PREACHERS inspire crowds with their message that you have to make a choice. What kind of choice? Amid controversy over tacky remarks about Chinese and Hindu Indians, one senior authority has explained the reason for inviting people of other faiths to embrace the “only safe way”. It is that “if we don’t save others, then we are just being selfish” and “God will question us in the afterlife”.
So is it a choice between religions? That was yesterday. Today, preachers must focus on building a spirit of wholesome inclusiveness that connects all religions. Failure to do so will mean devastation in the face of a worsening climate crisis. The emphasis on conversion is peculiar to the history of West Asia-Mediterranean Europe. The world’s most strife-torn region over the past 4,000 years, this vast area gave birth to a dozen civilisations that battled for political dominance in recurrent waves of invasion and colonialism.
Each civilisation was anchored on a state religion that served as glue unifying masses of people, and it was essential for security that all citizens obeyed the diktat of one religion. As conversion of strangers helped to strengthen unity within borders, every religion across West Asia and Europe sought converts to its side. From this warring geopolitical context has arisen the belief held by three rival faith communities that its religion is chosen by God as the only safe way or the only way. The context should not be ignored.
Significantly, the word “evangelist” (originally from Hebrew) referred to a messenger of good news or literally “one bringing good news” from the battlefield. The evangelist was a soldier, but the tag was later worn by preachers whose vocation was to convert non-believers especially the adherents of other religions.
You won’t find evangelists among faithful adherents of the Indian and Chinese religions. Indian civilisation boasts four religions that share the same culture. Chinese civilisation displays a pair of religions that are two faces of the same coin. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism are one family, while Confucianism and Taoism are brothers in a neighbouring family. India and China never fought a civilisational war, as Buddhism served as a culture bridge over the Himalayas.
Hindus in particular get a lot of attention from evangelists. Before assuming that you need to save them, be aware that the yogi can teach you a lot about God that you don’t know. The fundamental lesson of Hinduism is not that God is one or three-in-one. That’s junior class. The big lesson is that God is Whole and the sole true reality.
In comparison to God, what is the universe? It’s like a holographic augmented reality (AR) show featuring humans trashing the climate. Nothing in the universe is substantially real because every type of visible and invisible form is hollow. Every form is the creation of vibrating energy. For millennia, yogis have called this universe “the dance of Shiva”.
God doesn’t watch the universe from outside. Nor does God live in a stone or tree, like you dwelling in a house. Here are some verses from the Srimad Bhagavata and the Bhagavad Gita whose revelations on the All-ness and Wholeness of God are second to none:
“Nothing exists besides You” (Bhagavata). “I revealed to you Myself not as outside but as within” (Bhagavata). “The objective world, a second existence distinct and different from the subject, seems to exist, but it has no such separate existence in reality” (Bhagavata). “All this universe indeed is an expression of your Thought” (Bhagavata). “I have entered into them, yet I have not entered into them” (Bhagavata). “All this world is pervaded by Me in My unmanifest aspect; all beings exist in Me, but I do not dwell in them.” (Gita).
A little knowledge of quantum physics is helpful to understand these verses, but the essential meaning is that God is like the all-pervasive quantum field or like oxygen in the air and the ocean. You have it in you. What parallels God in its wholeness? Nature. There are no walls in nature, unlike the walls separating religions. Wholesome inclusiveness is the only safe way forward.
The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org