India is not a land of persecution, but of debate, dialogue and enquiry. Everyone can follow a different path to worship and salvation, make varied lifestyle choices, and still co-exist in harmony. This Diwali, four leading spiritual gurus shine a light on tolerance as the fundamental Indian way of life.
Let’s not be tolerant – to injustice
By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
I ndia has always had a long history of religious tolerance; it is in our very DNA. Ideas like Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The world is one family) and ‘Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu’ (Let all beings be happy) are deeply embedded in our collective psyche from ancient times. The Jain principles of ‘anekantavada’, denoting ‘many possibilities, not just one’ and ‘syatavada’, referring to the ‘perhaps-ness’ of all knowledge and religious beliefs, also indicate a philosophically open temperament. It is due to this attitude of tolerance that no other country in the world has the religious diversity that India has. All faiths have been thriving here for centuries without any major conflict unlike many other parts of the world.
Eastern philosophies in general lean toward openness and freedom, whereas Western thinking is more inclined to certainty. The Eastern traditions tend to be more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, acknowledging the limitations of the mind to grasp the Truth, as well as the limitations of language to express it. If we find religious intolerance increasing in the country, it is simply borrowed from outside. With rising intolerance throughout the world today, India cannot remain insulated from it. At the same time, we need to bring the stress levels down in this country to be tolerant to differences.
We have become tolerant to injustice unfortunately and intolerant to small issues. Intolerance is very essential; we need intolerance towards inequality, towards atrocities and corruption. However, misplaced tolerance is just as bad as misplaced intolerance. Tolerance need not be complacency and intolerance need not be aggression.
The diversity among religions in the world will continue and should continue. We need to move ahead from tolerating these differences to accepting and celebrating them.
If you can’t digest what someone eats, you’ve a real problem
By Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
The spiritual evolution in this culture always made space for acceptance and understanding. But current demographic flux is leading to an insecure majority population that, in turn, is bringing the long forgotten atrocities of history come alive in strong resentment. This is not a land of persecution but of debate and dialogue. It’s the responsibility of the administration that dramatic changes in demographics do not occur.
If you can’t digest what someone eats, you have a real problem. At the same time, once laws are made, enforcement should happen rather than allowing brutal mob enforcement. Such incidents are coming from insecurity of identity. Political parties must come clean and take action on those using these situations for political profit on both ends of the spectrum.
Every nation has some nutcases, and we have our share making irresponsible statements. There is no need to make it the discourse of the nation. Largely, we have remained a peaceful country because the general ethos is peaceful and the majority has no specific belief system. We are a land of profound enquiry without a concretized idea of God. Everyone can have their own way of worship and way to salvation because the only goal is liberation or mukti. Even God is a stepping stone to that. Let not the limitless possibilities that the sages of this land explored and expounded be lost in religious bigotry and senseless simplistic dogmas. Colourful diversity of this land is our future dividend.
Matters such as food have to be left to individual choices
By Swami Shantatmananda
Hinduism is vast, comprehensive and all-inclusive. Its tenets and beliefs cater to the religious aspirations of practically every type of human mind. It has the ability to accommodate divergent and even contradictory views.
Because of its emphasis on the eternal, Hinduism gives scope to variations in the existential aspect of life namely food, clothing, shelter, etc. For example, Brahmins in one part of the country eat non-vegetarian food whereas in another it is considered extremely sacrilegious. Considering the history of our country and that of Hindus who have always provided shelter and protection to those persecuted and driven out from other countries, the mindless killings in the name of protest against beef eating that is raging in India today is totally contrary to and against the character of the spirit of tolerance of Hinduism.
Swami Vivekananda in his historic address at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893 said, “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” Hinduism has always stood for embracing the entire humanity as one family. The same idea was related by Sri Ramakrishna, who is considered one of the greatest prophets of harmony, when he said that just as a mother cooks different varieties of the same food stuff to suit the stomachs of her different children, different people can embrace religions according to their needs and perceptions. Hence, if India has to truly progress, we need to create a society where the followers of every religion can accept each other and live in peace and harmony. Matters such as food, etc have to be left to individual choices and no interference in the name of religion should be permitted. At the same time, care should be taken to ensure that individual preferences do not hurt the cherished religious sentiments of other communities.
At its core, Hinduism is about tolerance and acceptance
By Swami Chidanand Saraswati
Hinduism is, by its very nature and at its very core, a religion of not only tolerance, but also acceptance. Hinduism is a religion that says “Let all the noble thoughts come from all directions,” and “The truth is one but the sages call it by different names.”
The names and forms of the Divine are so vast because the Divine is infinite and pervades all of the universe. However, one of the most basic tenets of Hinduism is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family. Millions of our brothers and sisters are sleeping hungry each night and tens of thousands are starving and dying of hunger each day, yet we are funneling most of the planet’s grain to the livestock industry so that those with the financial luxury to choose can choose to eat meat. This is not acceptable by human standards of compassion and justice.
We must truly examine our values and priorities. Additionally as Hindus we pray to and for Mother Earth and all the natural world. The livestock industry is, according even to the United Nations, the single greatest contributor to global warming and environmental devastation. Lastly, ahimsa — non-violence — is one of Hinduism’s core principles.
The production and consumption of meat is not only violent to the animals but it is also violent to our Earth and all our brothers and sisters with whom we share it. All religions emphasize sharing, feeding the hungry, taking care of the needy and compassion. Today meat eating is not something which should be a religious issue but rather it should be a human rights issue. Isn’t the right of our brothers and sisters to eat at all just as valid and important as our right to eat whatever our money can buy? We should all, people of every religion, come together to protect and preserve the life and health of our planet and all those, both humans and animals, with whom we share it.