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Re: Why India should not be Secular



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Why India Should Not Be Secular

The proponents of “Secularism” argue that this construct is essential in 
order for different religions to peacefully coexist with each other.  The 
problem with this argument is that it falsely assumes that all religions are 
based on the idea of exclusivity and therefore will be hostile to one 
another.  The truth is, that while this may be a valid supposition in the 
case of the Abrahamic religions, it is certainly not true in the case of 
Eastern religions in general and Indian religions in particular.

All religions are not based on the same philosophical underpinnings and 
therefore should not be labeled with the same brush.  Moreover, the very 
concept of (organized) “religion” is alien to India.  There is no equivalent 
of the English word “religion” in any Indian language.   The closest Indian 
word is “Dharma” which does not connote exclusivity.  Even the term “Hindu” 
is a Persian word that refers to people living east of the Indus (Sindhu) 
river.  That is, the term Hindu in its original sense refers to all Indians. 
  “Hinduism” therefore, is just the “ism” of the Indian people.  Hinduism 
has no Church, no Pope nor even a common Bible.  As noted previously, 
“Hinduism” is not a religion.  It is a paradigm like “religion” and 
“Secularism” itself, which has proved to be more successful in bringing 
about the peaceful coexistence of diverse spiritual traditions.  For 
example, despite India’s spiritual diversity, there was no equivalent of 
‘The Crusades’ in India.  There was no war between the Vaishnavites and 
Shaivites or between the Advaitists and Dvaitists.  There was no war between 
the followers of this Prophet and that Prophet, this God and that God.  
Whenever a new Prophet gained prominence in India, the message was spread 
through peaceful means and there was no religious persecution from the 
established order.   Shankara did not raise an army to spread his message 
and his first devotee was the head of the Dvaitist school of thought, which 
was the prevailing philosophy at that time.  Al-Biruni put it succinctly: 
“They (the Hindus) are opposite us in every respect.  They do not give their 
life or their property to defend their religious beliefs.  If they fight, 
they fight only with words”.

Unlike the Judeo-Christian concept of religious exclusivity, Indian 
spiritual traditions are based on the idea of Unity in Diversity.  Hinduism 
remarkably reconciles seemingly irreconcilable religious differences.  Just 
as light is known to have both wave-like and particle-like characteristics, 
in Hinduism God is considered to be both without form and attributes 
(nirguna) and with form and attributes (saguna).  The one does not negate 
the other.  Consequently there is no compulsion for believers in the 
impersonal form of God (Brahman) to feel any antagonism toward those that 
worship idols and believe in the saguna view of God (i.e. Lord Ram, Lord 
Krishna).

In Hinduism, believers in one spiritual tradition do not see themselves as 
having exclusive knowledge of God’s true nature or His word.  They do not 
consider themselves to be the “chosen race” anointed by God to spread His 
Word.  They do not think that all “non-believers” have been misled by Satan 
and will be damned to spend eternity in Hell.  In fact, just as the concept 
of “religion” is alien to India, so too is the concept of “Satan”.

By contrast, Lord Krishna says in the Gita “Just as all streams flow into 
the sea, so do all paths of worship lead to Me”.  He also shows His disciple 
Arjuna His cosmic form (vishwa roop) within which Arjuna not only sees all 
of the forms of God known to him but many more forms (i.e. Gods) that he has 
never seen before.   Hinduism believes in One God that manifests itself in 
infinite forms.  Just as Lord Ram and Lord Shiva are considered to be 
manifestations of the same Divinity, Jesus and Allah may also be viewed as 
manifestations of that Divinity. The God realized soul, Shri Ramakrishna 
Paramhansa, used the analogy of three men, Hindu, Muslim and Christian, 
standing on opposite sides of a lake.  The Hindu drinks the water calling it 
Jaal, the Muslim drinks calling it Paani and the Christian drinks calling it 
Water, but in each case the taste is the same and the thirst equally 
quenched.

The fundamental problem with the idea of Secularism is that it does not 
address the root problem of religious violence – religious bigotry.  Mahatma 
Gandhi described violence as consisting of three forms: violent actions, 
violent words, and violent thoughts.   While the concept of Secularism 
successfully put an end to the era of religious warfare (i.e. The Crusades), 
it has hardly made a dent in reducing religious bigotry.  For example, a 
prominent American television Evangelist recently called India a nation of 
900 million Satan Worshippers and asked his followers for donations to 
establish a Missionary movement in India that would go to “every village” in 
the country.  The Pope has frequently stated that all religions are not the 
same and that Christianity is the “true” religion.  During his recent visit 
to India, the Pope said that the mission of the Church in this millennium is 
to bring the masses of Asia into the fold.

Because of its failure to address the issue of religious bigotry, Secularism 
has not been successful in creating a society in which all religions can 
truly peacefully coexist.  In order for this to happen, adherents of a 
particular religion must think beyond merely “tolerating” another religion, 
they must accept its divinity.  This may be difficult but it is not 
impossible.  There is no verse in the Bible for instance that specifically 
says that God does not manifest Himself in forms other than Jesus. It is 
only a matter of changing the prevailing interpretation.

In fact, this idea is the basis of a new paradigm known as “Pluralism”, that 
is quickly gaining popularity in many academic circles engaged in the study 
of Philosophy and Religion.  Whether you call it Hinduism, Pluralism, or any 
other ism, this idea is destined to become the future religion of mankind 
(whatever “religion” means).

In some sense, Hinduism is the evolution of Secularism.

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