By M.S.N. Menon
A God for each?to a God for all. It has been a long journey. Hinduism has traversed it all?the length and breadth of the great cosmic mystery. There is not much that is left for us to quest. But the quest will continue, for there are still answers to be found. What matters is the freedom of thought, word and action.
Without freedom, there can be no change. And without change, there can be no choice. If India'schoice is without parallel in the world, it is because India has always been free to think. Our civilisation has grown on the seed-bed of our freedom.
It is freedom of choice that has given us a God for each. ?Would to God,? exclaims Vivekananda, ?that religions multiplied until every man has his own religion (and God) quite separate from any other.? We make our gods ?in the factory of man'smind.? We can see the process in the Rig Veda, said Dr S. Radhakrishnan. In fact, said Max Mueller, the Rig Veda is the only document in the world, where one can see the evolution of the concept of God.
Knowledge (jnana marga) is one of the Hindu paths to salvation. It is unique to Hindus. Krishna commends it in the Gita. But it is not open to the Semitic faiths, for the gospels say ?no?, the Quran says ?no?, to further enquiry.
One to many and many to one?this is the process of evolution and involution in Hindu thought. They constitute time. One to many?we learn from the Vedas. Many to one?we learn from the Upanishads. In the Vedas, the Hindu sought communion with the outer world. In the Upanishads, he explored the inner world of man. In the Vedas, the Hindu sought prosperity. In the Upanishads, he sought deliverance from sorrow. No other people have given as much thought as the Hindu to the nature of Being (Max Mueller).
Is Hinduism then a mad-house of gods? No. ?How many gods are there really, O Yajnavalkya?? asked the rishi'sdisciples 3,000 years ago. ?One,? replied the Master (Taittiriya Upanishad). The real is one; the learned call it by different names.
The Semitic faiths believe in uniformity?in all all-Christian world, or in all all-Muslim world. They have no freedom of thought.
Uniformity can give strength to humanity, but it can also weaken it. A people who hanker after uniformity become intolerant of dissent and diversity. They turn against the spirit of enquiry. They live a repetitive life.
True, diversity can also weaken a polity. But it also gives it strength. India'sstrength lies in its great diversity. It has become a major element of its destiny. (But do we know it? I fear, not.) The spirit of inquiry has given India the most wide-ranging systems of thought. No amount of dissent can weaken Hinduism. Nay, it adds to its strength. Hinduism can take everything in its stride, for it is based on a process of discovery. Nothing is claimed as final, nothing is a dogma. There is nothing that the Hindu has not thought of?from negation to affirmation, from atheism to theism, to monotheism, to pantheism to Monism. A true Hindu is one who masters all. The Semitic religions are yet to catch up with Monism?with Advaita, the unique philosophy of the Hindus. But will they dare to reach out to Monism? I doubt it, for it can bring down the entire edifice of the Semitic faiths.
The genius of the Hindu is assimilative and receptive. Knowledge (jnana marga) is one of the Hindu paths to salvation. It is unique to Hindus. Krishna commends it in the Gita. But it is not open to the Semitic faiths, for the gospels say ?no?, the Quran says ?no?, to further enquiry.
And yet in the shaping of the Hindu'sweltenchauung, other streams have flowed in?even Christian and Muslim thoughts. But Hinduism has given more than what it has taken. It was like the Sun?giving light and life to humanity.