Hinduism, a model for inter-religious respect

Islamic "Christmas is Evil" poster

Islamic group launched "Christmas is Evil" poster campaign

Just before Christmas an Islamic group in the UK launched a poster campaign. Mr Rumaysah, a spokesman for the group, told the Mail that he was unconcerned about offending Christians. He said: “Christmas is a lie and as Muslims it is our duty to attack it”.

This sort of attitude is seen in fundamentalists followers of all exclusive religions, not just Islam. Showing equal disregard for other faiths, the Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson said “Siva [is] the God of Destruction, and his consort, the Goddess of death [Kali] — that black, ugly statue there with all those fierce eyes”. [This is wrong in almost every way, Saivite Hindus Immanent love and transcendent reality]. He also said that Islam is “…motivated by demonic power. It is Satanic and it’s time we recognize what we’re dealing with”. Not all Christians and Muslims are extreme like this; I have written previously about Muslims and Christians who acted with friendship towards Hindus. The attitude that it is acceptable to insult other faiths is one of the dangers of exclusive religions though, the religions that teach that they have the only right way.

Celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday as Srijayanthi in an Iyengar's house in South India

Celebration of Lord Krishna's birthday

This contrasts with those who follow inclusive religions: Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, Buddhists, and many more.  I am a Saivite Hindu and attend a temple in the UK where most of the other attendees are Vishnavas. I see Shiva as the ultimate God, whereas Vishnavas see Vishnu or one of his avatars as the ultimate God. Vishnavas believe that Shiva is a created demigod, and I believe that Vishnu is just one of the five actions of Shiva, which are creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and revealing. Many Vishnavas see Krishna as the ultimate God, but as a Saivite I don’t believe in full avatars. To people following exclusive religions these might seem like unsurmountable differences, but I and many other Saivites worship next to Vishnavas regularly. I attend Krishna Janmashtami (Krishna’s Birthday) celebrations, and many Vishnavas attend Maha Shivaratri, a Saivite festival. We each observe our beliefs fully, and show complete respect to others. At larger festivals we also have a number of Sikhs who attend and worship alongside us, and they are equally accepting and equally welcome. The key is that Hinduism teaches us that respecting other beliefs does not diminish ours. We all have unique things to bring to God.

There is hope

On a father’s birthday the children may each bring different gifts. One child may think of his father as a working provider and bring a gift connected with work, a calculator for an engineer, a brief case for a businessman. Another might think of his father’s hobbies and bring a golf ball, or maybe some hiking socks. Another might think of his father’s appreciation of art or poetry, maybe writing and performing a song. All are different but all valued. If each child appreciates the gifts of the other then the father will be pleased and there will be harmony in the family. If each child mocks the other gifts and denigrates the other children there will be disharmony and the father will not be happy or able to fully appreciate the gifts.

It is the same true of the Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, the family of the whole world. We should all appreciate and respect other faiths, not denigrate and insult them. This is the only way that we can live in harmony, and one of the valuable lessons that Hinduism demonstrates to people of all faiths. It might be difficult for some followers of the exclusive faiths, but I do see signs that tolerance is becoming more accepted than trading insults . There is hope.

Images: Poster image used under public interest. Krishna Janmashtami picture from Wikimedia. Multifaith gravestone from flicr under creative commons license, work of “gruntzooki’s photostream“.

5 responses to “Hinduism, a model for inter-religious respect

  1. A very timely post,Tandava. You have also brought out what is happening in todays world very eloquently with your analogy. Very apt. Happy New Year 2011 To you and your Family.Of course , I will wish you again in Mid April for the Hindu New Year:-D

  2. If only.
    If only this was the way Hindus practiced in India itself – surely India would be a much different place.


    Amen to respecting the beliefs of others and equality among God’s children.

  3. Pingback: Has “multiculturalism failed”? What this means for Hindus. | Western Hindu

  4. santosh d gondkar

    From Santosh
    I am a devout Hindu and yet when I read the blogs over here I feel ashamed that I know so little about Hinduism. My parents (who are very much more Hindu than I am) had always told me that every religion states the same thing – ” Don’t do evil to anyone, Don’t even think evil about anyone even in your Mind. ” This is the zest of every religion known to mankind till date.
    About Vaishnavas and Shivites dichotomy I have read in Bhagvat that Shiva is the greatest Vaishnav in this Universe and Vishnu is the greatest Shivaite in the Universe. They can’ t be differentiated. I always (mark my words) always feel overwhelmed whenever I think of Lord Shiva. He is flawless and yet he is gullible to his Bhaktas (followers). That’s the reason why Shiva is also called Bholanath.
    Vishnu is famous for this caring of his Bhaktas(followers).
    I think every religion is Great! God loves everyone and he demands just pure love in return from everyone. I think I am blessed to have such parents and Gurudev.
    Shree Ram.

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