South Asia is the origin of world’s oldest living religions. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism are among the world’s earliest living religions. These ancient religions originated in India. Daoism of China (4th Century BCE), Shintoism of Japan (5th Century CE), and Confucianism of China (6th Century BCE) are new religions. All these religions thrive in harmony without any religious strife among their followers even as there are differences among them. The principle of harmony is ingrained in all these religions.
Hindus got their religion from the Vedas, and Vedanta is the most important feature of Hinduism. The Vedanta philosophy is perfectly impersonal (Vidyatmananda, Swami 45). It does not impose any dogmatic belief in any one personality. Hence it becomes easy for Hindus to live in harmony with other religions. Hinduism also has this revelation through the Vedas “Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti”, which means that the truth is one but sages speak of it variously (Kota 1). Hence Hindus do not feel any antagonism towards any religion that centers on a particular preacher or personality. It enabled Hindus to live in harmony with non-Vedic religions like Buddhism or Jainism which center on their founder fathers. Hinduism has worship of God in several forms. According to Hinduism one Supreme God manifests himself in various forms. There are six major religions in Hinduism worshipping six deities or manifestations of God (Our Heritage). Vedanta also has this theory that God is all pervading and a religious man should see God in everything. God is equally present in life and death, in happiness and misery (Vivekananda 133).
Buddhism has non-violence as its central theme. This non-violence may not simply be physical but it is also not hurting others mentally. This makes Buddhism tolerant of other religions or belief systems. It agrees with the moral teachings of other religions (White). Buddha’s teaching has four noble truths. It comprises of “The truth of suffering (Dukkha), the truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya), the truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha), the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)” (The Four Noble Truths:BBC). Buddhism entails people to realize that there is suffering in the world, that the suffering is a truth, which means none can escape the suffering. Buddhism also has the “Law of Karma” belief or the cause and effect law which it probably acquired from Hinduism. Buddhism spread to China, Japan and Sri Lanka from India. Meditation is the chief aspect in Buddhist religious practice (Buddhism for today). The goal of Buddhism is Nirvana ending the cycle of rebirths (Nirvana). Buddhism does not have the concept of Supreme God.
Daoism is also called Taoism. The name has the literal meaning of “The Way.” Daoism also does not have the concept of Supreme God. It is more of a practice than a religion. But it sees the world as made up of dual forces that are complementary to each other such as light and darkness, hot and cold, action and non-action (Taoism: BBC). However worshipping of deities in temples is prevalent in Daoism. Taoism emphasizes living in harmony with nature, humanity and the divine.
Confucianism is based on teachings of Confucius who lived in China in 6th-5th century (Confucianism). Like Taoism it also does not have the concept of supreme God. It lays emphasis in humanness and character. Man can turn into a sage by building an excellent character. It does not have any rituals but those who practice Confucianism may follow rituals of Taoism or Buddhism. Its emphasis in benevolence makes it live in harmony with other religions.
Shintoism literally means “Way of the spirits” (Shinto: BBC). Shintoism too does not have the concept of Supreme God. Shintoism involves worshipping divine spirits called Kami (plural word). These divine spirits can bestow divine providence upon worshippers or help them. Ritual plays an important role in Shintoism. Shinto worship has elaborate rituals with strict conventions. Shintoism should be regarded as a religion as it has a worshipper and worshipped, even if the worshipped is not Supreme God. As it is more ritualistic than being a faith, Shintoism had no problem in living in harmony with Buddhism.
Conclusion: Except Hinduism all these other religions of south Asia have no concept of Supreme God. It makes it easy for them to live in harmony with other religions, with nature and with human society. Christianity and Islam fought wars and killed people on this one question of “who is Supreme God.” Hinduism in spite of having the concept of Supreme God never tried to convert others or disturb other faiths as it holds a principle that God manifests himself as Nature and beings and hence it is natural to have multiple religions.
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