Guidance for Life

Belief in God is considered to be a wonderful starting point in the spiritual journey. Hindu philosophy insists that belief is a mere starting point and should not be mistaken for the destination. Accept the teachings of the scriptures (shruti); test and translate them in your lives (yukti); and this is expected to culminate in first-hand experience of God – swanubhuti.

Many Hindus like to think of God as a super personality. Ingrained in the Hindu psyche is the recognition that as all individuals are different, the way in which each person perceives God will necessarily be different. People impose their own human limitations on this Ultimate Reality so that they can more easily relate to Him. This is the reason for the copious images of God in Hinduism. It is not a polytheistic religion that believes in many almighty Gods, but a pluralistic religion that recognises that the same one Ultimate can be viewed in a variety of different ways.

Recognition that all religions are equally valid pathways to the same Ultimate is one Hindu answer to many of the tensions in the world today. Pluralism is not relativism; it does not suggest that there are plural ultimates, but plural ways to the same Ultimate. God is infinite, and there are an infinite number of ways to reach God.

It may seem as if pluralism is just a way of appeasing all faiths to keep the peace without actually being true. However, Hindus point to a modern-day example to show the validity of different religions: Ramakrishna was able to experience God through a variety of ways in Hinduism, but also found God through other religions such as Christianity and Islam. For him, God-realisation was not the monopoly of any particular faith. He promoted the universality of spirituality, and individuality in a seeker’s approach to God.

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