Shashi Tharoor: I am a Hindu. I am a believing Hindu, and I . . . I have to say that that has been a fairly significant impact . . . has had a fairly significant impact in my approach to the world, because Hinduism is uniquely the only major religion in the world that doesn’t claim to be the only true religion. Hinduism says that all ways of reaching out to God are equally valid. And Hinduism and Hindus readily venerate the saints and the sacred objects of other faiths. So it’s a . . . it’s a . . . it’s an agreeable thing to belong to a faith which doesn’t say in any of its teachings that this is the only way to salvation. And it means that I can meet my fellow human beings of other faiths without being unduly burdened by the conviction that they are embarked upon a wrong path – that . . . that I’m sort of doing the right thing seeking salvation and they have missed the boat, as unfortunately true believing Christians and . . . and . . . and Muslims and others would be obliged to believe because their teachings do indeed specify that they are the . . . the right way to redemption and salvation. So that’s, to me, the right faith for an age of doubt and uncertainty. For an age of co-existence and tolerance, it’s . . . it’s great to be brought up in a faith which has no single sacred book, no single Pope, no single Sunday, no compulsory obligations, rituals, rights of worship; that leaves to the individual the possibility of finding his own truth. In that sense, Hinduism has rightly been considered a very selfish religion because it ultimately deals with the well-being and the personal quest for truth and peace of the individual worshipper. And the collectivity is much less important in Hinduism than in Islam, or even in Christianity with its Sunday church services and so on. And so I find it a . . . a religion that’s very congenial to me as somebody who doesn’t particularly enjoy going to temples; who sees through the trappings of organized religion and the privileges of the priestly class and so on. I would be very troubled to belong to a . . . an excessively well-organized religion. To belong to Hinduism is to accept the notion that there is a divinity beyond all of us as human beings, but that divinity is essentially unknowable by us as human beings. And that all spirituality and faith is about stretching out your hands to that which you cannot touch. And . . . and knowing that is humbling in many ways; but it also gives you a fairly sensible perspective when others proceed with dogmatic ________ from the verities of their faith to . . . to . . . to try and tell the rest of the world how to live. My Hinduism gives me the . . . both the strength and the skepticism to deal with those people.
Recorded on: 9/18/07