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Essentials of Hinduism: The Spirit of Tolerance


It may be noted that the comprehensive tolerance of Hinduism is exemplified remarkably in such instances as the following. In the temple of *Dharmasthala in Karnataka the chief personage is a Jain - he is regarded as a hereditary oracle whose arbitration is sought by members of all Hindu and even Muslim communities. The temple itself has the Sivalinga as well as the Salagrama, or symbol of Vishnu, the officiating priest being a Vaisnavite. In the shrine at Udipi the worship of Siva and Vishnu alike is offered and the heads of the Udipi Math, although staunch Vaisnavites, are under the obligation to attend to two Siva shrines, in addition to officiating as the chief priests of the Krishna temple. It is believed that a person belonging to the Harijans community received special divine favour and attained union with God in the temple precincts. The tradition of Chidambaram is similar- the Pariah saint, Nandanar, who was refused admission by the Brahmin priests, became the object of divine favour and attained communion with God. In the temple of Jagannath at Puri, caste distinctions have been discarded. In Travancore there is a forest temple dedicated to Ayyappa or Hariharaputra. Here also, no caste distinctions are observed. Hindus, and even Muslims and Christians, perform vows in this shrine with belief in the efficacy of the god's protective help. It may be noted in this context that the usual invocation of Ayyappa, namely, Saranam Ayyappa, is reminiscent of the Buddhist prayer.

The Spirit of Indian philosophy has been described in these words: "Its chief mark consists in concentration on the spiritual aspect, belief in the intimate relationship of philosophy and life, the inseparability of theory and practice and the insistence on intuition coexisting with the acceptance of authority." Finally, it is the synthetic vision of Indian philosophy which has made possible the intellectual and religious tolerance so pronounced in Indian thought throughout the ages. Recent squabbles between religious communities, born of political factionalism, are alien to the basic Indian mind and are indeed antagonistic to its unique genius for adaptability and tolerance.