Dharma Vs. Religion – 2

Shri. Sita Ram Goel Ji

When the European scholars in 18-19th Centuries (CE) began to translate the literature of India in their own languages, they felt a special difficulty with regard to one word. That word was ‘Dharma’. In European languages, there was no one word which could completely express the essential nature of Dharma. So, the European scholars had to make use of different words relative to the context in which the word had been used in Indian literature. In the English language, Dharma was translated as religion, righteousness, law, tradition, moral code, etc., according to the context. Thus, European scholars confirmed that great saying of Bhishma Pitamaha in the Mahabharata : The dynamics of Dharma are deep.

A bird’s-eye view of world history tells us that there have been two traditions of worship. We will call one the tradition of Advaita, and the other Monotheism. In our previous Issue, we had briefly covered the tradition of Advaita. Read the concluding part.

Monotheism rose first of all among the Jews who, after a long spell of nomadic life, had settled down in Palestine. A detailed exposition as well as the history of their Monotheism is available in the Old Testament of the Bible. Among them was born Jesus whom some of his disciples proclaimed as the ‘Christ’ after his death. Christianity’s exposition is available in the New Testament of the Bible.

After organizing a powerful Church, Christianity seized the Roman Empire in the fourth century (CE). That empire had expanded far and wide in Europe, West Asia and North Africa.
Thereafter, Christianity spread in other parts of Europe from the fifth to the fifteenth century and, by the beginning of the sixteenth century, Christianity along with European imperialism reached the countries of America, Africa and Asia.

Many countries among them became completely Christianized. Now this faith is steadily spreading in the other countries.

The rise of Islam occurred in the first half of the seventh century (CE). This faith had spread in its birthplace, Arabia, in the life-time of its founder, Muhammad. Thereafter, Arab armies carried Islam up to Spain through North Africa on the one side, and to Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Khurasan, Central Asia and Sindh on the other.

The armies of Turkish imperialism strived for several hundred years to spread Islam in Europe on the one hand and in India on the other. In Europe, this effort (to spread Islam) remained wholly unsuccessful except in some regions, so much so that the well-established rule of Islam in Spain was also uprooted.

But in India, Islam gained significant success. The present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, once parts of India, are the living examples of that success. In addition to this, in Indonesia, Malaysia and several countries of Africa, Islam has spread its tentacles far and wide.

Spread of Faith and Use of Force

In the tradition of Advaita, one characteristic is particularly noteworthy. In the long history of this tradition, not a single instance of the spread of faith by use of force is available. Among the countries and communities following the tradition of Advaita, many wars have been fought due to many kinds of differences and hostilities. But never has any war been fought for the spread of faith. In this context, the spread of Buddhism is particularly notable.

In the spread of this Dharma, not a single soldier ever played any role. The monks of the Dharma Sangha alone carried this faith far and wide. And in the countries where Buddhism spread, it never came into conflict with the ancient modes of worship prevalent in those countries.

On the other hand, the whole history of the spread of Monotheism is the history of use of force in various ways. The expansion of Christianity and Islam took place only through the use of armed force or economic power or a combination of both, by some imperialism or the other. In the process of this expansion, three facts stare us in the face :

Firstly, the followers of Monotheism destroyed the religious places of other faiths, broke or defiled the sacred images of their gods, burnt their sacred Scriptures, killed their priests and Saints or dishonored them, and made untiring efforts to destroy their cultures, root and branch.

Secondly, the Monotheists converted the followers of other faiths at the point of the sword or by tempting them with money or privilege or by humiliating them in other ways.

Thirdly, the Monotheists slaughtered in cold blood the defeated warriors of other faiths, enslaved and sold their innocent families in far-off lands, and plundered all their movable, immovable and other properties. Those followers of the other faiths who still survived after all this mayhem, were made second class citizens, burdened with many disabilities and trodden under foot in various ways by the Monotheists in power.

The apologists of Christianity and Islam attribute the blame for these horrors of history to the innate barbarism of this or that conqueror tribe, and pronounce that in principle there is no place for use of force in Monotheistic faiths. And in support of this contention, these scholars quote a few lines from the Bible or the Quran.

Hindu exponents of ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhava’ never tire of supporting this apologetics. Therefore, it is a subject for enquiry as to how much substance there is in this apologetics. History stands witness that whenever and wherever the followers of Monotheism have used force, its use has been openly praised by their clerics and historians. They state quite clearly that the use of force is sanctioned by their religion, and quote the relevant commandments from their Scriptures.

At the same time, we have to see as to why, in the traditions of Advaita, there is no provision to use force for spreading faith.

(Courtesy : cisindus.org)
(Shri. Sita Ram Goel ji was an Indian religious and political activist, writer, and publisher in the late Twentieth century. He is considered to be one of the two Sages of Modern Hindu Renaissance.)

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