A Hindu Call for Re­li­gious Plu­ral­ism

The Free Press Journal - - ETCETERA - — Dr. David Fraw­ley (Va­madeva Shas­tri)

Hin­duism is the largest plu­ral­is­tic re­li­gion in the world. It teaches that there are many paths, many sages and many holy books, and that no re­li­gion can claim any ex­clu­sive or fi­nal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of truth. This does not mean that Hin­duism does not rec­og­nize a unity to truth. On the con­trary, Hin­duism rec­og­nizes a to­tal and pro­found unity but one that is broad enough to al­low for di­ver­sity and to in­te­grate mul­ti­plic­ity, like the many leaves on a great banyan tree.

Hin­duism is built upon di­ver­sity and holds within it­self an amaz­ing, even be­wil­der­ing, va­ri­ety of teach­ers and teach­ings from what ap­pear to be the most prim­i­tive forms to the most ab­stract spir­i­tual philoso­phies and yo­gic prac­tices. One could say that there are more re­li­gions in­side of Hin­duism than out­side of it. Hin­duism has more Gods and God­desses, more scrip­tures, more saints, sages and avatars, than any other re­li­gion in the world, per­haps more than all the other ma­jor re­li­gions put to­gether. This is be­cause Hin­duism has sought to pre­serve all the main spir­i­tual prac­tices that de­vel­oped in In­dia over the past five thou­sand years. It has never sought to re­duce it­self to any one teacher, book, faith or rev­e­la­tion. It has al­ways re­mained open to new teach­ings and rev­e­la­tions on one hand, and yet has not cut it­self off from older tra­di­tions on the other. It would be as if in the West­ern world to­day along with the dom­i­nant re­li­gions of Chris­tian­ity, Is­lam and Ju­daism, that the old Greek, Ro­man, Egyp­tian, Baby­lo­nian and Per­sian re­li­gions had been pre­served, as well as an ac­cep­tance of newer teach­ings and re­li­gions.

Hin­duism has never tried to cre­ate any one cen­tre, one church, one pope, or one doc­trine or to im­pose its views through any army or group of mis­sion­ar­ies. It has sought to pre­serve di­ver­sity and em­pha­sizes lo­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of the teach­ings.

In the dawn­ing global age we can no longer claim that any one re­li­gion is the only truth for all hu­man­ity any more than we can claim that one lan­guage, cul­ture or way of life is the best for all.

We must have a broad enough view to rec­og­nize what is of value in the dif­fer­ent peo­ples and cul­tures of the globe from so­called abo­rig­ines, who have a much deeper un­der­stand­ing of na­ture than mod­ern peo­ple, to the great civ­i­liza­tions not only of Europe and the Mid­dle East but of Amer­ica, Africa and Asia.

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