sarva dharma samabhAva – an Astika view

sarva dharma samabhAva is much preached by many modern day Hindus as the very essence of Hindu dharma. In a way, it can be stated that sarva dharma samabhAva is a very old concept and was as such practiced to an extent by the ancient Astikas. But there are clear demarcations regarding which religions must be accorded this respect. Not all religions were given this treatment.

Jayanta Bhat.t.a, in his drama ‘Agamad.ambara’, explains the need for a kind of ‘sarva dharma sammAna’ in a society and in the same breath also states that only certain religions can be accorded this respect. After explaining why all religious texts must have their source in Is’vara, he qualifies this statement as follows (Agamad.ambara, caturtha an~kaH):

After the argument made by DhairyarAs’i in favor of considering all religions as divine in origin, DhairyarAs’i is made to state the pUrvapaks.a as follows –

“nanu caivam atiprasan~ga dos.Ad atimAtram bhuvi viplaveta dharmaH

kva nu nAma na s’akyam etad ittham gaditum yAdr.s’a tAdr.s’e (a)pi vAkye”

Translation: But if we follow this, due to the mistake of unwarranted extension of rule, there will be utter confusion about dharma on earth. Tell me a situation where one cannot say that about any religion (literally “just as that, this as well” – thus, resulting in unwarranted extension).


DhairyarAs’i answers as follows:

“aviccinnA yes.Am vahati saran.iH sarvaviditA

na yatrAryo lokaH paricayakathAlApavimukhaH

yadis.t.Anus.t.hAnam nakhalu janabAhyam na sabhayam

na rUpam yes.Am ca sphurati navam abhyutthitam iva

pramattagItatvam alaukikatvam AbhAti lobhAdi na yatra mUlam

tatha vidhAnAm ayam AgamAnAm prAmAnyamArgo na tu yatra tatra”

Following are the of the religions which can be accorded the respect:

  1. It must have an unbroken line of teachers
  2. Aryas (people of noble conduct) are not repulsed by associating with it or discussing its tenets
  3. Its cherished practices must not be against social norms nor fearful
  4. It must not be entirely too new in form or a just born religion
  5. It must not be based on mad ramblings nor must it be too unusual (or even otherworldly – ‘alaukika’ is the word used)
  6. It must not be rooted in undesirable like greed (lobha)

Those religions which do not satisfy the above conditions cannot be validated as acceptable nor accorded the respect of being divine in origin.

We must learn these rules for evaluating any religion. We must read the basic tenets and texts of the religion which is to be judged and arrive at a conclusion based on the rules given above.

We can see that Jayanta Bhat.t.a, the great naiyAyika (logician), has given some simple rules to arrive at a logical conclusion about the validity of any religion. Hindus of the present age must follow Jayanta’s footsteps on this issue.


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