Guiding Light: The failure of interreligious dialogues

If we keep on mouthing that ‘all religions are the same’, nobody will really accept it. Publicly people may mechanically state it for the sake of being secular or peace-loving. But nobody really accepts it.

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Friday, June 03, 2022, 08:47 AM IST
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There was a time when people from every religion were interested in having inter-religious and interfaith dialogues. Now, it looks as though most people are giving up because it doesn't seem to work.

The question is Why? I think a very important reason why most interreligious dialogues didn't work was that everyone spoke about all religions being the same, in the interests of peace and harmony. Everyone mechanically repeated - All religions are the same. Heart of heart, no one committed to a particular religion or what we may call a serious follower of the religion ever believes that.

Because religions have differences in their practice, the idea of God, the relationship between the individual and God, the idea of creation and reality, the invocations, the chants, the prayers, the goals, all of them are different. Even in the goals, they are different. Some are heaven going religions, some are Nirvana oriented. So, there is a whole lot of difference from religion to religion.

And if we keep on mouthing that ‘all religions are the same’, nobody will really accept it. Publicly people may mechanically state it for the sake of being secular or peace loving. But nobody really accepts it.

So what is the way out? As a first step, one needs to acknowledge the differences that exist between religions. It's okay to be different. We learn to accept the differences. We can learn to respect all religions as valid forms of relating to Bhagavan or God. Along with this acceptance and respect we can accept and let people be. I don't have to prove myself as superior in converting or vice versa. If this mutual respect is understood and executed, I don't step on your toes nor will you step on mine.

We live and let live. If there are any historical wrongs, at least symbolically, we can correct these with openness on both sides. If this much is done, there is some hope of all religions living together in peace. Otherwise, religious strife will be the order of the day.

(The author is founder, Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com)

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