Hinduism and Semitic Religions

13. Need to examine and compare the Scriptures.

Hinduism is different not only from West’s materialism in its two varieties, liberal and communist, but it also dif­fers in some important ways from some other religions and religious value systems, particularly those of Semitic origin. Here we are referring to Christianity and Islam.

As a way of life which emphasizes spiritual values, Hinduism has several points of contact with cultures that take into account this dimension. In fact, there is quite a strong movement amongst men of good will all over the world which says that all religions hold the same truth and all scriptures preach the same thing.They cull passages from different scriptures and prove their point. This is a noble and well-intentioned thought and effort. In a world suffering from so much unnecessary conflict, the truth of unity and harmony has to be emphasized. If a man is the same in his more common sensibilities, he must also be the same in his spiritual ones. If he laughs when he is tickled and pained when he is pricked, he must also be filled with a sense of awe, wonder and holiness in the presence of the profundities and mysteries of life.

But this viewpoint is not equally shared by all. While this truth comes naturally to a Hindu or a Buddhist, it is denied both in theory as well as in practice by Christianity and Islam. They believe that not only are they different, but they are also superior. From the start, they believed that the gods they worshipped were superior to the gods of their neighbours and their religion was invested with truth while others wallowed in falsities. One of the results of this attitude was that they developed along missionary and crusading lines. Their God-given task has been to teach the principles of a true religion to a benighted world of idolators, pagans, infidels and devil-worshippers.

This viewpoint may have lost its appeal in certain sections influenced by new trends in thought towards more universalism, but it isstillquite popular with the organized churches.

Look at the way Christianity and Islam are working in Asian and African countries and draw your conclusions. The more naked methods of good old days have become somewhat outdated, and therefore undergone some modifica­tions, but the old mind is still very much there, and the new methods adopted are not less single-minded, tricky and subversive. We must not forget this fact.

There is also another point of a more philosophical import. Even if we admit a fundamental unity between different religions,the differences too cannot be denied and they have to be accounted for. For example, if you study carefully different scriptures like the Upanishads and the Gita on the one hand and the Bible and the Quran on the other, you find great differences of approach, ethos, and temperament. Many times, you feel that these differences are more than differences of idiom and treatment. In fact, you feel that the very worlds of the two scriptures are different. Therefore, to treat these differences and to try to understand them is not without its intellectual and spiritual interest. In fact, to overlook them or slur over them would be an act of intellectual shoddiness.