Author: Arvind Sharma,
Birks Professor of Comparative Religion,
McGill University, Montreal
Publisher: St Martins Press
The concept of universal religion 'has been used so often and in
such diverse contexts that one begins to wonder whether it means
the same thing all the time, or different things at different times'.
After singling out this problem at the very outset, the author proceeds
to determine, in a well-organised presentation, the various usages
of the term 'universal religion' and the intellectual roots of these
He distinguishes several meanings of the term by approaching it
from different points of view. These approaches are classified as
(1) the philosophical approach; (2) the history-of-religions approach;
(3) the definitional approach; (4) the denominational approach;
(5) the missiological approach; and (6) the dialogical approach.
On the basis of this survey he identifies a number of elements in
the concept of universal religion suggested by those different approaches.
Further Arvind Sharma examines the role the concept of universal
religion has played in modern Hindu thought. As a basis for his
analyses he takes the life and thought of leading figures of modern
Hinduism such as Rammohun Roy, Debendranath Tagore, Keshub Chunder
Sen, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayananda
Sarasvati, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo and
This study leads the author to the conclusion that 'the concept
of universal religion has played itself out in modern Hinduism in
two major senses: either as the acceptance by all of one
religion, or, as the acceptance of all the religions by one',
the latter sense being more prominent.
That, of course, is the case with the Hindu religious leaders and
their followers. As for modern Hindus at large, Arvind Sharma, referring
to a survey in post-independent India, concludes that they identify
the core value of religion as love, 'not only the most universal
of emotions but also the most universalisable and universalising
emotion as well'.
Written for the specialised philosophical or theological reader,
the book will be of interest to the intellectually oriented ISKCON
member and will acquaint him with various models of coping with
the fact of religious pluralism.