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June 2009 No 01
July-Aug 2009 No. 02
Sept.-Oct. 2009 No. 03
Nov.-Dec. 2009 No. 03
   
July-Aug 2009 No. 02 A bimonthly Newsletter of InterFaith Foundation, India
     
Interfaith logo
The Samagam
for harmony of faiths and brotherhood
 
  President/Editor
Dr M M Verma

Advisory Board
Swami Shantatmananda Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi
Air Chief Marshal
Dr N C Suri (Retd.)

Prof. Tahir Mahmood Former Chairman, National Minorities Commission & Vice-Chairman, Law Commission of India
M K Kaw
Fromer Education Secretory, Govt. of India
Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya
Vice-Chairperson, Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Smriti
Dr Mohini Giri
President, Guild of Service
Justice A S Qureshi
Former Judge,
Gujrat High Court
Prof M H Qureshi
Shree A M Khwaja Chair, Jamia Millia
Prof Madhu Khanna Professor of Indic Religion, Centre for the Study of Comparative Religion & Civilizations, Jamia Millia Islamia
Prof R P Singh
Head, Deptt. of Philosophy, JNU
Dr V P Vaidik
Chairman, Council for Indian Foreign Policy
Maulana Umer Ahmed Ilyasi
President, All India Organization of Imams of Mosques


Regd. Office
R-265-B, Greater Kailash -I, New Delhi- 110048 (INDIA)
 
Towards Common Culture

There is something wrong with the culture of the modern world. It seems to be out of balance and to restore that balance we need to conduct an InterFaith study of the common culture for the common good of the society. There is a need for common understanding among different religious leaders and this is the next step we need to collectively take towards unity, which requires dedication beyond attending conferences and writing papers. This is indeed a critical work which is yet to be done at the InterFaith level.

In our times, InterFaith dialogue has gone far beyond the first step of just talking of religious tolerance. Now it is being increasingly recognized that world religions have much in common with each other. Their attitudes towards life and sacred scriptures have great similarities. Belief in one God has created tolerance and respect for each other.

The process of globalization has compelled us to think afresh and revise our approach and attitude towards other religions. No religion can refuse to recognize the spirituality and legitimacy of truth embodied in other sacred scriptures. In order to understand other religions a person should be committed first to his own religion. There is no harm if we understand each religion in its own distinctiveness and see its contribution to the spiritual atmosphere and unity of mankind.

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. The followers of each religion must take care that they don’t hurt the susceptibilities of the followers of any other religion. Nevertheless, freedom to practice and preach one’s faith is absolutely essential. But bringing religion into politics and politics into religion is antagonistic to secular. However, political parties generally misuse the religious power to strengthen their vote bank. As a result, politics has taken an ugly turn and religion too seems t o have lost its old glory.

The foundation of a pluralistic society, its culture, legal system and public school education require an acceptance of universal values, derived from human experience. In the 1ndian context, we must accept the reality of pluralism. We must stress on the commonalities in different faiths and enrich each other’s traditions and cultural values. This should be our common minimum program. All religions must emphasize on the service to mankind without discrimination.

To transform people is not an easy task as it is basically a moral issue. Together, the government and NGOs can play an important role in the moral transformation of the society. In the InterFaith dialogues we should refer to the messages of our Spiritual Masters and also the sacrifices they had made for truth and transformation of the society. We can reap fruit only when we practice the ideals our Gurus had lived and died for. But our Spiritual Masters will not feel satisfied if we pay only lip sympathy to their messages.

Long ago, the Vedas taught us: learn from all sides. Lord Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Mohammad and Guru Nanak, all focused on good deeds and balanced living, which was equally emphasized in Confucianism, Shintoism, Taoism and Zorasterianism. A mere mechanical remembering of the Lord is not enough. A mere bathing in the Holy Water is not enough. A mere visit to places of religious worship is not enough. A pilgrimage without understanding and devotion is futile.

A Hindu, who meditates on Brahma, a Muslim, who praises Allah , a Sikh, who sings the songs of devotion to Akal Purakh, a Christian, who magnifies Adonai, a Zorastrian, 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 and His ways, but in a united way, they are all reaching out to the same Creator.

It was never the intention of our Spiritual Masters to create watertight divisions/ communal divides, where people encounter each other with anger and hatred. Just as coexistence is valued in Hinduism, it is also valued in Christianity and Islam. In Hinduism the goal of coexistence is achieved through co-recognition, while in Christianity and Islam, it is achieved through mutual coexistence.

All religions wish to build a social environment on the basis of these universal values. True, there are several paths, but all paths recognize unity which is the underlying idea of all religions. In essence, we have to convince each other that there is something greater than our differences and distinctiveness. From all religious writings, people can surely derive a lot of benefit.

Let’s overcome exclusiveness and end our blindness in order to imbibe a common culture for the common good of mankind. Let’s celebrate the commonalities in our different religions. Let’s understand the essence of messages delivered by different religious masters, whose combined teachings will unfold the road map to a humane society. Let’s discover a common thread (a vein of gold), which runs through all faiths of the world. Let’s admit that similarities do exist and some true light radiates from each and every faith. May this light shine brightly. May there be peace on Earth. May the diverse faiths and cultures coexist and blossom into a harmonious society.

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Human Values in Sikhism

Love of the Lord : Guru Granth Sahib, the last and the final Sikh Guru, describes in the Mul Mantar thetruth of the cosmic existence, which is fathomless and limitless, never ever known or fully revealed. Waheguru! The Lord of wonderful creativity has manifested himself in everything, animate and inanimate. It is ordained by Guru Granth Sahib: Sing the glory of the Lord and drown yourself in his love. From this, it logically follows that all human beings, irrespective of their distinctive capabilities and functional diversities, are brothers and the only way to serve the Lord is to serve all his creation. Guru Nanak says: Religion must join the life current of humanity and should be socially and spiritually consistent. The love of the Lord fully implies love and service of mankind.

Humility : Be humble. Don’t feel proud of your youth, riches, children, social status and mundane achievements. Nothing can be done or achieved without the grace of the Lord. It is He who does everything and even a leaf can’t move without his command. The Sikhs are ordained to keep their head low and consciousness high. Waheguru is the creator of the whole cosmos, protector and doer of everything. O’ man, always bow to him and beseech his grace. The word pride be expunged from your life and replaced by the feeling of humility. It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again.

Human Equality is basically in reference to God’s presence and manifestation in all human beings. Guru Nanak beautifully said: No body is Hindu; no body is Muslim, meaning thereby that all are human beings. No body is high; no body is low. If there is a low caste, I am the lowest of the low, said Nanak.

Diversity is the beauty and wonder of his creativity. But God has not divided mankind into different religions and castes, which are simply man-made denominations. Sikhism preaches human brotherhood and forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, colour and creed etc. Rigid divisions and exclusivity have unfortunately pitched people against each other with hatred and antagonism. Our Spiritual Masters had never ordained rigid divisions of people into warring camp.

Freedom of Faith : Every individual hasthe freedom to pursue his faith. Guru Nanak asked everybody to correctly understand and follow his religion. If you go deep into your religion, you will have nothing to say against other religions. The Sikh Gurus upheld this conviction, fought and embraced martyrdom for the religious freedom of all. In Sikhism, there is no room for interference, oppression, compulsion and conversion. Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh made supreme sacrifices for the freedom of thought and faith. 

Seva is the benchmark of human values in Sikhism, but it has to be done without the expectation of reward and recognition. Sikhism emphasizes service of the whole mankind without discrimination between religions and national boundaries. A unique Seva is seen as the shoes of the pilgrims at Gurdwaras are picked, cleaned and returned after polishing by the devotees.

Reconciliation: To understand each other’s viewpoint, through dialogue, is a great human value. It is absurd to impose your viewpoint on others. Reconciliation and ecumenism constitute the quintessence of the teachings of Guru Nanak. The Sikh Gurus preached what they had practiced.

Rejection of Exploitation and Tyranny :The Sikh Gurus opposed all types of oppression and exploitation- economic, social, political and religious etc. The whole Sikh history is replete with commendable evidences in this regard. Guru Nanak rejected barbarism on the part of Sikandar Lodi and also condemned the acts of inhumanity committed by the soldiers of Babar. He rejected the hospitality of Malik Bhago, a rich landlord, and instead welcomed the meals at the house of Bhai Lalo, a poor untouchable carpenter. Nanak also condemned the exploitation of the illiterate and poor multitude at the hands of clever Pandits and Mullahs, who simply used Sanskrit and Arabic clichés to befool them and hide their own ignorance of true religion.

Patriotism: The Sikh Gurus set up the best examples of the spirit of patriotism. They tried their best to raise the consciousness of the depressed masses and fought battles for freedom of all kinds. They encouraged the people, both Hindus and Muslims to rose agaomst oppression and tyranny. How courageously did Guru Tegh Bahadur fight for the religious freedom of the Kashmiri Pandits and defied the Mughal King Aurangzeb. Guru Tegh Bahadur, his three devotees, Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and the last human Guru of the Sikhs, along with his four Sahibzadas (sons) fought for the freedom of faith and self-respect and embraced a unique martyrdom, which has been recorded in golden words in the Indian history.

Sangat that comes to get the Guru’s grace comprises individuals from different religious persuasions, which speaks volumes of love for human equality and rejection of discrimination and baseless ritualism.

Kirat Ki Kamai (truthful living and earning through legitimate means): The Sikhs are ordained by Guru Granth Sahib to give a daswandh, i.e., one-tenth of their earning for charity and social good.

Langar (Wand Chhako) - Guru ka Prasad is open to all, irrespective of religion, caste, colour and creed. One has only to see to believe, how the devotees, men and women from all strata of the society are cooking the Langar and also cleaning the used utensils.

In a nutshell, Sikhism is a prayer for all and prayer for the inner peace. It excludes none, no land and no creed. Nanak Nam Charhdi Kala, Tere Bhane Sarbat Da Bhala.  Sikhism preaches the highest human values of Love of the Lord, Humility, Equality, Freedom of Thought and Religion, Happy and Healthy life, Righteous Deeds, Daan, Kirat ki Kamai, Seva, Reconciliation, Patriotism, Sangat and Langar. The Khalsa spirit is upheld for the life of purity, dignity, self –respect and seva for the common good of mankind.

 

 
 
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