There is one God, and the One is called Ishwar, Allah, Christ, Zaruthustra, Krishna, Kali, Shiva and Lakshmi.
There is only one God, called by different names. Despite the many disparities, India has still not fractured into a million pieces, because of our innate tolerance. This is who we truly are. This is US. The killing of Gauri Lankesh, the banning of beef, the murder of young people whose only crime was to love each other, does not define us.
We should not allow it to
A confession. I am a huge lover of Hindu philosophy. Because it is undoubtedly the broadest, most inclusive and deepest understanding of life. At its core lies this simple truth, quoted in as many as 100 Upanishad texts: Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadant: That which exists is one. The sages call it by many names.
There is one God, and the One is called Ishwar, Allah, Christ, Zaruthustra, Krishna, Kali, Shiva and Lakshmi. That is all there is to it. All of us, in this vast and wonderful world, are looking for God, and when we find the One, we call Her by the name that rises up for us. Is that something to fight about?
This is the truth that is responsible for the sustenance of this 5000-year-old philosophy. The Moghuls came and the Moghuls went, leaving the country’s syncretic nature much richer, but unchanged in its essence. It is the same with the British. We may speak English, avail of the many inventions they gave us, but at heart, we still remain Indians. By bending, we prevented ourselves from breaking. By accepting their truths without surrendering ours, by recognising that all truths are valid, our culture continues to flourish.
It is this that determines our true identity. It is this that makes the average Indian worship Mother Mary, Shirdi Sai Baba, the Buddha, and a host of other deities in his altar. It is this that makes us celebrate Christmas, Diwali or Id, regardless of community and religion. And hello, it also enables us to reach out to Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and make it ours.
Spiritual freedom flourishes in this land to an extent that most other countries practising monotheism cannot even comprehend. The concept of ishta devta (one’s favourite deity) often means that in the same family a lover of Shiva will live harmoniously with a lover of the Devi or Sai Baba or even Christ.
I have spoken with domestic help, autorickshaw drivers and chaiwallas who will endorse what the Upanishads reiterate, that there is only one God, called by many different names. The diversity of our culture, rituals, languages and cuisines, has few parallels in the world, and that comes from our innate capacity to accept differences.
I believe this is who we truly are. This is US. In a year where intolerance has exploded into a Molotov cocktail across the land, it is important that we remember this. The killing of Gauri Lankesh, the banning of beef, the murder of young people whose only crime was to love each other, does not define us. We should not allow it to.
Each time, the newspapers splash the news of one more atrocity that makes us want to cringe, can we remind ourselves of who we are? And more, can we be that? Can we go to a place of worship other than ours and partake of the ceremony? Can we free ourselves of the prejudices that arise in our own minds? Can we free ourselves of our dangerous tendency to generalise about all members of a community? Can we expand our thinking and allow others to be who they are — to have their own points of view, their own name for God, to love who they choose to, eat what they want?
— The writer is former editor-in-chief of Life Positive magazine and founder, facilitator of the Zen of Good Writing Course.