Sanatan Dharma

Religious Tolerance and Religious Acceptance

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Part V - Uniqueness of Hindu Dharma, Chapter 3/6 - Religious Tolerance and Religious Acceptance

This is Part V - Uniqueness of Hindu Dharma, Chapter 3/ 6

Table of Contents

27. Religious Tolerance and Acceptance

The very existence of various philosophical schools of thoughts in vedic times and in post-vedic period independent religions sprung out from SD, we can understand that Hindus by nature are very tolerant people and lived in harmony with those adhering to opposite siddhAnta. Though history suggests that there was blood shed in the name of religion, it was mostly between vaiShNava-s, advaitins and shaiva-s. Still this was very area specific and an entire nation cannot be blamed for this. Religious intolerance was not India's culture and Hindus do not believe in the spreading their religion by deceitful manner, by way of sword or by accusing non-believers of their siddhAnta of being possessed by demons. Hindus would argue and win battles on philosophical grounds and this was restricted to the intellectual class and not a mass movement.

As described earlier, there are many systems within the SD which have different and rather contrasting philosophies. All hindu-s live in harmony.

nAth yogi-s do not adhere to varNa dharma. They teach yoga to all. baSeSvara concentrated on Saiva Agama-s and worshipped Siva. He worked for the downtrodden and spread the glories of Siva.

Other religions like Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism are also tolerated though there might be philosophical differences and this respect is mutual as we all share common land and common culture.

We not only tolerate other sampradAya-s and religions but we accept the difference and live comfortably with them often encouraging them to practice their faith and help them in celebrating their religion. Sometimes we participate in other religious ceremonies. We Hindus do not feel that by taking prasAdam of other deity one will go to hell or by visiting a Church or by respecting Jesus Christ we have strayed from our path. We respect all religions and their prophets, but at a personal level practice our very own. However, we are not cowards. If someone would try to defame our religion or attack our religion, we do not hesitate to draw sword for Self Protection. No Hindu King in the entire History has ever destroyed a Church or a mosque or any of the religious place just because it is a non-hindu site. This in itself speaks of tolerance of different faiths. Tolerance, living in harmony with those worshipping another God is in our blood, world does not need teach us what tolerance is, pecially those believing in the philosophy of One God One Book and Salvation only through One Prophet.

27.1. Tolerance and acceptance of other religions

Due to multiple philosophies (siddhAnta-s nad ways life life practiced by Hindu-s, we have inherent quality of revering all religions which are not of Indian origin.

The main reason liberal views are

  1. No belief in One God One Book

  2. Not adhering to a view that salvation is possible through only one messenger of God who is a historical person.

  3. Yogic approach to gauge spiritual progress

  4. Viewing other religions to the lens of ‘Hinduism’

  5. Rig vedic Hymn RV 1.89.1 “A no bhadrAH kratavo yantu vishvataH: (meaning: Let noble thoughts flow from all directions)

  6. Rig Vedic hymn RV 1.164.46 "ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti" (meaning Truth is one, but the learned refer to it in different names).

Let’s understand each of these beliefs in brief.

27.1.1. No belief in One God One Book

Hindus do not denigrate deities of other religions and do not believe in one God, One Book philosophy, which is the main reason for being liberal.

27.1.2. Not adhering to a view that salvation is possible through only one messenger of God who is a historical person.

Hindus also do not believe that one can get freedom only through Jesus or Muhammad, though we believe that for moksha, one must have a guru which can be said to be a messenger of God. Jesus was messenger of God, but not the only one.

27.1.3. Yogic approach to gauge spiritual progress

In addition to this, the yogic way of thinking is another way to believe that all paths lead to one destination. Spiritual progress of a person is guages through the development of chakra-s and other subtle bodies. Great saints have noted that people of other religion are also spiritually developed than laymen or a non-practising person.

27.1.4. Viewing other religions from the lens of ‘Hinduism’

Another approach is to see other religions including Abrahamic with the lens of ‘Hinduism’. We read lot of Hindu Scriptures. Repeated reading and practising makes a foundation of ‘way of thinking’. Though Hindu-s revere non-Hindu messengers of God, the respect has to be mutual. It is also important know the philosophies of other religion from their POV. i.e. to know how they interpret their scriptures and what are their beliefs about their and our religion.

An example is the belief of Christians that ‘All Humans are born Sinners’. It is believed that human race originated from Adam and Eve. Since they sinned, God cursed them and the cursed is passed on to each and every human being. Hence we are all born sinners. Based on this logic, only the one who is not a born sinner can liberate a sinner. One sinner cannot liberate another sinner. It is their belief that Jesus Christ is born out of virgin (Mother Mary). God himself has send his own part to this world for the salvation of mankind through Mother Mary. Since Mother Mary didn't begot Jesus through another human, but was a blessing of God himself, hence Jesus is not a born sinner. Hence only he can liberate souls and ascend us to heaven to enjoy the company of God. Hence Christians must have in Jesus christ. Virgin Birth was a necessity for Jesus Christ. The whole logic gave rise to ‘Christian Good News’

Hindu-s SAstra-s have a different view. We are not born sinners. We are originally divine, but the soul has forgotten it’s divinity. Heaven is not the ultimate goal of human life, it is Self Realization. Self Realization is possible in this life itself. Due to this fundamental difference, we do not believe in what they believe, hence Christian Good News is not applicable to us, nor do we have to pledge our belief in only one saviour, Jesus Christ. It is upto individual to respect him as a holy saint and the messenger of God, but Jesus, according to the Hindu-s is not the only messenger of God.

27.1.5. Let noble thoughts flow from all directions - RV 1.89.1

आ नो भद्राः करतवो कष्यन्तु विश्वतो.अदब्धासो अपरीतास उद्भिदः |

देवा नो यथा सदमिद वर्धे असन्नप्रायुवो रक्षितारो दिवे-दिवे ||

ā no bhadrāḥ kratavo kṣyantu viśvato.adabdhāso aparītāsa udbhidaḥ |

devā no yathā sadamid vṛdhe asannaprāyuvo rakṣitāro dive-dive ||

[-00189] HYMN LXXXIX. Visvedevas.

1. MAY powers (thoughts / intelligence) auspicious come to us from every side, never deceived, unhindered, and victorious,

That the Gods ever may be with us for our gain, our guardians day by day unceasing in their care

In veda-s, each hymn is dedicated to devatA (God). This hymn is dedicated to visvedeva-s, which are 33 in number.

This hymn conveys the meaning that all we should accept all thoughts. This indicates that we accept good thoughts and logic even from enemies.

Classic example is found in rAmAyaNa where bhagavAn rAma asks his brother laxmaNa to learn niti SAstra at the feet of dying rAvaNa. ravaNa goes on to teach niti SAstra after laxmaNa on second attempt approaches rAvaNa with humility as a disciple. rAvaNa’s Siva tANDava stotra is accepted by bhagavAn Siva himself and is still sung reverentially by devout Hindu-s as a great piece of devotional composition. rAvaNa’s other works like rAvaNa samhitA, a treatise on astrology is considered as text book on Indian Astrology along with other popular compositions like brighu samhitA.

Medieval example is the popularity of Lord Buddha and Mahavira. We have philosophical differences with them, but we admire them for their exemplary character. Buddhists revere and even worship guru gorakhnAtha and guru matsyendranAtha as mahAsiddha-s. Hindu-s revere Sikh 10 gurus and Guru Tek-bahAdur Singh for his extraordinary contribution to save Hindu-s from the wrath of Muslims of Kashmir. The famous joke on sardAr jI-s that it’s 12 O Clock indicating that they go dumb on seeing only one hand of clock (as both minute and hour overlap) is a cheap joke on their valour and sacrifice. Sikhs are also known to save Hindu and other children and women who were taken as prisoners by Muslims by attacking them at midnight. It was their slogan that sardAri jI (meaning leader), it’s 12 O Clock (i.e. mid-night), lets attack Muslims and free our (Hindu) children and women. Every Hindu should be grateful to them.

Even though there were differences of opinion and philosophical differences on subtle topic like nature of God and soul and this world, still we all were united culturally. This was and is the strength of religious tolerance.

27.1.6. Misinterpretation of ‘All paths lead to same truth’ RV 1.164.46

Indram mitram varuNam agnim ãhuh,

atho divyah sa suparNo garutmãn,

ekam sad viprãh bahudhã vadanti,

agnim yamam mãtari’švãnam ãhuh.

[01-164] HYMN CLXIV. Visvedevas.

(They hail Him as Indra, as Mitra, as VaruNa, as Agni, also as that divine and noble-winged Garutmãn. It is of One Existence that the wise ones speak in diverse ways, whether as Agni, or as Yama, or as Mãtari’švãn.)

This hymn too is dedicated to visvedeva-s. Hence this hymn should not be taken out of context and applied to ALL religion including those which are not of Hindu origin. As we have seen that Abrahamic faiths have fundamental differences with SD such extrapolation is misleading in pure philosophical grounds. The gods mentioned in the veda-s are nothing but expansion or manifestation of the supreme brahman for carrying out a particular work. indradeva is also eulogized as brahman. Sometimes sUryadeva is considered as brahman. Supreme brahman is pointed out through different names. The names of Gods like varuNa agni, etc are mentioned in veda-s.

It was Swami Vivekananda, who made this verse popular indicating unity of all religions and the popular modern concept of ‘all religions are true, equal and lead to same destination’ which ofcourse is not true. The reason for saying this appears to be socio-political than religion. Swami Vivekananda wanted the youth to be united, as they would play crucial role in India’s freedom struggle. This statement was for cultural unity of all Indians so that intra-religious and inter-religious fights are kept aside and all Indians unite for a common cause. It worked well for him and we got our freedom.

From philosophical POV (i.e. siddhAnta POV), there are a lot of differences even in religions of Indian origin.

  1. Hindu-s following Adi SankarAcArya jI believe that brahman is formless and attributeless and permanently abiding in this natural state is the final ultimate goal of life. This state is possible in this life itself and one can retain physical body even after abiding in this ultimate state. Incarnated soul and brahman are one and the same. Others believe in staying in vaikunTha, an adobe of viShNu permanently. vaikunTha is different from heaven (svarga, devaloka). General belief is that Brahman is both with and without form.

  2. Buddhists believe that the final state is SUnya i.e. zero state, the state of nothingness.

  3. Both Buddhists and Jains believe in existence of demi-gods but not in supreme Godhead

  4. Muslims believe that the final goal is to stay permanently in heaven (jannat) in the company of 72 virgins with big breasts (some say, 72 angels). It is unclear (to the author) that they want to stay in company of Allah (Supreme Godhead) or be in company of 72 virgins.

  5. Christians, though they claim God to be formless, say Jesus Christ sits on right side of God and they want to enjoy the company of God, enjoy his intimacy and enjoy the pleasures of heaven.

  6. Both Christians and Muslims believe that there is no salvation except to pledge support in their prophets and accepting God / Allah as the Supreme Godhead.

  7. Jews too believe that only they will get salvation as they are special people selected by Yahvah (Yahweh) and so they do not convert anyone as they are not selected by Yahvah.

How can these religions, who have differ in final position of jIva (incarnated soul) w.r.t to ISvara (God) be all the same?

The nature of Supreme Godhead is different for different religions

  1. Muslim Godhead Allah hates non-believers (kafirs) and considers pig as ugly (filthy) creature. Allah only likes Muslims (believers).

  2. Christian Godhead (God) is formless but one cannot get salvation except through Jesus Christ. Christian God is a Jealous God. Jealous means not allowing worship any other God or to take partake food offered to other God.

  3. Hindu-s consider that Godhead is both with form and without form. Whatever is offered to any form of God finally reaches the formless. It is infact an offering to infinite Brahman only.

and so on.

The nature of jIva is also not same in all religions. Islam believes that jIva has personality, Male and Female, as only males would enjoy the company of 72 virgins with big breasts. Hindu-s do not believe that soul has a gender. It is a form of energy. Major difference is belief in reincarnation of jIva until it manages to break free from cycle of birth and death.

Even if we take liberal stand, the respect has to be mutual. It cannot be one way traffic. It is a general consensus that you get respect in proportion you give.

Hence the phrase often quoted ‘ekam sat viprA bahudA vadanti’, translated as ‘God is one, wise call it by different names’ is

  • Not true either from philosophical POV

  • Nor the nature of Godhead is same in all religions.

  • Final destination of incarnated soul and his / her eternal life is not same for all religions.

  • Nature of soul is also not same.

28. Two ways to live a life: Path of Action and Path of Renunciation

bhagavAn in gItA (BG 3.3) says that there are two ways of living a dhArmic life, path of action and path of knowledge i.e. path of renunciation.

In path of action, yogi-s perform action of selflessly without expecting fruits of action or surrender actions and their fruits to ISvara and attain inner purity. In path of renunciation, one does physical work as much as necessary to sustain body. They work with the knowledge of detachment i.e. they separate themselves from the actions and their fruits and from everything that is not ‘I’. GYAna yogi-s try to detach themselves from what is not ‘I’ and in this way they live a detached life.

Out of the two, from laymen, path of action is best suited.