Sunday, November 1, 1998
By Virendar Mohan Trehan
IT was in 52 AD that Christianity reached India more than a 100 years before it travelled across Europe. St. Thomas the Apostle is said to have preached the gospel, over 19 centuries ago, in Kerala. The initial establishment of Christianity in India and its establishment on the main land did not occur as a result of military conquest or threat of war. Christianity was given a place by virtue of attitude do accommodation and coexistence which is imbedded in the Indian culture and a part of its heritage. This accommodation was not given only by the ruling king but also the main religious authority prevailing at that time.
Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma former President of India, in his address at Visva Bharati Santiniketan, on the subject of "Secularism in the Indian Ethos" on April 29, 1989 said: "Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism brought with them spiritual and humanistic thought harmonious and, in fact, identical to the core ideas of the established religious thought in India as exemplified by the basic beliefs of Vedic, Vedantic, Buddhist and Jain philosophy. Christian virtues of love and reciprocity of goodwill among human beings (the doctrine of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you), proclaimed and propagated an ideal which mainland religions also held as basic".
Christianity, therefore, was not thruste on India or Indians. It was accommodated and accepted by some of the Indians as a way of life. There was a natural love in Christianity, which spread the light of Jesus Christ who has suffered crucifixion for humanitys sake. Christ had been known to have thrust aside ritualism and superstition. Christian teachings were regarded with the same veneration as accorded to the teachings of great reformist souls in India.
The early entrance of Christianity in India was thus peacefully accepted, supported and ascribed to, not only out of a spirit of co-existence, but with a certain sense of identification, with our own religious fervor and religious renaissance. In fact secular ethos in India was enriched, renewed and reiterated in this way.
We should take the Vedantic approach of harmonious pluralism invoked by the great acharyas, who based their expositions on what they regarded to be the synthesis between the Upanishads, the Brahmasutras and the Bhagvadagita. The great Shankaracharyas establishment of the four maths in the four different corners of the country has demonstrated recognition of the equality of human beings. Saints have always advocated objectivity which has been the core of our religion and cultural heritage!
Under the democratic set up like ours, there cannot be any short-term solution to such problems. Whatever problems we are facing, we have to devise a long-term solution. The one solution which is clear is that we have to educate our people on the essential unity of all religions! Why I say the word "Essential" because unless and until there is commonality in the ideas of every Indian to meet the common aim and to understand that is the only aim which will keep us together, it would be difficult to keep on harping on one-ism, or the other-ism.
We always claim that we have a great cultural and traditional heritage. But how much do we know about it? The recorded history has one clear lesson to teach that "freedom cannot last unless it is coupled with order". Discipline is unavoidable.
Nani A Palkhivala, recipient of the first National Amity Award from the Foundation for Amity and National Solidarity on December 23, 1994 in his address, said "Order can exist without freedom, but freedom can never exist without order. Liberty without accountability is the freedom of the fool. That freedom and order may co-exist, it is essential that freedom should be exercised under authority and order should be enforced by authority".
Dr K.M. Munshi said in his monumental book "Pilgrimage to Freedom" "Indian culture is not merely Aryan culture but very much more, though the latter glistens like a thread of gold through many and varied elements which now go to make up our way of life. We cannot repudiate the Gandhara art because of Greek influence. We cannot disown the Taj Mahal because of its Islamic inspiration. We cannot reject the art, the manners, the institutions which Hindu-Muslim adjustments have given birth to. We cannot even throw off the western influences and institutions which have grown into our life".
National integration is born and lives in the hearts of the citizens. When it dies there, no army, no government, no constitution, can save it.
Hinduism as preached by its greatest exponents aims at universal harmony and goodwill.
Rig Vedas philosophical approach of understanding of living together and tolerance has been the very spirit of our ancient thought.
Behave with others as you would with yourself. Look upon all the living beings as your friends, for in all of them there resides one soul. All are but a part of that universal soul. A person who believes that all are his soulmates and loves them all alike, never feels lonely. Divine qualities of such a person such as forgiveness, compassion and services, will make him lovable in the eyes of his associates. He will experience intense joy throughout his life".
Whosoever and whichever
party rules the nation, it is the right of every citizen
to follow his own religion, and so far it does not hurt
any other human being, the government is bound to ensure
protection to the people.
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