Our great nation India, that is Bharat, so well-known for religious tolerance and peaceful inter-faith living, would be better off if people shun politicians spreading sectarianism and instead follow enlightened sages and yogis like Swami Vivekananda.

Regarded as the father of modern Indian nationalism, Vivekananda is credited with raising the status of Hinduism to a major world religion. A key figure in the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, Vivekananda at the same time, raised interfaith awareness.

While eulogising ancient Hindu heritage, he broke free from sectarian prejudices. He showed by his living example that a Hindu, and a monk at that, can not only socialise but also live with Muslims without ‘tainting’ himself, his religion or his monkhood. 

Oswald Pereira

When he stayed for some seven weeks at Alwar in Rajasthan, in February-March 1891, he developed deep relationships with many Muslims of the town, including a Maulvi Saheb, a Muslim teacher of Urdu and Persian.

“They invited him to their homes with great affection, and he shared with them a modest meal,” Chaturvedi Badrinath writes in his book, Swami Vivekananda: The Living Vedanta. “To the orthodox Hindu, it was pollution; to Swami Vivekananda, whatever was offered with love and grace by whoever was blessed,” Badrinath adds.

At Mt Abu, in Rajasthan, Vivekananda stayed with a Muslim lawyer. He was asked by an orthodox person how being a Hindu monk, he was living with a Muslim?

Vivekananda replied: “I am a Sannyasin. I am above all your social conventions. I can even dine with a Bhangi. I am not afraid of God, because He sanctions it. I am not afraid of the scriptures, because they allow it. But I am afraid of you people and your society. You know nothing of God and the scriptures. I see Brahman everywhere manifested through even the meanest creature. For me there is nothing high or low. Shiva, Shiva!”

A great advocate of unity and oneness of faiths, Vivekananda suggested harmonising of the teachings in the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran. He said, “Mankind ought to be taught that religions are the varied expressions of The Religion, which is oneness, so that each may choose the path that suits him best.”

Vivekananda went as far as to say that the “only hope” of overcoming “strife and chaos” to reach a “future perfect” India, ultimately achieving “invincibility,” is a “junction of the two greatest systems, Hinduism and Islam ― Vedanta brains and Islam body.”  

To those believing in division of communities, it would seem incredible that the great sage Vivekananda had really advised that the majority community and the largest minority community join the brains and body of their religions to achieve “perfection and invincibility.”

It’s a recommendation that all right-thinking, patriotic Indians, irrespective of their political affiliations, should consider seriously.

Oswald Pereira, a senior journalist, has also written eight books, including The Newsroom Mafia, Chaddi Buddies, The Krishna-Christ Connexion, How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life and Crime Patrol: The Most Thrilling Stories. Oswald is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and practises Kriya Yoga.

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