Sri Sri speaks to the SIMI

I saw a report on a dialogue between Sri Sri Ravishankar (a Hindu spiritual guru) and 4 members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (a hardline Islamic group that wants to bring Shari'a law to India). SIMI had recently put posters in Muslim quarters of various Indian cities saying "No to democracy, No to secularism, Yes to Shari'a" and "Waiting for the next Ghazni to invade India" etc.

Here are some of the issues they discussed:

SIMI: We thought that holding an Anandotsavam (celebration) on December 6th was a deliberate move to insult our religious sentiments. Do you know about our religion?. Do you believe in the Koran at all?

SRI SRI: Yes of course.

SIMI: (Not expecting this answer, pointing to the Koran, they shot the next question) We believe that Koran is the only knowledge. What about you?

SRI SRI: This is one amongst the various knowledge revealed to man from time to time.

SIMI: But God has said this is the only knowledge. The way of the Koran is the only way. There is no other way.

SRI SRI: This message can be found in scriptures of all religions. In the Vedas it is said “Naanyah Panthaah Ayanaaya Vidyate” meaning “There is no other way but the way of Truth!” The same is said in the Bible, Jesus says, “To go to my father, you have to go through me. I am the only way”.

SIMI: But our scripture says worshipping any form or idol is evil, it is blasphemy.

SRI SRI: What is Good and Evil after all? It is relative. Relative existence is not the complete picture For example: Milk is good, but too much milk can kill you. Poison is harmful, but a drop of poison can save your life. Most lifesaving medicines have poison written on them! These are neither absolutely good nor bad they are just there. Truth transcends duality, and God is the Absolute and only Truth. So, where is the place for evil?

SIMI: Yet you Hindus worship many Gods, whereas our ideal is there is only one God and His message is what is required to go to heaven.

SRI SRI: There is only one god in many forms…

SIMI: (Restless and unwilling to listen to any explanation, they interrupted Sri Sri.) But the Koran says you should only worship Allah who is formless whereas the Hindus worship idols which are only stones.

SRI SRI: At this, Sri Sri suddenly asked them: Do you honour the Koran?

SIMI: (They seemed a little taken aback at this question from Sri Sri and with a righteous air answered). Yes, it is God’s word!

SRI SRI: Do you honor the Mecca?

SIMI: Yes, of course! That is our sacred place.

SRI SRI: So also, Hindu’s honour God’s creation as God. Just like sound (Koran), the crescent moon, Kaaba and the month of Ramadan are sacred for you, Hindus consider the River Ganges, the Himalayas, Saints as sacred. See, a picture of your daughter is not your daughter, but you still adore the daughter’s picture. When you see the picture aren’t you reminded of your daughter?

(They nodded a yes)

SRI SRI: So also, a symbol is not God but is honoured as God. This sense of honouring and sacredness makes you awake and alive. That is why the ancient Rishis said to feel the entire creation and your whole life as sacred. They considered God as omnipresent, as inseparable from His creation; like the dance and the dancer.

Sri Sri elaborated further – Spirit loves diversity. Is there only one type of vegetable or fruit? God created many type of fruits and vegetables. There is not just one type of tree, not just one type of snake, cloud, mosquito….Even you change your dress for different occasions. So how could this consciousness that manifested this whole creation be monotonous? There is only one God in many forms. Only one God is advocated. When you accept the variety of Divinity, you cease to be a fanatic and fundamentalist. A pregnant silence filled the room as they looked at each other expecting the other to speak. Then as a face saving measure, the SIMI leader replied, “I will need to go and consult my higher scholars.” With a compassionate expression on His face, Sri Sri said: Never mind, (with a wave of His hand) forget about religion. We are all human beings. Let us have a peaceful society. Let us focus on development.

For the rest of the conversation, please visit Dinesh Bawa's blog here.

I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. On the one hand, it does serve to demonstrate how open minded Hindu Dharma is, and how closed Islam is. But we know that already. Does Sri Sri expect that the SIMI is going to change its views because of this conversation? Not very likely. In a previous such meeting, between Sri Sri and Zakir Naik, the latter simply abused Sri Sri's respect for his faith, and asked him to convert to Islam! Surely not the kind of mutual respect that can build bridges between faiths.

In any case, Islam as an ideology is so intolerant that these events almost seem to obfuscate the big picture, which is that Islam by its very definition cannot co-exist with others. Islam asserts that it is the ONLY way, and the religion that Allah has sent to replace all other religions, by force of Jihad. When an ideology has such a self-definition, is there any point talking to its fundamentalist practitioners?

Also do we want to humanize people like the SIMI who place bombs in Indian cities and exult at killing Hindu kafirs? Why not just call them the evil that they are and be prepared to fight this evil. This is the reason I don't want the US talking to the Taliban (oops, I meant "moderate Taliban", as if there is such a thing). At some point, you have to call something what it is - pure evil - and just say "We won't stand for this. We won't allow you people to treat women like animals. We won't allow you to treat religious minorities as cannon fodder. We won't just watch while you blow up the Bamiyan Buddhas. We won't just watch while you burn down all girls' schools and force women to stay at home. We simply won't." What are our values here? When we "negotiate" with such people - people who want to take the world into the 7th century arabian desert - what are we saying about our own values? Is this Hindu Dharma? A Hindu law book dating from the early 1st Millenium AD, and it said "a man who hits his wife, though she may be of a hundred faults, even with a blossom, has fallen outside the pale of Dharma and must be shunned". Another verse said that "a woman's body is sacred. It must never be hit under any circumstances, even with a flower." The Manu Smriti (original) says that "where women are worshipped, the Gods are happy. Where women are disrespected, no religious rites bring any reward." (please refer to the excellent website Hindu Wisdom for information on the position of women in orthodox Hindu Dharma, not that which is practiced in India today as a result of 1000 years of the presence of Islam)

Is this issue not important to us? Are we OK with the Taliban dragging women into football stadia and shooting them? Are we OK with pictures like this one:

I know where I stand. I am NOT OK with any of the things the Taliban does, especially to women. What they do to women makes my blood boil, and it should make your's boil too. It is against all tenets of our civilization (and also Western civilization). I think it is clear what Dharma is in this situation. It is to join hands with Western civilization and destroy the monster named the Taliban and all its Deobandi siblings such as the SIMI.

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