Re: "The confessions of a Hindu nationalist," Opinion, and "Modi lashes out at elite, lazy officials", World, August 16.
One of the most appealing aspects of Hinduism for non-Hindus has always been its acceptance of other faiths as valid paths to God. The classic statement of this concept is in the Rig Veda: “That Being is one. Sages call it by various names.” This idea was re-emphasised by the 19th-century Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna, who taught that God is like a mother who prepares a fish in different ways to suit the tastes of her different children. Whether it’s in soup, fried or curried, it’s still the same fish.
Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple Swami Vivekananda restated this idea in a famous speech to the World’s Parliament of Religions in 1893: “I am proud to belong to a religion that has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We not only believe in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” He quoted Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita as saying, “Whosoever comes to me, through whatever form, I reach him.”
Any form of Hindu nationalism ought to express this spirit of universal acceptance of other religions. If it doesn’t, if it expresses a narrow, intolerant sectarianism, it’s not being true to Hinduism. Intolerant sectarianism is a grotesque distortion of a fundamental Hindu principle.
I’ve heard that in his youth Narendra Modi wandered the Himalayas and aspired to be a sadhu (Hindu holy man). This means he must be familiar with the inclusive and all-accepting attitude of Hinduism. If so, the world should have nothing to fear from his brand of Hindu nationalism.