Truth is one, sages call it by different names — Rig Veda
As many minds, so many paths to the ultimate Reality. — Shri Rama Krishna
My religion is Hinduism, which for me is the religion of humanity and includes the best of all religions known to me. — Mahatma Gandhi
I was born and raised in the fold of Hinduism, which recognizes the oneness of an absolute reality (Brahman), that manifests itself as a vast multitude of diverse forms of humanity and living beings. I have assimilated from Isa Upanishad that the Godhead has become this universe and has enveloped it with divinity, and hence service to humanity is the pathway to salvation.
I find Hinduism most captivating because it thrives on and encourages the concept of religious pluralism as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and Rama Krishna in the east and John Hick in the west. It refrains from insisting on dogmatic interpretations, strict adherence to scriptures as nonnegotiable truths, and it is completely devoid of self-righteousness. It stimulates a democratic way of thinking, accepting varying viewpoints as seen from different perspectives and vantage points. I am particularly impressed by the symbolism that all rivers eventually meet the ocean and all roads lead to the mountaintop, and that all pathways lead to the very same destination.
I am reassured that Hinduism emphasizes mutual respect among all religious paths and seeks a common thread of divinity inherent in all of humanity by removing the veil of ignorance. As Vivekananda very explicitly states: "Each soul is potentially divine. (This) is the whole religion. Doctrines, dogmas, rituals, books, temples, or forms are but secondary detail.”
The Dharma tradition of Hinduism guides all humans to lead a life consistent with moral conscience and spiritual consciousness. I am enthralled by the tradition that entertains the idea of seeking pleasure and engagement in worldly activities without losing the focus on salvation or Moksha as an ultimate aim of life.
What I find most engaging is that it is an ever-evolving and an inclusive tradition that encourages individuals to act based on personal conscience (Atmastuti) while revering the revelations of scriptures.
The tradition recognizes and encourages various pathways to salvation depending on the individual seeker — like the Path of Devotion (Bhakti Yoga); the Path of Knowledge (Jnana Yoga); the Path of Meditation (Raj Yoga); and the Path of Action (Karma Yoga). It is refreshing that a faith tradition would advocate self-realization instead of blind faith in scriptural authority.
I have imbibed the Path of Karma Yoga from Gita, which formed the very basis of the Gandhian Doctrine; the concept of Nishkamya Karma, which involves the desireless action performed for the common good, without expectation of personal gain. I have learned that skillful action for the good of society and nature is the pathway to salvation.
When Lord Krishna proclaims that “For one who sees ME everywhere and sees everything in ME, I am never lost to him, nor is he ever lost to ME.” The student of spirituality recognizes that “ME” is the very essence of the divine in nature and in every living being. “Doing good together” is the foundation of our own existential struggles because when Christ states “Love thy neighbor” it translates to “My own Self” as elucidated by Lord Krishna in Gita.
When nonviolence in thought and action towards all living beings is emphasized, my deep commitment to the tradition gets strengthened and faith in humanity is enhanced and redeemed. The bottom line for me is that the cornerstone of Hinduism is mutual respect for all viewpoints and traditions, nonviolence to all living beings and recognizing the ultimate unity in apparent diversity.
Rajendra Parikh is a resident of Austin and serves the local Hindu community in religious and spiritual matters. Doing Good Together is compiled by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, interfaithtexas.org.