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Tolerance & Acceptance - Part 2

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In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources – lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.






Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

Social and religious leaders bear a heavy responsibility for promoting tolerance and acceptance of all people of diverse faiths, cultures, and countries. They must teach this generation that unity and tolerance cannot be promoted simply by treaties and diplomatic understandings, by symposiums and debates. We must learn to love each other in our social and individual lives. The cost of intolerance is too heavy to ignore. Pastors and priests, monks and nuns, and religious leaders of all faiths must emphatically put forward before the public that love and compassion are the basic bonds of humanity. Secular humanism without a spiritual basis—that is to say, that the same God dwells in the hearts of all—will not be much help to unlearn intolerance.

Hatred is conquered by love, ignorance by knowledge, and superstition by right thinking. Each one of us is called upon to promote these values not only for our social and community welfare, but also for our individual peace, happiness, and prosperity. It is by transforming ourselves that we transform the world. The key to transformation is the transformation of the soul. When we work together, we can certainly create a better world by understanding the purpose of the universe and identifying ourselves with it.

Sri Ramakrishna, India’s prophet of the harmony of religions, reminded us that the essence of religion is God-consciousness. When that is forgotten, religious differences begin—and not before. The oneness of existence and harmony of religions are cardinal principles of Hinduism, and the Ramakrishna Order stands as an example of unity, tolerance, and diversity. There are monks in the Ramakrishna Order who are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu. They live together, dedicating their lives to the service of all humanity. Its centers all over the world teach people to develop spiritually by seeing God in the hearts of all beings, irrespective of caste, creed, and culture.

This is the ideal which Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda presented before the world. Foreseeing the need of our age, 111 years ago at the First World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda made his famous farewell remarks:

Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization, and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

Swami Vivekananda’s call for unity and love and tolerance is the voice of the prophets, saints, and seers of all traditions. If we fail to heed this call, our civilization is doomed to destruction. This is the merciless law of history. But, the Swami’s assurance that the end of fanaticism and intolerance may be at hand—that we do have a choice, and that we can do better—gives us hope.

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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