Hinduism on the Religious Other

Hinduism’s long history and accumulated attitudes toward outsiders have been greatly influenced by geography. Surrounded by oceans and a vast mountain range, India's diverse cultures prospered with relatively little outside interference and absorbed those political and cultural influences that did enter the country. Hence, modern Hinduism is an amalgamation of a rich and diverse tapestry of indigenous and foreign elements. At the same time, Hindus always conceived India as a sacred land with clear boundaries that separated the pure inside from the impure outside world. Hindu views of internal and external communities were a product of this ambiguity: subtle and highly textured. Although foreigners were recognized as others, they were not marked for annihilation or subjugation. In contrast, many scholars suggest that India's complex caste system is not a product of foreign encounter but instead marks the socioeconomic development of indigenous ethnic communities. As a religious philosophy, Hinduism does not insist on a unitary view of reality or truth; the earliest sacred texts proclaimed that although the truth may be one, wise people call it by different names. This openness is evidenced of the religious pluralism in India where multiple ethnic and religious communities live in relative peace.
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