Name : Amol Kamlakar Bhokre
Qualification : B.M.S. , pursuing MBA at AMSIMR – Aruna Manharlal Shah Institute Of Management and Research, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai , INDIA

India – The Land of Religious Harmony

India has been home for centuries to all great religions of the world. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stated that religious tolerance and the ability to evolve, despite differences, is the basis of India. Swami Vivekananda says that what makes our civilization great is the fact that it is based on the idea of the co-existence of faiths – Sarva Dharma Sambhava. This notion implies that we have equal respect for all Dharmas, for all faiths. Elaborating this idea Swami Vivekananda used the metaphor of many rivers flowing into one mighty ocean. He quoted from an ancient hymn to say:

India is one of the most diverse places in the world geographically, religiously, culturally, and lingually. Religiously, Hinduism, the largest religion in India accounts for 80% of the population;Islam, the second largest religion, accounts for 13% of the population; Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism taken together account for 3% of the population; and Christianity accounts for 2% of the population. Other religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism, have a centuries long history in India.

Freedom of religion in the Indian subcontinent is exemplified by the reign of King Piyadasi (304 B.C to 232 B.C) (Asoka). One of King Asoka’s main concern was to reform governmental institutes and exercise moral principles in his attempt to create a just and humane society. Later, he promoted the principles of Buddhism and the creation of a just, understanding and fair society was held as an important principle for many ancient rulers of this time in the East.
The importance of freedom of worship in India was encapsulated in an inscription of Asoka:
King Piyadasi (Ashok) dear to the Gods, honours all sects, the ascetics (hermits) or those who dwell at home, he honours them with charity and in other ways. But the King, dear to the Gods, attributes less importance to this charity and these honours than to the vow of seeing the reign of virtues, which constitutes the essential part of them. For all these virtues there is a common source, modesty of speech. That is to say, one must not exalt one’s creed discrediting all others, nor must one degrade these others without legitimate reasons. One must, on the contrary, render to other creeds the honour befitting them.
Indian social structure is very pleural in nature. Religious harmony and amity between different cultures in India has been observed.

India is the place of origin of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. So, co-existence has been a part of faith in India. Hinduism, the largest Indian faith by population, is itself pluralistic and polytheist which gives each individual enough space to practice ones faith. Also, Buddha has been considered as one of the incarnations of Vishnu and worshipped by Hindus for years.

Parsis from Iran took shelter in India after they were prosecuted in their native land. Many Jews took shelter in India when they were being prosecuted elsewhere.
Islamic sects like Sufism flourished well in India with Saint Kabir.
In India, atheists also lived peacefully as much as believers of any other religion.
African Siddis have lived and ruled some parts of India with their own faith without being religiously or racially tortured.
Thus even before advent of Christianity and Islam India was multi-religious in nature. Christianity and Islam added more religious traditions to existing Indian traditions. Thus it would be correct to say that India is bewilderingly diverse country in every respect “religious, cultural, ethnic and caste.

There was also tradition of tolerance between religions due to state policies of Ashoka and Akbar. Ashoka’s edicts clearly spell out policy of religious tolerance and Akbar used to hold inter-religious dialogue among followers of different religions and he also followed the policy of tolerance and even withdrew the jizya tax (poll tax on Hindus which was an irritant. Thus both Ashok and Akbar have place of great significance in religious life of India. No doubt they have been designated as “greati.e. They are referred to as Ashoka the Great and Akbar the Great.
Also, India had Sufi and Bhakti traditions in Islam and Hinduism respectively. Both Sufism and Bhakti traditions were based on respect for different religions. The poorer and lower caste Hindus and Muslims were greatly influenced by these traditions. Unlike “ulama and Brahmans the Sufi and Bhakti saints were highly tolerant and open to the truth in other faiths. They never adopted sectarian attitudes and were never involved in power struggles. They kept away from power structures.

Dara Shikoh (with Mian Mir and Mulla Shah)
Dara Shikoh, was heir apparent to Shajahan, the Moghul Emperor but had sufi bent of mind and was also a great scholar of Islam and Hinduism. He wrote a book Majmau Bahrayn (Co-mingling of Two Oceans Islam and Hinduism) and quoting from Hindu and Islamic scriptures showed both religions had similar teachings. The difference was of languages (Arabic and Sanskrit) and not teachings. Thus Dara Shikoh also contributed richly to inter-religious harmony in India.
In India right from the British period main contradiction was not between religious and secular but it was between secular and communal. In the western world main struggle was between church and state and church and civil society but in India neither Hinduism nor Islam had any church-like structure and hence there never was any such struggle between secular and religious power structure.

There are some rationalists and secularists who reject religion in its entirety but such rationalists or secularists are extremely few. Though there are no census figures available but one can safely say they are less than 0.1% in India. Also, there are extremely orthodox people who exhibit rigidity and intolerance towards other faiths though of course not on communal grounds but on the grounds of religious orthodoxy but they too are in miniscule minority. Tolerance in India among people of all religions is widely prevalent. It is perhaps due to influence of ancient Indian doctrine that truth is one but is manifested in different forms, and on the other hand due to the Sufi doctrine of wahdat al-wujud (Real Being is one) that implies that there is only One Real Being and all of us are mere manifestations of that real being.
As the ancient Hindu doctrine leads to inclusiveness and peaceful coexistence so does the Sufi doctrine. For peaceful co-existence another Sufi doctrine of sulh-i-kul i.e. total peace and peace with all is very important. Sufism left deep influence on Hindu masses as much as on Muslim masses.
Thus the real spirit of secularism in India is all inclusiveness, religious pluralism and peaceful co-existence. This is the real Religious harmony in India.

Personal Contributions
The Dalai Lama is the head monk of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Tsongkhapa (1357–1419). The 14th and current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso, recognized since 1950.
The Dalai Lama is traditionally thought to be the successor in a line of tulkus who are considered to be metaphorical manifestations ofAvalokiteśvara. The name is a combination of the Mongolic word dalai meaning “ocean” and the Tibetan word (bla-ma) meaning “guru, teacher, mentor”. The Tibetan word “lama” corresponds to the better known Sanskrit word “guru”.
For certain periods between the 17th century and 1962, the Gelug School managed the Tibetan government, which administered portions of Tibet from Lhasa.

Conferences held to promote Religious Harmony
Swami Vivekananda particiapted in World conference with total positive mind.
living in harmony’meeting organised by the rotary club of secunderabad at the kowtha kamakoti kalyana nilayam sri jayendra saraswati swamiji jagadguru sankaracharya of the kanchi kamakoti peetam urged religious leaders to spread the message of peace, harmony and brotherhood also suggested that the bible, the quran, and the bhagavat gita be compiled into one book and distributed to the people, so that they can read the scriptures and learn about other religions.

“Conquering the human hearts is the real religious harmony” – Yembal Thajammul Mohammad.
The renowned (Islamic) Tamil writer Yembal Thajammul Mohammad is an award winner of Islamic Literary Association for his harmonious works on the bases of Islam.
He wrote and published “Islam Kattum Samaya Nallinakkam (Tamil)” as an authentic work by his research skill on August 1998 as a mark of India’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations of independence. This book was dedicated to non – Muslim brethren. It was well received by the Tamil audience as well as the religious scholars. So it got an immediate success.
Then the English translation of his Tamil original “Religious Harmony – an Islamic Doctrine” was published in millennium 2000. This is the first book in English on religious harmony as envisaged in Islam. It shows through the Holy Quran and Sunnah that Islam never sanctions intolerance and persecutions of other faiths. Thus this book is the right antidote to religious extremism in any form. This book was dedicated in all humility to the great cause of world peace and universal harmony. (This book is an award winner of Islamic Research Centre of Scripture & Culture, Inamkulathur, Trichy)
In September 2005, a research paper on “Quranic View of Other Religions” was presented as lead paper by the author in The All India Seminar on Interpreting the Scriptures, Hermeneutics of Sacred writings organized by The School of Religions, Philosophy & Humanist Thought, Madurai Kamaraj University, under the auspices of DRS – SAP – UCG. Then the research paper published as a book.

So many articles on religious harmony written by the author were published in Tamil magazines and special numbers. His works on this subject became trend-setters in many circles irrespective of religion and being referred widely.
His sincere and serious harmonious works were much appreciated by Arch Bishop M.Arokiasamy, Madurai; Dhavath Thiru Kundrakudi Ponnambala Adigalar ; Dato Sri. Sami Vellu, Minister of Works, Malaysia; Al-Moulvi S. M. Moideen Madani, Representative, Ministry of Islamic Affairs & Guidance, K. S. A; Rev. Father Amudhan Adigal, Prof. K. M. Kadar Mohideen, National Secretary of IUML, Captain N. A. Ameer Ali ; Kavikko Abdul Rahman and many more right thinking scholars.
Before publishing all these books, in 1994, “The Hero as Prophet ( On Heroes and Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History )” by Thomas Carlyle who was a great historian and litterateur – was published in Tamil by the author. This is the very first translation in Tamil. By this, a world classic literature was introduced to the Tamil world with harmonious spirit. The Tamil title of the translation is “Thoodhu Vandha Veerar”.
“Islam and the west” by Prince Charles also translated in the same year by the author in the title of “Islamum Merkku Nadugalum”.

The author is keen about promoting the real religious harmony.
Without religious harmony, we cannot even think a civilized, peaceful world. So we hope that the author like Yembal Thajmmul Mohammad will continue to give many more works as the above mentioned books which will help to further ennoble the minds.