I am glad to contribute a foreword to Dr. Srivastava's well documented, comprehensive work on Comparative Religion. Until the advent of sceinece, religion was the most important force moulding and regulating the lives of civilized human beings, by ordering and organizing the values for them. The march of the physical and biological sciences, and later on of such other sciences as psychology and anthropology, posed a challenge both to the theoretical bases of religious beliefs and to the value-systems propagated by different religions. The mutual differences of religions constituted another factor that undermined the authority of religion as such. However, the triumph of science over religion proved to be short-lived as science seemed impotent to furnish man with the values needed for the direction of his life. Nationalism and several socio-political creeds have equally failed to bring fulfillment to man's unbounded aspiration for meaningful life. The situation has encouraged rethinking among the votaries of the more important religions giving rise to reinterpretations of diverse religious lores on the one hand and to comparative religion on the other.
This is not to say that the challenge of science has been entirely pointless. It is difficult to persuade the modern man to believe that any of the world's scriptures, that often speak with discordant voices and occasionally make factually erroneous assertions, is a revelation from an omniscient source. It is equally difficult to-day to maintain the dogmas of creationism, supernaturalism and salvation in an "other" world. In these respects science and humanism seem to have effectively replaced traditional religions.
Writing as a typical Hindu scholar Prof. Srivastava is able to treat of different religion with understanding and sympathy, viewing them as expressions of a single spiritual quest; his search for a universal religion derives inspiration from such Hindu sages, teachers and scholars as Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Gandhi, Bhagavan Das and Radhakrishnan. Following Bergson Prof. Srivastava seems to favour dynamic religion based on the vision of mystics and sees; this has also been the view of Radhakrishnan. However, it is not clear why the verbal of Radhakrishnan. However, it is not clear why the verbal expressions of the mystics experiences should be so highly coloured by the diverse and occasionally conflicting, idioms of their respective cultures.
Prof. Srivastava has avoided being harshly critical with respect ot different religions. However, an element of mild irony has surreptitiously, as it were, found its way in the book in a few places. For instance under the description of Trinity in Chapter 5 we read; 'God is Holy, man is sinful. God created man in His own image. That is why God should choose to make man essentially sinful. Some of the passages describing heaven, quoted in the book from some of the scriptures, sound positively ridiculous to the modern ears. In contrast to this, the Indian sages, Hindu, Jaina and Buddhist, who pleaded for a measure of indifference to the pleasures and possession not only of this but also the next world, show a wisdom that can be truly helpful to the modern man.
The conception of religion as total obedience to a despotic God seems to be out of tune with modern sensibility; the gospel of absolute dependence on God, though more civilized, is hardly more acceptable to the post-renaissance man. To my mind the Gandhian conception of God as Truth and Love, is more attractive than any traditional conception. Like Kant Gandhi almost equates religion with morality and the latter with the service of mankind. Such a conception has the merit of making religion as autonomous concern of man and saving him from alienation from himself. Prof. Srivastava, of course, advocates a different conception of religion and of God or the Ultimate. His Universal Religion has many commendable features including the idea that we accept all sacred scriptures as our own.
I hope prof. Srivastava's work will be read and appreciated by a wide circle of readers.
The Monograph is an objective and detached study of the living religions of the world. It dwell upon the different principles of religions, namely, God, worship and prayer, sin and atonement, rebirth, immortality, resurrection, pathways to the realization of salvation and kingdom of God. It shows that the religions are disciplines for uniting the humanity into oneness, and for identifying it with the Supreme God. Religions offer the various methods and means for uniting mankind with God.
The comparative and critical study of religions manifests the possibility of their unification. If mankind worships the same infinite God and if the different religions lead to Him alone, a religious synthesis in a World Religion in which all religions share as partners to it, for they all aim at unfolding the unmanifest divinity in mankind as a whole.
The world to day has many prohets, divine literature and methods for the realization of the Supreme. If we follow anyone of them we realize the Godhead in us. All religions aim at the transformation of man into Superman or Divine Being. The task of religion is to lead men from different paths to the City of God. Its purpose is to bring union of man with God.
Religions come from distant ages, cultural traditions and civilizations. There is also diversity in the ethnic groups of men. But the mystic experiences of seers of varied faiths transcend all the spatial, temporal and phenomenal conditions. They break the boundaries and divisions of faith and unite us with the Universal Reality, which is neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian. God is the one universal being. A seer speaks of Him thus: "God exists and pervades in all souls and material objects. He manifests Himself in multiple forms. Only those have eternal peace who are discriminating and who realize Him in their heart."
The immense importance of the study of religions in juxta-position to one another cannot be over emphasized. It brings toleration and fellowship of faiths. It helps the universalisation of religion and competition from amongst the different faiths. It discovers the common principles of religions with a view to collect the points of similarity in them.
The treatise defines the scope and field and field of the study of Comparative Religion. It shows that the history and philosophy of religion are sister branches of study, which assist in the correct comprehension of religions as well as in their comparison with one another. It also meets the challenges of Freud and Jung who deprive religions of their spiritual character. A lucid exposition of the conception of God and sin and atonement in the semitic religions has been given in the work. The different forms of worship and prayer in the oriental and occidental religions have been given an exhaustive treatment in it. It also dwells upon the conception of rebirth, immortality and salvation in Hinduism and Buddhism. The cardinal faiths of the semitic religions, e.g., the one life theory, resurrection, the Day of Judgment and God's kingdom have been given the fullest exposition in this volume. A chapter has also been devoted to show the influence of Hinduism on Islam and Christianity. Its conclusion offers a brief survey of the work and shows the position of religion in the world and changing values. The author has ventured to draw an outline of a World Religion with its form and content. He conceives that the World Religions will evolve in course of assimilation and synthesis of religions. A full exposition of his conception of world religion, has been attempted by him in the book.
The present work is the result of intensive study of the holy scriptures of the different religions of the world. The main sources of the book are the holy scriptures, viz, the Upanishads, Bhagavadgita, Bible, Quran, Zendavesta, Guru Granth, Tripitaka etc. The different commentaries and interpretations on these holy books have not been touched by the author. His conceptions and conclusions are entirely his own. Though there have been many works n Comparative Religion written by Western scholars none gives a fair, sympathetic and impartial treatment to all religions. They either substantiate the Christian faith in an apologetic manner or show its superiority over other religions. The endeavour of the author is contrary to such approaches. A full, detached and impartial treatment of the different principles of religions have been given in the present work. His aim is to search for the unity in plurality of faiths. He evolves a world religion with its forms and contents, in which the living religions constitute its different parts and aspects, and in which religions live in co-operation and union.
The author expresses his profound reverence and obligations to the eminent educationist and patriot, spiritualist and philanthropist and builder of institutions and saviour of indigent humanity, Sri Sarangdhar Sinha, Deputy chairman of the Bihar state University Commission. He has encouraged the writer to work on the universalisation of religions and to foster the feeling of brotherhood in mankind. If the work fulfils hi ideals and aims even to some extent, it will have achieved sufficient success.
The author also expresses his gratitude to the eminent Indian scholars, Dr. B.G. Ray, Dr. Rama Shankar Mishra, Dr. N.K. Devaraja, Dr. Chandradhar Sharma and Dr. Y. Masih for their valuable help in the preparation of this work in various ways.
I am extremely grateful to the eminent philosopher, Dr. N.K. Devaraja, who has been kind enough to write a foreword to this book. The Vice-Chancellor, Sri Ram Sewak Mandal, I.A.S, who is a patriot, educationist and patron of academic persuits in the Ranchi University, deserves the authors indebtedness for his gracious inspiration and encouragement.
I extend my sincere gratitude to Messrs Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., for taking immense interest in the publication of this work.
From the Jacket:
The monograph offers a comparative and constructive study of religions, viz., Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. The treatment of each part and principle of religion has been made in order to give an analytic view of them.
The author shows that the different religions are the alternative path-ways to God-realization, and that an essential unity exits in them. By comparison of religions he arrives at their synthesis in a composite 'World Religion', which is a religion of unity-in-plurality. With the acceptance of spiritual experiences, incarnations and prophets, worship and prayer, and varied methods for salvation, a holistic religion of unity-in-diversity is in process of evolution. The work stands for unifying religions in a spiritualistic and humanistic composite 'World Religion'.
About the Author:
Dr. Rama Shanker Srivastava was born in 1924 at Naibasti, Varanasi. He received education in Queen's College and Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, from where he obtained his M.A. degrees in 'Philosophy' and 'Indian Philosophy and Religion'. He obtained his D.Litt from the Patna University. Subsequently he served as a Lecturer and head of the department in Gaya College, Gaya from 1948 to 1957. He joined the Bihar University in 1957 and afterwards became head of the department 1961. He is author of Sri Aurobindo and the Theories of Evolution and Contemporary Indian Philosophy. He was also the organizer of World Religion which comprises essential principles of holy books, mystic experiences, metaphysics, ethics, logic and social philosophy.
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