How tolerance became a virtue
In the case of Buddhism, he explains how Buddhism has been both a religion of tolerance and simultaneously a missionary religion.
It also highlights the emergence of certain exclusivist tendencies in Sri Lankan Buddhism, especially with regard to Christianity.
However, it would have been even more complete if the author had included Pope John Paul’s critique of Buddhism and ‘Eastern’ meditative practices in his bestseller ”Crossing the threshold of faith(1994).
The reply to this papal criticism written by the Hindutva thinker Ram Swarup titled “Pope John Paul II on Eastern Religions and Yoga: A Hindu Buddhist Replica“(1995).
In the case of Jainism, Syadvada and Saptabangi with its underlying ‘avyakta‘creates an inherently tolerant spiritual system. Being primarily a minority spiritual path, Jain monks have always been aided by royal patronage. They also actively sought him out.
A separate Jain temple could be found even in the predominantly Vedic-Saivaite-Vaishnavaite Vijayanagara temple.
Yet Professor Sharma points out that there is at least one Jain monk who actually wanted the monarch to take a neutral agnostic stance and take a position of equal patronage to all religious traditions – stands “remarkably as the relationship between l ‘State and religious communities sketched out in the Indian Constitution’ (page 377).
The section on Sikhism has some very interesting details. Describing in detail the life of the gurus, including the supreme sacrifices Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Govind Singh made for religious freedom, we turn to how Khalsa’s reign was in practice.
Usually a persecuted religion when it had no state patronage in matters of power, it becomes the persecutor of its religious rivals.
We see this in the history of Christianity and Islam. But Sikhism is markedly different. He explains how Maharaja Ranjit Singh was non-sectarian and secular.
After the capture of Afghanistan by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, “the colors were worn by a Muslim colonel during the victory parade in Kabul”.
Then writes the author: “It must be added, however, that he banned the slaughter of kine and the sale of beef in Afghanistan after the conquest, in accordance with Hindu and Sikh sensibilities on the sanctity of the cow” (page 397).
In conclusion, he points out that the environment in which Sikh Panth was born – a ripe environment with “theological exclusivism on the one hand and social exclusivism on the other hand” – shows how a movement for pluralism can be born out of it. ‘such a medium.
Thus, in such a tradition, “exclusivist tendencies” might also begin to develop “when such pluralism has to cope with the frictions generated by the intersection of politics and religion” (page 399).