The Essence of Hinduism – “There are no Others”

by D. Samarender Reddy

There are always those in society who see differences among people on the basis of age, gender, caste, language, religion, nationality, and what have you. If we turn to Hinduism to see what it preaches we find a story of oneness, unity, harmony, and peace. As Aurobindo pointed out, the essence of India is its spirituality, as captured in its Upanishads, of which Bhagavad Gita is merely a summary and Brahma Sutras a commentary, the three being the so-called prasthanatraya, or the Triple Canon, of Hinduism. Hinduism says, “Vasudhaiva kutumbhakam” (the whole world is one family). Hindus also pray, “Sarve jana sukhinobhavanthu” (may all beings be happy). It is this spirit that I feel is the essence of Hinduism.

I think this simple sentence of Ramana Maharshi captures the essence of Hinduism, which he said when he was asked as to what one’s attitude should be towards “Others”: “There are no Others.” That simple sentence is packed with such profound meaning that you can write volumes as commentary on it. Moreover, if it is indeed the case that “there are no others”, then if that truth is appreciated by one and all, it would at one stroke eliminate all the hatred, venom and strife in this world all of which are consequent upon not being able to understand and accept the “others” in our lives.

Why are there no others? Because as Advaita Vedanta, the core philosophy of Hinduism, points out there are no two things that make up the whole universe, including our bodies and minds in it, and that solitary thing is Consciousness. Just like all the vessels made out of clay differ only in name-and-form as pots, saucers, jugs etc., but all of them are in essence only clay through and through, just like all the waves howsoever different they be and wherever in the ocean they occur are only names-and-forms whose underlying reality or substance is only water, just like all the gold ornaments like necklace, bangle and ring differ only in name-and-form and in essence all of them are only gold in and out, similarly our bodies-and-minds are merely name-and-form whose underlying reality is only Consciousness. So, as bodies-and-minds may seem to be diverse numerically and qualitatively, these differences are only at the level of name-and-form, and as Consciousness we are not different from one another. Just like when you investigate to find out if there is a separate reality called pot apart from clay, a separate reality called wave apart from water, a separate reality called an ornament apart from gold, and find that there is not, similarly when we investigate to see whether there is an “Other” different from us, we discover that all the differences are only illusory at the level of mere appearances of name-and-form but in reality there is no “other” at the level of the only reality that exists, that is, Consciousness.

When thus one awakens to the reality of oneness of all (wo)mankind, one also realizes the spuriousness of divisions among (wo)men on the basis of age, gender, caste, race, religion, nationality, ideology, etc. When the falsity of all such divisions is seen through by intellectually and intuitively apprehending the truth of oneness in reality in the form of Consciousness, we all being different forms of the same Consciousness, where is the scope left for any hatred, bigotry, prejudices, etc. When thus the “Other” is assimilated into ourselves as a different form of the same reality whose offspring in turn we are, then the feeling of fraternity naturally arises. When fraternal feeling thus arises, can liberty and equality be far behind because who would want to deny their own self, albeit in a different form, liberty and equality. When there is then a confluence of liberty, equality, and fraternity prevailing amidst the peoples of a nation, is there any need for ideologies such as Hindutva as cautionary or corrective measures? It is only then that we would have achieved true freedom, happiness and peace that passeth all understanding, in which terrain we will laugh away at all suggestion of any kind of division among (wo)men.

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