I recently came across the answer of Ram Ablo who says that people who claim that all religions lead to the same truth are some confused and ignorant Hindus. Well, then looks like the list would include the following people too: The list of Ignorant and confused people who claimed that all religions lead to the same goal (according to Ram Ablo): Guru Nanak, Kabir, Rumi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Shirdi Sai Baba, Vivekananda, Sivananda, Gandhi, Abdul Kalam and many others.
I see a group of people teaming up and supporting each other for promoting Hindu superiority, an illusion that was created in the recent modern past. This blog or this post is not intended to personally offend them but only refute the ideas they are promoting. And comparing this clash of cultural identity with Adhi Shankara’s debates is the biggest insult to Adhi Shankara.
Let me first quote his answer:
“The biggest misconception about being a Hindu is that there is no difference or distinction between the mundane material world and the spiritual world.
I see a vast majority of Hindus being utterly confused about this real and harsh distinction between the mundane affairs of the world and what is considered spirituality. Most Hindus mix up the two, and inappropriately apply the conclusions of abstract philosophical spiritual teachings to real-world problems.
For example, these ignorant Hindus say that all religions are the same, all religions teach the same thing, so people of all religions should be treated the same way, innocently, without caring about what these different religions say, and what the followers of these religions do in the real world.
This confusion comes from the unfortunate availability of all scriptures to everybody, irrespective of qualifications. Everybody reads books on Advaita and Brahman, and without the full understanding of the appropriate application of teachings to appropriate situations, they start talking bullshit about everyone being the same, everything being the same, no need to maintain Hindu identity, no need for any action, no need to protect and defend Hinduism against predatory religions, etc.
Here’s an episode from the life of Adi Shankara, the greatest teacher of Advaita:
Once during his travels across India, teaching and debating, Adi Shankara had a discussion with a king. The king misunderstood Advaita and thought that Shankara was teaching that the world is unreal, and nothing has any value. To mock Shankara, the king ordered his attendants to release the wildest elephant in his stable just as Shankara was walking down the path of the royal garden. As soon as he saw the elephant charging, Shankara broke into a sprint and quickly climbed up the tallest coconut tree nearby.
Seeing this apparently hilarious spectacle, the king laughed and asked Shankara, why he ran from the imaginary elephant, as according to Advaita, everything is unreal? To this, Shankara gave a witty reply that what the king saw as Shankara running was also equally as imaginary as the charging elephant.
This witty episode really explains the true philosophy of Advaita.
Adi Shankara was not a fool to ignore the real-world threat of the charging elephant at the physical mundane level of existence. He protected himself with all his physical capabilities. At a higher level of consciousness, the physical level is less real, but these two levels do not interact. This was the misunderstanding of the king, who mixed the two levels of consciousness and mocked Advaita.
But today, Hindus are getting confused from the opposite side — in their immense faith, they apply their naive and dangerously wrong understanding of Advaita to the real, physical, mundane world.
I have said this in many answers and comments — Hindu philosophy guarantees the spiritual equality of everyone “up there” in the sky. But on the ground, in the physical world of flesh and blood — conflict, aggression and predation are real things that need to be guarded against if this beautiful Hindu philosophy needs to survive.
If Adi Shankara did not see the significance of debating and defeating real-world flesh-and-blood people, and re-establishing Hindu Vedic religion in a physical sense, he would not have taken the pains of travelling through the length and breadth of India and establishing real physical maThas and temples and rituals. He would have just sat in his home in Kerala, thinking, “Everything is the same, so there is no difference whether I go and preach Advaita or whether Hinduism dies.”
As Kalidasa says in Raghuvamsham, “sharIram Adyam khalu dharmasAdhanam शरीरमाद्यं खलु धर्मसाधनम्” — “The body is the primary and only means of conducting Dharma’.
For the Hindu dharma and philosophy to survive, the “body” of Hinduism needs to not only survive but thrive in robust physical forms in the real physical world of flesh-and-blood. This requires protection and defence against real physical world flesh-and-blood threats of various kinds. This protection and defence can only happen when there is unambiguous recognition that everything is not the same. There are real differences, which is why there is conflict.
There is a Sanskrit saying — “pishAcAnAm paishAcabhAshayA uttaram deyam पिशाचानां पैशाचभाषया उत्तरं देयम्” — “Villains only understand the language of villainy, so they need to be answered back in the language of villainy.”
In other words, violence and aggression do not understand the language of peace and civility, and they should be retaliated in the same way that they act.
Let us not repeat the mistake of Prithviraj Chauhan who showed foolish and innocent mercy to the ruthless and cunning Muhammad Ghori.
Innocence is not a quality that is praised in Hindu scriptures. Knowledge and intelligence (of all kinds) are praised.”https://qr.ae/Tz8WXN
My reply, which I also left as a comment:
The list of Ignorant and confused people who claimed that all religions lead to the same goal: Guru Nanak, Kabir, Rumi, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Shirdi Sai Baba, Vivekananda, Sivananda, Gandhi, Abdul Kalam and many others…
All confusion arises because religion, as it is segregated now, is a modern Western concept. The term ‘religio’ was initially used to call various sects of Christianity. During protestant reformation, they actually defined what religion is, and for the first time in the history, religions were defined based on beliefs, rather than way of life. When the word Hindu was first used in colonial period, it was spelt as Hindoo and used strictly as a geographical identity. Terms like Hindoo Christians and Hindoo muslims were very common. : 12 Shocking Truths About Religions
I grew up as a devotee, and due to intense suffering I went through, I surrendered and finally became a spiritual seeker, going through self-inquiry and mindfulness for nearly 12 years. Even before that I was devotee inquiring about life and throughout my life I have always received divine guidance.
I knew this similarity between religions by studying sufism and Christian mysticism, which say the same thing. And I also did a thorough research on life and teachings of Muhammad and Jesus. What happens in today’s world in the name of religions is not what I am pointing to when I say all religions lead to to the same goal; nor am I using this term as a ‘negative terminology’ given by British. The original word for Hinduism was ‘heathens’, and it was changed to Hinduism since it was offensive.
I studied in Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal Golden Jubilee matriculation school, Sankarnagar and I guess you can see the relationship with Adi Shankara. That school was indeed a blessing. Even if someone is not convinced by my logic when I say the original Islam and the teachings of Muhammad were the same as the paths in our own scriptures, they will be convinced by faith if they go through the story of my life. So it is not that I am talking about Advaita simply after reading some easily available material on the internet; I can backup what I am saying by science (psychology), scriptures and faith. I myself have written a detailed article for beginners about sadhana chatushtaya, the qualifications that you are talking about: What is Advaita Vedanta? – Advaita For Dummies
Since you mentioned Adi Shankara, let me quote from one of my answers:
Adi Shankara has never heard of Hinduism. Hinduism is a modern concept popularized by Irish missionary Charles Grant.
Adi Shankara debated with many people and made them his disciples once they were defeated in the argument. He did not convert anyone as there was no such concept called conversion or even Hinduism.
For your information, he not only refuted some ideas held by Buddhist monks but also refuted many ideas from the school of yoga, samkhya, pancharatra. If he existed today and came up with the same arguments, he would have been called as ‘Anti-Hindu’…
Shankara was not interested in defending any identity. Hinduism is an identity; that is how Hindus see it. But Vedanta that Shankara was teaching is a path.
If Shankara indeed defended Hinduism just like today’s Hindus do, this is how it would have been:
“Shankara: Buddhists are destroying Hinduism. That is because Hindus are not united.
Buddhist: yeah.. so it has got nothing to do with treating Shudras as third class citizens.
Shankara: look who is talking.. the follower of a person who left his wife and children to forest. No sane person would do that.”
But Shankara was not debating like that. He was not a right wing troll. His debates were more like this:
“The purvapakshin (opponent) says that universe orginated from unconscious principle called pradhana. But it is not possible because conciousness cannot arise from something that is unconscious.”
So he was dealing with ideas; not identities.
If he was alive today, it wouldn’t take much to refute the ideas in Christianity, Islam and even within Hinduism which are contradictory to Advaita. His arguments would go more like this, as seen in his commentaries:
“The purvapakshin says that those who reject the message in Quran will go to eternal hell. But it contradicts the idea of the most merciful and most gracious God which is mentioned in Quran itself. “
If you want to get a taste of how his debates sounded like, read his commentaries on Brahmasutras. it is available for free on the internet.
What I see that is happening in the name of Hinduism today is just a plain hatred towards people of Abrahamic faith, shaking one of the very foundations of what this so called ‘Hinduism’ is based on: tolerance. Shankara was not fighting for a Hindu identity; this equates my Guru Shankara to a right wing troll who mindlessly abuses people without logic. Sorry… Adhi Shankara was not campaigning for BJP; in fact, he criticized many things which we would call today as an aspect of Hinduism.
An article that you may be interested in: Pappankulam – A Village of Brahmins and Four Vedas