In order to establish a just global society on the planet Earth, we have to rid ourselves of fundamentalism and accept the inter-religious scene in the world. To this effect Parliament of World Religions were held in 1893 in Chicago, in 1993 in Chicago again, the third in Cape Town in 1999 and the fourth in Barcelona, Spain in July 2004.
India is a land of different religions. Four of the world'smajor religions?Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism?were born here and five came from the Middle East ?Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha?i faith. Religious intolerance has become a part of our daily life and we see the world torn apart by it. Hatred and violence are on the rise in the name of religion. This book by O.P. Ghai, who had studied comparative religions for more than 50 years, says that despite intolerance, hope in not lost. Throughout the ages all the religions have survived essentially because of the voice of reason, love and concern for fellow human beings. We had heard it when Kahlil Gibran had said in his book, The Prophet: ?Your daily life is your temple and your religion, whenever you enter into it, take wit you?all men.? We hear the same sound being echoed by O.P. Ghai in this book, which is an attempt to guide man to an understanding of the fundamental unity underlying the great religions of the world.
In this collection of sayings and views expressed in different religious scriptures, the author tries to bring out the similarities in thoughts with a slight difference here and there to reach the objective. For instance, when talking of anger, Buddhism says, ?He who controls anger has the power far greater than those who give way to it?; Christianity says, ?God does not sanction anger. One should be slow to anger and always ready to forgive?; Hinduism says, ?Anger breeds confusion. He who would be clear and unconfused must avoid becoming angry?; and Islam says, ?The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only he who controls himself when he is angry?. On reading carefully these views, one finds the similarity of thought, i.e. derision of anger, with the only difference being in how it is expressed or interpreted.
Talking of faith, Buddhism says, ?Faith is necessary for the virtuous life?; Christianity says, ?Faith is necessary, but it must be accompanied by works?; Hinduism says, ?Faith is the pathway to wisdom?; and Islam says, ?Man should have faith in God, for God will always prove faithful. But God has no patience with the unfaithful?. Here we will find that while all religions subscribe to faith, it is only in Islam that intolerance is show when it says, ?God has no patience with the unfaithful.? This would mean that those who do not believe in Islam are unfaithful and need to be punished. The Baha?i faith has an ideal example to set when it says, ?The essence of faith is in fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, knows verily his death is better than life.?
In the case of friends, Buddhism says that one should pick one'sassociates from the wise and the good; Christianity says that evil companions corrupt good morals and hence should be shunned; Hinduism says, ?Look upon all the living beings as your bosom friends for in all of them there resides one good?; Islam says, ?Avoid those who do wrong?. On studying deeply one finds that it is Hinduism which shows a greater level of tolerance than any other religion when it advises man to accept all as one'sfriends while Islam shows least tolerance when it asks man to avoid the wrong persons. This implies that all human beings should be avoided because in this world there is no man who has nothing bad in him. This means that all humans have to be avoided.
In other words, in a world which has been and continues to be a witness to religious strife and bloodshed, to people who live on the brink of disaster in the form of a nuclear war bred by intolerance and distrust of one another, this book will appear like a whiff of fresh air to keep the mind cool and calm.
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