The Gospel preaches: “Go ye forth into the world to preach the Gospel”. Christianity has covered the globe not through Christ alone but through its followers. Islam too in its relatively short life span has spread across the Middle East and North Africa taking the ideologies and philosophies into the hearts of new cultures. But what is India’s mission? What is it that the Hindu has to offer? Of course, there is no simple answer to 6000 years of civilization and culture, but here are some crucial points for which I turn to one of India’s greatest teachers, Swami Vivekananda.
Here are three essential teachings which elaborate on the unique message of India to the world.
Swami Vivekananda said:
“India was once a great missionary power. Hundreds of years before England was converted to Christianity, Buddha sent out missionaries to convert the world of Asia to his doctrine.”
People who try to convert others to their fold using deceitful means, should receive, and do receive bad press. But who can fault the peaceful Buddha spreading non-violence and meditation throughout the world. This is the model for India’s mission. It has accumulated thousands of years of knowledge, and has maps for reaching the highest states of perfect, this is something we must explore and share with the world. We need to be serious about the value to humanity of these teachings without being fanatical. The Indian mission is not one of the sword, or one of fear, it is not this is the only way to God. In fact the principle teaching of Hinduism is “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vedante” – the truth is one, but the wise call it by many names. If Hinduism remains true to this, it should never become fanatical about a single doctrine. Be serious about the teachings, but never fanatical.
When asked what is the central truth of India’s mission, Swami Vivekananda went on to say:
“The divine within; every being, however degraded, is the expression of the divine. The divinity becomes covered, hidden from view. The greatest lesson is that unity is behind all. Call it God, love, spirit, Allah, Jehova. It is the same unity that animates all life from the lowest animal to the noblest man. Picture to yourself an ocean ice-bound, pierced with many different holes. Each of these holes is a soul, a man, emancipated according to his degree of intelligence, essaying to break through the ice.”
The third important message is one of self enquiry and individual choice. When asked what whether new converts to Hinduism should be given a unique set of rules or methods to follow within the manifold Hindu religion, Swami Vivekananda answered emphatically,
“Can you ask that?” He said. “The will choose for themselves. For unless a man chooses for himself, the very spirit of Hinduism is destroyed. The essence of our faith consists simply in this freedom of the Ishta. ”
There is no hellfire for non-belief. Nothing to be afraid of. Swami Vivekananda, completely in line with the teachings of Hinduism teaches us that we should follow the path that appeals to our heart and intellect. As Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita says, “I have taught you these truths, but now you should deliberate on them fully, and act as you wish”.
- India and Hinduism have so much to share with the world, it belongs to the world. Be serious but not fanatical, knowing that there are many rivers leading to the ocean.
- Know that the divine underpins all of existence. Our true nature is spiritual, and therefore we are encouraged to love all beings equally, to treat this earth as our very body, to look upon the world with complete compassion.
- There are underlying virtues, vast corpuses of scriptures, hundreds of different schools of thought, but there is no dogma which you absolutely should follow. Think about it all, and act accordingly.