Guiding Light: Religious tolerance or religious co-existence

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Friday, September 23, 2022, 10:21 AM IST
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There is a lot of talk in the media nowadays about how there is lack of religious tolerance, of how polarisation is taking place, of how religion is used for politics. Maybe there is some truth in all of that. Frankly speaking, I don't like the word ‘tolerance’. Tolerance assumes a superior position in that ‘I am tolerating something that is different or inferior to me’. Religious coexistence can happen only if all the religions respect and accept each other as valid forms of worship. There is no one who is superior or inferior. All religions are different from each other with their own methods, their own goals and their differences. It is only when we can respect each other there can be harmony. Even if there is some friction on a given issue, it can be resolved through dialogue. However, this is not a stand acceptable to religions that want to convert. Conversion is based on one’s religion being superior to the other which is inferior, pagan and not civilised at all. This thinking is present in occidental religions. In the process historically, indigenous religions always become handmaidens of colonisation. When there is pushback from indigenous religions that refuse to take conversion or domination any longer, there is bound to be some amount of polarisation, some amount of resistance, some friction. So, then, the accusation of polarisation becomes a tool to negate that pushback from the indigenous religions. That is the heart of the problem. The reality is that we do not respect all religions. All religions are not the same. Religions are different. They may even have different goals. For one the goal is to go to Heaven, for the other it is Nirvana, for another it maybe Moksha. All religions refer to Bhagavan either in one form or many. If we can accept and respect each other as valid forms of relating to the God of your understanding then there can be some religious coexistence, some peace and harmony in society. Otherwise, there will be some friction and problems.

The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com

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