THIS is a booklet in which the author, a practicing Hindu considered America'sleading authority on Hinduism, reiterates his important message that Sanatana Dharma must be understood and practiced only in its original form if it is to survive and thrive as the world'smost important and relevant spiritual tradition.
All human beings have a common religious urge?a seeking to contact the Divine or a higher spiritual reality?which has had different expressions according to the time, place, culture and the individual himself or herself. Due to different beliefs and practices in existing religions, something that is regarded as holy in one religion may be considered unholy in another. As a result, religion has often prevented the spread of unity among human beings; it has instead, led to disagreement, hatred, war and even genocide in the world.
In an effort to be tolerant and more inclusive than others, Hinduism has made ?the blanket that all religions are true, valid and equal and lead to the same goal?what could be called a ?radical universalism?,? says the author. It is this radical universalism that promotes acceptance of all religions as same in order to lead us to unity behind our religious strivings?it is immaterial what religion one follows or whether one goes to a church, mosque or a temple. One needs to have full faith in the religion that one has adopted to reach the highest truth.
Different religions of the world contain various doctrines and teachings that cannot all be equally valid. Here the author states that the law of karma and rebirth, for example, is either true or false. ?If it is true, then religions which do not teach it are flawed. If it is not true, then the religions that teach are incorrect. Both cannot be true at the same time.? He says that similarly there can be no final guru, prophet or saviour for all humanity. Religion should, in its real import, be a quest for eternal truth and ?seeking to realise it within our own consciousness.? This means that we question everything and accept only that which is proved by our experiences.
Hindu Dharma ?teaches us pluralism relative to the spiritual life, which can both tolerate many points of view but also discriminate between them and find out what is best for each individual.? Thus an enlightened pluralism must rest upon a higher sense of discrimination.
In this book Dr Morales bases his views on a rationality reflecting the great principles of Vedanta, which insist upon a clear understanding of the issue and not just the imposition of one'sbelief as the answer. He shows how the Hindu tradition does not teach us blind equation of all religions, but instead emphasises on enlightened pluralism. This not only allows the existence of many paths but insists that only a razor-sharp path can take us to our highest goal.
It is heartening to read a Western scholar of Hinduism say that a traditional Hindu has always been the most tolerant of all religious persons and that Hindu India has been the sole nation on earth where the Jewish community was never persecuted and who have lived in India for over 200 years. Similarly Zoroastrian refugees, escaping the destruction of Persian civilisation at the hands of Islamic conquerors, were greeted with welcome refuge in India over 1,000 years ago. The Zoroastrian community, now known as Parsis, has thrived in India in all these many centuries, living together as they do with their Hindu neighbours in peace and mutual respect. He says that in keeping with the Vedic adage that the guest in one'shome is to be treated with as much hospitality as a visiting divinity, Hindus have always lived peacefully with indigenous Indian religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and even the foreign religions like Christianity and Islam.
(Voice of India, 2/18 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110 002.)