Today we are making rapid development in the fields of science and technology, as well as in communication techniques; as we are talking about the ‘global village’. Paradoxically, as the physical distance is reducing, mental distance between human beings is increasing. Unless we can have global civilisation, we will not be able to reap the benefit of globalisation and we cannot have world peace. At present, we are passing through a crisis where forces of terrorism, sectarianism, dogmatism, etc. are dominating all over the world. Some thinkers are of the opinion that clash between countries is primarily a clash between civilizations. At the root of civilisation is religion. Religion has led to more bloodshed in history than any other factor. Swami Vivekananda pointed this out in his address at Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893 and stated, “Sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant fanaticism have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with narrowness, drenched it often and often in human blood, destroyed civilisation and sent the whole nation to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time has come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their ways to the same goal.” Many people advocate removal of religion from society for world peace but this solution is like removing the head to get rid of headache. If we remove religion from society, what will be left will only be an aggregate of brutes.
According to the UNESCO’s preamble – “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that defense of peace measures must be constructed.” English intellectual, Dr. Josiah Oldfield, on the eve of the Second World War, said, “More wars are caused by bad-tempered people seeking to discuss peace measures than by good-tempered people seeking to discuss war measures.” Therefore, what is important is cultivation of feelings of love, sympathy, compassion, and goodwill and this can only be achieved through religious practice. Religion can be a great force to inculcate such feelings. What we want is religion minus dogmatism in order to have world peace.
Shri Ramakrishna, after verification of the truth lying in different religions, said, “As many faiths, so many paths,” and he used to explain in his characteristic simple style the idea of harmony of religions through a metaphor.He stated, “A Hindu goes through one side of the pond and says, I have brought ‘Jal’ (water), a Muslim goes through another side and says I have brought ‘Pani’ (water), a Christian goes through another path and says I have brought ‘Water’, and someone goes through another path and says, I have brought ‘Aqua’.” Shri Ramakrishna said, “Just as the same water is called by different names and is obtained by different paths, the Ultimate Reality is the same but names are different, and paths are different.” So there should be not only tolerance between religions but also acceptance of all religions is equally true. Thus, Shri Ramakrishna verified the statement of our scriptures – “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” (The truth is one; sages call it by different names).
The last Mughal Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar (a sufi poet) also put this idea of harmony of religions in his beautiful song:
“Tujhse Hamne Dil Ko Lagaya,
Jo Kuchh Hai So Tunhi Hai;
Ek Tujhko Apana Paaya
Kaba Me Kya Deval Me Kya
Teri Parastis Hogi Sab Ja,
Sabhine Tujhko Sar Hai Jhukaya
We have given our heart to you
You are present everywhere
You are the only one, I found you as mine
You are present everywhere
Be it Mosque or be it Temple,
It is You who are being worshipped everywhere
All bow their heads before you
You are present everywhere
Dr. Arnold J. Toyanbee – a great historian of our time – was frustrated after seeing the devastation of the Second World War and lost hope for the survival of human civilisation. But after coming to know about the life and teachings of Shri Ramakrishna, he became hopeful about the survival of the human race and said, “At this supremely dangerous moment in human history, the only way for salvation of mankind is the Indian way. Emperor Ashoka’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s principle of non-violence and Shri Ramakrishna’s testimony as to the harmony of religions, here we have the attitude and the spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family and in the atomic age, this is the only alternative to destroying ourselves.”
Thus, religion can be a great motivating force for bringing world peace provided it is not accompanied by dogmatism and narrow-mindedness and if it has a scientific approach. In this context, what Swami Vivekananda said in the Chicago Parliament of Religions is very relevant. He said, “If the Parliament of Religions has shown anything to the world it is this; it has proved to the world that holiness, purity and charity are not exclusive possessions of any church in the world and that every system has produced men and women of the most exalted character. In the face of this evidence if anybody dreams of the exclusive survival of his own religion and destruction of others, I pity him from the bottom of my heart and point out to him that upon the banner of every religion will soon be written in spite of resistance; Help and not Fight, Assimilation and not Destruction, Harmony and Peace and not Dissension.”
Swami Vivekananda dreamt of a Universal Religion and said, “If there is ever to be a Universal Religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time, which will be infinite like the God it will preach, and whose Sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and of Christ, on saints and sinners alike; which will not be Brahmanic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms, and find a place for, every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute, to the highest man towering by the virtues of his head and heart almost above humanity, making society stand in awe of him and doubt his human nature….
It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognise divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature.”
The sooner we pay heed to the above advice of Swami Vivekananda and fulfill his dream of a Universal Religion, the better it is for mankind. Let us hope that in no distant future such charitable feelings and acceptance of religions will pervade the whole world; and religion will become a motivating force for bringing world peace rather than a factor of conflict.