Solidarity in Diversity
Hindus should work with those of other traditions while holding firmly to our own denomination and spiritual path.
BY: Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
As the world rapidly becomes a global village, Hindu leaders are collectively discovering that Hindu unity is more important than ever before. Through such unity, Hinduism can stand proudly alongside the other great religions of the world, serving its followers, protecting their rights and working with governmental and private agencies for the upliftment of society. Through such unity, the wise voice of the great grandfather of religious experience can be heard--a voice of tolerance and compassion born of a reverence of the Divine within all beings and all things. Certainly that voice is dearly needed now to help guide humanity through this violent, perilous time, with so many challenges in every area of life. A mutual Hindu front based on the eternal laws of dharma will be a potent social and political force, but the integrity of that unity depends on how we define it.
Some would define it as a "unity in sameness, " perhaps because they find Hinduism's phenomenal diversity too complex, too confusing, too great an obstacle to the kind of social and political unity that they envision. But, as my Gurudeva, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, observed, "It is not uniformity or sameness that we seek. It is solidarity, individuals coming together for common purposes celebrating their differences and pursuing their unique ways, not denying them or trying to restrain or even destroy them." A better definition is solidarity in diversity.
Recently I pilgrimaged to Toronto. After my talk at the Hindu Temple of Richmond Hill, as devotees were coming forward for blessings, one man asked, "Swami, should I call myself a Saivite or a Hindu?" Of course, the answer I gave was, "Both." This simple story illustrates what to me is the perfect meaning of Hindu unity, which Gurudeva called Hindu solidarity. He also founded our magazine, Hinduism Today, which last year celebrated its 25th anniversary, as an effective tool for promoting Hindu solidarity. He declared as its first objective: "To foster Hindu solidarity as a unity in diversity among all sects and lineages."
Gurudeva's explanation of Hindu solidarity is as follows: "For all sects of Hinduism to survive in their pristine purity, maintaining their traditions, cultural heritages and religious theologies within our great Sanatana Dharma, each must strengthen the other by strengthening itself. Having found their roots, Hindus of all sects can proceed with confidence and work for Hindu solidarity. The many beliefs and practices common to all Hindus are the meeting ground, the basis, of this profound unity in diversity."
Hinduism has four main sects, also called denominations--Saivism, Shaktism, Smartism, and Vaishnavism. Gurudeva indicates that the starting point in achieving Hindu solidarity is for each denomination to strengthen itself. This means that the followers of each of these denominations, and the many lineages within them, should become more knowledgeable about their denomination's beliefs, practices and ways of worship and pursue them more diligently. This is how each denomination is strengthened--as each devotee draws strength from the heritage of his roots.
The second step naturally occurs when other Hindus are inspired to learn more about their tradition and its practices by meeting Hindus who have already become proficient and knowledgeable. This is the idea of "each strengthening the other by strengthening itself."