Tuesday 30 August 2016

Universal Brotherhood.

The preparations must be on for celebrating the Universal Brotherhood Day befittingly. We celebrate Universal Brotherhood Day on 11 September to commemorate the message of Universal Brotherhood given by Swami Vivekananda to the Western audience in the Parliament of Religions at Chicago. As such, the festivals of organization are for Shaktipradarshan (celebrating festival in such a way that people get insight into the noble objective of the organization), Shaktiparikshan (celebrating the festival by employing our whole organizational strength, thus celebrating it on grand scale) and Shaktisamvardhan (enriching ourselves in the purpose and philosophy of our work). In certain festivals, we focus more on Shaktisamvardhan. However, the function of Universal brotherhood Day includes all three. This year we can focus on this thought during Universal Brotherhood Day celebrations.

The search for strife-less society, was and is going on all over the world. It was felt that the differences lead to clashes, so if there is Oneness then it can bring about brotherhood. Unfortunately, this search for Oneness in the West led to insistence in uniformity of god, declaring one’s own god as the only true god, whereas in India it led to the principle that everything is true and valid, and is called differently as per the evolution, situation or needs of the people.

Swami Vivekananda explains this in detail in his speech “The Mission of Vedanta”. He says, “We observe in the histories of Babylon and among the Jews an interesting religious phenomenon happening. We find that each of these Babylonian and Jewish peoples was divided into so many tribes, each tribe having a god of its own, and that these little tribal gods had often a generic name. The gods among the Babylnians were all called Baals, and among them Baal Merdoch was the chief. In course of time, one of these many tribes would conquer and assimilate the other racially allied tribes, and the natural result would be that the god of the conquering tribe would be placed at the head of all the gods of the other tribes. Thus, the so-called boasted monotheism of the Semites was created. Among the Jews, the gods went by the name of Molochs. Of these, there was one Moloch who belonged to the tribe called Israel, and he was called the Moloch-Yahweh… In time, this tribe of Israel slowly conquered some of the other tribes of the same race, destroyed their Molochs, and declared its own Moloch to be the Supreme Moloch of all the Molochs. And I am sure, most of you know the amount of bloodshed, of tyranny, and of brutal savagery that this religious conquest entailed. Later on, the Babylonians tried to destroy this supremacy of Moloch-Yahweh, but could not succeed in doing so.

It seems to me, that such an attempt at tribal self-assertion in religious matter might have taken place on the frontiers of India also. Here, too, all the various tribes of the Aryans might have come into conflict with one another for declaring the supremacy of their several tribal gods; but India’s history was to be otherwise, was to be different from that of the Jews. India alone was to be, of all lands, the land of toleration and of spirituality; and therefore the fight between tribes and their gods did not long take place here. For one of the greatest sages that was ever born found out here in India even at that distant time, which history cannot reach, and into whose gloom even tradition itself dares not peep – in that distant time the sage arose and declared, Ekam Sad Viprah Bahudha Vadanti – “He who exists is one; the sages call Him variously.” This is one of the most memorable sentences that was ever uttered, one of the grandest truths that was ever discovered. And for us Hindus this truth has been the very backbone of our national existence….Therefore the world is waiting for this grand idea of universal toleration. It will be a great acquisition to civilization. Nay, no civilization can long exist unless this idea enters into it. No civilization can grow unless fanaticism, bloodshed and brutality stop. No civilization can begin to lift up its head until we look charitably upon one another; and the first step towards that much needed charity is to look charitably and kindly upon the religious convictions of others.”

The religions like Christianity and Islam, which are the further developments in Semitic religion of Jews, also followed the same suit. Their search for unity became exclusive saying their religion alone is true. This exclusive approach led them to work vigorously and violently to wipe out any dissenting voice, idea or way of worship. Though it all started with the search for brotherhood or in the name of brotherhood, instead of brotherhood it actually led to more bloodshed. This search for unity based on the person or ideology is such an illusive thought that even the variations in their own religion are not tolerated. Thus the wars between Catholics and Protestants or Shia and Sunni continue. The universal brotherhood is missing even in amongst these particular exclusive religions. The conversion of each other within the religion also goes on. The Protestants want to convert the Catholics and vice versa. Once I had met a foreign catholic Christian father who was working for nearly 50 years in Ranchi area. I asked him, ‘why do you convert?’ He said, ‘if I have something good with me should I not share it with others. When I know that believing in Jesus alone would give salvation, it is my duty to tell that to others.’ I asked him, ‘but then why do you convert the Protestants? They are following the same Jesus’. He said, ‘They have to pray to Jesus as we pray, as our Church tells only then they can go to heaven.’ Swami Vivekananda says, “I have found out by experience that all evil comes, as our scriptures say, relying on differences and that all good comes from faith in equality, in the underlying sameness and Oneness of things. People in the world can be brought together only on the basis of principles.” Insistence for adopting of same prophet or ideology cannot lead to oneness.

In many of the Christian countries, they do not allow the Church of the other countries to work in their own country though the god that they follow is the same! People cannot be brought together in the whole world in the name of one god. Our sages gave the principle to rally the people around, “Ekam Sad Viprah bahudha Vadanti” Once the Arunachali commented, ‘The Christian missionaries have divided us not only as Christians and Non-Christians but also in amongst Christians there are divisions like Catholics, Baptists etc. So they keep on fighting and converting each other, whereas when we were not converted we all used to celebrate our festivals together, we used to even till each other’s’ lands, help each other in building their houses.’ Thus, the forcing of exclusive religion for universality, for brotherhood has led to more bloodshed and hostility than brotherhood. It is this internal strife within exclusive religions, which made Swami Vivekananda, says, “It is in vain we try to gather all the peoples of the world round a single personality. It is difficult to make them gather even round eternal and universal principles. If it ever becomes possible to bring the largest portion of humanity to one way of thinking in regard to religion, mark you, it must be always through principles and not through persons.”

We celebrate the festival of Universal Brotherhood to give this message through the totality of programs which include songs, speeches and other programs, that the brotherhood is possible only if we respect others’ religions, way of life and do not resort to convert them to destroy it. As long as, such actions of deriding other religions as false and converting others by force or fraud continue, there would be clashes and restlessness. Diversity is the rule of nature. However, that need not lead us to differences if we accept everything as legitimate and valid for each other. This respect for all traditions, cultures and religions alone would bring universal brotherhood, would help all the local traditions in the world to survive. It is an admitted position that there is no tradition outside of the Hindu tradition, which is founded on respect for all traditions, cultures and religions. The western and middle-eastern traditions are smeared in blood. Thus, the foundation for Universal Brotherhood is in the Hindu tradition, which respects all the traditions. In convention organized for the Vanvasi communities of North East India, Sri David Frawley, a well-known American Scholar said that ‘Hindu is a common name given to the local traditions in India.’ In a World Congress at Delhi organized by Swami Dayananda Saraswati for the non-converting indigenous traditions of the world, many leaders of indigenous traditions from America, Africa etc. said that their hope is in India, in one billion Hindus, who have protected various traditions over the ages.

The British historian E. P. Thompson wrote, ‘India is perhaps the most important country for the future of the world. All the convergent influences of the world run through this society…There is not a thought that is being thought in the West and East that is not active in some Indian mind.”  Someone had said, ‘If India dies, who lives and if India lives who dies!” How true it is. The survival of strong India, awakened to her purpose of existence is very much the need of the hour as humanity seeks universal brotherhood.

Only when the diversity is recognized, all can follow their traditions unhindered and with respect to each other without denouncing the others. Thus celebrating of Universal Brotherhood day is very important for cultural continuity of indigenous traditions, local traditions all over the world. Thus, our celebration of this festival should serve this purpose. 

                                                                                            Nivedita Raghunath Bhide

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