After graduating from Texas A&M University in 2011, I promptly moved to India for my spiritual quest hoping that the thorough understanding of a new philosophy (Tartam) that incorporates the teachings of the world’s major faiths would enable me to contribute to fostering religious harmony, the aspiration that I felt would outweigh my personal career goals. It is because I had witnessed overwhelming hatred, misunderstandings and mistrust between people of different faiths resulting from the attacks of Sept. 11 and other subsequent terrorist attacks that followed worldwide during my stay in the US that I was motivated to move to India.
I started attending a seminary called Shree Krishna Pranami Sadhanalaya, a training facility for religious aspirants to reflect on Atman (soul) and understand the underlying messages of Vedic Scriptures (Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas) and the Semitic scriptures (mainly Quran and Bible). During my stay here for nearly two years, I have learned a great deal about the essence of the world’s major faiths and the potentials for peaceful co-existence of all faiths and have begun articulating the message of harmony through my writings and lectures in academic settings, albeit on a small scale.
When I meet new people, talking about religion and the glory of leading a spiritual life greatly fascinates me. Engaging in spiritual discussions with people apathetic to religions who largely credit religion to an increase in terrorism, sectarian violence, poverty, gender bias, and caste discrimination and other ills satisfies me as I find their concerns genuine. When I was traveling from Mumbai to Raigarh, India, I met a lecturer of sociology at a university in Raipur, India and started a candid conversation on religion. As I stated that the world’s major religions offer identical messages aimed at guiding humanity towards the same eventual goal, he cited some references of seemingly irreconcilable differences and argued that it must not be the same Lord we are all submitting to. Had it been the case, he argued, the scriptures would have offered identical teachings to humanity. I reminded him that indeed difference exists between faiths, as it was the Will of the Lord; however, those differences are trivial compared to their identical eventual goals.
“Unto every one of you, we have appointed a (different) law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community; but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by means of what He has given you…” (Quran 5:48)
Lord Shree Krishna says to Arjuna in the Bhagavada Gita, one of the most revered Vedic scriptures, that all the living entities in this world are His eternal, fragmental parts, meaning that there is a divine spark in every living entity in this world and therefore, there is no differentiation between people on the basis of race, gender, or religious affiliation when it comes to their association with the Lord (1). However, it is due to this relativity and cosmic illusion the Lord has played us into that we witness these variations in scriptures.
Vivekananda, one of the greatest Vedic scholars, argues that these differences are the catalysts for religions moving forward. Had all people believed the same, there would have been nothing to think about. If we all had practiced the same set of rituals, prayed the same way or believed in the same philosophies, we would be like the Egyptian mummies in the museums vacantly, looking at each other’s faces. Perfect balance or equilibrium would be the cause of our destruction and consequently differentiation is why we exist (2).
Having agreed on those apparent differences, he argues however, that religions are complementary rather than contradictory. It’s the same Lord that revealed different knowledge through his messengers and saints. The differences were due to the different languages, traditions and circumstances in which those divine messages were revealed. He further says that eventually all souls merge with the Lord, the Lord that is the same for all. He says, “As the rivers originating from different mountains roll down crooked and straight and at last come to the ocean, so all these various creeds, through crooked and straight courses, at last come unto thee.” (2)
While many acknowledge the differences between the faiths, scriptures state that it’s the Lord’s will that is the cause of such differences. As the Bible says:
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations; but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” (KJV Corinthians 12: 4, 5, 6)
Mahamati Prannath, the founder of a new vision of spirituality called Tartam, states – “Ete Din Ina Hukume Jude Jude Khelaye” – Until now, it’s the Will of the Lord that played us into this relative world with different understandings and beliefs. He argues that despite these differences, all the scriptures are part of the divine and should be treated as such by true aspirants.
“All the scriptures whether they be Quran, Hadiths, Bible, Torah, Puranas or Vedas have come as nectar to us from the same Universal Spirit, hence the true devotees relish the divine wisdom embodied in them” – Tartam Sagar (Singaar 12:16)
Having seen apparent differences in ritualistic guidelines and mythological stories, many religious leaders and scholars argue that all the religions profess different ideals and genuine religious harmony is hard to attain. However, it should be understood that they are the result of divine Will, the Lord’s grand plan to get us to experience the relativity here in this transient world such that we understand eternal bliss and the non-duality of the Lord’s Abode. Such understanding can take us a step forward in realizing religious harmony and working towards finding commonalities between us.
1. “Fifteenth Chapter.” Srimad Bhagavadgita, Sadhaka-Sanjivani. Ed. Swami Ramsukhdas. Trans. S. C. Vaishya. 3rd ed. Vol. II. Gorakhpur: Gita, 2002. 1073.
2. “The Ideal of a Universal Religion.” WHAT RELIGION IS In the Words of SWAMI VIVEKANANDA. Ed. Swami Vidyatmananda. 22nd ed. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 2006.