Hinduism seems like such a tolerant religion. In fact, a recent Pew Research poll showed that fewer Hindus (less than 10 percent) leave their religion than any of the other faiths. This is striking, of course, suggesting that Hinduism is tolerant and broadly accepting, perhaps even nonjudgmental compared to other faiths.
According to some, Hinduism is not a religion, though it adheres to a set of beliefs and practices. Unlike Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism, it was not founded by a single person, and no organized body controls or accepts or rejects practices on behalf of Hinduism.
A Positive Spin on Hinduism
Many Hindu intellectuals define Hinduism as stated previously. Having accepted this premise, one tends to wipe away the nontolerant behavior of some members of the Hindu tradition. We seem to confuse ahimsa (nonviolence or nonkilling) and tolerance as being one and the same. Ahimsa, according to Jainism, is noninjury to man or animal. By contrast, tolerance in the religious field is acceptance of all religions as equal or valid paths to salvation.
The general outlook of Hinduism favored tolerance and kindness, was not equalitarian, and recognized the needs of a society divided into many sections and classes with varying functions — a euphemism for caste distinctions.
Many Hindus blame the proselytization of Islam and Christianity as the root cause of Hindu intolerance. The Hindu-Muslim and Hindu-Sikh riots were due to political exploitations, not religious activities. Conversion is a constitutional right and should not be blamed for causing riots.
Hinduism has a deserved reputation for being highly tolerant of other religions. Hindus have a saying: “The Truth is One, but different Sages call it by Different Names.” Vivekananda's words gave the World Parliament a defining focus. He began by saying he was “proud to belong to a religion which had taught the world tolerance and universal acceptance.” He explained that, “we believe not only in universal tolerance, but we accept all religions as true.” He said his nation had always sheltered outsiders — for instance, fleeing Israelites and Zoroastrians.
On the subject of Hindu tolerance, you can return to the theme of religious tolerance. Ram Swarup, an Indian thinker, eloquently puts the matter this way:
In the spiritual realm there are two categories: God and your neighbor… you could look at God through your neighbor or at the neighbor through your God. In the first approach… if your neighbor is as good as you are, his God also must be as good as yours.
But if you look at your neighbor through your God, then it leads to an entirely different outlook. Then you say that if your God is good enough for you, it should be good enough for your neighbor too. And if your neighbor is not worshipping the same God in the same way, he must be worshipping Devil and qualifies for conversion or liquidation.
The first approach promotes tolerance, though it gives plurality of Gods and varieties of modes in worship. The other approach gives one God and one mode of worship, but breeds intolerance.