Daily Observer (Jamaica)

Gandhi and in­ter-re­li­gious har­mony

- Religion · Discrimination · Politics · Human Rights · Society · Mahatma Gandhi · India · Marcus Garvey · Martin Luther King, Jr. · Martin Luther · Martin Luther · Nelson Mandela · Gautama Buddha · Guru Nanak · Muhammad · Napoleon Bonaparte · National Convention · Paris · Spain · United Kingdom · United States of America · Vermont · Kansas · Brazil · Bulgaria · Ottoman Empire · Pacific Ocean · Washington State · Washington · Japan · U.S. Supreme Court · Italy · Yugoslavia · Trieste · The Beatles · One Direction · Pakistan · Malaysia · Kashmir · Monty Python · BBC One · Egypt · Gamal Abdel Nasser · Republican Party (United States) · Guildford · Surrey · England · Guildford · South Africa · Namibia · Poland · Kennedy Space Center · Marc Garneau · Pieter Willem Botha · Democratic Party (United States) · John F. Kennedy · Dalai Lama · Cincinnati · Robert Mapplethorpe · Iraqi Army · Iraq · Beijing · Switzerland · Bosnia and Herzegovina · Harry Truman · Chester A. Arthur · Fairfield, VT · Fairfield · Coffeyville, KS · Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor · Louis Brandeis · Earl Warren · Anwar el Sadat · Augusto Pinochet · Lloyd Bentsen · Dan Quayle

The novum of our times seems to be the in­creas­ing meet­ing of world re­li­gious tra­di­tions. A fresh con­vic­tion is emerg­ing that, in our con­tem­po­rary cross-cul­tural hu­man sit­u­a­tion, no re­li­gion is suf­fi­cient even to face, let alone solve, any of our hu­man predica­ments sin­gle-hand­edly.

If, in our times, to be re­li­gious is to be in­ter-re­li­gious, then an in­ter­faith ap­proach is be­com­ing a con­tem­po­rary im­per­a­tive. The phrase ‘in­ter-re­li­gious co­op­er­a­tion’ does not any more strike an es­o­teric note.

Mo­han­das K Gandhi, who is revered in In­dia as the Fa­ther of the Na­tion, and whose birth an­niver­sary is cel­e­brated on Oc­to­ber 2, seems to have en­deared him­self across cul­tures, also the Ja­maican hearts.

His non-vi­o­lent ac­tivism for free­dom and equal­ity is well known. He has in­deed cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, and ac­tive sol­i­dar­ity of Mar­cus Gar­vey, Martin Luther King Jr, Nel­son Man­dela, and count­less other lead­ers. What per­haps needs a bet­ter high­light is his pi­o­neer­ing role in in­ter­faith har­mony and the im­per­a­tives that it of­fers to our present times.

A word first on his cre­ative un­der­stand­ing of re­li­gion that in­deed bears fruit on his in­ter­faith at­ti­tude and ap­proach.

Gandhi de­clared him­self a “Sanatani Hindu”. Him be­ing a Hindu, he felt is a ques­tion of hered­ity. But it is also based on his con­vic­tion that noth­ing in Hin­duism is in­con­sis­tent with his moral sense and spir­i­tual growth. In fact, Hin­duism, with its open, tol­er­ant, and non-vi­o­lent at­ti­tude was best suited for him.

His ac­cep­tance of Hin­duism was not, how­ever, un­crit­i­cal. He re­mained crit­i­cal of abuse, like un­touch­a­bil­ity, which have crept in the sys­tem of Hin­duism. He ap­plied to Hindu scrip- tures the same crit­i­cal norms that he ap­plied to any scrip­ture as an in­fal­li­ble au­thor­ity.

At the core of Gandhi’s re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ence was his faith that “there is an in­de­fin­able mys­te­ri­ous power that per­vades ev­ery­thing”. The power is felt by hu­mans, but it es­capes ‘proofs’ and lit­eral in­tel­lec­tual for­mu­la­tion, though one might de­fine it as ‘truth’.

Truth is God and truth is the ul­ti­mate goal of re­li­gions. Re­li­gion is a quest for truth. This makes of re­li­gion an all-com­pre­hen­sive quest which is fi­nally iden­ti­cal with the hu­man quest. This quest de­mands to­tal self-de­nial since no one can reach this truth with­out be­ing free from ev­ery form of self-in­ter­est.

This truth is re­vealed in all the great re­li­gions of hu­man­ity. There­fore, these re­li­gions are true, al­though they all em­body this truth in im­per­fect hu­man moulds.

One need not only tol­er­ate these re­li­gions but must have an at­ti­tude of pos­i­tive love and re­spect to­wards them. Since all re­li­gions are equally valid paths to truth (sar­vad­harma sam­ab­hava), one should not try to con­vert peo­ple from one re­li­gion to an­other. Per­haps, re­li­gions them­selves need con­ver­sion.

In this re­gard, his inim­itable words: “I do not want my house to be walled in all sides, and my win­dows to be closed. In­stead, I want cul­tures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as pos­si­ble. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

In­spired as he was by many ex­em­plary re­li­gious fig­ures, in­clud­ing Jesus,

Lord Bud­dha, Lord Ma­havir, Guru Nanak and Prophet Muham­mad, he could per­son­ally con­fess his multi-re­li­gious be­long­ing: “I am a Hindu, I am a Mus­lim, I am a Jew, I am a Chris­tian.” He de­rived the power of love from The Ser­mon on the Mount, non-vi­o­lence from Jain­ism and yo­gic texts, and equal­ity from Is­lam, and so on.

But he was deeply aware of the his­tor­i­cal and so­cial re­al­ity of vi­o­lence, ha­tred, and vi­o­lence caused in the name of re­li­gions. He was also firmly con­vinced that un­less there is com­mu­nal har­mony and peace in the so­ci­ety, the ex­er­cise of na­tion-build­ing can­not be grounded on sec­u­lar foun­da­tion. He had in­deed wit­nessed the largescale com­mu­nal vi­o­lence at the time of par­ti­tion.

Given the multi-re­li­gious con­text of In­dia that in­cludes peo­ple of such faiths as Hin­duism, Jain­ism, Bud­dhism,

The views ex­pressed on this page are not nec­es­sar­ily those of the Ja­maica Ob­server.

Sikhism, Is­lam, Chris­tian­ity, Ju­daism, Zoroas­tri­an­ism, and many sub­sects of dif­fer­ent re­li­gions, he made “com­mu­nal har­mony” an es­sen­tial part of his con­struc­tive pro­gramme.

His prac­ti­cal tools of this pro­gramme in­cluded the in­ter-re­li­gious pub­lic prayer meet­ings, the study of re­li­gious texts, pro­mo­tion of re­li­gious lit­er­acy, the great use of the metaphor “chil­dren of God”, and nu­mer­ous other meth­ods.

These con­crete ways were ul­ti­mately based on his spirit of open­ness, root­ed­ness, and in­clu­sive­ness, pro­gres­sive way of think­ing, moral courage to face the com­mu­nal sit­u­a­tion head-on in a non-vi­o­lent man­ner, and a wide-rang­ing em­pa­thy that ex­tended even to his op­po­nents.

Given our present moment and chal­lenges, Gandhi’s last­ing legacy of in­ter­faith ap­proach may amount to the fol­low­ing con­tem­po­rary im­per­a­tives:

First, har­mony be­tween re­li­gious tra­di­tions should come about not in spite of dif­fer­ences, but be­cause of dif­fer­ences. His in­spir­ing pro­posal to cre­ate strong in­ter­faith re­la­tions un­der­scores the unity of hearts. It would not mean di­lut­ing one’s own views about re­li­gion but safe­guard­ing the unique­ness of one’s own faith while shar­ing value of dif­fer­ences.

Sec­ond, the com­mon­al­ity of prob­lems should be­come the start­ing point of di­a­logue be­tween world re­li­gious tra­di­tions.

Gandhi’s liberating vi­sion in­deed in­spires a di­a­logue of com­mon ac­tion, ral­ly­ing all the po­ten­tial forces of in­sti­tu­tion­alised re­li­gions to strug­gle for a com­mon cause: The elim­i­na­tion of racism, casteism, and the un­just sit­u­a­tion of the world, in­clud­ing man-ma­nip­u­lated hunger, hu­man ex­ploita­tion, wars, crush­ing of mi­nori­ties, abuse of the poor, and so on. Thus, di­a­logue be­tween re­li­gions as­sumes a liv­ing and sec­u­lar char­ac­ter. In our times, we in­deed have shin­ing ex­am­ples in Mar­cus Gar­vey, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nel­son Man­dela for this di­a­logue of life and ac­tion.

And fi­nally, tapas, that is self-suf­fer­ing, should be­come the ul­ti­mate path­way of in­ter­faith har­mony.

It ul­ti­mately boils down to a hard and a painful re­al­i­sa­tion of con­tin­gency. No re­li­gion is self-suf­fi­cient in con­struct­ing the en­tire pic­ture of re­al­ity. Re­li­gions need a mu­tual learning, a mu­tual con­ver­sion, and even a mu­tual fe­cun­da­tion. Af­ter all, it is only in re­ceiv­ing, con­ceiv­ing can take place.


1947: In the first tele­vised White House ad­dress, US Pres­i­dent Harry S Tru­man asks Amer­i­cans to re­frain from eat­ing meat on Tues­days and poul­try on Thurs­days to help stock­pile grain for starv­ing peo­ple in Europe.


1795: Ar­tillery com­manded by Napoleon Bon­a­parte shoots down rebels march­ing against the Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Paris, sav­ing the re­pub­lic. He is soon ap­pointed com­man­der of the army of the in­te­rior.

1796: Spain de­clares war on Bri­tain.

1829: The 21st pres­i­dent of the United States, Ch­ester Alan Arthur, is born in North Fair­field, Ver­mont.

1892: The Dal­ton Gang, no­to­ri­ous for its train rob­beries, is prac­ti­cally wiped out while at­tempt­ing to rob a pair of banks in Cof­feyville, Kansas.

1897: Brazil’s army crushes the rebel forces of mes­sianic leader An­to­nio Con­sel­heiro and razes the com­mu­nist-style set­tle­ment of Canudos in the north-east­ern out­back.

1908: Fer­di­nand I de­clares Bul­garia’s in­de­pen­dence from the Ot­toman Em­pire and as­sumes ti­tle of czar of Bul­garia.

1931: Clyde Pang­born and

Hugh Hern­don com­plete the first non-stop flight across the Pa­cific Ocean, ar­riv­ing in Washington state some 41 hours af­ter leav­ing Ja­pan.

1941: For­mer Supreme Court Jus­tice Louis D Bran­deis, the first Jewish mem­ber of the na­tion’s high­est court, dies in Washington at age 84.

1953: Earl War­ren is sworn in as the 14th chief jus­tice of the United States, suc­ceed­ing Fred M Vin­son.

1954: Bri­tain, United States, Italy and Yu­goslavia agree that Free Ter­ri­tory of Tri­este should be di­vided into Ital­ian and Yu­goslav zones.

1962: The Bea­tles’ first hit, Love Me Do, is re­leased in Bri­tain.

1965: Pak­istan sev­ers diplo­matic re­la­tions with Malaysia on grounds that Malaysia showed par­tial­ity in the In­dian-pak­istani con­flict over Kash­mir.

1969: The Bri­tish TV com­edy pro­gramme Monty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus makes its de­but on BBC 1.

1970: Egypt’s only po­lit­i­cal party names An­war Sa­dat to suc­ceed late Pres­i­dent Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser.

1974: The Irish Repub­li­can Army bombs two pubs in Guild­ford, Sur­rey, England, re­sult­ing in five deaths and dozens of in­juries. (Four men who be­came known as the Guild­ford Four were convicted of the bomb­ings but were ul­ti­mately vin­di­cated.)

1978: US Sec­re­tary of State Cyrus Vance trav­els to South Africa to pro­mote tran­si­tion to black rule in Namibia.

1981: For­mer Swedish diplo­mat Raoul Wal­len­berg is posthu­mously granted hon­orary US cit­i­zen­ship for his hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tions dur­ing World War II.

1983: Lech Walesa, leader of Poland’s Sol­i­dar­ity labour move­ment, is named win­ner of

Nobel Peace Prize.

1984: The space shut­tle Chal­lenger blasts off from the Kennedy Space Cen­ter on an eight-day mis­sion; the crew in­cluded Kathryn D Sul­li­van, who be­comes the first Amer­i­can woman to walk in space, and Marc Garneau, the first Cana­dian as­tro­naut.

1987: South Africa’s Pres­i­dent P W Botha says his Gov­ern­ment plans to per­mit some mul­tira­cial neigh­bour­hoods.

1988: Chileans in a plebiscite turn down a pro­posal to ex­tend Gen­eral Au­gusto Pinochet’s rule un­til 1997. Demo­crat Lloyd Bentsen lam­basts Repub­li­can

Dan Quayle dur­ing their vi­cepres­i­den­tial de­bate, telling

Quayle, “Se­na­tor, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

1989: The Dalai Lama wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

1990: A jury in Cincin­nati ac­quits an art gallery and its di­rec­tor of ob­scen­ity charges stem­ming from an ex­hibit of sex­u­ally graphic pho­to­graphs by the late Robert Map­plethorpe.

1991: Fight­ing erupts be­tween Iraqi sol­diers and Kur­dish guer­ril­las in north­ern Iraq, in the sec­ond out­break of vi­o­lence be­tween the two sides since the with­drawal of US and al­lied forces in July.

1993: China breaks mora­to­rium on nu­clear test­ing.

1994: Forty-eight bod­ies are found in two lo­ca­tions in Switzer­land af­ter a cult’s mass sui­cide-mur­der.

1996: Bos­nia’s three-mem­ber pres­i­dency gets off to a rocky start as the Serb mem­ber re­fuses to at­tend the in­au­gu­ra­tion.

1998: A com­mit­tee of the US Congress votes to rec­om­mend an im­peach­ment in­quiry of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton’s ac­tions in the case in­volv­ing White House in­tern Mon­ica Lewin­sky.

1999: Two packed com­muter trains col­lide near London’s Paddington Sta­tion, killing 31 peo­ple.

2006: Euro­pean Union min­is­ters en­dorse a plan to make per­ma­nent joint pa­trols that pick up mi­grants on the high seas, mov­ing to end in­ter­nal di­vi­sions over deal­ing with a surge of il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion from Africa.

2008: Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W

Bush de­fends his Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s meth­ods of de­tain­ing and ques­tion­ing ter­ror­ism sus­pects, say­ing both were suc­cess­ful and law­ful. Topps Meat Co says it is clos­ing its business, six days af­ter it was forced to is­sue a mas­sive beef re­call. Track star Marion Jones pleads guilty in White Plains, New York, to ly­ing to fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors when she de­nied us­ing per­for­manceen­hanc­ing drugs, and an­nounces her re­tire­ment af­ter the hear­ing.

2010: For­mer French trader Jerome Kerviel is convicted on all counts in his­tory’s big­gest rogue trad­ing scan­dal, sen­tenced to at least three years in prison and or­dered to pay his for­mer em­ployer dam­ages of euro 4.9 bil­lion (US$6.7 bil­lion) — a sum so stag­ger­ing it drew gasps in the court­room.

2011: The New York Po­lice De­part­ment’s in­tel­li­gence squad se­cretly as­signs an un­der­cover of­fi­cer to mon­i­tor a prom­i­nent Mus­lim leader even as he de­cried ter­ror­ism, co­op­er­ated with the po­lice and dined with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Ap­ple founder Steve Jobs, 56, dies in Palo Alto, Cal­i­for­nia.

2013: A month be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the La­bor De­part­ment re­ported that un­em­ploy­ment fell in Septem­ber 2012 to its low­est level, 7.8 per cent, since Pres­i­dent Barack Obama took of­fice; some Repub­li­cans ques­tion whether the num­bers have been ma­nip­u­lated

2017: Por­tu­gal’s for­mer Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nio Guter­res wins the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s unan­i­mous back­ing to be­come the next UN sec­re­tary gen­eral, suc­ceed­ing

Ban Ki-moon. French­man Jeanpierre Sau­vage, Scot­tish-born Fraser Stod­dart and Dutch scientist Bernard “Ben” Feringa win the Nobel Prize in chem­istry for mak­ing de­vices the size of mol­e­cules.


Robert God­dard, US in­ven­tor of mod­ern rocket (1882-1945); Gly­nis Johns, South African-born ac­tress (1923- ); Diane Ci­lento, Aus­tralian ac­tress (1933-2011); Va­clav Havel, Czech politi­cian, play­wright and for­mer dis­si­dent (1936-2011); Bob Geldof, Bri­tish singer (1954-); Kate Winslet, Bri­tish ac­tress (1975-)

 ??  ?? Ma­hatma Gandhi
Ma­hatma Gandhi
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 ??  ?? Pi­o­neer of the per­sonal com­puter rev­o­lu­tion Steve Jobs died on this day in his­tory in 2011.
Pi­o­neer of the per­sonal com­puter rev­o­lu­tion Steve Jobs died on this day in his­tory in 2011.
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