UNIVERSAL PEACE THROUGH RELIGION FOR HUMAN SUSTENANCE ANCIENT INDIAN INSIGHTS C. Panduranga Bhatta* Religions of ancient India speak of universal peace based on solidarity with the earth and all beings. They stress on an understanding of the intrinsic interdependence of all beings. According to them, such an understanding is essential for grasping the truth of the interconnectivity of all life. In their opinion, the commitment to non-violence occurs quite organically from the realization of the essential interdependence, the intrinsic relatedness of all being. They emphasize peace at three levels. The first is social peace, i.e. between human beings, requiring non-violence in the treatment of others. The second is ecological peace, i.e. between human beings and their natural resource environment, requiring non-violence in the relation with the physical environment as well. Third is the mental peace, peace with oneself, removing destructive tensions and stress, and requiring non-violence with oneself. The religious thinkers of ancient India are known for accommodation, conciliatory and synthesizing attitude of the mind. The policy of peaceful co-existence and inculcation of the free spirit of universal brotherhood propagated by them are the means which can build up strong foundations of universal peace. Insights from the ancient Indian religious thinkers are most welcome in accelerating the process of realization of fundamental unity and in establishing universal peace. This paper draws heavily from ancient literature such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Buddhism, Jainism and Classical Sanskrit literature to prove the point. Keywords: Universal Peace, Hinduism, Buddhism, Interdependence 1. Introduction Human beings have become mute spectators of violence in various parts of the world. War, terrorism, genocides, brutality, and crime are terrible realities of today. It is becoming clear that conflicts between human beings can no longer be settled by violence, which is devastating in its character. The differences in any filed including that of religions has to be reconciled in a larger understanding of human depth and its varied expression. Today, there is a need, for the development of a world community based on unity and harmony and also there is a necessity for the search of means and methods to control the destructive forces. At this juncture human beings are looking for some practical insights to change the course of history, to guide it in a more positive direction, to create a universal order that works for the welfare of the whole of humankind, and all sentient beings. Creation of a civilization with a heart animated by the deepest values such as selfless love, compassion, kindness, non-harming, and sharing is the need of the hour. An attempt is made in this paper to provide practical insights on promotion of universal peace for human sustenance on the basis methods suggested and adopted in ancient Indian religions. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------* C. Panduranga Bhatta, Professor, Business Ethics and Communication Group, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, India.
2. Religion’s role is establishing peace Since the dawn of history, human beings have found themselves drawn towards religion for various reasons. It has always inspired them to attain greater heights in the realm of moral and spiritual life. It has also promoted in an effective way solidarity, peace and harmony in society and has established unity and fellowship among peoples belonging to different races and cultures. This constitutes the bright side of religion which brings peace and joy to the people. But there is another aspect of religion, its dark aspect, which brings unhappiness and suffering to people and deprives them of their legitimate freedom. The history of religion bears ample witness to this dual and rather contradictory role of religion throughout the ages. This is mainly due to a persistent confusion between the deeper aspect of religion which constitutes its truth and its external aspect or structure which ordinarily serves as a means to attain that truth. The essence and purpose of religion has to be clearly distinguished from its external structure. Any exclusive stress on the external side of religion often leads to undesirable consequences. It brings into prominence the radical differences that exist between religions in respect of their doctrines, dogma, rituals, ceremonies, organizations etc. and ignores their deeper aspects which help to converge and come closer to each other. The result is that the votaries of different religions develop pride in their own religion, and start looking down upon other religions which, according to them, are either not true or at the most only partially true. It generates a feeling of intolerance towards each other. This has resulted in the conflict between different religions or different sects of the same religion in the different periods of history. Swami Vivekananda’s address at Parliament of Religions held at Chicago is worth recalling here: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal tolerance, but we accept all religions as true…” Sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now?” 1 The religion referred to by Swami Vivekananda is the ancient religion of India which is also known as sanatana dharma which speaks of universal peace based on solidarity with the earth and all beings, nonviolence, humility and love in action i.e. compassionate service. This religion stresses an understanding of the intrinsic interdependence of all beings, all sentient beings, and certainly all human persons. According to it such an understanding is essential for grasping inwardly, existentially, the truth of the interconnectivity of all life. As illustrated in this religion, the commitment to nonviolence occurs quite organically from the realization of the essential interdependence and the intrinsic relatedness of all being. A world evolved through narrow, exclusive, intolerant, both in social terms and in religious terms will be full of conflicts, full of violence, full of inner tensions and war.
But a world evolved through harmony, tolerance, peace, and human concern will be of great help in realizing the human potentials. The latter is of great help as it promotes humility and tolerance in the task of building a new world and discourages every trace of hatred, intolerance and fanaticism of every variety. It helps us to move forward to a great meeting where we respect every man, every race, every culture, and every creed. Mahatama Gandhi said: “In nature there is fundamental unity running through all the diversity we see about us. Religions are given to mankind so as to accelerate the process of realization of fundamental unity.”2 He also said “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”3 3. Means and methods adopted to attain universal peace in ancient Indian religions Ancient Indian religion is a religion with an obsession for peace and dharma. All religions, of course, crave and pray for peace, ancient Indian religion is especially so. Almost all prayers in Sanskrit, particularly in the Vedas, end invariably with a powerful call for peace repeated three times as om shantih, om shantih om shantih. shantih which means peace, quietism, and absence of stress and violence. Peace is sought because it is necessary both for realization of God and for happiness and welfare of all in this world. This ancient religion of peace emphasizes peace at three levels. The first is social peace, i.e. between human beings, between social groups and between countries, requiring nonviolence in the treatment of others. The second is ecological peace, i.e. between human beings and their natural resource environment, requiring non-violence in the relation with the physical environment as well. Third, not the least important, is mental peace, peace with oneself, removing destructive tensions and stress, and requiring nonviolence with oneself. 4 An important mantra, which is recited both at dawn and dusk everyday by the staunch followers of this religion, may be quoted (in English translation) here to illustrate this point: “Oh Lord of worship, grant us divine welfare May all human beings have happiness and prosperity May herbs thrive and grow very well May all bipeds as well as quadrupeds find peace and happiness Om! Let peace prevail, let peace prevail, let peace prevail” Even after the rise of Buddhism, several reformist or protestant faiths emerged in all phases of Hinduism, but they ended up as separate creeds within the universal umbrella of this ancient Indian religion. They kept their separate identity, with freedom to practice their faith and no problems of coexisting with others.5 Concrete examples of tolerance and warm hospitality of this religion to other religions are well-known.
This ancient religion regarded Lord Buddha as the ninth incarnation of God and worshipped by many devout followers of this religion. Lord Buddha could preach his religion right up to the old age of over eighty without ever being harassed and victimized.6 From very early times prayers for ‘universal happiness’ based on genuine compassion were made in India. A well-known Vedic prayer runs as follows: sarve bhavantu sukhinah sarve santu niramayah/ sarve bhadrani pasyantu md kascit duhkhabhag bhavet / / May everyone in this world be happy, May everyone be free from disease, May everyone see prosperity, May none come to grief.7 The spirit of India, from time of the Rigveda till today, asks people to move together to develop common ideals and purposes. The concluding verse of the Rigveda strikes a highly significant note in this regard. It exhorts; ‘samgacchadhvam, samvadadhvam, sam vo manasmi janatam’ which means: Meet together, talk together in an accommodative spirit, so as to give and take, to live and let live and may your mind apprehend (the truth) alike’. The central concept of samvada (concordance) in this verse, as opposed to vivada (discord) is very significant. Mutual concession, in the sphere of thinking, speaking and doing and growing through distinctive features of absorption, tolerance, synthesis and accommodation are the foundations of peaceful coexistence suggested in this hymn. Therefore, the English translation of the entire hymn is given below: “Meet together, talk together May your mind comprehend alike. Common be your action and achievement. Common be your thoughts and intentions. Common be the wishes of your hearts So may there be union amongst you”7 The religious thinkers of ancient India are known for accommodation, or compromise-the stand for a pacific, conciliatory, synthesising attitude of mind. And this stand minimized differences and settled the principles and views through adjustment. The spirit of compromise born out of compassion is the dominating feature of all types of religious and philosophical thinking in India. The famous Rigvedic statement ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti, Reality is the One, whom the wise call by many names is the classical example of this trend. Accommodative significance of the expression bahuda vadanti; ‘call variously’- is worth noticing as it refers to the compromise sought to be effectuated between the original One and the originated Many.8
God is one, but he is known and approached by the people in different ways. It clearly means that though the Supreme Being, Godhead is one, yet the ways to Him are many. It is not rational to say that God can be known and approached by following only one particular way as laid down by any particular scripture of a religion. Those who entertain this kind of belief are sure to develop an attitude of intolerance towards other views of God and other ways of religious life. The unity of God does not exclude diversity in respect of beliefs, scriptures and approaches to him. Any religion or culture which lays exclusive emphasis on uniformity does not allow freedom to people in respect of thought, speech and way of life. It engenders an attitude of intolerance in its followers towards other religious faiths. Freedom is not possible unless diversity is given its rightful place in respect of thought and way of life along with the principle of unity. Sir Aurobindo observes: “Unity we must create, but not necessarily uniformity. If man could realize a perfect spiritual unity, no sort of uniformity would be necessary; for the utmost play of diversity would be securely possible on that foundation. If again he could realize a secure, clear, firmly held unity in the principle, a rich even an unlimited diversity in its application might be possible without any fear of disorder, confusion or strife. 9 4. Welfare of all beings Ancient Indian religious teachers had also conceptualized the unity of the entire human race and developed the concept of “mankind as a single family” (vasudhaivakutumbakam). English translation of a famous Sanskrit verse on this topic is given below: “This man is mine and that one is a stranger is a notion which weights with small minds. For those of noble conduct, the whole earth is a family”. The relevance of this to the present human predicament is obvious. The Atharvaveda translates that vision into a social experiment of India, as a land of plurality of peoples, plurality of languages, and plurality of religions. It further states: “This earth is one home, which holds together, according to their respective attitudes and interests, people speaking different languages, people following different religions; like an immovable steady cow (while milking), this earth makes us prosperous through thousands streams of wealth and welfare.”10 This Veda looks upon earth as the resort of all beings, be they birds soaring high in the sky, be they winds blowing away dust particles, and stirring standstill and calm trees and be it the flame of the fire turning the way the wind turns. All this sums up to make the totality of human existence. Nothing on this earth is to be rejected, be it mountains, forest, barren land or rocky plateau, the entire expanse has a halo of divine motherhood.11
A beautiful Sanskrit prayer given below (in English translation) sums up this concept: “Now let the earth be peace and the air, the sky, The waters, the herbs, the trees be peace, Let the gods give us peace and peace comes from these calls for peace. With these peace calls that assuage everything, I give peace to the terrible here, To the cruel here, to the evil, Let them now be quiet, mean, well, Let everything be good to us.”12 5. The concept of dharma The word dharma is derived from the root “dhr” which means to be or exist, to be maintained or preserved. Dharma has been conceived as that which maintains or sustains human society and the world. Dharma sustains human society in the sense that it governs the conduct and behaviour of the people and thus maintains order and balance in society. Society enjoys security, peace, order and harmony when the people act and behave in accordance with the moral and spiritual values laid down by dharma in their personal, social and professional life and when human relationships are based on them. A society falls in confusion and disorder when the moral and spiritual dimension of dharma ceases to provide light and life to it13. Dharma requires a noncompetitive, non-coercive, nonacquisitive society that believes in friendship, sharing, and cooperation. Moral conduct or behaviour in relation to other people also constitutes the essence of religion. The Bhagavad Gita has a beautiful concept called atmaupamya which is explained thus: “Who sees with equality everything in the image of his own self, whether in pleasure or in pain”.14 It means equality of others with oneself. Harming no creature and understanding that whatever is pleasant to oneself is pleasant to all creatures. Whatever is painful to oneself is painful to all beings. This is a golden rule which finds expression in the religious literature of the world as shown below: This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. -Mahabharata Hurt not others in ways that you Yourself would find hurtful. -Buddhism In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self. -Jainism
That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self -Zoroastrianism Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you. - Confucianism No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. -Islam All things whatsoever ye would that men do to you, do ye even so to them. -Christianity What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men, that is the law all the rest is commentary. -Judaism The author of the Mahabharata was once asked to summarize all the teachings in one or two verses. The author retorted: “Why one or two verses?” I shall finish in just half a verse: paropakarah punyaya, papaya parapidanam: help to others brings merit, violence or injury to others brings forth sin. A great philosopher of India viz. Adi Shankaracharya, in his Prasnottara Ratnamalika raises the question: what is the most glorious of the desirable things of man? and he also answers it as ‘a life consecrated to the well-being of one and all’. 6. Patanjali’s strategy for conquering hatred Patanjali, the author of Yogasutra has something specific to say on conquering hatred which ultimately leads to peace. He suggests a strategy called pratipaksa bhavana, contrary meditation to overcome evil thoughts or tendencies. One is asked to deliberate upon the qualities of gentleness and to use all opportunities to practice it in one form or another. In course of time those of gentleness will overpower the latent impressions of vindictive acts and one will find that one’s tendency to vindictive acts does not recur so frequently as before even under the gravest provocation. This profound change, however, is not possible unless contrary meditation is practiced over a long period with faith and without interruption and a sort of inner resistance is built up against the habit to be overcome. We may recall here a beautiful observation made in the Dhammapada that comes very close to Patanjali’s approach to conquer violence. It says that ‘never by hatred is hatred appeased, but it is appeased by kindness.’ According to Patanjali, mind attains clarity and purity by cherishing the qualities of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa i. e. friendliness or love, compassion, joy and indifference respectively towards persons and things that are happy, miserable, and meritorious and evil.15
7. Inclusive approach to arrive at truth in Buddhism Buddhism has attempted to arrive at the truth, not by excluding its opposites as falsehood, but by including them as one aspect relevant to truth. There is a very interesting parable narrated by Lord Buddha, which forms the basis of overcoming conflicts in the realm of religion. “There was once a king who brought together all those who had been born blind. When they were all assembled, the king commanded that an elephant be led before them. The beast was brought and he told some of them to feel his head, others his ear, others his tusk, others his trunk etc., and the last one the elephant’s tail. Then the king asked them: “How does an elephant look?” Those who had touched the elephant’s head, replied, “An elephant is like a pot”; those who had touched the ear answered, “An elephant is like a winnowing basket”; those who had touched the tusk said: “An elephant is like the pole of a plough,” etc.; and those who had felt the tail maintained: “An elephant is like a broom.” A great tumult now arose. Each one maintained “An elephant is like this, and not otherwise; he is not like that, he is like this”; until at last they came to blows, at which the king was mightily amused. Even so, concluded the Buddha, is the case of the persons who have seen only a portion of the truth, and who then maintain: “This is truth and not otherwise; truth is not thus, but thus.” 16 This parable of the blind men and the elephant which has been widely popular in both East and West was interpreted as representing the assertion of partial veracity of thoughts of various schools in the eye of early Buddhism. Ordinary teachers, who have grasped this or that small part of the truth, dispute with one another. But it is by detaching oneself from metaphysical oppositions that one is able to grasp the whole truth. Gautama, the Buddha, did not insist that his teaching was the only absolute Truth to the exclusion of all others. Therefore, he remained in harmony with other philosophers. He advised his followers not to keep aloof from the views of any type of philosophy because if they do so they may become prejudiced. Because of this attitude even lower doctrines are considered as upayas or the means to reach the right way. Vajrayana sect of Buddhism regards even heretical dogmas as a part of Buddhism. As a result, Buddhism, in spreading over the Asian countries, caused less friction among the indigenous faiths of the peoples who had received it. Prof. Hajime Nakamura rightly observes; “the native or traditional faiths and customs were scarcely destroyed by Buddhists and could easily survive; they remained in existence side by side with the newly arrived Buddhism”.17 Two of the most important qualities to be developed by Buddhist are loving-kindness and compassion. Loving-kindness is understood as the wish for others to be happy, and compassion as the wish to alleviate suffering18. Ultimately loving-kindness and compassion extend to all living things: people, animals, plants, and the earth itself.19
The Buddha described how a disciple should cultivate loving-kindness in the following verse: “Thus a mother with her life will guard her son, her only child, let him extend without bounds his heart to every living being”20 The root of compassion is wisdom. Wisdom is not an introverted ‘intellectual quality’ but, as Lord Buddha explains here, gives rise to a spontaneous concern for life. In this, bhikhu (monk), a wise person, one of great wisdom, does not intend harm to self, harm to others or harm to both self and others. Thinking in this way, such a person intends benefit for self, benefit for others, benefit for both, benefit for the whole world.21 A great Buddhist philosopher viz. Nagarjuna expresses the nature of Bodhisattva: “The essential nature of all Bodhisattvas is a great compassionate heart, and all living beings are the object of its compassion.”22 Concern for the welfare of the natural world has been an important element throughout the history of Buddhism. Recognition that human beings are essentially dependent upon and interconnected with their environment has given rise to an instinctive respect for nature. Buddha compares the kind of religious ceremony he approves of: “In this sacrifice, no bulls were slain, no goats or sheep, no cocks and pigs, nor were various living beings subjected to slaughter, nor were trees cut down for sacrificial posts, nor were grasses mown for the sacrificial grass…23 The universal character of love, as understood by Buddhism, is illustrated in the fourfold meditation, to be practiced by every Buddhist. They are maitri (love), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upeksha (equanimity). These are known as the four brahma-viharas. The thought of love (maitri) without any bounds or measure ought to flow towards all creatures of the world, above, below, around and everywhere. The terms karuna as used in Buddhist literature, covers a large variety of virtues, such as love, kindness, sympathy, mercy and friendly feeling. According to Dighanikava, maitri (love) includes unselfishness, charity and active and loving care for others. In the treatment of peace, neither in the oriental nor occidental writings, has it been possible, to speak of love alone without a galaxy of virtues around it, contributing to its brilliance, richness and comprehensiveness. In this context, ahimsa, karuna, dharma, satya, smavaya, samnvaya, samadarsana, sarvahita, sarvasukha, dana, kshanti and several other words occur in the Sanskrit writings. In its treatment in the Bible and in the writings of western mystics, philosophers etc, these and some other words find frequent mention. Even a mere enumeration of these qualities will show the all-inclusive range and dynamic nature of peace- equality, respect, reverence, sympathy, tolerance, gratitude, compassion, charity, humility, forgiveness, sincerity which are most important in attaining peace. Self-control, patience, sacrifice, unselfishness, self-negation, discipline, courtesy are also important in this respect which Goethe called love in action.24
8. King Ashoka’s policy of peaceful coexistence The great King of ancient India Ashoka (299 B.C-234 B.C), though a Buddhist himself, urged his subjects to respect and honour Brahmans also along with members of the other faiths. He issued a separate edict to emphasise toleration as the essential element of religion in a land of many faiths. He was especially concerned that there should be growth in the essence of the matter and respect for all sects, and not that his own sect and faith should flourish. He believed in the restraint of speech. He was against excessive praise of one’s own religious sect or disparagement of other sects. Thus King Ashoka, himself as an earnest Buddhist layman, never excluded other religions-Brahmanisam, Jainism, Ajivakas, etc. He adored both monks and laymen of all religions. His sincere wishes were that “everyone in every religion dwell peacefully side by side, and co-operate with one another for promoting the welfare of mankind.”25 King Ashoka did not impose his personal faith on his people, although he was so zealous in serving the cause of Buddhism. He held the scales evenly between the competing claims of different religious sects to the royal patronage, as shown by his grant of cavedwelling to the Ajivakas, or promoting the interests of Brahmanas, Ajivakas and Nirgranthas equally with the Buddhists through the instrumentality of his officers namely the Dharma-Mahamatras who superintended their affairs.26 His own edicts breathe consistently a lofty spirit of toleration. Liberality to Brahmanas and Sramanas is always emphasised as a public duty27 and unseemly behaviour to them equally condemned.28. In his own ‘pious tours’, he made a point of ‘visiting ascetics and Brahmans, with liberality to them.’29 In another Edict it is stated that ‘the king does respect all sects, whether ascetics or householders, by gifts and various forms of reverence’. While encouraging discussion among different religious schools he deprecated criticism ‘without reason’, ‘because the sects of other people all deserve reverence for one reason or another’, and ‘he who does reverence to his own sect, while disparaging the sects of others, wholly from attachment to his own, with intent to enhance the splendour of his own sect, in reality by such conduct inflicts the severest injury on his own sect’. Thus the king’s only care was ‘that there should be growth in the essence of the matter in respect of all sects.’30 In a later Edict31 he asserts; ‘I devote my attention to all communities, the followers of all denominations are honoured by me and the honour is paid in various forms. Nevertheless, showing personal regard for them is the chief thing in my opinion’. The ascetics of different sects often met in doctrines, and a special edict enjoins upon them toleration, respect for truth in each system, and restraint of speech in controversy.32 Excerpts from the Rock Edict 12 issued by King Ashoka has been produced below (in English translation) because of its importance to the topic of universal peace. “Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires-that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have, as their root, restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honour other religions for this reason.
By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise, harms one’s own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought “Let me glorify my own religion,” only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desire that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions”. 9. The theory of non-onesidedness (anekantavada) propagated by Jainism The basic tenets of Jainism can be mentioned in two words, namely ahimsa and anekanta, the two principles of peaceful coexistence, philosophically and socially. Anekanta is based on the conviction that a thing is constituted of diverse aspects and its proper understanding requires the considerations of as many aspects as possible. The comprehension of a thing from different points of view develops in us, compassion and tolerance necessary for peaceful coexistence. By virtue of this doctrine of anekanta, Jainism has been able to appreciate the viewpoints of others in the field of philosophy. Anekanta also makes one to investigate as to how and why others hold a different view and how the apparent contradictions can be reconciled in a peaceful manner.33 The Jaina doctrine of anekanta-vada captures the spirit of tolerating plural truth-claims in all walks of life. Viewed as a methodological concept, anekanta-vada is a subtle and fruitful analytical tool. The comprehension of a thing from different points of view develops in us an inclusivistic outlook necessary for peaceful co-existence. By virtue of this doctrine of anekanta Jainism has been able to appreciate the viewpoints of others in the field of philosophy. H.B. Kapadia observes: “this doctrine of anekantavada helps us in cultivating the attitude of toleration towards the views of our adversaries. It does not stop there but takes us a step forward by making us investigate as to how and why they hold a different view and how the seeming contradictions can be reconciled to evolve harmony.34 10. Insights from classical Sanskrit literature The famous Sanskrit poet Kalidasa is the best representative of Indian classical literature. Kalidasa was a devotee of Lord Shiva but it cannot be said that he was a fanatic. Kalidasa had thoroughly studied the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita. That study had widened his outlook and liberalised his views. Hence, though his heart leaned most towards Lord Shiva, yet he pays homage to Trinity as being identical with the Supreme Being in his poems viz. Kumarasambhava and Raghuvamsa respectively: Manifesting thy exalted power through three successive states of three existences, O Lord! Thou alone art the cause of creation, preservation, and destruction.35 I bow to thee, O Lord, who remains in three-fold form -being the creator of universe in the beginning,
afterwards the upholder of it and last of all being its destroyer.36 The three deities-Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesha-are but three visible forms which the Supreme Being assumes on purpose to keep the cyclic process of origin, growth and decay of the Universe. Sometime the Creator, sometime the Maintainer, sometime the Destroyer stands pre-eminent according to circumstances. This sublime truth is expressed in the following verse: It is essentially the same Being who splits itself into three different deities (for the performance of three different functions), each of whom is prior or posterior to the others by turns. Sometimes Shiva precedes Vishnu, sometimes, Vishnu precedes Shiva, sometimes Brahma precedes either of the two, and they both precede him.37 The Mundaka Upanishad states that ‘as streams and rivulets arise in different parts of the world but ultimately flow into the same ocean, so do all these creeds and religious formulations arise in different times and areas, but if they have a true aspiration, ultimately reach the same goal.’38 Kalidasa gives expression to same idea in his Raghuvamsha: “Just as the course of the Ganga, though flowing in different directions, ultimately fall into the same ocean, so also the paths laid down in various systems of philosophy for the attainment of eternal bliss, though diverse, do all terminate into one Supreme being”.39 It is vain for man to be proud of any particular religion and to exclude the rest from cognizance. Worship of all manifestations, therefore, must be tolerated. It is also neither proper nor necessary to replace one deity by another, because it is not a matter of importance whether the absolute and Infinite God is called Shiva, Vishnu, Arhat or Buddha. The religious teachers of India did not hesitate to identify the Highest Being of every denomination with the highest principle of Vedantic monism. One of the inscriptions found at Belur in Karnataka State contains a remarkable statement which is produced here: “May Hari, the ruler of the Universe, worshipped by the Saivas as Shiva, by the Vedantins as Brahma, by the Buddhists as Buddha, by the Mimamsakas as Karma, by the Naiyayikas as Karta, by the Jainas as the Arhat, grant our prayers”.40 It is worth mentioning here that during the period of Vira Bukkaraya I (AD 1368), a dispute arose between Jains and Vaishnavas regarding some injustice done to the Jainas. The King Bukkaraya took the hands of the Jainas and placing them in the hands of the Vaishnavas said, “For as long as the sun and the moon last the Vaishnavas will continue to protect Jaina Darshana. The Vaishnavas and Jainas are one body; they must not be viewed as different. A declaration to this effect must be displayed in all Jaina temples.”41
Another inscription found at a temple at Halebidu in Karnataka, one of the Indian States, declares the Jainas and Virasaivas must live happily. It further says that those who do harm to the faith of Jaina do harm to the faith of Virasaiva and they will be considered as the enemies of God Shiva.42 Two final benedictory verses from famous Sanskrit dramas are cited here (in English translation) for their aptness to this theme: “May there be welfare for all universe May beings be intent on each other’s good May all disturbances subside Everywhere, may the world be happy”43
“May all get across the difficulties May all come by happy events May all realize their wishes May all be joyous everywhere” 44 11. Evidences of accommodative spirit in modern period Accommodative spirit toward other faiths is manifest in modern religious movements in India. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa declared that all religions, pursuing different ways, would finally reach the same God. His disciple Swami Vivekananda said that all the religions that exist are true. In his famous Chicago address delivered on September 27, 1893 he said: “Oh, the Sacred one called Brahman by the Hindus, Ahura Mazdah by the Zoroastrians, Buddha by the Buddhists, Jehovah by the Hebrews, and God in heaven by the Christians! May he bestow inspiration upon us. Christians should be neither Buddhists nor Hindus, Buddhists and Hindus should never be Christians. Everyone, however, must grow up in accordance with his own religious principle, holding its individual character firmly while assimilating others’ spiritual merits. I firmly believe that we will read the following passages on the flags or banners of all religions in the future; help each other, Do not struggle against each other. Be reconciled with others. Do not destroy others. Keep harmony and peace”45 Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement on religious tolerance is worth reproducing here:
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s house as an interloper, a beggar or a slave”46 12. Conclusion Many Indians even think that among many different ways of life the most noble is the recognition and understanding of the existence of varied paths. The meta-theory of Indian religio-philosophers give them different partial views or perspectives (darshana) of one and the same reality, which accommodates all the partially correct views, none of which is, however, totally true. At the deepest level of truth there is no difference among various religions and it is up to individuals to follow any one of them or make a combination, suitable to their own individual temperament, of the acceptable elements of any or all of them. The policy of peaceful co-existence and inculcation of the free spirit of universal brotherhood are the means which can build up strong foundations of universal peace. Rabindranath Tagore has said “the problem today is not to wipe away differences, but how to unite while keeping the differences intact, a difficult task.” Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who is a great authority on Indian Philosophy observes: “To obliterate every other religion than one’s own is a sort of bolshevism in religion which we must try to prevent. Let us believe in a unity of spirit and not of organisation, a unity which secures ample liberty not only for every individual, but for every type of organised life, which has proved itself effective. For almost all historical forms of life and thought can claim the sanction of experience and so authority of God. The world would be a much poorer thing if one creed absorbed the rest. God wills a rich harmony and not a colourless uniformity” 48 As a concluding remark it may be stated that the ancient Indian religions’ attempt to bring a qualitative change in human personality which is very important in achieving universal peace is praiseworthy and it has many lessons which are of great value. They free human beings from the ego-centric attitude and the lower passions and emotions which are detrimental for their own wellbeing and for social integration, harmony and universal peace. Further research and re-look and reinterpretation of these ancient religions are the need of the hour.
References 1. The complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. I, pp. 3-4. 2. Mahatama Gandhi, An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology: T N Khoshoo, Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, 1995. 3. Gandhi The Man, Eknath Easwaran, Jaico Publishing House, Delhi, 1997. 4. Prime Ranchor, Hinduism and Ecology, London, Cassel, 1992. 5. M.V. Nadkarni, Hinduism A Gandhian Perspective, Anne Books India, New Delhi, 2006. 6. Elst, Koenraad, Decolonizing the Hindu Mind: Ideological Development of Hindu Revivalism, Oxford, New Delhi, 2001. 7. V. Raghavan, Prayers, Praises and Psalms, G. A. Natesan and Co, Madras, p.3. 8. Rigveda, I. 164.46. 9. The Ideal of Human Unity, pp.163-64. 10. Atharvaveda, XII. 1.45. 11. Atharvaveda, XII.1.26. 12. Atharvaveda, V.XIX.9. 13. R. S. Misra, Hinduism and Secularism, Motilal Banarasidass, New Delhi, 1996. 14. Bhagavad Gita, VI, 32. 15. V. Raghavan, Universal Love and World Unity, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1978, p.63. 16. Hajime Nakamura, A Comparative History of Ideas, Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi, 1992, p.219. 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid. 19. Buddhism and Ecology, Ed Martine Batchelor and Kerry Brown, Motilal, 1994. 20. Suttanipata I.8. 21. Anguttara Nikaya, II. 179. 22. Nagarjuna, Elegant Sayings, Ed. Sakya Pandit, Dharma Publishing Emery Ville, 1977. 23. Kutadanta Sutta, 5,18. Trans, Maurice Walshe, Thus I have Heard, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 1988, p.138. 24. Walter Hilton, Ladder of Perfection, Penguin, 1957, Ch.14. 25. Rock Edict, XII. 26. Radhakumud Mookerji, Asoka, Reprint, Delhi, 1995. 27. Rock Edict, III and IX. 28. Rock Edict, IV; Pillar Edict, VII. 29. Rock Edict, VIII. 30. Rock Edict XII. 31. Pillar Edict, VI. 32. Rock Edict, XII. 33. R. C. Dwivedi, (Ed.) Contribution of Jainism to Indian Culture, Delhi, p.10. 34. Sanmati Srivihara (Ed), M.D. Vasantaraj, Introduction; C. Panduranga Bhatta, Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit, Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai, 1997. 35. Kalidasaâ€™s Kumarasambhava, II.6. 36. Kalidasaâ€™s Raghuvamsa, X, 16. 25
37. Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava, VII, 21. 38. Mundaka Upanishad, III.2.8. 39. Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa, X, 26. 40. Epigraphia Carnatica, VI. Belur, 3. 41. Epigraphia Carnatica, V, 128. 42. C. Panduranga Bhatta, Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit, Pp. 519-22. 43. Bhavabhuti’s Malatimadhava. 44. Vikramorvashiya,V.25. 45. Romain Rolland, La vie de vive, I.47-48. 46. T. N. Khoshoo, Mahatma Gandhi: An Apostle of Applied Human Ecology, Tata Energy Research Institute, New Delhi, 1995, p.69. 47. Rabindranath Tagore, Sisirkumar Ghose, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1986. 48. S. Radhakrishnan, The Hindu View of Life, London, 1927, pp.42-43.