The world is passing through a period of religion based hatred, violence and division of the society. The serial bomb blast in three churches of Sri Lanka on Easter day and the shooting of devotees in a mosque in New Zealand on March 15 are the latest examples of religious madness. Our country, India, is also witnessing a phenomenal growth in religion induced hatred, revenge and violence. All persons who are concerned about peace and harmony in the society are searching for solutions to stop the religion induced hatred and violence.
The book, “ How India Lost Her Freedom” by Pandit Sunderlal, gives a brief account of the revolutionary saints of India during the 15th to 17th centuries under the heading ‘Religion of Humanity’. The teachings of these saints are remarkably relevant today. A peep into the core teachings of these saints can illumine the minds clouded and darkened by prejudice and religious fanaticism.
Prominent among the saints mentioned in the book are Kabir, Guru Nanak, Dadoo, Malookdas, Chaitanya, Namdev, Khecher, Chokkamela and Tukaram. Central to the teachings of these saints is seeing God in every human being and worshipping that God through compassion and selfless service. All of them were opposed to locking God in worship centres like temples, mosques, gurudwaras, churches etc. They appealed to their followers to unlock God and bring God to the centre of human life. They were against idol worship, ritualism, blind faith and superstitions and discrimination based on caste, religion and gender. Humanity is the greatest religion for all of them.
Kabir was probably the greatest and positively the first propounder of Hindu-Muslim unity in India, according to Pandit Sundarlal. He was an uncompromising opponent of caste system and he ruthlessly denounced ritualism in both religions. He preached love for all living beings and the worship of one formless God. The following words reflect his views on religion and God.
“O brother” How can there be two Gods, one of the Hindus and the other of the Muslims? Who has led you astray?”
“Allah and Rama, Karim, and Keshav, Hari and Hazrat are only separate names of the same One Supreme Being”.
“These separate names are but separate ornaments made from one the same pure gold, there is no duality in them”.
“O man where art thou searching for me? I am quite closer to thee. I am neither in the Hindu temple nor in the Muslim mosque, neither in Kaba nor in Kaialsh. If thou art a sincere seeker, thou will find me out in no time. Oh saints, God is breath of breaths, present in all beings.”
Kabir fearlessly preached one universal religion not only for Hindus and Muslims but also for the whole mankind. His followers included both Hindus and Muslims. Emperor Akabar the Great tried to embody Kabir’s teaching in his new religion, Deen-Elahi.
Guru Nanak was another Indian saint whose religion was the religion of unity and love. His followers included both Hindus and Muslims. His writings and teachings reflect unity of Muslims and Hindus. According to him one’s love and respect to God is to be shown in one’s actions, especially relationship with other human beings.
“The Hindus repeat Rama Rama and the Muslims call Him Khuda, but if we look closely into our hearts, we will find that Rama and Raheem are names of the same one God.”
“Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims have found the true way, both have gone astray, driven by the demon of separateness.”
Addressing Muslims he tries to explain to the real meaning of some of their symbols and rituals. “Let kindness to all be your mosque, truth your Musalla (the clothe on which prayers are offered), just and honest living your recitation of Quran, purity of character your circumcision, good behaviour towards other your Roza, then alone can you be a true Musalman”.
Dadoo was one of the prominent successors of Kabir. His real name was Dawood. For him God is love. At the request of Akbar he described God in the following words.
“Love is the personality of God,
Love is his body. Love is His existence and love is his dominant colour”
Dadoo also emphasized the unity of mankind in his writings and teachings and preached one common universal religion. He was opposed to all kinds of religious exclusiveness and narrowness.
“The same one Self resides in all whether he is a Hindu or a Musalman. My delusion that Allah and Rama are two has absolutely disappeared. I see no difference between the Hindu and the Muslim. In both I realize Thy presence and in both I see Thee face to face Oh my God”.
Malook Das was a saint in the line of Kabir and Dadoo. He too promoted the universal religion of love. He also opposed idol worship and all kinds of discriminations and ritualism. Kindness to all and service to all was the essence of his teachings.
“Oh Malook Das, why do you remain in this delusion of separateness? There is only one God, one religion; Rama and Raheem are names of the same one God.”
Chaitanya , another important saint of this era, was very much influenced by the teachings of Muslim Sufis, according to historian, Yadu Bhattacharya. Cahitanya’s teachings were centred round ‘love’ – from intense human love to divine love. He denounced caste system and stood for universal brotherhood of man. He was also opposed domination of priestly class and superfluous rituals and ceremonies. Because of his teachings on social liberation many socially oppressed classes became his disciples. One of his most favourite disciples was a Muslim, named Haridas.
Namdev was probably the first saint of Maharashtra who liberated the people from the shackles of caste system, ritualism and religious narrowness. He preached equality of all human beings, love of all beings and devotion to one God.
Tukaram was a great saint and poet of Maharashtra. Like Kabir Tukaram was strongly opposed to the caste system, idol worship, sacrifices of animals and costly rituals. According to him, God is to be experienced in the heart of every human being. Unification of Hindus and Muslims was one of his main concerns.
The common theme that is reflected in the teachings of these saints is spirituality, even though the term spirituality may not be found in their preaching and teachings. Spirituality is the common thread across religions, and it does not discriminate human from human. Spirituality has shared universal values. The emphasis of these saints was on these shared universal ethical and moral values and they gave utmost importance to the religion of humanity, religion of love for all and service of all. They could see God’s presence in the human beings than in rituals, statues and symbols. That is why they were opposed to any discrimination based on caste. For them, compassion to human beings and serving human beings is the true worship of God. Secondly, For them, different religions are only different ways to reach the same God and all religions are to be respected equally. No religion is superior or inferior to the other.
The question that disturbs all thinking people today is how religion becomes a source of terror. If one goes through the history of religions one can find that most of the religions, if not all, have deviated from the original teachings and some of them even got distorted. The focus of the original teachings of all religions is spirituality. Commercialization and politicization of religion distort religions and religions have become victims of these two evil tendencies.
Growth of fundamentalism in religions is another reason for religion becoming a source of violence. The fundamentalists believe that they have the whole truth and their religion is superior to all other religions. As a natural corollary they become arrogant and begin to impose their faith on others even at the point of gun. They look down with contempt the other faiths. The cow vigilantes in India and the followers of Islamic State (IS) are imposing their article of faith on others, using violence. All religious fundamentalists literally understand the scripture. Any liberal interpretation of the scriptures is an anathema to them.
There is no solution to the religion induced hatred and violence other than restoring the ‘Religion of Humanity’ in all religions. According to the teachings of Jesus a person will be ultimately judged on the basis of his/her humanity, the way he/she responds to the needs of his/her brethren (Mt. 25: 31-46).
(Published on 06th May 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 19)