Pluralism Lays The Foundation Of Unity In Diversity

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

Pluralism is not only ethnic and cultural diversity, but also includes political and philosophical diversity. The fundamental principle is that nature is diverse. Pluralism is the foundation of the concept of Unity in Diversity of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It means that people are different yet they are equal, and they are created from the same source. Therefore, in spite of the differences, there is a fundamental unity in them.

Pluralism is based upon relativism. Relativism is an essential component of eastern philosophy, whereas western philosophy has always been leaning toward absolutism. Relativism means that there are many aspects of reality, and more than one person can be right at the same time. In other words, for one person to be right it is not necessary that others have to be wrong. Absolutism means that reality has only one aspect, and whatever is different from it is wrong.

There are two words in the Punjabi language which can very well explain the difference between absolutism and relativism. These words are Hi and Vi. Hi means only, and Vi means also. When you say, “I am the only one who is right (Main Hi theek han),” then you are leaning toward absolutism, and when you say, “I am also right (Main Vi theek han),” then you are taking a relativist course. In other words, you are giving the right to other people to differ with you without being wrong.

Relativism leads to tolerance, whereas absolutism leads to intolerance. Tolerance leads to peaceful coexistence, whereas intolerance leads to confrontation. The main cause of turmoil in the world today is western intolerance toward diversity. The western Euro-centric thought is based upon the wrong notion that western values are universal. This wrong attitude leads to the western concept of uniformity, which means to try to make others conform to your values.

Other cultures feel threatened that they are going to lose their existence. This leads to confrontation and turmoil. We are seeing the major conflict between the western and the Islamic civilizations. However, this conflict is not limited to Islam alone; other civilizations like the Christian civilization (Russia) and the Eastern civilization (China) also find themselves in conflict with the dominant western civilization, which is based on consumerism.

We can find a great example of pluralistic approach in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, which gives the message of Unity in Diversity. The concept of Nirgun and Sargun lays the foundation of this message. Sargun is manifest reality in nature (creation), whereas Nirgun is the transcendent and ultimate reality (creator). According to Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the creator and the creation are not two separate realities, but are different aspects of the same reality, in other words, creator is in the creation and creation is in the creator.

We should understand the difference between the concept of Unity in Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the western notion of Uniformity. Uniformity is like a Melting Pot, where you have to dissolve your identity to join, whereas Sri Guru Granth Sahib preaches unity by preserving your identity. This concept is called Unity in Diversity. This concept is compatible with nature, whereas the western concept of uniformity is unnatural.

Every year we used to celebrate two events in America: Humanity Day and Diversity Day. Humanity Day was celebrated in the Seattle-area, where we celebrated Gurpurb (Birthday) of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, by honouring people belonging to different religions, who in some way were serving humanity. Diversity Day was celebrated at our farmhouse, where hundreds of people with different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds mingled in a relaxed and open environment to celebrate Diversity.

Today, the present globalization is getting into a deeper and deeper crisis. The biggest cause of this crisis is that this globalization has failed to achieve a true global community. If we want to come out of this crisis and save the world and mankind from impending disaster, then we need a philosophy which can help us evolve into a true global community. I feel that Sri Guru Granth Sahib can provide us with that. Sri Guru Granth Sahib has a concept of an all-inclusive universal brotherhood from which nobody is excluded. The present globalization has only given us a western-elite club, whereas Sri Guru Granth Sahib can lead us toward a True Global Community.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.


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