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Towards Common Culture

Love is more emphasized in Christianity and also amongst the Sufis, who called it Ishq. Non - violence 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.

In the name of Allah, 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 (Canto 3). God dwells in it, keep your heart pure, clean and free of filth. The Lord dwells in the positive mind (Canto 4), Advaita, oneness, Unity and no duality (Canto 11). It is the same as in Quran and Gita. You should have the power to see mankind’s equality and the realization of Oneness in diversity (Canto 22).

The Sikh Gurus were philosophers of ecumenism. They sought to make the world safe for diversity which could be established, not by giving up one’s religion and traditions but by penetrating deep into one’s own religion where peculiarity loses their significance. When we rise to spiritual freedom, we begin to accept other expressions of the meaning of man’s existence. We realize that the ultimate truth is not capable of being fully expressed in some words and propositions. Guru Arjun Dev said: Koi Kahe Ram, Koi Khodai, Koi Gosain. Somebody calls him Ram, somebody calls him Khudda (Allah) but all those who recognize God’s will, can understand the meaning of these revelations. Kabir said “Aval Alla Nur Uppai, Qudrat de sab bande, ek nur te sab jag upjai, kon bhale kon munde. (God is first, He is source of all right and life. All are his children, all are created from one soul; Therefore, how can anybody be good and the other bad).

You embrace only God’s religion. Guru Nanak said: Chardian Kala, tere bhane sarbat ka bhala. (O’God thou art the highest, all may feel good because of your grace) Sabna jian da eko data so mein visar no jai. (God is the only benefactor; I should not overlook it). His true servants can reduce others pain and help the whole world become one (Sukhmani Sahib Canto 16). Recite what has been revealed to you in the book of your Lord, all differences shall cease.

The praise of the Lord and his name is the subject, which all scriptures have addressed (Canto 24).Just as coexistence is valued in Hindustan, so also 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 corecognition, 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.

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).

A Hindu who mediates on Brahma, a Muslim who praises Allah, a Sikh, who sings songs of devotion of Akal Purakh (Timeless Being), a Christian, who magnifies Jesus, a Jew who magnifies Adonai, and a Zoroastrian, who honours 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.

The 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.

We are unavoidably interconnected and interrelated today. No religion can refuse to recognize the spirituality and legitimacy of truth embodied in other sacred scriptures. Undoubtedly. our World is more hospitable to a variety of approaches today than ever before. As we move towards a world civilization we find many cultures and spiritual traditions impinging on one another. Here, every tradition takes account of other traditions. Our world radiates flavour of unification and ecumenism.

The Holy Quran has laid down the basis of inter religious dialogue. Holding such a dialogue is in complete consonance with the Islamic Shariah(Traditions) said Syed Wahiddudin,(former head deptt. of philosophy, Delhi University). Peace treaty of Hudaybiyyah in the history of Islam was the result of a successful dialogue of this kind. This Treaty of 628 AD was entered into between the Prophet and non-muslims at Hudaybiyyah, near Mecca. Don’t follow what you don’t know, said Mohammad, while addressing those tribes of Arabia, who used to worship fake gods viz…god of gold or animal god.

The process of globalization has compelled us to rethink about our approach to other religions and their missionary work. 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 multireligious situation. Of course, Indians are religious by nature.

Each religion has something distinctive to offer. Therefore, we should work to protect diverse cultures. We should work to promote harmony among all religions. We should identify universal values in all religions. Although there may be some apparent dissimilarities in different religions of the world, yet we should work for their peaceful coexistence. We should see unity in diversity. Gandhi advised; there is no need of pressure from outside.

To achieve global unity among millions of people from around the world, who, otherwise come from extremely diverse background, is an uphill task. These 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.

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.

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, Compassion, Equality, Justice, Human dignity and Truth.

Every religion offers some insights, observations and instructions that are universally acceptable and helpful to the human conditions. The human race is blanketed with a common longing for spirituality. Thread after thread of similar expressions is found woven throughout the entire global fabric.

This is especially evident when the subject matter concerns moral guidelines and ethical behaviour. These commonalities become all the more apparent and interesting when various sacred texts are compared concerning basic issues viz., the golden rule, prayer, character development, faith, love and compassion.

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 make a nuisance of it for others. Too much of anything is bad. Sometimes, an overdose of religion also becomes a curse. This should be curbed. In a secular society, the followers of each religion must take care not to hurt the susceptibilities of the followers of any other religion. Freedom to practice and preach one’s faith is absolutely essential. Lastly, bringing religion into politics and vice-a-versa is obnoxious.

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. 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 imitative then the UN should take. And if the UN does not take then the NGOs, dedicated to this cause, ought to come forward.

Let us celebrate the commonalities in our religions. Let us mingle the essential messages delivered by all religions and faiths, whose combined teachings reveal the untold fundamental story which has been smothered by doctrines severely dividing individual religions.

Religious power like any other can be used for a good cause or a bad one. What we need so desperately in our world today is a mobilization of religious power on behalf of world peace.This power, if mobilized among the right people all over the world, can usher in a golden period in human history. Let us highlight the shared wisdom and light of the great religious teachers of the world. May this light shine brightly. May there be peace on Earth. May diverse cultures and civilizations coexist.

In order to understand other religions, a person should be deeply committed to his own religion. Try to understand each religion in its own distinctiveness and see its contribution to the spiritual atmosphere and unity of mankind. In every religion, there are universal values and a basic message it has for human beings. The thrust of each religion is on making man humane, pious, righteous and on building social environment on these universal values. There are several paths and all paths recognize unity underlying all religions.

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. Universal values are undoubtedly the same in all religions.

There is need for the religious leaders to undergo a modernizing programme. As religious people, we owe 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.

Some Remarks

1. The 18th Century satirist, Jonathan Swift, was a great critic of the religion of Christianity. He said: “We have just enough religions to make us hate each other but we do not have enough religions to love each other.

2. Eric Wolf has convincingly argued that interconnections between societies and cultures have been far more widespread than has commonly been assumed.

3. Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his Discovery of India: The idea of unity in diversity represents the essence of Indian Civilization. This idea has great academic, historical and cross-cultural value.The Muslims have made enduring contributions in development and enrichment of Indian civilization.
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