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ANTI - BRAHMANISM, THE NEW COMMUNALISM OF MODERN INDIA by David Frawley Communalism is discrimination against a group of people because

of the particula r community to which they happen to belong. This community may be defined accord ing to race, class, economic status or religious affiliation. There are many for ms of communalism in the world and almost no country is without it. Communalism is a problem in all societies today because different classes, races and religio us groups are present in every land. India as a diverse subcontinent has its communal problems, mainly along religiou s lines, with ongoing Hindu-Muslim conflicts. But it also has clashes between th e different classes of society, particularly the so-called higher classes versus the lower classes or untouchables. There have been many efforts to eradicate co mmunalism ever since the inception of independent India. However in spite of, an d sometimes because of misguided efforts at removing communalism, communalism ha s increased in recent years. What is stranger in this regard is that anti-communalism in India has in fact be come a new form of communalism. It condemns certain communities on principle as communal, which incites discrimination against them. Under the guise of eliminat ing discrimination between communities, certain communities are targeted and suf fer various forms of discrimination. SARVA DHARMA SAMBHAVA : UNITY OR CONFUSION OF RELIGIONS A common tenet of Hinduism is "Sarva Dharma Sambhava, which literally means that all Dharmas (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other. In recent time s this statement has been taken as meaning "all religions are the same" - that a ll religions are merely different paths to God or the same spiritual goal. Based on this logic the religious path that one takes in life is a matter of per sonal preference, like choosing whether to eat rice or chapatis to fill one's st omach. One's choice in religion is merely incidental and makes no real differenc e in the spiritual direction of one's life. Any path is as good as any other. Th e important thing is to follow a path. However since the religion of one's birth is not only as good as any other, but is the closest to access and easiest to u nderstand, one should usually follow it whatever it may happen to be. From this point of view whether one is Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, or of another religious belief is not important. Whether one goes to a temple, church or mosque, it is all the same. Whether one prays to Jesus or Allah or meditates upon Buddha or Atman the results cannot be ultimately different. All religions are equally valid ways of knowing God or truth. The outer differences between re ligions are merely incidental while their inner core is one, the knowledge of th e Divine or supreme reality. Therefore members of all religious groups should li ve happily together, recognizing that there is no real conflict in what they bel ieve in but only superficial variations of name and form. THE DANGER OF HINDUS SPEAKING IN THE NAME OF OTHER RELIGIONS Coming from a synthetic and open religious tradition Hindus like to include othe r religions within the scope of their own, as if other religions, even those try ing desperately to convert them, should be like Hinduism. Modern Hindus like to say that they are also Christians or Muslims, that they believe in the Bible and Koran, or that they respect Jesus or Mohammed as avatars and great Yogis. Modern Hindus have reinterpreted other religions in a Hindu light, claiming that Christ went to India, that the Bible teaches the law of karma, that yogic pract ices can be found in the Koran, and so on. Hinduism itself may not be specifical ly the ground of such synthetic equations but Yoga or Vedanta or a particular Hi

ndu based teacher. Some Yoga teachers say that Yoga is not merely Hindu but also Christian and Islamic and that any mystic of any background is also a yogi. Some Vedantins say that Vedanta is the essence of all religions and look for Chr istian Vedanta or Islamic Vedanta, even speaking of Hindu Vedanta as if Vedanta was not Hindu but some broader teaching. Such groups may do chants and prayers u sing the names of God and saints from various religions. They may celebrate the holy days of all religions as well. HINDUISM UNDER SIEGE AND RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE The Politics of Pseudo-Tolerance We supposedly live in a secular age, in which religious intolerance has been ban ished at least from the political sphere in the major nations of the developed w orld. Western democracies claim to afford the same legal rights to members of al l religions, and many Asian nations, including India, have tried to follow this model. Eastern religious groups in Western countries have gained a legal recogni tion similar to that of Western religions. This has allowed them to build temples and schools and to promote their religion s in the West, which would have been unheard of only a few decades ago. All the religions of the world today claim to be tolerant. Christians claim that they ar e tolerant, following the model of Christian compassion and love for all. Christ ian groups, particularly Catholics have recently reached out to Muslims, Buddhis ts and Hindus, recognizing at least some value in their different beliefs. Muslims claim that Islam has always been a tolerant religion, a religion of peac e, brotherhood and social equality. Yet in spite of such tolerance we do not se e any diminishing of religious conversion efforts throughout the world. Christia n and Muslim conversion activities, if anything more pronounced. There are massi ve organizations and great plans designed to convert the world to such missionar y beliefs as much so today as in previous times. DEVIC AND ASURIC FORMS OF MYSTICISM Hindus are inclined to accept anything that calls itself calls itself religion, particularly if it is also mystical. They would like to believe that all mystica l states are valid and that all religions are true. This exposes them to manipul ation by groups who use a religious or mystical appearance to promote their own agendas that may be anti-Hindu in nature. It is also contrary to their tradition . The Hindu Yoga tradition is well aware of the fact there are many different stat es of altered consciousness or mysticism. Not all of these are true, much less w holesome. There are various types of mysticism from what is little more than bla ck magic to the highest Self-realization, and even experiences of Self-realizati on can be partial or mixed with lesser states. The Yoga tradition relates that e ven Asuras, beings of great pride and ambition, take to Yoga practices to gain g reater powers to further their aim of world domination. Religion, on one hand, has certainly been the greatest help for humanity in our eternal quest of Self- realization. Yet, on the other hand, it has also caused t he greatest harm, inciting every sort of crime justified by the name of God. Rel igion can be not only the means of eradicating our human ego and its intractable biases, it can become the last and greatest attachment for the ego and the plac e in which our deepest prejudices can hide. Superstitions and hatreds can rest u nquestioned in religion, particularly when they are attributed to God or his wil l.

SUFIS AND MILITANCE Hindus are great believers in mysticism and often let their discrimination disap pear in face of claims of spiritual experiences or powers. This Hindu gullibilit y to mysticism is perhaps nowhere more evident than in their relationship with t he Sufis or Islamic mystics. Many Hindus have trouble with what they perceive as orthodox, fundamentalist or militant Islam with its holy wars that have often t argeted Hindus. They don't like the exclusive rhetoric of Islam that Allah is the only God, Moha mmed is the last prophet, and the Koran is the last revelation. They dislike the Sharia or traditional Islamic law with its harsh punishments and religious into lerance. They have been suspicious of the Islamic effort to create a Caliphate o r Pan-Islamic kingdom that would include India and eliminate Hinduism altogether . But call Islam Sufi, meaning mystical, and Hindus will uncritically accept wha tever is said, even if it hides the same old fundamentalism and militance Hindus oppose. They will bow down at the grave of a Sufi saint without inquiring about what mad e the particular person holy. In a number of instances it was his slaughter of t he infidels that was responsible for his sanctity, including the ancestors of th ese self-same Hindus. Hindus fail to examine what Sufis have done to Hindus hist orically and blind themselves to frequent Sufi alliances with Islamic militance and aggression. All a Sufi has to do is to appear a little tolerant and Hindus a re quick to turn him into a saint, regardless of what he actually does throughou t his life. HINDU DHARMA AND THE CLASH OF CULTURES The Modern Clash of Cultures A new idea popular in the global arena today is that of "the clash of cultures." Now that humanity appears to be moving out of the era of world wars the main co nflict is becoming no longer military but cultural. It is no longer a question o f a clash of armies but one of ideas and beliefs. This encounter is primarily oc curring in the media sphere where cultures collide, with political, information and business campaigns. However, the media itself is the vehicle and sometimes t he weapon mainly for one culture, the Western European and American, at least un til other groups learn how to use it effectively. Votaries of the clash of cultures view divide the world into various cultural sp heres defined primarily by geography and religion. First is Christian Western Eu rope and North America with liberal humanitarian and free trade values that now dominate the world. Related to this is the Orthodox Christian Russian and Easter n Europe sphere with similar traditions but a greater tendency toward central co ntrol and totalitarianism. Quite different than these two is Islamic North Afric a and the Middle East, where there is no separation of church and state and reli gious law still rules supreme and often without tolerance. Beyond these spheres, which have had considerable historical interchange, lies C onfucian China with a powerful and strongly ordered hierarchical society that ha s little regard for the individual or human rights. Finally there is Hindu India and the Indian subcontinent with diverse traditions of spirituality but a lack of concern for social development, including little cohesiveness politically and much backwardness economically. Outside these major spheres are native African, American and Asian groups, including tribal peoples, who are generally being di splaced by one or more of these dominant cultural groups, with the proselytizin g religions of Christianity and Islam making the greatest inroads. THE NEW MASKS OF COLONIALISM

Western colonialism did not die after the end of World War II when the West gave up its colonies. It merely changed to a more subtle form, which may prove more harmful to non-Western cultures in the long run. The expansion of Western culture has continued at an accelerated rate along with the denigration and decline of non-Western civilizations and their religion, ar t, literature and customs. This new colonialism has taken on several new faces or, rather, new masks. It m asquerades itself through democracy, internationalism, free trade and humanitari anism. In the name of modernization and globalization it pretends to be uplifting peopl es whom it is really exploiting and whose culture it is eliminating. This is not different than colonialism originally, which vaunted itself as the b ringer of civilization and culture to the uncivilized world. HINDU POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS CRITIQUES Modern Hindus appear to be unable to discriminate between how to deal with other religions on a political level, on one hand, versus how to deal with them on a religious level, on the other. They have confused political tolerance with relig ious acceptance, thinking that they must accept all religions as true in order t o create political harmony with their followers. This has led to a situation in which Hindus do not defend their religion so as not to politically offend other religious groups, even though other religions do not reciprocate and continue th eir criticism and missionary efforts against Hindus. The result of this confusion is that Hinduism is losing any clear identity for i tself and failing to counter the forces that are assailing it. One does not need to sacrifice one's religious beliefs at the altar of political exigency, partic ularly when other religious groups hold their own ground. One can be clear and s trong in one's religion, including defending it against missionary attacks and m edia distortions, without having to lose one's political tolerance. Unfortunately most political leaders in India, including some who claim to be st aunch Hindus, don't seem to understand how to do this. They have chosen to hide their religion in this age of the clash of cultures and instead give their publi c praise to the beliefs of others. This has been done mainly out of political ac commodation but there is a pretence that there is something deeply spiritual abo ut it. THE HINDU RENAISSANCE AT A TURNING POINT Hindu Dharma requires not merely a spiritual revival today but a cultural and in tellectual renaissance. Hinduism was never merely a philosophy for monks and ren unciates alone but contains teachings for all levels and types of individuals. I t was never a religion whose only concern is going beyond the world but a vast c ulture addressing the whole of life and all aspects of existence. While the spir itual core of Hinduism through Yoga and Vedanta, the Science of Self-knowledge, has perhaps been preserved, its cultural forms are deteriorating and, in many ca ses, disappearing. Culture, after all, is the field (Prakriti) in which the spirit (Purusha) is cul tivated. The daily life and environment of a country creates the basic samskaras or tendencies through which individuals can grow or decline. Without the proper cultural field, the spiritual force has no place to descend. Unless Hindu cultu re is reinvigorated, what remains of the spiritual essence of Hinduism will have

no proper ground on which to flourish. One cannot neglect culture in the spirit ual life. Though the goal of the spiritual life may be to transcend all outer an d cultural limitations it cannot do this without the right cultural foundation o n which to develop. Such a Hindu renaissance must address all aspects of Hindu Dharma, not just its yogic traditions but its philosophy, art, medicine, science, and politics. Only with the full awakening of Hindu Dharma can this renaissance be complete and abl e to serve for a new spiritual regeneration, not only of India but also of the e ntire world. While there has been an important Hindu renaissance over the past t wo centuries, and while there is a new intellectual awakening among Hindus today , this has yet to achieve its real flowering. Now is the time to push this movem ent forward and bring it into the entire cultural sphere. VEDIC DHARMA AND THE UNIVERSAL RELIGION The One Religion of Humanity There is only One Truth behind this vast universe in which we live. A singular c osmic order sustains all the different laws of physics, biology and consciousnes s. There is, ultimately, only One Being and One Consciousness behind everything known and unknown. This unity dwells in all creatures and links all beings toget her into a wonderful tapestry of Divine delight. This great truth of Oneness has its main ramifications in the field of religion, which should be our main means of connecting with this Divine unity of existenc e. Because of this unity of Truth there must be One True Religion behind all the religions of humanity. As Truth is One, true religion must ultimately be the sa me. Therefore there can be only one true religion in the world. Naturally such a statement may cause some stir, if not fear, to arise in our hea rts and probably it should. The reason for this, obviously, is that certain reli gions have used the claim that they alone represent the true faith to impose the mselves upon humanity, with intolerance, if not violence. So let us look at the matter carefully. Just there must be only one true science behind all the scienc es of the world, so there must be only one true religion, a religion of truth, b ehind all the religions of the world. Yet this One Religion of Truth cannot merely be one religion among the many that human beings have known historically, but a unity, universality and infinity th at contains and transcends all manifest or formal religions, the human faiths th at have been invented by man, which in their time-space expression must be limit ed, if not distorted. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Hinduism is the largest pluralistic religion in the world. It teaches that there are many paths, many sages, and many holy books and that no religion can claim any exclusive or final representation of truth. This does not mean that Hinduism does not recognize a unity to truth. On the contrary, Hinduism recognizes a tot al and profound unity but one that is broad enough to allow for diversity and to integrate multiplicity, like the many leaves on a great Banyan tree. This Hindu pluralism has confused people coming from singularistic religious tra ditions, such as have dominated the Western world, who are baffled by the great diversity within Hinduism. It has caused them to look upon Hinduism as a collect ion of cults or sects rather than any consistent religious heritage. However if we look deeply into the many-sided vision of Hinduism we will discover that it h as much wisdom to teach everyone. Today in the emerging global era we must learn to handle the great diversity of human beings and their often very different cu

ltures. This requires a pluralistic vision in all aspects of life, from which re ligion, often the most important aspect of human culture, cannot be excluded. Hinduism is built upon diversity and holds within itself an amazing, even bewild ering, variety of teachers and teachings from what appear to be the most primiti ve forms to the most abstract spiritual philosophies and yogic practices. One co uld say that there are more religions inside of Hinduism than outside of it. Hin duism has more Gods and Goddesses, more scriptures, more saints, sages and avata rs, than any other religion in the world, perhaps more than all the other major religions put together. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM This is because Hinduism has sought to preserve all the main spiritual practices that developed in India over the past five thousand years. It has never sought to reduce itself to any one teacher, book, faith or revelation. It has always re mained open to new teachings and revelations on one hand, and yet has not cut it self off from older traditions on the other. It would be as if in the Western world today along with the dominant religions o f Christianity, Islam and Judaism, that the old Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babyloni an and Persian religions had been preserved, as well as an acceptance of newer t eachings and religions. We can contrast the Hindu view with that of dominant Western religions and their standard formula of one God, one prophet or savior and one holy book that has l ed them to promote the supremacy of their belief for everyone. Christianity and Islam, with few exceptions, have sought throughout history to convert the entire world to their faith, and to this end have often tried to discredit, if not sup press other traditions - a practice that still continues in various parts in the world. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM On the other hand, Hinduism has never tried to create any one center, one church , one leader, or one doctrine or to impose its views through any army or group o f missionaries. It has sought to preserve diversity and emphasizes local applica tion of the teachings. In the dawning global age we can no longer claim that any one religion is the on ly truth for all humanity any more than we can claim that one language, culture or way of life is the best for all. We must have a broad enough view to recogniz e the value in the different peoples and cultures of the globe from so called ab origines, who have a much deeper understanding of nature than modern people, to the great civilizations not only of Europe and the Middle East but of America, A frica and Asia, including those not built upon Biblical religious ideas. Any great civilization, we must note, is a product of diversity, which is what w e mean when we say that a culture is rich or cosmopolitan. It is able to bring t ogether many different views and practices in science, religion, art, and cultur e as well as embrace various racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups. It also has a long sense of history and can integrate within itself many different historica l currents. A culture where everyone must have the same beliefs and follow the s ame practices is not a true culture and must deny the human spirit that always s eeks to grow and express itself in a variety of ways. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Religious Pluralism and Unity of Religions

Some modern Hindu teachers have stated that all religions are one, that they are all ultimately the same and all equally good. They look upon different religion s as merely alternative ways to reach the same goal, as little more than differe nt names for the same thing. This has caused them to mix different religions tog ether, often with little discrimination, trying to be all things to all people. While their view may be motivated by a sincere effort to bring about religious h armony and world peace, it has led to many distortions. Above all it has gone ag ainst the pluralistic approach of the Hindu tradition. Making all religions the same is a denial of pluralism and can breed another form of intolerance. Plurali sm in any field does not mean that all alternatives are the same but that we do have different choices, which may not all be good or equal. Having pluralism in food, for example, means that we can choose from many differ ent types of food. It does not mean that all food articles are of equal nutritio nal value or of the same taste. This equating of all religions as equal and good makes it appear wrong for religions to disagree with one another, even if their views are contrary. It destroys discrimination in religion and makes people blu r over different views of God, immortality, the goal of life, and the ways to ac hieve these. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Rather than honoring diversity in religion, it attempts to reduce this diversity to a vague identity that no one can challenge. Rather than giving people a numb er of different choices in religion it tries to make all these choices appear to be the same or inconsequential. In eliminating choice it destroys freedom and i nhibits inquiry and growth. And on what grounds do we make all religions the sa me? Do we do it on the grounds of monotheism, the belief that there is only One God? This debars non-monotheistic religions like Buddhism or Taoism, as well as many native beliefs. Do we propose it on that all religions teach us to be good? Yet what is said to be good in one religion may not be good in another religion. Lik e any other human cultural phenomena religions are so diverse that if we try to reduce them to a common pattern, we will only have a few bones left over, not a real human being. Could we reduce art all over the world to a single standard of sameness without destroying its richness and vitality? This attempt to make all religions the same would similarly destroy the vitality and relevance of religion and turn it into a dead formula. What Hinduism really teaches is religious pluralism, not the need to make all religions the same, wh ich is intolerant of religious differences that are often not minor or inconsequ ential. Religious pluralism, on the other hand, is tolerant of religious differe nces. It does not seek to reduce all religions to a common standard. It lets the ir differences stand out and does not seek to cover them over with a veil of uni ty. Pluralism says that it is fine for us to have different or even contrary vie ws about religion and this does not have to be a problem. The important thing fo r us is to seek truth or God in the way that is most meaningful for us. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Pluralism in religions does not require that we reduce all religions to a common mold in which their distinctions disappear into an amorphous unity. It certainl y doesn't mean that we have to practice all religions or bow down to all their l eaders as great and holy. Pluralism in religions does not mean that we have to b elieve in or accept all religions as true, regardless of what they teach. Plural ism means freedom. There should be freedom in the pursuit of the spiritual life, even if it allows others to arrive at a different understanding of truth than w

hat we ourselves honor. This means that we should not bar people from changing their religious beliefs, nor should we seek to impose religious beliefs upon people by force or propagand a. We should give people the space to discover the truth without our interferenc e. After all truth is the truth and has the power of eternity. It is not a fanta sy that has to be protected. If we allow people the freedom to discover what is real they cannot avoid it. On the other hand, if we try to impose truth on peopl e, what they arrive at will not be their own truth, their own discovery but a me re doctrine, label or fantasy. Truth is self-evident. The truth that fire burns does not require a religious sa nction or political law to protect it. It doesn't need a priestly order or a pol ice force to enforce it. We don't need to use persuasion to make people believe that fire burns. We need only let them work with fire and discover what it is. T he same is true of all the great laws and powers of both nature and the Divine. Hindu pluralism does not deny the unity of truth or the fact of cosmic law but r egards it as a matter of self-discovery and self-knowledge, not the enforcement of a mere belief or opinion. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Pluralism and the Clash of Different Paths A pluralistic religious view accepts that there are many different religious pat hs. These paths have various degrees of differences between them, some perhaps m inor, some perhaps major. Different paths will appeal to different individuals r elative to their varying temperaments or levels of development, which are bound to be diverse and ever changing. Some of these paths may be good or noble; other s may be naive or perhaps even despicable. Some may appeal to a low level of religious temperament; others may appeal to a high level of spiritual realization. A pluralistic view does not seek to force these paths into any preconceived harmony or bar people from following paths tha t are not good or exalted. It does not attempt to police the paths, but rather t o sustain the freedom that prevents any one path from imposing itself upon all a s the final truth. In pluralism there is no final judgment on these different pa ths. Each person is allowed their own opinion of what they think is best. The freedom to follow a path is as important as what any path may be. A pluralis tic view does not bar either disagreement or debate between different paths. It allows people to critically examine and choose between different paths to find o ut what is valid for them on an individual basis. In fact a pluralistic view enc ourages free and critical discussion and does not place religions, like sovereig n nations, outside the sphere of examination as if anything called a religious f aith could no longer be questioned. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Pluralism allows the clash of paths, not as an outer battle, but as part of a sp irit of free examination. This clash of paths is as important as any unity betwe en paths for helping the human spirit grow. We grow spiritually more from dialog ue with those who disagree with us than from having our beliefs unquestioningly affirmed by others. This requires that we are willing to have our own views scru tinized as well as being willing to examine those of others. Yet though creating a forum for possible debate, a pluralistic tradition does no t seek to finalize that debate or even insist that people partake in it. Plurali sm asks that we maintain tolerance in spite of such disagreements and debates. I t means that we should accept religious differences as a fact of life, like othe r natural variations, even if all such variations are not entirely wholesome. Pl

uralism does not require that we make all religions the same, it doesn't even re quire that we like all religions. It allows us to have our own judgments, however narrow or wide these may be, as long as we allow others the same freedom of opinion. Nor does pluralism try to r educe one religion to another. It doesn't say that Buddhism has to become a form of Hinduism regardless of what Buddhists might think, that Christianity and Jud aism must reunite, that all religions have to become sects of some greater relig ion, or similar attempts to equate or unite different religions. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Nor does it say it is wrong for people to have such ideas. Pluralism allows diff erent religious views to exist including those that are synthetic and those that are not. It allows religions to come together if they wish but to stay apart if that is their inclination as well. It recognizes that differences in religion c an contribute to the beautiful diversity of life and don't have to be a problem. Pluralism therefore does not mean that a person cannot be strong in their partic ular path. Pluralism does not mean that a Hindu cannot be a staunch Hindu but ha s to be a Christian and Muslim as well in order to be tolerant. Similarly it doe s not mean that a Christian or Muslim should not be allowed to regard his faith as the highest. A pluralist view says that a person has the right to worship a s tick or a hole in the wall, if that is his inclination. And, no matter how evolved a person may think that he is, he has no right to int erfere with the religious practices of another, which is itself the most unevolv ed of all religious practices. It means that however much we may think our path is the best for us that we must allow other people a similar dedication to their own path, even if it is contrary to ours, including the freedom not to follow a ny path at all. A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Pluralism means that we must make the freedom of religious practice more importa nt than the supremacy of any particular belief. We should not only respect but u phold our neighbor's right to follow another religion, even if we think that it is contrary to the real truth. This means that missionary efforts to convert oth ers by persuasion and intimidation should come to an end and be replaced by a fr ee examination of religious issues with honesty, courtesy and friendliness. To arrive at truth in any field we need freedom. Freedom creates diversity. Both freedom and diversity allow for creative growth and inquiry. In this developmen t truth can be arrived at as an individual experience, rather than imposed upon the resistant individual as a collective belief which makes it little more than a blind emotion. Human beings naturally have their different temperaments, inclinations and state s of development. We should have learned after so much bloodshed throughout hist ory that to try to impose one way of thought on all people is an error. It is no t only not spiritual, it goes against nature and life which are filled with ever y sort of variation. Should we insist that the wind only blow in one way or that plants only grow on one type of soil? A HINDU CALL FOR RELIGIOUS PLURALISM Of course groups that deny freedom and diversity to sustain their power and cont rol may not be happy with demands for pluralism. They may prefer to have their o

wn territory where no competition is allowed. But their period of rule is coming to an end. Even singularistic religious traditions will soon have to recognize the validity of pluralism, including granting a new respect for the very plurali stic and so-called polytheistic traditions, like Hinduism, that out of intoleran ce they have not only failed to understand but have oppressed. In Hinduism the ultimate goal of life is freedom or liberation, Moksha. This is not an outer freedom to get what we want but an inner freedom to go beyond all e xternal limitations. This freedom is the real unity behind the diversity of Hind uism and the key to its many sides. Hindu pluralism therefore is not the denial of unity but the affirmation of real unity that transcends outer differences. Tr ue unity is built upon freedom, not conformity, and is a state of the heart or i nner consciousness, not an outer condition of labels and slogans. While the West has emphasized external freedom, which has given it a sense of pl uralism in the outer aspects of life, Hinduism teaches inner freedom, without wh ich outer freedom has no real meaning. This inner freedom allows for the full fl owering of the soul so that our entire human potential, which is ultimately one of spiritual aspiration, can manifest and bring truth and beauty to our entire e xistence.