Self-righteous attempts at conventional religion; experiments with grass, acid, speed; chanting Hare Krishna down Fifth Avenue; endless wanderings around the earth — so began the search for enlightenment among my friends more than 10 years ago. It’s hard to see if anyone has become enlightened, and if they have, they haven’t become better human beings for it.

All the words of the saints, wise men, gurus, and prophets say the same thing: to love our fellow man and all creation. And that means to see God in everything and treat all life with reverence. As long as a religion does that, it will lead to enlightenment. But when people use religion for selfish, arrogant, and hateful purposes, to divide rather than reunite, to boost the ego rather than to raise the soul, then that religion has failed.

You can chant to Krishna, Jesus or Yahweh, but if you can’t see God in your neighbor (or your parents or your ex-husband) you can’t see God at all. Meditate or pray, wear a cross, shave your head, be a vegetarian or keep kosher, listen to Baba Ram Dass or Billy Graham — in themselves these activities mean nothing. But if by doing any of these you become so filled with divine love that it flows out into all you do, why then I think you’ve probably found the way.

I’ve come to believe that the best way to become holy or enlightened is to act as if you are: that is humble, compassionate and loving. Sooner or later, it’s bound to become a habit.