Thursday, November 18, 2021

NECTAR OF ALL WORLD RELIGIONS by Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar _ A Review


I have been mulling over a pestering question. The question is connected to a book that I have been working on. How would an inter-religious couple bring up their child? The answer is on the table for everyone to see, open and uncomplicated. It’s easy. They will bring up their child without any religion and let him choose a Faith all by himself when he comes of age. What an idea sir Ji!

It’s schadenfreude to just let the child -future adult- choose a religious faith from the available options as if it’s as simple as choosing a data pack from your cellular company’s advertisement. As in the case of choosing the data plan, any decision awaiting a choice from a bunch of options always entails stress and anxiety. Is choosing faith as easy as choosing a data plan? Remember, this is not the data plan for a month or a year. This is a plan for your soul, which may have implications for an eternity to come. 

Also, there is the question of human rights. The child has the right to know and live in the faith of parents. Hiding it from him/her does not solve the problem for you. Instead, it will create a bigger problem. If a couple chooses not to talk about religion to their child, it will be like disowning a child your legacy. He or she has the rightful claim on your heredity, legacy, and tradition. 

So what would an interreligious couple do? Inter-religious marriages or relationships are a reality in India due to its vast array of religious faiths. It is when this question started haunting me, I came across a book titled Nectar of All World Religions. By merely perusing the title and its blurb, I instantly knew that I must jump into its pages right away to find the answer to that confounding question. 

The author begins with his first encounter with Gita. Then he moves on to reveal the realization that the messages in Gita are not just abstract topics. Instead, the teachings of Gita are practical and connected with our life. The author explains his many readings of Gita. After reading the Gita five times, he stumbled across the Holy Bible. “Eager to know” if reading The Bible will give him the same experience as the Gita, he decided to “read it cover to cover.” “In the course of the next five years,” the author says he read all the major texts of the twelve major world religions. 

Written by author Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar Nectar of All World Religions carries 1000 Selections from 11 Spiritual Traditions. The book begins with the Bahai religion, gives a brief narration about the faith and then moves on directly to quote the sayings from their sacred text: Kitab I Aqdas. 

This is followed by Buddhism. The way images are integrated into the Kindle edition seemed invaluable, especially because I have gone through the Kindle edition of the book. The selected passages from the Buddhist sacred text Dhammapada is a remarkable read. We learn that “Wonderful, indeed, it is to subdue the mind, so difficult to subdue, ever swift, and seizing whatever it desires. A tamed mind brings happiness.” There are several pearls of wisdom quoted directly from Dhammapada here. What appealed to me more was that it is not the whole of Dhammapada. The book contains only selected sections from the holy text. This, therefore, can be a great help in letting a reader gather knowledge about a certain religious tradition within a short period by going through the sections. 

Christianity follows Buddhism. The selections from the King James Bible felt so poignant to read through. Since it is a selected collection from the holy texts, these selected passages often reflect the author’s intention also. By going through the selections one may find the possibility to rise higher in life by capitalising on the moral, spiritual, and psychological side of human existence. The selections from the Bible are not given as per the categories as in the original text, such as under the name of the writer or title of a particular book in the Bible, as is usually seen. These selections appear without any mention of their specific source. 

Confucianism follows. It tells us to “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.” This is followed by Hinduism. Selections are given from the Bhagavad Gita. As mentioned earlier, the particular details regarding the source, such as chapter names are not given. The book performs its function with efficacy by indulging in strengthening our inspiration to read and understand these great spiritual classics. Selections from the Quran adore the pages next as this section is about Islam. Jainism and its sacred text Acharanga Sutra follows and we are faced with the question of the meaning of life. 

Judaism and its sacred text Tanakh follows and teaches us the cosmic truth that “God is with you in all that you do.”

Sikhism, its sacred text Guru Granth Sahib and Taoism adore the pages and we merge with the ageless wisdom of the Tao te Ching. Zoroastrianism gave us the Zend Avesta, of which we take a glimpse here. These sacred glimpses give us wisdom. This wisdom is not the divisive wisdom of the world, but the wisdom to love your neighbour and honour their faith. 

Like the Second Vatican Council affirms regarding interreligious dialogues, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.” 

In the conflict-ridden world we inhabit, friendship and tolerance would go a long way in finding solutions to many of our present problems. Nectar of All World Religions by Ishwar Joshi Awalgaonkar teaches the similarity in all the world’s mainstream religions. This book thereby initiates an effort of showing tolerance towards people of differing faiths.

As I finished reading this book, my initial intuitions were confirmed. Indeed, it is true that all religions carry the light of Truth, objective Truth regarding God and the salvation of souls. It clarified my thoughts further. Now, backed with the insight squeezed out of this volume, I could safely take off with my new story where I try to find the fate of the children of inter-religious couples. The answer is clear: the children of inter-religious couples must be educated in the religious faith of both parents and grow up with the distinct teachings of both Faiths. 


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