“Radical Universalism” was originally published by Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.as a long philosophical essay. His essay was destined to be read by over one-million people within only two years after its initial appearance, and to forever change the way the world understands the true nature, beauty, and teachings of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). In this newly revised and expanded edition of his work, Dr. Morales reiterates his important message that Sanatana Dharma must be understood and practiced only in its most original, and authentic form if it is to survive and thrive into the future as the world’s most important and relevant spiritual tradition. This crucially important book philosophically positions Sanatana Dharma to become the most eminent and influential force for positive global change that the world has ever known. Even if you feel that you already know what Hinduism truly teaches, be prepared to challenge your understanding with this revolutionary and thought-provoking work of historical significance.
A practicing Hindu for over 33 years over and with a Ph.D. in Languages and Cultures of Asia, Dr. Frank Morales is currently recognized as one of America’s leading authorities on Hinduism, meditation, and yoga spirituality. He is the Resident Acharya of the Hindu Temple of Nebraska, the first American in history to be honoured with such a position.
There is a common religious urge in all human beings-a seeking to contact the Divine or a higher spiritual reality –which has different expressions according to time, place, culture and individual. While there is a common root to our religious seeking and much shared in religious experiences at a mystical level, one also finds a bewildering variety of beliefs and practices in existing religions, so much so that what may be regarded as holy in one tradition may be considered as unholy or unpardonable in another. Because of these differences of thought and action, religion has often led not to unity between human beings but to disagreements, hatred, war and even genocide-a sad phenomenon which does not seem to be decreasing in the current global of mass communication.
In an effort to be tolerant and inclusive aimed at reducing such conflicts, a number of modern spiritual teachers, particularly in the Hindu tradition, have made the blanket statement that all religions are true, valid and equal and lead to the same goal-what could be called a ‘radical universalism’. This radical universalism promotes an acceptance of all religions as the same in order to lead us to the unity behind our religious striving. It gives us the impression that it does not matter what religion one follows, or whether one goes to a church, mosque or temple. One need only give full faith in the religion that one’s culture or community has adopted and one can reach the highest truth.
The problem with this view is that it does not remove the actual differences and conflicts that exist between religions, or even seek to resolve them, but pretends they do not really exist and so can be just brushed aside. Not surprisingly, instead of going away, these conflicts continue and lead people not to unity but to conflict.
This general equation of all religions as true, well-intentioned though it may be, gives the impression that religions with all their various dogmas and assertions should be accepted as they are. It is like sanctifying all the borders between nations as valid and then seeking a harmony between the peoples of the world.
Radical universalism can cut off meaningful examination and dialogue as to what constitutes the nature of truth. Sometimes it places a kind of a taboo on critical examination of religion, as if anything called a religion or any article of religious faith must be accepted without scrutiny. It suggests the equation of religious theologies and philosophies that have not only historical differences, but major differences of view, goal and approach.
While one should certainly be tolerant and respectful of different points of view in the spiritual realm just as in social, political and intellectual spheres, this does not require that we give up discrimination in the process. Nor will such a giving up of discrimination lead to any higher truth that can resolve our conflicts into a real and enduring unity.
Religion is as diverse and multifarious as any domain of human life, perhaps even more so. This is because religion introduces absolutes into human thought that can be divisive and extreme in their consequences. While the religious urge has much that is wonderful in it, it also can be suppressed, distorted or perverted like any other human urge. All these faces of religion may not be true or ennobling to the spirit as history has so often proved.
The different religions of the world contain various doctrines and teachings that cannot all be equally valid. We cannot accept all religious teachings as true any more than we can accept all scientific as correct. For example, the law of karma and rebirth is either true or it is not. If it is true, then religions which do not teach it are incorrect. But both cannot be true then the religions that teach it are incorrect. But both cannot be true at the same time.
Similarly there can be no final guru, prophet or savior for all humanity, any more then there can be any final scientist, artist or politician To accept religious claims of exclusivism as valid will only serve to reinforce existing differences not resolve them into a higher unity.
Religion, in its real import, should be a quest for eternal truth and a seeking to realize it within our own consciousness. This requires that we question everything and only accept what is proved by our own experience. An adaptation of radical universalism has caused many Hindus to lose their discrimination about religion. It makes them vulnerable to conversion by keeping them ignorant of important theological and philosophical differences that do exist between Hinduism and other religious systems and must take those who believe in them and practice them in very different directions.
One should certainly respect freedom of religion and honor pluralism in the field of religion just as in the domains of science and politics. But one need not mindlessly equate all religions in order to do this. Hindu Dharma teaches us that there is One Truth but many paths. But it does not teach us that all paths lead to that One Truth. There are paths that lead to falsehood or half truth. Nor are all paths the same. Each path has different guidelines, even if it might reach the same goal. Nor is everything, even in religion, a path to truth but may reflect some other motivation. Hindu dharma teaches us pluralism relative to the spiritual life, which can both tolerate many different points of view but also discriminate between them and find out what is best for each individual.
An enlightened pluralism must rest upon a higher sense of discrimination. That one has pluralism in the variety of food that one can choose from, for example, does not mean that all food is good and one’s dietary choices do not have consequences. The same is true of religion. It does matter what one follows in terms of religion because its theology, belief and values will shape one’s life and behavior accordingly. A religious system that does not teach an experiential spiritual path to Self-realization or God-realization cannot take us there, regardless of whatever else it may have to offer. Religion is a field in which we need the greatest discrimination because it concerns the highest values and deepest core beliefs that shape our lives.
In his insightful book, Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism Teach that All Religions are the Same, Dr. Frank Morales has boldly addressed this complex issue with depth, clarity, comprehensiveness and sensitivity. Most importantly, he bases his views on a profound rationality reflecting that great principles of Vedanta, which insists upon a clear analysis and understanding of the issue, not just the imposition of a belief as the answer.
Perhaps as a westerner who has adapted Hindu Dharma, Dr. Morales can show native born Hindus how to communicate their religion to the western to the western world. It is curious to note that in spite of (or perhaps because of) the Hindu idea that all religions are equal; none of other major world religions today accepts the Hindu religion as valid. On the contrary, the same old ideas of Hinduism as primitive, polytheistic, superstitious and oppressive are commonly echoed by the other religions of the world and in academia and the media. This suggests that it might be better for Hindus to clarify what Hinduism actually teaches rather than be content with saying that Hinduism accepts the teachings of the other religions as well (implying that there is nothing wrong for these religions to denigrate Hinduism, if that is what they want to do).
The non-Hindu craze of Radical Universalism first began to influence traditional Hinduism roughly 180 years ago as a direct result of liberal Christian missionary incursions into India. Since then, it has morphed to become one of the most perniciously parroted dogmas in modern-day Hinduism to the point where, today, many falsely believe the dogma of Radical Universalism to be a central pillar of Hinduism. While many responsible and honest gurus and Hindu intellectuals have made courageous attempts to negate this anti-Hindu fallacy over the last two centuries, few have succeeded in formulating a concerted and systematic philosophical response. This work represents the first such attempt in the history of Hinduism.
When I first published this work as a long essay in November of 2005, I knew that many of the concepts presented here would be relatively unknown and seemingly novel to many of today’s Hindu readers and leaders, this despite their firm grounding in both Hindu scriptures and in the teachings of the rishis, acharyas, and systematizers of traditional Hindu philosophy over the course of the last 5,000 years. I also anticipated that there would be some amount of controversy and passionate discussion of this work for precisely this reason. What I did not anticipate, however, was the precise magnitude of readership, coverage, and debate that this work would instigate. Two years after its initial publication, “Radical Universalism” has been read by over one-million people, including many of the most important Hindu leaders on earth. It has appeared in a dozen print journals (including as a feature article in Hinduism Today magazine), has been reproduced in multiple hundreds of websites and Hinduism discussion forums globally, and has been translated into several languages. While I am certainly humbled and happy with the enormous response that my work has generated in the last two years. I have also been somewhat bewildered by the lack of understanding on the part of a small number of readers that I have periodically seen about the precise nature and purpose of this work. It has been to hopefully alleviate some of these misunderstandings that I have decided to publish this expanded to publish this expanded edition of my “Radical Universalism” work.
While there have been many readers of my work, there has also been an unfortunate degree of mistaken notions about what this work is precisely about. The thesis of this work is a relatively simple one: The claim of Radical Universalism that “all religion are the same” is not a claim that is upheld anywhere in traditional Hinduism, is not a claim that is Hindu in origin at all, and is a claim that is contrary to logic reason, common sense, Hindu Shastra (scripture) and pramana (valid means of Vedic epistemic inquiry), and is thus a claim that is rendered wholly absurd in retrospect of thorough analysis. The vast majority of readers-both lay-readers, as well as Hindu leaders and scholars alike-seem to have been in general agreement with the grounding thesis of this work upon examining it. A small minority of individuals, however, initially resisted the work. This latter reaction seems to have been due to several factors, including only reading the beginning portion of the work-which is the easier-to-read, historical grounding of the origins of Radical Univeralism-without then proceeded to the more important and challenging philosophical section; or making the erroneous mistake of thinking that I was minimizing one or two well-known historical figures in Hinduism, rather than attacking an overarching fallacy that has become a part of modern day Hinduism; or generally not being able to follow the challenging philosophical arguments that the work was outlining. Today, fortunately, even most of these original detractors have come to revise their initial opinions and objections, and have now joined wholeartedly in the cause to support authentic, Traditionalist Hinduism against the onslaught of Radical Universalism.
My goal in presenting “Radical Universalism” in book form is precisely to help the Hindu world in its present attempt to reconstruct itself in terms of its ancient and time-honored form. If we are to call ourselves “Hindus”, and if we are going to express our heart-felt concern that our beautiful and noble tradition successfully rebuild itself to become a future force for global renaissance, then we need to understand the true nature of this dignified and life-sustaining spiritual world-view in a manner that honors it in an unadulterated and pristine manner. We need to understand the tradition of Sanatana Dharma on its own its own terms alone, and not under the terms of its detractors.
As one of India’s premiere publishers of books on Hinduism, Dharma, and South Asian Studies, it is with gratitude that I acknowledge Voice of India’s dedication to publishing the Indian edition of this book. It is also my fervent hope that this work can continue to make some contribution to the continued revival of authentic Sanatana Dharma as a global force for positive and constructive change in our world today.
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