Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava

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Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava is a concept embodying the equality of the destination of the path's followed by all religions.


  • A number of Indians have tried to define secularism as sarva dharma samabhava (equal respect for all religions). I cannot say whether they have been naive or clever in doing so. But the fact remains that secularism cannot admit of such an interpretation. In fact, orthodox Muslims are quite justified in regarding it as irreligious. Moreover, dharma cannot be defined as religion which is a Semitic concept and applies only to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Hinduism is not a religion in that sense; nor are Jainism and Buddhism, or for that matter, Taoism and Confucianism.
    • Girilal Jain, "Limits of the Hindu Rashtra", in : Elst, Koenraad: Ayodhya and after, Appendix I
  • This view of Sarva Dharma Samabhava has been turned into a political principle in modern India. ... The correct term for the common Western idea of religion, which is a particular belief, in Hindu thought would not be Dharma but “mata” meaning a belief, view or opinion. There is no such possible statement as “Sarva Mata Samabhava” or the equality and unity of all opinions. Opinions are as diverse as the minds of creatures. Nor need we seek to make all opinions one and the same. Diversity of opinions is necessary as part of freedom of seeking the truth....Sarva Dharma Samabhava has been used to court the favor of various religious groups and to uphold vote banks based upon religious belief. It is often a one-way street. Hindus are told to accept Sarva Dharma Samabhava which means that they should not mind if Hindus are converted to Christianity and Islam and should avoid criticizing these religions even if what they believe appears to be a violation of what Hindus hold to be true. On the other hand, under the same principle, Muslims and Christians are not expected to reciprocate, stop their conversion efforts, or to become Hindus. The result is that Sarva Dharma Samabhava has only served to erode the Hindu view of truth and encouraged Hindus to give up their critical faculties in matters of religion. It is contrary to the spirit of the Yogis and Rishis in which all manner of debate was encouraged in order to arrive at truth. ...We are entering a new era in civilization today, in which religion must be radically recast, if not discarded. Only those religions willing to undergo a radical transformation are likely to survive. This change will be in the direction of experiential spirituality, in which the individual’s direct experience of God or truth becomes the most important thing, and religious dogma and institutionalism is set aside. This is the real Sarva Dharma that no group can claim to own or dispense. One should not forget the Dharma in Sarva Dharma Samabhava.
    • David Frawley: Sarva Dharma Samabhav or Sarva Dharma Sambhrama? (Unity or Confusion of Religions?), in Prajna: A Journal of Indian Resurgence, January-March, 1997.
  • Hinduism applauds diversity and consequently accepts that people of different temperaments, circumstances and levels of understanding develop different viewpoints and different forms to express even the same view point. In that sense, it has always paid equal respect to shrarnanas and brahmanas, to jnana and bhakti etc. It showed samabhava to all traditions, which counted as dharma. This respect was never extended to adharma practices and doctrines such as Christianity and Islam, the religions for whose benefit the slogan is used mostly.
  • There is no similar record of any Islamic authority who has said that Shiva and Allah are one, nor Ram and Rahim, nor Kashi and Kaaba. All this "oneness of all religions" rhetoric is a strictly Hindu projection of the oneness of the different Hindu gods and traditions on a juxtaposition of radically incompatible notions from Islam and Hinduism. Whereas the opposition between Ram and Rahim, between Kashi and Kaaba, led to endless persecutions and a Partition, such things have not happened between Shaivas and Vaishnavas.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1992). Negationism in India: Concealing the record of Islam.
  • The only mention of religion is the worn-out Gandhian slogan (which numerous Hindus wrongly believe to be “Vedic”) Sarva-Dharma-Samabhava, more or less “equal respect for all religions”, moreover usually misinterpreted as “equal truth of all religions”. However, while this wording obviously means to avoid any specifically Hindu agenda, the slogan itself, analyzed beyond its conspicuous superficiality, does reintroduce some Hindu desiderata. Thus, whatever the slogan really means, it speaks of some kind of religious equality. Nothing about it points to the anti-majority discrimination inherent in the Nehruvian interpretation of Art. 30 (inviolabilty of minority schools) or in Art. 370 (special status of Kashmir) of the Constitution, let alone the existence separate of Civil Codes, one reformed by the secular Parliament (Hindu Code) but the others the preserve of the respective religious establishments. That is why Hindu activists have wanted to abolish or change the relevant laws. These are perfectly sensible and genuinely secular demands, but the BJP secularists avoid them because they are still in thrall to the ideological hegemony of the Nehruvians.
  • The confusion has by now become very widespread, and is symbolized by the sanctimonious slogan of sarva-dharma-samabhava. This slogan was coined by Mahatma Gandhi and included in his Mangala Prabhata as one of the sixteen mahavratas. The result was an unprecedented appeasement of Islam starting with the Mahatma’s support of the Khilafat movement. The Mahatma had believed sincerely that he could touch the heart of Islam and win over the Muslims to nationalism by paying handsome tributes to the Quran and the Prophet... In the final upshot, he had to pay the price with his own life, and the nation had to suffer partition of the motherland.
    • Goel, S.R. Defence of Hindu Society (1983)
  • Starting with the Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, this flattering of Muslims by praising Islam culminated in Mahatma Gandhi’s sarva-dharma-samabhava - the opiate which lulled the Hindus into a deep slumber such as they had never known vis-à-vis Muslim aggression.
    • Goel, S.R. The Calcutta Quran Petition (1986)
  • What has caused confusion and misunderstanding about his Hinduism is the concept of sarva-dharma-samabhAva (equal regard for all religions) which he had developed after deep reflection. Christian and Muslim missionaries have interpreted it to mean that a Hindu can go aver to Christianity or Islam without suffering any spiritual loss. They are also using it as a shield against every critique of their closed and aggressive creeds. The new rulers of India, on the other hand, cite it in order to prop up the Nehruvian version of Secularism which is only a euphemism for anti-Hindu animus shared in common by Christians, Muslims, Marxists and those who are Hindus only by accident of birth. For Gandhiji, however, sarva-dharma-samabhAva was only a restatement of the age-old Hindu tradition of tolerance in matters of belief. Hinduism has always adjudged a man’s faith in terms of his Adhara (receptivity) and adhikara (aptitude). It has never prescribed a uniform system of belief or behavior for everyone because, according to it, different persons are in different stages of spiritual development and need different prescriptions for further progress. Everyone, says Hinduism, should be left alone to work out one’s own salvation through one’s own inner seeking and evolution. Any imposition of belief or behaviour from the outside is, therefore, a mechanical exercise which can only do injury to one’s spiritual growth. Preaching to those who have not invited it is nothing short of aggression born out of self-righteousness. That is why Gandhiji took a firm and uncompromising stand against proselytisation by preaching and gave no quarters to the Christian mission’s mercenary methods of spreading the gospel.
    • Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • Sarva-dharma-samabhava was unknown to mainstream Hinduism before Mahatma Gandhi presented it as one of the sixteen mahavratas (great vows). in his booklet, Mangala-Prabhata. It is true that mainstream Hinduism had always stood for tolerance towards all metaphysical points of view and ways of worship except that which led to Atatayi-Achara (gangsterism). But that tolerance had never become samabhava, equal respect for all points of view. The acharyas of the different schools of Sanatana Dharma were all along engaged in debates over differences in various approaches to Sreyas (the Great Good). No Buddhist acharya is known to have equated the way of the Buddha to that of the Gita and vice versa, for instance. It is also true that overawed by the armed might of Islam, and deceived by the tall talk of the sufis, some Hindu saints in medieval India had equated Rama with Rahim, Krishna with Karim, Kashi with Kaba, the Brahmana with the Mullah, puja with namaz, and so on. But, the sects founded by these saints had continued to function on the fringes of Hindu society while the mainstream followed the saints and acharyas who never recognized Islam as a dharma. In modern times also, movements like the Brahmo Samaj which recognised Islam and Christianity as dharmas had failed to influence mainstream Hinduism, while Maharshi Dayananda and Swami Vivekananda who upheld the Veda and despised the Bible and the Quran, had had a great impact. This being the hoary Hindu tradition, Mahatma Gandhi’s recognition of Christianity and Islam not only as dharmas but also as equal to Sanatana Dharma was fraught with great mischief. For, unlike the earlier Hindu advocates of Islam and Christianity as dharmas, Mahatma Gandhi made himself known and became known as belonging to mainstream Hinduism. ... No other slogan has proved more mischievous for Hinduism than the mindless slogan of Sarva-dharma-samabhava vis-a-vis Christianity and Islam.
    • Goel, S.R. History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996)
  • Gandhi's sarva-dharma-samabhava did not stop at equal respect for all religions; it went much further and stood for equal validity of all religions. The Mahatma had spared no ink or breath to inculcate the belief that all religions embody the same truths, pursue the same goal, and lead to the same spiritual fulfilment. .... So we are left with Mahatma Gandhi as the first and real prophet of sarva-dharma-samabhava. (...) The explanations for [Gandhi's] pervert behaviour can be many... Whatever the explanation, the fact remains that he bound the Hindus hands and feet with the shackles of his sarva-dharma-samabhâva, and made them helpless in the face of Islamic gangsterism. At the same time, [Gandhi] gave full freedom to Muslims to deal with Hindus as they pleased. The record of what Muslim did under the leadership of the mullahs and the Muslim League exists in cold print. It never occurred to him to appeal to Muslims even once to practise sarva-dharma-samabhâva vis-à-vis Hinduism. That he thought was against their religion with which he could not interfere. The dope was meant only for Hindus. (...) The temptation to become the spokesman of all religions was irresistible for him, as for many Hindu gurus before and after. He ended by being the spokesmen of none, and made a mess of whatever religion he touched. He never evolved a criterion for distinguishing dharma from adharma.
    • Goel, S.R. Freedom of expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy (1998)
  • Nehruvian Secularism had stolen a march under the smokescreen of Mahatma Gandhi’s sarva-dharma-samabhava
    • Goel, S.R. Vindicated by Time: The Niyogi Committee Report (1998)
  • So never think that you can become wise by collecting wise sayings. That is not possible. In this age many people have tried that. In India, Mahatma Gandhi was trying it – take a few things from the Koran and a few things from the Bible and a few things from the. Gita and a few things from the Dhammapada, and collect them and make a concoction. That concoction he used to call the synthesis of all religions. This is just meaningless. You cannot create a synthesis of all religions. It will be like you cut off one of my hands and a leg of Krishnamurti and the head of Meher Baba, and put them all together and call it synthesis of all religions. It will not be of any use. It will stink! It will be ugly. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi has done.
    • Rajneesh, Sufis, the people of the path, Vol. II.
  • The current ideology of religious harmony emphasizes similarity—different religions are harmonious because they say the same thing; The older doctrine of multiple paths lays stress on their diversity—these paths are valid because they serve genuine different needs and answer to different natures. In short, they serve humanity not by being the same but by being different.
    • Ram Swarup. Ramakrishna Mission. (1986). Ramakrishna Mission: In search of a new identity.
  • A major influence on the budding RSS was the Arya Samaj. Somewhat like the Brahmo Samaj earlier, it called “true” Hinduism monotheistic. Nowadays, very many Hindus will tell you that in essence, Hinduism is a monotheism. These Hindus are not even aware of the proper meaning of this word. Monotheism does not mean that you worship one God (already requiring a serious reinterpretation of the many Gods effectively worshipped by most Hindus, from the Vedic rishis on down), the way some Hindus choose one God to worship from among many, a phenomenon that scholars of religion call henotheism. Nor is it the inclusive oneness of a divine essence underlying all the gods, or monism, as enunciated in the profoundest Vedic verses. It means an exclusive worship of a jealous God banishing all others. Mono- does not mean “one”, as Hindus seem to think; it means “alone”, hence “not tolerating another”. It does not say: “Allah and Shiva are one”, it says: “Only Allah is true, burn Shiva.”
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015 Ch 27
  • A man delivers a sermon before an assembly in which non-Muslims such as Hindus are present, the querist informs the ulema of Dar al-Ulum, Deoband; the man says that there is no difference between Hindus and Muslims, and that we create differences because of our foolish doctrines; he says that the idol house as well as the Kaba are both made of stone and that there is no difference between blowing the conch and calling out the azan; he compares the scriptures of the Hindus and the Holy Quran, and says that the two decree the same things—all staples, if I may add, of the speeches of our leaders, of the writings of our secularists, of the panegyrics to secularism in the judgments of our courts. What is the law in regard to such a person?, asks the querist of the ulema of Deoband. These are utterances of kufr, they declare. A person who has such beliefs and teaches such beliefs is not a Muslim but an infidel and an apostate, they declare. He is a reprobate and a heretical inventor, in fact an infidel and an apostate, they repeat. Muslims should keep away from him rather than listen to his infidel utterances. Yet, whenever our courts and leaders recall those Sarva Dharma Samabhava passages they address them to the Hindus, asking them to live up to these ideals. They never address the passages to the ulema who staunchly and openly denounce the ideals, who proclaim from housetops that to countenance such parity—even for the sake of form, even nominally and verbally—is to be out of Islam!
    • Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)

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