Amidst all the talk of how religion has, rather unwittingly, acted as a divisive force across humanity and has been the cause of social strife, violence and disharmony across the Globe, I recently had one of the most electrifying experiences which demonstrated, to me particularly, and, perhaps in the simplest manner possible the essential oneness of all Religions and their ultimate uniting force.

Sometime back, while on a vacation to a picturesque location in the Indian hinterland, my early morning (in fact prior to sunrise) slumber was pleasurably broken by the soft strains of the early morning Azan (the call to prayer recited by the Muezzin) which blended perfectly with the melodious sounds of the early morning Aarti being sung at a nearby temple. The blend of these two, seemingly discordant voices, was for me in the almost complete stillness and calm of the pre-dawn setting a heart -warming and intense experience the effect of which was, to say the least, profound and took my mind to the effect that various religious ceremonies and visits to places of worship has on one’s psyche and thought process.

Having been born and brought up in an ostensibly “Arya family’ with a rather, to put it mildly, liberal approach, educated in a convent institution, exposed to a cosmopolitan culture and diverse traditions and, of course, having witnessed and had the privilege of listening to the Gurbani, recital of the Bible and Buddhist hymns (unfortunately, in spite of a long cherished and intense desire, have not had the privilege of listening to Jain, Jewish or Zoroastrian Prayers or been a part of any other religious congregation) what I can say is that all such experiences have an intensely soothing effect on the mental state and do serve to rationalise thought processes.

Having observed the confluence of the Azan and Aarti is not the belief that religion is the ultimate unifier not entirely misplaced. Do not all forms of worship lead themselves to the same end-result — that of soothing our frayed nerves, settling the disturbed mind. Is not the practice of multi-religious prayer meetings, (perhaps more often than not symbolic), a reflection of the essential oneness of all religions? The experience of listening to the Gurbani playing in the background while traversing the parikrama in Harmandir Sahib, the electrifying effect of hearing the choir in the church (a privilege which I have been privy to on numerous occasions, having been educated in a convent institution in my formative years-listening to the Christian Hymn “Abide with me” invariably gives me goose bumps), the chanting of Vedic Mantras on various occasions and the like experiences spanning all religions almost always has the identical effect — the same tranquillity, equanimity and relaxation.

Although not, essentially, a deeply religious person- the thought that acquires prominence in my mind from this entire experience is perhaps extremely simplistic (and not at all original) of the essential identity, direction and unity of purpose of all religious and again calling for a reinforcement of the teachings of the venerated sage Swami Vivekanand more that a century ago on the need for religion to become a source of unity and harmony -the universality of all religions. Perhaps these simple daily tasks /activities could be used a bulwark to aid in process of fostering communal and religious harmony — a thought again highly utopian but if practiced with only a minor investment could yield intractable gains.

While the entire discussion above might sound clichéd and perhaps overtly simplistic the need to re-direct our resources, minds and thought processes to the positivity inherent in all religions is paramount, specially, in a society where religious tensions have reared their ugly head and nefarious components albeit, numerically insignificant, are getting undue prominence.

Just to buttress my conclusion I would, without meaning any disrespect, just rephrase the soulful Anglican hymn — “All things bright and beautiful” to convey the above thoughts: -

“All things bright and beautiful;

All creatures big and small;

All things wise and wonderful;

It is the duty of each one of us to take care of them all”.

The above in essence sums up the ultimate goal of all human beings — a goal which is the focus of all Religions, without exception to which any human being may owe allegiance.

Let me emphasize, in no uncertain terms that the above discussion is not directed at any particular religion, sect or organization but an appeal to all stakeholders and sections of society to give saner elements their due importance and to encourage, in any manner possible, the fostering of communal harmony — a task seemingly difficulty but deceptively simple if backed by clarity of thought and oneness of purpose.



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