How Do We View Other Faiths?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 68


Hindus can accept and love the peoples of all religions yet not seek to convert them, although, we accept sincere seekers into the fold. All religions revere the One Truth and are good; they differ in beliefs and practices. The Eternal Path is seen and reflected in all religions. Hindus believe there is One Supreme Being; God and soul are One, inseparable. If you have an interest in personally experiencing God, only a few religions have within them the practices that lead to that experience.

14 Questions People Ask About Hinduism: How do Hindus view other religions?

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 68.

"How Do We View Other Faiths?

"Devout Hindus, secure in their sadhana, hold their faith in the highest esteem. Gurudeva boldly called it the greatest religion in the world. Its refined culture, deep philosophy, grand temples and yoga practices offer more than we could explore and enjoy in a hundred lifetimes. Yet, there is no sense whatsoever in Hinduism of an 'only path.' Rather the Eternal Path is seen reflected in all religions. We hold a profound tolerance and affection for those of all other religions. At the same time we know that all religions are not the same. Each has its unique beliefs, practices and scriptures, and the doctrines of one often conflict with others. Even such difference should never be cause for religious tension or intolerance. Saivites seek to be faithful to their own path, following it without getting sidetracked into practices of other faiths or movements. We defend our faith and avoid the enchantment of other ways. Being content in our path, we encourage others to follow and defend their religion. There is a great strength in loyalty to a religion and undistracted focus on its beliefs, teachings and cultural gifts. Hindus never seek to convert others to our faith, though we do accept sincere seekers into the fold. We stand strong against unethical efforts by those of any faith who try to draw Hindus away from their religion in times of distress or weakness. Gurudeva summarized, 'We respect all religious traditions and the people within them. Good citizens and stable societies are created from groups of religious people. Still, Saivites defend their faith, proceed contentedly with their practices and avoid the enchantment of other ways, be they ancient or modern."

We have Gurudeva's quote:

"The people who are Hinduism share a mind structure. They can understand, acknowledge, accept and love the peoples of all religions, encompass them within their mind as being fine religious people."

Certainly one of the important qualities of Hinduism in this regard is, doesn't seek to convert others. Just because Hindus feel their religion is really great they're not running around trying to convince others they should also become Hindus. That's not necessary and everyone's fine in the religions they're in unless they want to move.

Yogaswami has a nice quote on that:

"God is with all of us. Then why should we try to dominate others?" (Meaning bring them into our religion. So that's a nice way of looking at it.) "God is with all of us. Then why should we try to dominate others?"

One of the points I run into at least a few times a year in satsangs or in just , its a statement or the question that could come either way: "All religions are the same, aren't they?" That's a statement. "Aren't all religions the same?" That's a question. It's a sincere statement or question. It's not an insincere one and many Hindus believe that, that all religions are the same. And as the supplement says which we'll read in a minute, it's not really an accurate statement and what many Hindus mean when they say that is all religions are good. That's really what they mean. They don't really mean they're the same, that they all believe the same thing, they all practice the same thing, that they're identical in all ways; they don't really mean that. They're making a statement which is not super precise. But all religions are good. Meaning, someone's in a religion, it's fine for them to stay there and practice it as far as Hindus are concerned.

Then you take that to the extreme, from into this one, not as often but someone will, a Hindu will, let me put it this way. The statement is made: "I am of all religions." People have stated that to me. "I am of all religions." So, what can you tell about the person who said that. They're a Hindu, right? Exactly! There's my answer says you can be 99.9 percent sure they're a Hindu. Because only a Hindu would make that statement. Nobody else in the world would say: "I'm of all religions." So that's taking it to the extreme, aren't all religions the same? Well, I'm of all religions. So that's not a helpful perspective because if you're of all religions then what in the world do you practice? What in the world do you believe? You know, its a very, could be a very confused path. Religions really differ a lot.

Then there's a story here. Try and find a story each time. I knew it had something to do with clinics or hospitals so I finally found it. This was quite some time ago in Chicago. We were visiting a family, very nice home, and they, they, so it was three generations. The grandma was very active, donor to, the family's Sri Lanka. The grandma was a very active donor to Iraivan Temple. And really was close to us and close to Yogaswami. So, that was the main connection we had. But the son was there and the grandson was there as well. And the grandson asked me the question. "Aren't all religions pretty much the same?" That's exactly what he said, I wrote it down afterwards. And so I gave a, you know a typical, typical answer of pointing out, well, Eastern religions believe in meditation and realization and Western religions are oriented another way. You know just some simple basic facts. But afterwards I said: Well I should have made something a little stronger. So, I thought about it and I came up with this one which is designed... If that question is ever asked by a doctor I have a good answer.

So it starts off: " Aren't all medical clinics pretty much the same?" So you have to tell that to a doctor he's gonna immediately realize, you know: No, they're not. So they're only same if you have a simple illness. If you have a complex problem and need the more sophisticated medical equipment and specialist then they are definitely not the same. For example, someone is suffering from chest pains and goes to his family doctor who lives nearby. The doctor is not sure what the problem is and suggests he goes to the hospital to have certain tests taken. He does so and the hospital after taking tests is still not sure of the problem and refers him to a cardiologist living in a city nearby for even more tests. Clearly all medical clinics are not the same, right? He had to go to a specialist. Religion is similar to this. If all you want is to live a virtuous life, religions are all very similar at that basic level of practice. But if you have an interest in personally experiencing God then only a few religions have within them the practices that lead to that experience.

How's that? So, just like all medical clinics aren't the same all religions aren't the same.

We have one more on this, this experience. This is a little more in detail drawing from the fourteen questions, I think the twelfth question. "How do Hindus view other religions?"

"When discussing other religions, Hindu leaders often quote a verse from the Rig Veda 'Ekam Sat, viprah bahuda vadanti' meaning 'Truth is One, sages describe it variously.' It conveys a core Hindu idea: that there can be multiple valid viewpoints about the Supreme. Dr. S. Radhakrishan, philosopher and former president of India, stressed this point: 'The Hindu recognizes one Supreme Spirit, though different names are given to it..."

Sometimes I state that by saying: "Hindus all believe in a One Supreme Being, they just don't agree on the name or the description." But we do agree, Ekam Sat, there's One Supreme Being. But that's all we agree on.

"...In expressing religious tolerance, Hindus sometimes cite the above verse to assert that all religions are the same..."

So that's how that, this ties into the previous, that's the basis for some people thinking that all religions are the same.

"...In reality, all religions are not the same, nor is that indicated by this verse. It simply says that all religions revere the One Truth; all believe in the One Supreme Being. Their beliefs and practices are different; their paths are distinct. (And it makes the point:) Instead of saying, 'All religions are the same,' it is better to say that 'all religions are good.' Hindus share values common to all faiths: piety, love of God, respect for tradition, a stress on duty, responsibility and basic human virtues, such as nonviolence, truthfulness, compassion and charity. They know that good citizens and stable societies are created from groups of religious people in all nations. They also acknowledge and honor the many ways that religions differ. For example, meditation and yoga are commonly practiced in Eastern religions but not usually in Western faiths. The heart of a religion is its understanding of the soul's relationship to God. Hinduism and most Eastern religions believe that, at the highest level, God and soul are one, inseparable, while Western faiths maintain that Creator and creation are eternally distinct...."

In the keynote presentation on this I quote a few individuals, I forget his name but he must be Church of England cause it was in England, he was called a vicar. And they were doing, they were having hatha yoga classes regularly in this church and then at one point he disallowed them saying that hatha yoga is a practice which leads into Eastern mysticism. So he was very clear. You know, he knew very well that all religions weren't the same. In fact, if you ask clergy of all the different religions they, they're the ones who can explain all the differences. And in that case yoga leads into Eastern mysticism and he didn't want his followers to get involved in Eastern mysticism at all.

So, thank you very much. We have to find a new topic cause we went through all 68 lessons. Congratulations to us.

Photo of  Gurudeva
God is transcendent and immanent, eternal and temporal, Being and becoming, Creator and created, Absolute and relative, efficient and material cause.
—Gurudeva