Human personality is the most complex one. Swayed by a medley of opposites like good and evil, love and hate, happiness and misery, man behaves many times erratically and unpredictably creating a vicious atmosphere in his life and in society.
Religion helps man to reduce the inner turmoils and brings him peace. In fact, the intensest love that humanity has ever experienced has been generated by religion. Religion has inspired men to take care not only of human beings but even of the lowliest of animals.
Md Sirajul Islam, Philosophy and Religion Department head at Visva-Bharati University, a Sufism expert who had done research on Hindu-Muslim Discord and Concord says this: “True religion must give us a basis for acting; it must give us an understanding of nature, of ourselves and of other beings. Religion is a bond uniting men together — not a particular set of dogmas or beliefs — binding not only all men, but also all beings and all things in the entire universe, into one grand whole.” 1:
Dr S Radhakrishnan, a great philosopher or repute and once President of India, points out that the failure of the religions is due to the disparity between outward allegiance and inward betrayal. Religion is confused with the mechanical participation in the rites or passive acquiescence in the dogmas. Many of those who observe the forms of religion…. do not model their lives on the precepts they profess…We must profess religion in truth and deed and not merely profess it in words. Unfortunately religions tend to keep people apart….The root meaning of the word ‘religion’ suggests that it should be a binding force.2
While talking of the love-hate dichotomy where loving one thing means hating the other, Swami Vivekananda compares it to the devotion of a dog to its master which he holds as superior to the reasoning of the zealots, for the dog never mistakes its master for an enemy in whatever dress he may come before it.3
Swami Vivekananda said “Religion is realization, it is being and becoming,” “If there is God we must see him.”
Many people merely talk of God, of having faith in god, but the fact is that the so-called theists are no less atheists than a scientist who challenges religion.4
While faith may lead to fanaticism and conflict, realization leads to peace, joy and bliss. One man of realization is enough to surcharge a society for a century. His very presence transmits peace, and blessedness.5
Swami Vivekananda has said : “… we are all looking at truth from different standpoints, which vary according to our birth, education, surroundings, etc. We are viewing truth, getting as much of it as these circumstances will permit, colouring the truth with our own heart, understanding it with our own intellect, and grasping it with our own mind. We can only know as much of truth as is related to us, as much of it as we are able to receive. This makes the difference between man and man, and occasions sometimes even contradictory ideas; yet we all belong to the same universal truth.”6
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.” ―
Swami Vivekananda held that the religion of Christ and Advaita Vedanta were identical.7 According to him, the Vedantic theory of equality in the One Ātman is in reality put into practice by Islam through its emphasis on equality. It follows, therefore, that India should have a Vedantic brain and an Islamic body.8 Also, it was his contention that the Buddha fulfilled Hinduism by proclaiming the truth hidden in the Vedas.9
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a living example who while rooted in Hinduism saw the truth in all religions and believed in the different faiths. The special features of Sri Ramakrishna’s harmony of religions, as summed up by Swami Narasimhananda10 are:
- There is a common factor of humanity in every human being and every human being is superior to other living beings.
- Every human being has an innate divinity.
- Religion has to be practiced and experienced.
- All forms and disciplines of religion are valid paths to attain to spirituality.
- Simplification of the concepts of religion and focusing on the avoidance of lust and greed.
- There is only one Reality, which is perceived differently by different people.
- The goal of all humans and all religions is to realize the divinity innate in human beings.
Sri Ramakrishna’s religion was a religion of experience, a religion of becoming one with the ideal. It was from this understanding that he could come to the conclusion that all religions are true, and are but different paths to attain the ideal, which again is viewed differently by different people. His harmony of religions was based on practice and experience, and mere doctrine.11
Such practice and experience will bring home to us the vision that Reality is one, differences lie only in our perceptions. The colour spectrum on the whole is one but shows different colours at different intervals. This understanding of the need for variety in religion will help us build a society where religion will not be a cause of difference but an opportunity for coming together.12
Note: Just as a child playing with different colour papers cuts and pastes patterns out of the collection, I have pieced together certain ideas from the words of eminent people. All the goodness in this post belongs to them and any thing found not good in this post belongs to me.
Md Sirajul Islam, Positive Functions of Religion: A Philosophical Analysis in REFLECTIONS ON HARMONY OF RELIGIONS, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.III, pp.32-33
Swami Brahmeshananda, Religious Harmony and Disharmony in REFLECTIONS ON HARMONY OF RELIGIONS, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata
Swami Brahmeshananda, op.cit.
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.II, p.366
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.III, p.6
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.VI, pp.415-416
Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol.I, pp.21-23
, 11., 12. Swami Narasimhananda, Sri Ramakrishna’s Harmony of Religions, in REFLECTIONS ON HARMONY OF RELIGIONS, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Kolkata