Tolerance of diversity is the foundation for a successful democracy. Discriminatory mindset and imposition of any particular ideology are the greatest threats to any democratic society. The Christian West devised the idea of ‘Secularism’ precisely to get rid of these hurdles. In contrast, the Islamic world remains ever obsessed with the outdated theocratic dictatorship under sharia jurisdiction. However, the Hindu dominated India manages its ultra-diverse society on the strength of its unique Hindu culture where tolerance for diversity is a way of life!
When the colonial British were leaving India after gifting Pakistan to Muslims, they were convinced that India, a conglomerate of 565 princely States, would never stay united as one nation for long; it would fragment into several pieces within years. Most Western leaders shared this opinion. Clearly, the myriad diversity – lingual, cultural, traditional, and geographical – was beyond their rational comprehension shaped by the monotheist Christian philosophy that bifurcates people into ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ and takes adversarial role against people holding different viewpoints. In fact, they had seen no prior example of such highly diversified society surviving for long anywhere in the world. And the Islamic world was “elate with victory of Islam” as Pakistan was carved out for sake of some British loyalist Muslim separatists, led by English educated Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In reality, however, creation of Pakistan signified ‘divisive’ power of religion!
History post-1947 proved all these believers of mono-culturism wrong, because the Indian ‘unity in diversity’ is still going strong at the age of 70! To a large extent, the credit goes to the vision of Sardar Patel, independent India’s first home minister and deputy prime minister. On the contrary, making mockery of the pan-Islamic ‘visionaries’, Islam could not keep Pakistan intact even for a quarter century. In 1971, its larger population chunk, East Pakistan, broke off as Bangladesh! Since then it has been battling to hold together the Baloch, Pakhtun and Sindhi Muslims under ‘Pakistan’ label. The Sunni terror groups target Shias and minorities and the Ahmediyas can’t call themselves Muslim! Yet, it continues demanding Kashmir from India, in the name of Islam!! History has repeatedly demonstrated that Islam (or any other religions for that matter) is too superficial to unite human societies. Why else would there be 57 different Islamic nations, instead of one single Caliphate!
Recent History of Fragmentation
Let’s look at the recent history of nation-state fragmentation around the world.
End of the First World War gave birth to several new nations – Finland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungry, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia etc. The Muslim Middle East is highly divided in several Muslim nations despite Islam everywhere. It is weird to see Shia Iran standing aloof from rest of the Sunni states as if there are two separate Islams! The Kurds remain restless for a separate nation. The dream of global Islamic Caliphate of the ISIS was born and gone already.
Between 1989 and 1992 Yugoslavia broke into seven pieces. In 1991, the USSR gave birth to 15 nations. Chechnyans can’t stop dreaming of separation from Russia. Europeans who lecture the world on democracy and liberalism can’t stay united as one “European Union” despite the common Christian cultural mono-track. After Brexit, many more nations are likely to leave the EU. In Spain, Catalonians are restless for a divorce. In 2011, Sudan broke into two pieces.
In major democracies like the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Australia arrival of people from across the world has brought diversities over the decades. The heavy pressure of Muslim refugees from Africa and Gulf is now making them realize the dangers of isolationist tendency of Muslims, who tend to create “no go” zones (eg, in France and US) run on Sharia law where even police hesitates to enter. Now these ‘developed’ countries are discovering new challenges of heterogeneity and multi-cultural social setup despite the romantic ideals of ‘liberalism’ and ‘secularism.’ Many people foolishly think that “secularism” unites people of different “faiths”; secularism is mere separation of religion and State. It allows religious freedom but is helpless against misuse of religion and religious ghettoization. In fact, the ideals of secularism and multicultural democracy can’t survive the onslaught of religious exclusivity and fanaticism. Again, Islamic Pakistan is a great eye-opener.
‘Dharma’ is the Glue that Unites Indians
Starting from 1000 AD, in next eight centuries Mohammadan barbarians repeatedly invaded and plundered India. In every attack, they indulged in unparalleled genocides, rape, conversions and mass-scale destruction of temples and education centers. The last was the battle of Panipat in 1761 between Afghan Muslim ruler and the Marathas. What is unique about this bloody battle was that the Afghan ruler was invited to attack India by a Delhi cleric Shah Wali Ullah to save the Mughal Muslim rule from the rising influence of ‘infidel’ Hindus and Shias! Again, the Afghan invaders indulged in the Islamic trademark mass slaughter, rape, plunder and destruction. The Somnath Temple was repeatedly destroyed to “glorify the great Allah.” Yet, Hindus rebuilt it every time! They never lost trust in power of human goodness; this is the resilience that comes from trust in Dharma!!
‘Dharma’ is not a faith or belief, it does not reside in costumes, customs or rituals or in the idols of the temples – which are mere symbolic reminders. ‘Dharma’ lives in people’s understanding of ‘right human conduct’ and ‘right human values’. The 14th century, Muslim philosopher Amir Khusro wrote that Gujarati Muslims (offspring of Hindus converted under threat of life and rape) used to first pay respect to the Somnath Temple before departing for Hajj pilgrimage. Khusro noticed and wrote about it because it was unusual for his alien monotheist Islamic mindset. But it was absolutely normal for the Indian mind shaped by dharma understanding untainted by ‘faith’. The biggest tragedy of Indian Muslims is that they surrendered their own well-being to mullahs preaching politics in the name of Islam and failed to assimilate ‘Dharma’ in their life – the ultimate essence of even their prophet’s teaching!
‘Dharma’ is the essence and foundation of all India born philosophies. No foreign language has an equivalent word because no foreign society ever evolved enough to match spiritual subtleties of India. Some ignorant westerners equated the English word ‘religion’ with Dharma, and ended up creating an all round confusion everywhere, including in India. It was like saying that a football is same as a ping pong ball because both are round!! Unfortunately, under this wrong understanding many Indians have reduced their ‘systems of living’ as mere customs, costumes and rituals. It is really sad.
Why Religions Fail
Religions lack unifying power because they ignore the reality of human nature. It is a natural reality that no two person can have identical fingerprints, no two people can ever have the same mindset or even look alike. Diversity or dissimilarity is built-in the people – as a natural trait, knowing it is ‘Dharma’. It can’t be erased by inventing fictional god philosophies and trying to rigidly fix them on everyone.
On the contrary, whenever, mullahs of any religion try imposing their ideology, they only create further divisions and hostility. Today there are 73 different sects of Islam and 146 subdivisions of Christianity! If each of these cults has its own unique “Truth” and unique “God” there must be 219 different “Truths” and “Gods” which is nothing but one nonsensical fiction inside another! Just take away the fictional god, and the religion collapses! Atheists prove that god fictions are not needed to live a meaning human life, and polytheists are generally more tolerant of differing opinions than cocky monotheists.
An evangelic mullah was once asked, “Why do you say that your religion grows with number? Why don’t you say Islam grows when Muslims become more pious and peaceful? He had no answer. A follower of political Islam is like a die-hard comrade working to impose communism on everyone. For sure, even one fanatic Mullah who claims patent on the “Only God” and wants to impose it on all others through Gun is far too dangerous for the humanity than all the atheists, polytheists and fascists put together.
In the past two millennium, the insane “believers” have killed more people in their so-called holy-crusades or holy-jihads than all other wars of the history combined. Religions have grossly devalued human life. Since its birth, Islam alone is supposed to have killed 270 million people around the world. The history of Islamic expansion is nothing but a repetitive tale of human genocide and terror “in the glory of Allah.” For example, explore: 1000 Years of Islamic Jihad in India.
Dharma Unites Humanity
Dharma operates on an entirely different plain away from the world of fanaticism and hysteria associated with self-imposing cocky religions. Recognizing and respecting human diversity is an inherent part of Indian ethos which directly comes from the knowledge of “Dharma” which in simple terms is the knowledge of natural and universal truth. So, talking about dharma means dealing with nature’s pre-existing order that applies on human beings. It has nothing to do with so-called ‘theism’ or ‘atheism.’
Dharma permeates all Indian philosophies, whether the Vedic knowledge, teachings of Buddha and Mahavira, Shankaracharya and countless rishis and sages of the ancient times and saintly people of recent centuries like Guru Nanak, Sivananda and Ramakrishna. Dharma is closer to what we call ‘Science’ today. Both deal with discovering truths of nature. The domain of Science is the physical universe. Dharma’s domain is life forces, human mind and its characteristics and connection of physical and mental forces. Scientific knowledge has given people enormous physical comfort. Knowledge of Dharma is geared towards individual peace, deeper peace, and finally absolute tranquility – also called Nirvana or Moksha which is the goal of Indian life. Both science and Dharma wants people to have open mind and think freely. There is no place for even thoughts of imposing anything on anyone.
All the India-born different philosophies like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc are today seen as separate entities due to Western thinking which identifies things by division. But the strand of Dharma connects them all in mutual harmony. They all teach Dharma conduct in their own ways. They all promote practice of non-violence, non-greed, self-control and understanding the natural law of Karma which means doing good deeds bring good fruits in future and harming others invite pain and misery. They all aim to make people better human beings that means focusing on right human conduct. It makes rituals, customs and costumes totally absurd and useless.
The highly profound Vedic literature resulted from the experience of countless Yogis and sages of the past; they were adept spiritual scientists exploring the inner world through meditational techniques. They discovered that everything is interconnected through some divine force that pervades everything and every being – this reality has been also often called God and personified by people in different ways. Thus, Indians respect all forms of life as well as appreciate nature’s gifts like rivers and mountains; and see humanity as one big family (vasudeva Kutumbakam). In the past, this knowledge has permeated throughout India, right from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Meghalaya to Maharashtra, and beyond.
In fact, in ancient times when the Dharma was practiced by societies in most of the East Asia and Afghanistan and beyond, the Western and Chinese travelers saw just “One India” everywhere, despite so much visible diversities. Early Christians and Muslims, who were forced to escape their homeland to avoid persecution by people of their own ‘faith’, found safe shelter on the Indian soil, among congenial Hindus. But unfortunately, they also brought with them the virus of faith-based discrimination. Muslim invaders brought the weirdest form of religious barbarism – if you don’t accept my god I will kill you! Absurd and Silly. This filthy thinking badly polluted and suppressed the Dharma spirit of Indian way of life for centuries under the Muslim rule. Now Indians have the opportunity to rediscover the strength of their ancient civilization, which alone can also make the world more peaceful.
You may also like to explore: World Needs More Dharma, Less Religion!