11. RELIGION AND COMMUNIAL UNITY
THERE IS nothing in either religion (Hinduism or Islam) to keep the two (Hindus and Muslims) apart.
I write in the name and for the sake of the heart-unity which I want to see established among the people of this land professing different faiths. In nature, there is a fundamental unity running through all the diversity we see about us. Religions are no exception to the nature law. They are given to mankind so as to accelerate the process of realization of fundamental unity.
As I was studying Christianity, Hinduism and other great faiths of the world, I saw that there was a fundamental unity, moving amidst the endless variety that we see in all religions, viz. truth and innocence.
If religion is allowed to be as it is a personal concern and a matter between God and man, there are many dominating common factors between the two which will compel common life and common action. Religions are not for separating men from one another, they are meant to bind them. It is a misfortunate that, today, they are so distorted that they have become a potent cause of strife and mutual slaughter.
The Master Key
Some principal religions are still extant. After a study of those religions to the extent it was possible for me , I have come to the conclusion that, it if is proper and necessary to discover an underlying unity among all religions a master key is needed. The master key is that to truth and non-violence.
When I unlock the chest of a religion with the master key, I do not find it difficult to discover its likeness with other religions. When you look at these religions as so many leaves of a tree they seem so different, but at the trunk they are one. Unless and until we realize this fundamental unity, wars in the name of religion will not cease. These are not confined to Hindus and Musalmans alone. The pages of world history are soiled with the bloody accounts of these religious wars. Religion can be defended only by the purity of its adherents and their good deeds, never by their quarrels with those of other faith.
No Unnatural Divisions
Religion is a personal matters which should have no place in polities. It is in the unnatural condition of foreign domination that we have unnatural divisions according to religion. Foreign domination going we shall laugh at our folly in having clung to false ideals and slogans.
Should difference in religion, I ask, be sufficient to over-shadow our common humanity? I pray that fundamental commonsense should reassert itself, so that all contrary forces may be overpowered in the end.
ĎIf there is only one God, should there not be only one religion? This is a strange question. Just as a tree has a million leaves, similarly, though, God is one, there are as many religions as there are men and women though they are rooted in one God. We do not see this plain truth because we are followers of different prophets and claim as many religions as there are prophets. As a matter of fact, whilst I believe myself to be a Hindu know that I do not worship God in the same manner as any one or all them.
Equality of Religions
I remind you of the folly of looking upon one religion as better than another
For God fearing men, all religions are good and equal, only the followers of different religions quarrel with one another and thereby deny their respective religions.
One of them gave a striking verse from the Granth Saheb where GuruNanak says that God may be called by the name of Allah, Rahim and so on. The name does not matter if he is enshrined in our hearts. GuruNanakís efforts, like those of Kabir, has been directed towards synthesizing the various religions.
Some go on a pilgrimage and bathe in the sacred river, others go to Mecca, some worship him in temples, others in mosques, some just bow their heads in reverence, some read the Vedas, others the Koran; some dress in blue, others in white; some call themselves Hindus others Muslims. Nanak says that he who truly Godís law knows His secret. This teaching is universal in Hinduism.
Regard for Other Religions
The Key to the solution of the tangle lies in everyone following the best in his own religion and entertaining equal regard for the other religions and their followers.
I got an early grounding in toleration for all branches of Hinduism and sister religions. For, my father and mother would visit the haveli as also Shivaís and Ramís temples, and would take or send us youngsters there. Jain monks also would pay frequent visits to my father, and would even go out their way to accept food from us non jains. They would have talks with my father on subjects religions and mundane.
He had, besides Musalmans and Parsi friends, who would talk to him about their own faiths, and he would listen to them always with respect, and often with interest. Being his nurse, I often had a chance to be present at these talks. These many things combined to inculcate in e a toleration for all faiths.
Hindu-Muslim unity requires the Musalmans to tolerate, not as a virtue of necessity. Not as a policy, but as a part of their religion, the religion of others so long as they, the latter, believe it to be true. Even so is it expected of the Hindus to extend the same tolerance as a matter of faith and religion to the religion of others, no matter how repugnant they may appear to their (the Hindus) sense of religion.
The need of the moment is not one religion, but mutual respect and tolerance of the devotees of the different religions. We want to reach not the dead level, but unity in diversity. Any attempt to root out traditions, effect of heredity, climate and other surroundings is not only bound to fail, but is a sacrilege. The soul of religions is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms. The latter will persist to the end of time. Wise men will ignore the outward crust and see the same soul living under a variety of crusts.
The struggle must be transferred to a change of heart among the Hindus and Musalmans. Before they dare think of freedom, they must be brave enough to love one another, to tolerate one anotherís religion, even prejudices and superstitions, and to trust one another. This requires faith in oneself. And faith in oneself is faith in God. If we have that faith, we shall cease to fear one another.
I should love all the men, one only in India but in the world, belonging to the different faiths, to become better people by contract with one another, and , if that happens, the world will be a much better place to live in than it is today.
I plead for the broadest toleration and I am working to that end. I ask people to examine every religion from the point of view of the religionists themselves. I do not expect the India of my dream to develop one religion, i.e., to be wholly Hindu, or wholly Christian, or wholly Musalman, but I want to be wholly tolerant, with its religions working side by side with one another.
The virtue of tolerance is never strained, especially in matter of religion. Differences of religious opinion will persist to the end of time toleration is the only thing that will enable persons belonging to difference religions to live as good neighbours and friends.
Propaganda of Vilification
No propaganda can be allowed which reviles other religions. For that would be negation of toleration. The best way of dealing with such propaganda is to publicly condemn it.
Abuse and caricature of the Prophet cannot wean a Musalman from his faith, and it can do no good to a Hindu who may have doubts about his own belief. As a contribution, therefore, to the religious propaganda work, it has no value whatsoever. The harm it can do I s oblivious.
Another friend sends me a sheet called Shaitand printed at Public Printing Press, Lahore. It contains untranslatable abuse of Musalmans an aware of similar abuse by Musalman sheets. But that is no answer or justification for the Hindu or the Arya Samaj abuse. I would not have even noticed these prints but for the information given to me that the writings command a fair patronage. The local leaders must find a way stopping these publications or at least discrediting them and distributing clean literature instead, showing tolerance for each otherís faiths.
To revile one anotherís religion, to make reckless statements, to utter untruth, to break the heads of innocent men, to desecrate temples, mosques, is a denial of God.
They (the Musalman writers and speakers) neither enhance their own reputation nor that of the religion they profess by unrest raining abuse of the opponent. They can gain nothing, they cannot serve island by swearing at the Samaj and Samajists.
Religion never suffers by reason of the criticism fair or foul of critics it always suffers from the laxity or indifference of its followers.
If India is not to declare spiritual bankruptcy, religious instruction of its youth must be held at least as necessary as secular instruction true that knowledge of religious books is no equivalent of that of religion. But, if we cannot have religion, we must be satisfied with providing our boys and girls with what is next best.
Everybody must be entitled to retain his or her own religion with interference. All worship the same god although under different name ďIf I see my God in this tree and worship it, why the Muslim should objects?Ē It is wrong for anyone to say that his God is superior to that anotherís. God is one and the same for all.