This is the admonition Pi's father gives him when Pi decides to simultaneously be a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim.
Much has already been written online and in academic journals about the role of religion in Life of Pi. I'm not going to reiterate any of those points. However, I do want to address a common theme I see mentioned over and over in reviews of the film: the strangeness (or shallowness?) of Pi holding to three different religions.
It is a difficult concept for those people raised to the concept of religious exclusivity to understand how someone could draw from more than one religious tradition at a time. The western religious model (and by Western I refer to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and atheist) is all or nothing. Religion in the west is a monogamous marriage between the believer and his god despite the fact that each of the three religions has at some time included polygamy in its definition of marriage. On the other extreme, you have some sects that eschew marriage altogether as a distraction from one's commitment to god.
Even atheists adopt this marriage model, bickering with other humanists about whether being 'spiritual' but not religious qualifies them for being counted among the non-religious. Pi says this about agnostics in the novel:
"I'll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation."
Thus, Pi seems to agree that religion is something one must make an exclusive commitment to in the manner of a monogamous marriage. But this is a character who sincerely feels himself to be Hindu, Christian, and Muslim. Is Pi a polygamous believer or something else?
The eastern approach to religion does not follow the marriage model. In the east, religion is a banquet. Hindus, as Pi tells us, have 330 million different gods. Some Hindus will say that these gods are all manifestations of Brahman, the one god, who is such a personal and loving god, he becomes what each person needs - a mentor, a lover, a friend, a master, a savior, a mother, etc. However, the point being that there is choice based on the individual's spiritual personality.
India is not the only eastern nation that adheres to the banquet model for religion. In China, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism share equal places of honor as the country's three spiritual traditions. In addition, Muslims and Christians in China often mix in rituals and traditions from these three other religions to create a unique spiritual experience suited to their needs.
Japan also has a tradition of syncretism (blending traditions) with Shinto drawing on the Bushido Code of the Samurai warriors, with Zen Buddhism drawing on Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto, and with Shinto itself drawing on the ancient myths of Japan while also incorporating newer rituals for modern life.
All over Asia, one sees people blending traditions. Buddhism itself changes as it merges with local traditions, making the Buddhism of Tibet a very different system than the Buddhism of Thailand or the Buddhism of Korea.
In Asia, religion is personal, meant to change the individual, not the world. Pi's drawing from three different religions while leaving out the bits that didn't appeal to him is very much in keeping with the banquet model of spirituality.
It could be argued that western religion, for all its claims of purity and exclusivity, are just as syncretic as eastern religions. Christianity has over 30,000 different denominations, which shows how easily it adapts to different regions and changing times. However, that is an essay for another blog.
I end with this quote from religion scholar, Huston Smith, who views the various traditions, all with something valuable to offer believers, as a musical composition:
"What a strange fellowship this is, the God-seekers in every land, lifting their voices in the most disparate ways imaginable to the God of all life. How does it sound from above? Like bedlam, or do the strains blend in strange, ethereal harmony? Does one faith carry the lead, or do the parts share in counterpoint and antiphony where not in full-throated chorus?"