Unity In Diversity

Life becomes enriched when it encompasses varieties of its modes of expression in terms of languages, cultures, philosophies and religions.

Aug. 16, 2022, 1:13 p.m.

A study of philosophy and religion shows that there is a common binding element or a universal truth that runs through both of them. Although both of them contain an element that is eternal and unchanging, they are progressing, evolving and ascending to more and more elevated heights and thus encompass an element that is also relative. In the process, they purify themselves leaving behind what is external, transitory and impermanent, and stress on what is eternal, unchanging and universal. The truth is universal and eternal, but its form of its expression is changing. So we cannot know the truth through its forms of expression, but we can do this by transcending what is changing or by finding what is unchanging in that changing or by finding unity in diversity. Love, for example, runs across all diverse religions and philosophies and unites them irrespective of their diverse forms of expression. Love can then be expressed as unity of all religions. So is the case with compassion or altruism. They transcend the barriers of individual philosophies and religions, and indicate at something that is above and over them, and are of permanent and enduring nature. On the other hand, if religion and philosophy emphasize on temporal, cultural, ritualistic or dogmatic aspects, we immediately face disunity/conflict in diversity between religions and philosophies, but while unity is eternal diversity is temporal.

The importance of unity through diversities is best illustrated by the diversity of life, diversity of culture and language. For example, uniformity is not the law of life. Life becomes enriched when it encompasses varieties of its modes of expression in terms of languages, cultures, philosophies and religions. Each individual can then practice his own religion and live in peace and unity with others who have different religious backgrounds. Unity of all religions must necessarily express itself by an increased richness of a variety in its forms. The perfect state of that essential unity would come when each individual has his own religion, when not bound by sect or traditional forms, - Vivekananda. Unity in diversity is best explained through the unity of all religions. The unity of all religions leads to the expression of divinity of God in man which an individual religion may not achieve. This can herald the coming of a new age. It represents the conscious oneness of the soul in man. Life then expresses itself by an increased richness of its variety. Life represents the best example of eternal unity and eternal multiplicity. The characteristic feature of this unity is that it accommodates all the positive and elevating aspects of philosophy and religion, but it is not static and takes into account the evolutionary nature of our life as well as that of the environment in which we not only live but are embedded. It is, therefore, based not only on our present capabilities but also our future potentialities in terms of our progressive evolution of our mind and progressive expression of spirituality which is our true nature. This unity can be acknowledged in different levels of philosophy and religion but this is not the object of this chapter.

We can use mental idea as a very powerful instrument for our inner evolution, - a progression from lower to higher or, one could even say, from higher to still higher levels of transformation. But then the governing factor as to whether the instrument can be used to elevate us upwards or not is related to the power that is above the mental idea,- usually referred to as soul. Accordingly, the instrument can be used either as channels of the soul or as servants of the ego. In the first case, we shift our central will of life upwards to the power that is above the mental idea, usually termed as spiritual center or soul. The transformation is then progression from higher to still higher levels of transformation through self-transcendence or self-exceedance. In the second case, the will of life is still situated in our vital and physical existence. It is, therefore, limited to the mental plane and so the mental instrument is used only to enjoy vital and physical necessities. According to the eastern thinking, the transformation from the one to the other can be made through psychological self-discipline and self-development which opens the way to the spirit or to spiritual development that finally leads to spiritual transformation.

When understood properly, mental idea can be used to open ourselves to the level of the spirit, but then we first have to find the inner thread joining the rational with the idealistic; the lower with the higher; philosophy with religion. If we talk in terms of ideas, which we cannot avoid, philosophy constitutes the most important inner thread not forgetting, of course, that it should also consider aspects related to human psychology, morality, ethics etc., as well as the principles governing them, particularly the inner laws governing the psychological and psychic realms. This inner thread can then be used to regulate and/or control mental idea under the supervision of spiritual realism. Expression of love or compassion is not then a limited or fixed mental comprehension; it is no more a mental or intellectual idea, but a universally accepted expression of a higher existence we call spirit, which operates on subjective principles.

As has already been made abundantly clear, the mind and the intellect are not the key-power of our existence as they are unable to transcend the limits of ideas. They are forced to yield to the power that sees by identity and intuition; that expresses itself through feelings and emotions, aesthetic values, beauty etc. Love, compassion, beauty etc., are subjective experiences and therefore a subjective idea of life. The idea of the soul is essential as the force behind the idea emanates from the soul and it is through the soul that idea finds its living expression in action. We sometimes do realize that man is endowed with a power of turning his mind upon his lower existence and govern it to the dictates of his higher existence. For example, we may be instantly relieved of a certain kind of pain, even a physical pain, but such a sudden relieve of pain cannot be explained easily as it cannot be explained from the previously known cause and effect principle. The experience is subjective and this could well be the turning point in our life. Perhaps this is what mystics call a mystical experience. The turning point comes when one realizes that the potential power of ideas that emanate from the Self translates into action. The thought and the thinker then become one. The knowledge is then direct, realized by identity, and does not have to rely on secondary proof supplied by reason. A Chinese sage53 has said: “He needs his inner eye, his inner ear in order to penetrate things and does not need reasoning of the intellect. ” - Jung, C.G. The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. We then do not juxtapose rational and idealistic as two opposing concepts but as different stages of understanding, - a lower and a higher stage of understanding, but moving in the same direction. As mentioned earlier. reason and intuition, although they appear qualitatively different, are not contradictory to each other. While reason takes recourse to logic, intuition, which is the source of philosophical and religious insight, attunes itself directly to its source, and when it strikes the right cord, it moves ahead leaving reason behind. The difference is then in degrees not in kind, although not yet approved by the logic of the mind but felt by intuition or by its insight. Here the one simply grades into the other; the one yields to the supremacy of the higher faculty. In fact, we know better by the sum of all our faculties. Under this scheme there is no duality or conflict between different stages of understanding. Each stage has an organic connection with the higher one and moves to the higher level by the help of the higher one. As noted earlier, intellect is the form for the mind but matter for the spirit. Then there is unity in diversity.

Realization of unity in diversity is the realization of the highest level, and is of subjective nature as realization is the direct experience of truth without the aid of any external aids. All the great saints and seers both in the East and the West speak of it in almost the same vain: In the West, Bruno is perhaps the most eloquent propounder of the master idea of unity in diversity who, in almost complete agreement with the Eastern view, said “all reality is one in substance, one in cause, one in origin. God and this reality are one, mind and matter are one.” What a blunt but true recognition of unity in diversity! The statement was obviously far ahead of the time for which he had to pay the price of his life. Obviously, unity in diversity also means a synthesis in which opposites and contradictions meet and merge. In fact, it is the synthesis of opposites that justifies unity in diversity as there always is universality behind all forms of diversities. It is in the universality that we join together and live together.

However, one thing that has to be made clear is that while we talk about unity or oneness of all things, it is first realized at the top or at the highest level of understanding i.e. subjectively. Evolution, on the other hand, always moves through different levels of diversity, from simple to complex oneness. The evolutionary nature of life is not based on the uniformity of life. Neither should we expect that because life is often enriched by variations or diversities, by the richness of diversities. Although order is needed to lead a meaningful life, it is never an artificial order. It builds itself from within at its own liberty, but in proper relations with others. Liberty allows variations not only by division into units, groups, categories, individuals, communities etc., but also more by their synthesis. When a number of communities constitute a synthetically harmonized single community it is definitely a better community. It does not kill the peculiarities of the individual communities but makes a better whole. The first necessity for the formation of a community seems to be rather limited; it is by local association and the interest of a number of individuals. But then a stronger element supporting the formation of a community enters into the equation later when community is strengthened also by association of ideas making it stronger and more coherent. The scope of community is widened by the widening of thoughts and ideas, by closure association and closure intermingling of races, cultures and religions. Of course, the development or growth is not necessarily smooth, steady and always ascending upwards. The initiator may not yet be able to do it practically what he has seen and learnt. The mass too may not yet be ready to learn and assimilate what is given to it. The initial message may then be delivered in diminished and/or distorted form. The progress is likely to have ups and downs, and even some debasements, but generally speaking the progress is upwards. In the long run, evolution is a forward and upward movement irrespective of some intermediate setbacks and even some downfalls or retreats.

As the number of factors that go into the making of a community increases, diversity too increases with the increased possibility of separation, but this separation is overcome because of the essential principle of nature,- diversity in unity. Each must grow freely in his own way as it is his individual inner growth otherwise one cannot grow at all. It is like different streams or rivers which mingle only in the sea. The result is that it allows full development of each individual as well as of all the individuals, full development of a community as well as that of all communities. There is full and free growth of individuals as well as that of the society or of the race. Similarly, synthesis of religions makes a religion that is a better whole. It is the unity in diversity that allows full and free growth of all religions, which at the same time harmonizes them, enriches them and binds them through a common spirit. We may once again remember Swami Vivekananda as the different streams having sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea so, O Lord! The different paths which people take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee! ”.

But the truth is that while diversity is natural, unity has to be realized often through strenuous efforts. Obviously, the more we replace the outer laws by inner laws, the matter by the spirit, the more spirit replaces body, life and mind, the nearer we come to our perfection. This must herald the coming of the spiritual age. Man is then free finally, lives by free agreement and cooperation not only with his fellow men but also with his total environment. He lives for a divine purpose. The society will then live as the collective soul.

AB Singh Photo.jpg

Prof. Dr. Akal Bahadur Singh

Prof. Dr. Singh was one of the founding Pragya in the old pre-1990 RONAST. Recently he has been spending much of his time thinking about the relationship between science and spirituality.

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