Yes I am talking about Hinduism, but in a different way.
The book “Sapiens” by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari, talks about how monotheism evolved to solve problems of polytheism. My understanding is monotheism evolved to solve in-fighting among polytheist. For a rationalist there is not much difference between a person who believes in “one ghost” or the person who believes in “hundred ghosts”. So a rationalist might have said “zero God” and not “One God”. Monotheism in way was solving the “symptom” and not the “cause” and actually can increase “intolerance in the society”.
My thoughts on what are some of the core beliefs & thoughts that resulted in India being a tolerant and non-violent culture. A culture where we can proudly say “Unity in Diversity”.
“Law of Karma” Vs “Law of Belief”
Law of Karma states that the result depends on your action and not your belief. This is in a way what most of the “secular” constitutions are saying in a way too. Now one may say our actions arises from our believes, so beliefs are important. However there can be various beliefs that can result in “good action”, so it is the action which needs to be looked at.
On the other hand a monotheist may say irrespective of your actions unless you belief in “their” God/way, you will not go to heaven. Monotheist who don’t believe in idol-worship might say if you worship idols you are doomed.
The Vedanta philosophy of Non-Dualism is very deep and removes the separation between God & “Others”. This is a very hard concept to grasp, but the resulting emotion that “we are all one” appeals to many. In a way this removes the concept of both polytheism as well as monotheism.
Non – Violence
The emphasis on non-violence allowed multiple thoughts and beliefs to co-exists. Even when Arjuna was going to fight Mahabharata, he was hesitating on the violence aspects. The whole Gita, beside uniting various ways of thoughts, in a way is also promoting hesitant warriors, warriors who think a lot before going to war or violence.
Buddhism and Jainism promoted complete non-violence.
It is this culture which made Gandhi very successful in India.
Acceptance of Human Limitations in knowing Truth
The story of six blind man and the elephant, shows how people develop their beliefs. How people fight about their beliefs as they have partial knowledge. The culture of accepting ignorance and admiration for those who seek “Truth” enabled India to come up with unique way to solve the challenges that comes up with polytheism. This also allowed many religions to arise in the Indian Sub continent.
In conclusion, India Polytheism not only teaches us to “tolerate” each other but “accept” each other. Many smart people can suggest “Monotheism” to be a solution for challenges posed by polytheism, a slightly deeper thought may result in one to come up with “law of Karma”, but it requires a “culture” to come up with non-dualism and have some acceptance of it.
For India to continue to progress, Indians should not assume all answers are already present in their religious books. It is better to think that till all suffering for all living being ends, we need to find answers. We need to give solutions so the future generations can look at this period and learn better lessons from us like we do from our past.
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