Sushma Hiralal Maurya – Graduation (BMS) , Perusing MBA at Thakur Institute of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

To begin with, let me put a question! What is religious harmony? This question can be answered in two parts, first- Religion is a great force – the only real motive force in the world’. Religion stands for an integral development of the personality, a comprehensive view of life. Second, harmony- Harmony is a precondition for peace, and peace opens the door to joy.

Today many religions like Buddhism , Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and many other religions, faiths and believes are being followed by millions of people around the world. At various point in time, many prophets, saints and religious leaders like Gautam Buddha , Jesus Christ, Shri Ram , Shri Krishna, Hazrat Mohhamad, Mahavir Swami, Abraham, Moses, Guru Nanak Dev, Zarathruth and many others have come on this world to teach us the true meaning of religion and guided us to live a noble life. Various holy books like Pitakas, Bible, Gita, Ramayana, Vedas, Upnisads, Quran, Kalpa Sutra, torah, GuruGranth Sahib, Avesta and many other religious texts inspire us to keep away from evil and live a path of good deeds.

But a closer look at the history of the world teaches us that the religion has been misused by many people for their own vested interest. These people divide the society in name of religion, caste and creed for their own vested interest. Religious intolerance in the society has created many problems– millions of people have been killed in riots; many people are discriminated every day because of their religion; many nations have been divided on the religious lines and created discord in the world.

Religions of the world have contributed to the loss of social harmony, often because there are simply so many of them and they seem at variance with one another. The distrust and conflict between religions is sad and strange. Considering the fact that all religions deal with the same basic human problems, we would expect the world’s religions to be in the forefront of promoting harmony–not only among themselves but also at every level of society. Sometimes religions do work together to promote harmony, but the harmony that is achieved is too fragile to withstand disruptive social forces. The oldest religious sentiment ever expressed is perhaps the statement on religious harmony found in the ancient Vedas: Ekam sat, vipra bahudha vadanti, “Truth is one; sages call It by various names.”

The same sentiment has since then echoed and reechoed in the corridors of time, amplified by enlightened persons of different religions in different parts of the world. As the pagan Roman thinker Quintus Aurelius Symmachus said to St. Ambrose, the dogmatic bishop of Milan: “The heart of so great a mystery cannot ever be reached by following one road only.” Ibn ‘Arabi, the great Sufi mystic of thirteenth-century Spain, wrote this in his book Tarjuman al- shwaq (“The Interpretation of Divine Love”):

My heart is capable of every form,
A cloister of the monk, a temple for idols,
The tables of Torah, the Koran. Love is the creed I hold:
wherever turn His camels, love is still my creed and faith.

Yet despite these broad, universal sentiments expressed by enlightened beings from different religious traditions, the simple but tragic truth is that humanity as a whole has not yet come to terms with religious plurality. Faith traditions other than one’s own are frequently seen as threats. Religious differences still rankle and continue to produce disharmony, misunderstanding, and mutual distrust.

Therefore, Religious harmony is a must in 21st Century. People fighting on the name of religion should be made understand that eligion must be studied on a broader basis than formerly. All narrow, limited, fighting ideas of religion have to go. All sect ideas and tribal or national ideas of religion must be given up. That each tribe or nation should have its own particular God, and think that every other is wrong, is a superstition that should belong to the past. All such ideas must be abandoned.

Religious harmony holds the key to a peaceful and progressive world. Religious harmony is the need of the hour because we are the children of the same God. The holy books of various religions are filled with divine knowledge; if we are religiously tolerant and study these holy books and practice in our daily life then our world can be a lot better. Our world is a diverse one where people of different religion are spread across many nations – a religious group many be in majority in some areas and minority in other area. Religious harmony is important to ensure the safety of people in the diverse society.

To attain religious harmony we should follow and understand the three principles:

(1) All religions have the same ultimate purpose, namely, transcendence; everything else is secondary. Stripped of all theological trappings, every religion aims to transcend human limitations to contact the reality beyond.

(2) There is only one transcendent, ultimate reality which is known by various names, which may be perceived as having various attributes, and which manifests in various forms or as formless.

(3) The ultimate Reality can be attained through various ways developed by the world religions. Every religion has the inherent power to take its followers to the supreme consummation of human life.

In practical terms, these three principles mean that the world’s religions are not contradictory or antagonistic to one another but complementary. No one need change one’s religion for another or persuade others to change their religion for one’s own. Every religion is equally true and authentic.

Saying that all religions are equally true and authentic does not, of course, mean that “all religions are the same” or that “differences are merely superficial.” Every religion has a bent, a characteristic feature, a unique trait. For instance, the dominant characteristic of Islam is its spirit of equality and brotherhood; of Judaism–its emphasis on tradition and the importance of family; of Christianity–the love and sacrifice exemplified by Christ; of Buddhism–its stress on renunciation, compassion, and rationality; of Hinduism–its principle of the basic unity of the universe in consciousness, its insistence on the need for direct mystical experience, and its spirit of acceptance of views different from its own.

At the same time, saying that every religion has its own uniqueness does not mean that religions have nothing to share with one another. There are a great many things to share and learn, and if we really put our minds to this, we shall find that the religions of the world have a lot more in common than we suspect.

In spite of the diversity and the differences, no one can deny that religions do share certain common characteristics such as concern for the existential problems of humanity, transcendence, ultimacy, holiness, fellowship, and the symbolic expression of inner experience. The harmonious approach consists in recognizing this common ground and enriching our own spiritual life by absorbing the best elements of other religions while remaining steadfast in our own.

Ramakrishna, a nineteenth-century Indian saint, is perhaps the best-known symbol of the harmonious approach. Both through his life and teachings he showed that it is possible to remain faithful to one’s own faith while opening one’s heart to the inspiration that comes from other faiths. It is possible to be aware of the harmony underlying all religions but maintain a special relationship with one’s own.

What we need today is a conscious effort to see the thread connecting all religions, forming a beautiful garland adorning the Supreme Being, who is neither a Christian, nor a Jew, nor a Muslim, nor a Buddhist, nor a Hindu, nor belonging to any religion whatsoever. All belong to Him, but He transcends all.

Let’s work together to create religious harmony in our world by knowing and practicing our own religion ; respecting other religions ; integrating closely with the people of different faith and believes , not interfering in the religious matter of other people .

We all should follow the concept of Vasudaivkutumbam which means that “all men should shun envy and malic and should live life with mutual love and affection and thus build an ideal society.”

Religious Harmony holds center stage for the peace and prosperity in our multi-religious and multi-cultural world. Let’s pledge to love and respect everyone in the world irrespective of one’s religion, cast, creed, sect, colour, ethnicity, language, gender, nationality and any other difference. When the spirit of religious harmony animates our soul and the awareness of the Religion beyond religions pervades our consciousness, life will hold a new, richer meaning for us. Let’s pledge to work towards bringing Religious Harmony and co-creating a peaceful and prosperous world.