not seek to deride or convert, but to educate and inspire.."
Ahrar Ahmad, PhD
Professor of Political Science
Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD


"God Without Religion offers, through exquisite prose and profound substance, a way out of religious shackles and abuse-a direct path to God."
Alon Ben-Meir, PhD
Professor of International Relations
The Center for Global Affairs, New York University
Syndicated columnist; Middle East Project Director at The World Policy Institute
Author of A War We Must Win and The Middle-East, Imperatives and Choices


"Sankara has done an exceptional job of transcending reactiveness in the form of emotionality and argumentativeness and offers us some very tangible means for accessing and integrating the god substance he talks about."
Jaye Beldo, freelance reviewer


"God Without Religion is a book like no other I have read."
Charlene Martel, reviewer The Literary Word


"This thoughtful and insightful book will help increase the spiritual literacy that is a necessary part of our true higher education. . . . I heartily recommend it."
Lama Surya Das
Author of Awakening the Buddha Within
and founder of the Dzogchen Meditation Center


"Presents ancient ways of spiritual unfoldment, in a modern world and in a modern way."
Zohara M. Heironimus
Host of Nationally Syndicated Talk Show, Future Talk


"An honestly written accounting . . ."
The Midwest Book Review


"Saranam presents timeless techniques of meditation, affirmations, energy work, relaxation exercises and tips?to develop spirituality and bring God closer."
Ode Magazine, July 2005


"In our organizational quest to help bring about a better, healed world, we believe that the work of teachers like you is both essential and critical. To express our gratitude for your contributions to society, we are formally honoring you . . . as a Universal Spiritual Teacher."
Mary Cosgrove
Universal Spiritual Teachers Coordinator,


"[Sankara Saranam writes] from a height of inspired intelligence with a vision that shines kindly into the depths of the human heart."
Dr Nicholas Coleman
Head of Religious Education, Wesley College


"It is with great honor that the editors of USABookNews.com award God Without Religion the coveted 'Best Spirituality Book of 2005' Award."
Jeffrey Bowen
President & Publisher, USABookNews.com


"God Without Religion is attractively produced . . . [and] will appeal especially to readers who feel dissatisfaction with organized religions and wish to seek a unified spiritual center for their lives."
Richard D. Wright
New Age Retailer magazine


"A wonderful book about what I believe is the most positive view of human creation."
Sheldon Drobny
Founder, Air America Radio


"God Without Religion brilliantly explores the author's theories on both intuition and self as the most effective tools of spiritual exploration."
Seth McEvoy
Foreword Magazine


Testimonials from Readers

Having read thousands of books on religion, history, philosophy and logic over the past 30 years, as well as authoring four such books, I was very surprised for the personal impact of this book. God Without Religion brings to the surface the plethora of secrets of religion that few wish to discuss, while showing that God and non-religion are compatible ideas. It is quite unlike anything you will be likely to read. ...I read with great interest the author's ideas and found that, when one slows down to read carefully, one finds great enlightenment.
-WSD, ThD Oakland, MN

I have done comparative religion studies since 1982 as a personal interest. I have found that there ARE universal truth, and then there are the "faces" wrapped around each core. But there is ONE thing that stands out among them all. The "ring of truth" within the heart can provide a clear discernment of what is outstanding and balanced and beautiful...and what is false. The readings that this site provides is heads and shoulders above the majority of the literature I have encountered. The "gentle truth" and the "bite of truth" go hand in hand in the delivery of the messages in your website. I could find not one thing that I was in disagreement with, WHICH IS RARE.

I am very grateful for this book. I have read hundreds of books on spirituality, psychology, philosophy and religion. I can easily say this is the best book I have ever read and allowed me to finally make huge leaps in my life and deepened my meditation tremendously. I certainly wasn't expecting such an impact from one book. Order this book today and read it you'll be glad you did.
-PF Waterloo, Ontario


I believe that not one of the famous writers, statesmen, religious leaders, or physicists quoted as supporting God Without Relgion has understood with such clarity and profundity the nature of reality beord reading this book. I have read many of [their] books, and though they elucidate an aspect of reality, never have I encountered such a comprehensive understanding.
-JC Brighton, MA


All I can say is 'amazing.' This work has deeply touched my heart and opened my mind from this mental bondage that we all seem to experience time to time. If you are disappointed towards what you see in the news and how people deal with others unjustly, this book will inspire you to improve your "self" into fulfilling future obligations towards promoting Peace. Saranam believes that no matter what your faith is, whether you are a Hindu, Zen, Buddhist, Muslim, Jew, Christian, or anything else, you can practice your belief inwardly by looking within and try to control your 'prana' so that we won't do further damage to humankind. Excellent read for spiritual seekers of all faiths. God is really within us all, and we can feel it only if we try to find it inside, not outside. Praise be to God.
-YB Glendale, AZ


I want you to know that during this past week, I have re-read God Without Religion and will probably do another reading again soon. I was delusional when I originally told you that I had read it. I am only now beginning to truly absorb the words...
-CL Ellijay, GA


Your 21st century understanding of what the God idea is all about is the best out there. The religion round table [The Nexus Radio Show] is excellent! Your effort is well needed in a world full of bad ideas about God.


As a student of yogic philosophy, I really enjoyed the book...pretty far out.
-Yogi G.


I loved the book God Without Religion. Loved all of it. It's a wonderful book that society really needs and I'm happy to mention it in my emails, etc to friends.
-SS Burke, VA


My definition of God is force & Power. The universal energy... Religion was created by man to control people. Had its real source with the man with power over others with sorcery, then it got refined along the way with laws by other peoples experience in trickery and deception and the mystery of mysticism. Great book -- much of my own thoughts for the last 40 years. Thanks for writing it down. You did a job well done. Everyone should read it in every language. I think my friend Jesus and Buddha would say the same thing.
-MSOM, Fairhaven, MA


I was disillusioned not only with conventional religions but also with red religion (Marxism). I serched for a new paradigm to understand the malady of human society. In my search, I found it to be Cultural Deformity. Now I found your book more aticulative than mine in expressing my views. I wish to be in touch with you so that I may do much more in this direction.
-MS PhD, India


I've been able to read GWR with concentration and for prolonged periods. Confirming that individual identity dies with one's body, I feel imbued with a sense of fullness in the moment and a greater ability to be present for others in a loving and compassionate manner. My mythic image of god rests squarely in the openness of my heart and in every pair of eyes I see. For that I do thank you.
-LS Albuquerque, NM


Excellent discussion and points. The book and your concepts shared in the book [are] absolutely wonderful. Worth reading and people considering. I support and agree with you 100%. I like that this book is out there, because your way of expression is so graceful and eloquent, it just might get universal consideration. Thank you for sharing your conviction of insight. This is a beautiful service you are bringing to the world.
-Dr. JMD


Clear, scientific, and logical view of spirituality. The message is great and critical for today's society. Deep, captivating, and thought provoking. Useful in helping one grow and challenge accepted dogma.
-AM Cardiff by the Sea, CA


An excellent book with real solutions to our inherent need for personal spirituality and very timely in this climate of intolerant fundamentalist religion. A must read for all who want the Joy of God without the business of religion. Enjoy!
-SS Streamwood, IL


Your book...has really touched me. You have put into words what I have been feeling my whole life. I remember as a child being sent to a yeshiva, and constantly questioning the rabbis, and them basically telling me it was not my place to question....Thank you for your timely down to earth book.
-GT New Jersey


I recommend reading God Without Religion. It will help to challenge established beliefs and open the mind.... The idea of worship through wondering is great. We should always keep asking questions and take nothing at face value.
-RD Paducah, KY


I have read "God Without Religion" and now studying it further. It is beyond a doubt an expression of Truth!


Religion is the most cruel and brutal lie of all! God and religion are not the same. You can never find God through, in, with or otherwise connected with any religion!!!
-J, GA


God Without Religion speaks to the many people out there who have beenhurt and/or disenfranchised by today's organized religions. It's apparent that organized religion may well be in its death throes, perhaps the real meaning of the Bible's prophesized "end days". This book signifies the heat of a powerful and unstoppable spiritual revolution already underway...
-TB Milwaukee, WI


Your book was a confirmation and a breath of fresh air - it is indeed difficult to search for God when it has been already defined by standardized religions who do not appreciate questions. I recall at age 14 apologizing to Jesus for wanting to learn (equated with sinning back in 1954)
-M Columbus, NM


I am about half way through "God Without Religion" and cannot say enough about how refreshing it is to read Sankara Saranam's thoughts on organized religion and religion in general. I am starting to practice the Pranayama techniques and find they add a positive element to my day.
-SC Roswell, GA


Finally you have said "The king has no cloths". In my view only God is infallable. Man is fallable. Man's ideas and religions fall short of God's perfection and are therefore fallable. At best, religion seperates humanity and cast men into the eternally untenable. I am glad to see that there are others, like you, that understands this seperation of humanity.


My whole life I have been searching for the answers to my questions about religions. I never understood how there could be one God but 100s of religions. God Without Religion, Explains in depth, how and why religion is the way it is and help you better understand yourself and humanity, Spiritually. I consider this book to be my "bible."
-M Elizabeth, NJ


God Without Religion...does away with platitudes, giving a clear and testable model for the self without any mystification. In addition, if practical steps in gaining knowledge about this mysterious world is something you are interested in, I highly recommend this book for its clarity and the great questions it inspires.
-RN San Jose, CA


A masterwork of the uttermost relevance, God Without Religion is a timely appeal to reason and progressive thinking. As a global movement, God Without Religion offers a sound, and happy alternative to stifling, fear mongering, and divisive paradigms, and brings promise of a brighter future to a beleaguered world.
-SF Las Cruces, NM


Sankara Saranam is the spiritual Einstein of the twenty-first century offering us a unified spiritual field theory. This book should be standard reading across the world.
-HG Atlanta, GA


I bought your book GWR several months ago, read it, loved it, then have done other reading on similar topics. Read some esoterical stuff and reading GWR again. I just can't thank you enough for writing this and going to the trouble to do so. I have a couple of your audio interviews on my computer we listen to now and then and it just confirms so much that we are on the right track to free thinking. And yes, it was all a little uncomfortable to even think of the possibility that the truth wasn't the truth afterall...


I wish to thank the author of the book as well as those who support his work at the Pranayama Institute. My wife and I have deeply enjoyed reading the book together, we share thoughts together and feel such a peace in doing so. It is so refreshing to have come to similar conclusions and then have found the book, checked out the site, and then realized that the path for peace in many aspects of life is not found from looking outwards, but looking inwards and finding ways to help others, not to convert them, but to come together and share knowledge and elevate both parties, thereby easing tensions and misunderstandings. I wish to continue on this path and learn more about including others while simultaneously learning to listen inwardly and restore balance of soul, heart, mind and body.


Having been raised as a fundamentalist christian, i think it is so absurd that people of any religion or belief set think they have the only true faith or belief--christian, jew, muslin, etc... Our planet is just a speck of a speck in the universe and yet people fight and kill over what they think is the only way. I am just amazed at...the audacity to slaughter and persecute their fellow humans in the name of what they think is the one true way. These religions...truly make life more absurd and meaningless as they render their belief systems absolute.
-SS Santa Cruz, CA


I am only about halfway through GWR and wanted to say thanks. It has helped me resolve some issues I have been working on for the past few months. It is gratifying to know is that there are other readers who appreciate this kind of writing when the world seems to be happy with divisive religious political proponents who offer pat answers (usually hostile) to all situations.


God Without Religion is a wonderful book appealing especially to the scientific person with the profound 'theory of self' described in it. This book will also attract people who refrain from spiritual organizations or so called 'Gurus'...to verify the truth. I would recommend this book wholeheartedly to those who also want to move from the constricting, limited and narrow view of organized religion into the freedom of universal principles and the shared goal of all humankind.
-CL Clemson, SC


God Created Mankind, Mankind Created Religion. It was only during the relatively "ignorant" stages of our development that our Religion suited us. Now that we have an ever growing population of enlightened Individuals, each with an internal, invisible, intimate connection to our Creator's Awareness, and Energy Force...the concept of Centralized Religion is at last being replaced with Distributed Religion....Our Religion (meaning "way of life") becomes the very Lifestyle of the Enlightened; instead of abdicating that "perfect" or "saintly" behavior, we Live it our selves.
-DV Portland, OR


GWR is a gift and blessing for seekers tired of looking through a microscope to find the smallest bit of truth from the vast array of presentations of God and religion and for those tired of looking through the mire to gain even the smallest hint of understanding of the cosmic puzzle of life and self. Sankara Saranam has given such a great gift and it is the gift that keeps giving!
-PD Jacksonville, FL


Not only does [Sankara Saranam] take us on a wonderfully thought out, guided tour of the history of the institution of religion and its correlative effects on the path of human progress, but he does something few such authors have done before; he exemplifies the need for self-teaching as opposed to dogmatic belief founded upon the out of date, exclusivist interpretations of our worlds scriptural literature, while avoiding falling into the same trap by not promoting a shiny, new, exclusivist interpretation.
-DK Las Cruces, NM


Brilliant! If God is anything, he/she/it is pure logic. Religion is not logical, nor does religion advance logic, peace, compassion, or progress. Ergo, to know and understand what God is, one should engage in the study of quantum physics, the sciences, and pure logic, and especially the study of one's self to know the "God" within. Religions developed when people had no concept of science and engaged in "guessing" and "dreams" to define what God is. God without religion allows the human mind to put aside the veil of mythology and engage in a true, individualized sense of what God is. God is human intelligence present in the mind of every human being... waiting to be freed from the politics and oppression of religion.
-DW, PhD, Miami FL


It was in my search of truth that i landed to Sankara Saranam book and read the first chapters offered online. I met what i've always longed to read and i did it between the lines to see faults but i surely found none -- even with my critical mind. I could promulgate this thought for i feared i would be branded evil, but now, i know i am not alone. I only hope that i gets my own copy soon. Take my respect Sankara
-GDN Nairobi, Kenya


Sankara’s pragmatic and insightful guidance on the path for self knowledge is priceless. His writings have you always coming back for more! Thank you for setting an example by fearlessly challenging and exposing the narrowing elements in self and society and empowering your readers with the tools for critical thinking and self knowledge!
-EF Ottawa, Canada


Your CD......WOW!!!!! The guitar playing is simply fantastic. The most incredible we have ever heard. Congratulations!
-FR Ellijay, GA


The God Without Religion retreat set me on a path of self-expansion that I plan on following for the rest of my life. Appealing to the intellect without eschewing the heart, Sanakara Saranam's teachings helped me experience a sense of oneness I never imagined could be possible. By incorporating pranayama into my everyday life, I hope to experience a glimpse of the infinite a little more each moment.”
-N T T, editor


I became familiar with Sankara through his book about a year ago. Books are my business, yet I recently felt stretched to admit being impressed with much in terms of original ideas and concerns on a global level regarding faith and politics. God Without Religion changed all that, and a mission to meet the man behind the words ensued. A retreat he hosted at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY this summer gave me the opportunity to fully absorb the material on a deeper, more personal level. It was terrifically satisfying and I believe this could only transpire with direct access to Sankara. I encourage anyone feeling challenged with their personal space or simply interested in a new perspective about how to better serve the world to join him and other like-minded retreat participants. The answers to the questions that arise will not disappoint you.
-VS, publisher Foreword Magazine


I expected the God Without Religion retreat to be an incredible experience before I arrived—and it exceeded my expectations. In fact, there were moments that I will put on my list of all-time most inspiring events. . . . Sankara Saranam is the real deal. . . . Each person who attended the retreat felt it was an experience tailored specifically to their needs. The God Without Religion colloquium is now an indispensable part of my practice.”
-JB, Student


Sankara's retreat was fantastic. . . . The questions Sankara posed in the colloquiums, and the manner in which he guided the discussions ever deeper to find all-inclusive answers, was truly remarkable. His explanations of the yogic path and meditation techniques cleared my mind and helped me focus on achieving my goals. . . . I highly recommend the God Without Religion retreat for anyone who wants to better themselves spiritually.”
-JR, Engineer


The week I spent with Sankara at the God Without Religion retreat is sure to impact my life for years to come. His colloquiums and talks covered incredible material, and we all benefited from his invaluable guidance in our pranayama practice. I would recommend this retreat from the bottom of my heart.”
-R, Engineer


The God Without Religion retreat . . . is deeply transformational. . . . Several of the retreatants have contacted our center to thank us for hosting Sankara, adding that they have now found an inner strength to chart their own course with confidence. As a Buddhist monk, I would have to say his methods agree with the Buddha's admonition to 'be a lamp unto your own feet.' We have booked several additional retreats for next year.
-DWD, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage


"Sankara's God Without Religion workshop was brilliant, compassionate, practical, and important. I found it to be a radical shift . . . toward the clarity of inner knowing. Highly recommended!
-MR, Retired chiropractor, yoga instructor,
and Radical Forgiveness coach


God without Religion is a way of life. . . . [The retreat was] was an intense and beautiful experience. . . . I appreciate [Sankara's] guidance, patience, and loving kindness more than words can express. I look forward to the follow-up to this retreat.
-SD, Physician's Assistant, Amsterdam, Holland


The God Without Religion retreat was a giant step in my quest for a personal understanding of God. The colloquium format was conducive to bringing forth deeply searching questions and meaningful, personal answers. Sankara had a way of helping me look inside myself to find an inner spirituality I did not know existed.
-KOM, AA,CAM Administrator,
Embracing Simplicity Hermitage


Foreword by Arun Gandhi

Arun Gandhi grandson mahatma gandhi foreword god without religion

The question "What is God?" has baffled humankind for eons and will continue to defy logical understanding as long as we live with the concept that there is a heaven up above, where God sits judging all of humanity and punishing those who misbehave. Eminent thinkers throughout history have tried to find a logical answer to this vexing question, with little success. On the other hand His Holiness Gautama, the Buddha, did tapasya (Sanskrit for asceticism) under a banyan tree and, like some others, found that God exists within every human heart in the form of love, compassion, understanding, and other positive attributes humankind is capable of but often chooses to suppress. It seems that instead of trying to assert strict logic or put a solid image to our concept of God, we ought to follow their example and devote greater energy to intuitively understanding the meaning of God.

This book, God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths by Sankara Saranam, helps us do just that. It offers a refreshing attempt to provide humankind with a modernized spiritual road-map for use in our eternal quest to comprehend God.

Since the identity of God is so inscrutable (if not the best-kept secret in the world) and the philosophy surrounding this power so impenetrable, religious leaders of various faiths have defined God in ways that raise more questions than they answer. The easiest and most accepted explanation is to see God in the shape of those who are considered God's messengers-among Jews, Moses and the Hebrew Prophets; among Christians, Jesus; among Muslims, Muhammad; among Hindus, Krishna; and among Buddhists, Gautama.

The common thread running through the lives of God's many messengers is love, compassion, understanding, commitment, and respect for all living creatures. It might therefore be assumed that by exhibiting these qualities they were demonstrating to the rest of humanity the way our Creator expects us to live. Although I do not attribute saintly qualities to my grandfather, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, what he said about a week before his assassination on January 30, 1948, is pertinent in this regard: "They [the Indian people] will follow me in life, worship me in death, but not make my cause their cause." These prophetic words could have been said by Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, or the Buddha-beings whose life stories and lessons were enshrined into scriptures we generally read with little intention of making them a part of our lives. Bypassing divine go-betweens, Sankara Saranam's book attempts to give us a more direct and immediate perspective of God. Like Sankara, I hesitate to say its perspective is absolutely right, because as mere mortals, irrespective of our profound scholarship, experience, knowledge, training, or vision, we cannot fathom the depths of spirituality enough to presume we have the right way.

I recall the wisdom my grandfather imparted to our family when I was living with him as a young teenager. He said human beings can only hope to understand God and aspire to reach "salvation," which he defined as living a life of service, sacrifice, and satisfaction. He believed the greatest religion was to ensure that we wipe the tears from every eye and bring hope and decency to every life. If performed with utmost humility, he said, this service would grant us the magnanimity to recognize and accept the many ways we are called to see God in humanity.

I am convinced that at the root of the spiritual problem we face today is the intense competitiveness we have injected into religion. Each of us believes our religion is the best and it is incumbent upon us to save the world by converting everyone else to our mode of worship.

I recall a painfully sad episode that took place a few years ago when I was invited to explain the Hindu way of life to Christian students of comparative religion. Also invited were Muslim and Jewish clergymen. After my talk one of the clergymen prefaced his presentation with remarks that were obviously addressed to me, stating: "We Christians, Muslims, and Jews have a few things in common. We not only have a common source but we are a 'book religion,' unlike you who are pagan." The implication was clear. He believed that the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish word of God came in the form of a book whereas the Hindu scriptures were transmitted orally and therefore inferior. He concluded that Hindus believe in 50,000 Gods while followers of the Western family of religions believe in only one.

The perceived superiority of book-based religions, I explained, is a common misconception in the West. In fact, an ancient philosopher once said the easiest way to kill a philosophy is by writing a book, for then it becomes a dogma and ceases to be a vibrant, living philosophy. As for believing in 50,000 or more Gods, I added, the Hindu belief is not that there are so many Gods (or, according to some, as many Gods as human beings) but that there are many possible images of God.

The admission that no one really knows the true God behind all these images leads to an understanding that human beings can only pursue the truth and not "possess" it, as many religious zealots claim to do. Pursuit implies humility, acceptance, openness, and appreciation, while possession suggests arrogance, close mindedness, and lack of appreciation. Herein lies the rub: if we persist in competing to possess the truth instead of working in unity to pursue it, we are going to face untold grief-and worse, violence.

When asked what he thought of the meaning of God, Grandfather said: "There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent.

"I do dimly perceive that whilst everything around me is ever-changing, ever-dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves, and re-creates. That informing power or spirit is God. . . . For I can see that in the midst of death, life persists; in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is life, truth, light."

Sometimes Grandfather referred to God as love, or the supreme good, or other attributes reflecting his belief that God lives within us as well as outside of us. He also implied we have a hotline to God, an instant connection enabling us to invoke God when necessary. In humankind's eternal quest for a tangible answer to the elusive meaning of God, God Without Religion adds an ancient dimension-the idea of self-in a radically new way that I hope will bring the reader a few steps closer to unraveling this divine mystery.

-Arun Gandhi
Cofounder of The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
Memphis, Tennessee