No. They do not. Hence this article.
The Hindus were the first to realise that truth has many facets. Naturally, they never fell into the error of thinking, as some do, that they had the ultimate truths, and that no further enquiry was required. Says Dr. S. Radhakrishnan: ?The Aryan did not possess the pride of the fanatic that his was the true religion.?
Today, India is home to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism and many tribal beliefs. None carries the absolute truth. The truth is: We are all on the quest for the truth. Anyone who claims that he has the truth is a liar. A blatant liar!
Jainism (derived from Ji: to conquer one-self) traces its roots to the Vedas and acknowledges Mahavira as the last of the sages of Jainism. There is nothing ?last? in a time span that is counted in trillions of years. But it is not is error when it opposed the rituals, sacrifices and the caste system of the Vedic people. And in promoting ?ahimsa? the Jains launched a new human civilisation of care for all living things?plants and animals. After 2,500 years the world is realising the significance of the civilisation. Anekantavada, the central doctrine of the Jains, goes in the West today in the name of ?democracy?.
Buddhism was a revolt against the Vedic practices. It contributed a great deal to ethics and psychology. Its main concern was man himself. It was indifferent to metaphysical questions. Buddha was neither for worldliness nor for asceticism. He was for the Middle Path.
Christianity and Islam are Semitic faiths, not native to India. They were neither interested in the vast universe (the ?without?) nor in the ?within? of man. Their main concern, like that of Confucius, was with man and his life. Both Christianity and Islam brought to Hinduism the concern for a caring society. Otherwise they have nothing to contribute to Hinduism.
But Hinduism had a vast influence on both these Semitic faiths. Dr Akbar Ahmed, a Pakistani scholar, is proud of India'spast achievements and its tolerance, which, he says, ?provided space for Islam to flourish.? He asserts that the greatest contribution to Muslim thinking in this century (20th century) has been made by South Asia. But this would not have been possible, he says, ?without the deepest synthesis with Hinduism.? Hinduism was the mother of all serious thoughts.
And Islamic mysticism (otherwise known as Sufism) is derived largely from Hindu mysticism. Identification of man with God, a fundamental postulate of the Upanishads, was anathema to orthodox Muslims, but the Sufis made it a chief tenet of their beliefs.
A Jesuit priest says: ?How in India people with many languages, religions and cultures live together is a lesson to learn. India has an important role to play in shaping the destiny of mankind.?
Man's?infatuation for God?, common to Sufism and the Bhakti movement, made Islam more acceptable to Hindus. In fact, Sufis made a major contribution to the conversion of Hindus to Islam.
Reformist religions like Sikhism have no fundamental disagreement with Hindu philosophy. The disagreement were with social accretions of religion like the caste system and rituals. Sikhism was basically a peasant religion. It was influenced by both Islam and Bhakti.
The vicissitudes of India'shistory did not permit India to develop absolutist doctrines or faiths. Instead, an eternal quest for truth became its way of life. In the process, it created an immense diversity.
Diversity calls for freedom of thought, word and deed. Without freedom, there can be no change. Without freedom and change, Hinduism could not have become ?a mass of philosophies, religions mythologies and magics,? as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan says. And without its immense diversity, Hinduism would not have become a tolerant religion either, Ashoka never claimed pre-eminence for Buddhism.
India today is a microcosm of the world, of races and religions, philosophies and ways of life, inter-acting with each other. Thanks to Hinduism. Christians and Muslims can never create such a diverse and tolerant society.
The spirit of diversity triumphed only in India. It gave India the most wide-ranging system of literature, culture and arts. The genius of India is receptive and assimilative. It never opposed scientific enquiry. Islam and Christianity opposed it for more than a thousand years. Even banned it.
Diversity gives strength to a polity. It can also weaken it. This is what is happening in India today. India'sdiversity threatens to destroy its society. Why? Because its minorities do not know how to live in a pluralistic society. It is unfortunate they are not yet aware of these problems. They still speak of Hinduism in contempt. They think that one day they can claim India for themselves. As long as they harbour such hopes, there will be no peace in India. And let no one think that Hindus are congenitally a peaceful people. They can be roused. And the Gita their central doctrine, calls upon them to fight evil.