Unity in diversity: An ancient Hindu principles

Telugu Bhaarath
Unity in diversity: An ancient Hindu principles

By Ram Madhav ji..

A Hindu view of human rights and dignity – III

Human dignity cannot be ensured merely through constitutional means. It has to be embedded in the basic Sanskaras — the value system of the society. The ancient sages of Bharat have thus visualised the grand idea of the oneness of Atman and Paramaatman — and universal oneness of human beings based on ‘Chetna’ — the collective consciousness. That the same consciousness pervades all creation is the greatest contribution of the Hindu classical thought to the wisdom of the world.

Nobel Prize winning physicist Schrödinger concluded in his book My View of the World after many experiments in Physics and neurophysiologythat:

In all the world there is no kind of framework within which we find consciousness in the plural. This is something we construct because of the temporal plurality of the individuals. But it is a false construction… The only solution to this conflict, in so far as any is available to us, lies in the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads”. (Swami Jitatmananda, Modern Physics and Vedanta, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Rajkot)

Upanishads are the fountainhead of Hindu philosophy which the great German philosopher Schopenhauer described as “the solace of my life” (Harbilas Sharda, Hindu Superiority). Vedic and Upanishadic literature abounds in ideas that proclaim universal oneness and universal well-being. Hinduism is the essence of all that wisdom handed down to generation after generation. These ideas have shaped and guided the Hindu socio-religious life for centuries.

When one enters the Parliament building in Delhi, one comes face to face at the very entrance with a Sanskrit verse:

Ayam Nijah Paroveti Ganana Laghu Chetasaam
Udaara Charitaanaam tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam

(Small and narrow-minded people look at the reality in terms of ‘this is yours and this is mine’; for those of higher consciousness the whole world is a family.)

This ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the world as one family – is unique in this age of globalisation in the sense that while the ancient sages of Bharat have proclaimed that the whole humanity is like a big extended family, the modern-age pundits want us to believe that the whole world is, in fact, a huge market. While the Hindus stand for one world, globalisation stands for one market. In reality what we are actually achieving is not globalisation, but McDonaldisation.

While emphasising on the fundamental unity of the Atman – consciousness, Hinduism does recognise that there exists diversity in god’s creation. This diversity is not seen by a Hindu as a misnomer. Neither does he set out to destroy this diversity in his quest for uniformity when he talks about the innate oneness. Diversity in form and unity in spirit is what Hinduism stands for.

The secular ideals of Europe are nascent in front of the Hindu ideal of ‘Sarva Dharma Samabhav’ (equal respect for all religions). Whereas secular ideology stops at calling for ‘tolerance’ to the diversity, Hinduism goes much further. It doesn’t just tolerate, it accepts every religion. It transcends all barriers of religious bigotry and even celebrates diversity.


Some wrongly portray it as polytheism or pluralism. Pluralism means existence of parts that are not inter-connected. However the Hindu ideal of respect for and celebration of the diversity in the creation stems from its core belief that whatever we see in the universe is nothing but the manifestation of the supreme reality only.

The Chandogya Upanishad describes it beautifully as ‘Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma’ (all that we see in this universe is Brahman [supreme consciousness] only). The Mundaka Upanishad says that this Atman (consciousness-existence – Bliss-absolute) has interpenetrated everything in the universe.

Lord Krishna refers to the omnipresence of the Divine in his discourse to Arjuna in the Bhagawad Gita.

‘Mayi Sarvamidam Protam Sutre Manigana Iva’ (I have interpenetrated the universe like gems threaded together).

It is interesting to observe the scientific developments in quantum physics that seem to proceed along the same lines. After successful experiment on Bell’s Theorem, eminent Physicist David Bohm wrote: “The essential new quality implied by the quantum theory is non-locality, i.e. that a system cannot be analysed into parts whose basic properties do not depend upon the whole system. This leads to new notion of unbroken wholeness of the universe”. (Swami Jitatmananda, Swami Vivekananda – Prophet and Path-finder)

We shall term it Omnitheism. The purpose of life for a Hindu is to realise this, feel One, and through this feeling, liberate spiritually. Omnitheism guides the Hindu way of life. He sees God everywhere, in trees, in rivers, in serpents and even in the vacuum. For him all creation — animate and inanimate – is sacred. He worships a river and calls it Ganga Mata – mother ganges. He worships a cow and calls it Gau Mata – mother cow. Even if he were to cut a tree for laying up a road, he would do that only after offering his obeisance to that tree and seeking pardon from it. Hence every Hindu might have a personal deity like patron saints culled from historical figures enshrined in folk memory. This is not polytheism as these deities are as divine as any in the creation and merely a part of the whole.

‘Ekam Sat Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’ – ‘Truth is one; Wise men call it by various names’, exhorts Rig Veda.

“We not only tolerate, but we Hindus accept every religion …. Knowing that all religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest absolutism, mean so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realise the infinite, each determined by the conditions of its birth and association, and each of them marking a stage of progress” – exhorted Swami Vivekananda at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. (Subhash Kashyap; Understanding Bharat – Relevance of Hinduism, 2007)

In fact the Narada Smriti, one of the many constitutions Hindus have had during the course of their long history enjoins upon the king to protect non-believers too.

“Pashandanaigama sreni poogavraata ganadishu
Samrakshet samayam Raja Durge Janapade Tatha” 

(The king should accord protection to compacts of associations of believers of Vedas (Naigamas) as also the non-believers (Pashandis) and others.) — Narada Smriti, Dharma Kosha

To put it in a nutshell, the Hindu perceives global diversity as the divine game and sets out to preserve and enrich it rather than trying to establish a global standard culture.

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