Buddha preached and railed against the Vedas, the archaic sacrifices and the Hindu gods and goddesses, and tramped the dusty paths of north India untill his 80th birthday, yet no one ever harmed him. They became his disciples in the thousands.
Jesus criticized the orthodoxy of the prevailing times in ancient Palestine, and they put him on a cross.
'Sect after sect arose in India and seemed to shake the religion of the Vedas to its very foundations, but like the waters of the seashore in a tremendous earthquake it receded only for a while, only to return in an all-absorbing flood, a thousand times more vigorous, and when the tumult of the rush was over, these sects were all sucked in, absorbed, and assimilated into the immense body of the mother faith. From the high spiritual flights of the Vedanta philosophy, of which the latest discoveries of science seem like echoes, to the low ideas of idolatry with its multifarious mythology, the agnosticism of the Buddhists, and the atheism of the Jains, each and all have a place in the Hindu's religion.' - Swami Vivekanada
Not that there was no extremism and orthodoxy in India at time, there was... But there was also this deep underlying understanding and respect for multiplicity/plurality because of the idea of ' Ekam Sat, vipra bahudha vadanti' which translates to 'the Utilmate Truth is One, the sages (wise) speak of it variously'
So what did the Hindus do with the Buddha? They honoured him. The one who criticized the most venerable texts of their tradition, and they accepted him as one of their own. Sort of re absorbed him into Hinduism. Made him an avatara.
The Ultimate truth is One, and it is also infinite. Which is why you can think of it as with and without forms. As male as female as beyond gender... Kali, Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus, Allah all point to the same one truth expressed variously. Only because it is Infinite.
Infact, the infinitude of the Truth is why you can speak about even. If it was limited, if this truth was specific then the sages that speak of it variously, would be liars haha (for example 2 + 2 = 4 cannot be anything but that, otherwise it would be wrong or incorrect/Not true.) But if it is limitless(not defined), and beyond language, when it is expressed in language, for the purpose of teaching or pointing ... the same infinite truth is bound to be expressed differently.
This conclusion was arrived at very early on in the vedic tradition and it led to the foundation of religious harmony in the ancient Indian civilization.
Before the arrival of foreign religions there was barely any religious violence. Jainism originated, Buddhism originated.. All these schools were fiercely competing with each other, on the basis of philosophy and debate to further and deepen their own understanding and of religion as a whole... But all at the level of the intellect. Discussions, on the various forms of scriptural interpretations, doctrines, dogmas... But never down to the level of the sword and persecution.
This is a remarkable feat, compared to the history of the west...where the same Ultimate Truth was discovered By the ancient Jewish prophets, by the Christian mystics and the Muslims later on. The same One Reality. These are all genuine religions. But because of the major difference in ideology, truth is One and that anything apparently different to the truth needs to be cut down, this misinterpretation is expressed in the form of enormous violence.
Even though Judaism is not a converting religion and the idea that your own view must not be imposed on anyone is central... The same narrowness that exists in the other religions of the world prevails. It is a bit exclusive, like some of the earlier Vaishnava and Shaivite traditions of ancient India. If you remove the restrictions, when it is no more an ethnic religion... You get something wonderful.
The Christian idea of making the truth accessible to all is a beautiful expression, but it is also plagued with the seed of enormous violence. The moment it is open to everyone, and the moment I have the truth, and I can give it to you, I can save you with it... If I can save you with it then I will do it by hook or crook... Whether u like it or not, I will do it via any means whatsoever . And if it is THE Truth, then what the other has must be false! What I have is right, what you have is wrong. You are welcome to join us, but if you say 'no thanks', I refuse to take no for an answer.
One of the seeds for the founding of the US was the persecution of certain churches in Europe and so they arrived across the Atlantic and established a certain kind of freedom. But it is different from the religious freedom that has existed in India, the spirit of openness and acceptance is in the constitution of the United States (Bill of rights : each person is free to worship God as they wish) but not within the churches of the country. Some are very liberal and open but there's a bunch that have the same DNA of narrowness going back 2000 years in central Asia. The idea that 'I was persecuted by the catholics in Europe, now, I am right and I will persecute you'. My little church is right and the one across town is wrong. The minister in my church says this and the other minister says that. Everybody in my church is going to be saved while those in the others are going to hell. Any thinking person will arrive at the conclusion that it's all wrong, and as a consequence of this separatism, faith in religion and God, is lost.
There's another alternative, maybe everybody's right! Not in every detail ofcourse, details vary with time and place, but the central core, the central truth to all religions is absolutely the same. One truth.
The evangelist yelling at people outside the church saying you're all sinners and are going to hell is, in essence not wrong. If you look through the offensive packaging you realize that the idea is - one must realize the ultimate reality or they are inviting trouble. There will be suffering and death. The only sin as such is to not see the falsity of this world. This is true. To be limited by the mind, not realizing the truth is death.
The non dual idea is that one must realize the formless and form as the same one reality and then carry on as they please.
Idolatry is a big problem, God is not an object out there, so when the people in ancient times, in the middle east were worshiping images in the most gross forms with human sacrifices and such, the Abrahamic traditions cut it down. The idea is the same, that God is not an image or a thing out there. He/she is the inner subject. This transformed into an issue of fanaticism. So when they encountered the panoply of images in the Hindu tradition, of Ganesha, Kali, Krishna, ten armed gods and goddesses, they misinterpretated the symbolism as the same graven images and false idols and swore to destroy them. Christians, Muslims arrived in India and smashed temples and idols under the impression that they're doing the right thing. Following the commandments...
They were unaware that the rituals and worship of the Hindus was much more complex and sophisticated than the idea they were so against. The Idea is that God is not an object. Yet, to have any kind of practice, or worship, an object is helpful. The Hindus knew that's not the ultimate reality, stone or clay statues and such, but to help in realizing the formless, form is important. The path of the unmanifest is tough. All the mantras and prayers say exactly this, God is pure consciousness, the pure subject. The ultimate reality is never an object, but the expression of this truth in so many ways is based on the fact that the impersonal reality can be worshipped and loved as a personal God, in whatever form the devotee can connect to.
The message of the non dualist is the same, do not take god as an object. It is YOU. The subject. Within. And also without. Having realised this truth carry on in the world.
Swami Vivekanada said, 'the goal of humanity is to manifest the divinity within, do it by worship, knowledge, mediation or action. Stop not till the goal is reached.' Realize your true nature as the Infinite. Forever free.
Om shanti 🙏
Based on notes from Swami Sarvapriyanda's lectures