Hinduism, Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Dialogue

The term ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ refers to the positive and cooperative interaction between people of different religious faiths and spiritual beliefs, with the aim of promoting understanding between different religions to increase acceptance and tolerance. The power of religion can be used as a major force of unification among divergent factions and hence it can plays key role in the promotion of global peace and reconciliation by bringing various groups together, said Dr Uma Mysorekar at the UN Special Event, on World Interfaith Harmony: Multi-religious Partnership for Sustainable Development.


Hindu Religion or Hinduism

Hinduism is one of the oldest – also known as Sanatana Dharma maybe 7,000 – 10,000 BC – has no single founder, no single epic and origin unknown. Yet a growing religion and universally accepted and now there are over a billion Hindus all over the world.

Hinduism teaches five major principles as in ancient scriptures and epics:

1) Sathya or Truth – It is said that God is Truth and Truth is God. The experience of Truth alone comforts love, for Truth is all embracing and integrating and sees no distinctions.

2) Dharma – Translated is righteousness. Dharma is not religion, but a way of life. One of the quotes puts this concept in the right perspective. “See no evil. See what is good. Speak no evil speak what is good. Hear no evil hear what is good. Think no evil. Think what is good. Do no evil. Do what is good. This is the way to God.”

3) Shanti or Peace – The concept of Shanti, not a mere positive quality but the need for all beings to remain in a calm composed atmosphere. In Hinduism we conclude all our mantras or slokas with the chanting of Shanti or Peace’ three times – meaning prayer for peace for oneself, prayer for peace for the world including people. agriculture, environment, and animals and finally peace for the world of spirits.

4) Prema or Love – The primordial principle from which life emerges is love. The concept of love is universal. The difference between the ordinary day-to-day expression of love and the philosophical meaning of love is that the latter is universal and unconditional. When love is translated into action, it becomes seva or service. There can be no love without tyaja or sacrifice.

5) Ahimsa or Non-violence – This does not mean the absence of violence. It is the same as peace. Violence is not merely causing physical harm, listening to evil or wrongful words and speaking harshly amounts to himsa or violence.

Interfaith Dialogue – Hindu Perspective

The Universal and all embracing principles of Sanatana Dharma popularly known as Hinduism are in our opinion one of the most effective means to combat ills of war and religious fanaticism that affects the humanity today, causing untold suffering and wanton bloodshed. The world needs the solace of true Vedic dictum, the world is a “family” – “Vasudeva Kutumbam”.

It is a scientific approach of the Vedantic wisdom to human development that is highlighted in the motto of Hinduism, bahujana hithaya, bahujana sukhaya, which aspires for the welfare and happiness of all.

It declares the highest goal of humanity as “asato ma sad-gamaya” – “Lead me from untruth to reality”; “tamaso ma jyotir-gamaya” – “Lead me from darkness to light”; “mrtyor-ma amrutam gamaya” – “Lead me from death to immortality”. It looks forward to a world free from wars and degrading religious conflicts.

The term ‘Interfaith Dialogue’ refers to the positive and cooperative interaction between people of different religious faiths and spiritual beliefs, with the aim of promoting understanding between different religions to increase acceptance and tolerance. The power of religion can be used as a major force of unification among divergent factions and hence it can plays key role in the promotion of global peace and reconciliation by bringing various groups together.

Interfaith dialogue therefore plays a vital role in the field of cultural diplomacy by uniting faiths and by fostering reciprocal understanding, acceptance and tolerance among religious communities. Interfaith dialogue can in this way breakdown walls of division and barriers that stand as the center of numerous wars, with the objective of achieving peace.

The inter-religious movement does not aim at evolving a single universal religion for all mankind. What inter-religious stands for is the acceptance of the need and the face of variety in religious experience, of diversity in a person’s approach towards and realization of the one Eternal Reality.

Finally, we should be remember the great saint Sri Ramakrishna’s advice, “As you remain firm in your faith and opinion, so leave the others the same freedom to remain firm in their faiths and opinions“, with this perspective in mind, the fruit of every religious dialogue according to Mahatma Gandhi must be “Want the Christians to be good Christians, Muslims to be good Muslims, the Sikhs to be good Sikhs, and the Hindus to be good Hindus under all circumstances”.

What Hinduism really teaches is religious pluralism, not the need to make all religions the same, which is intolerant of religious differences that are often not at all minor inconsequential.

Religious pluralism, on the other hand, is tolerant of religious differences. It does not seek to reduce all religions to a common model. It lets their differences stand out as they are and does not seek to cover them over with a veil of unity. Pluralism says that it is fine for us to have different or even contrary views about religion and this does not have to be a problem. The important thing for us is to seek truth or God in the way that is most meaningful for us.

Dr. Uma Mysorekar,
President,
The Hindu Temple Society of North America

Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President of The Hindu Temple Society of North America

Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President of The Hindu Temple Society of North America gives an address to the UN Special Event on World Interfaith Harmony: Multi-religious Partnership for Sustainable Development