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Introduction
Hinduism
Buddhism
Christianity
Islam
Sikhism
Photo Gallery
Universal Harmony and Broader Tolerance
Paper presented at the International Youth Conference
on
Youth for Integral Humanism
GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology
12 – 13 January 2012
 
 
- Dr M M Verma
 

Universal Harmony and Broader Tolerance

 
Introduction

The world history has decisively revealed that religious traditions have not grown in the air. It would be wrong to treat religious traditions as exclusive entities, being totally independent of each other. In fact, they have influenced each other more than what the eye can see. They have enriched each other more deeply than what a common man has perceived. Every religion has significantly contributed to humanity’s understanding of the Ultimate Reality, which transcends any specific expression. We are unavoidably interconnected and interrelated today. No religion can refuse to recognize the spirituality and legitimacy of truth embodied in sacred scriptures. Undoubtedly, our world is more hospitable to a variety of approaches today than ever before. As we move towards world civilization, we find many cultures and spiritual traditions impinging on one another. Here, every tradition takes account of the other traditions. Our world radiates flavours of unificationism and ecumenism.

The process of globalization has compelled us to rethink our approach to other religions and their missionary work. The foundation of a pluralistic society, its culture, legal system and public school education require acceptance of universal human values, derived from human experience. Today, the call for “world theology” has been sounded by many a scholar, including Wilfred Cantwell Smith, John Hick and Raimundo Pannikkar, among others. Science and Technology have brought people, cultures, nations and religions close to each other. So much so the world is being looked at as a ‘global village’. Economic and political interests have created greater interdependence among nations. Higher education and professional courses have brought men and women from different nations under one roof. They appreciate each others lifestyle and cultural moorings.

Every religion has something distinctive to offer. Therefore, we should understand it in its own distinctiveness and see its contribution to the spiritual atmosphere and unity of mankind. We should promote harmony among religious communities and protect their diverse cultures. Although there may be some dissimilarity in different religions, yet we should work for their peaceful coexistence. In every religion, there are universal human values and a basic message it has for the mankind. In fact, every divine teacher had first addressed himself to the problems of his own times. Every prophet had the revelation of the Supreme Reality and pronounced the same to his own people. In order to understand other religions, a person should be deeply committed to his own religion. The thrust of each religion is on making man humane, pious, and righteous and on building a social environment on these universal values. There are several paths and all paths recognize unity underlying all religions. Undoubtedly, religion has been a powerful factor in shaping World’s civilizations.

                                                                          Universality in Religions

Hinduism

Ekam Sad Vipraha Bahuda Vedanti (Rig Veda). Truth is one, the wise call it by different names. Sangach dhvam Samvad dhvam Savomansi jantam. Let us work together with a common goal. Let us converse with a common purpose. Let our minds meet together in the quest for true knowledge. Gather information from all sides (Vedas). A sage is one who is comfortable in all quarters. Let all sides be my friend (Yajur Veda). All paths lead unto Me (Bhagwad-Gita). Worship Me alone. Don’t worship other Gods (B-G). Worship Me in the wellbeing of all (B-G chp XII). You can worship the formless Truth or the Truth manifested in several things. What really matters is not the form of worship but the purity of the heart with which worship is undertaken (B-G). Although bhakti of the Lord is important but karma yoga is absolutely essential (B-G). After death, the Soul enters another body with his balance sheet of the deeds of his previous karmas (B-G, Theory of transmigration of Soul).

Buddhism

Truth can’t live where passions and attachments live. Buddha rejects wrong notions – false presumptions, vanity, ignorance, lust, worldly profits and loses. Establish authority of the soul over the body. Leave the bodily desires. Expunge “I” from your life. You can give sermons only after you have delivered your soul from physical bondage. Do only good deeds, both in mind and outside. Do action as a sacrifice The wheel follows the foot of the ox. A good deed implies Nishkam karma. A word spoken in wrath is the sharpest sword. Man’s own deeds like fire of lust will consume him. Our physical eyes drag us into the world of illusions. Enlightenment is for all, said Buddha. Follow the Eight Fold Noble Path of Buddha.

Christianity

Jesus said: “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” True religious growth consists in expansion and not in contraction. When your heart is pure, you can see God. Jesus said: “Hear, O’ Israel, your Lord, our Lord, is one Lord.” He said: Pray with a clean heart. Evil mind can’t speak well. Evil eye pushes you into darkness. If you follow your soul, you are not in darkness. Jesus said: “Why do you call me good. God alone is good.” There is reward after death for the one who has surrendered and abandoned. Work for God, cast out devils. God will decide your reward. The Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandants are known to the mankind. “If you keep my Commandments, you love me, otherwise not,” said Jesus. In matters of charity, let your left hand not know what your right hand does. Don’t worry; it is the problem of the Father to feed his children. Have trust in God and worry not for tomorrow. Ask God for forgiveness of your sins. You also forgive others if you want God to forgive you. Jesus advised his Apostles: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils.

Islam

There is but one God, serve him alone, don’t serve other gods (sura 2:1). God has created everybody from a single soul (sura 4:1). Emulate each other in good deeds (sura 2: 146). Excel in piety (sura 49:13). God is present every where. He is there in the East as well as in the West (sura 2: 115). Not which side is your face, the most important is the good deeds (sura 2: 177), with the emphasis on purity of heart (sura 9:52). There is no place in Islam for compulsion (sura 2:56; 109:6). Recite what has been revealed to you in the book of your Lord. All differences will cease (sura 42:17). Believe in God and if you deny Him, Angels and Apostles, you are a sinner (sura 2:99). Disbelievers are severely punished (sura 2:1). Those who mislead people in the name of God are wicked. Those who have gone astray, invite His wrath. Allah has sent messengers to all people at different places and different times (sura 2:213, 2.241). Tolerance towards all religions and Prophets is ordained in the Holy Qur’an. Do not differentiate among the messengers of God (sura 2:285). There is no place of violence in Islam (Quran sura 2:83, 5:32). Don’t shed blood of your kinsmen (sura 2: 83). All of you are together one. The believers should call upon the followers of other religions to unite for the sake of truth, seek mutual help and friendship and stand firm in constancy and patient perseverance (sura 3:64).

Sikhism

God is one, mankind is one; castes are man-made. “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” It means all are children of God and all are the same. Further, “there is no high, and there is no low. If there is any low caste, I am lowest of the low,” said Guru Nanak. Truth is highest but truthful living is higher still, said Guru Nanak. Mandir, Masjid, Gurudwara and Church are the same. Prayer, Namaz, Ardaas and Mass are the same, said Guru Gobind Singh. The praise of the Lord and his name is the subject which all scriptures have addressed (Sukhmani Sahib, canto 24.). His worship and worshippers are of the same hue (canto 17). You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and realization of oneness in diversity (canto 22). Purity is not merely the outer symbols. (canto 3). Garbs are not enough (canto 4). His true servants can reduce other’s pain and help the whole world become one (canto 16). Earn by legitimate means and hard work. Give 1/10th of your income towards charity for the weak and the needy. Humanity, charity, hard work, sharing and caring for others, along with utmost respect for woman and the highest sacrifice are some of the fundamental tenets of Sikhism.

Commonalities

The praise of the Lord and His name is the subject, which all scriptures have addressed (Sukhmani Sahib, canto 24). Praise be to Allah (Quran sura I), is just the same as in Gayatri Mantra (Hinduism) or Mul Mantra in Sikhism. Of all Holy places, the most sacred is the heart, wherein lives the name of God (SS, canto 3). God dwells in it, keep your heart pure, clean and free of filth. The Lord dwells in the positive mind (SS, canto 4), Advaita, oneness, Unity and no duality (SS, canto 11). It is the same as in Qur’an and Gita. You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and the realization of Oneness in diversity (SS, canto 22).

A Hindu who mediates on Brahma, a Muslim who praises Allah, a Sikh, who sings songs of devotion of Akal Purakh (The Timeless Being), a Christian, who magnifies Jesus, a Jew who magnifies Adonai, and a Zoroastrian, who honors Ahura Mazda (The Wise Lord) are all in essence generating devotion towards the One they consider to be the Supreme Power. They may have differing interpretations of God’s nature, name and ways, but in a united way, they are all reaching out to the Creator.

EThe Yajur Veda calls for good thoughts to come from all sides, annoo bhadra krtavao yantu vishvataha. It said; “One who is the permanent friend of all, who is engrossed in the interest of mankind by his action, mind and speech, is the one who knows the real religion.” Charity means to extend the hand of friendship to him whom one knows and to him whom one knows not,” said Prophet Mohammad.

Love is more emphasized in Christianity and also amongst the Sufis, who called it Ishq. Nonviolence is more emphasized in Hinduism and Jainism. Compassion is more emphasized in Buddhism. Equality and justice are more emphasized in Islam. Truth of course is common to all religions. Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Confucianism stressed on balanced living, which later became the kernel of Guru Nanak’s teachings. The founder of Sikhism gave message of the freedom of choice. Individuals should learn from their own experience and thereby modify their future choices and decisions, said Guru Nanak.

Just as coexistence is valued in Hinduism, similarly, it is valued in Christianity and Islam. If differences arise, they do so as a matter of rationale and not of actual practice. The goal of coexistence is achieved in Hinduism through co-recognition, while in Christianity and Islam, it is achieved through mutual coexistence. It is ultimately the people who have to deal with one another and must finally decide all crucial issues. Let the people of the world assert their sense of understanding and unity.

In essence, we have to convince each other that there is something greater than our differences and distinctiveness, which binds us together. And that is the principle of unity. From all religious writings people can derive benefit. Blind rejection of one faith in favour of another is absurd.

Golden Rule

The social concept termed as “the golden rule” is found in almost all sacred writings, as well as popular philosophical sources. Sometimes, it is worded in the positive; ”Do unto others,” sometimes in the negative; “Do not do to others. Choose for thy neighbours that which thou choose for thyself (Baha’u’llah). “Hurt not others in the ways that you yourself would find it hurtful (Udaan Varga 5, 18). Consider others as yourself (Dhammapada 10). Therefore, whatever you want them to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mathew 7, 12) “There is one maxim that ought to be acted upon throughout one’s whole life. “Surely, it is the maxim of loving kindness” (Confucius).”Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you”(Analects 15, 23). “Treat your friends as you would want them to treat you” (Aristotle Lives and opinions of Eminent Philosophers5:21, Bohn Library Translation 188). Do not do to others what you would not wish to suffer yourself (Isocrates, Socrates Cyprian Orations 149).

Men gifted with intelligence and purified souls should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated” (Mahabharata 13.11.522). Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself (Forty Hadith of a Nawawi 13).

A man should treat all creatures in the world, as he himself would like to be treated “(Jainism, Sutra-kiet-anga). Don’t take vengeance on and bear a grudge against any of your people, rather, love your neighbour as yourself” (Judaism Leviticus 19:18). What is hateful to you; do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire law, all the rest is commentary (Babylonian Talmud, Subbath 3la). As you deemest thyself, so deem others. Then shall thou become a partner in heaven; (kabir’s Hymns Asa 17). “Regard your neighbours gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss” (Taoism, Tai Shang Kan Ying Plen). That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not for itself (Zoroastrianism, Dadisian- i- dinik 94, 5).

Challenges

To achieve global unity among millions of people from around the world, who come from extremely diverse background, is an uphill task. The world desperately needs universally acceptable values for the sake of unity, peace and survival. A tendency towards exclusiveness and blind faith may create hurdles in forging ahead a unified mankind. To follow a lasting path to unity, we still need internal process in order to succeed at that.

People are different financially, geographically, philosophically and educationally. However, they can be united on the basis of the soul, which is one common identity that they share. The path that leads to unity and peace is the universal path, which has little to do with the apparent symbols.

Where relationship with God is so ineffable and so direct, the recognition of an intermediary seems out of place. This is not a denial of any prophet. In fact, it is a confirmation of the Islamic doctrine that prophets have been sent to all the peoples of the world. It also indicates that the acceptance of any particular prophet implies the acceptance of a transmitted spiritual experience.

1. Rigid attitude of the priestly classes. They cannot tolerate that their hold decreases on their respective constituencies. History is replete with evidences when the priestly classes fought hard against any attempt to weaken their hold on the masses.
2. Denominational languages are a hurdle before the masses in knowing the meaning of the Holy Scriptures.
3. Religious texts are misinterpreted and distorted. People are sharply divided regarding the correct meaning of the Holy Scriptures.
4. Some places of religious worship are stinking with money. Some religious leaders have built their strong ‘empires’ whereas, nobody gives a penny for interfaith movement.
5. Poverty, illiteracy and religious fundamentalism create tension and terrorist activities.

Suggestions

Let us overcome exclusiveness and end our blindness in order to imbibe a common culture of consciousness. Let’s take lead as the global leaders and establish a centre that could work at national and international level to find and encourage interfaith initiatives towards unity and peace. If India does not take initiative then the UN should take. And if the UN does not take then the NGOs, dedicated to this cause, ought to come forward.

As we gradually approach a world culture, we should overcome tension, learn to converse and agree gently with one another. We should show reverence to all spiritual paths. Such a spirit is needed, if we are to live at peace with one another. We should celebrate and honour the richness and universality of truth, found in all Holy Scriptures of different faiths. People, who have genuine concern for religion and spirituality should understand and respect one another.

As religious people, we owe special responsibility to the society. Let’s work to restore the lost image of religion. Let enlightened persons work to re-unite humanity and reduce artificial boundaries. Religion is a great power and it must be used in the positive direction.

1. Political and religious leaders should make earnest efforts to create atmosphere for unity, peace, harmony and brotherhood.
2. Need to change the mindset of the religious leaders and the people.
3. Need for more interfaith dialogue meets.
4. Interfaith NGOs be encouraged.
5. Need for unbiased interpretation of Holy Scriptures and universal human values.
6. People be allowed to visit all places of religious worship and participate in each others festivals.
7. Ghettoization should be discouraged, as isolated living is a retrograde step. If members of different communities live together they can learn a lot from each other.
8. Nobody should create hatred and division among people on religious basis.
9. Foreign intervention of any kind aimed at creating communal disturbances should be dealt with an iron hand.

Conclusion

In view of the current events and unanswered questions, shaking our faith, we need to become more acquainted with all prophets through the cascade of familiar, forgotten, rejected and unheard teachings. Let us admit that similarities and commonalities do exist among all faiths. Let some True Light radiate from each one of them. Every civilization should be enriched by the treasure of other religions and civilizations. The followers of all religions should work for peaceful coexistence. Let’s make efforts to find a common theological platform in a dialogue with adherents of different faiths. Here, India is most favourably placed in a multi-religious situation. In a secular society, the most important thing is that the followers of every religion must learn to practice their religion, so as not to create problems for others or hurt the susceptibilities of the followers of other religions. In the Indian context, we must accept the reality of pluralism. Of course, Indians are religious by nature. The value system in any religion is its soul, whereas institutions and rituals represent its body. As every body has soul, every living religion has its value system, which gives it identity. Sometimes we focus more on the body system and less on the Soul. While we create institutions, we neglect the most essential values, which relate to Soul. However, there is consensus that the most fundamental values common to all religions are love, nonviolence, equality, justice, human dignity, compassion and truth.

In Hinduism, the two basic concepts are: First, the Divine Spirit that creates, sustains and transforms. This belief has also been expressed in Mahayana Buddhism where the Divine Spirit is called the Pure Light of the Void. Such thoughts are perfectly compatible with Christianity and are also entertained by many Catholic and Protestant mystics. The Sufi texts conceived al haqq (the Real) as the unity of Allah. Secondly, it is possible to know the Divine Spirit by a direct intuition, which is higher than the discursive reasoning. This belief is found in all the major religions of the world.

In Hinduism, the two basic concepts are: First, the Divine Spirit that creates, sustains and transforms. This belief has also been expressed in Mahayana Buddhism where the Divine Spirit is called the Pure Light of the Void. Such thoughts are perfectly compatible with Christianity and are also entertained by many Catholic and Protestant mystics. The Sufi texts conceived al haqq (the Real) as the unity of Allah. Secondly, it is possible to know the Divine Spirit by a direct intuition, which is higher than the discursive reasoning. This belief is found in all the major religions of the world.

The Creation has two faces. One face is that of diversity while the other face is that of unity. At the level of the bodies, there is diversity, which we cannot avoid. At the level of Atma, there simply cannot be any diversity. What you see is what you want to see. If the Mind is focused on the world, it would tend to see nothing but diversity. However, if the Mind is focused on Atma, it would see nothing but unity. It is not empirical diversity that is important but the way one responds to it.


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