By Milind Sathye
very foundation of Hinduism is the principle of unity in diversity.
This principle of unity in diversity binds India together, despite the
fact that it’s a huge country with a huge population and with diversity of
physical features, races, languages and religions. The population of India
comprises of six main ethnic groups namely, the Negrito, Proto-austroloids,
Mongoloids, Mediterranean or Dravidian, Western brachycephals and the Nordic
Aryans. India has as many as 1652
languages and dialects. The
constitution recognises 15 major languages.
The major religions of India are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism,
Jainism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. The Indian attitude towards all living
things grows out of the Hindu view of the unity or oneness of all life. Majority
of Indians are Hindus. Hinduism , the scholars say, is not a religion but a way
of life. Hinduism respects the right of all living beings to live. This right is
brought into practice through the principle of non-violence in thought and
non-violence in action. Hinduism
therefore shuns all kinds of aggression. Mahatma
Gandhi, voted as the man of the century by USA Today, was a living example of
this Hindu thought.
Diversity in The Hindu Thought
Hindu view of oneness of all life flows from every Hindu Scripture. It must be
clarified that Hinduism does not have a founder or a prophet and hence Hindu
Scriptures are a collection of the wisdom of many great thinkers of the Indus
valley, evolved over thousands of years. The important among these are:
Vedas and the Upanishads: The
oldest of the Vedas, the Rig-Veda, begins with a prayer
that let noble thoughts come to us from all sides. Upanishads which form
part of the Vedas are the real foundations of Hinduism. Upanishads proclaim that the universal spirit resides in all
being, whatever be their form (Ishavasyam
eedam sarvam). “The Ultimate Truth or Knowledge” means the realisation
that these outer appearances or forms are deceptive and that in essence all
living beings are one and interconnected with each other. Ignorance (maya)
may prevent one from realising this fact. Schopenhauer, the 19th
Century German philosopher, remarked ‘In the whole world there is no study so
beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishad…The study of Upanishad
has been the solace of my life and it will be the solace of my death’.
Ramayan and Mahabharat:
These two great epics of India also extol the virtues of universal brotherhood
and compassion not only towards fellow human beings but towards all living
beings. The Mahabharata
contains Bhagwad Gita (the song
celestial) which is the gospel of philosophic Hinduism. It is like a manual for
human conduct to dispel Maya
(ignorance) and realise the Ultimate Truth, which is the oneness of all Beings.
and Diversity in the Hindu practice
thoughts are brought in to practice by Hinduism in several ways.
Notable among these are:
tolerance but fellowship:
As the great Hindu scholar Vivekanand said ‘tolerance is blasphemy. It
connotes superiority over the one who is tolerated’. Hinduism believes in
fellowship, equality, togetherness or acceptance and not tolerance.
Through out the ages, Hinduism has abjured exclusiveness and has
assimilated the elements of several extraneous cultures.
am OK, you are OK:
Instead of taking a judgemental attitude that says I am OK,
you are not OK, Hinduism accepts and respects all religions. The temples
constructed by the Ramakrishna Mission wherever in the world have symbols of all
the religions of the world depicted on it signifying the respect of Hinduism for
not for differences look for similarities: The Hindu view that there is a single life force that exhibits itself in
many forms, insects, animals, trees, and humans (of all hues and colour) tells
that the focus needs to be shifted from picking difference to identifying
similarities. Those who have seen ABC’s documentary on Zubin Mehta televised
on Sunday 1st April 2001 would have heard him say that ‘it is my
Indian heritage that taught me how to co-exist and create a great symphony.’
‘divide and rule’ but unite and progress:
The Hindu view is non-aggressive or non-threatening in all walks of life.
Hence the people of Indus valley have never harboured territorial
ambitions. The Hindu practice of
‘yoga’ is very popular in western countries.
The word “yoga’ literally means ‘union’ or ‘togetherness’.
can thus be seen that the people of Indus valley advocated inclusiveness and the
oneness of all living beings many thousand years ago.
Unity in diversity was operationlised by the Hindu’s through advocating
and practicing of non-violence.
every Hindu home just before dinner the following Sanskrit prayer is said which
sums up so beautifully the Hindu view towards all living beings.
Sahanvavatu, Sahanaubhunaktu, Sahaviryam Karvavahai
let us think together, let us act together, let us be victorious together
For we all belong to that great light, where there is no place for hatred).
Aiyar C. P. R. (1967) Unity in Diversity and Tolerance, in Readings
in Indian History Politics and Philosophy (ed.) K. Satchidanand Murthy,
George, Allen and Unwin London.
Fisher, M.P. (1997) Hinduism, in An
Enclypedia of the World’s Faiths: Living Religions, Tauris, London.
Holmes, F. R. (1975) Indian
Thought, India: Focus on Change,
Prentice_Hall Inc, New Jersy.
Rao, P. Raghunadha. (1988) Indian
Heritage and Culture, Sterling Publishers, Rohtak.
Radhakrishnan, S. (1937) Hinduism, in The Legacy of India (ed.) G. T. Garratt, Oxford University Press,
at the Multicultural Queensland Conference, Toowoomba held in April 2001)