PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
RELIGIOUS PLURALISM AND ABSOLUTE REALITY
This is a reality that there are so many religions exist in this world but the question is that how these religions originated and what was the need? Regarding this question, so many thinkers believe that the origin and development of a religion is only due to the ignorance of the reality of the other religions. Although for the origin and expansion of the religions, nunber of movements took place and numbers of prominent personalities did their activities in this field. The positive result is that, at different stages Religions came into the contact of each other but it also originated the disputes and conflicts among the religions and therefore no deep understanding or rationality could be developed among the religions, that’s why in the human history, maximum struggles have been took place on the basis of religion itself.
But in last century such kinds of studies have been started to honour the faith of different religious and in order to do the study of the facts of the different religions, efforts have also been made to give the solutions, that’s why now this problem is getting priority among the thinkers of philosophy of religion.
But here firstly we have to realise the problem in reality. Practically the problem can be presented or expressed as “If I would have born in India then I would have been a Hindu, In case of Egypt, a Muslim; In case of srikanka, a Buddhist; since I have born in England that’s why I am a Christain.” It is also certain that in all these cases, the development of ‘I’ would have been differen because when we study of different religions then we come to know about the highest exestence or absolute reality, his nature, his functions etc. Different religons claim different facts for example; either the God is personal or inpersonal? God reincarnates himself or not? Does human beings take rebirth?
Regarding all these questions, if the claims made in Christianity are true then definitely then Hinduism is not true. Similarly if the Buddhism is ture then Islam is false and so on. But the problem deepens when all the religions want to associste themselves with miracles and do all efforts to prove the falsity of other religions.
But in order to do this they generally forget that in this process the evindences against a religion will be definitely more in numbers. In additon it may also be the fact that the reality claimed by all the religions is false ant the reality might be something different.
Altogether we can say that the problem is serious and it is really difficult to have a rational solution. But regarding this problem the thoughts of Wilfred Cantwell Smith are important who wrote a famous book titled “The Meaning and End of Religion”. In his book, he precisely stated that what we know as a religion is just a phenomena of the human being or just an object experienced, which could be seen in historical and geographical scenario.That’s why he said that all the existing religions like Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam and Buddhism are only created by man and their history is just a part of human civilization and they can’t be supposed more than an invention which took place on the basis of mental puzzlement. So, in this condition if the different religions are claiming the different realities then it is not a strangeful fact at all.
Further, he said that we can’t say that a seligion is true or false, just as we can’t say that a civilization is true or false because similar to the human civilization, the religion is also the result of the attitude of diversity of tendencies, thoughts, qualities, characteristics of he human beings. We know that the eastern and western mentalities are different and we can see the difference of language, society, political systems and even in the art and culture as well. In this condition if there are religious differences then what the problem is? But he also said that now the geographical, cultural etc. boundaries have been almost broken and we can hope that in future the religious boundaries may be broken as well, which will definitely affect the problems regarding the contraditory claims of different religions. But so far we are quite away from it and the ground reality is that different religions and their contradictory claims regarding the reality are existing.
Allogather, we can say that there is religious plurality but even in this pluralism. A philosophical structure can be framed because it is also a prevailing supposition that the absolute reality is infinite and beyond the human thoughts is languages while or the other hand the objects of the matarial world are not having such nature because they are the subject matter of our sensitive perception. This differnce has been mentioned in philosophy as “PHENONENA and NAUMENA”.
The beings of PHENOMENA are relative while the beings of NOUMENA are absolute. If the religion is created by man then difinitely it belongs to PHENOMENA and since the objects of PHENOMENA are relative, so the religion may also be relative and there shall be no objection in it.
So, we can say that there is a concept of God who is personal, is important for a theistic religion, but there is a coucept of absolute reality as well which is definitely impersonal and here we can see the unity, while in the phenomenal projection we can see the divessity. Therefore we can say that there is unity regarding the absolute reality and it is the greatest hypothesis that all the religious traditions are the expressions of experience regarding one and only infinite divine existence.
Therefore, we can say that definitely it is a fact that most of the struggles among the human beings were caused by the religion and intellectuals have done their efforts to stop this and so many solution have been given as religious unity, universal religions, SARVADHARMASAMANVAYA, SARVADHARMASADBHAVA etc. in which the religous unity means all the religions shall be united and the universal religion means one and only religion shall be accepted in the word, while the meaning to SARVADHARMASAMANVAYA is to establish the coordination among the religions on the basis of common facts. But these common fertures must be rational and not inposed externally. While the meaning of SARVADHARMASADHMAVA indicates towards a stage where we have to believe that all the religous of the world are real and so we have to pay honour to all of them as well. But all these solutions are not much prectical that’s why a concept of religious tolerence gets highlighted by which we can stop the religious struggle even after the religious diversity and there is some rational basis of relgious tolerance as well, in which first of all we can mention the theory of absolute reality which means the essence of all the religions is the same but it has been expressed differently (Ekam Sad Viprah Bahudha Vadanti).
Further, the supporters of religious tolerance have said that even we can see the unity or similarity in the practical features of the religion such as Pooja- Ibadat, kirtan- Namaj, Tirthayatra- Haj, Upavaas- Roja and even the ISHVAR and the Allaha having the same meaning as well. But in order to develop this feeling we have to distinguish the concept of a religion and religionism and we have to follow the progressive approach regarding religion and that shall not be the dogmatic one. But the prohibition of conversion is prior condition of all these things.
Now the question is, what is the real meaning of Religious Tolerance and how it can be established in the society? Although, the Religious Tolerance is also translated differently such as- SARVADHARMAADARABHAVA SARVADHARMA UDARABHAVA etc. But its nearest meaning has been expressed in SARVADHARMA SAMABHAVA which is the Gandhian theory of Religious Tolerance and that’s why Gandhi had placed it in his eleven vows or EKADASHAVRATAS and said that it is obligatory for a satyagrahi to follow it.
The essence of SARVADHARMASAMABHAVA is, in addition to our religion we have to pay honour or regard to the theories and beliefs of the other religions and we have to participate in their activities as well. That’s why in order to define the religion, Gandhi said that “all the religious are like the beautiful flowers of a garden or different branches of a tree and they all are true as well, but they are also incomplete because they have been explained by the human beings who might be affected by presupposition.”
As far as the execution of SARVADHARMASAMBHAAVA is concerned, then according to Gandhi, a broader approach regarding the religion is necessary for it and we have to start our sincere efforts right from the childhood under which we have to encourage our children to go in the institutions of different religions and to read their scripts as well. So they will get aware about the realities of the other religions and in this case, they will not be misguided by mistranslation of a religion. Further according to Gandhi the dresscode, the living style the religions places etc. should be considered as beyond the religion and the main hinderance in religious tolerance “THE CONVERSION” must be stopped because according to Gandhi, The religion is an internal and personal matter of a person.
The above solution of SARVADHARMASAMABHAVA of Gandhi is definitely practical and relevant because it never asks for a universal religion or unification of religions which is impractical, but it believes that the different religions may exist and work separately for their expansion. But if we follow the SARVADHARMASAMABHAVA based on the philosophy of non-violence then definitely. The religous struggles can be stopped. This concept of Religious Tolerance or SARVADHARMASAMBHAVA can be seen in Hinduism which is also against the forcely implementation of its suppositions and beliefs.