War and Violence in the Name of God

Let me begin this paper with a tribute to Swami Vivekananda sharing his glorious views of religion and the need for religious harmony. I am presenting before you extracts of Vivekananda’s talk published in Saginaw Evening News from Michigan, USA on 12th March 1894.

Aryans, the first invaders of India never tried to exterminate the Indian masses but rather tried to elevate them from the brutish habits. Then arrived Christianity and Islam into the country and their culture commingled with the native culture contributing virtues as well as vices.

According to Swami Vivekananda if there are not different religions, no one religion would survive. The Christian needs his selfish religion. The Hindoo needs his own creed. Those which were founded on a book still stand.

Why could not the Christians convert the Jew? Why could not they make the Persians Christians? Why not so with the Mohammedans? Why cannot any impression be made on China or Japan?

The Buddhists, the first missionary religion, have double the number of coverts of any other religion and they did not use the sword.

The farthest that all religions can see is the existence of a spiritual unity. So no religion can teach beyond this point. In every religion there is the essential truth and non-essential casket in which the jewel lies. The believing in the Hindoo book or Jewish book is non-essential. Circumstances change, the receptacle is different, but the central truth remains. The essentials being the same, the educated people of every community retain the essentials. The shell of the oyster is not attractive, but the pearls are within.

Vivekananda says that this universe is a symphony. Hence why take a single instrument from the great religious orchestra of the earth? Let the grand symphony go on. Be pure, give up superstition and see the wonderful harmony of nature. Superstition gets the better of religion. All the religions are good since the essentials are the same. Each creed has had something to add to the wonderful structure. As far as the belief in the personality of God was concerned, agnosticism prevailed, and the main thing is to follow our Buddha’s precepts which were, “Be good, be moral, be perfect” (Vivekananda, “Religious Harmony” 482-484).

Now let me quote a few sentences from Vivekananda’s lecture reported in the Chicago Sunday Herald on 24th September 1893. He told the audience,

“I think we should love our brothers whether we believe in the universal fatherhood of God not, because every religion and every creed recognises man as divine, and you should do him no harm that you might not injure that which is divine in him” (Vivekananda, “Congress of Religious Unity” 199).

In his lecture at Detroit on 21st February 1894, reported in the Detroit Free Press, Vivekananda says,

“Of the different philosophies, the tendency of the Hindu is not to destroy, but to harmonise everything. If any idea comes into India, we do not antagonise it, but simply try to take in, to harmonise it because the method was taught first by our prophets, God incarnate on earth, Shri Krishna. We do not say that ours is the only way to salvation. Perfection can be had by everybody, and what is the proof? Because we see the holiest of men in all countries, good men and women everywhere, whether born in our faith or not. Therefore it cannot be held that ours is the only way to salvation.” (Vivekananda “Hindus and Christians” 209-213).

Religious harmony and peace can be attained only if we accept the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbamkam. The concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbamkam originated long back in India in the BC. The phrase means that the world is certainly one family. Vedic sages had disclosed the truth that the world is like a small, tightly knit, nuclear family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbamkam is a social philosophy based on the spiritual understanding that the whole of humanity is made of one life energy. It is a solution to the philosophical questions: If the Paramatma is one, how then an Atma can be different? If Atma is different, how then can it ultimately be dissolved in the Paramatma? If the whole ocean is one, how then a drop of the ocean be different from the ocean? If the drop is different from the ocean, how then can it ultimately be dissolved in the ocean? (“Vasudaiva Kutumbakam”). After a scientific progress of 400 years, scientists of world have come to this view that the whole cosmos is an inter-connected oneness. The whole existence is inter-woven and inter-twined. This is the result of quantum physics. Life on earth is interdependent—lives of man and animals and plants are interconnected. Existence of one is dependent on others. Similarly one’s comfort, happiness and peace are dependent on others. It is applicable to individuals as well as nations.

The Creator has bestowed upon this planet with sufficient resources for all its inhabitants. Other beings take from this planet only for their survival whereas human beings are greedy and they are not just sufficient with their necessities but run after comforts and luxuries. Among human beings 12.5% are hungry and starving when others are wasting tones of food. This widening gap between the rich and the poor is the main reason for loss of peace and harmony in this world. The root cause of conflicts between communities and even nations is this disparity in wealth. The rich people as well as rich countries do not want to alleviate the problems of the poor but rather they want the poor people and poor nations to remain poor for ever so that they can market their consumer products among them and become richer and richer. 99% of human beings are selfish who nurture tamasik* and rajasik* character and involve in such karmas.

The vast majority of have-nots in this world when they learn that the wealth of the planet is legitimate to them also, naturally feel envious and result in confrontation, conflicts and even wars. The main cause of Maoist attacks is this. The same disparity can be attributed as one of the causes of terrorism, the main being religious fundamentalism. The rich or the rich countries should be indebted to the poor or the poor countries for their affluence because they have indirectly looted the possession of the have-nots. As Frantz Fanon has stated in his masterpiece postcolonial treatise The Wretched of the Earth, the wealth of the imperial countries, amassed through capitalist exploitation, is in reality the colonized people’s wealth too. Hence the colonized peoples are not blinded by the help which an imperial state offers them; it is only moral reparation. Vasudaiva Kutumbamkam can be materialized only if the rich and the privileged people or nations nurture their satvik* nature and treat the poor and their under privileged people and nations as their siblings. Then there will be shanti or peace on earth. The rich or developed countries can live peacefully only if their poor neighbours are fed well and live happily.

Having expressed with quotes Swami Vivekananda’s views on religion and the need for religious harmony, let us examine the present scenario. Has the world of religion changed for the better 125 years after his exhortation? I think the West has changed and their people have become more secular than the East. Even though spirituality has been decreasing in the Western mind and materialism conquering them they have evolved to be tolerant in the religious matters or even least bothered about religion and religious practices. Whereas in the East, in the Islamic countries and India, people have become religious fundamentalists and fanatics and it results in violence and war.

In Vivekananda’s own country, once model for religious harmony to the entire world, the unity is being lost now and people have become more narrow minded and their primary emotion and affiliation has been degenerated to their religions rather than to the land or country which feeds them and protects them. When I see the violence, bloodshed, murders, terrorism and wars in the name of religion and God I am forced to think that this world would have been a better place if all the religions have been banned on the planet. Let me quote a few lines from my poem “In the Name of God” taken from my collection Winged Reason published in 2010:

Millions were killed in crusades
in the name of God.
Tens of millions died in World Wars
in the name of God.
Clergies thrive and dictate
in the name of God.
Laymen frightened surrender
in the name of God.
Religions rival each other
in the name of God.
Democracy is devalued
in the name of God.
Nepotism is supported
in the name of God.
Superstitions survive
in the name of God.
Communalism poisons
in the name of God.
Communism is strangled
in the name of God.
Terrorists butcher thousands
in the name of God.
Teens become terrorists
in the name of God.
Sexism prevails
in the name of God.
Higher castes exploit
in the name of God.
Secularism is nullified
in the name of God.
Corruption is promoted
in the name of God.
God is dethroned
in the name of God.
And human gods are crowned
in the name of God.(Dominic, Winged Reason 69-70)

It has been an accepted fact that education opens one’s mind and removes one’s ignorance and one becomes broadminded and scientific. It has been so in the past centuries. But when we look at the world now, we find that it is the educated people who are more intolerant and prejudiced. They become preys to religious fundamentalism, communalism and terrorism. They are prepared to die for their religion. Behind all terrorist attacks we find the brains of the educated youth. It is the worst irony of the world. Is there any real drawback of the present education system? Is it the lack of value based education? One thing is sure that the youth have few good models now to emulate. They find corrupted, fraud leaders everywhere. The world now needs great visionaries like Vivekananda, Gandhi etc. Let me wind up my paper reading a few lines from my long poem “Multicultural Harmony” taken from the collection Multicultural Symphony published in 2014:

Dear my fellow beings
break away all fences and walls
Fences of your petty minds
Compound walls of your houses
Walls of your religions and castes
Boundaries of your native States
And ultimately borders of your nations
Let there be no India, Pakistan or China
America, Africa, Europe or Australia
But only one nation THE WORLD
where every being lives in perfect harmony
as one entity in multicultural world. (Dominic, Multicultural Symphony 22-23)

Works Cited

  • Dominic, K. V. Multicultural Symphony. New Delhi: GNOSIS, 2014. Print.
  • Winged Reason. New Delhi: Authorspress, 2010. Print.
  • Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. London: Penguin Books, 1967. Print.
  • vasudhaiva-kutumbakam-vasudhaiva-kutumbakam
  • Vivekananda, Swami. “Congress of Religious Unity.” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol.8. Calcutta: Swami Mamukshananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1999. 8 vols. 199. Print.
  • “Hindus and Christians.” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol.8. Calcutta: Swami Mamukshananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1999. 8 vols. 209-213. Print.
  • “Religious Harmony.” The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol.2. Calcutta: Swami Mamukshananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1995. 8 vols. 482-484. Print.


More by :  Prof. Dr. Dominic KV

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