Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary
The world has seen clearly 2 kinds of religions. Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian – and Hinduism. These have been evolutionary religions with many layers and differences. Of all these evolutionary religions, only Hinduism prospers today.
Then came the second layer of religions – Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. These religions had an individual agent of change – and these religions trace their birth, growth and existence to that one individual (and his followers). These were reform religions - a response to oppression and exploitation in the respective societies.
The Desert Religions
Judaism, Christianity, Islam were all born within 500 miles of each other and share a common culture and history. Judaism can be said to have been born when Moses led the Jewish slaves from the Pharoah (across the Red Sea) to freedom. This possibly happened around 500 BC at the latest to 1500 BC at the earliest. His earliest followers were the Hebrews and they were a significant part of the Middle Eastern history all through till today.
The next major religious reformer in the Middle East was Jesus Christ. For the first 300 years, Roman slaves were the major believers in his teachings. Emperor Constantine earned the loyalty of his Christian troops and won the war for Roman throne by his win over Maxentius at Milvan Bridge. Prior to Maxentius, for the previous 30-40 years, Christians had been persecuted by "rule of four' Tetrarchy reformists in Rome, headed by Diocletan. Hence, the Christian slave soldiers of Constantine were eager for victory - as the persecution under Maxentius would have been worse.
Liberated slaves were the founders and rulers of Islamic dynasties, (in India, the Slave dynasty - builders of Qutub minar). Thus all the three "desert religions" were first adopted by the slaves and only after gaining significant numbers of adherents, these religions became mainstream and commenced aggressive proselytising and conversions.
Whats Going On Here
Oppression of a different nature existed in India. Instead of economic slavery (trade in human beings) as it existed in the "desert bloc", it was social oppression that needed remedies in the "ahimsa bloc".
The first major reformer in India were the "ahimsa twins" - Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira.Both of these were princes of royal blood - Prince Siddharth and Prince Mahavira.
Their first adherents were the rulers and their methods of proselytising was also aimed at the ruling class. Ashoka The Great sent missions with his daughter Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka - where Buddhism was established.
Guru Nanak Dev came from from the upper caste family and his focus was to end fueding on the basis of caste and creed. His first converts were from upper class families cutting across religions - and hence the opposition from some of the Mughal Kings.
Gandhiji was from the upper caste and his first item on the reform agenda was end to the "bhangis" carrying faecal refuse on their heads. His initial focus was social reform and less of anti-British activities.
The Two Halfs
There is a major difference in our reform idiom compared to the other bloc. Half the world today follows Indic religions and culture. The other half follows the "desert religions". Our future lies in understanding both the halves. The development trajectories of these two halves has been significantly different. The motivations, behavioural and acceptable civilisational norms for these blocs are different - and mostly opposite.
Do we understand this adequately? Mostly no!