Religious Tolerance or Universal Acceptance

(Excerpts from speech delivered by Balesh Dhankhar at ‘Youth and Religion – A Multi-faith Conference in Sydney, Australia. Date 21/10/12)


Ekam Satyam Vipra Bahudi Vadanti
Friends I wish to start today’s talk with this verse from Ancient Rig Veda (1-164-146), which says – Truth is One. But awakened ones express it differently.

It is an attempt to discuss Hindu perspective on Religious Tolerance – and this verse expresses two of the core values of Hinduism on religious tolerance.
– The first message is – The Truth is One
– and second is, those who have seen the truth, the awakened ones – have expressed it differently, called it different names.

Contrary to the common misunderstanding about Hinduism as a polytheistic faith, Hinduism in its very core believes in the One-ness of GOD. In one form or another, most of the religions in the world believe in One GOD. In Hinduism the concept of One-ness is taken even deeper.

Rather than alienating God, by saying “there is One God, he sits there, and does this, he does that and limiting his scope on just certain aspect of life –

Hinduism believes the God is omnipresent. God is timeless and space-less.
In fact, to describe the relationship between you and the One-Ness of God, Hinduism does not use the expression ‘One God’. Because as soon as we say “One”, the possibility of “Two” arises. Saying ‘One God,’ indicates that there may be something, which is apart from God, something next to God.

So, Hindu uses the expression of “Advatya” – No-Two, Second-Less, or absence of second. It implies nothing exists beyond God, or outside the God-Ness.

Hindu considers this whole world is God’s extension. It is how God expresses himself outwardly. It’s God who expresses himself through blossoming nature.

This expansion of God, in Hinduism, is referred as Bhagwatta. Rather than the word God, we refer this as God-ness spread all around us and inside us.

And there comes the second message, that all the ones who have seen it, the awakened ones, the enlightened ones – have always expressed it differently.

Budda – when witnessed the truth, expressed it through “Dhyaan”. Jesus lifted his hands and blessed in form of “mercy”. Khrisna preached “Karma” and so on…

Did any two awakened men ever express the truth in exactly the same way?
NO, Never. The expressions have always been different, very new. Because what they witnessed was so original, so Shashwat, eternal yet ever new that there is no possibility whatsoever to express it in the same way as someone else already did.

Still the Truth remains the one, the same, the unchanged.
The only difference has always been in expression or to be more precise – the difference has been in our understanding or interpretation of the messages given by them.

Let’s take a very basic example. Every language has a different word for “sky”. It’s called “Akash” n Hindi, “Sora” in Japanese, “Aasmaan” in Persian, “cielo” in Spanish.

Now do we start fighting over these differences in the name of “sky”? Saying my Akaash is truer than your Sora. Or someone saying Aasmaan is the only true sky, and cielo is not true at all.

No, we don’t fight like that. It’d be utter nonsense. And we don’t engage in that stupidity because sky is in our own experience. We ourself know what it’s like. Once you seen the sky for yourself, you see the differences in the words are just the different ways of expression. Yet the sky remains the same, the one.

Similarly, once the God is in our own experience, when we witness the truth ourself, we can see all these different names are just different ways of expressing the same truth.

Until then, we just memorise, we just borrow the words from the ones who have known from their own experiences. And because these borrowed names are not in our own experience, we start fighting trying to prove that only our sky is true and rest everyone else’s is not.

On this, Hinduism teaches, may whatever the difference in expression be – The Truth remains the same, the truth remains the One, by saying “Vasudhev Katumbkam” – or in other words – “Universal Acceptance”
Accepting all the paths, all the religions as right is ‘Universal Acceptance’.

Hindu accepts different paths, not only within Hinduism, but outside the Hindu religion as well.
All the different sects, different school of thoughts within Hinduism have always enjoyed the same acceptance.
Like “Sanatan Dharma” which believes in ancient Vedas, or “Arya Samaaj,” which stresses on reformed ideology, or “Vaishnavis” ones who are devoted on Krishna and so on. Countless such unique sects have always lived together harmoniously.

But there has never been any conflict. In fact all these sects are considered as contributory rivers to the sacred Ganga of Hinduism.

Revolutionary as it may sound, but Agnosticism of Buddhism or Atheism of Jainism or Monotheism of Sikhism – all have their own very special space within Hindu religion. All of these religions are rooted from Hinduism and are often termed as fulfilment of Hinduism.

But ‘Universal Acceptance’ of Hinduism is not limited within itself, or religions born out of it. Rather it teaches to accept all forms of spiritualities and religiousness. It teaches, sooner or later, every path reaches the same destination.
Friends, there is a reason why I am stressing on Acceptance. For quite a long time, Youths of most religions are taught about “Tolerance” for other religions. Tolerance has been advocated as very important word! As a mascot of “world peace”

But if we analyse a little deeper, it is doing exactly the opposite.

Tolerance, the word itself has imbibed negativity in it. It has inherited rejection for others. It says, “I know I am right and you are wrong. But for the sake of peace, I’ll tolerate you. For the sake of my peaceful image, I’ll tolerate you.”
With this inherited rejection, the young generation may remain peaceful for some time. When things are normal and no conflict is around. But it’s like a tickling time bomb. One, who is tolerating, will not tolerate for long. Rather, the longer he’ll wait, the worse it’ll become.

And then, a single provocation, and the sand-wall of tolerance crumbles down. Matters get out of hand so quickly and we see our so very tolerant youth being anything but tolerant.

This is why my friends, we need to move ahead from Tolerance to Acceptance. To Universal Acceptance. And say that, yes it’s true that my religion is right. But at the same time, I also accept, that your religion is right as well. Your path reaches the same destination as mine, different whatever the path may be.
And, the moment we accept this, all the differences, all the quarrels fall apart.

Does that mean one has to convert to others’ religion? No, not at all!

By ‘acceptance’, all it says is “I am walking my path and you are walking yours. And if we keep walking our own paths, sooner or later, we both will reach the right and same destination.”
Otherwise what normally happens in the world, we fight, we kill each other and no one reaches anywhere.

That’s why it is time to think ahead of Tolerance and give ‘Acceptance’ a chance!

At last I bow down to the Supreme Being sitting inside all of you, Namaskaar!!