SV Temple, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The world in which we live has many religions or faith-traditions. (How do we define "religion"? - Is it a social construct or a transcendental construct?). Religious plurality is here to stay. The phenomenon of religious plurality can be approached in different ways. Some of the important approaches are:

Exclusivist Approach : Only my religion is true; all other religions are false.

Inclusivist Approach (also known as the "teleological" approach): My religion is the fulfillment of what is best and true in other religions.

Syncretistic Approach : All religions have limitations; we should combine the good elements of all religions to form a new religion. King Akbar is said to have followed this approach and created a combined religion called Dinallahi, a mix of Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. The syncretistic approach has failed to hold on a collective level, but seems to be effective on a personal level. In essence, people will make their own personal combinations as they learn and read, but will not join outside efforts to create combinations.

Pluralistic Approach : We accept that several religions exist and are valid in their own way.

Noncommittal Approach : We must develop mutual respect and spirit of toleration for the sake of collective peace and welfare. This approach is adopted by countries with secular governments.

Dialogic Approach : We must listen to others' viewpoints with unprejudiced minds to produce greater understanding of one another.

Harmonious Approach : Taught by Sri Ramakrishhna and Swami Vivekananda. This approach is based on three fundamental principles:

All religions have the same ultimate purpose, namely, God-realization; everything else in religion is secondary. Stripped of all theological trappings, every religion has for its goal the transcending of human limitations to contact the Reality beyond.

There is only transcendent, ultimate Reality, which manifests in various forms, with various attributes, and even as formless, and is known by various names.

The ultimate Reality can be realized through various ways developed by the world religions. Every religion has the inherent power to take its followers to the supreme consummation of human life.

Interpersonal Relations

We can relate to others in many different ways based on our religious, national, cultural, and social identities or just as fellow human beings. Is there a spiritual way of cultivating relationships?

As children of God, fellow travelers on life's journey

As spirits dwelling within body/mind systems

Vivekananda on "Religion"

"The one eternal religion is applied to different planes of existence, is applied to the opinions of various minds and various races. There never was my religion or yours, my national religion or your national religion; there never existed many religions, there in only the one. One infinite religion existed all through eternity and will ever exist, and this religion is expressing itself in various countries in various ways." (Complete Works, 4:180)

"[True religion] is not talk, or doctrines, or theories, nor is it sectarianism.... It is the relation between soul and God.... Religion does not consist in erecting temples, or building churches, or attending public worship. It is not to be found in books, or in words, or in lectures, or in organizations. Religion consists in realization... [We] must realize God, feel God, see God, talk to God. That is religion." (Complete Works, 4:165)

MIT Vedanta Society:

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Hindu Chaplain: Swami Tyagananda