My Religion, Your Religion
To discuss religion in its entirety is complex. There are many faiths in India. The selection of a particular faith is based on tradition and may also develop through a personal view. Amartya Sen says, till he was in his teens, he was with his grandparents in their home at Santiniketan, where he studied at a school founded by Tagore. Kshiti Mohan Sen, Amartya Sen’s grandfather, taught Sanskrit at this school. Kshiti Mohan Sen was also an expert on Hinduism. He focused on Hinduism’s classical heritage and medieval religious literature. To broaden his understanding on Hinduism Kshiti Mohan Sen also studied devotional poetry of Kabir, Dadu and Bauls of Bengal. He spoke in religious meetings at Benares and other places. His Bengali books drew attention on Hinduism and on religious thoughts which drew Hinduism and Islam. His writing covers the scriptural diversity of India and encompassed the caste system and women’s social status in the diversity of our beliefs.
As Amartya Sen grew he asked his grandfather on the choice of a religious conviction. He was told that with maturity his selection would be final. Since in Amartya Sen’s case the choice of a religious belief did not come at all, he confided to his grandfather that his advice was wrong. He was assured that, on the contrary, Amartya Sen has addressed the matter by placing himself in the atheistic or Lokayata segment of the Hindu spectrum. This rational reaction from his grandfather emanated from a profound comprehension of religion. The principle, explained Khiti Mohan Sen, is the importance of dharma in a person’s life. This is fundamentally and strictly based on the person’s behaviour and a personal preference- not necessarily religion. A human being in a democratic environment will treasure his own right to choose a religion; they will not value a code of conduct different to this ethos. Any belligerence conveyed by the choice of a belief will contrast sharply with the all important views of tolerance. This also proves Ashoka’s respect of Hinduism, although he was a Buddhist; Akbar, a Muslim, similarly respected India’s diverse beliefs. Hindus and people of different faiths within our country, can value the presence of Jews, Christians and Parsis, who have been living peacefully in India. This precept of tolerance amongst different communities has been highlighted by Swami Vivekananda, Gandhiji and Tagore. Contrary to a harmonious existence between people of various faiths in India, the matter of racial tension prevails in the West. This may not be because of religion, but racial discrimination goes beyond the realm of religious beliefs. African-Americans have realised that religion is a back burner for resolving their problems. A musical play, Porgy and Bess, which was first performed in 1930, does not grace the stage in the US anymore because Americans dislike the way both communities have been projected. From the 1930’s Directors of the theatre have refused to involve themselves with this wonderful production. A disparity of thought, based on Race, has transgressed into the department of America’s fine arts.
In terms of statistics, India has more than four fifths who are Hindus, although this includes aetheists.
Amartya Sen’s opinion is astute when he articulates the need of an equilibrium on this sensitive topic . His scholarly advice rings with relevance:
“The sizes of different religious communities should not be allowed to disrupt the rights, including the sense of belonging, that every citizen should be able to enjoy.”
By Deepak Rikhye