On Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birthday (2 Oct 2019), the Hamilton Interfaith Group (HIFG), organized an interfaith prayer meeting at the City Hall, Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) to pay tribute to that messenger of Peace.
The following was my brief address at that meeting on what the Hindu religion is and what it meant to Mohandas Gandhi, the father of the nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
When Hindu religion is mentioned anywhere, especially in North America or Europe, it immediately and commonly conjures up images of all associated gods and goddesses. Even majority of Hindus believe their religious duties begin and end with some ritualistic worship of their gods and goddesses depending upon their interest. In fact, all the gods and goddesses were crafted in different images and associated with some virtues and vices much later.
Before that, the Hindus -- largely a geo-cultural expression rather than identification of a particular faith-based group -- recognized and paid utmost reverence to -- and yes, they worshipped the FIVE basic elements of which everything in nature was made up, including the human body.
क्षिति जल पावक गगन समीरा।
पंच रचित अति अधम शरीरा।।
Translated, it meant: SPACE, WATER, FIRE, SKY and AIR are the FIVE fundamental elements that constituted the mortal body.
The Hindus recognized that all these elements held the cosmos together and provided continuity. And yet they discovered this seemingly ‘integrated whole’ contained within itself a continuous cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction. The Hindu scriptures ascribed every phenomenon to some god and goddess but under one Supreme Indivisible Entity, call it by any name.
Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna the same lesson in the Bhagvad Geeta:
अविभक्तं च भूतेषु विभक्तमिव च स्थितम् |
भूतभर्तृ च तज्ज्ञेयं ग्रसिष्णु प्रभविष्णु च || Chapter 13; Verse 17||
“Though integral like Space in its undivided aspect, it appears divided as it were in all animate and inanimate beings. And that godhead, which is the only object worth knowing, is the Sustainer of beings (as Vishnu), the Destroyer (as Rudra), and the Creator of all (as Brahma).”
And then the Hindus prayed for peace and harmony among all these Vital Elements and for the THREE forces to hold the Universe in balance:
“Unto the Heaven be peace, unto the Sky and the Earth be peace, peace be unto the Water, unto the Herbs and Trees be peace, unto all the Gods be peace, unto Brahma and unto All be peace. And may we realize that Peace. Ohm, Peace, Peace and Peace.”
This, according to the Hindu religious philosophy, is the Truth which, the Hindu Scriptures recognized a long time ago and that can be explained by the learned people in different ways:
एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति (Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti)
"Truth is one but scholars (or different people) perceive it in different ways.."
It beautifully tells you that 4 times 3 is equal to 12 and so is 6 times 2 or 12 times 1.
Writing in Young India on 6 October 1921, Gandhi explained:
“Hinduism is not an exclusive religion. In it there is room for the worship of all the prophets of the world. It is not a missionary religion in the ordinary sense of the term. It has no doubt absorbed many tribes in its fold, but this absorption has been of an evolutionary, imperceptible character. Hinduism tells everyone to worship God according to his own faith or dharma, and so it lives at peace with all religions.”
Thank You and Peace!
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.