2018/1: Hinduism and Harmony

Hinduism and Harmony

His Excellency High Commissioner and friends.  Good evening. Thanks for the opportunity to talk about Hinduism and harmony.

Hinduism is non-judgemental: Hindus believe that there are multiple ways to know the Divine and one can choose one’s own path. Hinduism doesn’t force its world view on others and thereby promotes harmony. Hinduism professes ‘live and let live’ or ‘I am OK, you are OK’. The Hindu tradition is open to new ideas and scientific thought and Hinduism is akin to humanism (AHA, 2017)’[1].

Critical inquiry underpins Hinduism: ‘The systematic and argumentative character of Indian philosophy comes as a surprise to readers’ says Prof Cooper (2003:14)[2]. Hindu rebels such as the materialist Charavak or Buddha or Mahavira could profess their views without getting killed. Hinduism has no concept of an imaginary male God, giving message to a certain person, at a certain place and at a certain time yet applicable for all persons, at all places and at all time. Hinduism encourages rational inquiry instead of holding people captive to a faith or ideology. Such open architecture promotes harmony.

Secular tradition: is ingrained, inherent and inseparable from Hinduism – a way of life rather than a religion[3]. A religion has a founder, a holy order or book, ceremonies, dogma about a creator and regimentation of adherents. None of these exists in Hinduism. Some of the Hindu philosophical systems are flatly atheistic… and in others God is only an ‘impersonal cosmic principle’ (Cooper, 2003:14). ‘Because of the importance it gives to the values ingrained in all religions, it is – along with Buddhism – often referred to as the most secular religion in the world’ (AHA, 2017). It is called Manav Dharma (Religion for entire humanity) or Sanatan Dharma (Eternal Religion). (Bhaskaranand, 1994)[4].

Look not for differences look for commonalities: The Upanishads present a ‘phenomenology of consciousness’ (Deutsch, 1997:30)[5]. Hinduism shifts focus from picking difference to identifying similarities and thereby promotes harmony. It proclaims that the universal consciousness resides in all beings (Ishavasyam eedam sarvam). “The Ultimate Truth or Knowledge” means the realisation that outer appearances are deceptive, and all living beings are interconnected. Human Genome research tells us that we all have a common African mother[6].

Know thy self: ‘Hinduism’s appeal is universal and individualistic – to the ’inner spiritual man’ and NOT to the ‘outside social man’ (Mukhyanand, 2000:21)[7]. In Chandogya Upanishad, Svetaketu asks his father ‘What is that by knowing which all can be known?’ The father replies ‘By knowing yourself’. ‘You are that’ divinity Svetketu (Max Muller, 2014:183). The central aim of Hinduism is realisation of the divinity within and the outcome it produces is eternal peace and harmony.

Choice: Hindus believe that the Ultimate Reality, is one[8] but can be worshipped according to one’s choice – either ‘with form (saguna)’ or ‘without form (nirguna)’.  The freedom of choice promotes harmony. Hinduism is heterogeneous – an accumulation of diverse traditions – so everyone has a place in it (AHA, 2017).

Not ‘divide and rule’ but ‘unite and progress’: Hinduism aims to seek unity among diversity. The word yoga means ‘union’ or ‘togetherness’ with ahimsa (non-violence) as its cornerstone. The world observes International Yoga Day to affirm these values.  Yoga provides ‘the opportunity to relinquish hostility and irritability’ to bring harmony.[9]

Inclusiveness: The whole world is one big family, Hinduism asserts (Vasudha eva kutumbakam). Hinduism is a ‘Federation of Faiths – a Universal Religion’ (Mukhyanand, 2000). Centuries ago, Hindu kings welcomed Christians, Muslims, Parsi, Jews and others to establish their places of worship in India. Minorities have held/continue to hold prominent public offices including President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Military Chiefs in a Hindu majority India. Does any other country in the world matches such inclusiveness? What makes this possible? It’s the Hindu ethos.

Not obsessed with market share!  Hinduism is not obsessed with increasing its share in the market for world religions. The non-proselytizing nature of Hinduism avoids conflict and promotes harmony. Never ever in its 5,000-year-old history, Hinduism waged religious crusades to impose its world view. When all are children of the Divine to whom are you converting asks a Hindu?

In harmony with environment: Hindus worship the Sun, the Moon, the rivers, the trees, and the animals (including a snake!) because Hindus believe that the divine permeates everything.  The Hindu ethics of ahimsa (non-violence and respect for life) prevents a Hindu from causing harm to any creature (BBC, n.d.)[10].

In harmony with time: Hinduism is not a fossilised religion. ‘In its long history, it has undergone many changes rapidly adopting to modern times’ (Klostermaier, 2010:5)[11]. Wherever in the world the Hindus are, they have assimilated themselves with the culture of that country, creating peace and harmony.

 To conclude, the call of Hinduism is to entire humanity. An Upanishadic prayer Sarve bhavantu sukhinah;Sarve santu niramayah;Sarve bhadrani pasyantu;Maa kaschit duhkhabhaag bhavet[12] means ‘May all be happy; May all be healthy; May all enjoy prosperity; May none suffer any misery. Om Peace Peace Peace. By praying for all living beings – not just for a narrow community – ocean hearted Hinduism promotes universal harmony.

No wonder, world’s greatest apostle of peace in modern time, Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am a Hindu because it is Hinduism which makes the world worth living (Low, 2013:146).”[13]

Thank you.

(Talk given at the Indian High Commission, Canberra on 24 Nov. 2017 to celebrate Harmony Day)

[1] https://americanhumanist.org/paths/hinduism/

[2] Cooper, D. (2003) World Philosophies: An historical introduction, Blackwell Publishing, USA.

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1215497/

[4] Bhaskaranand, S. (1994) The essentials of Hinduism, The Vedanta Society of Western Washington. USA.

[5] Deutsch, E. (1997) Introduction to World Philosophies, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.

[6] Callaghan, C. (2005) ‘The state of origin’, The Australian, July, 30, pp. 26-30.

[7] Mukhyanand, Swamy (2000) Hinduism: The Eternal Dharma, Centre for reshaping our world view, Kolkata, India.

[8] Max Muller, M. (2014). The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, Forgotten Books, London, p.53.

[9] https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/path-happiness

[10] http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/rs/environment/histewardshiprev1.shtml

[11] Klostermaier, K. (2010) A survey of Hinduism, SUNY Press, Canada.

[12] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/seekingshanti/2015/09/hinduprayerforeveryone_globalgoals/

 

[13] Low, P. (2013) Leading successfully in Asia, Springer, New York.

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