Should we offer 'mutual respect' to a 'bad' ideology
Analogy: Suppose we offer a million dollars to some bad person, on the condition that he must kill himself. A naive criticism would be that we are giving money to a bad person. But a proper understanding would be different: In order to claim the money, he has to first kill himself, and then the dead person is simply unable to make any claim. So its a good offer to make.
Similarly, the mutual caveat in 'mutual respect' must be understood properly. If accepted by the other side, it forces the demise of the exclusivity clause of that ideology - because the exclusivity clause compels them to regard all others as false religions and not worthy of respect. There is a domino effect if they accept the offer - without exclusivity the entire logic falls apart. So we are not 'giving away' respect to someone who does not deserve it. We are forcing their demise if they accept it, and we are forcing them to admit their arrogance if they cannot accept it.
For many years, I have been asked in numerous talks: Why would you respect bin laden, hitler, etc? My answer in talks and writings has been consistent: Because such a person cannot respect others, he will not get our respect; the respect being offered demands reciprocity. It is not unconditional respect. The word 'mutual' is not extraneous; it makes all the difference.
It was Swami Dayananda Saraswati's stoke of genius to offer Cardinal Ratzinger (the present Pope Benedictine) 'mutual respect' instead of 'tolerance' in the UN Millennium Summit of 2000. BD's chapter 1 explains what happened as a result. It gave swamiji the moral high ground and put the Vatican in a corner. It exposed their hypocrisy....
My reason for this post is that despite many attempts to explain this point as a strategic ploy, I sometimes get 'critiques' sent to me by those who just dont get it.....
"Actually I used to think about Mutual Respect as Rajiv ji puts it but found it does not work in reality - the [evangelist] missionary respects the other pluralistic view but he expects respect for his view to convert that view in the same mutual understanding - so he says he respects the Hindu universality and its need not to convert anyone but please respect mine to convert you. This is Mutual Respect."
Rajiv comments on the under-preparedness of the average debating Hindu and the tendency to underestimate the opponent's skill level:
Mutual respect has to be explained deeper than mere talk. Such an evangelist posture is disrespect camouflaged as respect, just to fool Hindus who are unable to debate. I love taking on such persons in debate. Hindu leaders who cant do this run away, which has not helped, as it shows fear to the youth.
Once you open the debate on mutual respect, be prepared to take it all the way into history centrism and its nasty implications. Be prepared to take that further into synthetic unity and the history of the West in that way of seeing things, and so forth. In other words, dont start a debate you have not had enough experience engaging in at many levels; otherwise you will deplete your arguments quickly and then make a fool of yourself. 99% of the Hindus involved in public representation are unschooled and inadequately read in the subject. They want quick visibility but are unqualified.
Pradip shares an experience in the U.S:
"... we rented a church auditorium for celebration.The next week many church members came to know that we had moorties of our deities during the celebration there,
were totally displeased, and decided not to rent the lace to us again.Thus unhappy, the church had a long talk over it with our organizer... [she was] saying to them that all
gods are equal, so she couldn't comprehend the unhappiness of the church members.The church leader told her if she believed all gods are same, then, she should convert to christianity and join his church.She was flummoxed. ...
Rajiv comment: "If all gods are same, then you must convert to christianity": This is simply an illogical conclusion. Never fear such fools - just call out
btw: I dont agree that all deities are the same - they refer to distinct intelligences that comprise the Supreme Being. Sort of like departments of a complex entity, though this analogy is reductionist. Each does give access to the entirety, so they are not isolated, separated; but they are distinct accesses points. The notion of ishta-devata is wonderful, giving you "equal value" with "distinct access"."
""Ekam sat vipra bahudavadanti". Different people approach or access the absolute (Ekam, not one but absolute), differently. As you wrote, there are different
Rajiv comment: There are different access points but not all of them lead to the same place. Contrary to the popular saying, not all rivers lead to the ocean: some rivers end up in the Dead Sea.
But I can still respect the other person (who is heading towards the dead sea) despite knowing that his ideology is misleading him - as long as it is his private life only, and does not effect me."
"I often wonder how debate might be useful when engaging with individuals who are clearly deficient in rationality?
In this particular case it seems like a classic case of as rajiv pointed out -- "foolishness" plain and simple. Would a meaningful dialog be possible in such a case?
It would be more beneficial for communities to rally, raise funds and build establishments of reasonable sizes (proportional to size of funds raised)?...."
Rajiv comment: These are not mutually exclusive activities. Both are needed because the pursuit of one does not exempt you from addressing the other. ... given our dharma's sociopolitical condition today .... we cannot run away from all other people. We cannot refuse to work with others in our professions and isolate our kids from others' influence (unless you want to join the Amish community). So the issue of how to engage others in mainstream forums (schools, universities, media talk shows, public policy forums, etc.) does not go away. .....Bottom line: The above is an emotional, not rational approach, hence not practical. It WILL get you a big applause at the next gathering of Hindu activists."
"Consider an ideology which you regard as wrong and misguided, but which does "respect" your own ideology.
Can you "respect" that other ideology? If you freely express your belief that they are wrong, would you still be respecting them?
Rajiv comment: This is a great question: Can I have mutual respect for someone who I know to be wrong? Is the other person's 'knowledge of truth' a necessary condition for him to be respected?
First of all, our ancestors practiced purva paksha even with opponents who they knew to be wrong. If they had refused to engage in respectful debate with those they considered ideologically flawed, there would not have been any debates at all. They would have been of the same caliber as the tribal warriors of the Middle East desert. Respectful debate does not mean I must agree with you. I can
argue against you, and yet we can respect each other for having different worldviews. Respecting the other does NOT mean I accept his faith for myself. I practice my faith without imposing upon him and he must practice his faith while respecting me.
Secondly, lets separate PRIVATE belief in ideology from PUBLIC conduct. Whatever private ideology you subscribe to, I can still respect you and your right to
hold that ideology. It is your own private life ... Reciprocity means that you do not attempt to interfere with my private ideology, hence you cannot try to convert me.
My attack is on those with exclusivity claims. I cannot be guilty of having my own ideological exclusivity claims which all others must accept in order to deserve my respect."
"Good analogy. Pope can not respect Hinduism and remain a Pope. That is blasphemy. Swami Dayananda can respect Christianity and can still not violate Hinduism. Pope can only respect Swami as individual and with hope that he will embrace (not just respect) Christianity and reject Hinduism."
"...As an observant Jew I am not comfortable performing sun salutations or invoking the names of Hindu deities any more than I would kneel in a church. But take out the references to hinduism & I can participate.
Religion isn't a buffet table for people to sample. For many people of faith seemingly innocuous practices from other cultures do conflict with their beliefs. I applaud the yoga instructors in this article for finding ways to
accommodate their students. "
So it appears that Religion" is'nt a buffet table, meaning Abrahamic ones, but "cultures" are, so that the item called "yoga" can be evaluated by itself, &
reshaped willy nilly....
Renu: The problem is that majority of us Hindus were brought up with the idea of sharing knowledge freely as that keeps it going and getting better. It is in recent years of Patent and copyright laws, that are causing a lot of
distress; these ignorant persons are super hungry to own and make money; want to own even trees, plants and things given by Bhagavaan. So there has to be a way to stop thru an international law any such digestion. ....what we need is a mass movement towards an understanding among majority of people that they need to take their lives in their own hands not leave to Churches who go around converting and Jihaading in the name of god/allah or what ever.
Pradip: The comment section following the article has several interesting comments. one that I liked is: "yoga, when practised regularly, will eventually make you revolt against monotheist intolerance, and thus endanger
your religion. buyers beware."
Poonam: Personally, after supporting that yoga is for everyone & not just Hindus, & that it has nothing to do with Hinduism, I have, as I grew older, & more knowledgable & wiser, have come to understand that Yoga IS A FORM OF HINDU WORSHIP. It is the process of preparing the body, the consciousness & the Atma of a Hindu to move on to the path of Nirvan/Moksh/or returning to Parabrahm. How can anyone do the yoga without the Sanskrit chants? each chant of the Yog is designed to generate the vibes & sounds that The chanting of the word jesus or mohammad or yaweh or allah does not produce the same effect. The chants practiced in Yoga are different from those that are used in the pooja
pranali & practice. The vibrations & the effects of the different sounds is a "scientifically measurable" entity. The moden day scientists are committing piracy by not testing it & then cutting it off from the roots.
Rajiv comment: Please read in BD my critique of Baba Ramdev for his stand that Aum can be replaced by Allah, Amen, etc. BD has a lot on the non-translatability
of mantras as vibrations, each with a distinct effect beyond its mental/conceptual meaning.
Virender: Instead of complaining that others are taking over YOGA, How many of us have taken concrete steps to claim that YOGA is Hindu spiritual and physical practice ? How many of us educated our Kids, friends or made public efforts to let world know YOGA is ours. It remind me of my mother who used to say it's the weak who complain not the strong ones. Let's be "Khstryias" and
start campaigns worldwide [ Does't matter how small or where] to educate the world of Hindu assets including Yoga. Otherwise lets thanks west/Muslim for making Yoga popular on world platform.
Krishna: Asanas can be considered as exercises. yoga can be taken as breathing exercise. As long as physically,emotionally and mentally if yoga
helps one irrespective of religion can freely practice it. When Muslims have so much of resistance to use Sanskrit words,I don't know how so many Hindus and
particularly Bollywood people use the word Inshallah so frequently. Is it for fashion or they mean God or Bhagwan in general or do they actually mean Allah.
Originally from Mumbai, this Muslim-Canadian yoga teacher writes her perspective on Yoga, Islam and identity;