NEW DELHI, August 9, 2012 (report by Hinduism Today correspondent Rajiv Malik): “Today the greatest obstacles to happiness are not religious beliefs and values, but intolerance and lack of an understanding of our oneness. Fundamentalists of all types, including capitalists, marxists and secularists of today all seem to miss that mark. We need to learn how to be more accepting of others and their differences. Contemporary secularism, like other forms of fundamentalist thinking, does not and cannot promote happiness. That can only come from a tolerance born out of an understanding of our unity, as beautifully mentioned in Rig Veda’s verse, ‘Ekam sat, vipra bahuda vadanti’ [Truth is one, sages call it with different names].”
The speaker was Professor Ramdas Lamb of the University of Hawaii’s Department of Religion. The topic, “Does the secular state breed immorality?” was the topic of an evening presentation arranged by Professor Bharat Gupt of the International Forum for India’s Heritage at Delhi’s prestigious Habitat Centre on Wednesday, August 8, 2012.
The session generated a high level of participation and interaction by the audience, a select group of intellectuals, social activists and education specialists. Moderator and chair Professor Bharat Gupt told attendees, “The rise of immorality in India coincides with the preaching and practice of secularism by the Indian State. This deliberate removal of Hinduism from public discourse and the educational institutes has deprived two full generations of the moral values that religions teach.”
“Pure social equality,” Dr. Lamb said, “is a goal of many idealists but is not practically possible. There is no society in which everyone has the same abilities, understanding, and maturity to function in complete harmony without external forces and guidelines.
“In short, we need laws, and these must be based on something beyond human whim. Ancient Indian philosophy provides some important and useful guidelines in this regard, acknowledging an internal and ultimate unity and equality but also emphasizing the need to look to the wise among us for guidance. This hierarchy is not based on a narrow ideology or material power, but rather on a belief in a transcendental yet immanent source from which wisdom and knowledge are gained.
“Pearls of wisdom such as ‘ekam sat vipra bahu vadanti,’ ‘tat tvam asi,’ and ‘aham brahma asmi’ can help us develop guidelines for a society in which all are treated as inherently equal while their different levels of physical and spiritual maturity are also acknowledged and addressed.”
Dr. Lamb discussed the treatment of religions as well as of individuals: “Truly minority religious traditions have not been respected, compared to those politically powerful enough to claim that label, such as Christianity and Islam. Tribal traditions and other minority traditions that fall within the rubric of Hinduism do not receive such recognition by the government.”
“Pluralism is grounded in the belief that a diversity of thought and belief can coexist harmoniously in a society and enhance it. Upanishadic and some Vedic philosophy promote this type of thinking, expressing an understanding of an eternal unity that underlies a superficial and temporal disparity. With this approach we can recognize a common set of values, as we find in most religious traditions.”