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Interreligious
Understanding

Interreligious Understanding / Reflection

Indian society

Photo by Indiapicture / Alamy Stock Photo

Indian society

Celebration across religions

Friends from different communities celebrating the festival of Holi.

I have no love for bigotry and dogmatism in religion, and I am glad that they are weakening. Nor do I love communalism in any shape or form. I find it difficult to appreciate why political or economic rights should depend on the membership of a religious group or community.

Jawaharlal Nehru

India: a case for unity and harmony

Swami Agnivesh

Perhaps we got it wrong all along that unity and harmony are novelties that we need to invent, rather than the given foundations of life, which we have been systematically violating. Unity is basic to life, and nature is a sphere of harmony. From a superficial point of view, however, diversity may seem contrary to unity. This is mainly a Western prejudice that betrays the philosophical shallowness of the age of science and technology. For all its impressive achievements in the field of human welfare and the mastery of the world around us, the secular-scientific outlook is out of its depth when it comes to grappling with the paradoxical nature of life and reality. It has a tendency to reduce everything to monolithic principles. So it is either 'unity' or 'diversity'.

This has never been the case with the Indian philosophical traditions. Especially with respect to the dynamic of life and nature, it is not "either, or", but "both". Life is not based either on unity or on diversity, but on both. The denial of this eternal truth has yielded enormous social violence and disruption in our context. It is in this light that we need to see religious fundamentalism of all kinds. What characterizes the fundamentalist advocacy is the need to reduce everything to a simplistic interpretation.What dictates this preference is the fact that religious fundamentalism is, essentially, a quest for power rather than the deepening of one's religiosity. Power is allergic to complexity; for simplicity is the pre-condition for the exercise of power over others. This is also why power contains the seed of its own corruption.

All religious traditions, especially of Indian origin, are informed by the insight that creation at all levels involves a dynamic balance between unity and diversity. As a matter of fact, unity is meaningful only within diversity. But for diversity, unity will cease to mean anything at all.

It is time we faced the truth. The quest for unity and harmony in the Indian context cannot make any headway unless we base it on a commitment to social reform. Diversity is our blessing and our wealth. But if the basis of unity is missing, our blessing will turn into our curse. And we shall be weakened by our God-given strength. Let it not be so with us.

I have no love for bigotry and dogmatism in religion, and I am glad that they are weakening. Nor do I love communalism in any shape or form. I find it difficult to appreciate why political or economic rights should depend on the membership of a religious group or community.

Jawaharlal Nehru