Urban myth says that if you put a frog in boiling water it will immediately jump out. However, if you put it in a pot with tepid water and gently heat it, the frog will remain in the water until it boils to death. Are we in tepid water as Hindus today? Is our diversity a problem or a solution to the challenges of modernity?
We are generally hard-working, self-disciplined and keen to progress and succeed in whatever we do. Sadly however, recent news and the reality of the culture wars is gently warming the temperature and we are all in it together, even though we may have various languages, customs, beliefs and Gods.
The vast diversity of India echoes the biodiversity of our planet and that has in the past been our strength. The challenge for today is can we stay united in this diversity and respect and support one another for common goals, and agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable?
Last week, the unique BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in London hosted an inspiring gathering of Hindu and Jain community leaders and celebrated all the achievements in the presence of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj. It was a highly professional, focused and well organised spiritual gathering with hymns, prayers, videos and speeches. The thread of the message was simple – let not our diversity become our weakness. Instead let’s use it to support and nourish one another and help protect our timeless culture and heritage.
I was spellbound and could not believe that such leadership, vision, community and hospitality with humility could be possible. The actions spoke so much louder than the words. In a practical way it taught me to support and encourage others, and to appreciate the challenges and questions they may pose. Creativity is bred from diversity but need not sacrifice our common unity. The opposite is monocultural unity which is often forced and more dangerous and can be more violent too. Modi is grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in the West today.
Let us not get complacent with our heritage and community. Let us use our skills and resources to support one another and speak up when conflicts arise. Let us not free-ride on the sacrifices of others to protect and defend our heritage. Like it or not, we are always choosing and performing. Unlike the frog, we should be willing to jump out before it’s too late, and help protect one another in spite of our differences.
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Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.