Finding Dharma in Religious Diversity
I believe religious observances are opportunities to participate in the celebrations of communities of other religions to understand not only the culture, but also the overall philosophy and emotions associated with each tradition. This Ramadan I am not only celebrating the tradition but also using this opportunity to understand people, their lives and ways to build harmony so that we can contribute to each other’s lives.
India is a vibrant democracy and a heterogeneous country that celebrates its cultural diversity and interreligious unity. It is home of one of the largest Muslim communities and Ramadan is an important religious observance here. This country is moving towards better development and economic growth. But still there are small pockets of relative underdevelopment, social unrest and poverty. Governments and many individuals are trying to mitigate these problems but at times bringing multi-cultural & multi-ethnic society together can be difficult. People of any country are the largest and most vital assets. If they are united and happy, then there can be social harmony and progress; and for a diverse country like India, it is a must.
While working at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, I have participated in many disaster responses as a doctor and public health professional. I have closely observed different needs of people with different religions towards food, sanitation, housing and gender-support. I have seen common people doing great work for affected people, irrespective their caste, class or religion; religious organizations working for humanity and not just for a particular religion but towards welfare of all. I learnt my first lessons of interfaith work and its importance on field in post disaster situations. I truly believe that religion is a power and every religion has teachings which has potential to drive humanity.
Working with people of different faiths for a good cause is at times a sensitive thing but this has taught me many things and helped me grow. In my teachings at times I orient disaster management students about the importance of interfaith philosophy and use of inter-religious activities towards effective response, peaceful rehabilitation & post-disaster recovery. Now I work at grassroots for development interventions of Tata Trusts. I see tolerance, affection and cooperation among various sects of society that cherish our cultural diversity.
This Ramadan when I’m participating in Iftar I won’t just enjoy good food but I’ll celebrate the prosperity of our religious harmony and get charged to work on inter-faith efforts wherever required. This helps me spiritually to work in the communities which are affected by disasters or help to work for victims and patients of various occupational hazards. When I deal with needy people of different religions I want not only their faith in me but I want them to understand the importance of looking beyond their own community and work for others, taking strength from great teachings of their religion. Work like this helps me understand meaning of Dharma (what one should do ideally as his/ her duty in this world) and Karma (what one does in real life by making practical choices). Whatever small experience I have, I know for sure that it gives you satisfaction, spiritual peace and helps you to reach state of Moksha.
Abhijeet Jadhav's reflection comes to the Parliament of the World's Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.