Solidarity in Diversity

Hindus should work with those of other traditions while holding firmly to our own denomination and spiritual path.

Continued from page 1

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."



This then leads to the third step, which is Hindus of the four major denominations effectively coming together to create a Hindu unity. Their coming together is effective because each follower and each leader is knowledgeable and deeply involved in his or her own tradition.



The nature of this unity is that it is based on solidarity rather than sameness. It cannot be based on sameness, as the followers of the four denominations do not hold identical beliefs and do not follow identical practices. On many points they differ. Therefore, unity must be based on solidarity, coming together on the shared platform of beliefs and practices common to all Hindus while acknowledging that in many ways we differ.



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Said another way, the social, political power of the family of faiths we call Hinduism is based on its spiritual, mystical power, which abides in its many individual sects and sampradayas, each with its enlightened guru lineages, dynamic temples, noble traditions, and profound scriptural canons. This sectarian diversity is the real power of the Hindu faith and must be preserved.



Sometimes leaders of Hindu organizations in North America and elsewhere share with us a perspective that Hinduism should be presented as a unity without diversity. They believe our differences only divide us and propose that Hinduism, in order to be strong, should have one shared scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. They propose that all Hindus should have a unified view of the many Hindu deities and hold common beliefs regarding key concepts, such as God, soul, and world.



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