Name: Saiprasad Arugonda
Qualification: B.M.S. , pursuing MBA at AMSIMR – Aruna Manharlal Shah Institute Of Management and Research, Ghatkopar West, Mumbai , INDIA
India – Religious Harmony
India is a country which is popularly named as Bharat, officially known as Republic of India. India is a country which is filled by approximately 1.2 billion people by various religious people. It’s covered by 3,287,590 km2, water 9.6%, It’s a country in south Asia and 7th largest country by area. Bounded by the Indian Oceanon the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
The culture of India is one of the oldest and unique. In India, there is amazing cultural diversity throughout the country. The South, North, and Northeast have their own distinct cultures and almost every state has carved out its own cultural niche. There is hardly any culture in the world that is as varied and unique as India. India is a vast country, having variety of geographical features and climatic conditions. India is home to some of the most ancient civilizations, including four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
Hinduism’s early history is the subject of much debate for a number of reasons. Firstly, in a strict sense there was no ‘Hinduism’ before modern times, although the sources of Hindu traditions are very ancient. Secondly, Hinduism is not a single religion but embraces many traditions. Thirdly, Hinduism has no definite starting point. The traditions which flow into Hinduism may go back several thousand years and some practitioners claim that the Hindu revelation is eternal. Although there is an emphasis on personal spirituality, Hinduism’s history is closely linked with social and political developments, such as the rise and fall of different kingdoms and empires. The early history of Hinduism is difficult to date and Hindus themselves tend to be more concerned with the substance of a story or text rather than its date.
Hindus in general believe that time is cyclical, much like the four seasons, and eternal rather than linear and bounded. Texts refer to successive ages (yuga), designated respectively as golden, silver, copper and iron. During the golden age people were pious and adhered to dharma (law, duty, truth) but its power diminishes over time until it has to be reinvigorated through divine intervention. With each successive age, good qualities diminish, until we reach the current iron or Dark Age (kali yuga) marked by cruelty, hypocrisy, materialism and so on. Such ideas challenge the widespread, linear view that humans are inevitably progressing. The term ‘Hindu’ was derived from the river or river complex of the northwest, the Sindhu. Sindhu is a Sanskrit word used by the inhabitants of the region, the Aryans in the second millennium BCE. Later migrants and invaders, the Persians in the sixth century BCE, the Greeks from the 4th century BCE, and the Muslims from the 8th century CE, used the name of this river in their own languages for the land and its people.
In Hinduism, “Shrimadh Bhagawad Geeta” & “Ramayana” are holy books. Hindu worship, or puja, involves images (murtis), prayers (mantras) and diagrams of the universe (yantras). Central to Hindu worship is the image, or icon, which can be worshipped either at home or in the temple.
The founder of Buddhism was Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in India some two and a half thousand years ago. Since then millions of people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he revealed. The Buddhist way of life of peace, loving kindness and wisdom is just as relevant today as it was in ancient India. Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness. These methods work for anyone, in any country, in any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the same benefits.
The history of Buddhism is the story of one man’s spiritual journey to Enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it. One day, after growing up, marrying and having a child, Siddhartha went outside the royal enclosure where he lived. When he went outside he saw, each for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse. This greatly disturbed him, and he learned that sickness, age, and death were the inevitable fate of human beings – a fate no-one could avoid. Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the sixth century BC. There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible. The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. These states are called the tilakhana, or the three signs of existence. Existence is endless because individuals are reincarnated over and over again, experiencing suffering throughout many lives. It is impermanent because no state, good or bad, lasts forever. Our mistaken belief that things can last is a chief cause of suffering.
There are as many forms of Buddhist worship as there are schools of Buddhism – and there are many of those. Worship in Mahayana tradition takes the form of devotion to Buddha and to Bodhisattvas. Worshippers may sit on the floor barefoot facing an image of Buddha and chanting. They will listen to monks chanting from religious texts, perhaps accompanied by instruments, and take part in prayers.
Buddhists will often set aside a room or a part of a room as a shrine. There will be a statue of Buddha, candles, and an incense burner.
Buddhist temples come in many shapes. Perhaps the best known are the pagodas of China and Japan.
Another typical Buddhist building is the Stupa, which is a stone structure built over what are thought to be relics of the Buddha, or over copies of the Buddha’s teachings.
Buddhist temples are designed to symbolize the five elements:
• Fire, water
• Earth, symbolized by the square base
Muslims believe that Islam is a faith that has always existed and that it was gradually revealed to humanity by a number of prophets, but the final and complete revelation of the faith was made through the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE.Muhammad was born in Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 570. He was a deeply spiritual man, and often spent time in meditation on Mount Hira. The traditional story of the Qur’an tells how one night in 610 he was meditating in a cave on the mountain when he was visited by the angel Jibreel who ordered him to recite. Once Jibreel mentioned the name of Allah, Muhammad began to recitewords which he came to believe were the words of God. The term “Islamic culture” could be used to mean aspects of culture that pertain to the religion, such as festivals and dress code. It is also commonly used to denote the cultural aspects of traditionally Muslim people. Finally, “Islamic civilization” may also refer to the aspects of the synthesized culture of the early Caliphates, including that of non-Muslims, sometimes referred to as ‘Islamic ate’.
• Muslims believe that Islam was revealed over 1400 years ago in Mecca, Arabia.
• Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
• Muslims believe that there is only One God.
• The Arabic word for God is Allah.
• According to Muslims, God sent a number of prophets to mankind to teach them how to live according to His law.
• Jesus, Moses and Abraham are respected as prophets of God.
• They believe that the final Prophet was Muhammad.
Muslims have six main beliefs.
• Belief in Allah as the one and only God
• Belief in angels
• Belief in the holy books
• Belief in the Prophets…
• e.g. Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), Isa(Jesus).
• Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final prophet.
• Quran is the holy book
Christianity is the most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion adherents. 42 million Britons see themselves as nominally Christian, and there are 6 million who are actively practising. Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Bibal is the holy book of Christians.
• Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
• Christians believe that God sent his Son to earth to save humanity from the consequences of its sins.
• One of the most important concepts in Christianity is that of Jesus giving his life on the Cross (the Crucifixion) and rising from the dead on the third day (the Resurrection).
• Christians believe that there is only one God, but that there are three elements to this one God:
• God the Father
• God the Son
• The Holy Spirit
• Christians worship in churches.
• Their spiritual leaders are called priests or ministers.
• The Christian holy book is the Bible, and consists of the Old and New Testaments.
• Christian holy days such as Easter and Christmas are important milestones in the Western secular calendar.
Jainism doesn’t have a single founder. The truth has been revealed at different times by a tirthankara, which means a teacher who ‘makes a ford’ i.e. shows the way. Other religions call such a person a ‘prophet’. As great omniscient teachers, Tirthankaras accomplished the highest spiritual goal of existence and then teach others how to achieve it. In what Jains call the ‘present age’ there have been 24 tirthankaras – although there is little evidence for the existence of most of these. A Tirthankar is not an incarnation of the God. He is an ordinary soul that is born as a human and attains the states of a Tirthankar as a result of intense practices of penance, equanimity and meditation. As such, the Tirthankar is not defined as an Avatar (god-incarnate) but is the ultimate pure developed state of the soul. Tirthankaras were not founders of any religion, but great omniscient teachers who lived at various times in man’s cultural history. They accomplished the highest spiritual goal of existence and then taught their contemporaries the way to reach it by crossing over to the safe shores of spiritual purity. Each new tirthankara preaches the same basic Jain philosophy, but they give the Jain way of life subtly different forms in order to suit the age and the culture in which they teach.
Jains try to carry out certain spiritual acts every day. These are:
• honoring the tirthankaras
• paying respect to monks
• repenting for sins
• self-control through sitting meditation for 48 minutes
• going without something pleasurable temple visit for worship and hearing teaching
• care for others
• greetings and donations to monks and nuns
• care for people in need
• prayer before lunch
• eat last meal of day before darkness falls
• temple visit for worship (these visits are often replaced by ceremonies in the home)
• Pratikramana – repentance for harm done during the day
• reading of scriptures
Sikhism was born in the Punjab area of South Asia, which now falls into the present day states of India and Pakistan. The main religions of the area at the time were Hinduism and Islam. The Sikh faith began around 1500 CE, when Guru Nanak began teaching a faith that was quite distinct from Hinduism and Islam. Nine Gurus followed Nanak and developed the Sikh faith and community over the next centuries. Sikhism was well established by the time of Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru. Guru Arjan completed the establishment of Amritsar as the capital of the Sikh world, and compiled the first authorised book of Sikh scripture, the Adi Granth. However, during Arjan’s time Sikhism was seen as a threat by the state and Guru Arjan was eventually executed for his faith in 1606. The sixth Guru, Hargobind, started to militarise the community so that they would be able to resist any oppression. The Sikhs fought a number of battles to preserve their faith. The Sikhs then lived in relative peace with the political rulers until the time of the Moghal Emperor, Aurangzeb, who used force to make his subjects accept Islam. Aurangzeb had the ninth Guru, Tegh Bahadur, arrested and executed in 1675.
• There is only one God
• God is without form, or gender
• Everyone has direct access to God
• Everyone is equal before God
• A good life is lived as part of a community, by living honestly and caring for others
• Empty religious rituals and superstitions have no value