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Why are there so many Religions? by Understanding Hinduism

An essay in four parts:

1. An essay on Inter-religious Attitude

2. Why are there so many Religions?

3. Where do religions agree and disagree?

4. What is the universal religion?



 

 

By Swami Nikhilananda
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Centre, New York

 

 

 

Different religions are differing forces in the economy of God; all working for the good of mankind; as we cannot destroy any force in nature, so we cannot destroy any of these spiritual forces. Different faiths are necessary to suit the diversity of human temperaments. Some men are emotional, some rational, some introspective, some active; again, there are those who wish to contemplate an abstract ideal, and those who wish to worship through concrete symbols. If there were only one religious discipline, there would be no hope for those who did not respond to it. Hence it is fortunate that there are many religions instead of only one, as many would prefer to have it. The greater the number of religions, the more chances people will have to satisfy their spiritual hunger.

 

If there are different restaurants in a city, everyone will have an opportunity to choose the food that is most suited to his taste and requirement. People can get the same nourishment from rice, bread, or potatoes; the same illumination comes from lamps of different shapes, and the same white milk from cows of different colours. Religion will not have fulfilled its mission until every man has evolved his own religion, revealing to him his unique relationship with its Creator. If only one religion remained in the world, religion would be dead; variation is the sign of life, and always will be. Thinking beings must differ; difference is the first sign of thought. A thoughtful person prefers to live among other thoughtful persons, for the clash of thought stimulates new thinking. The very fact that all the great religions have survived till today proves that their utility is not gone. The religions of the world are not really contradictory or antagonistic; they are complementary. There is, in fact, no such thing as your religion or my religion, your national religion or my national religion; there is only one universal religion, of which all the so-called different faiths are but different manifestations. God is often described in Hinduism as the wish-reflecting gem. In Him everyone finds a reflection of his own ideal of truth, goodness, and beauty.

 

The different religions emphasize different facets of the supreme reality. Islam, perhaps more than any other religion, stands for the brotherhood of men among its own devotees. With the Moslems there are no social distinctions. It is inspiring to read about the pilgrimage of the Moslems to Mecca. There hundreds of thousands of the faithful discard their differing dress, whether of prince, ordinary citizen, or beggar, put on the seamless white garment which makes the chieftain indistinguishable from the shepherd, and proceed to the holy shrine to declare their surrender to almighty Allah. Before God all Moslems are equal.

 

With the Christians the central idea is: ‘Watch and pray, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ – which means, purify your minds and be ready for the coming of the Lord. And one cannot but admire the love of God, which innumerable Christians show through love of men, to whose service they devote their time, energy, and material resources. The idea of ‘sharing’ is perhaps the most striking feature of Christianity in practice.

 

Judaism has clung to the idea of God’s power and justice, and the Jewish people with dauntless patience have faced the ordeals and sufferings through which they have passed for two thousand years without losing their faith in God’s power and justice.

 

Buddhism teaches how to attain peace through renunciation and service. In these days of selfishness and competition, it is a joy to see Buddhist monk serving people with infinite love and infinite compassion, as taught by their prophet.

 

Hinduism makes the realization of God, who is both within and without, the central fact of life. Thousands of Hindus are willing, even today, to renounce everything- including the world itself- to experience the reality of God.

 

Thus the different religions are like different photographs of the same building from different angles; but all of them are genuine pictures. Though people with vessels of different sizes go to a lake and carry away water, which takes the form of the vessels, it is all the authentic water of the lake. And after all the vessels have been filled, the lake still appears to contain the same amount of water. None can exhaust the infinite power, beauty, love, and goodness of God.

 

 

 


 

 

An essay in four parts:

 

1. An essay on Inter-religious Attitude

2. Why are there so many Religions?

3. Where do religions agree and disagree?

4. What is the universal religion?

 

 

 

 

 

Published with the kind permission of www.hinduism.co.za.

 

Their ‘Understanding Hinduism’ website is an award winning site featuring a whole host of various articles promoting Hinduism. It truly is a wonderful, thoughtful and thought provoking work and a true beacon for the promotion of Hinduism and Vedic culture in the world today.

 

Please visit their enlightening website at www.hinduism.co.za.

 

Copyright reserved by the author.

 

 

For more information, please visit this articles web page.
This article was published on Thursday 28 May, 2009.
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