Guiding Light: The religion of humanity

Our way of life emphasizes the truth that all Humanity is one and that we must respect all faiths and cultures. Religious, linguistic, cultural diversity is a reality in the daily lives of all urban centers in the world today. It is only our faith in our shared humanity that will enable us to live in peaceful coexistence under such conditions of diversity.

In the Ramayana, there is a beautiful incident of Vibeeshana Saranagati; it happens when Sri Rama and the Vanara Council are actually discussing the strategy to take on the mighty Ravana and defeat him. At this point, Vibeeshana sends his trusted emissaries to tell Sri Rama that he has come to take refuge with him.

The Lord in his mind; He knows what He must do. Yet He consults his Generals, the Vanara King, Sugreeva and leaders like Jambvhavan, Angada and Hanuman.

Sugreeva and his ministers look at the issue rationally. It is the eve of their do-or-die war; here is someone from the enemy camp, in fact, the younger brother of their arch foe; how can a person be given refuge— what we call in modern terms, political asylum? Promptly they warn Sri Rama that Vibeeshana must not be trusted. It is not just that he must be turned away, but captured and kept in confinement.

Hanuman has a different approach."Ravana is a rakshasa and has demonic traits". Hanuman tells Sri Rama. "But so far as I could see, Vibeeshana's nature was inherently dharmic."

Having heard everyone's views, Sri Rama tells them, "It does not matter whether it is friend or foe, stranger or acquaintance; it is my duty to offer refuge to anyone who comes to me for asylum." In certain versions of the Ramayana, the Lord adds: "Even if it had been Ravana who had come to me for refuge, I would have forgiven him and accepted him."

Notions of enemy, stranger, alien and others are unacceptable to the Lord! Vibeeshana falls at Sri Rama's feet with tears flowing from his eyes. Sri Rama embraces him and proclaims that Vibeeshana will be the King of Lanka. In fact, then and there at the Ram Setu sea shore, the Lord performs the coronation of Vibeeshana as the King of Lanka.

(Dada J.P. Vaswani is humanitarian, philosopher, educator, acclaimed writer, powerful orator, messiah of ahimsa, and non-sectarian spiritual leader.)

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