Hinduism is the world’s oldest living religion. It is a rich collection of hundreds of spiritual and philosophical traditions followed throughout Asia for more than 5000 years. Most traditions within Hinduism share certain distinctive, core beliefs despite the absence of an identifiable beginning in history, single founder, central religious establishment or sole authoritative scripture. Two of these core beliefs are that of tolerance and pluralism. While tolerance and pluralism are valued by many religions, these concepts are the very essence of Hinduism and are expressed through the diversity of Hindu practice and centuries of peaceful coexistence of various faiths.
By accepting the divinity in all beings, Hinduism views the universe as a family or, in Sanskrit, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. All beings, from the smallest organism to man, are considered manifestations of God. Mankind carries a special responsibility, as it is believed to be the most spiritually evolved with the capacity to not only tolerate, but honor the underlying equality and unity of all beings. The popularly recited Hindu invocation demonstrates this concern for universal kinship:
Om sarve bhavantu sukhinah. Sarve santu niraamayaah.
Sarve bhadraani pashyantu. Maa kaschid dukhbhaag bhavet.
May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings experience prosperity. May none in the world suffer.
The concept of pluralism within Hinduism is, in essence, tolerance taken one step further. For all members of this universal family, Hinduism promotes not only tolerance and respect for differences in belief and religion, but also acknowledgement of the existence of more than one path to relating to Truth (God). This true, unadulterated pluralism is captured in the ancient Sanskrit hymn:
Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti
Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.
Thus, Hinduism asserts that it is not only harmful, but inherently flawed to insist that one’s own path towards God is the only true and meaningful path. Based on this firm pluralistic belief, Hinduism has never sanctioned proselytization. Further, over their vast history, Hindus have never invaded another land in the name of religion. It is also clear that, for centuries in Southeast Asia, it has been this Hindu brand of absolute pluralism, which has provided the ideal environment for peaceful coexistence and prosperity for at least 8 major religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism among others.
Author Maria Wirth belongs to Germany and has been living in India from past 38 years. She is the author of the book ‘Thank You India: A German Woman’s Journey to the Wisdom of Yoga’. Newsgram gets in a conversation with her over a telephonic interview. Here’s an excerpt:
Muskan Bhantagar: 38 years back when you came to visit india, what was the thing about indian culture or precisely hinduism that made you fall in love with it and stay back in India?
Maria Wirth: Actually, it was not too much India that attracted me. When I was in Germany still i had many questions like i was very much intrested in what is life and what is the meaning of life and I was reading on Buddhism at a time and I was not connecting Buddhism to India strangely, and i knew very little about India. So a friend convinced me to stop over in India and only when i bought a book by Swami Vivekananda, i discovered what great treasure is in India. I had no idea, anything about what Hinduism is about. it’s just what you hear usually in the west, is about caste systems,etc. So I didn’t associate India with anything positive actually and then by chance, I discovered there’s such a great treasure here and it is such a pity that we don’t know about it.
Muskan Bhantagar: As we read in your articles that Islam and christianity have been promoting and propogating their religion for years now, but the hindus don’t do so. What do you think can be the reason behind this?
Maria Wirth: Well I think, I was just writing an article I mean when you think how much Hindus have suffered over the last thousand years. So many were beheaded and tortured under the Muslims and then again under the British also. British were also very very brutual, especially after 1857 and etc. And hindus had no way to stand up for their religion. And I think this has gone very deep into the system of Hindus.
And then ofcourse after Independence, this secular education and even Hinduism is now put down even more than earlier. Earlier, education was not so under the Muslims, they had to lie low but they could still have gurukuls and their schools but not now.
So I think one reason is that you have been intimidated so much and also expect so much and like Arun Shourie, in his book he writes that 6th standard students learn in school, etc in Bengal that Islam and Christianity are the only religions which treat the human beings with dignity and equality. I mean such sentences. When you’re a child, it goes into you and then you just look down on it. And I think slowly slowly, even parents of these children say they have been brought up already like this.
Muskan Bhantagar: A large number of Indians are unaware about their own culture and heritage. What do you think can be a solution to this problem?
Maria Wirth: I mean it should get also in the schools. I was so shocked when I came to know that nothing is taught in Indian schools. Neither Mahabharata, Ramayana, Upanishad. Upanishad is philosophy, there is nothing to do with religion. It was very insidious that the British kind of bend or this stuff from being taught, because it doesn’t help them because it would make people strong. They wanted to destroy Indian sanskriti, Indian culture because it has lot of strength. Now like the young generation in India, they were brain-washed into believing that Hinduism is not worth anything. It’s so wrong, so wrong.
Author Maria Wirth spoke to us over various topics. We’re thankful to her for taking out time to talk to us and share her wise opinions. We hope to get more of her soon and help viewers know her better.
The Vedic Shanti Paath derived from the Yajurveda has been recited at the White House during the National Day of Prayer by a pujari from a Swaminarayan temple.
Introducing the peace prayer at the multi-religious service on Thursday, Pujari Harish Brahmbhatt said, “In these troubled times of COVID-19, social distancing, and the lockdown, it’s not unusual for people to feel anxious or not at peace.”
Making a spiritual prescription for these troubled times, he said, “The Shanti Paath, or the peace prayer, is a prayer that does not seek worldly riches, success, fame, nor is it a prayer for any desire for heaven. It is a beautiful Hindu prayer for peace a” Shanti.
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Brahmbatt is from the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
Representatives of various Christian sects, Judaism and Islam participate in the service with US President Donald Trump.
Religion plays a central role in public affairs in the US and has evolved from dominance by protestant denominations to being more inclusive with the participation of other Christian sects and other religions.
Anchors at Indian TV channels are generally intelligent and capable. However, when the topic involves religion, they often lack common sense or courage.
Recently Rishab Gulati said on NewsX that he wants to explore how to bring the Indian Muslims, who had been brainwashed into hard Wahhabi Islam, back to a softer Sufi version. Rishab surely would know that all versions of Islam are based on Quran and he would also know that the stark division between believers, who are considered good, and unbelievers, who are considered bad, is fixed in this foundational text itself.
So why would he not rather explore how Muslims could be brought back to their ancient, benevolent Hindu Dharma? It would make far more sense. Why would he want a big part of Indians continue to believe blindly, albeit in a softer version, what the invaders violently enforced several centuries ago? Why is he so diffident about his own tradition which has contributed maximum knowledge to science and human civilisation in general?
The reason may be that over the last thousand years it was very dangerous to stand up for Hindu Dharma. So people tried to be diplomatic, made compromises, and did not mention and certainly not praise their Dharma, even if they greatly valued it. This attitude seems to have got deeply ingrained and is even in today’s generation present. The English education system also did its bit to cement this attitude and even made it worse, as it portrayed the indigenous tradition contrary to facts as inferior. Not wanting to be “controversial” is uppermost in the mind of many Hindus, when they deal with converts. They rather indulge them, than ask probing questions.
This attitude is however in our times not helpful but dangerous. We have a window now, where we can be truthful and talk about the great advantage that Hindu Dharma has over Christianity and Islam. If we don’t use it, it may close again and then probably for a long time.
Most Hindus know, and if some still don’t know, it is urgent that they come to know, that both Christianity and Islam consider it as their divine duty to make their religion dominate the whole globe. Only then their God/Allah will be happy and start the Judgement Day proceedings, when the good believers are allowed to enter heaven. It has however not yet been clarified whether the Christian or Muslim believers have this privilege, as naturally only one “true religion” can be true. For Hindus of course it will be hell, both agree on this.
Can any sane person believe that the Creator of this unimaginably vast universe will punish the majority of human beings ETERNALLY in hellfire because they did not accept that the truth about how we should live, was revealed only recently and only to one particular person on this earth which is already some billion years old?
There are other points which are not flattering for those two religions: Christianity and Islam are not based on reason, intuition or experience, but only on blind belief. One can never know if Jesus is really the son of God who was sent to earth to save us from the original sin and who declared that the way to the father goes only through him.
Or we can never know if Allah really communicated via Gabriel with Prophet Mohamed and declared that he is the last prophet and all must follow what Mohammed said.
These two religions make blind, unverifiable belief, which is not a healthy attitude, look like a virtue: ‘if you believe blindly what the padres or the mullahs tell you, you will be rewarded with eternal heaven after Judgment Day’, is promised. It is an effective method to keep people subdued on earth, waiting for heaven. And common people suspected this already in the dark ages. In Germany we have an old saying that the Pope makes people stupid (and the King makes them poor).
Unfortunately, only members of Christianity and Islam go all out to spread their religion with full zest and especially in the case of Christianity, with lots of money and a detailed strategy. Pious members of both religions do not hesitate to claim that their religion alone is true and all others are wrong and will not be accepted by the ‘true God’. They have nothing to support their claim, except that the founder of their religion allegedly said so. This claim of eternal damnation is meant to frighten people to fall in line. On the other hand, it makes them arrogant, believing “We are the chosen ones. We believe the right thing. Earth and heaven belong to us. All others are damned for eternity.”
Believing their clergy, they are on a mission to eradicate all other faiths. And how successful they have been! All ancient cultures were eradicated, except for the Indian culture.
In India those two religions have encountered the greatest resistance. Indian culture still stands but greatly diminished. Yet neither Christianity nor Islam has conceded defeat, on the contrary. They push harder than ever now by demonising Hindus to an unbelievable degree. Do they want the world to believe a false narrative that an “uprising of the oppressed Muslims against the demonic Hindus” is justified and must be supported?
There is however one great power on the side of Hindus. It is Truth, both on the relative level (Truth is that Muslims are not oppressed in India, on the contrary) and on the absolute, spiritual level (Truth is one).
Hindu Dharma is the best option for humanity. Nobody is forced to believe anything that does not make sense or cannot be experienced. Hindu Dharma is not a fixed, unverifiable ‘belief-system’. It is based on reason, intuition and experience. Its claims make sense and can be verified, like the most basic claim that the essence in all is one and the same – ‘sat-chit-ananda’ – blissful awareness behind the names and forms.
But for people to know this, they need to be told, including those, whose forefathers have converted and who have been brainwashed into blind belief. If they knew and reflect on those insights, they might see that indeed Hindu Dharma is the best option. Therefore it would be so much better if Hindus went all out and informed others of the value of Hindu Dharma.
Compare the Indian reluctance to project its wisdom with China. China has only few sages, but makes full use of them. It established already 15 years ago hundreds of Confucius institutes all over the world which are affiliated to colleges and universities. They teach Chinese language and promote Chinese culture to the Western world.
India is the cradle of civilization. It has so much knowledge, and millions of texts are not even translated into English. It has Sanskrit, the language which helps develop the brain, apart from being a perfect language; it has documentation of a number of great sages reaching back thousands of years, it has the deepest philosophy still expressed in a vibrant religion; a huge body of literature, amazing art, dance, music, sculpture, architecture, yoga, Ayurveda, delicious cuisine, incredible temples and yet Indians do little to propagate those treasures. “We are not like them”, many Hindus say, “we don’t advertise our religion and push them into accepting it, like the others”.
The insights of the Vedic Rishis need not be pushed; they only need to be known. They result in a very beneficial mind-set, definitely far more beneficial than the divisive, narrow mind-set of the new-comer religions. Knowing that God is within gives inner strength, and knowing that God is also in others, including in animals and nature, makes people kind. This broad mind-set needs to dominate in the world, and it is Hindus who can lead the way.
Bad people would still exist; they are there in every age, but normal, good people would not be indoctrinated en masse by their clergy into despising and even killing ‘unbelievers’ because they worship the Supreme Intelligence by other names. Looking at Muslims and Christian countries, such attitude also does not seem to make for a happy society.
Meanwhile, especially in the West, many Christians and Muslims lost faith and say it openly. I am one of them and sometimes Hindus tell me: “It’s good that you write. You are an insider, you can do it. We can’t.” My reply is: “YOU need to speak up. Don’t wait for ex-Christians or ex-Muslims. Most of us, who lost faith, don’t bother about religion any longer. But YOU have been suffering for centuries, with millions killed, and the danger is real that it happens again. If someone is fully authorised to talk about those doctrines, and the harmful mind-set they produce, it is YOU, Indian Hindus. In fact you owe it to those millions who were massacred for being Hindus.”
Fortunately, in recent years more Hindus do speak up. Maybe soon a mainstream channel will have the courage to debate frankly what Muslims and Christians are taught about Hindu Kafirs and Heathen, and maybe more Christians and Muslims in India, who have lost faith in their religion, have the courage to say it openly. It surely would be a relief for them. Living a lie by pretending to be believers is painful. Hindus can help by being truthful, even if it means being “controversial”.