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Toleration in Comparative Perspective

Global Encounters Studies in Comparative Political Theory Series Editor: Fred Dallmayr, University of Notre Dame This series seeks to inaugurate a new field of inquiry and intellectual concern: that of comparative political theory as an inquiry proceeding not from the citadel of a global h­ egemony but through cross-cultural dialogue and critical interaction. By opening the discourse of political theory—today largely dominated by American and European intellectuals—to voices from across the global spectrum, we hope to contribute to a richer, multifaceted mode of theorizing as well as to a deeper, cross-cultural awareness of the requirements of global justice.

Advisory Board Shlomo Avineri; J. A. Camirelli; D. P. Chattopadhyaya; Ahmet Davutoglu; Eliot Deutsch; Chaibong Hahm; Paulin J. Hountondji; Hwa Yol Jung; Chandra Muzaffer; Ashis Nandy; Thomas Pantham; Bhikhu Parekh; Abdulkarim Soroush; Charles Taylor; Tu Weiming

Recent Titles Civil Society and Democracy in Iran, edited by Ramin Jahanbegloo The State of Nature in Comparative Political Thought: Western and Non-Western Perspectives, edited by Jon D. Carlson and Russell Arben Fox Civilizations and World Order: Geopolitics and Cultural Difference, edited by Fred Dallmayr Human Rights and the Arts: Perspectives on Global Asia, edited by Susan J. Henders and Lily Cho Contemporary Korean Political Thought in Search of a Post-Eurocentric Approach, edited by Jung In Kang

Toleration in Comparative Perspective Edited by Vicki A. Spencer


Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB Copyright © 2018 by Lexington Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Is Available ISBN 978-1-4985-3017-0 (cloth : alk. paper) ISBN 978-1-4985-3018-7 (electronic) ∞ ™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America


Acknowledgmentsvii Introductionix Vicki A. Spencer PART I: THE WEST



William of Ockham and Medieval Discourses on Toleration Takashi Shogimen



The Metaphysics of Toleration in American Indian Philosophy Scott L. Pratt



Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration Vicki A. Spencer



Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration Ken Tsutsumibayashi





The Ottomans and Toleration Karen Barkey



Tolerance and Pluralism in Islamic Thought and Praxis Asma Afsaruddin




Tolerance in Nepal Mandala: Communal Relations and Royal Religious Patronage in Malla-Era Kathmandu Anne Mocko v


vi Contents

8 The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-saints of Medieval India: A Cultural Stance on Tolerance Neelima Shukla-Bhatt


9 The Limits of Intolerance: A Comparative Reflection on India’s Experiment with Tolerance Purushottama Bilimoria


10 The Tolerations of Theravada Buddhism Benjamin Schonthal




11 An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime? Heresy and Immorality in Early Modern Japan Koichiro Matsuda


12 Two Conceptions of Tolerating in Confucian Thought Kam-por Yu


13 All-Embracing: A Laozian Version of Toleration Xiaogan Liu


Conclusion255 Vicki A. Spencer Suggested Further Readings


Index263 About the Contributors



The chapters for this book were first presented at a symposium I organized on Toleration in Comparative Perspective at the University of Otago, New Zealand, August 25–26, 2015. I am indebted to the following institutions that made it possible to bring the contributors together to discuss their drafts: the Japan Foundation, the Comparative and Cross-Cultural Studies Research Theme, the Humanities Division, and the Center for Islam and Muslim Studies at the University of Otago. I would sincerely like to thank the many University of Otago administrators, who assisted with funding bids and the symposium arrangements, including Marjolein Righarts, Sharon Pine, Sue Lang, and Rebecca Cornelius. I am also extremely grateful to Grant Bokser at Brooker Travel in Dunedin for his tremendous efforts to find affordable flights. The poster advertising the symposium and the banner for the website, which has formed the basis of the design for the book’s cover, owes a great deal to the advice and skills of Tushar Robins, Wendy Adam, and Peter Scott. Many colleagues deserve my gratitude for their assistance with chairing sessions including Philip Nel, Vijay Devadas, Will Sweetman, and Jing-Bao Nie, and I am highly appreciative of the time Mark Brunton spent in his busy schedule to provide a Māori welcome. Finally, a very special thanks to Amee Parker for her excellent organizational assistance during the two-day event. I am extremely grateful to my colleague Takashi Shogimen for his highly generous support of this project and, in particular, for his assistance with applying for grants, providing resources, and reviewing many of the chapters. I would also like to thank the editor of the Global Encounters series, Fred Dallmayr, for his enthusiastic support of the book proposal, Joseph Parry, Emily Roderick, and Madhumitha Koduvalli at Lexington Books for their assistance with the editing and production process, and the anonymous vii

viii Acknowledgments

referee for his or her highly constructive suggestions. I am also indebted to Lisa Marr for her invaluable work in copyediting and proofreading the text, to Diane Lowther for compiling the index, and the Humanities Division at the University of Otago for the provision of funds to pay for this assistance. Finally, I would like to thank all the contributors for believing in the merit of this project when I first contacted them about it and for their unwavering commitment to ensuring its successful completion since that point. Vicki A. Spencer July 2017

Introduction Vicki A. Spencer

This book has three main objectives. First, it tests the common assumption in Western political discourse and contemporary political theory that toleration is a uniquely Western idea. Toleration is understood in contemporary moral and political theory as principled noninterference in beliefs and practices of which one disapproves or, at least, dislikes. It is this philosophical conception of toleration and its implications for political arrangements, and not actual Western practices, that is the main focus of this book. The modern Western philosophical concept of toleration is not always easily translated into other philosophical traditions, but this book aims to open a dialogue between various traditions of thought to explore precisely the ways in which overlap and distinctions exist. The idea that toleration is a uniquely Western idea and particularly one that arose in the seventeenth century during the European Reformation has been increasingly challenged in recent times.1 In continuing this line of investigation, this book takes a more expansive and global perspective in its inclusion of Western and non-Western traditions, with contributions from experts on Chinese philosophy, early modern Japanese practices, past and contemporary Islamic thinkers, practices in the Ottoman Empire, Indian philosophy, Indigenous American perspectives, Buddhist philosophy and practices as well as liberal and medieval European views. The book’s second objective is both to pluralize our understanding of the Western tradition and to illuminate the intersections between Western and non-Western traditions by critically exploring the points of commonality and difference in their varied approaches to cultural and religious diversity. Third, in adopting a comparative approach to political theory, we seek to discover how other traditions might provide resources we can learn from when dealing with the increasing diversity characteristic of modern states. ix

x Introduction

Toleration has been widely criticized in recent years as an inadequate approach to cultural and religious pluralism, and many Western theorists have been engaged in developing alternative and more positive approaches to diversity. It is therefore apposite to widen our field of vision by exploring the ways other traditions have approached the cultural heterogeneity in their midst both philosophically and in practice. At the same time, just as some scholars have explored the ways that toleration and intolerance operate in tandem in the West,2 we show that non-Western traditions sometimes display similar problems, so that even seemingly more positive forms of accommodation often exist alongside various forms of intolerance. TOLERATION AND TOLERANCE In everyday Western discourse and in some philosophical works, the terms “toleration” and “tolerance” are often used interchangeably. They are also increasingly used with a wide variety of meanings. It is therefore important from the outset that we clarify the way we will employ these terms in this volume. In what has become a classic article on the topic, Peter Nicholson defines toleration as “the virtue of refraining from exercising one’s power to interfere with others’ opinion or action although that deviates from one’s own over something important and although one morally disapproves of it.”3 Here toleration is a positive good and a moral ideal and thus an attitude and disposition. However, principled noninterference is also a political principle, so that toleration equally refers to institutional and state policies aimed at noncoercion with respect to people’s personal beliefs and practices. Andrew Murphy argues that considerable conceptual confusion could be avoided if we employ the term “toleration” for “institutional or behavioral phenomena” and use tolerance “to refer to attitudes.” Following Bernard Williams and Michael Walzer, he indicates that toleration can be adopted at the institutional and state level without the need for a citizenry to develop “a more substantive ‘virtue’ of toleration [or tolerance, to employ his distinction].”4 A regime of toleration could, for example, be adopted for mere pragmatic reasons of peaceful coexistence, stability, and peace in the form of a modus vivendi. Many scholars indicate that it was precisely the practical desire to avoid the unprecedented and widespread violence and bloodshed characteristic of the early Reformation in Europe that led to the adoption of toleration regimes in the West.5 There are many paths to a regime of toleration as Walzer indicates, and the adoption of toleration as a moral ideal or virtue by individuals is only one of them.6 However, individuals’ attitudes and behavior are not as easily divorced as Murphy’s distinction between tolerance and toleration suggests.



Nor are consequentialist considerations and the desire for peace intrinsically non-moral in nature. Practical considerations might come to the foreground in certain political circumstances, but if peaceful coexistence is considered a condition of the good society, then the adoption of a regime of toleration to achieve that end remains principled. It might have been the increasing power and influence of nonorthodox churches in Europe that ultimately led to their recognition by state authorities, but in conceding their lack of power to eradicate nonorthodox sects, those authorities still had the capacity to interfere and chose not to due to their overriding aim of establishing and maintaining a peaceful society. Motivations are often mixed, and we should not be too quick to dismiss the virtue of pragmatism in political relations. In Aristotelian terms, practical wisdom is an intellectual virtue if not a moral one, and while Karen Barkey shows in chapter 5 that the toleration regime in the Ottoman Empire was based largely on a pragmatic management of diversity in a large empire, the authorities deliberately refrained from interfering in religious worship for the greater importance of peaceful coexistence. Even when liberal theorists employ “tolerance” to refer to the interpersonal attitude or virtue and reserve the use of “toleration” for institutional policies, they are often understood to have essentially the same meaning as principled noninterference.7 Walzer maintains that a wide variety of attitudes including resignation, indifference, moral stoicism, openness, and a positive endorsement of difference can result in a “tolerant” regime that follows a policy of noninterference in its citizens’ personal beliefs.8 Yet there is a disjuncture between these varied attitudes that might lead to a regime of toleration and the concept of toleration as used in contemporary Western philosophy. Without the objection component evident in Nicholson’s definition, people do not display toleration. The tolerator has to care about the point of difference between the tolerator and tolerated. Toleration as it is typically defined in Western philosophical discourse is not indifference.9 Nor is toleration the same as permissiveness or a “live and let live” attitude, and it does not require an open attitude toward difference or the kind of celebration of difference called for in a politics of recognition.10 Toleration as it is understood philosophically is also not resignation, a mere “putting up” with difference. Forbearance can result due to one’s incapacity to change a situation, but if one could interfere then one would not tolerate the offending behavior. One paradox of toleration, as Susan Mendus indicates, is that one believes one ought not to interfere, despite one’s disapproval. But how can it be right to allow something that one believes is morally wrong?11 Part of the problem here arises from an over-emphasis in some definitions on moral disapproval as a condition of toleration. Barbara Warnock argues that toleration is also an emotional response to one’s dislikes. One might dislike long hair on men so that toleration is required toward one’s rebellious teenage

xii Introduction

son, but one might consider it an issue of poor fashion sense or etiquette rather than morality. Such dislike might therefore not threaten to supersede in moral importance the principle of toleration in the slightest.12 The objection component also relates to intellectual disagreements. The atheist thinks the person who believes spirits exist is misguided, but she need not morally disapprove of that belief or its holder. The need for toleration arises in situations of diversity where disagreements about beliefs exist. In the case of spirits, the issue in dispute cannot be empirically verified or falsified, and in such cases toleration at the very least is an apt response.13 However, not all beliefs are a proper subject for toleration. There is no compunction to tolerate the idea that the world is flat when it has been empirically falsified. Toleration is also inappropriately applied to some forms of diversity. No liberal, for example, thinks one’s race ought to be subject to toleration.14 Yet toleration may lead one not to imprison the intolerant racist while harm to others might lead to the curtailment of the racist’s ability to engage in hate speech. Toleration has its limits; our general moral duty not to harm others means we do not tolerate the intolerable, such as rape or human sacrifice. It can also arise in monocultural or mono-religious environments. In chapter 1, Takashi Shogimen shows that the need for toleration over disagreements in beliefs can arise within a single religion as much as it might between members of different religions and cultures. The tolerator does not interfere because a second-order principle overrides the tolerator’s disagreement; toleration in its contemporary formulation is enacted for a reason. There are many principles that may lead one to the self-restraint demanded of us by the principle of toleration: a commitment to diversity, to freedom, to non-domination, to peaceful relations, to free expression, to authenticity, and so on. Nonetheless, the tolerator’s first-order principle that led to the initial objection is not thereby dissolved. Some theorists point to an acceptance component in the act of toleration.15 However, the acceptance is the minimal one that there is a higher or overriding reason that justifies one’s noninterference. There is no acceptance that the other view or practice is less immoral or incorrect. For toleration to exist, the objection component must be retained.16 The feminist who strongly objects to the sexual objectification of women in modern advertising does not withdraw her objection because her overriding commitment to a free press means she considers censorship a greater ill. She instead chooses to employ noncoercive methods of rational persuasion to change people’s acceptance of sexist attitudes. Thus there is no onus on the tolerator to reassess her original judgment. She retains her sense of moral, intellectual, or aesthetic superiority over those with whom she disagrees. Thinking someone’s beliefs are wrong can be entirely justifiable and defensible. The demand that we celebrate others’ views when we are dealing with irreconcilable beliefs––for instance, when Catholics and Protestants



cannot agree over certain theological issues––can also amount to a denial of diversity.17 However, it is possible that someone’s disapproval of another’s beliefs or practices is based on false stereotypes and unreflective prejudices. The lack of any responsibility on behalf of the tolerator to reexamine her views can therefore militate against the achievement of respectful relations in plural states. This problem is further exacerbated in many definitions of toleration by the additional condition that the tolerator must have the power to hinder, suppress, or prevent the objectionable behavior in question. It is in the act of choosing not to exercise her power that the person who tolerates is deemed good.18 That the tolerator is deemed morally good by restraining herself from interfering in the deviant behavior leads to the paradox that the more prejudiced and disapproving the tolerator is, the more she needs to engage in selfrestraint and is thus good. Contempt and toleration, as Anne Phillips argues, can easily coexist.19 When toleration is enacted by the state in legal and institutional arrangements, an inequality of power is inevitable between the tolerator and those who are being tolerated. Even if the outcome is the freedom to follow one’s religion, state noninterference is only ever relative as the state continues to regulate the conditions under which groups or individuals can operate. Wherever the state is committed to freedom and nondiscrimination, any individual can lack the power to prevent practices they disapprove of, thus calling into question the very possibility of toleration. In majority-based democracies, toleration seems particularly closed, however, to minorities who are deemed “deviant” by the majority; and yet minorities are by no means immune to intolerance. For these reasons, Williams indicates that it is appropriate to refer to individuals or groups as “intolerant” if they would prevent or hinder certain views or practices if they did happen to have such power. The actual ability to prevent or hinder others’ views or practices is therefore a nonessential condition for the existence of toleration among minorities or majorities.20 Despite the attempts of some theorists to develop an alternative and more positive conception,21 due to its objection component toleration is effectively principled forbearance. In this volume to distinguish this view from more positive attitudes toward difference evident in concepts like openness, broadmindedness, and acceptance of difference, we will refer to principled forbearance at both the institutional and individual level as toleration. Toleration entails an ongoing interaction between conflicting parties otherwise it would be unnecessary,22 but the form that interaction takes is primarily the negative one of noninterference. Not all forms of interference and engagement are excluded. Toleration does not rule out persuasion and rational debate; it only excludes coercive mechanisms of conformity. At the institutional level, such noninterference can take various forms. Although neutrality at the interpersonal level is not toleration due to the lack

xiv Introduction

of the objection component, many liberals consider a neutral state that acts like an umpire between competing conceptions of the good the embodiment of toleration in political terms. The liberal idea that a neutral regime stems from a doctrine of toleration has its intellectual origins in the seventeenth century and, in particular, in John Locke’s sustained examination of the separation of church and state in his Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) that I examine in chapter 3. The extent to which state neutrality can ever fully exist is open to serious question; as noted above, toleration by the state also has its limits. However, because the liberal idea of a neutral state demands a general adherence to noninterference by competing parties, it is justifiably seen as an institutional form of toleration.23 By contrast, we employ the term “tolerance” for those attitudes and behaviors that display a more positive approach to difference at both the individual and institutional level. Tolerance as it is employed here entails a belief that something positive, like the relinquishing of bigotry, acceptance, understanding, or a broadening of one’s perspective, is potentially gained through one’s interaction with different others. The essential point of difference in the way we employ the term “tolerance” in this volume is the nonexistence of the objection component evident in the concept of toleration. It needs to be recognized that in making this distinction we depart from the dominant philosophical and political usages of these terms, with tolerance often criticized in the same way as toleration for the way it deals with difference.24 However, tolerance as a more positive approach toward difference is evident in everyday speech in the English-speaking world, if not in the dominant philosophical discourse.25 It is also nicely captured in the image of a vase of flowers that Karen Barkey notes Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520–1566) expressed: each flower is unique unto itself and beautiful, but by complementing each other they create a greater magnificence through their interaction. The development of a deeper attitude of tolerance is evident in the sultan’s approach to diversity, recognizing it generates a positive good. Toleration and tolerance are not conceived here in mutually exclusive terms; it is quite possible for them to coexist as Kam-por Yu shows in chapter 12 is the case in Confucianism. Nonetheless, the distinction we draw is useful in understanding the different approaches to diversity examined in this volume. When we use the term “tolerance,” diversity is not accommodated merely for pragmatic reasons or because some higher-order reason overrides the moral importance of one’s objection to the difference in question, but because it enriches us to some degree, so there is a proactive acceptance of the diversity itself. The need for self-restraint is largely, if not entirely, dissipated with the central objection component of toleration lacking. When tolerance is adopted at an institutional level, it also goes beyond mere noninterference with state policy directed toward a positive inclusion



or promotion of diverse groups. To take just one example, in chapter 7, Anne Mocko shows how tolerance was instituted in the Kathmandu Valley during the Malla era that existed from the late fourteenth to the eighteenth century with Hindu princes perceiving their duty not as Locke demands by relinquishing any public role in spiritual matters but, on the contrary, as actively promoting and patronizing both Hinduism and Buddhism. Rather than the “hands-off” approach typically associated in theory at least with Western secularism and the concept of toleration, the state facilitates the diverse religious activities of its citizens. This is not to deny that the toleration urged by thinkers like Pierre Bayle, examined in chapter 4 by Ken Tsutsumibayashi, and Locke in the seventeenth century was not intended to enable the activities of different religions. It is important to acknowledge that such toleration is a form of public recognition. But the form this legal recognition paradoxically takes is effectively one of nonrecognition whereby the state agrees to ignore their activities as long as they do no harm to others. In comparison, when we employ the term “tolerance” at the institutional level in this volume, it is to denote policies designed to engage with diverse groups within a particular jurisdiction and to accord some positive valuation to that engagement in whatever form it might take. STRUCTURE AND OVERVIEW Each author adopts his or her own comparative approach and due to the authors’ different disciplinary backgrounds, a plurality of methods and communicative styles are represented in this volume.26 Yet there is simultaneously a common hermeneutic commitment to listen to the text or practices under investigation to see how they might correlate with or differ from the contemporary Western idea of toleration and/or the concept of tolerance employed in this volume. In a number of cases, no directly translatable word exists for toleration or tolerance, but it does not follow that there are no comparable ideas. In these cases, the authors examine philosophical and/or institutional approaches to diversity, and/or the ways beliefs or practices considered erroneous are or were dealt with in a particular era or tradition, in an attempt to establish an authentic dialogue between traditions.27 Although those of us trained in the West need to stay particularly attuned to our preconceptions, there is no motivation in this study to attempt to assimilate alternative ideas into a Western paradigm. The book is organized into loose geographical categories beginning with the West, where the contemporary concept of toleration as principled noninterference dominates current philosophical debates, to facilitate further clarification of this idea. We then move to Southwest Asia, traverse through

xvi Introduction

South Asia to Southeast Asia, and conclude with East Asia. These geographical categories are helpful in organizational terms, but they are not intended to represent reality in a straightforward manner. The Ottoman Empire was not confined to Southwest Asia; at the height of its power in the seventeenth century, it was a significant colonizing power in southeast Europe as well as northern Africa. As we shall see, its practices were also an important exemplar for European philosophers urging toleration in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Although Islam has its origins in Southwest Asia, it is evidently a global religion with a long influence in South Asia. It might be objected, too, that Indigenous perspectives are distinct from the Western tradition. However, our inclusion of Indigenous American perspectives in the section on the West is purposeful in attempting to overcome the traditional exclusiveness of Western philosophy and to pluralize the sources of approaches to diversity available to those of us in the West. Takashi Shogimen begins this process of pluralizing our understanding of Western views and practices with his examination of medieval European thought. He notes that the term tolerantia was an invention of this era, while he fruitfully employs the book’s distinction between toleration and tolerance to show that both approaches toward difference were evident. Although some thinkers at times adopted a remarkable openness toward difference more characteristic of our conception of tolerance, the crucial objection component of toleration as noninterference was evident in the thought of the twelfthcentury canonist Huguccio and William of Ockham in the fourteenth century, with their judgments based on a substantive vision of the human good defined in Christian terms. In chapter 2, Scott L. Pratt explores three Indigenous American stories of encounters with difference as examples of what Michael Walzer calls “everyday toleration.”28 He shows that these Indigenous practices of welcome do not fit easily into the book’s distinction between toleration and tolerance as they encompass both. They therefore offer a distinct approach toward otherness. At the core of this Indigenous perspective, Pratt maintains, is an alternative ontology that challenges the notions of identity and contradiction central to Western philosophy, which demands x must not be not-x due to its adherence to mutually exclusive categories. This Indigenous ontology, he further contends, potentially provides us with a more productive basis on which to achieve everyday toleration. I then explore what is often seen as the classic case for toleration in Western liberal thought in John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). By examining this text in light of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), I challenge the dominant reading of the Letter which focuses on his argument that coercion is ineffective because belief is not a matter of the will and yet finds it wanting due to the effectiveness of indirect coercion.



Based on his epistemology and the positive duty he places on church leaders to cultivate a tolerant disposition amongst their members, I argue he goes beyond the contemporary understanding of toleration as noninterference by also developing a conception of tolerance that is distinguished by a proactive relinquishing of the desire to dominate others. In the following chapter, Ken Tsutsumibayashi examines the other towering figure on toleration in the seventeenth century, Pierre Bayle, and the similarities and points of difference between Bayle’s position and that of Benjamin Constant in the nineteenth century. Despite many differences between these two French philosophers and their historical contexts, Tsutsumibayashi argues that a common structure exists in their respective arguments. He indicates that Bayle’s case for toleration was effectively an appeal to the powerful to tolerate the weak, and in post-revolutionary France the asymmetrical nature of toleration meant it was considered a condescending poor second-best to freedom and equality. Yet Constant perceived the continued danger of intolerance and persecution, and he argued, like Bayle, for toleration based on the importance of “truthfulness” and “irrefutable ignorance” with both thinkers developing a highly individualistic stance. We begin part 2 with Karen Barkey’s examination of the toleration regime in the Ottoman Empire. Barkey takes a relational approach that emphasizes relations between groups and, in particular, those between authorities and communities in creating and maintaining a tolerant regime. The Ottoman Empire in its heyday was a vast multiethnic and multicultural entity that by the fifteenth century had established a policy of pragmatic toleration within its borders. However, unlike the individualistic nature of Bayle’s and Constant’s arguments, the Ottomans accorded toleration to groups in an effort to gain the cooperation of subjugated Indigenous populations. At the same time, individual Christians, for example, were able to be part of the system and to benefit from it. As previously noted, at times, a proactive acceptance of the benefits of diversity in accord with this volume’s understanding of tolerance was evident, and yet with the collapse of the empire in the nineteenth century, its regime of toleration also disintegrated. In chapter 6, Asma Afsaruddin explores the concept of tolerance in Islamic thought in ancient and modern texts. Her reading of Islamic philosophy focuses on the Qur’an, in which several verses demand a positive embracing of the diversity existing among peoples and respect for their beliefs and ways of life. She argues that the term “tolerance” is a far better fit with the Islamic ethos toward difference than the Western philosophical concept of toleration, and some verses display a deeper commitment to pluralism than is encapsulated in either concept. Afsaruddin acknowledges the wide variation in exegesis interpretations of these verses and how less tolerant views have often dominated. She nevertheless shows tolerance to be a foundational

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Islamic principle and how modernist Islamic thinkers since the eighteenth century have engaged in the hermeneutic task of reinterpreting the Qur’an in line with liberal-democratic principles of government and civil society without slavishly following Western versions. Part 3 begins with Anne Mocko’s study of tolerance in the multireligious Kathmandu Valley in Nepal during the Malla era. Here we turn to the perspectives of Mahayana Buddhists––although the Newar version is unique in preserving its sacred texts in Sanskrit and having no monastic community–– and Hindus. The coexistence of these two religions provides a significant contrast to the Western idea of toleration that is based on the assumption of competing and irreconcilable beliefs. Not only did the Hindu princes equally patronize the sites and practices of both religions; many families attended the sites and festivals of both religions, while several local deities have both Hindu and Buddhist identities. Perhaps most remarkable from a Western perspective is that the comingling of these two religions meant many Newars saw their identities neither as Buddhist nor Hindu but as both. In this context, toleration as understood in the West was simply not needed. In chapter 8, Neelima Shukla-Bhatt examines the idea of the “one in the many” in the ancient Sanskrit texts the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, in which the sages saw the vast diversity of life forms as expressions of one underlying reality, and traces how this idea has been incorporated into everyday life through popular devotional songs written by Hindu poet-saints between 1300 and 1800. Although this embrace of diversity has as its core a foundational monism, Shukla-Bhatt argues that it reorientates our perspective by demanding a qualitatively distinct approach to the “other” than the self-restraint associated with toleration. Crucially, it does not mean that everyone worships the same divine, while it facilitates the embrace of diversity through recognition at the most fundamental level that we are all one. Shukla-Bhatt acknowledges the recent horrendous displays of intolerance in India but based on everyday examples maintains the philosophy of the one and the many resonates across religions thus providing a cultural resource to combat intolerance. Pursushottama Bilimoria further explores the philosophical foundations for tolerance in India in chapter 9 beginning with the ancient Hindu text of Rig Veda and its influence on the Upanishads but extending his study to include Jaina, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions. He, too, recognizes the exclusionist tendencies that have existed particularly with the emergence of an extreme Hindu nationalism in India, but his wide-ranging examination shows how the Indian subcontinent has a far longer history than the West in trying to come to terms with religious diversity and the problems of intolerance. The Indian experience offers an alternative model to the complete separation of church and state associated with Western secularism by providing a more inclusive recognition of religious groups in the legal system and one that Bilimoria



argues is more in keeping with a critical tolerance and the religious nature of Indian society than the Western idea of toleration. In chapter 10, Ben Schonthal lends a critical lens to the Buddhist tradition, commonly regarded in the West as a tolerant and compassionate religion, an image that sits uneasily, however, with the existence of so many stridently exclusionary Buddhist groups in South and Southeast Asia today. In exploring the juxtaposition between toleration and intolerance, he focuses on the texts and practices of Theravada Buddhism, the dominant form of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia and one of the two largest forms in the world. By delineating three forms of Theravada Buddhist toleration––philosophical toleration, imperial toleration, and cosmological toleration––he identifies echoes of the Western notion of principled noninterference. Yet the problems noted by critics of toleration are equally evident, so the demarcation of what is tolerable, what is deviant, and what is intolerable easily slides into an aversion to otherness in Asia as it does in the West. Finally, we come in part 4 to East Asia with Koichiro Matsuda’s examination of the Tokugawa shogunate in early modern Japan. Matsuda challenges Voltaire’s characterization in the eighteenth century of Japan as a once tolerant society until the behavior of Christian missionaries led the government to close its borders to foreigners. By no means a tolerant regime, the Tokugawa shogunate exercised strict control over religious movements to ensure that they did not become independent social movements, with cases of heresy and criticism of the government severely punished. However, its intolerance consisted mainly of a bureaucratic authoritarianism concerned with government and household management; the regime displayed a remarkable indifference toward the imposition of an ideological orthodoxy on its subjects and the religious faith (with the exception of Christianity) or moral intentions of its subjects. While the noninterference in the Tokugawa shogunate reconfirms the important distinction in Western philosophy between indifference and toleration, Kam-por Yu shows in the following chapter that Confucian thought, by contrast, possesses two concepts of tolerating akin to the concepts of toleration and tolerance. The first, kuan or broad-mindedness, bears a significant resemblance to tolerance as it is defined in this volume, while the second, ren, which literally means self-restraint, shares important similarities with the idea of toleration and its preference for the use of persuasion over coercion. Interestingly, though, most of the main arguments in favor of toleration in liberal thought are not available in Confucianism. Yu outlines three Confucian justifications for toleration: 1. opposites are not conceived as mutually exclusive, so in a conflict between two sides, both are seen to possess a certain legitimacy; 2. human nature is basically good, and one should have higher demands on oneself than on others; and 3. the cultivation of virtue is

xx Introduction

voluntary. Although the latter shares the liberal concern with conscience, Yu shows that there is more than one philosophical path to toleration. Finally, we turn in chapter 13 to Daoism with Xiaogan Liu’s examination of Laozi’s thought. With no equivalent to the modern Chinese word for toleration in the ancient Daoist text, Liu’s exploration faces particular challenges. To investigate whether similar attitudes and practices existed, he explores the way Laozi deals with conflicts between people. What emerges is a qualitatively distinct understanding of harmony to the coexistence sought from toleration in liberal thought with dualistic distinctions of good–bad, right–wrong, and conformist–deviant nonexistent. Everyone contributes and is embraced; even the “bad” can teach us lessons. Although the person who steals is wrong for stealing, Laozi points out that she can still be good in other areas of her life. This holistic approach to others means Daoism promotes a deep-love for all in the world going far beyond either toleration or tolerance. The practical problems of intolerance might be less pressing today in certain parts of the world than when they were contemplated by some of the thinkers examined in this volume, but world politics both in the past and in recent times consistently reveal their intractable nature. In a world in which states are becoming increasingly multicultural, it is also questionable whether reliance on a single philosophical tradition can provide the kind of political unity necessary to create and sustain a tolerant regime. The contributions to this volume do not address all possible paths toward the harmonious coexistence of diverse groups. Nor are they intended to lead to a one-size-fits-all solution. What we do attempt in the following pages is to open a serious conversation about the theoretical and practical resources available in various traditions as a step toward a more informed cross-cultural approach to these issues. NOTES 1. For the traditional narrative see, for example, John Rawls, Political Liberalism, rev. ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), xxii–xxvi; Peter Zagorin, How the Idea of Religious Toleration came to the West (Princeton NJ: 2003); Anna Elisabetta Galeotti, “Citizenship and Equality: The Place for Toleration,” Political Theory 21, no. 4 (1993): 585– 605 at 588–91; Kirstie McClure, “Difference, Diversity, and the Limits of Toleration,” Political Theory 18, no. 3 (1991): 361–91 at 361. On non-Western traditions, see Alfred Stepan and Charles Taylor, eds., Boundaries of Toleration (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014). On the Western tradition prior to the Reformation, see Cary Nederman, World of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration c1100–1500 (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2000); Rainer Forst, Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).



2. See, for example, Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006). 3. Peter Nicholson, “Toleration as a Moral Ideal,” in Aspects of Toleration: Philosophical Studies, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Methuen, 1985), 158–73 at 162. 4. Andrew Murphy, Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (University Park, PA: Penn State University, 2001), xiii; also see Andrew Murphy, “Tolerance, Toleration, and the Liberal Tradition,” Polity 29, no. 4 (1997): 593–623 at 595. 5. Murphy, Conscience and Community, xiii, 4; Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 10; Alan Levine, “Introduction: The Prehistory of Toleration and Varieties of Skepticism,” in Early Modern Skepticism and the Origins of Toleration, ed. Alan Levine (Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 1999), 1–19 at 6–7. 6. Walzer, On Toleration, 12. 7. Dario Castglione and Catriona McKinnon, “Introduction: Beyond Toleration?” Res Publica 7 (2001): 223–30 at 223–25; Anna Elisabeth Galeotti, “Do We Need Toleration as a Moral Virtue?” Res Publica 7 (2001): 273–79; John Horton, “Toleration as a Virtue,” in Toleration: An Elusive Virtue, ed. David Heyd (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 28–43 at 29; Anne Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference: Does This Make for a More Intolerant Society?” in Toleration, Identity, and Difference, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999), 126–45 at 126–29; Rainer Forst, “Tolerance as a Virtue of Justice,” Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal of the Philosophy of Mind and Action 4, no. 3 (2001): 193–205 at 193–94. 8. Walzer, On Toleration, 11. 9. David Heyd, introduction to Toleration, ed. Heyd, 3–17 at 4. 10. Andrew Jason Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” Ethics 115, no. 1 (2004): 68–95 at 71, 73, 75. 11. Susan Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism (London: Macmillan, 1989), 18–19. 12. Mary Warnock, “The Limits of Toleration,” in On Toleration, ed. Susan Mendus and David Edwards (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 123–39 at 125–27. 13. Also see Forst, “Tolerance as a Virtue of Justice,” 198–99. 14. Horton, “Toleration as a Virtue,” 34. 15. Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 68–95. 16. Susan Mendus, Religious Toleration in an Age of Terrorism (Canberra: Australian National University, 2008), 4–5; Forst, “Tolerance as a Virtue of Justice,” 193–94; Horton, “Toleration as a Virtue,” 32. 17. Peter Jones, “Toleration, Recognition, and Identity,” The Journal of Political Philosophy 14, no. 2 (2006): 123–43 at 142. 18. Mendus, Religious Toleration in an Age of Terrorism, 4. 19. Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference,” 129. Also see Brown, Regulating Aversion; Adeno Addis, “On Human Diversity and the Limits of Toleration,” in

xxii Introduction

Ethnicity and Group Rights, ed. Ian Shapiro and Will Kymlicka, NOMOS 39 (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 112–53 at 120–23. 20. Bernard Williams, “Toleration: An Impossible Virtue?” in Toleration, ed. Heyd, 18–27 at 18–19; also see Forst, “Tolerance as a Virtue of Justice,” 194. For the alternative view that the tolerator must at least have the belief that she has such power for her restraint to constitute toleration, see Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 74, 93–94. 21. See, for example, Anna Elisabetta Galeotti, Toleration as Recognition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). 22. Ingrid Crepell, Toleration and Identity: Foundations in Early Modern Thought (New York: Routledge, 2003), 3. 23. For the argument that the neutral state and toleration are incompatible, see Saladin Meckled-garcia, “Toleration and Neutrality: Incompatible Ideals,” Res Publica 7 (2001): 293–313. 24. See, for example, Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference”; Brown, Regulating Aversion; Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969). 25. See the entry for “tolerance” in the (American) Merriam-Webster Dictionary (accessed September 8, 2015,, where it is defined as a “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own”; the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition “3. The action or practice of tolerating; toleration; the disposition to be patient with or indulgent to the opinions or practices of others; freedom from bigotry or undue severity in judging the conduct of others” (OED Online, accessed October 18, 2016, http://www.oed. com/view/Entry/202979?rskey=PWY3QJ&result=1); and the (Australian) Macquarie Dictionary (St. Leonards, NSW: Griffin Press, 1981), which includes the definition “1. the disposition to be patient and fair towards those whose opinions or practices differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.” 26. On the importance of a plurality of communicative styles, see Iris Marion Young, “Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy,” in Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, ed. Seyla Benhabib (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 120–35. 27. For an introductory account of a hermeneutic comparative method, see Fred Dallmayr, “Beyond Monologue: For a Comparative Political Theory,” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 2 (2004): 249–57. 28. Walzer, On Toleration, 2.

Part I


Chapter 1

William of Ockham and Medieval Discourses on Toleration Takashi Shogimen

Medieval Europe has conventionally been described as a “Persecuting Society.”1 Accordingly, toleration has typically been considered to be foreign to the European Middle Ages. Toleration is thus viewed as a quintessentially modern European idea. The last couple of decades, however, have witnessed the excavation of the idea of toleration in medieval political and religious writings. Current scholarship on toleration, which has been led by Cary J. Nederman, attempts to highlight seminal ideas associated with toleration in medieval political and religious works.2 Supposing that toleration is not a distinctively modern European conception, how is it possible to speak of toleration in medieval intellectual texts? One possible way is to examine genealogically the use of the term tolerantia in the Middle Ages. István Bejczy has explored this avenue to excavate the usage of the term in canon law scholarship, concluding that “as a social and political concept, tolerantia is an invention of the Middle Ages.”3 In what follows, I adopt an alternative approach: I shall take some contemporary theoretical work on toleration as the starting point and attempt to explore the ways in which medieval intellectuals wrote about seminal ideas underpinning toleration.4 Given the diversity of theoretical views on toleration in the modern European and American traditions alone, it is probably impossible to suppose realistically that we can start from a definition on which everyone would agree. However, it may be sufficiently legitimate to anchor our investigation in a few influential accounts of toleration as the starting point. Andrew Cohen has offered a well-known definition of the contemporary concept of toleration as “an agent’s intentional and principled refraining from interfering with an opposed other (or their behavior, etc.) in situations of diversity, where the agent believes she has the power to interfere.”5 As stated in the introduction of the present volume, toleration is conceptually 3


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distinguished from tolerance; for the purpose of our analysis, the latter denotes a positive approach to diversity and difference. The key element of toleration is the “refraining from interfering with an opposed other”: that is, (a) evaluating the tolerated object negatively in some normative terms, and yet (b) refraining from interfering with the objectionable object (c) as long as it does not fall below the threshold of the applied normative standard.6 Without a negative evaluation of a certain object, one would speak not of toleration but rather of indifference or affirmation; no one would be indifferent, let alone affirmative, to individuals, convictions, or practices that one evaluates negatively. The tolerated object is thus objectionable yet remains unimpeded in view of “higher-order reasons”:7 the reason for rejecting and condemning the individuals, convictions, or practices in question is trumped by another consideration since the latter should be prioritized. However, the tolerated object cannot go unimpeded limitlessly; indeed, “wanting to tolerate ‘everything’ is contradictory.”8 Hence, certain limits on toleration are integral to the idea of toleration.9 And importantly, the above three components—negative evaluation of an object, noninterference with the objectionable object, and the limits of toleration—are mutually inseparable; one cannot speak of toleration meaningfully in the modern sense of the word without any one of the three. If the “core” of toleration is thus defined as the restraint of interference with an objectionable object that remains within certain normative bounds, it also has two entailments: one is the context in which toleration occurs, and the other is the rationale for toleration (the “higher-order reason”). The context that is typically presupposed in the contemporary theory of toleration is diversity and difference in a pluralistic society. The context of diversity or plurality here is merely situational and does not necessarily imply commitment to the value of diversity or plurality. The rationale or justification of toleration, by contrast, is not necessarily specified substantively in the contemporary theory. No matter what the rationale may be, however, a rationale is indispensable; noninterference with a certain object despite its being objectionable requires a justification, which constitutes what Susan Mendus calls “the paradox of toleration.”10 In order to ascertain whether or not there was any idea in the Middle Ages equivalent to the contemporary notion of toleration, the following exposition will use the aforementioned “core” as a heuristic tool while isolating the context and rationale of toleration. The aim is to show that some medieval discussions of toleration embraced the “core” notion of toleration, while the context in which they discussed toleration and its rationale or justification may differ from the modern counterpart. For this aim, the task is twofold: first, the chapter canvasses existing scholarship on medieval discussions of toleration. Cary Nederman’s work, in particular, has done much to flesh out the implications of medieval political and religious writings for toleration, and I reappraise some of the medieval ideas he discusses from the perspective

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outlined above. I also survey István Bejczy’s and Brian Tierney’s work on the canonist analysis of the concept of toleration (tolerantia).11 A glimpse into the canonist Huguccio’s analysis of toleration in particular will inform the debate on the historical origins of the modern European notion of toleration. Second, this chapter expounds the implications for toleration of the fourteenth-century English Franciscan William of Ockham’s ecclesiology. Ockham has long been recognized not only as a late medieval scholastic giant in logic and theology but also as a major political thinker in the early fourteenth century. I shall demonstrate that Ockham’s ecclesiology entailed seminal ideas for the modern European conception of toleration, albeit in a context that is entirely different from a pluralistic political community that is presupposed in the contemporary discourse on toleration. CURRENT SCHOLARSHIP ON TOLERATION IN THE MIDDLE AGES Undoubtedly, Cary Nederman has done much to pioneer the research field of toleration in the Middle Ages. Nederman has challenged the widespread view that “the Christian Middle Ages has nothing whatsoever to contribute to our understanding—philosophical or historical—of tolerance as a worthy principle or practice.”12 He has shown that as early as the twelfth century “religious toleration (sometimes in conjunction with other forms of tolerance, such as forbearance of philosophical, cultural, and political difference) received reasoned defense from various quarters in Latin Christendom.”13 According to Nederman, a wide range of thinkers from Peter Abelard and John of Salisbury to Marsilius of Padua and Nicholas of Cusa, among others, recognized that the human world consisted of difference; they all considered toleration was rendered necessary by divinely created yet flawed human capacities. Here Nederman is not intending to search for “the ancestry of post-Reformation approaches” to toleration.14 Largely treating toleration and tolerance interchangeably, his hermeneutic strategy is to uncover a set of discourses of toleration, which constitutes an alternative to modern liberal visions represented by John Locke and John Stuart Mill. And in order to do so, Nederman seeks to identify the recognition of shortcomings of human beings’ mental and physical capacities as a common justification for medieval toleration. One would therefore look in vain for what the present chapter identifies as the “core” notion of toleration in Nederman’s historical exposition. What is foregrounded instead is open-minded accommodation of diversity and difference in medieval religious and political writings; according to the present volume’s definition, Nederman highlights various discourses of tolerance rather than toleration.


Takashi Shogimen

Openness to diversity is found in the work of Peter Abelard (1079–1142), the twelfth-century French logician. His writing on the dialogues between a philosopher, a Christian, and a Jew is known as Collationes.15 The hypothetical conversation between the three wise men, who agree on the existence of the single deity, is intended to scrutinize the teachings of two faiths—Christian and Jewish—in light of human reason; thus, the conversations took the form of the philosopher, who is guided only by the standard of reason, and either a Christian or a Jew. The remarkable characteristic of this work is that no voice overwhelms the other; every interlocutor expresses himself openly in the spirit of seeking rather than imposing the truth.16 The conversation even aspires to mutual understanding as Abelard clearly sees the dialogue as a learning process.17 Clearly, however, there is no “core” of toleration to be detected in this work of fictional conversation: there is no place for noninterference of the objectionable object within certain normative bounds when every interlocutor is open to different philosophical or theological views because “only open discussion is always conducive to the ongoing quest for truth.”18 Instead, what Nederman uncovers is the recognition of the limits of human beings’ mental capacities, which promotes accommodation of and openness toward difference. The limits of human reason are more punctuated to the point of skepticism in the work of John of Salisbury (c.1120–1180). John was a twelfth-century English humanist who studied in Paris with Peter Abelard in his youth. According to Nederman, John argued that precisely because “mortals can know very little” and human intellect is fallible, tolerance of different and diverse opinions is necessary.19 John’s skepticism may indeed suggest that the accommodation of diverse opinions is recommended on the basis of the recognition of limits in one’s own judgment; however, precisely because skepticism suspends judgment, it is impossible to detect in John’s skepticism any negative evaluation of the tolerated object, an essential component of the “core” of toleration. While John of Salisbury’s skepticism resulted in the recognition of the diversity of opinions, a more direct recognition of diversity may be discerned in Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), the fifteenth-century German cardinal, theologian, and philosopher. Cusa’s short treatise On the Peace of Faith (De pace fidei, 1453) has long been recognized as a statement of religious tolerance departing from medieval scholastic bigotry.20 A problem Cusa tackled is the growth of the medieval idea of “nationality (natio).” The universal community of Christendom (respublica christiana) was shaken by the rise of national monarchies and city-states. On the Peace of Faith is a response to this emerging national diversity, which was perceived as a threat to the universality of Latin Christendom. Furthermore, at the time of the composition of the short

William of Ockham and Medieval Discourses on Toleration


treatise, Cusa had witnessed the fall of Constantinople (1453). On the Peace of Faith thus may be viewed as a critical response to conflicts and persecutions arising from religious difference and also as a call for peaceful coexistence. Cusa’s diagnosis is that the conflict stemmed not from religious difference but from different nationalities. This underlying concern is manifest in the literary form of the work; as Nederman rightly points out, On the Peace of Faith takes the literary form of a fictional dialogue of many, and all the interlocutors are identified by cultural, ethnic, and political heritage rather than by doctrinal convictions; they include an Englishman, an Italian, a Frenchman, a German, a Greek, a Bohemian, an Arab, and a Jew among many others.21 Through their voices, Cusa recognizes and acknowledges cultural and linguistic diversity and difference in humanity. Cusa thus equates the variety of religious rites with the diversity of nationality. The reverse side of this is his insistence on the unity of the truth of Latin Christian teaching. Cusa’s point is, according to Nederman, that the single truth can be manifested through diverse political and cultural practices on the basis of the limits of human reason.22 “There is only one religion in a variety of rites”:23 this is the vision that Cusa envisaged for medieval Latin Christendom as an alternative to the traditional, uniform conceptualization. Cusa’s discussion defends openness to and accommodation of national diversity rather than noninterference with the objectionable object within certain normative limits. Among the medieval thinkers Nederman examines, however, the viewpoint of Marsilius (or Marsiglio) of Padua (c.1275– c.1342), the fourteenth-century Italian, is rather different. Marsilius also does not discuss toleration or tolerance per se. Nor does his work include any explicit discussion of the “core” of toleration; however, pertinent to the idea may be his critical examination of the excommunication of heretics. The question he grappled with is “whether it is expedient to separate heretics from, or deprive them of, the fellowship of believers.”24 In answering this question, according to Nederman, Marsilius considers how excommunication may serve two purposes: one is to compel heretics to accept orthodoxy; the other is to protect the eternal souls of orthodox believers. For Marsilius, excommunication should not be employed for the purpose of reforming heretics because “it is not a tenet of Christianity that ‘any individual ought to be compelled to profess the Christian faith.’”25 Marsilius accepts the view that heretics should be shunned from the community of believers “lest they taint the remaining believers.”26 However, Marsilius underscores that “the separation of believers from heretics should occur in connection with spiritual matters only.”27 Excommunication is the prohibition of spiritual association and does not extend to civil association. Thus, heretics may be barred from participation in church services, but their status within social, economic, and civil contexts remains unaffected.


Takashi Shogimen

What lies beneath this argument is Marsilius’s separation of spiritual and temporal spheres. He proposes that the church should be subsumed into the civil community as one of its functional organs, thereby challenging the widespread view in the Middle Ages that the church was a rival governing institution in secular kingdoms and city-states. His rational and biblical arguments bolster the view that the spiritual power of the church primarily concerns the salvation of believers after life and can only prepare believers in this life for the next by inducing (not compelling) moral behavior. Marsilius’s rejection of the religious authority’s intrusion into civil matters clearly allows even heretics, who were condemned officially in the spiritual sphere, to continue to enjoy their civil status in the temporal sphere. This viewpoint differs significantly from the preceding three examples: whereas Peter Abelard, John of Salisbury, and Nicholas of Cusa defended openness to diversity and difference on the basis of the limits of human capacities directly or indirectly, Marsilius argues for accommodating heretics on the basis of the separation of spiritual and temporal spheres. While Nederman seeks to excavate the medieval discourse of tolerance, István Bejczy explores how the Latin term tolerantia was used in medieval canonist and theological scholarship, and recently Brian Tierney has discussed how the late twelfth-century canonist Huguccio (d. 1210) used the term. Huggucio examines tolerantia in his discussion of three types of permission. The first type is permission granted to indifferent things: it “applies to things that are neither commanded nor forbidden that may be good or bad, namely venial sins that are not commanded or forbidden, and such things as to marry or to claim one’s own, or to seek a prize.”28 The second type is permission granted on an exceptional basis: The second permission applies to things that would be bad if there were no permission but that with permission are good such as the eating of meat by a sick monk . . . and this permission is properly called dispensation. It not only does not prohibit but also concedes and consents and this is called simple and absolute permission because it absolves from guilt and fault.29

Eating meat is not intrinsically evil; it is only prohibited to monks by the Rule of St. Benedict. Permission defined as making exceptions to regular prohibition applies to things that are prohibited but not evil in themselves. The third type is permission with respect to an intrinsically evil activity. Huggucio writes, The third meaning concerns evils that are either venial or mortal, and this is called “comparative” (comparativa) because when two evils are compared with one another the lesser is tolerated so that the greater can be avoided. Thus, marital intercourse because of incontinence is permitted to avoid fornication as

William of Ockham and Medieval Discourses on Toleration


at Dist. 13 Nervi (c.2), and adultery to avoid homicide as here. . . . So too the ordeal by hot iron or single combat or prostitution in a city is permitted, and so in many cases a lesser offence is permitted in order that a greater one be avoided.30

Huguccio views this type of permission to be markedly different from the previous two; he calls the third type “improperly called permission” and proposes to name it “toleration.” He explains, This is improperly called permission. It would better be called toleration (tolerantia) or something allowed (sinitio). If the word is taken properly, to permit is voluntary, to allow involuntary. We permit willingly, we allow unwillingly. Hence this permission is said to be compelled (coacta) because we do not will or approve what we permit. Such permission does not make the things permitted licit or good, though they are not punished with a temporal penalty.31

Huguccio’s threefold classification of permission, including toleration as its third type, is inherited faithfully by later generations of canonists, including Raymond of Peñafort (1180/5–1275). In his Summa de iure canonico (c.1222/24), he rehearses Huguccio’s classification and writes, “the third type of permission occurs when lesser evils are permitted so as to prevent greater ones. This is called the permissio comparativa, and it does not excuse from sin. It should, however, be called tolerantia rather than permission.”32 From both Huguccio’s and Raymond’s classification, it can be inferred that tolerantia is a concept that applies to evil: tolerantia means “certain evil acts remain unpunished . . . in order to prevent a greater evil than the tolerated one.” Thus, as Bejczy notes, tolerantia is “the result of weighting opportunities.”33 It may be summarized as “non-interference with practices that [are] nevertheless unequivocally considered loathsome” in order to “prevent the occurrence of even worse evil.”34 Tolerantia clearly captures the “core” notion of toleration that the opening paragraphs of the present chapter highlight. First, since tolerantia applies to evil, it obviously includes the negative evaluation of the object in some normative terms. Second, tolerantia also means noninterference with the tolerated acts because it leaves certain evil acts unpunished without denying their evil nature: they are only “allowed unwillingly” and not approved or accepted. Third, tolerantia also includes some measuring of the threshold of the applied normative standard, which one cannot fall below because tolerantia is the result of prioritizing a certain evil over another, greater evil. Having said that, tolerantia entails some distinctive features that are not explicit in the contemporary theory of toleration. For one thing, the “language” of tolerantia refers explicitly and specifically to evil. By contrast, evil does not feature in contemporary liberal discussions of toleration. The concept of evil may invoke among contemporary liberal political theorists


Takashi Shogimen

suspicion of its religious pedigree or its implied presupposition that an objective or universal standard of moral judgment exists; however, some political theorists also acknowledge that “some things may not be simply ‘different’, but wrong.”35 Thus, the concept of evil, one might argue, serves to identify what lies beyond the moral boundaries of the modern philosophical concept of toleration. The specific reference to evil in the medieval notion of tolerantia suggests a much greater degree of moral judgment of the tolerated object than in the contemporary idea of dislike or disapproval of what is tolerated. In order to understand the medieval canonist idea of toleration, perhaps it is useful to refer to Michael Sandel’s notion of judgmental toleration. Sandel highlights the “non-judgmental” character of the liberal conception of toleration; that is, “it seeks to avoid passing moral judgment on the practices it permits.”36 Liberal toleration articulated by John Rawls, Sandel argues, is predicated on impartiality to diverse moral claims, as “the principles of justice that govern a pluralist society . . . should not depend for its justification on any particular moral or religious conception.”37 Judgmental toleration, by contrast, “assesses the moral worth or permissibility of the practice at issue, and permits or restricts it according to the weight of those moral considerations in relation to competing moral and practical considerations.”38 To put it another way, judgmental toleration is to tolerate otherwise unacceptable ideas or practices in order to fulfill a certain good or to avoid some greater evil. Consequently, judgmental toleration is, Nederman comments with reference to Sandel’s idea, considered to be “worthy of pursuit to achieve or maintain some other valuable or necessary human good.”39 Judgmental toleration’s commitment to a specific good or the avoidance of a greater evil sharply contrasts with Rawls’s impartiality to competing moral claims. The positive commitment to a certain human good is evident in the canonist idea of tolerantia. In discussing tolerantia, the tolerated objects that canonists had in mind were typically the practice of non-Christian (especially Jewish) religious rites and prostitution in the Christian society.40 The tolerated individuals were, thus, Jews and prostitutes. The greater evil to be prevented was the “forced conversion of the Jews,” on the one hand, and adultery, rape, and sodomy, on the other.41 The tolerantia of Jews in particular reveals the distinctive assumption underpinning the canonist discourse: the interference with Jews should be avoided since conversion to Christianity should be a matter of free will.42 This rationale for tolerantia suggests that the canonist discourse is predicated on the tacit assumption that everyone who lives in the Christian community should believe in and practice Christianity. Jewish religious practice is tolerated not because peaceful coexistence of diverse faiths should be prioritized or a different religious faith deserves respect, as modern liberals would argue, but because Jews should be left with a chance to convert to Christianity by their own free will. Conversion to Christian faith

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is clearly identified as the ultimate human good, and precisely for that reason toleration is justified. This justification entails an important difference from the justifications proposed by contemporary liberal theorists of toleration. Andrew Cohen, for instance, highlights the component of “value” in the idea of toleration since he defines toleration as “an agent’s intentional and principled refraining from interfering”; without a “value,” toleration cannot be a principled act. The values Cohen has in mind are markedly generic ones, such as autonomy and toleration itself.43 What characterizes these two values is the absence of commitment to a particular moral or religious view. When toleration is practiced for its own sake, for instance, the practice of toleration is certainly principled, but it aims at no specific human good from a particular moral or religious position. Despite the canonist discourse’s distinctively medieval traits, however, it should be noted that medieval tolerantia contains the “core” of the idea of toleration this chapter aims to highlight. The “core” notion of toleration is not dependent on impartiality to or recognition (let alone celebration) of diversity. Even in a society that aspires to achieve uniformity in religious belief, it is possible to speak of noninterference with the objectionable object within certain normative bounds. The fragmentation of Christianity as would be witnessed in early modern Europe is clearly not the necessary context in which one speaks of toleration in the sense defined in this volume. WILLIAM OF OCKHAM ON TOLERATION Despite widespread recognition as a major political thinker in the Middle Ages, William of Ockham (c.1285–1347) has rarely been discussed in the context of the medieval discursive tradition of toleration. Like the majority of medieval political writers, Ockham did not write on the concept of toleration per se; we can only infer seminal ideas that are pertinent to the concept of toleration from his political writings. However, his discussion is markedly different from the examples surveyed so far; what may be viewed as Ockham’s idea of toleration stems from the recognition of the autonomous moral standing of individual Christians who are deemed by ecclesiastical officials to be committing doctrinal errors. Ockham’s discussions that entail implications for toleration are integral to his theory of heresy. Early in his academic career at Oxford, Ockham only wrote philosophical and theological treatises, which included no political arguments. In 1324, however, he was summoned to the Avignon papacy as his speculative writings were suspected of heresy. During his sojourn in Avignon, he was asked by Michael of Cesena, the Minister General of the


Takashi Shogimen

Franciscan Order, to scrutinize papal bulls which condemned the Franciscan doctrine of poverty.44 The investigation into the bulls led Ockham to conclude that the contemporary pope, John XXII, had fallen into heresy. Ockham was thus drawn into polemical activities against the pope in defense of his Order. One of the major polemical writings Ockham produced was the Dialogue (Dialogus), a fictional conversation between the Master and the Discipline on a number of ecclesiological and political issues.45 Part One of the Dialogue was almost entirely devoted to questions of heresy with special reference to papal heresy. Ockham endeavored to redefine heresy and heretics, thereby seeking to vindicate dissent from a heretical pope. A situation Ockham problematized theoretically is where a believer is viewed to have committed an error by another believer, who attempts to correct it.46 The correction of doctrinal errors among Christians had been a traditional subject of theological discussion in the Middle Ages, known as “fraternal correction.” The early thirteenth-century Franciscan theologian Alexander of Hales established a standard way of discussing this topic in response to three questions: Does the precept of correction bind every Christian or prelates alone? What is the procedural order of correction? Is every Christian bound by the precept of correction with respect to anyone? The first question concerns the agent of correction (who should conduct fraternal correction?); the second is about the due process of correction; and the third question concerns the object of correction (who must submit to correction?).47 Alexander’s answers may be summarized as follows:48 with regard to the agent of correction, every Christian is bound to offer fraternal correction out of charity; however, prelates alone are bound to correct erring believers out of official duty (ex officio). On the due process of correction, Alexander maintained that correction proceeds duly from private admonition to public condemnation. Fraternal correction begins with a corrector’s admonition; if the erring believer does not recant, other believers will be invoked to correct the erring believer; finally, the erring believer’s insistence on the error will lead to the church’s official condemnation. What is implied here is that the error is tolerated only for a limited time—until the church’s condemnation. Submission to correction is presumed to be due, and those who are subject to correction beyond the limited time (“the time of grace”) will be condemned. Thus, the condemned error is determined to be heretical, and those who are condemned due to the “pertinacious” or “obstinate” insistence on error are deemed heretics. Indeed, heretics are, according to the medieval theological and legal tradition, characterized by “obstinacy” and “pertinacity,” which effectively mean repeated disobedience to ecclesiastical authority. Finally, on the subject of fraternal correction, obviously a superior in the church can correct an erring inferior.

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Alexander’s (and his followers’) discussion of fraternal correction is predicated on the tacit assumption that fraternal correction is normally executed correctly in terms of doctrine; in other words, the possibility that the alleged error may in fact be theologically sound (and therefore the corrector, not the corrected, may be in error) had never received serious attention. Ockham’s discussion of fraternal correction puts a thick question mark on this tacit assumption. Thus, his discussion focuses on the legitimacy of correction. For him, the legitimacy of correction clearly does not rest on the official authority of the corrector; the legitimacy only consists in actual demonstration of the error.49 So, the question whether fraternal correction is executed out of charity or official capacity is irrelevant to him. A very important question is how can believers who are subject to correction know that the correction they are subject to is theologically sound and doctrinally correct? That is precisely the problem that the Franciscan Order of his time was facing: the contemporary pope, John XXII, condemned the Franciscan ideal of poverty, whose theological truth the Franciscans obviously believed. The traditional view of the due process of fraternal correction only tolerates doctrinal errors for a limited time and until the church decides to condemn the error: disobedience may be tolerable initially, but persistent disobedience is not. Again, this argument is predicated on the tacit assumption that the corrected must obey the correction anyway because the correction is supposed to be doctrinally correct. By contrast, Ockham rests the legitimacy of correction on the actual demonstration of error alone; therefore, he argued that no matter who corrects the (alleged) error, the corrected are not bound to withdraw their assertion unless it is manifestly shown to the corrected that it contradicts Catholic truth.50 This also applies even to the case where the pope is the corrector, as the pope may well be ignorant of theology: the criticism Ockham leveled repeatedly at John XXII.51 Thus, no one is bound to believe the pope’s doctrinal declaration as long as he does not demonstrate manifestly that his assertion is theologically sound. The reverse side of this is that if the demonstration of error is manifest, the corrected must withdraw the demonstrated error at once.52 Perhaps it is helpful at this point to examine Ockham’s argument in light of the aforementioned “core” notion of toleration. First, the negative evaluation of the object is evident: Ockham’s discussion revolves around alleged doctrinal errors. As long as an assertion is deemed erroneous, it is of course objectionable. Even though an assertion is allegedly erroneous, Ockham argues that those who assert the alleged error do not have to withdraw it until it is manifestly demonstrated that it is an error. The flip side of this is that the correctors cannot compel the corrected to recant the alleged error and thus must allow them to hold the error unless they successfully demonstrate that it is indeed an error. Here one can readily discern the restraint of interference


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with the objectionable object: the corrector is obliged not to interfere with the error until it is demonstrated to be an error. However, noninterference with the alleged error is not without limits. Ockham does acknowledge the limits of toleration of doctrinal errors: if one is corrected legitimately by an equal or even by an inferior, one must withdraw the error at once; insisting on error while knowing that it is an error cannot be tolerated. The legitimacy of correction—the actual demonstration of error—sets the limit for toleration. Clearly, Ockham’s conception of the legitimacy of correction obliges every Christian—the pope and lay believers alike—to assent to demonstrably correct assertions. On the duty of assenting to truth, every believer is equal. However, what each individual believer can realistically be expected to know about doctrinal truths varies to a considerable extent. Indeed, church officials, such as the pope and bishops, are intellectually sophisticated and typically trained in theology and/or canon law, while ordinary believers are largely illiterate. While every believer is equal in terms of the duty to assent to truths and reject errors, all Christians realistically cannot bear the same duty in terms of what they ought to know about Christian doctrine. Thus, Ockham introduces to his discourse on toleration another important idea: explicit faith. Explicit faith is a set of propositions that Christians must believe to be true. Ockham’s theory of heresy is predicated on the assumption that cognitive commonality in the understanding of doctrinal truths is shared among Christians; thus, explicit faith determines the content and amount of knowledge one is obliged and therefore presumed to have. Hence, rejecting a proposition that is included in the explicit faith would be judged inexcusable by anyone in the community because the rejected proposition is presumably known to the person concerned. However, what each Christian must know in terms of explicit faith varies depending on the status he or she may occupy in Christian society. Ockham argues that the higher the office one occupies in the Christian community the more knowledge of explicit faith one is obliged to have. Therefore, the pope and other high ecclesiastics are expected to have full knowledge of doctrinal sources, including minute details in the Bible, while most lay believers are only obliged to know a small set of propositions, such as “Christ was crucified” and “Christian faith is true.”53 Explicit faith is at the heart of Ockham’s toleration; it encapsulates the “core” idea of toleration, and, at the same time, it also reveals the distinctively medieval context of Ockham’s discussion. First, explicit faith defines what all must believe, so any errors relating to explicit faith are obviously objectionable. The negative evaluation of the object is clearly present here. Notice that the idea of explicit faith is predicated on the assumption that the correct understanding of the propositions constituting explicit faith is shared within a community; thus, the rejection of explicit faith is publicly manifest and easily identifiable in the community.

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When everyone must know and believe that “Christ was crucified,” asserting otherwise would manifestly reject the publicly shared knowledge. Likewise, for the Franciscans, including Ockham, the orthodoxy of the Franciscan doctrine of poverty was officially declared by Pope Nicholas III and was thus publicly inscribed. Rejecting that doctrine therefore constituted an error that was evident in the eyes of the Christian community. The public duty of assenting to explicit faith, however, is markedly uniform. For Ockham, explicit faith constitutes the only set of truths that every Christian must assent to, and no alternatives are presupposed here. Such uniformity of the duty of assenting to truths and rejecting errors constitutes a context that is distinctive to Ockham’s ecclesiology and alien to contemporary pluralistic societies. Second, Ockham’s discussion of explicit faith also suggests the restraint of interference with the objectionable object in that those who are not obliged to know much in terms of explicit faith and are deemed to commit an error should not be compelled by anyone to retract the alleged error against their will. The corrector must refrain from interfering with the allegedly erring individual because he or she is not publicly obliged to have the correct knowledge about it. This restraint of interference is operational specifically in the context of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. If those who do not have any ecclesiastical office— especially illiterate lay believers—are deemed to commit an error, the corrector—typically church officials—can only endeavor to show them by way of logical demonstration that their assertion is erroneous. The superior in the hierarchy is bound to tolerate the error committed by the inferior. Obviously, the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or, indeed, any hierarchical order, is not the context on which the contemporary theory of toleration is predicated. However, the distinctively medieval context also underscores the asymmetrical power relationship between the tolerating agent and the tolerated: the point that is often noted in the contemporary idea of toleration.54 In the medieval context the asymmetry of power between the tolerator and the tolerated is typically presumed to be institutional, since the tolerating agent is normally an officeholder. In the contemporary context, the asymmetry is based on the belief that the tolerator is capable of interfering with the tolerated, which may or may not have institutional warrant. Such a difference notwithstanding, the power asymmetry between the tolerator and the tolerated is a key feature in both Ockham’s and contemporary ideas of toleration. Third, the noninterference with erring individuals is not unlimited. As I noted earlier, for Ockham, the legitimacy of fraternal correction rests on clear demonstration of the error. However, what if earnest defendants insist that even though it is clearly proven they are in error, it is still not demonstrated to them? Ockham suggests that even such defendants ultimately subject themselves to the judgment of experts and withdraw their position if the error


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is sufficiently shown to the experts.55 Here Ockham defers to the judgment of experts, thereby drawing the limit to the noninterference with allegedly erring believers. Of course, Ockham acknowledges that experts might be in error; however, the detection of error and heresy is ultimately a matter of human judgment. Ockham ultimately conceded to practical viability of doctrinal correction by rejecting the possibility of insisting on the alleged error ad infinitum, and here the recognition of the limits of noninterference is obviously present. However, it is also clear that Ockham safeguards his position, to some extent, against the traditional position on fraternal correction by appealing to the intellectual authority of experts rather than the institutional authority of church officials. The discourse of explicit faith provides a justification for tolerating doctrinal errors committed by those who are not in the ecclesiastical office, and the context is the hierarchical order of the Church. Furthermore, Ockham bolstered this ecclesiological view by a moral argument. Retracting the alleged error simply because of correction by a superior, that is, without knowing that it is indeed an error, would be morally questionable. Ockham thus frames the discussion of allegedly erring believers by the idea of conscience. Ockham’s defense of erring believers from correction by ecclesiastical officials indeed poses a problem of insisting on the alleged error ad infinitum, and I have just mentioned that Ockham rejects that possibility thereby conceding to practical viability. However, this concession does not resolve a moral dilemma. At one point, Ockham addressed a question: what if someone defends a heresy before the pope and says that he thinks it is consistent with Catholic faith? His response was that if he were to defend unknowingly a thousand times, even before the pope, with an explicit or tacit declaration that he is ready to be corrected when he learns that his opinion conflicts with Catholic faith, he should not be judged a heretic unless he were proved to be a heretic by other legitimate proofs because, just as it is licit for him to defend an erroneous opinion unknowingly in this way the first time, so it is licit a second time and a third, and always until it has been clearly proved to him that his opinion should be reckoned among the heresies.56

He offers no practical compromise here: one can defend an erroneous opinion as long as it is not demonstrated to that person who is suspect. I have just mentioned that at one point Ockham defers to the judgment of experts in cases of believers who insist on their alleged error. Ockham may appear to contradict himself, but it is because we do not know with certainty which of the opinions he presents was his personal view. Ockham’s Dialogue, as I mentioned earlier, takes the form of a fictional conversation between the Master and the Disciple: the Disciple asks questions, and the Master provides

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answers from diverse viewpoints without singling out the best answer. Hence, on the question of believers who insist on their alleged error, too, Ockham’s “Master” presents different views without a final resolution. But suppose that the above quotation represents Ockham’s view (and, indeed, it is probably the case in light of his personal view in other work57), the point is that the suspect is defending his position unknowingly. Medieval canon law generally affirms that ignorance of law is inexcusable. Ockham rejects this by introducing a distinction between the law one is obliged to know and the law that one is not obliged to know. Obviously, ignorance of the former is, as canonists argue, inexcusable, while ignorance of the latter is excusable. Thus, even if a believer commits an error in relation to the law that he or she is not obliged to know, the error is excusable.58 Ockham goes as far as to affirm that even a heretic, as long as he or she remains in error, does not have to withdraw the error lest he or she should tell a lie contrary to conscience.59 Bejczy argued that medieval theologians and canonists tolerated Jews and Muslims who lived among Christians as well as prostitutes but not heretics and homosexuals.60 Ockham vindicates the toleration of some heretics. Ockham does not elaborate on the idea of conscience in any of his polemical works; instead, he discusses it in his theological work and asserts the negative authority of conscience. He does not say that acting according to the dictate of conscience is always right and virtuous; he maintains that acting against the dictate of conscience is always wrong. Following the dictate of conscience does not guarantee that one is acting virtuously, but failing to follow the dictate of conscience would always mean that one is unvirtuous.61 So asserting a heretical proposition without knowing it is heretical is excusable (and should therefore be tolerated) if and when the person stating the proposition is not obliged to know that the proposition is heretical, thus asserting the heresy unknowingly. In this case, the person concerned is following the dictate of an invincibly erroneous conscience. On the grounds of the negative authority of conscience, Ockham presented the case where insisting on an error unknowingly should be tolerated if the person in question is not obliged to know the error. For him, the autonomy of the moral standing of the individual is paramount. This justification of noninterference is similar to that of the canonist Huguccio. When Huguccio argues for tolerantia in order “to prevent a greater evil than the tolerated one,”62 he presents the tolerator’s perspective; however, the “greater evil” to be avoided is for him to foreclose the chance that the tolerated returns to true faith by his or her free will. One can readily recognize the respect for individual autonomy on the part of the tolerated. Likewise, Ockham’s appeal to the negative authority of conscience concerns the moral standing of the tolerated.


Takashi Shogimen

Ockham’s argument for latitude for doctrinal errors committed by those who are not church officials is thus couched in the differentiated responsibility of having doctrinal knowledge incommensurate with status within Christian society. While the “core” notion of toleration is identifiable in Ockham’s discussion, it is framed by the context of a hierarchically organized society: a notable point of difference from the contemporary context. Another distinctively medieval feature of Ockham’s discussion is also associated with the idea of explicit faith: toleration occurs under the uniform social obligation to know a single set of Christian truths. Religious pluralism—even doctrinal diversity within the Christian religion—is foreign to Ockham’s idea of toleration. This is in sharp contrast to the context of diversity and plurality on which the contemporary discourse of toleration is typically predicated. Despite the medieval inflections in terms of context, it is manifest that Ockham, along with some other medieval thinkers, can legitimately claim a place in the history of the European idea of toleration. CONCLUSION While Nederman has amply shown that the defense of tolerance—openness toward diversity—abounded in the European Middle Ages, this chapter sought to demonstrate, using the “core” notion of noninterference with the objectionable object within the allowable normative bounds as a heuristic category, that the discourse of toleration was also present in medieval religious and political writings. This chapter has also uncovered that the medieval idea of toleration is predicated on the distinctively medieval contexts of ecclesiastical hierarchy and doctrinal unanimity. This historical observation suggests that noninterference with the objectionable object within certain normative bounds is possible without the context of diversity and pluralism. What is indispensable to the notion of toleration is rather judgment: whether the judgment is a moral, religious, political, or aesthetic one, such judgments can generate a negative evaluation of an object. Without such a judgment, noninterference with the object would be tolerance or indifference. Medieval thinkers, such as Huguccio and Ockham, clearly articulated the discourse that noninterference with the objectionable object was anchored in a judgment based on a substantive vision of human good, whose singular fount was nothing other than Christianity. NOTES 1. R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950–1250, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007).

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2. Cary J. Nederman, Worlds of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration c.1100–c.1550 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). Also see Cary J. Nederman and John Christian Laursen, eds., Difference and Dissent: Theories of Toleration in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Lanham, MA: Rowman and Littlefield, 1996); John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, eds., Beyond the Persecuting Society: Religious Toleration before the Enlightenment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998). 3. István Bejczy, “Tolerantia: A Medieval Concept,” Journal of the History of Ideas 58, no. 3 (1997): 365–84 at 368. 4. I depend particularly on Rainer Forst, Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Andrew Jason Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” Ethics 115, no. 1 (2004): 68–95. 5. Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 69. 6. The three elements here correspond to what Forst called (drawing on Preston King) the objection, acceptance, and rejection components. See Forst, Toleration in Conflict, 18–24; Preston King, Toleration (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1976), 44–55. 7. Forst, Toleration in Conflict, 20. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., 23. 10. Susan Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1989), 18–21. 11. Brian Tierney, Liberty and Law: The Idea of Permissive Natural Law, 1100– 1800 (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2014). 12. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 3. 13. Ibid., 4. 14. Ibid., 9. 15. Peter Abelard, Collationes, ed. John Marenbon and Giovanni Orlandi (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001). 16. Forst, Toleration in Conflict, 70. 17. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 29. 18. Ibid. 19. Ibid., 39–52. 20. Nicholas of Cusa, “De pace fidei,” in Cusa, Opera Omnia, vol. 7 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1970), 3–63. 21. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 91. 22. Ibid. 23. Cusa, “De pace fidei,” 1.1.1. 24. Marsiglio of Padua, Defensor minor, trans. Cary J. Nederman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 34. 25. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 79. 26. Marsiglio of Padua, Defensor minor, 34. 27. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 79. 28. Huguccio, Summa ad Dist. 3 dictum post c.3, 70, as cited and translated by Tierney, Liberty and Law, 41.


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29. Huguccio, Summa ad Dist. 3 dictum post c.3, 70, as cited and translated by Tierney, Law and Liberty, 42. 30. Ibid. 31. Huguccio, Summa ad Dist. 13 dictum post c.3, 71, as cited and translated by Tierney, Law and Liberty, 42. 32. Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de iure canonico, ed. Xaverius Ochoa and Aloisius Diez, Universa bibliotheca iuris I.A (Rome: Commentarium pro religiosis, 1975),–9, as translated in Bejczy, “Tolerantia,” 369–70. 33. Bejczy, “Tolerantia,” 370. 34. Ibid. 35. Brian Haddock, Peri Roberts, and Peter Sutch, introduction to Evil in Contemporary Political Theory, ed. Brian Haddock, Peri Roberts, and Peter Sutch (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011), 1–9 at 2. 36. Michael Sandel, “Judgmental Toleration,” in Natural Law, Liberalism, and Morality: Contemporary Essays, ed. Robert P. George (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), 107–12 at 107. 37. Ibid. 38. Ibid. 39. Nederman, Worlds of Difference, 5. See also Cary J. Nederman, “Modern Toleration through a Medieval Lens: A ‘Judgmental’ View,” Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy 4 (2016): 1–26. 40. Bejczy, “Tolerantia,” 371. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid. 43. Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 81. 44. A papal bull is an official letter attached with a leaden seal and issued by the pope. 45. The preparation of a critical edition of Ockham’s Dialogus is still ongoing. The Latin text and English translation can be viewed online: pubs/dialogus/. Sections of the work have been published: William of Ockham, Dialogus Part 2, Part 3, Tract 1, ed. John Kilcullen, John Scott, Jan Ballweg, and Volker Leppin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). 46. The following discussion often draws on my previous study of Ockham’s discussion of papal heresy. See Takashi Shogimen, Ockham and Political Discourse in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 75–155. 47. Alexander of Hales, Quaestiones disputatae, vol. 3 (Quaracchi: Typographia Collegii S. Bonaventurae, 1960), 497–515. 48. See Shogimen, Ockham and Political Discourse, 107–13. 49. Ockham, Dialogus, 1.4.15. This abbreviation means chapter 15 in Book 4 of Part 1 of the Dialogus. 50. Ockham, Dialogus, 1.4.16. 51. William of Ockham, “Opus Nonaginta Direrum,” in Ockham, Opera Politica, vol. 2, ed. H. S. Offler (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1963), 509–53. 52. Ockham, Dialogus, 1.4.24.

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53. William of Ockham, “Contra Ioannem,” in Ockham, Opera Politica, vol. 3, ed. H. S. Offler (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956), 47–49. See also Shogimen, Ockham and Political Discourse, 95–101. 54. Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 72. 55. Ockham, Dialogus, 1.4.23. 56. Ibid. 57. Ockham, “Contra Ioannem,” 128. 58. Ockham, Dialogus, 1.4.21. 59. Ockham, “Contra Ioannem,” 128. 60. Bejczy, “Tolerantia,” 375. 61. William of Ockham, Quaestiones variae, in Ockham, Opera Theologica, vol. 8 (St. Bonaventure, NY: The Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University, 1984), 423–24. 62. Bejczy, “Tolerantia,” 370.

Chapter 2

The Metaphysics of Toleration in American Indian Philosophy Scott L. Pratt

In this chapter, I will discuss three indigenous examples of toleration. The first is a story of a Ki.wá`kwe—a cannibal—from the Penobscot people, whose traditional lands are in what is now the state of Maine in the American northeast. The second is a story told by Charles Eastman, a member of the Santee Dakota people, and the third story is from the Alsea people whose lands are along the Pacific Northwest coast. Though one might argue that the stories fail to be examples of toleration in the Western sense of deliberate noninterference, I will argue that they are instances of what Michael Walzer calls “everyday toleration.”1 This sort of everyday toleration—combining both the classic notion of toleration as deliberate noninterference and tolerance as the active promotion of difference—is best understood not as a political matter but as a metaphysical one that is related to the indigenous concepts of wunnégin or “welcome” and qwaasasa is or “the principle of consent.” From the perspective of these indigenous concepts, the Western notion of toleration, separated from the proactive attitudes we are here calling tolerance, can be seen as problematic while the view represented by these stories provides a better account of what is required for everyday toleration, especially in the context of the present, pluralistic world. The Penobscot story describes an encounter between a Penobscot family and a cannibal, a “Ki.wá`kwe,” and speaks to the meaning of toleration.2 The story as reported by ethnographer Frank Speck begins this way: “A man, his wife, and little girl were living far from other people in the woods [when] they heard someone coming.” Their home was a wigwam—a cabin built of wooden poles covered with a layer of bark with a hole in the center of the roof to serve as a chimney. The story continues: “Suddenly a noise was heard in the smoke hole of the wigwam and looking up they saw a Ki.wá`kwe peering down.” Imagine here a ravenous-looking, foul-smelling giant with pale 23


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skin. Such beings were well-known to Native American peoples in the north, especially to those people who lived on the boundaries of a tribe’s traditional lands. “The . . . woman of the wigwam said aloud, ‘Oh! Your grandfather has come,’ speaking to her husband. The monster was pleased at this and grew small. He came around and entered the camp. The woman tried to feed him but he would not eat in spite of her coaxing.” Despite the Ki.wá`kwe’s desire for human flesh, he sat with the family as they ate. After a time, “he said, ‘I shall meet [another Ki.wá`kwe] here and we will fight.’ Then he sent [the family] away across a lake and he fought [the] other Ki.wá`kwe. He had told [the family] to leave the place if he got killed by the other. But he won the fight and when it was over he ate with them, becoming again an ordinary man.”3 The story suggests a kind of reciprocal toleration: the first by the family in welcoming the cannibal, and the second when the cannibal refrains from carrying out his cannibal desires. The story illustrates a central principle of order in the lives of northeast indigenous tribes at the time Europeans began to arrive in the seventeenth century. The principle, called wunnégin in Narragansett, means “welcome” and “good” (the latter in the sense of a particular good rather than “Good” in general or “the Good” in a Platonic sense).4 For native people of that region, wunnégin named both an attitude toward strangers and a label for the actions one should take in encountering strangers. When the family greeted the Ki.wá`kwe as a relative and invited him into their home, they followed the practices of wunnégin.5 The second story is told by Charles Eastman, a Dakota Indian, Dartmouthtrained physician, and well-known author. In his 1911 book The Soul of an Indian, Eastman writes, A MISSIONARY once undertook to instruct a group of Indians in the truths of his holy religion. He told them of the creation of the earth in six days, and of the fall of our first parents by eating an apple. The courteous savages listened attentively, and after thanking him, one related in his turn a very ancient tradition concerning the origin of the maize. But the missionary plainly showed his disgust and disbelief, indignantly saying:—“What I delivered to you were sacred truths, but this that you tell me is mere fable and falsehood!” “My brother,” gravely replied the offended Indian, “it seems that you have not been well grounded in the rules of civility. You saw that we, who practice these rules, believed your stories; why, then, do you refuse to credit ours?”6

The Penobscot story illustrates acts of toleration: welcoming a stranger; the stranger reciprocating by both refraining from an expected activity and keeping the hosts safe from danger. This second story, actually told originally about the Susquehanna Indians from what is now Pennsylvania, illustrates both an epistemic attitude and a practice of belief formation that accepts the

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beliefs of others without interference. When the Indians are given the missionary’s stories, they listen receptively and claim actively to “believe” them even though they are incompatible with their own beliefs. The missionary, in contrast, embodies intolerance; he shows disgust and disbelief and even expresses outrage that he has been exposed to such stories. The Natives, in response, offer a sharp criticism of the missionary’s failure to tolerate their stories by believing them and in so doing locate the ground of their toleration in the rules of civility. There is a third story (or pair of stories) that illustrates still another aspect of the idea of toleration as it emerges in Native American traditions. These stories come from the Alsea Indians whose traditional lands are on the west coast of the United States in what is now the state of Oregon, stretching from Yaquina Head south to Cape Perpetua.7 The stories appear in two early twentieth-century ethnographic works edited by Leo Frachtenberg, an Austrian-born ethnographer who studied with Franz Boas at Columbia University (where he received his MA for a thesis on Richard Wagner). Frachtenberg titled the first story “The Universal Change” and identifies it as a story unique to the Alsea people.8 The second story (combined with the first in one case9) is titled “The Death of Grizzly Bear.”10 There are three versions, the first told by William Smith, an Alsea Indian, in 1910;11 the second told by Alsea George, an Alsea Indian, in the summer of 1900;12 and the third, told by Louisa Smith, a Lower Umpqua Indian, in 1911.13 The first story begins: One day, at a particular place on Alsea land along the coast, Coyote, Mo’luptsini’sla, announced, “I just want to have a great deal of fun.” So he called some messengers and told them, “You just carefully shall watch (everything). You shall correctly announce my message: ‘I want that people should assemble from everywhere.’”14 And so the messengers departed, each to a different people, calling them all together on the coast. In due time, each people came to the coast bringing their traditional games, including shinny (a game similar to field hockey), target shooting, and a wide range of other games and crafts. A feast to which everyone was invited followed the games. In the midst of the feast, Mo’luptsini’sla declared to those who had gathered, “Do you, please, watch yourselves carefully when the people will assemble! You will always keep good guard over yourselves.”15 He continued with a warning that some of the people who would gather on the coast would be “different people.” “You do not,” he said, “know what manner of people they are. For that reason you will simply have to watch yourselves carefully.”16 To conclude his address, Mo’luptsini’sla declared that he knew everything (a common declaration by figures like Coyote) and that he was not afraid of what would come.17 As the games ended, Mo’luptsini’sla presented the crowd with a set of antlers and asked each person (here representing a group of like persons) to


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try them on. “I want that all the people should put on [these antlers because] (I want to see) whom [they] will fit (best).” So the Kingfisher tried on the antlers, but Mo’luptsini’sla said, “Hey! The antlers don’t look good on you.” Your name, he continued, “will just be Noise-Maker,” and you “will always be spearing salmon.”18 One group and then the next tried on the antlers, and Mo’luptsini’sla, in each case, decided that the person did not look good in antlers. He gave each group a name and a characteristic behavior or purpose. At the end of the day, Mo’luptsini’sla finally came to Deer and Elk and decided that, in their cases, the antlers looked good. He then declared their name and purpose: “Food shall be [your] name[s]; and . . . All the people will eat you two.”19 The “universal change” suggested by Frachtenberg’s title is the process of determining the distinctive name and purpose of each people or kind. The story, however, does not end at this point. In one of its versions (probably collected from Alsea George by Livingston Farrand in 1900), the story of universal change is followed by a story that seems to illustrate how the assembled peoples dealt with dangerous others. In this coda to the first story, Grizzly Bear lives alone in the woods.20 According to William Smith’s version, “A bad person was devouring (the people). . . . Whenever a man went out hunting, Grizzly Bear would kill him. [The people] came together and tried to find some remedy. (They all agreed) that Grizzly Bear must be killed. And the chiefs of the region said ‘we are very sorry.’”21 Because of his size, it became clear that Grizzly Bear was simply too big to kill by ordinary means. “Then finally,” Smith says, “someone suggested to go and see how Grizzly lived, and to invite him (to come here).”22 The messenger sent to bring Grizzly back was instructed to “speak to him kindly; don’t tell him anything bad.”23 Eventually, Grizzly is persuaded to come to the gathering, and when he arrived he was greeted by the people, who shouted, “It is very good that you came. We shall play a great deal. . . . There is going to be a great deal of fun.”24 In the end, Grizzly fell asleep, and the people killed him by pouring burning pitch down his throat. The Smith version of the tale concludes, “Here the story ends. If he had not been killed, the world would have been very bad. Thus that bad person was killed. Such was the custom of the people of long ago. Here, at last, it ends.”25 INDIGENOUS TOLERATION In a sense, the Alsea stories seem far from questions of toleration. However, from the perspective of at least one Northwest Native philosopher, they are not. The relevant aspect of toleration is suggested in the recent work of E. Richard Atleo, a hereditary chief of the Nuu-chah-nulth nation whose lands

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are along the Pacific coast in British Columbia. “Tolerance,” he argues, is expressed in Nuu-chah-nulth culture by the phrase qwaasasa is, translated as “just the way (he, she, or it) is.”26 The term at once serves as an ordinary acknowledgement of the characteristics of others—“That’s just the way she is!”—and it “implies recognition that the purpose of life forms is not always evident or clear to observers”; that is, it acknowledges “those behaviors that are recognizable within a known value framework” and “those behaviors that are not recognizable within a known value framework.” From this perspective, qwaasasa is can also be understood as the “principle of consent” because it “refers to a democratic form of consent defined by a range of behavior that is mutually agreeable and reciprocal within a society.”27 Such consent is framed, Atleo observes, by an ontological commitment that “each individual is unique and that this uniqueness requires free expression,” that is, “self-expression” consistent with “creating a balance and harmony within the diversity of the community.”28 As a result, Atleo concludes, “regardless of whether or not a certain behavior is understood, the traditional response is one of tolerance, of acceptance, albeit within reasonable limits.”29 Here “tolerance” names both a principled commitment to deliberate noninterference and, at the same time, a proactive commitment to preserving and promoting differences in a way that recognizes the need for limits. The last condition, establishing reasonable limits, reflects the epistemic function of qwaasasa is as a commitment expressed by an active process of collective inquiry, ?uusumc or “careful seeking.”30 Since Atleo’s specific claims are about “tolerance” and not explicitly “toleration,” one might object that I have conflated tolerance as a proactive attitude and toleration as deliberate noninterference. For Atleo, I would argue, there is no meaningful distinction to be made between them. To have the virtue of tolerance is to act in a way that promotes difference and peaceful coexistence and to practice toleration, that is, to act in ways that aim not to interfere with the actions of others. Acts of toleration are the expressions of a tolerant person understood in this context as committed to the principle of consent—of letting others be to act in accordance with their purposes. Consent involves active recognition both of one’s own place and purposes and of the place and purposes of others as part of one’s actions. In this case, knowing that something is this or that is a matter of how one acts in relation to that thing. The Western liberal division of tolerance and toleration does not capture the singularity of the notion of qwaasasa is or the ways in which the stories of the Penobscot, Susquehanna, and Alsea peoples capture the continuity of toleration and the active promotion of differences. The Alsea stories taken together involve three phases: the first, in which Mo’luptsini’sla calls the peoples together to play games and enjoy each other’s company; the second, in which Mo’luptsini’sla gives names and


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purposes to each people; and the third, in which the people respond to the characteristics of Grizzly Bear by killing him.31 Although not a story of the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Alsea stories nevertheless seem to illustrate the concept of qwaasasa is. The first phase of the story celebrates the coexistence of different others. Atleo writes, “There is implied in qwaasasa is an accord, an agreement, a kind of consensus that reality is characterized by purposeful diversity.”32 The people come together to play competitive games that provide the occasion for purposes that are both shared (the purposes involved in playing the games) and diverse (the individual and group desires to win over others). They also come together to have “a great deal of fun,” to take up their diverse purposes in a not-too-serious way (that can end in a feast rather than a battle). The second phase of the story illustrates the idea of consent—acceptance—or tolerating what one is given. The universal change process is one of making individuals members of kinds that are marked by distinctive characteristics or purposes. Crane, tska’tina, will “habitually wade around for mudcats [freshwater catfish]”; Wolf, qatsi’lie, “will travel all over the mountains”; Black Bear, kusu’tsi, “will only pick berries”;33 and Deer, lahai’t!, will be food for all the people. The people accept their purposes, their place in the community, both as part of sustaining the community and as a means of framing their own activities. Before he begins to try the antlers on the people, Mo’luptsini’sla declares, “I know everything,” and the people reply, “now we know [you]. For that very reason will our hearts be strong once more . . . [You know] everything. . . . No one has ever overcome [you], because ‘Unconquerable’ is [your] name.”34 For the Nuu-chah-nulth, Atleo observes, “it was unthinkable to question the cosmological order . . . reality is always purposeful.”35 Mo’luptsini’sla, in the Alsea story, represents this distinctive kind of determinism for the people. Their kinds are determined, but their individual lives are not—people still have the ability to act as they see fit, constrained by the limits and possibilities of their kind. “Consequently,” Atleo concludes, “if it is remembered that the phrase ‘each individual’ refers to all forms of life, to everything that is self-organizing, whether human, plant, or animal, then qwaasasa is may be seen to apply universally.”36 Individuals, as “human, plant, or animal,” self-organize; that is, they organize their lives within the constraints of the kinds established, in this case, by Mo’luptsini’sla. The third phase of the Alsea story illustrates the condition of reasonable limits proposed by Atleo. Grizzly Bear lives apart from the other people, and rather than welcoming the passersby, he kills them. While the people may grant that Grizzly Bear’s characteristics are given like everyone else’s by Mo’luptsini’sla and as such are presumed acceptable, they nevertheless decide collectively that Grizzly Bear is not acceptable and take action. The story illustrates the continuity of toleration as forbearance and tolerance as

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an active commitment to a diverse community. What toleration means is not finally guided by what is given in the definition or the cosmology, but rather it is guided by the collective and ongoing decision-making of a community, the process of “careful seeking,” ?uusumc, described by Atleo. There are two points to note about this phase of the story. First, if this is toleration in an indigenous sense, then it is clear that it is also a contradictory idea because it at once accepts the characteristics of different others, recognizing them as potentially purposive in ways we may not understand, and finds some characteristics whose purpose we may not understand unacceptable. Second, it is important to read the stories offered by the Alsea (or rather by William Smith, Alsea George, and Louisa Smith) as stories told at a particular time in a particular place. While the stories were probably told as stories within the community (at the proper time of year, by the proper people), these versions of the story were offered at the border, at the intersection of Native and white people and in the wake of removal and genocide. In 1859, the Coos and Lower Umpqua peoples were forced north from their lands on the coast and into the heart of Alsea territory on the Yachats Prairie where a reservation subagency was established. Seventeen years later, without consulting the leaders of any of the tribes then confined in Yachats, the United States government opened the area to white settlement and moved the people still further north, this time to a place in the heart of the traditional lands of the Tillamook people.37 Thirty-seven years later in 1914, when Leo Frachtenberg asked William Smith to relate some Alsea stories, Smith’s choice of the Mo’luptsini’sla story and the death of Grizzly Bear as stories to tell a white ethnographer was probably more than accidental. Just as the Penobscot stories of the Ki.wá`kwe are a way of understanding and responding to the arrival of Europeans in their lands, telling the stories of Mo’luptsini’sla and of Grizzly Bear about the model and limits of toleration can be seen as part of a conscious resistance to the assault on indigenous coastal peoples and their lands. The story of Grizzly Bear, in particular, turns on the practice of welcome. It begins by making the evil other comfortable, believing that he was adored despite his bad behavior. When, as he slept, his hosts began the slow process of burning him to death from the inside, the practices of welcome were revealed to be a trap: toleration becomes in-toleration as a form of resistance. One might object that the notion of toleration or qwaasasa is as represented in the stories I have presented is not toleration at all—at least as it is understood in the Western liberal tradition. Toleration in this Western sense involves ongoing acts of deliberate noninterference or forbearance. As a result, toleration involves both a recognition of and objection to the beliefs or actions of others and a decision not to interfere with them. If this is toleration, then it seems easy to show that none of the indigenous stories presented are


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instances of toleration because in each case the central participants recognize but intend to interfere with the others with whom they are engaged. The story of the Ki.wá`kwe, for example, presents agents in a context of difference, perhaps operating in a principled way; but the only refraining that occurs is done by the Ki.wá`kwe himself as he refrains from eating his hosts. His hosts, on the contrary, knowing that eating human food will convert the cannibal into an ordinary human person, appear actively to intend to interfere with the Ki.wá`kwe way of life and ultimately succeed when the cannibal becomes “an ordinary man again.” Welcoming the stranger, at least under assumptions operative here, seems to be a practice intended to interfere with the interests of others in order to realize the interests of the agent allegedly pursuing toleration. The Susquehanna appear to fail in the opposite direction. They listen to the missionary’s stories and accept them but do not apparently refrain from anything. They seem to have no interest at all in trying to change the missionary’s views; they only ask that the missionary practice a similar form of receptivity. The Susquehanna’s actions include the recognition of (indeed the belief in) the missionary’s stories, but they also neither object to those stories nor interfere with belief in them. The missionary, for his part, is intolerant on any account. The third story seems to fail as toleration in at least its third phase (killing Grizzly Bear), but it may also fail in its second phase. The first phase, where different others gather to play games and feast, may be a case of toleration (though in some ways the issues at work in toleration are not centrally important to this part of the story). The second phase may fail as a story of toleration in the Western liberal sense because the individuals who are named by Mo’luptsini’sla have no choice in the names and purposes they are given. Mo’luptsini’sla does not ask what the people would prefer or whether they like his selections on their behalf. The people simply accept their circumstances, while Mo’luptsini’sla himself does not refrain from deciding who shall be what. If Mo’luptsini’sla can be described as objecting to the people (at least in the way they wear antlers), then he cannot be described as showing any acceptance despite his objections. The third phase is clearly not a case of toleration and may simply be a case of intolerance. Grizzly Bear’s behavior is problematic, but the community’s decision to kill him as a response obviously prevents him from acting on his own behalf either to change his behavior or to continue it. The fact that the community used the practices of welcome as a means to lure Grizzly Bear to his death likewise signals that wunnégin itself is not a reliable element of toleration since it can be used to carry out acts of intolerance. In short, the indigenous examples may not even contribute to the discussion of toleration because, at least from the Western perspective, they are not examples of the issue at hand.

The Metaphysics of Toleration in American Indian Philosophy


EVERYDAY TOLERATION Even if the stories do not register as deliberate noninterference in the Western sense, they do count as toleration in an everyday sense, at least as it is recognized by Michael Walzer in On Toleration, where it is understood as acts of forbearance that foster the coexistence of difference. If these indigenous examples count as toleration in this sense, they lead to three further observations. First, toleration is a metaphysical issue. Second, if it is a metaphysical issue, then toleration as it has developed in the Western philosophical tradition and within liberalism in particular may not, in fact, be a viable model for toleration on its own account. Third, an indigenous conception of toleration such as qwaasasa is, beginning from a different ontology, provides a better model for fostering this everyday toleration. Michael Walzer writes, “My subject is toleration—or, perhaps better, the peaceful coexistence of groups of people with different histories, cultures, and identities, which is what toleration makes possible.” He continues, “Peaceful coexistence, however, can take very different political forms, with different implications for everyday moral life—that is, for the actual interactions and mutual involvements of individual men and women.”38 For Walzer, toleration is a social practice, one in which toleration “legitimates previously repressed or invisible groups and so enables them to compete for available resources.”39 The presence of these diverse groups, each with its own history and interests, will itself provide the ground for toleration. Encounters with different others, especially critical engagement, will promote coexistence that will be further enhanced by what he calls “hyphenated citizens.” These individuals, he says, are “men and women who will defend toleration within their different communities while still valuing and reproducing (and rethinking and revising) the differences.” In the United States, such “citizens” are called “Irish-Americans,” “Italian-Americans,” and “African-American” (though this last term marks something dramatically different from the immigrant experience usually associated with “hyphenation”). As part of what toleration means in an everyday sense, these individuals carry out a political function, promoting democracy and blocking efforts to homogenize the community or state. While Walzer recognizes these identities as “fragmented identities with each individual negotiating the hyphen,”40 he does not recognize the ontological issues at stake when one finds oneself occupying different or even opposed identities, and so he also fails to take up the ontological ground of liberal toleration. John McCumber addresses the omission. Toleration (in the Western sense), McCumber observes, is a kind of ideal seeking to overcome its opposite, intolerance:41 but, paradoxically, toleration is destined never to be achieved because intolerance is a “fact of nature”;42 that is, it is ontologically necessary. “If to be


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is somehow to be intolerant (or to be untolerated), then we can never escape intolerance, no matter how hard we try.”43 McCumber’s claim is that “Intolerance . . . is not accidental to the Western tradition, but inheres in it—philosophically—almost from the beginning,” a product of Aristotle’s founding metaphysics and “evident in [his] account of his own key ontological concept, that of substance, Oʋσɭα.”44 From McCumber’s perspective, toleration—at least as it emerges in philosophy and modern political theory—is first and finally a matter of ontology. Underlying the idea of toleration is the metaphysics of substance: “Most basic [to substance] is the essence or form: a complex but determinate set of predicates denoting a complex but unified activity whose different aspects are always found together in anything of that particular species . . . [Substance] exists ‘according to itself’.”45 McCumber continues: Because the form, or essence, of a thing is to have total disposition over whatever happens within the boundaries of that thing, it is intolerant in a double sense. First, it will not tolerate the disposing activity of other essences within its own boundaries: no alien essences allowed. Second, it will not tolerate even its own matter, except as something passive and indeterminate.46

Logic follows ontology. The rules of substance in Western philosophy are that if a thing is, then it is what it is; nothing can be both what it is and what it is not; and everything must be either one thing or another. These restrictions on being require parallel rules for thought: the principle of identity (a = a is always true), of noncontradiction (a ∧ ¬a is always false), and the excluded middle (a ∨ ¬a is always true). Beginning from this ontological starting point, “citizens” whose identity is “hyphenated” would mark contradictory identities that are prima facie impossible. The ontological problem identified by McCumber has a parallel in the paradox of toleration identified by Susan Mendus.47 Toleration requires that the thing tolerated is something that needs to be tolerated and is not accepted straight away. If it is acceptable, it does not require toleration, only simple acceptance. In order to be a candidate for toleration, a thing must be unacceptable. An act of toleration then must paradoxically accept an unacceptable thing. Mendus quotes D. D. Raphael, To disapprove of something is to judge it to be wrong. Such a judgment does not express a purely subjective preference. It claims universality; it claims to be the view of any rational agent. The context of the judgment, that something is wrong, implies that the something may properly be prevented. But if your disapproval is reasonably grounded, why should you go against it at all? Why should you tolerate?48

Liberal toleration is deliberate noninterference understood against a background of Western philosophical commitments. To tolerate is to affirm

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something as unacceptable or false and then accept it or act on it as if it is true. In this way, toleration violates the principle of noncontradiction in both its ontological form (by supposing that a thing or action is and is not acceptable) and its logical form (by supposing that some claim both is and is not true). If McCumber is right, such a tension is inherent in liberal toleration as a consequence of the metaphysical starting point of the Western philosophical tradition, and so no manner of adjustment will make it more than an impossible ideal. THE METAPHYSICS OF INDIGENOUS TOLERATION The indigenous stories I have identified as illustrating a form of toleration offer a significant alternative, especially in light of McCumber’s argument against the possibility of toleration in the Western liberal tradition. In order to understand the alternative, it appears that we must start from the metaphysical views at least implicit in the indigenous traditions from which the stories come. The stories provide some resources. All three stories reject one or more of the founding principles of Western ontology and logic. The Susquehanna, for example, reject the principle of noncontradiction by finding it unproblematic to believe in contradictory accounts of the world (one in which corn was created as part of a world that was made from nothing by a single all-powerful agent and another where corn was created as part of a world that was not made from nothing but grew on a turtle’s back). The Penobscot story violates the principle of identity by finding that the Ki.wá`kwe has contradictory essences: a grandfather and a cannibal, a giant and an “ordinary man.”49 And the Alsea apparently confuse substance in a host of ways by accepting essences that can be assigned and changed by the likes and dislikes of Mo’luptsini’sla. At the center of Western toleration is a set of principles that ensure an essential fixity to things and persons that is mirrored in how we think about them and how we engage them politically. The three Native traditions, illustrated in a minimal way by the stories I have told, start somewhere else. The Ki.wá`kwe story is framed against a background that accepts a relational ontology as a starting point, a view I have called, drawing on Vine Deloria, Jr.’s work, an “agent ontology.”50 Ki.wá`kwes exist as a particular intersection of relations, often understood as community members who have become disconnected by violating or disrupting the relations of their communities. A relational ontology means that each agent is an ongoing product of the relations that produce her. Deloria argues that persons or agents are the intersection of two factors: power and place. Place, in this case, means the relations a person has with others and with the land, which constitute both the constraints and


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affordances that make the person who she is. Power, for Deloria, is the motive force or purpose that distinguishes one person from another. Place locates a person, while power provides for her own distinctive life, its success and failures, its joys and tragedies. As J. N. B. Hewitt, a Tuscarora Indian and late nineteenth-century ethnographer, argues, each individual (of whatever scale) has a distinctive power or orenda—a voice that distinguishes both a kind and an individual.51 William Jones, a Mesquakie Indian who received a doctorate in anthropology studying with Franz Boas, identified this animating power as Manitou and argued that it was inconsistent with Western conceptions of being because it framed both group membership—making a thing the kind of thing it is—and individuality—that is, making the thing not reducible to its kind.52 In the context of coexistence, however, a relational or agent ontology means that encounters with others (whether a Ki.wá`kwe or other peoples) guarantee that influences (change, interference) will occur. Noninterference in the sense of having no effect on others is impossible. The practice of “noninterference,” in the sense of operating as though one has no effect on others, is actually a form of interference, and so, from this perspective, the central component of liberal toleration (noninterference) is likewise impossible. When the Ki.wá`kwe is welcomed into one’s home, it is with the clear expectation of influence. The Ki.wá`kwe’s acceptance of the invitation marks the recognition that even the most dangerous other is still defined by her relations and is still subject to responding—if only in a small way—to offers of connection. Yet it is important to see that wunnégin (even if it seeks to affect another) is not a rejection of the ways of others. The Ki.wá`kwe’s peculiar tastes are not despised or put on display. They do not lead to the family’s refusal to engage the Ki.wá`kwe in light of his interest in eating the family. Wunnégin opens a space in which what appear to be unbridgeable differences can coexist at least for the moment. The Susquehanna story is given against the same ontological background but with a greater focus on the nature of belief. Relations here are understood as involving at least three dimensions: historical connections, including ancestors, and established habits of life and thought; present circumstances; and futures, including aspirations, plans, resources, and so on. If it is the case that things are their relations, then beliefs are likewise framed by such relations. When the Susquehanna announce that they believed the missionaries just as they believe their own stories, they potentially believe both A and not A.53 But if belief is understood pragmatically as a disposition to act, then, until some particular action is taken, it is easy to see that contradictory beliefs at best mark alternative potential courses of action. Civility, in this case, is the willingness to tolerate alternative potentialities and an ambiguous future. It is possible that the Susquehanna may reach a point where conflicting actions are required by the beliefs that they hold. At this point, a decision will

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be made that cannot be over-determined by beliefs already held. One belief or system of beliefs must, in that moment, be set aside and an action taken. Toleration, in this sense, marks a stage of belief in which alternative courses of action can receive full consideration. In contrast, the missionaries’ outright rejection of alternative beliefs in light of the beliefs already held guarantees an inability to tolerate and the likelihood that their efforts at inquiry will fail because they are unable to embrace the full range of possibilities. The Alsea stories seem to develop against a similar ontological background in which the world is made up of individuals who are at once members of distinctive kinds and unique individuals. Unlike the Aristotelian notion of essences as described by McCumber, such identities are not enclosures; rather, they are intersections of the purposes and activities of the individual, the individual’s kind, and the purposes and activities of those around her. As Atleo observes, “reality is always purposeful”—that is to say, reality is a matter of agency, and agency is a relational concept. In such a world, Atleo says, the ability to recognize relations and, for example, to ask for help “strengthens any family or community, and it is also necessary to personal growth and to developing a measure of independence.”54 At the same time, “being branded as unkind, antisocial, or disconnected, like being branded greedy and ungenerous, is synonymous with being suicidal.”55 Agent ontology implies the centrality of purpose that defines both kinds and individuals. Compared with Western ontological and logical principles, the changing character of a relational being means that a thing may be, in its transitions, both itself and not itself and, as such, neither itself nor not-itself. As a result of this character of being, it is possible that claims about the world may be both true and false and neither true nor false at a given moment. In order to take action in such a world where some claims do not yield a definitive answer, individual judgment must come into play. Rather than a virtue added to one’s social behavior, qwaasasa is defines an aspect of how purposive beings must interact in a way framed by epistemic limitations; purposes are not transparent, and so judgment of other persons—understood as intersections of power and place—is an ongoing and contingent process. From this perspective, ontology necessitates qwaasasa is. The epistemic limits imposed by a relational ontology are addressed by degrees through a process of collective inquiry. Insights of individuals are tested in the context of the larger community and judged against norms, which are implied, again, by the ontology. CONCLUSION Some of the norms that follow from the indigenous world in North America are suggested by the stories we have considered. The practices of welcome,


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regardless of their framing purpose, serve to open a borderland between different others. The outcomes of the encounter are not necessarily determined in advance because an agent ontology creates epistemic gaps that can only be bridged by ongoing collective inquiry. The norms of welcome argue against practices that refuse to engage others. Likewise, the Susquehanna story presents an epistemic version of welcoming. To believe is to adopt a disposition to act given certain circumstances. It is possible to believe both the Adam and Eve story and the story of the origin of corn as framing particular kinds of actions in light of particular purposes. That at some points one cannot act on one without setting aside the other is simply an aspect of relational being, of the relation between possibility (where an agent is defined by courses of action that are not always compatible) and necessity (where an action taken eliminates incompatible alternatives). The civility that the missionaries should have learned is a norm that is implied in the basic ontology of encountering others. Finally, the Alsea stories give a broad picture of a relational world. Actions or dispositions that undercut individual flourishing are to be weighed against actions or dispositions that undercut group flourishing. Connections must be seen as complex interactions where more connections are presumed better than fewer, and actions and characters that undercut connections are to be avoided or prevented, while those that foster more connections are to be sustained and expanded. It is, I would suggest, no accident that Mo’luptsini’sla—Coyote—insists that the forthcoming gathering of all the people will be fun. It is in rich engagement with others that relational being is most dynamic. That such engagement is fun teaches that such engagement is a good, one that requires the participation of others, which requires goodwill among them and even requires games and feasting. The norms of gathering and the transformations that come with it also make a case for qwaasasa is, the principle of consent. That relational beings are in many ways bound without choice to their places in the world seems to be a matter of course. To define someone by the relations in which they stand means that for a person to act as themselves, they must do so from the place that makes them who they are. The universal change wrought by Mo’luptsini’sla illustrates both the potential for such determinism in giving individuals a meaningful starting point and the constraints that such a world requires. Elk and Deer may well have preferred not to be called Food, but their place is nevertheless part of what sustains the wider community, and it will be from that place that an individual elk or deer will flourish. The last phase of the Alsea story is important because it marks the ability of a community to enforce its norms. This is no guarantee that the norms enforced at a given time are the right ones for all time, but it does mean that given the epistemic limits of relational beings, communities can take

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considered action in ways that do not lead to the liberal paradox of toleration. In this sense—perhaps in an obvious sense, given the relational starting point—toleration and intolerance coexist in the Alsea world. Peaceful coexistence is a norm because it provides for the flourishing of different others. But conflict also stands as a norm at times because resistance to actions and purposes that undermine the community is also necessary. That the Alsea storytellers told the white ethnographers the tale of killing Grizzly Bear, intentionally or not, implies (for those who will listen) a case against the settlement of the Oregon coast, at least in the way that it happened, and leaves those of us who have been a part of this destruction to ask ourselves what we shall do about it. Acts of toleration, informed by the traditions of the place, provide a workable framework in which to take up these questions and to seek answers together.

NOTES 1. Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 2. 2. In the Micmac and Passamaquoddy traditions, also Algonquin peoples, “maneaters” are called “Cheenoo” or “Djenu.” See Charles G. Leland, The Algonquin Legends of New England (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1884), 233; Wilson D. Wallis and Ruth Sawtell Wallis, The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955), 343. Among the Cree and Ojibwa people, such beings are called “windigo.” See Morton I. Teicher, “Windigo Psychosis: A Study of a Relationship between Belief and Behaviour among the Indians of Northeastern Canada,” in Proceedings of the 1960 Annual Spring Meeting of the American Ethnological Society, ed. Verne Ray (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960), v–129 at 2. 3. Frank Speck, “Penobscot Tales and Religious Beliefs,” The Journal of American Folklore 48 (1935): 1–107 at 14. 4. Scott L. Pratt, Native Pragmatism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), 101–6. 5. As a central principle in Northeastern Native cultures, wunnégin may also have framed the initial meeting of indigenous Americans and European settlers. Where the Europeans thought that they were being warmly welcomed in light of their awesome power by the Native peoples, they may have actually been welcomed because they were recognized as foul-smelling, pale-skinned cannibals. 6. Charles Eastman, Light on the Indian World: The Essential Writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), ed. Michael O. Fitzgerald (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2002), 30. The story has an interesting provenance that helps to suggest a broader understanding of toleration. It was originally published by Benjamin Franklin, in an essay titled “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America,” who heard the story from Conrad Weiser, a German immigrant who served as an interpreter for the colony of Pennsylvania. Weiser claimed that he had witnessed the encounter between the missionaries and a group of Susquehanna Indians. The story was used again by Vine Deloria, Jr., Oglala


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Sioux, and is credited to Eastman in God is Red, rev. ed. (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1994), 85–86. Thomas Norton-Smith, a Shawnee philosopher, also used the story, in this case to illustrate the difference between Western and Native conceptions of truth. See The Dance of Person and Place: One Interpretation of American Indian Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), 65. The story is also used by Sidner Larson and Gros Ventre and attributed to Eastman in their Captured in the Middle: Tradition and Experience in Contemporary Native American Writing (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), 63. The use of the story by Franklin and by Native philosophers such as Eastman, Deloria, Norton-Smith, and Larson suggest its importance as an illustration of the disposition required for coexistence and the implicit claim that this disposition originates on the side of indigenous people. 7. I choose to illustrate another aspect of toleration with an Alsea story in part to honor the people whose lands were taken by settlers and now support my life, the life of my family, and the University to which I belong. I also select these stories because they illustrate a kind of continuity across the indigenous peoples of North America in both their concept and practice of toleration and their ongoing response to the colonial presence of European-descended peoples on Indian lands. 8. The Alsea language version of the story was titled Nuns lqek’k·isxamsk·, “Elk His Own Story.” See Leo J. Frachtenberg, Alsea Texts and Myths (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1920), 34. 9. Ibid., 56–61. 10. Told by Tom Jackson in 1910 and titled Su’ln ts-qe’k·ik·, “Grizzly His Story,” in Ibid., 60. 11. Ibid., 34–55. 12. Ibid., 56–61. 13. Leo J. Frachtenberg, Lower Umpqua Texts and Notes on the Kusan Dialects (New York: Columbia University Press, 1914), 7–14. 14. Frachtenberg, Alsea Texts, 35. 15. Ibid., 39. 16. Ibid., 41. 17. Ibid., 43. 18. Ibid., 47. 19. Ibid., 55. 20. In another version of this story in Frachtenberg’s Coos Texts (1913), the story involves five grizzly bear brothers. This story is recounted again by Don Whereat, Our History and Culture (Coos Bay, OR: The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw, 2010). Tom Jackson tells another Alsea version of the story in 1910; see Frachtenberg, Alsea Texts, 61–67). 21. Frachtenberg, Lower Umpqua Texts, 15. 22. Ibid., 16. 23. Ibid., 17. 24. Ibid., 23–24. 25. Ibid., 29. 26. E. Richard Atleo, Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011), xii.

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27. Ibid., 93; my emphasis. 28. Ibid., 95. 29. Ibid., 94. 30. Ibid., 52–53. See also E. Richard Atleo, Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004), 84. 31. When Grizzly Bear puts on the antlers, “everybody merely told him that he did not look well [in them] [(because it was feared) that he would become dangerous should he have [antlers too]” (Frachtenberg, Alsea Texts, 57). In this case, Mo’luptsini’sla does not determine Grizzly’s character; Grizzly Bear seems to operate outside the process. 32. Atleo, Tsawalk, 93. 33. Frachtenberg, Alsea Text, 53. 34. Ibid., 41. 35. Atleo, Tsawalk, 94. 36. Ibid., 95. 37. The Alsea subagency at Yachats operated like a prison camp. Indians who had been forcibly removed from their homelands were not permitted to leave the subagency without a pass and were prohibited from utilizing traditional food sources. Hundreds died of starvation and disease. Decades later when the federal government constructed Highway 101 (which runs from Canada to Mexico along the coast), the bodies and associated artifacts were discovered. Some were taken as souvenirs, and most were used as fill for highway construction. See Joanne Kittel and Suzanne Curtis, The Yachats Indians, Origins of the Yachats Name, and the Prison Camp Years, rev. ed. (Siletz, OR: The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Siuslaw, and Lower Umpqua, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, 2010). 38. Walzer, On Toleration, 2. 39. Ibid., 107. 40. Ibid., 44. 41. McCumber actually uses the term “tolerance,” but his use is comparable to the use of the term “toleration” in this volume. 42. John McCumber, “Aristotle and the Metaphysics of Intolerance,” in Philosophy, Religion, and the Question of Tolerance, ed. Mehdi Amin Razavi and David Ambuel (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 16–27 at 16. 43. Ibid., 16. 44. Ibid., 17. 45. Ibid., 19. 46. Ibid., 20. 47. Susan Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1989). 48. Raphael, cited in ibid., 19. 49. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and Mark James Baldwin argued that Native American cultures accepted an ontological principle they called “participation,” in which individuals were taken as changing their essences and so violated the principles of identity, noncontradiction, and excluded middle. They took this as proof that indigenous people were “pre-logical” and that “civilizing” them would require that they reject the


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principle of participation in favor of the western rules of substance and reason. See Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, How Natives Think, trans. Lilian A. Clare (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), and James Mark Baldwin, Thought and Things: A Study of the Development and Meaning of Thought, Or Genetic Logic, vol. 3 (London: S. Sonnenschein; New York: Macmillan, 1911). 50. See Scott L. Pratt, “Persons in Place: The Agent Ontology of Vine Deloria, Jr.,” APA Newsletter on American Indians in Philosophy 6, no. 1 (2008): 4–9. 51. J. N. B. Hewitt, “Orenda and a Definition of Religion,” American Anthropologist 4 (1902): 33–46. 52. William Jones, “The Algonkin Manitou,” Journal of American Folklore 18 (1905): 183–90. 53. The Susquehanna logic can be understood as a paraconsistent logic in which some contradictions are true. 54. Atleo, Tsawalk, 95. 55. Ibid.

Chapter 3

Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration Vicki A. Spencer

In this chapter, I challenge the dominant reading of John Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) that considers it mainly provides a pragmatic defense of toleration understood exclusively in negative terms as noninterference.1 Locke (1632–1704) makes a number of arguments in his Letter, and this standard reading ignores both the positive duty he places on church leaders to cultivate a tolerant disposition among their followers and his epistemological argument that he develops more fully in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in the same year. By reading these two texts together, I show that coercion is improper for two central reasons: 1. it violates our God-given duty to employ our natural faculties of reason, and 2. knowledge is unavailable to us concerning which particular path to God is the correct one. Human fallibility grounds our moral obligation to respect others’ views and to foster friendship and goodwill toward believers of other faiths. Locke’s doctrine of toleration therefore contains a richer conception of tolerance as a social and personal virtue than is captured in the modern concept of toleration defined as a deliberate choice not to interfere in the conduct or belief of others that one disapproves of. The good society is not merely one where we restrain ourselves from interfering in others’ beliefs and practices, either for pragmatic or principled reasons, but where we also actively seek to overcome the desire for hegemony that Locke identifies as the basis of intolerance. THE IRRATIONALITY ARGUMENTS Many scholars have attempted to isolate Locke’s central argument with considerable intellectual focus placed traditionally on the argument that persecution is 41


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irrational because it is ineffective. In the Letter, Locke states that belief is a matter of understanding and not the will, so that human beings cannot change their beliefs upon command no matter how much force is employed against them.2 Critics indicate that this argument fails, however, as it has no purchase on the magistrate’s use of indirect force whereby citizens are forced through threat of penalty to attend church. There might not be any guarantee that they will change their beliefs through such attendance, but at least it provides the opportunity for them to hear the “true religion” and thereby be convinced of their erroneous ways. Although it might be objected that any use of force in such circumstances is more likely to cause resistance, the same cannot be said so easily of censorship. If people have no access to views other than those the magistrate deems legitimate, their opportunity to believe in alternative religions becomes highly limited. Thus, the magistrate could agree with Locke that belief is not a matter of the will and yet still consider the use of the state’s coercive power an effective means to ensure conformity of belief and thereby to save souls.3 Censorship also poses problems for the sincerity argument in the Letter whereby force is considered irrational because it will not produce the right kind of belief for salvation. Locke argues that to feign belief by conforming to outward worship does not relieve the unbeliever of sin but only elicits the additional sins of hypocrisy and contempt. His concern with conscience is dependent on belief being authentically one’s own and autonomous. Anything less “is not to please God, or appease his Wrath, but willingly and knowingly to provoke him, by a manifest Contempt.”4 Thus, even if force might be effective in producing outward conformity, it will not produce the desired end of salvation; God requires sincere belief. Locke believes that the magistrate who uses force errs in the eyes of God and the magistrate’s salvation is therefore jeopardized. However, if the magistrate controls the evidence people have in forming their religious beliefs through the regulation of religious material, they are not forced to practice a religion they do not believe in.5 God might be pleased by beliefs that are free and willing as Susan Mendus argues,6 but it is evident in Locke’s An Essay Concerning the Human Understanding that he does not think God will deny salvation to those souls whose magistrate denied them the capacity to develop their beliefs voluntarily. He is acutely aware that censorship can misdirect the judgment of those who are not provided sufficient evidence to arrive at a belief through the careful weighing of probabilities. It does not, however, follow that their beliefs are insincere.7 Locke recognizes that people in such circumstances may be motivated by a sincere desire for the truth, but their problem in attaining it lies in them being far “from the Liberty and Opportunities of a fair Enquiry.”8 Such people might nonetheless attain salvation, as Locke argues that one can only use one’s natural faculties “to the best of his Power” and seek “sincerely to discover Truth, by those Helps and Abilities he has,” whereas those people whose regimes prevent

Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration


them from possessing sufficient information do not have such abilities.9 Our motives therefore play an important role in Locke’s understanding of salvation, but indirect coercion need not result in our failure to possess the right ones. If we instead focus on what is rational for would-be subjects to agree to in the original social contract as David Wootton suggests, the argument is strengthened. Locke is certain in the Letter that “there is nothing in this World that is of any consideration in comparison with Eternity” and obtaining God’s favor is our “highest Obligation.”10 No one would consider giving up the power to decide such matters for him or herself in the formation of the social contract. Human beings were obliged to enter into society to protect themselves and the fruit of their labor through mutual assistance and joint force, but eternal happiness is not attained by these means. Since no one’s rights are violated by someone holding a different opinion about God, the original contract left to each person the responsibility to take care of his or her own soul.11 The reason that it is not in our interests to allow a magistrate to make decisions over our eternal happiness is not, however, because we might therefore fail to believe in the “true religion.”12 Locke repeatedly emphasizes to would-be persecutors that if magistrates were to possess the legitimate power to impose what they believe is the “true religion,” it would follow that the majority of people in the world would have a false religion imposed upon them. Since their stated objective is to save souls––something they believe is only possible by people belonging to the “true religion”––granting them the legitimate power to force their preferred religion upon their subjects when magistrates evidently believe in a great variety of opinions is self-defeating and illogical. Locke thereby invalidates the persecutors’ argument that the use of force will ensure souls will be saved by leading people to practice the “true religion.” His concession that salvation is nonetheless possible for those impeded in their task of finding the “true religion” by a magistrate’s use of indirect force means, however, that the reason it is against our interests to give up our power to decide our religious affiliation for ourselves lies elsewhere. For Locke, salvation does not depend on the possession of the right religion or a certain kind of belief. If people are sufficiently fortunate to hold the right beliefs and do so sincerely but unquestioningly, that might be insufficient for salvation. He cannot know with certainty, but he wonders in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding whether people who stumble onto the true religion by accident will be excused for their failure to employ their discerning faculties given to them by God. By contrast, he is confident that those people who employ their “discerning faculties” will be saved even if they are mistaken in the religion they choose to follow: This at least is certain, that he must be accountable for whatever Mistakes he runs into: whereas he that makes use of the Light and Faculties GOD has given


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him, and seeks sincerely to discover Truth by those Helps and Abilities he has, may have this satisfaction in doing his Duty as a rational Creature, that, though he should miss Truth, he will not miss the Reward of it.13

Human beings would never have agreed to give up their ability to choose their religion to a magistrate in the original social contract because it would have amounted to a surrender of their ability to employ their rational faculties. That simply is not in their power to do. Locke’s doctrine is grounded in a particular conception of human nature and the use of our natural faculties.14 A magistrate who employs force would sin against God’s intention to create rational creatures, as would individuals who fail to seek the truth through the exercise of their reason. Locke’s argument is embedded within a particular religious framework and his belief in certain necessary preconditions for salvation, but his theory is one of respect for persons as rational creatures. Thus his doctrine of toleration applies not just to Christian sects but also to Muslims, Jews, and pagans in their enjoyment of their civil liberties.15 THE SEPARATION OF THE CHURCH AND STATE It follows from Locke’s decision-making account of the formation of political society that the magistrate has no legitimate power in the realm of spiritual matters. By establishing the boundaries of civil power in the formation of the commonwealth, he provides inherent limits to the magistrate’s authority in principle.16 It is thus, he claims, easie to understand to what end the Legislative Power ought to be directed, and by what Measures regulated; and that is the Temporal Good and outward Prosperity of the Society; which is the sole Reason of Mens entring into Society, and the only thing they seek and aim at in it. And it is also evident what Liberty remains to Men in reference to their eternal Salvation, and that is, that every one should do what he in his Conscience is perswaded to be acceptable to the Almighty, on whose good pleasure and acceptance depends his eternal Happiness.17

The magistrate has no legitimate authority to determine the value of speculative opinions and forms of worship beyond “teaching, instructing, and redressing the Erroneous by Reason” as “becomes any good Man to do.”18 As with the current conception of toleration, rational debate and persuasion are deemed legitimate, but it would be mistaken to see the magistrate’s restraint as a source of moral glory for the tolerator when any interference is considered illegitimate and “impertinent.”19 The purpose of the state is defined in secular terms, with Locke insisting that it is “a Society of Men constituted only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of their own Civil Interests.”20

Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration


For Locke, “the end of a Religious Society” is, by contrast, “the Publick Worship of God, and by means thereof the acquisition of Eternal Life.”21 Unlike many of his tolerationist contemporaries, Locke did not confine the ability to worship publicly to the established church in a state and relegate alternative churches and religions to private worship.22 Since he sought “mutual toleration” between churches, it was necessary for him to establish equality of status between them. To be accorded toleration from the state, however, churches also had to change by reconceptualizing themselves as “free and voluntary” societies that possessed no jurisdiction over civil matters.23 Only the magistrate in Locke’s bounded world has the sword at his or her disposal. As “societies,” religious sects cannot be reduced to single-issue voluntary associations. Nor are they merely an amalgam of atomistic individuals. Their role is inherently social as people enter into fellowship with others for the common purposes of public worship and salvation.24 As Ingrid Creppell has argued, Locke did not develop a simple dichotomy between the public and private realms; instead, he proposed a third realm, with religious societies characterized by the intermingling of the public and private.25 Locke recognized, too, that many people obtain their religion through their upbringing, so membership is not a simple matter of choice by free-floating atomized subjects. The free and voluntary nature of religious societies instead refers to his no-penalty exit stipulation. He insists, contrary to the situation existing in France and England,26 that a person must be able to leave a religion with no threat of fines or any other civil penalty. At the same time, religious societies possess the liberty and power to make their own laws through common consent. They also have the power to eject those who continually offend against their laws. Otherwise, he acknowledges, the society would dissolve.27 They must only refrain from depriving the “excommunicated Person of any of those Civil Goods that he formerly possessed. All those things belong to the Civil Government, and are under the Magistrate’s Protection.”28 The behavior of both majority and minority religions is therefore affected, as neither churches nor private persons can discriminate against a member of another church or religion in his or her “Civil Enjoyments.”29 It is significant, too, that Locke disbars not only violent action; he also stipulates that “care is to be taken that the Sentence of Excommunication, and the Execution thereof, carry with it no rough usage, of Word or Action, whereby the ejected Person may any wise be damnified in Body or Estate.”30 FAITH, KNOWLEDGE, AND HUMAN FALLIBILITY Jeremy Waldron indicates that Locke’s division of the world into separate spheres provides us with a definition of the legitimate roles for both the state


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and religious societies, but not a reason for us to adopt them.31 Although Waldron believes Locke fails in this task, the epistemology Locke develops far more fully in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding provides us with the grounding for this redefinition. For Locke, magistrates, like all people, have access to three forms of knowledge through their natural faculties: intuitive knowledge is the most certain because the difference between two ideas does not rely on another, demonstrative knowledge is the next certain and is gained through reasoning, and sensitive knowledge is the least certain because it arises from our senses. We know of our own existence through intuitive knowledge, and Locke thinks morality and the existence of God belong in the realm of demonstrative knowledge, but most of our knowledge is derived through our senses, which is always imperfect. Certain knowledge, for Locke, is highly limited; we can nonetheless achieve a balance of probabilities based on our judgment until it is subsequently falsified.32 Intuitive, demonstrative, or sensitive knowledge are, however, unavailable to us concerning which path to eternal happiness is the right one. Locke writes in the Letter, There is only one of these which is the true way to Eternal Happiness. But in this great variety of ways that men follow, it is still doubted which is the right one. Now neither the care of the Commonwealth, nor the right of enacting Laws, does discover this way that leads to Heaven more certainly to the Magistrate, than every private mans Search and Study discovers it unto himself . . . Those things that every man ought sincerely to enquire into himself, and by Meditation, Study, Search, and his own Endeavours, attain the Knowledge of, cannot be looked upon as the peculiar Possession of any one sort of Men.33

In the face of such radical uncertainty, Locke thinks no one has a legitimate basis to coerce others to his or her chosen path. No magistrate is in a better position than anyone else to know the true path to God as “Princes indeed are born Superior unto other Men in Power, but in Nature equal.”34 Central to Locke’s argument is this natural equality between people in their discerning faculties. It is important to distinguish Locke’s epistemic humility from radical skepticism. As Alan Levine indicates, if we base toleration on the radical idea that nothing is true, we have no basis on which to restrain the intolerant.35 This is far from Locke’s position, given morality is in the realm of demonstrative knowledge.36 Unlike Thomas Hobbes, whose skepticism leads him to oppose toleration because he equates external displays of religion to a mere matter of public manners,37 Locke does not undervalue the importance of public worship or faith. He believes there is one true path to God and later wrote The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) to persuade others to that path. Locke was a devoted, albeit unorthodox and minimalist, Protestant, and he considered many other perspectives quite “absurd.”38 But his epistemology

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shows he recognizes that his belief is a matter of faith and not knowledge. As he also writes in the Letter, “every one is Orthodox to himself.”39 Truth nevertheless exists, and it is ultimately discoverable on Judgment Day. Yet until that point certainty concerning which path is the right one is not available to any of us. “God,” Locke writes, “is the only Judge in this case, who will retribute unto every one at the last day according to his Deserts; that is, according to his sincerity and uprightness, in endeavouring to promote Piety, and the publick Weal and Peace of Mankind.”40 It might be objected that Locke’s radical subjectivism concerning the true religion means he must still be a skeptic in spiritual matters. But this skeptical conclusion fails to capture either the complexity of Locke’s position or the value of Locke’s case for toleration that stems from his intimate understanding of religious faith. It has become commonplace in recent discussions of Locke’s Letter to question its relevance to current multicultural states due to his Protestant assumptions.41 However, it is precisely due to his religious beliefs that Locke understands the extreme importance of toleration. It does not come from a place of skepticism and doubt over the existence of God. As Mendus maintains, one of the distinctive and valuable aspects of Locke’s argument is precisely that it stems “from within religion itself; it ‘speaks’ to religious believers and aims to show them that as religious believers they should refrain from coercion and extend toleration to others.”42 Faith is not knowledge, but it is not the opposite of reason and thus irrational.43 It is certainly possible for people to hold irrational religious beliefs in defiance of intuitive, demonstrative, or sensitive knowledge. For Locke, propositions of faith ought to be subject to the natural faculties of reason with which God endowed us, as no revelation is clearer or more certain than “the Principles of Reason; And therefore, Nothing that is contrary to, and inconsistent with, the clear and self-evident Dictates of Reason, has a Right to be urged, or assented to, as a Matter of Faith, wherein Reason hath nothing to do.”44 According to divine revelation, we have the ability to assent or not to a proposition of faith, but we ought not to assent if that proposition contradicts our knowledge and reason. In the case of enthusiasts, Locke wanted to retain the ability to say they were wrong not to control their inclinations and subject them to rational deliberation.45 Yet faith is above reason, by which he means that when knowledge is unavailable to us, or we only have uncertain evidence and the contrary remains probable, we ought to assent to the divine revelation in question.46 By classifying faith above reason and not as its irrational opposite, Locke recognizes that reason’s role is far more limited and faith in spiritual matters has a far more legitimate and extensive role than do those who exaggerate the choosing of such beliefs as a rational exercise that can be settled on the basis of knowledge and reason. For Locke, too, faith delivers us with equal


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certainty, as rather than being in “contradistinction to Reason” as it is ordinarily placed, Locke claims it is an “Assent founded on the highest reason,”47 that is, God’s reasoning as found in divine revelation. One such divine revelation is the resurrection of the dead; another is the existence of spirits.48 But while both might appear to the secular mind as contrary to reason with no proof or clear evidence to confirm their truth, Locke accepts both as valid for neither can they be disproved through reason. They are neither able to be verified or falsified. The belief that spirits do not exist thus begins to look like a leap of secular faith, with it failing to constitute in Locke’s terms intuitive, demonstrative, or sensitive knowledge. Tolerance is both an intellectual and moral virtue in Locke’s doctrine. To become tolerant it is insufficient merely to restrain oneself on pragmatic or principled grounds. Locke recognizes it is necessary to cultivate a particular disposition whereby religious believers develop a complex self that accepts different normative commitments in different contexts. As Rainer Forst has recently argued, tolerance does not require a schizophrenic self, but it does require a level of multiplicity and acceptance that different contexts of judgment require different answers.49 The same point applies to Locke’s duty of toleration so he does not challenge the faith believers have in their “true religion.” He only demands that they simultaneously acknowledge it cannot be verified so they accept it is reasonable for others to form different conclusions. This does not mean that they need to doubt their own religious faith or that their beliefs are not subject to rational deliberation, but only that they recognize the limitations to human reason. These limitations also mean that Locke emphasizes human fallibility in the attainment of knowledge. We might assent to a belief for various reasons. Lovers of truth will follow Locke’s preferred method by rationally and carefully weighing up the probabilities, but even then they might hold false beliefs due to insufficient evidence, expediency, or a faulty weighting of the possibilities. Contrary evidence might also be ignored due to prior convictions formed through education and custom, and he acknowledges that many people simply prefer to follow their passions or existing authorities. Although faith belongs in a different category to knowledge, the fact that the road toward knowledge is likewise paved by so many obstacles means human fallibility along with the capacity to reason are, for Locke, fundamental hallmarks of the human condition: in the greatest part of our Concernment, he has afforded us only the twilight, as I may so say, of Probability, suitable, I presume, to that State of Mediocrity and Probationership, he has been pleased to place us in here; wherein to check our over-confidence and presumption, we might by every day’s Experience be made sensible of our short-sightedness and liableness to Error; the Sense whereof

Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration


might be a constant Admonition to us, to spend the days of this our Pilgrimage with Industry and Care, in the search, and following of that way, which might lead us to a State of greater Perfection. It being highly rational to think, even were Revelation silent in the Case, That as Men employ those Talents, God has given them here, they shall accordingly receive their Rewards at the close of the day, when their Sun shall set, and Night shall put an end to their Labours.50

It is apposite that Locke’s only direct reference to toleration in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding is in the index that he included in the second edition, which points to his stipulation that we ought to refrain from immediately treating “others ill, as obstinate and perverse, because they will not renounce their own, and receive our Opinions.” Instead, he advises that it would become all Men to maintain Peace, and the common Offices of Humanity, and Friendship, in the diversity of Opinions, since we cannot reasonably expect that anyone should readily and obsequiously quit his own Opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an Authority, which the Understanding of Man acknowledges not. For however it may often mistake, it can own no other Guide but Reason, nor blindly submit to the Will and Dictates of another.51

Since none of us possess “incontrovertible evidence” for all our views, we have no legitimate basis instantly to disapprove of the person who holds views we consider erroneous. Disagreement and disapproval have a more subtle interaction in Locke’s theory than the direct correlation found in many current definitions of toleration. We should instead “do well to commiserate our mutual Ignorance” and “in this fleeting state of Action and Blindness we are in” be more “careful to inform our selves, than constrain others.”52 In the Letter, too, diversity of opinion is seen to facilitate our deliberative processes: Next, Pray observe how great have always been the Divisions amongst even those who lay so much stress upon the Divine Institution, and continued Succession of a certain Order of Rulers in the Church. Now their very Dissention unavoidably puts us upon a necessity of deliberating, and consequently allows a Liberty of choosing that which upon consideration we prefer.53

The importance of diversity here by no means equates to the kind of celebration of difference many demand today. But nor is it the case, as Waldron claims, that “Locke does not see anything to be gained from the existence of a plurality of views, or anything that might be lost in monolithic unanimity, in these matters.”54 On the contrary, without the religious diversity that has arisen due to our fallibility and the lack of irrefutable proof in many spiritual


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matters, the utilization of the natural faculties of reason that God has endowed us with would be severely curtailed. From Locke’s perspective, the uniformity and intolerance skeptics like Hobbes supported are inimical to rational deliberation and respect for persons as God created them. THE DUTY OF TOLERATION That Locke requires the cultivation of a certain disposition conducive to the development of tolerance as a personal virtue shows that he understood the toleration regimes he had witnessed in the Netherlands and France were far too fragile. In the Netherlands, Catholics could at most practice in private while any Catholic worship was banned in some regions, Quakers were at times still persecuted, and Socinians could not hold their own congregations.55 During his five-year self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, Locke learnt that despite official recognition, his Armenian friends constantly felt the threat of renewed persecution throughout the seventeenth century. In the Letter, he employs a hypothetical example of two churches in Constantinople––the non-established Armenians and the Calvinists, who represented the official religion––when he writes, Will any one say, that either of these Churches has Right to deprive the Members of the other of their Estates and Liberty, (as we see practised elsewhere) because of their differing from it in some Doctrines or Ceremonies; whilst the Turks in the mean while silently stand by, and laugh to see with what inhumane Cruelty Christians thus rage against Christians?56

As was increasingly recognized in Europe during the seventeenth century, Locke knew that the Ottoman Empire had displayed far greater toleration toward non-Muslim religions than Christians had toward other Christians.57 When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes that had provided French Protestants (Huguenots) with the right to public worship, Locke witnessed thousands of refugees flooding into the Netherlands. Richard Dees indicates that the Catholics and the Huguenots in France had seen the toleration enacted with the Edict of Nantes not as a good in itself but as a modus vivendi. Although preferable to war, both sides continued to see their duty as ultimately achieving hegemony over the other. The breakdown of the era of toleration in France showed that a “minimal toleration” consisting of pragmatic forbearance is not a “self-reinforcing virtue” because trust was never nurtured through the creation of common goals or a common identity.58 That Locke’s aim was to develop a deeper conception by developing a doctrine of toleration that all parties recognized is in their interests is evident in his early

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statement, “I esteem that Toleration to be the chief Characteristical Mark of the True Church.”59 This comment has appeared inexplicable to many commentators, given it was “almost universally unacceptable to Christians at the time.”60 Since Locke was acutely aware of this circumstance, his comment is a normative rather than a factual claim, which encapsulates the idea that toleration is the one doctrine with the capacity to unify an otherwise disunited polity by providing diverse Christian sects with a common goal and identity. Locke immediately draws the connection between his true church of toleration and the need to overcome the desire for hegemony by noting desires for uniformity over ceremonial forms of worship are “Marks of Men striving for Power and Empire over one another.”61 The development of a tolerant society, he insists, requires the elimination of the vice of arrogance and the imperious desire to dominate others. He wanted no less than a radical transformation in the conduct of Christian churches and private persons so that “Peace, Equity, and Friendship, are always mutually to be observed by particular Churches, in the same manner as private Persons, without any pretence of Superiority or Jurisdiction over one another.”62 The desire for hegemony that Dees indicates characterized both French Catholics and Protestants must, for Locke, be eliminated to create a tolerant society. He requires not merely the restraint of one’s imperious desires but the development of a personal disposition that entails the relinquishing of any sense of superiority over others so that contempt is never compatible with it. He thereby goes beyond the negative conception of toleration in contemporary theory that is akin to principled forbearance and develops a deeper conception of tolerance as a positive and proactive virtue. Locke’s view that it is necessary to cultivate more than principled restraint is evident at the beginning of the Letter, when he promotes the virtues of charity, meekness, mutual goodwill, and compassion to his Christian readership. The Christian who is “destitute of Charity, Meekness, and Good-will in general towards all Mankind, even to those that are not Christians,” is, he writes, “short of being a true Christian.”63 Invoking the Christian minimalism of the tolerationist arguments in the early 1640s, he stipulates that the Christian life entails “Holiness of Life, Purity of Manners, and Benignity and Meekness of Spirit,” for “If the Gospel and the Apostles may be credited, no Man can be a Christian without Charity, and without that Faith which works, not by Force, but by Love.”64 Toleration is not, then, a poor second-best or the kind of small virtue some argue we need because we often cannot attain the more exalted virtues of respect and love of others.65 Like Aristotle, Locke also understands that no virtue operates in isolation with every virtue requiring support from a range of other virtues to which it is intimately connected. His reference to charity might raise the objection that it is a condescending virtue. However, in juxtaposing charity with cruelty and the desire for power,


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Locke employs it in the early Christian sense to mean gentleness.66 A gentle demeanor, he believes, is essential to the development of tolerance. That Locke’s first argument in the Letter appeals directly to Christian premises has led a number of scholars to dismiss it as having no philosophical interest due to its lack of universality and relevance for non-Christians.67 Christopher Nadon even doubts the sincerity of his Christian argument. At most, he thinks it is a useful rhetorical tool for Locke to highlight the hypocrisy of those Christians who zealously persecute nonconformists in matters of worship when they allow such sins as “Whoredom, Fraud, Malice, and such like enormities.”68 Yet the rhetorical tone of Locke’s opening remarks and the potential advantage in political terms of him appealing to basic Christian values, despite the flagrant disregard of them by most of his contemporaries, should not be underestimated. As his postscript on heresy and schism makes evident, Christians needed to be persuaded that such crimes would not be perpetrated in accepting his doctrine of toleration. He also needed to challenge directly the Augustinian notion of charity held by Catholics and Anglicans alike that justified the use of force in the “charitable” act of saving souls.69 He offers his Christian readership an alternative interpretation that complements, rather than opposes, toleration. One advantage of this argument, then, is that it contests the dominant Christian perspective by appealing to Christians from within their own tradition.70 Locke’s initial identification of such virtues as goodwill, charity, compassion, and love as Christian does not, moreover, disqualify them from possessing wider relevance. They are commonplace in other traditions, and his appeal to them provides the potential to draw commonalities between various traditions even when the language of toleration is not evident. As Anthony G. Wilhelm indicates, Locke is cognizant that non-Christian societies share these values and act in accord with his doctrine of toleration.71 He notes that pagans in America are “strict Observers of the Rules of Equity and the Law of Nature,” and in the hypothetical example he presents of relations between Indigenous peoples and a colonial magistrate, mutual toleration of each other’s religions reigns, with “Peace, Friendship, Faith, and equal Justice” preserved among all the parties. Peaceful relations were only disrupted when the colonial magistrate became desirous of dominion under pretense of religion.72 The values of reciprocity, peace, and friendship that Locke initially presents as Christian values conducive to “mutual toleration” are equally relevant in his view to non-Christian societies. Indeed, Locke shows that it is Christians who are comparatively lacking in toleration. Since his doctrine of toleration is grounded in the universality of human fallibility and the duty all humans possess to utilize their natural faculties of discernment, Locke believes his state–church distinction also has universal value. In his Constantinople example, he states that the role of “the Civil

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Power is the same in every place,” and it cannot “in the Hands of a Christian Prince, confer any greater Authority upon the Church, than in the hands of a Heathen; which is to say, just none at all.”73 He later employs the example of India to argue that if the magistrate is given the power in a Christian country “for the suppression of an Idolatrous Church . . . by the same Rule another Magistrate, in some neighbouring Country, may oppress the Reformed Religion; and, in India, the Christian.”74 The one exception is his concession that in the absolute theocracy of the commonwealth of the Jews “the Subjects of that Government both may, and ought to be kept in strict conformity with that Church, by the Civil Power.”75 He then argues that there is, by contrast, no such thing as a Christian commonwealth under the Law of Christ, which opens the door to justify an absolute theocracy under alternative religious precepts. Yet, even in this circumstance, he indicates that foreigners and “Strangers to the Commonwealth of Israel, were not compell’d by force to observe the Rites of the Mosaical Law.”76 LIMITATIONS TO TOLERATION The magistrate’s duty of toleration toward religious societies is nonetheless contingent and limited. Toleration in its contemporary formulation is likewise limited, although many scholars have argued against Locke’s particular restrictions. In Locke’s doctrine, the state’s granting of toleration is legitimately curtailed in the interests of the good of civil society, and its preservation based on his harm principle. A magistrate is not obliged, for example, to tolerate infant sacrifice, which is “not lawful in the ordinary course of life, nor in any private house.”77 What causes harm is notoriously difficult to determine in practice, so Locke warns the magistrate not to “misuse his Authority, to the oppression of any Church, under pretence of publick Good.”78 The application of authority must therefore be subject to the careful use of evidence to determine the probabilities of harm. National security is paramount, with Locke advising the magistrate not to tolerate religious societies constituted so “that all those who enter into it, do thereby, ipso facto, deliver themselves up to the Protection and Service of another Prince.”79 Although Locke employs the example of loyalty to a Mufti in the Ottoman Empire, it is most often interpreted as a guise for intolerance toward Catholics. Yet, as Waldron argues, there is no textual evidence in the Letter for this interpretation, whilst there is textual evidence to suggest that he extended toleration to Catholics.80 Due to his concern with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, it is reasonable to conclude that he had changed his position on Catholics from his view over 20 years earlier in his unpublished Essay Concerning Toleration (1667). Otherwise, as he later argues in his Third


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Letter for Toleration (1692), if toleration were not extended to Catholics in Anglican-dominated states, Louis XIV could have justified his persecution of the Huguenots.81 Which religions constitute a threat to national security is ultimately an empirical matter based on probabilities that could change due to historical circumstance. Locke extends toleration to Muslims in general and excludes only those who, in addition to their faith in Islam, possess political allegiance to the Mufti in Constantinople.82 This empirical stipulation can also be applied to his exclusion of atheists on the basis of their inability to keep oaths and promises. As an empirical claim, it is subject to subsequent falsification and is not a central feature of Locke’s doctrine. Far more limiting is his point that his doctrine of toleration relates only to religious societies, and toleration cannot therefore be extended to atheists.83 Although this has often been the practice in Western states in cases of conscientious objectors, it is highly disputable in terms of Locke’s own principles of equity, reciprocity, and justice whether moral beliefs based on religion ought to be privileged over secular moral beliefs. Locke also overestimates the ability of his separate spheres to navigate the conflicts of interest that often arise between religious commitments and conceptions of public good.84 His solution of passive disobedience in the case of Melibaeus is far from adequate in public policy terms. Locke argues that Melibaeus could no longer legitimately slaughter a calf in his religious meeting if public interest required the slaughter of all beasts to be suspended for a time.85 Hence all religions are not equal in terms of the effects of laws upon them, as Locke promotes only justificatory neutrality based on intent. Nevertheless, he implies that Melibaeus ought to continue to sacrifice calves while he should accept any punishment for his breech of the law.86 Yet such passive disobedience hardly resolves Melibaeus’s predicament or alleviates the consequence of the slaughter for the public interest, particularly if the situation is ongoing. What is most interesting for my argument, however, is that while Locke divorces politics from religion, the magistrate retains a role in the pursuit of morality and the common good. Locke emphasizes this point in his Third Letter for Toleration,87 but already in his first Letter it is not only the magistrate’s role to refrain from interference; it is also the magistrate’s role to ensure the intolerant are not tolerated. He makes it the duty of all church leaders to promote a tolerant disposition among their members. It is not the magistrate’s role directly to promote a tolerant disposition in his or her subjects. However, if churches fail to fulfill their duty of toleration toward other churches and neglect the cultivation of a tolerant disposition amongst their members, they have no legitimate basis to demand toleration from the state for themselves.88 To achieve mutual toleration, Locke realized that the behavior of all Christian

Human Fallibility and Locke’s Doctrine of Toleration


churches and their individual members, Protestant and Catholic alike, no less than the magistrate, had to transform fundamentally. And without such reciprocity, toleration would be far too fragile to succeed in forging the common identity that characterizes a tolerant society by uniting diverse groups in the pursuit of peace and religious liberty, in which Locke believes they possess an equal interest.

CONCLUSION I have shown in this chapter that the positive duty Locke places on church leaders to promote a tolerant disposition means his theory goes beyond a negative conception of noninterference whether it is justified on pragmatic or principled grounds. Once it is acknowledged that Locke thinks God would not deny salvation to souls whose magistrate denied them access to alternative views, and sincerity is a necessary but insufficient basis for salvation, many of the traditional arguments concerning Locke’s case for a negative conception of toleration are negated. Locke’s argument for the adoption of his doctrine of toleration stems instead from the limited nature of human reason and the God-given duty we possess to employ our discerning faculties. His theory is therefore grounded in a particular belief in the necessary preconditions for salvation. Thus, even if it could be adapted to include atheists, they would hardly find the foundational basis for his duty of toleration convincing. Yet it does not follow that Locke’s theory is irrelevant for modern multicultural societies. Atheists could nonetheless agree with Locke’s views on human fallibility, and they could potentially concede the non-verifiable nature of spiritual issues, just as non-Christians can recognize the values of charity, gentleness, and reciprocity that Locke considers essential for the attainment of tolerance. His most salient and relevant––if often overlooked–– insight, however, is that mere restraint of one’s disapproval is insufficient for a tolerant society; Locke is fully aware that the development of tolerance as both an attitude and a form of behavior that can unify a diverse polity requires a far more proactive relinquishing of the imperious desire to dominate others.

NOTES 1. The classic statement is Jonas Proast’s in his exchange with Locke. See Richard Vernon, The Career of Toleration: John Locke, Jonas Proast, and After (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997). For more recent examples, see Kirstie M. McClure, “Difference, Diversity, and the Limits of Toleration,” Political Theory 18, no. 3 (1990): 361–91; Jeremy Waldron, “Locke: Toleration and the Rationality of


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Persecution,” in Justifying Toleration: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives, ed. Susan Mendus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 61–86 at 76; George Windstrup, “Freedom and Authority: The Ancient Faith of Locke’s ‘Letter on Toleration,’” The Review of Politics 44, no. 2 (1982): 242–65; Richard Tuck, “Scepticism and Toleration in the Seventeenth Century,” in Justifying Toleration: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives, ed. Susan Mendus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 21–35 at 34–35; Maurice Cranston, “John Locke and the Case for Toleration,” in On Toleration, ed. Susan Mendus and David Edwards (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 101–21. Recently more attention has been paid to the religious dimension of Locke’s argument, although the standard understanding of toleration in Locke’s Letter in terms of him arguing solely for institutional noninterference is not challenged. See, for example, Jeremy Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Timothy Stanton, “Locke and the Politics and Theology of Toleration,” Political Studies 54, no. 1 (2006): 84–102; Timothy Stanton, “Authority and Freedom in the Interpretation of Locke’s Political Theory,” Political Theory 39, no. 1 (2011): 6–30. 2. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, trans. William Popple, 2nd ed. (London: Printed for Awnsham Churchill, 1690), 10, 3. Waldron, “Locke,” 61–86; Vernon, The Career of Toleration; John Dunn, The Political Thought of John Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969). 4. Locke, Letter, 43. 5. Paul Bou-Habib, “Locke, Sincerity, and the Rationality of Persecution,” Political Studies 51, no. 4 (2003): 611–26. 6. Susan Mendus, Religious Toleration in an Age of Terrorism (Canberra: Freilich Foundation, 2008), 22–23. 7. David Wootton, introduction to John Locke, Political Writings, ed. David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1993), 7–122 at 99; John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, ed. P. H. Nidditch (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 4.30.4. 8. Locke, Essay, 4.20.4; also see Wootton, introduction, 99. 9. Locke, Essay, 4.17.24. 10. Locke, Letter, 57–58. 11. Ibid., 58. 12. Wootton, introduction, 101. 13. Locke, Essay, 4.17.24. 14. Also see Stanton, “Locke and the Politics and Theology of Toleration,” 94–95. 15. Locke, Letter, 56, 75–76. 16. David McCabe, “John Locke and the Argument against Strict Separation,” The Review of Politics 59, no. 2 (1997): 233–58 at 340. Also see Ian Harris, The Mind of John Locke: A Study of Political Theory in its Intellectual Setting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 112–13. 17. Locke, Letter, 60–61. 18. Ibid., 10. 19. Ibid., 11. It is not, for example, considered a source of moral glory to refrain from murder.

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20. Ibid., 8. 21. Ibid., 17. 22. John Marshall, John Locke, Toleration, and the Early Enlightenment Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 556–57. For the argument that Locke later supported a national church, see McCabe, “John Locke,” 249–50; Cranston, “John Locke,” 112–13. 23. Locke, Letter, 13. Locke employs the term “Society.” 24. Alan P. F. Sell, John Locke and the Eighteenth-Century Divines (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1996), 170–71, 174, 178; Locke, Letter, 38. 25. Ingrid Creppell, “Locke on Toleration: The Transformation of Consent,” Political Theory 24, no. 2 (1996): 200–40. 26. See Perez Zagorin, How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 242–44; Andrew Murphy, Conscience and Community: Revisiting Toleration and Religious Dissent in Early Modern England and America (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), 127–29; Wootton, introduction, 98; James Tully, introduction to John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, ed. James Tully (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1983), 2–3; J. R. Milton and Philip Milton, “General Introduction,” in John Locke, An Essay Concerning Toleration and Other Writings on Law and Politics 1667–1683, ed. J. R. Milton and Philip Milton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006), 73. 27. Locke, Letter, 18–19. 28. Ibid., 19. 29. Ibid., 20. 30. Ibid., 19. 31. Waldron, “Locke,” 63–66. 32. See Locke, Essay, 4.2.1–15, 4.3.1–5, 4.3.18, 4.3.21, 4.15.1–6. 33. Locke, Letter, 31–32. 34. Ibid., 32. 35. Alan Levine, “Introduction: The Prehistory of Toleration and Varieties of Skepticism,” in Early Modern Skepticism and the Origins of Toleration, ed. Alan Levine (Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 1999), 4–5. 36. Locke, Essay, 4.3.18; Nathan Tarcov argues that Locke’s position is zetetic rather than skeptical, in “John Locke and the Foundations of Toleration,” in Early Modern Skepticism, ed. Levine, 179–95 at 182–86. 37. For the argument that skepticism just as easily leads to repression, see Tuck, “Scepticism and Toleration,” 21–35; Murphy, Conscience and Community, 235–39. 38. Locke, Letter, 56; Marshall, John Locke, 671. 39. Locke, Letter, 1. 40. Ibid., 63. 41. Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 34; Jakob De Roover and S. N. Balagangadhara, “John Locke, Christian Liberty, and the Predicament of Liberal Toleration,” Political Theory 36, no. 4 (2008): 523–49. 42. Mendus, Religious Toleration, 26. 43. Locke, Essay, 4.17.24.


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44. Ibid., 4.18.10. 45. J. A. Passmore, “Locke and the Ethics of Belief,” in Locke, ed. Vere Chappell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 279–99 at 297–98. 46. Locke, Essay, 4.18.9. 47. Ibid., 4.16.14. 48. Ibid., 4.11.12, 4.17.23, 4.18.7. 49. Rainer Forst, “Tolerance as a Virtue of Justice,” Philosophical Explorations: An International Journal for the Philosophy of Mind and Action 4, no. 3 (2007): 193–205 at 198–200. 50. Locke, Essay, 4.14.2. 51. Ibid., 4.16.4. 52. Ibid. 53. Locke, Letter, 15. 54. Waldron, “Locke,” 76. Also see Susan Mendus, “Locke: Toleration, Morality, and Rationality,” in John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration in Focus, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Routledge, 1991), 150. 55. Marshall, John Locke, 170–75. 56. Locke, Letter, 21. 57. Marshall indicates that Locke had read Pierre Jurieu’s History of Calvinism (1683) that showed the greater toleration of “Mahometans” (John Locke, 549); also see Vicki A. Spencer, “Viewing Islam through Enlightenment Eyes,” in Western Political Thought in Dialogue with Asia, ed. Takashi Shogimen and Cary Nederman (Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 2008), 109–34 at 112–21. 58. Richard Dees, “Establishing Toleration,” Political Theory 27, no. 5 (1999): 667–93 at 667–75, 689. 59. Locke, Letter, 1. By contrast, Murphy argues that early supporters of toleration, including Locke, saw toleration only as a modus vivendi; see Conscience and Community, 4, 150, 239. 60. Sanford Kessler, “John Locke’s Legacy of Religious Freedom,” Polity 17, no. 3 (1985): 484–503 at 489. 61. Locke, Letter, 1. 62. Ibid., 21; my emphasis. 63. Ibid., 2; my emphasis. 64. Ibid., 2, 3. 65. André Comte-Spoonville, A Short Treatise on the Great Virtues (London: William Heinemann, 2002), 171–72. 66. Marshall, John Locke, 654–57. 67. Waldron, “Locke,” 63. Also see McCabe, “John Locke,” 237. 68. Locke, Letter, 3; Christopher Nadon, “Absolutism and the Separation of Church and State in Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration,” Perspectives on Political Science 35, no. 2 (2006): 94–102 at 96. 69. Marshall, John Locke, 654–57. 70. Tarvoc, “John Locke,” 182.

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71. Anthony G. Wilhelm, “Good Fences and Good Neighbors: John Locke’s Positive Doctrine of Toleration,” Political Research Quarterly 52, no. 1 (1999): 145–66 at 153. 72. Locke, Letter, 49. 73. Ibid., 23. 74. Ibid., 47–48. 75. Ibid., 52. 76. Ibid., 52–53. 77. Ibid., 45. 78. Ibid., 47 79. Ibid., 66. 80. Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality, 218–23; Locke, Letter, 35, 56, 74. 81. Waldron, God, Locke, and Equality, 219; also see Marshall, John Locke, 686–94. 82. Locke, Letter, 67; Waldron, God, Locke, Equality, 221. 83. Locke, Letter, 67. 84. Ibid., 57. 85. Ibid., 45–46. 86. Ibid., 61. 87. Peter Nicholson, “John Locke’s Later Letters on Toleration,” in John Locke, ed. Horton and Mendus, 163–87 at 181. 88. Locke, Letter, 67.

Chapter 4

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration Ken Tsutsumibayashi

Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) and Benjamin Constant (1767–1830) may not seem the most obvious bedfellows. Not only did they belong to different eras, but they were separated by the French Revolution. What Bayle called for was toleration under an absolutist regime—that of Louis XIV—where religious freedom was denied both in de jure and de facto terms. Constant, in comparison, lived for most of his adult life in post-Revolutionary France, wherein the rights of man and citizens—including religious freedom—were widely accepted as the norm, though they were by no means unchallenged. So Bayle’s and Constant’s pleas for toleration could not have meant the same thing. Or so it would seem. I argue (with passing reference to John Locke) that there are common features between Bayle and Constant based on a shared premise. By focusing on and comparing their points of contact as well as their points of contrast, I show that it is possible to articulate, not only their distinctive theoretical or philosophical endeavors in defense of toleration, but also their struggle against a longstanding French political culture that can be traced back to the absolutist era and forward to this day, partly embodied even in the notion of laïcité. In pursuing the above aim, I attend to the forms of reasoning assumed by their antagonists, since this will allow us to see why Bayle and Constant argued the way they did and why toleration did not become a mainstream idea in France. What is more, despite this peripheral status, Bayle’s and Constant’s theories of toleration have some features that are quite radical and universalistic. Despite all the differences, they share a common ground in being fiercely individualistic as well as diametrically opposed to certain unitary and absolutist conceptions of religion and morality. These features also shape their ideas about how political power ought to be organized and exercised. 61


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But since Bayle did not develop an elaborate theory of politics, I focus mainly on Constant when dealing with this latter issue. A COMMON FRONT BETWEEN BAYLE AND CONSTANT Bayle, Constant, and Locke all defended the primacy of individual judgment and rejected the idea of coerced belief. But the scope and limits of toleration differed between Locke, on the one hand, and Bayle and Constant, on the other. Locke was no doubt a champion of religious toleration, but he excluded from his scheme atheists. Bayle and Constant, in comparison, advocated “general toleration” and rejected “half-toleration”1 or “limited toleration,”2 thereby tolerating believers of all faiths, even nonbelievers (though not without some reservations). However, the dividing lines between these three thinkers can also be drawn differently. Locke famously advocated the right of resistance, even the right of revolution, when government exercised power beyond its legitimate bounds. Constant took a similar stance. But Bayle rejected any form of resistance that resorted to physical force—a stark contrast to Pierre Jurieu, a Huguenot (French Protestant) theologian also living in Holland during the same period, who called for positive resistance, if possible to overthrow the Bourbon monarchy by force. Despite these crossovers, however, if we focus not simply on what Bayle and Constant argued for but also on what they argued against—the specific discourses that served to justify persecution—we begin to see how Bayle and Constant formed a common front against a logic of intolerance that was to become prevalent in France before and after the French Revolution. Let us then first outline the broad framework and later consider in more detail the individual arguments put forward by Bayle and Constant. In seventeenth-century France, religious persecution recommenced from around the 1660s, and as it became increasingly heavy-handed, the Edict of Nantes that had provided Huguenots with the right to worship freely was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. The aim was to reestablish an all-Catholic France in accordance with the traditional precept “une foi, une loi, un roi [one faith, one law, one king].” What is striking, however, is not the extent of violence exercised by the authority to achieve this end (something which is hardly exclusively French) but rather the logic that was employed to justify persecution and how it was combined with an absolutist conception of power. According to this logic, persecution was considered an act of duty toward God, an act of benevolence even, to bring heretics back to true faith—to save the souls of those persecuted. It was considered the king’s duty, as minister of God and defender of true religion, to achieve this, if necessary by force.

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


Now, there is a curious resemblance between this logic and the logic of “coerced freedom” that followed from Rousseau’s theory of the general will. According to Rousseau, the general will is “always upright and always tends to the public advantage.”3 Thus, it followed that “whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free.”4 While this phrase has at times been associated with a sinister totalitarian creed, it certainly was not intended as such by Rousseau. For him, it simply signified a necessary condition for ensuring equal freedom and independence for all citizens, the sine qua non for achieving the common good or the general will. Moreover, it was considered an indispensable means for transforming men into citizens; to allow the general will to prevail over the “particular wills,” just as Bayle’s antagonists––at least, the well-intentioned ones––aimed to convert heretics into true Christians. It ought to be added that neither Rousseau nor the well-intentioned persecutors sought to refute in toto the importance of individual freedom, autonomy, sincerity, and voluntariness in seeking justice or true faith. They simply assumed that coercion as a temporary measure would allow people to come to their senses and restore certain civic or religious virtues that would in turn lead to their voluntary pursuit of truly desirable ends. This is why Rousseau was able to make the claim that a person could be “forced to be free.” Of course, just as Constant argued, such a logic, however well-intentioned, could degenerate into a weapon of tyranny. Indeed, there are countless examples in which this logic has been misused or simply abused to justify religious and political oppression. Bayle, as we shall soon see, criticized those who invoked Saint Augustine’s argument to justify religious persecution. For Constant, not only was Rousseau’s logic flawed, it had the added danger that it could easily be employed to produce the opposite effect of what Rousseau had intended. But returning to the level of justificatory discourse, there still remains a fundamental divide between the well-intentioned defenders of persecution and Rousseau (or rather Rousseauists) on one side and Bayle and Constant on the other. It relates to the question of who decides on matters concerning fundamental beliefs and individual conscience. Both Bayle and Constant argued that even if an individual happens to be mistaken about what is to be believed, this should not be a cause of intolerance. The individual must ultimately decide, and his or her decision must be tolerated, if not respected. Coerced belief simply cannot be admitted since it will undermine sincerity and breed hypocrisy, causing irreparable damage both to faith and to morality. As we shall see in the ensuing discussion, Bayle and Constant defend a radically individualistic stance by resorting to the idea of human fallibility. Bayle stresses “the rights of an erroneous conscience,” and Constant declares, “free


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error is worth more than imposed truth.”5 The empirical will of an individual (as distinct from authorized truth or the general will) must be prioritized, thus admitting general toleration. This radically individualistic stance could, however, incite doubt and fear among those who are first and foremost concerned with peace and order, thereby lending some semblance of plausibility to the call for absolutism and intolerance. To preempt such a response, Bayle and Constant argued quite extensively about how general toleration was compatible with social order, that, if anything, it was intolerance that was prone to cause disorder, even anarchy. Let us consider their arguments in turn. BAYLE Bayle’s approach in defense of toleration can more or less be inferred from the title of his famous treatise A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14.23, “Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full” (1686), published not long after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The argument is philosophical in intent, and it deals mainly with a passage from the Bible that was employed to justify forcible conversion and persecution. Gospel according to Luke contains a passage wherein Jesus recounts a parable of a man who organized a great banquet. When the invited guests failed to turn up, the master of the house became incensed and ordered his servant to “go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” But even after this demand was met, there was still room, so the master further remarked, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in (compelle intrare), that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). Augustine, who was engaged in a fierce controversy with the Donatists,6 later interpreted this passage as a justification for righteous persecution. Ever since, compelle intrare has been the standard justificatory logic for righteous persecution. Bayle’s aim was to refute this Augustinian logic and to argue that Jesus could not have meant what Augustine understood him to have meant—ultimately to confute the discriminatory spirit of orthodoxy itself. It is not possible here to cite the copious texts written by Augustine to justify persecution.7 Nor is it possible to examine in detail Bayle’s elaborate and detailed refutation of Augustinian interpretation. It suffices simply to acknowledge that Bayle tried to avoid a theological debate centered on a literal or historical understanding of the Bible. According to Bayle, any attempt to settle the question of which side had the rightful claim to orthodoxy was bound to fail, resulting in endless strife between the contending parties where each side would dogmatically claim to be the sole defender of the true faith.

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


Bayle instead opted for a philosophical argument, believing it would provide sufficient grounds for justifying general toleration. His approach rested on the notion that reason (“light of reason,” “principle of natural reason,” “natural light”) could enlighten human beings about what is morally right and wrong. Since reason was a God-given faculty, even Scripture must be interpreted in this light: the “literal sense” must be rejected when it contradicted rationally cognizable morality. God could not have allowed such a contradiction. But reason also dictated that, while moral truths could be perceived with certainty, speculative truths could not, at least, not to a comparable degree. This also meant “there’s no possibility of attaining a certain knowledge of the church’s infallibility, either from Scripture, or from natural light, or experience.”8 What is more, only God could see through individual conscience, to grasp whether or not a person’s belief is true and sincere. This observation then leads to Bayle’s defense of “the rights of an erroneous conscience” regarding religious belief. Sincere and voluntary pursuit of religious faith, following the dictate of conscience, is what matters most, and this argument could even imply that “an erroneous conscience gives a right of committing evil.” As he claims, “when error is dressed out in the vestments of livery of truth, we owe it the same respect as we owe to the truth itself.”9 This is no doubt a very radical, individualistic position, one that is prone to invite a host of criticisms from all sides. Bayle anticipates many such criticisms and responds point by point. Let us look at a couple of examples. The first example deals with the likely charge that Bayle’s position is untenable due to its self-defeating logic. Should it not follow from Bayle’s own argument that “everyone who thinks himself obliged in conscience to persecute, shall be obliged . . . to persecute, and sins if he does not”? To this, Bayle responds in the following way: I answer, that the design of this Commentary upon these words, Compel them to come in, being to convince persecutors that Jesus Christ has not enjoined constraint, I don’t destroy my own design, if I show by solid arguments that the literal sense of these words is false, impious, and absurd. If I succeed in this, I have reason to hope that they who examine my argument, may perceive those errors of conscience, which they may be under as to persecution; and therefore my design is just. I don’t deny but they who are actually persuaded that ’tis their duty to extirpate sects, are obliged to follow the motions of their false conscience; and that in not doing so, they are guilty of a disobedience to God, because they persist in not obeying what they believe to be his will. But, 1. It does not follow, that they act without sin, because they act by conscience. 2. This ought not to hinder our crying out loudly against their false maxims, and endeavoring to enlighten their understandings.10

The second example concerns the exercise of power for maintaining peace and order. Even when a man “robs or kills his neighbor, upon a persuasion


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of the lawfulness of these actions,” would the magistrate be prohibited from punishing him? Bayle’s answer is obviously no: because the magistrate is obliged to preserve the society, and punish all those who destroy the foundation of its security, as murderers and robbers do: in this case he is to have no regard to their false consciences. He is not obliged to have any regard for conscience, except in matters which affect not the public welfare; to wit, doctrines as consistent with the liberty and property of the subject, as any other doctrines.11

So while individual conscience must remain sacred and free of coercion, the laws of the state intended for public welfare must always be respected. This distinction allowed Bayle to argue that his radical individualism did not pose any threat to peace and order. He was keen to demonstrate this point in the Philosophical Commentary both to the French authority—so as to convince it of the efficacy of toleration—and to the Huguenot communities outside France that contemplated violent rebellion. It is noteworthy that Bayle’s philosophical argument against persecution was meant to undermine not only the justificatory discourse of the Catholics but also that of the Protestants, many of whom had no qualms about employing the same logic but in reverse—Protestants being the orthodox and Catholics, the heretics. It should be remembered that St. Augustine was admired by all sides, including the Calvinists, and persecution was admitted by many Calvinists, including Calvin himself. Another notable issue concerns the toleration of atheists. Bayle is today renowned for having included atheists in his scheme of general toleration, a trait that is sometimes compared favorably over Locke’s position that excluded them. While there is an element of truth in this, it must be recognized that Bayle’s attitude was not as straightforward as it is sometimes made out to be. In fact, there was constant tension in his argument, and his Philosophical Commentary even gives the impression that Bayle was intolerant of atheists. However, while Locke’s denial of toleration to atheists was principled and uncompromising, Bayle in the Philosophical Commentary seems deliberately to have left some room for an alternative interpretation.12 One should also note that Bayle understood atheists to mean not so much “speculative atheists,” that is, people who flatly denied the existence of God, as those who (while perhaps committed to some form of pantheism or deism) refused to admit the idea of divine Providence and personal God. This was why he saw Spinoza as an atheist, though a virtuous one at that.13 As is well known, Locke in his Letter Concerning Toleration—published in 1689 but probably written around 1685—denounced atheism with the following words:

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, tho but even in thought, dissolves all.14

At first glance, there seems little difference between Locke’s stance on atheism and that of Bayle in the Philosophical Commentary. Preempting the criticism that Bayle’s logic on toleration would license atheists to preach their view, Bayle maintained that atheists did not have “the rights of an erroneous conscience.” Thus, they could hardly be entitled to “declaim against God and Religion, as much as they please.”15 After reiterating how it was within the magistrates’ legitimate entitlement “to punish those who sap or weaken the fundamental laws of the state; and of this number we commonly reckon those who destroy the belief of a Providence, and the fear of divine justice,” he went on to state the following: That an atheist, incapable of being prompted to vend his tenets from any motive of conscience, can never plead that saying of St. Peter, It is better to obey God than man; which we look upon with reason as the barrier which no secular Judge can get over, and as the inviolable asylum of conscience. An atheist, void as he is of this main protection, lies justly exposed to the utmost rigor of the laws; and the moment he vends his notions, after warning once given him, may be justly punished as a mover of sedition; who believing no restraint above human laws, presumes nevertheless to tread them under foot.16

What is striking about this passage is that—and this is where the space for an alternative interpretation opens up—Bayle is only considering exterior action (that is, preaching atheism) and not the atheistic belief itself as warranting punishment. This view differs from Locke, who justifies intolerance on grounds that an atheistic belief itself would cause the destruction of societal bonds. Thus, despite the apparent resemblance between the two thinkers on this issue, one is more concerned with exterior action and the other with interior persuasion, and this difference is of no small importance. For Bayle, the focus on exterior action enabled him elsewhere to pronounce that an atheist could be as virtuous as a Christian—at times, even more virtuous. This Baylean notion of the “virtuous atheist” was formulated in his earlier work Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet (1682), and it was an important notion in his later magnum opus Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697). As he proclaimed in Various Thoughts, “a society of atheists would perform civil and moral action as much as other societies do, provided that it punish crimes severely and that it attach honor and infamy to certain things.”17 There is no mention of virtuous atheists in the Philosophical Commentary and certainly no mention there of the possibility of atheists acting morally.


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However, as suggested above, since Bayle only considered punishment against atheists who engaged in an act of proselytizing, and since magistrates’ authority should only deal with exterior action, it is possible to interpret the logic of Philosophical Commentary as one that would tolerate virtuous atheists, even though justification would come not from “the rights of an erroneous conscience” but rather from some notion of civil tolerance. We should acknowledge also that there is another important notion associated with Bayle’s refusal to tolerate atheists who went about propagating their opinion: “invincible ignorance.” This notion is inextricably linked to Bayle’s idea that a person with an “erroneous conscience” is entitled to the same right as one with a conscience that succeeds in perceiving the truth. For Bayle, human reason, while capable of grasping moral truths, is imperfect and limited in the sense that it cannot clearly articulate speculative or religious truths. Besides, reason’s ability is enhanced or hindered depending on the kind of education received from childhood.18 For example, it is only natural for children brought up with paganism to become pagans bereft of any knowledge of Christianity. But obviously, they cannot be blamed for their ignorance. If what brings about this “invincible ignorance” is education, it is also education that could help overcome it. According to Bayle, those who believe themselves to have acquired the truth have a duty to guide heretics and pagans toward true faith—a duty, as it were, to “compel them to come in.”19 But one must not rely on physical force; one must use education and speech: the power of words. On the one hand, there is the act of speech that allows one to persuade others of the truth that one believes. On the other hand, there is the need for each individual, with the employment of reason to the best of one’s ability, to examine the knowledge acquired through interaction with others. The relentless effort to combine the two enables Bayle’s theory of toleration––based on “the rights of erroneous conscience” and “invincible ignorance”—to function effectively. Given how much Bayle invested in the power of words, it is no wonder that he saw the proselytizing of atheism as no different from other criminal attempts to disrupt peace and order. Although human reason is fallible and people often err, each individual must make every effort to seek the truth—this, according to Bayle, is what God demands of human beings. As long as truth is sought in this way, conscience will always remain a right, a right to be enjoyed equally by all. This manifestly shows, that God proposes the truth to us in such a manner as to lay us under an obligation of examining what it is that’s proposed, and inquiring whether it be the truth or no. From whence we may conclude, that he requires no more of us, than to examine and search after it diligently; and that when we have examined it to the best of our power, he will accept of our assent to the objects which to us appear true, and of our love for them as for a present from heaven.

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


It’s impossible a sincere love for an object, which we receive as a gift from God upon a diligent inquiry, and our esteem for it in consequence of this persuasion, should be evil, even though there should be an error in this persuasion.20

As we shall see, Constant makes a strikingly similar claim. But before moving on to Constant, it is worth reiterating how for Bayle toleration was a positive value, a good in itself. It was neither a necessary evil nor a practical compromise. Toleration and religious diversity signified a path to achieving greater truth and harmony. This belief is passionately and elegantly expressed in the following passage: There is not, say they, a more dangerous pest in any government than multiplicity of religions; as it sets neighbor at variance with his neighbor, father against son, husbands against their wives, and the prince against his subjects. I answer, that this, far from making against me, is truly the strongest argument for toleration . . . Did each party industriously cultivate that toleration which I contend for, there might be the same harmony in a state composed of ten different sects, as there is in a town where the several kinds of tradesmen contribute to each other’s mutual support. All that could naturally proceed from it would be an honest emulation between them which should exceed in piety, in good works, and in spiritual knowledge . . . Now it is manifest, such an emulation as this must be the source of infinite public blessings; and consequently, that toleration is the thing in the world best fitted for retrieving the golden age, and producing a harmonious consort of different voices, and instruments of different tones, as agreeable at least as that of a single voice.21

CONSTANT Like Bayle, Constant defended general toleration. Like Bayle, Constant maintained a radically individualistic stance with regard to the pursuit of truth: each and every individual must be sincere in his or her own belief and must seek to attain the truth voluntarily. There was no room for coerced belief or imposed truth, and, like Bayle, Constant stressed the importance of the spirit of critical examination on the part of the individual, even at the risk of committing errors. Constant’s following words could very well have come from Bayle’s pen: It would be equally right to say that the adoption of an error on our own accord, because it seems true to us, is an operation more favorable to the perfectioning of the mind than the adoption of a truth on the say-so of any government whatever. In the former case, analysis is formative. If this analysis in the


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particular circumstance does not lead us to happy results, we are on the right track even so. Persevering in our scrupulous, independent investigation, we will get there sooner or later. Under the latter supposition we are reduced to a plaything of the government before which we have humbled our own judgment . . . The abnegation of our intelligence will have rendered us wretchedly passive creatures.22

There is, nonetheless, a marked difference between the two thinkers. While Bayle was first and foremost concerned with religious toleration—defending religious diversity and freedom of conscience—Constant was demanding, not only religious freedom, including religious toleration, but also other freedoms, such as freedom of opinion, understood in more secular terms, and political liberty, that is, the right to participate in politics. Given how Constant defined these freedoms in terms of individual rights that must be guaranteed by and, at times, against political authority, one could say that his understanding of freedom was more or less coterminous with today’s notion of basic human rights. As in contemporary liberal democratic theory, the guarantee of these individual rights––or “modern liberty,” to use Constant’s terminology––forms the basis on which to measure the legitimacy of political authority. Hence his claim, “The citizens possess individual rights independently of all social and political authority, and any authority which violates these rights becomes illegitimate.”23 As we shall see in the ensuing discussion, this position demands the limitation of sovereign power, and it is around this notion that Constant’s political theory is constructed. The above difference between Bayle and Constant is hardly surprising given the different historical circumstances in which they found themselves. Constant lived in post-Revolutionary France, and needless to say, by that time, religious toleration had become more or less the norm. Yet Constant continued to address this issue as he thought intolerance persisted under the veil of a Rousseauistic “civil intolerance.” Once again, we should distinguish between Rousseau and the Rousseauists, but since Rousseau was often invoked by the Rousseauists to justify this “new kind of intolerance,” Constant felt it was necessary to criticize Rousseau himself.24 “There is,” he [Rousseau] writes “a purely civil profession of faith, of which it is the privilege of the sovereign to fix the articles, not exactly as dogmas of religion, but as feelings of sociability. If he cannot force anyone to believe in those dogmas, the sovereign can banish from the country whoever does not believe in them. He can banish them not as impious, but as unsociable.” What is the state, then, for it to decide which feelings must be adopted? What good is it to me that the sovereign may not force me to believe, when he punishes me if I fail to do so? What is the advantage of not being punished as impious, if I am to be punished as unsociable?

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


I know of no system of servitude, which has sanctioned more nefarious errors than the eternal metaphysics of the Social Contract. Civil intolerance is as dangerous, more absurd and above all more unjust than religious intolerance. It is as dangerous because it produces the same results under a different pretext. It is more absurd because it is not motivated by conviction. It is more unjust because the evil it causes is not the product of duty but of calculation.25

As already mentioned, Constant was eager to relativize—though not to deny, as we shall soon see—Rousseau’s theory of the general will, since he believed this theory could provide ammunition to the defenders of absolute or unlimited sovereignty. Needless to say, absolute or unlimited sovereignty is incompatible with the idea that modern liberty conceived as a set of individual rights must always be guaranteed. Thus, Constant, in formulating his political theory, tried to explain how it was necessary and possible to limit sovereign power, to guarantee modern liberty, and to maintain peace and order all at the same time. But before we discuss his political theory, let us briefly outline Constant’s idea of religious liberty, which is inextricably linked to his defense of general toleration. Constant’s stance is simple. He demanded complete freedom of worship “without restriction, without privilege, without even forcing individuals, provided they observe the purely legal forms, to declare their preference for a particular form of religion.”26 Hence “authority ought never to proscribe any religion, even when it believes it to be dangerous. Let it punish the guilty actions which a religion leads men to commit not as religious but as criminal acts. Then it will readily succeed in controlling them.”27 Moreover, far from endorsing the typical anti-clericalist claim that religion has historically given rise to harm, violence, and disorder, Constant argued that complete freedom of all forms of worship was favorable to religion as it accorded with justice and order, and had religion always been perfectly free, it would never have been other than an object of respect and love.28 He insisted that much of the suffering and inequity associated with religion arose from sacerdotal intolerance and persecution, not from the inherent nature of religion itself.29 Hence he severely criticized any attempt to use religion as an instrument to sustain social order or to enhance and endorse political authority.30 Any interference by an authority toward religion even when founded on good intentions, he claimed, would cause adverse effects on political authority and social order as well as on intellectual independence and morality.31 It is therefore unsurprising that religious toleration for Constant implied complete freedom of all present and future forms of worship, denying even attempts to institutionalize the principle of toleration in support of existing forms of worship.32 The only institutional arrangement necessary was a clear separation of church and state.


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It is apparent from the above that religious toleration formed a part of religious liberty, which, in turn, constituted an indispensable part of modern liberty. Insofar as Constant’s political theory is first and foremost concerned with guaranteeing modern liberty, it might seem it has a lot in common with contemporary liberalism. While there is an element of truth in this, it is also important to acknowledge—and this is what distinguishes his liberalism from contemporary ones—that Constant considered “religious sentiment” to be a key factor underlying his political as well as his moral schemes. Let us then see how Constant differs from both Bayle and contemporary liberals. Like Bayle, Constant was committed to radical individualism with regard to truth-seeking. Like Bayle, Constant was in favor of religious diversity and hostile toward uniformity and coerced belief. But, unlike Bayle, Constant relied less on reason and on a personal God.33 Bayle argued that reason—a God-given faculty—was a reliable means to perceive moral truths. Hence his philosophical approach. Bayle also justified “the rights of an erroneous conscience”—the rationale for religious toleration—on the basis that reason could not grasp speculative truths and only God could see through individual conscience. Constant, in comparison, maintained that reason could only reveal a certain amount of moral truth relative to the progress of history. Committed to a form of philosophy of history—not untypical for a nineteenth-century thinker—he believed that truth (whether moral, religious, or scientific) was something that became gradually discovered through the endless process of historical development. Given the faculty of reason evolved in conjunction with this process, it could never be perceived as something infallible.34 Constant’s determination to refute that there could be such a thing as infallible reason was further reinforced by his fear that failure to do so might allow public authorities to exercise arbitrary power under the pretext it was acting in accordance with the dictates of a general and supposedly infallible reason.35 None of this, of course, implied a denial or trivialization of the role of reason. On the contrary, Constant claimed that reason was immensely important—indeed indispensable—within its legitimate spheres. But what ought to be stressed is that, for Constant, while reason played an important role, the fundamental driving force of historical, moral, religious, socio-economic, and even scientific progress (all of which were expressed as “perfectibility”) was freedom and religious sentiment. It is also important to note that Constant was neither an optimist nor a determinist. He did not believe that perfectibility would occur automatically. On the contrary, it could only be an outcome of relentless human endeavor. For Constant, freedom—acquired, sustained, and developed through countless struggles and against serious setbacks—is vitally important as it enables religious sentiment as well as reason to produce their benign effects.

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


Now, it is not possible to outline Constant’s theory of historical progress or perfectibility in this chapter, but it is worth noting that he saw religion as historically evolving from fetishism to polytheism to monotheism—though this “natural” process, according to Constant, only occurred in the Occident because Europe had managed to achieve the natural development of freedom and religious sentiment by avoiding total sacerdotal dominance. This, in effect, is the gist of the argument in his voluminous works on religion: De la religion (On Religion, 1834–31) and Du polythéisme romain (On Roman Polytheism, 1833). The interaction between freedom, religious sentiment, and reason enabled this progress, which, in turn, enabled the enrichment of freedom, religious sentiment, and reason. Moreover, he argued that freedom became increasingly individualistic with time, eventually becoming modern liberty with the advent of commercial society in Europe. What is more, Constant claimed that toleration in monotheism was superior to toleration in polytheism. He argued that since polytheism only allowed toleration toward people as bodies of nations and not, as in the case of monotheism, as individuals, true toleration was only possible under monotheism.36 Once again, this argument must be understood against the backdrop of his theory of historical progress, where Christianity and individualism were seen to embody more advanced forms of religion and morality. These views would no doubt seem Eurocentric to contemporary eyes, but it is fair to say that Constant, while consciously averse to modern slavery, colonialism, and racism, was hardly aware of the aspects many liberalminded people today would find problematic in the West-centered notion of a universalist historical progress.37 So let us simply focus on the significance Constant attached to religion and religious sentiment. Given the centrality of religious sentiment in his overall scheme, it is only natural that Constant spoke of the harmful effects of atheism, skepticism, and dogmatic incredulity, although not of doubting, which he believed was compatible with religious sentiment.38 He argued that atheism and skepticism would harm sentiments indispensable to humanity and also deter people from pursuing elevated goals by confining them within the realms of selfinterest, utility, and calculation.39 Although he acknowledged that an era of incredulity sometimes provided opportunities for reform as well as for tackling abuses by allowing people to scrutinize vigorously both political and religious institutions, he affirmed that such benign effects tended to be short-lived and that from a more universal and truly philosophical point of view, incredulity proved inimical to freedom and perfectibility.40 At times, he even claimed that incredulity was conducive to tyranny and despotism.41 Despite these contentions, however, he did not advocate intolerance toward atheists and skeptics since intolerance was considered equally (if not more) harmful to religious sentiment and since it could easily be transformed into


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an instrument of arbitrary rule. In fact, he explained that the reason why the most enlightened, the most morally independent, and the most learned class attacked religion was because religion had been distorted by religious intolerance and the authority’s attempts to use it for its own benefit.42 In such instances, as when attacks against religion originated from attempts to resist tyranny conducted in the name of religion, he even thought religious sentiment reproduced itself under another name in the midst of atheism.43 He also added that it was impossible for most people to sustain dogmatic incredulity over a long period of time; after experiencing the emptiness, loneliness, and fear which followed the victory of skepticism, people tended, sooner or later, to return to the search for religion.44 Let us finally turn to Constant’s political theory, since this is where he develops his argument about how it is possible to guarantee modern liberty, including religious liberty and religious toleration, under modern conditions. Once again, it is useful to begin by focusing on Constant’s criticism of Rousseau. I have already mentioned Rousseau’s idea of coerced freedom and how it was integral to his theory of the general will. We have also seen how Constant criticized Rousseau’s idea of civil intolerance (or civil religion). However, some may argue that such a criticism simply misses the point. For Rousseau, “the Sovereign, merely by virtue of what it is, is always what it should be.”45 So if the general will is realized, then, by virtue of its existence, toleration simply becomes redundant. This, one could say, is the rationalist approach to politics, and under this scheme toleration becomes not only unnecessary but also demeaning, for it assumes an asymmetrical power relationship in which the strong condescendingly tolerate the weak. True freedom and justice can only be realized under the condition of equal respect and equal status. This logic or attitude is shared by many in France, and it arguably underlies the French ideas of freedom, republicanism, and laïcité. Returning to Constant, he was certainly cognizant of this rationalist argument and understood Rousseau’s intentions were well-meaning.46 Constant’s criticism of Rousseau was, therefore, largely confined to the latter’s failure to define clearly “what he felt so passionately,” which consequently provided the “supporters of despotism” with ample but specious theoretical ammunition.47 So, where did Rousseau go wrong in Constant’s view? The most problematic point for Constant was that Rousseau’s theory of the general will led to the justification of unlimited sovereignty. Constant was, however, cautious in his criticism since he had no intention of refuting the notion of the general will itself. His point of contention was rather Rousseau’s reasoning which followed from the principle of the general will, and this led him to defend Rousseau’s first principle whilst rejecting the second.48 Rousseau’s first principle (according to Constant) stated that “any authority

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


which governs a nation must come from the general will.”49 This principle was incontestable: “there are only two sorts of power in the world: one, illegitimate, is force; the other, legitimate, is the general will.”50 In contrast, the second principle, which required the total alienation of the rights of all individuals to the community, was wholly unacceptable. As Constant warned, this principle led almost unavoidably to the idea that “the general will must exercise unlimited authority over individual existence,”51 henceforth paving the way for the most oppressive form of arbitrary rule. In particular, he challenged Rousseau’s claim that “each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself to nobody; and as there is no associate over which he does not acquire the same rights as he yields others over himself, he gains an equivalent for everything he loses, and an increase of force for the preservation of what he has.”52 Constant contended, Rousseau forgets that all those preserving attributes which he confers on the abstract being he calls the sovereign, derive from the fact that it is formed by all individuals without exception. But as soon as the sovereign must make use of the power which he possesses, or in other words, as soon as it is necessary to proceed to the practical organization of authority, as the sovereign cannot exercise it himself, he must delegate it, and all those attributes disappear. . . . Hence it follows that, by giving ourselves entirely, we do not enter a condition equal for all, because some derive exclusive advantage from the sacrifice of the rest.53

Given the above, it is perhaps unsurprising why Constant, like Locke, admitted the right of resistance and revolution when unlimited sovereignty transformed into an instrument of tyranny. Moreover, like Locke and Montesquieu, Constant formulated an elaborate constitutional theory based on the separation of powers. It should be noted that Constant, by resorting to the Humean idea that power essentially derived from the opinion of the people, attempted to demonstrate that limited constitutional government was bound to be more stable and effective, in securing both power for the government and liberty for the citizens. CONCLUSION If toleration is defined as principled noninterference, this was indeed what Bayle was demanding from the absolutist regime of Louis XIV. At the time, toleration was denied both in de jure and de facto terms, so Bayle’s task was to demonstrate philosophically—based on the notions of “erroneous conscience” and “invincible ignorance”—how it was just and efficacious to admit both the principle and practice of toleration. In so doing, he did not denounce the existing form of government, nor did he advocate violent


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resistance. While universalistic in scope, his was in effect an appeal to the strong and the many to tolerate the weak and the few. After the French Revolution, freedom of conscience and religious toleration had become widely accepted norms. For those who subscribed to the Rousseauistic notion of the general will, religious toleration had ceased to be an issue. If anything, the idea of toleration was considered redundant, even demeaning. The question was no longer one of tolerating the minorities but one of treating all citizens as equals. This was eventually to become the predominant view in French political discourse, but as we have seen, Constant continued to address the issue of toleration in the post-Revolutionary period. He perceived that de facto intolerance could subsist under the veil of de jure toleration. The general will could easily degenerate into a means of oppression and persecution. It was thus that Constant, like Bayle, maintained a radically individualistic stance and insisted on the notion that “free error is worth more than forced truth.” NOTES 1. Pierre Bayle, A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14:23, “Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full,” ed. John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005), 211–19. 2. Benjamin Constant, “Principles of Politics Applicable to All Representative Governments” [1815], in Political Writings, ed. Biancamaria Fontana (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 169–305 at 284–88. 3. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right, in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans. and ed. G. D. H. Cole (London: Everyman’s Library, 1973), 179–309 at 203. 4. Ibid., 195. 5. Benjamin Constant, Deux chapitres inédits de l’esprit des religions (1803– 1804), ed. Patrice Thompson (Geneva: Droz, 1970), 136. Similar remarks can be found in Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments [1810], trans. Dennis O’Keeffe (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003), 302; Benjamin Constant, Commentaire sur l’ouvrage de Filangieri (Paris: Dufart, 1822), 296–97; Benjamin Constant, “Pensées détachées,” in De la perfectibilité de l’espèce humaine, ed. Pierre Deguise (Lausanne: Éditions l’Age d’Homme, 1967), 97–98. 6. The Donatists were a group of Christians in North Africa that split from the Roman Catholics in the early fourth century. The Donatists’ uncompromising and sometimes violently defended position on the appointment of priests and bishops caused controversy and schism among Christians in North Africa. 7. For a useful summary, see Joseph Lecler, Histoire de la tolérance au siècle de la Réforme, 2 vols (Paris: Aubier, 1954), 1:83–92. 8. Bayle, Philosophical Commentary, 263–64. 9. Ibid., 250.

Pierre Bayle and Benjamin Constant on Toleration


10. Ibid., 242. 11. Ibid. 12. For a different interpretation, see Alex Shulman, “The Twilight of Probability: Locke, Bayle, and the Toleration of Atheism,” The Journal of Religion 89, no. 3 (2009): 328–60. 13. See John Dunn, The Political Thought of John Locke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969) and Kei Numao, “Locke on Atheism,” History of Political Thought 34, no. 2 (2013): 252–72. 14. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, trans. William Popple (1689; University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1998), members/penn_state_collection/psuecs/toleranc.pdf. 15. Bayle, Philosophical Commentary, 242. 16. Ibid., 243. 17. Pierre Bayle, Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet, trans. Robert C. Bartlett (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000), 212. 18. Bayle, Philosophical Commentary, 268. 19. Ibid., 554–59. 20. Ibid., 258. 21. Ibid., 199–200. 22. Constant, Principles of Politics [1810], 302. 23. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 180. 24. Constant, Principles of Politics [1810], 135; “Principles of Politics” [1815], 274–75. 25. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 275. An almost identical passage can be found in Principles of Politics [1810], 136. On related issues, see Constant, Deux chapitres, 134–35; Benjamin Constant, De la religion considérée dans sa source, sa forme et ses développements, 5 vols (Paris: Pichon et Didier, 1824–1831), 1:86–87; Benjamin Constant, Collection complète des ouvrages publiés sur le gouvernement représentatif et la constitution actuelle de la France, formant une espèce de Cours de politique constitutionelle, 4 vols (Paris: Plancher, 1818–1820), 1:328–29. Constant’s position is also clear from the notes he jotted down on his copy of Rousseau’s Social Contract. See Jean Roussel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau en France après la Révolution (Paris: Armand Colin, 1972), 508–9. 26. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 274. 27. Ibid., 287. 28. Ibid., 274–89. 29. Ibid., 286–87. 30. Ibid., 284. 31. Ibid., 281. 32. Ibid., 284–89; Principles of Politics [1810], 144–46, 457–58. 33. Constant does not give a precise definition of religious sentiment. In fact, he stressed the impossibility of offering such a definition owing to its vague and mysterious nature. However, he does provide some analogies. See Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 279, 283–84; De la religion, 1:xii–xiv, 24 n. 1, 24–25, 59 n. 1, 106–7 n. 1; De la religion, 3:20, 253–54; Deux chapitres, 235–36; Collection, 1:337;


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Benjamin Constant, “Journaux intimes,” in Œuvres, ed. Alfred Roulin (Paris: Pléiade, 1957), 321. 34. For Constant’s idea of reason, see Principles of Politics [1810], 358; Deux chapitres, 138; De la religion, 1:56 n. 35. Constant, Principles of Politics [1810], 298; Deux chapitres, 138. 36. Benjamin Constant, Du polythéisme romain, ed. M. J. Matter, 2 vols (Paris: Béchet ainé, 1833), 2:308–9. 37. For Constant’s critical but moderate stance on modern slavery and colonialism, see Jennifer Pitts, “Constant’s Thought on Slavery and Empire,” in The Cambridge Companion to Constant, ed. Helena Rosenblatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 115–45. 38. Constant, De la religion, 5:172–73; Journaux intimes, 378; Deux chapitres, 137. 39. Constant, De la religion, 1:41–43, 3:19–20, 131–32; Polythéisme romain, 2:103–5, 127–28; “Principles of Politics” [1815], 280–81; Constant, Commentaire sur l’ouvrage de Filangieri, 246–47; Benjamin Constant, Mélanges de littérature et de politique (Paris: Pichon et Didier, 1829), 66–67. 40. Constant, Polythéisme romain, 2:89. 41. Ibid., 2:88–90; De la religion, 1:65, 69. 42. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 279–81; De la religion, 1:6, 36–37, 69; Polythéisme romain, 2:90–91. 43. Constant, De la religion, 1:36–37. 44. Constant, De la religion, 5:170–72; Polythéisme romain, 2:129–60. 45. Rousseau, Social Contract, 194. 46. Benjamin Constant, “The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns,” in Political Writings, 307–28 at 318. 47. Benjamin Constant, The Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation and Their Relation to European Civilization, in Political Writings, 43–167 at 106 n. 1. 48. Constant, Principles of Politics [1810], 6–21, 31–35. 49. Ibid., 6. 50. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 175. 51. Constant, Principles of Politics [1810], 8. 52. Rousseau, Social Contract, 192. 53. Constant, “Principles of Politics” [1815], 177–78.

Part II


Chapter 5

The Ottomans and Toleration Karen Barkey

Toleration is a condition of diversity. All kinds of diversity can be considered: diversity of ethnicity, race, and religion, but also diversity of traditions, opinions, political thoughts, and habits. The concern of this chapter, religious and ethnic diversity, existed in most societies of the world for long historical periods. Such diversity has often led to brutality and violence. At other times, diversity has become the basis for different types of arrangements that have promoted peaceful coexistence. A sociological analysis of toleration would need to highlight the conditions under which notions and practices of toleration emerge in a society and polity, the role of different public authorities and social groups, the boundaries that are erected between groups, and the resources to which actors have access. Accordingly, we need to understand who is tolerated, why they are being tolerated, who is doing the tolerating, and the kinds of institutional arrangements employed to ensure this kind of forbearance. In my work, I take a relational approach that underscores the capacity of relations between groups to make for tolerant outcomes. I especially stress the role of public authorities and the relations between authorities and communities of difference. In this chapter, I explore the conditions of toleration in the Ottoman Empire, differentiate it from “tolerance,” and provide examples of a particular form that emerged in an imperial context. DEFINITIONS OF TOLERATION AND THEIR CONTINUING IMPORTANCE TODAY Toleration is a rich and contested subject of study in many of the social sciences and the humanities. The literature on toleration is vast, somewhat unwieldy, and often based on Western-centric assumptions that see toleration 81


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as a European invention, the result of Western intellectual thought. Yet toleration is complex, varied, and its history is vast. All over the world, rulers of ancient empires exercised toleration; it was a strategy available to political elites and it often functioned jointly with persecution, its opposite. In order to debate toleration and its utility in contemporary contexts, we need to understand its historical antecedents. Traditional multiethnic and multireligious empires, such as Ancient India, especially at the time of Ashoka (304–232 BCE), the Mughal Empire, the Ottoman Empire, or the later Habsburg Empire, remain recognized and certainly well-documented historical examples of imperial toleration. In each of these cases, coexistence between populations of different religious and ethnic groupings was made possible by the policies of the particular rulers. This is neither to romanticize the past and its particular form of tolerant coexistence nor to dismiss it as a nondemocratic and hierarchical political context of toleration. Instead my aim is to historicize toleration, to understand its particular underpinnings, to see why it had a “positive function” of maintaining peace and social order, and to dissect particular mechanisms that might be transportable today. I define toleration as more or less an absence of persecution when power relations make violence possible and the acceptance of a plurality of religions but not necessarily their recognition into society as full and welcomed members either as individuals or communities. Toleration can simply mean the acceptance of “difference” and a lack of interest beyond the instrumentality to maintain a coherent polity. Or more broadly, as defined in this volume, toleration is “the virtue of refraining from exercising one’s power to interfere with others’ opinion or action although that deviates from one’s own over something important and although one morally disapproves of it.”1 Toleration therefore implies “not acting” from thoughtful or strategic action that causes restraint. It denotes a choice made by public authorities as well as groups within society to use command and moderation. In many historical examples of diversity on the ground, “tolerant rulers” have acted to preserve the social order. Toleration in this form is exercised by authorities and powerful groups and is embodied in an institutional context. Such pragmatic calculation is still essential to many societies in which diversity and difference are the norm and in which groups strongly claim their groupness as essentialized identities. In such situations, toleration remains a core value of human societies, because it cautions us to use restraint. Unfortunately, contemporary examples strongly demonstrate the continued need for toleration as a core value in the world. We watch the sorrowful refugees flow into Europe through the eastern European nations of Hungary, Croatia, and others, observing the dogged refusal to exercise restraint by the public authorities, the media, and the border officials encountering them. The actions of the many authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are exemplary of this inability to exercise restraint and

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to demonstrate moderation and negotiation instead of violence against their own citizens. Tolerance, which is similarly about the lack of persecution and the acceptance of the plurality of religions, is defined as a more “positive and proactive approach” toward difference. Such an attitude goes a step further and makes arguments about the value of the plurality of religions, presenting a case where every group is portrayed as bringing something different and valuable to the society and polity. In this sense we move beyond just a pragmatic understanding of toleration where the value is to maintain peace without too much thought given to any appreciation of difference. Sudipta Kaviraj argues that this form of toleration––he distinguishes between two forms of toleration––is about accepting the richness of diversity and recognizing that there are many paths to the worship of God.2 It is acceptance at another level that urges and implies respect.3 While the word toleration evokes bearing rather than openly accepting, both of these forms of toleration/tolerance occurred in the history of many different cultures and civilizations. Within a single polity, different rulers either simply accepted or glorified difference depending on their religious and political instincts, even embracing diversity as a source of social capital to be cherished and utilized. It has also been possible for public authorities to pledge the first form of toleration and then shift to a more expansive and appreciative form. I will return to examples of these. Toleration has also coexisted with persecution. As David Nirenberg shows in his path breaking work, toleration and persecution often work hand in hand.4 In many empires, for example, toleration was accorded to some groups while others were persecuted. Therefore, any study of toleration also has to consider its opposite, persecution, or even other policies, such as assimilation, exclusion, etc. Imperial states maintained rule over religious and ethnic diversity through a variety of policies, from the “toleration” of diversity and its incorporation to forced conversion and assimilation. The different outcomes were the result of religious, utilitarian, and strategic thinking with regard to diversity. Strategy might lead state elites to shift their policies: toleration and persecution could happen very close in time and take turns; states may tolerate some groups while persecuting others. Such cases indicate that toleration might be partial and certainly not a condition afforded to all.5 It also demonstrates that toleration in such cases might not be very deep and just strategic, for a particular moment in time. We might therefore want to pay attention to the meaning of toleration in a particular society as well as to the conditions of its emergence and maintenance. The concept of toleration has been critiqued from multiple perspectives. On the one hand, to be tolerant in the contemporary context is seen as missing the essential dimension of according the “other” full acceptance and equality.6


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On the other hand, toleration is seen by others as making it impossible for a full critique of cultural norms and values that might not be “appropriate” in modern liberal contexts. Despite such critiques, the concepts of toleration/tolerance have remained integral to the discussion of diversity today. Toleration is a key concept, a handle on how societies organize their diversity, maintain order, and refrain from violence. In such situations, the accomplishment of not interfering and not imposing by restraining from action is very important. To be tolerant, at any level––the state, the institutional, and the individual––is to think twice about the consequences of one’s actions vis-à-vis the other and as such bears historical responsibility for the long periods of peace between groups. Toleration also remains crucial as it is part of the consequence of relations between people, between groups who encounter one another and learn to live with each other. As such it is constantly relevant in a global world. The historical examples and the past thinking behind toleration still offer some strategies that can be employed to provide groups and individuals with modes of communication, accommodation, and coexistence and ways to change their understanding of difference. Even with limited acceptance, the encounter between groups can be the occasion to develop strategies of mutual respect and mutual recognition. Alfred Stepan’s argument for authoritative public actors to make statements that reject nondemocratic and intolerant doctrines and beliefs in their religion and highlight the more tolerant and respectful aspects of their religion is very useful.7 Historically, we find that accommodation often initially resulted from ambiguous and multivocal declarations on the part of religious actors but then developed further in the encounter between groups. Here religious and “secular” leaders of great repute make the initial moments of encounter open to just toleration or more. Rituals of respect, public acknowledgement of diversity, respect for diversity, and values of pluralism are often antithetical to the deep-rooted difference that is provided by theological discourses. The relationship between toleration and tolerance helps us construct something beyond restricted forms of acceptance into society. Toleration as the action of public authorities, twin-tolerations as the mutual acknowledgement of state and church of each other’s space and rights,8 and tolerance as the widespread accommodation that human beings have engaged in through centuries of coexistence are all necessary ingredients of what we are talking about. Public authorities can set the conditions for a relatively easy copresence and provide the public support for groups to coexist and flourish. Tolerance, in comparison, can be hugely significant to developing good citizens––the actions of public authorities will not be enough if the majority is unwilling to see the copresence of other groups as possible. If we accept that both are necessary and can be brought to advance the cause of interethnic

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and religious peace, then we need to think about how each can be furthered and what limits can be drawn. Furthermore, we also know from historical evidence that people often do not resolve their differences; they come to see their relations in different ways. This is best said by Ingrid Creppell: “Toleration,” she says, “does not come about because people ‘resolve their differences’ but because they come to rebalance those differences through seeing their commitments and beliefs as broader than they did at the beginning of the encounter.”9 As such, the idea that relations are at the core of toleration and tolerance and that relations can be reorganized to produce such outcomes needs to be taken seriously. The Ottoman Empire remains an excellent example of the intricacies of the relational approach to toleration. In its emergence, it was about relations with the Christians who were being conquered; in its institutionalization, toleration was about relations with various communities within the empire. At the end, as the empire moved toward actions of genocide, it is still possible to discuss the changes in the relations between groups, from toleration to new forms of intolerance that emerged in the nineteenth century and continued through the transition to the modern Turkish nation-state. THE EMERGENCE OF OTTOMAN TOLERATION At its height in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the Ottoman Empire linked three continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa, stretching from the southern borders of the Holy Roman Empire through Hungary and the Balkans to Yemen and Eritrea in the south as well as controlling much of North Africa and Western Asia. In this remarkable territorial sweep, the empire included an array of cultures, languages, peoples, climates, and social and political structures. This combination of a vast territory, a diversity of incorporated populations, and longevity makes the Ottoman Empire a perfect case through which to explore the particularities of its compact with diversity. It would be appropriate to understand this compact with the diverse entities under the rule of empire as one of toleration. By the fifteenth century certainly, a pragmatic toleration had been set as one of the policy repertoires of the state authorities, and at particular moments a more expansive form of tolerance emerged, mostly vis-à-vis many non-Muslim groups, Christians, and Jews. Despite the ebbs and flows of such policies, by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many European thinkers were convinced that the Ottomans demonstrated a formula for living with diversity that shamed the emerging nations of Europe. They clearly said so and compared their dealings with difference to those of their “Muslim” rival. These are two of the best known examples.


Karen Barkey

John Locke, in his Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) written in light of the religious struggles that engulfed Europe, made an important relational argument about the separation of church and state. He also used the Ottoman example to highlight the lack of interference on the part of the state as well as competing churches in each other’s business: Let us suppose two churches—the one of Arminians, the other of Calvinists—residing in the city of Constantinople. Will anyone say that either of these churches has right to deprive the members of the other of their estates and liberty (as we see practiced elsewhere), because of their differing from it in some doctrines and ceremonies, whilst the Turks in the meanwhile silently stand by and laugh to see what inhuman cruelty Christians thus rage against Christians?10

A century later Voltaire wrote his Treatise on Toleration (1763) to combat the intolerance of Catholics against Protestants primarily, but he also admired the Turks for their ability to let religious communities live according to their rites and regulations. He therefore urged his countrymen to look around: Let us get out of our grooves and study the rest of the globe. The Sultan governs in peace twenty million people of different religions; two hundred thousand Greeks live in security in Constantinople; the muphti himself nominates and presents to the emperor the Greek patriarch, and they also admit a Latin patriarch. The Sultan nominates Latin bishops for some of the Greek islands, using the following formula: “I command him to go and reside as bishop in the island of Chios, according to their ancient usage and their vain ceremonies.” The empire is full of Jacobites, Nestorians, and Monothelites; it contains Copts, Christians of St. John, Jews and Hindoos. The annals of Turkey do not record any revolt instigated by any of these religions.11

Both texts refer to the Ottoman form of government and the Turk as tolerant. Toleration in the east was contrasted with the “persecuting society” of the medieval West. Especially for the Jews of Islam, historical analyses maintain that they suffered much less persecution than their brethren in medieval and Reformation Europe. A particular narrative of Ottoman Jews, expelled from Spain in the middle of the fifteenth century and invited to the empire by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid who offered them livelihood and protection, gets repeated as proof of such policies of toleration. The contemporary literature on religious and ethnic diversity in the Ottoman Empire has adopted the term “toleration” to refer to the relatively persecution-free centuries of early Ottoman rule.12 The origins of an Ottoman form of toleration can be found in the emergence of the Ottoman state. The Ottoman state, through the sheer dynamism of its historical emergence and the circumstances of its expansion in a particular

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region with its own social organizational dynamics, structured the boundaries that enabled the construction of a tolerant order, where both the state and local actors were keen on maintaining a smooth interreligious exchange. The leaders of the Turkic tribes that moved westward from the small Anatolian principalities understood the importance of a policy of acceptance, forbearance, and coexistence toward the Christian populations they conquered. This policy was called istimalet. We see in the narrative of emergence the significance of a particular kind of religious understanding and toleration as a policy of accommodation, with the precise goal that the conquered populations became incorporated. The Ottoman conquest of the Balkans and the establishment of a new state by the first leader of the Turkic tribes, Osman, needs to be understood as constrained by the limitations of demography, geography, and cultural factors. As the Ottomans conquered the Balkans in the early fourteenth century and established footholds in the peninsula, they were significantly outnumbered by Christians. Under those circumstances, they were pragmatic in their approach to Christians, accommodating to them, providing them with privileges, and essentially trying to gain their acquiescence with a form of toleration that maintained peace and coexistence. Co-opting many Christian warriors into their ranks, they also understood the need for some sort of joint undertaking that brought Christians and Muslims together. The agency and strategy of the Ottoman frontier leaders was clear in their practice of a policy of istimalet; that is, an attempt to make the indigenous population look upon them favorably by offering incentives, promising generosity, and providing concessions, such as permissions to retain lands and resources. Halil Inalcik was the first historian of the Ottoman Empire to flag the importance of what was called istimalet (securing goodwill)—a meeting halfway, a term that was then taken up by Heath Lowry and others to develop further the concept.13 Since then articles and different works have demonstrated the importance of the concept by giving particular examples of the negotiations between Ottomans and Christian leaders that were based on istimalet. This early form of toleration or accommodation worked in political, economic, and cultural spheres. In politics, it meant adjusting to the local leadership and incorporating them into the political system in a way that neutralized their opposition. In economic terms, toleration maintained income sources for the local leadership and the population (often lowering onerous taxes) of the conquered areas, while also developing advantages for the new ruling elite. In cultural terms, toleration meant incorporation of difference without enforcing assimilation, minimizing differences, and highlighting similarities through multivocal pronouncements that brought a relative level of appeasement to subjected populations. It is possible to look at each of these spheres to provide examples of the negotiated nature of arrangements in each.


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Political and economic interests were often interconnected in the extension of privileges to those ruling elites who had been conquered. As Ottomans advanced into Byzantine territory, local power holders were keen to maintain their lands and their privileges. The church, which continued to be powerful–– especially given the demise of key Byzantine state elites––often represented local authorities ready to interact with the advancing Turkic tribes. Elias Kolovos, for example, discusses the particular negotiations between the monks of Mount Athos and the Ottomans to demonstrate the way in which the notion of accommodation worked.14 After the conquest of Salonica in 1430, the monks of Mount Athos were able to secure their properties and their exemption from taxes from Murad II who provided them with a decree that ensured the continuity of their position and privileges. Tom Papademetriou, in his new work on the encounter between the Ottomans and the Greek Orthodox Church in the early centuries of Ottoman rule, shows that the interactions between the Church and the Turkic tribes started long before formal conquests of the territories. His important contribution is to stress how the principle of istimalet worked to allow for the incorporation of churches and monasteries into the Ottoman fiscal administration.15 These younger authors add more examples to the argument that the main concern of the Ottomans was strategic; istimalet was a principle of accommodation to prevent disruption of relations of production and of the flow of resources to the state. Given that, the Ottomans made little of religious differences, opening up a way for Christians to be part of the Ottoman system and to benefit from it. What initially seemed impossible, that the local bishops of the Byzantine territory would remain in the lands conquered by the Ottomans and would make various negotiated arrangements with the local emirs to continue their administrative role, happened more and more frequently: After the fourteenth century in Ottoman controlled territory this was possible largely due to the practice of accommodation (istimalet) that was the first step in incorporating the entity of the church into the state structure. Going beyond the limits of Islamic law, the Ottomans integrated the Church into their administrative system. The nature of the Ottoman conquests meant that the former administrative practices were preserved and absorbed for practical reasons, and thus local populations were subdued more easily.16

Beyond the leadership and the religious authorities, the peasantry and artisans were also treated within the understanding of accommodation. Osman and his companions refused to destroy many of the lands they overtook, ensuring that the population returned and remained comfortable in their original locations. As the example of the town of Yarhisar shows, “All the villagers came back and settled in their places. Their state was better than it had been in the time of the unbelievers. When the word spread of the comfort enjoyed by these unbelievers, people began to come from other places as well.”17 Numerous other reports

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confirm that peasants came back, that they were often better off than when the land was under Byzantine control, that they enjoyed lighter taxation, and that even the leadership understood that their people did not really miss them. That early Ottomans were not boundary conscious and, in fact, had inherited a strong blend of various religious beliefs and understandings made them receptive to more heterodox forms of Islam. Such openness turned out to be crucial to the structure of opportunities present at the time. The Ottomans emerged from an Anatolian context where Christians and Muslims encountered each other in war and in peace as the Byzantines rubbed shoulders with the Seljuks. These interactions were not pointless; they taught people about each other. They forced the two religious groups to know one another at different periods and respect each other’s way of life. Historians such as Keith Hopwood write about the political and cultural exchanges between the Seljuks and the Byzantine empires with examples of emperors who crossed frontiers, and cultural centers such as Konya, renowned for their multifaith characteristics from the eleventh century on. Nevra Necipoglu argues that Byzantine–Seljuk relations were not just relations of warfare but that these two groups hired each other’s soldiers and mercenaries, maintained commercial relations, and married each other freely in sites of coexistence.18 It is then no surprise that Michel Balivet identifies a “Turco-Byzantine crucible” as coming about after the Seljuk invasion into Anatolia and continuing until the takeover of Constantinople in 1453. During this time, many exchanges were carried out, based on profound similarities in religion and mysticism but also in scientific, popular, and literary understandings.19 A porous boundary between Byzantines and Seljuks and later the different post-Seljuk principalities was crossed through spatial arrangements, religious mixes, and familial arrangements. An important example of mixing occurred when many followed the teachings of the dervish leader Bektashi whose tekke (monastery) in the thirteenth century became the refuge for Christian and Muslim worshippers and members of heretical orders both Christian and Islamic, such as Nestorians, Bogomils, and Shii believers. Accordingly, Islamization as it transpired was the result of a heterodox understanding of Islam, an active dervish based proselytism, and the prevalence of IslamoChristian sanctuaries. The two faiths increasingly came to use the same sacred space, the same locales that had been consecrated to the memory of ambiguous religious figures, bringing the faithful closer together. So emboldened were Greek Orthodox theologians that they preached in conquered Ottoman territory and engaged in relations and debates with those of Islamic conviction. The story told about the Greek Orthodox theologian Gregory Palamas, who was captured but then released by the Ottomans and spread the word that when the Turks captured Byzance they would convert to Christianity, is an example of such unorthodox expectations of the time.20


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Beyond this initial cooperation, the local practices at the level of communities also worked to promote coexistence. The actions of the Sufi dervish leaders, who were among the frontrunners of the Balkan colonization, were especially critical to such homegrown experiences. As they moved across the Balkans, they highlighted similarities across the frontiers and brought about a local practice of tolerance between groups. Overtime, Muslim newcomers and Christians became acquainted with each other, shared secular and sacred spaces, innovated their relations, and became sympathetic to each other’s traditions. A practice of state-furthered accommodation and local societal coexistence was formed through these initial centuries of conquest and contact with difference. As Stoyanov writes, “During this advance the dervish orders took a number of Christian churches, saints’ tombs and sanctuaries, thus greatly contributing to the evolving process of Christian-Islamic interaction and syncretism which had already began in Anatolia earlier in the Seldjuk period and was to reach a new scope of development and intensity in the Ottoman Balkans.”21 Under the influence of the dervish leaders, interactions between Christianity and Islam led to the sharing of sanctuaries and traditions, especially by the rural and illiterate populations tucked away from elite influences.22 Over time, the spread of the Islamic legal system also promoted the process of colonization and incorporation by extending a kind of Pax Ottomanica that ensured the security of the people throughout the region. As one of the main institutions of the state, the Islamic court and the kadi (magistrate) spread across the empire, providing an Islamic legal framework for the dissemination of justice. Used by Muslims and Christians alike, the court brought different religious groups together. Svetlana Ivanova and Rositsa Gradeva show the importance of many Muslim orthodox and heterodox religious institutions in the spread of Islam: the vakif (pious foundation) institutions in the colonization of the Balkans, the kadi court, and local Muslim schools and soup kitchens (imarets) all contributed to this swelling of Muslim Ottomans. Many imarets were known to feed Christians and Jews, spreading the goodwill of the Muslims. As Pierre Belon described in his voyage memoirs, Taking into account that there are hardly any hostelries in Turkey let us speak about the great building which İbrahim Paşa erected in Kavala, which the Turks call a Carbasharra [sic. Kervansaray]. He also built a mosque next to the hostel, where all who pass by are lodged and fed. Our group was only three in number, with our horses, and we were given food for three days in succession without paying anything and without any trouble. . . . Nobody, be he Christian, Jew, Muslim or idolater is refused here.23

From the early practice of istimalet to the establishment of Ottoman soup kitchens intent on feeding the poor regardless of their religion or ethnicity, the Ottomans conquered and established themselves in the Balkans through

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mixing conquest with a particular goodwill that was at once pragmatic and benevolent. In the next centuries, they would conquer Constantinople, become an empire, expand to the Islamic lands of the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula, and emphasize their Islamic heritage increasingly more prominently. Yet an emergent understanding of moderation and toleration was to remain and generate further success in state–society relations. We see such toleration in the decrees of the sultans and its appreciation in the expressions of gratitude by various subjects. After the conquest of Istanbul, with the zeal to gain international legitimacy, the Ottomans more self-assuredly described their pluralism as not only a pragmatic choice but a policy of positive inclusion. Mehmed the Conqueror (1451–1481) established the initial set of agreements between communities and the state, agreements that would periodically be renewed, ensuring the safety, autonomy, and protection of the non-Muslim communities in return for an extra tax, the cizye. The sultans continued to be legitimate Muslim rulers, and the empire was seen as a Muslim empire, yet it was understood that there was no need to impose their religion on non-Muslims living in peace in their lands and no need to turn difference into sameness. In this way, it was not that the sultans were neutral about their religion and the religion of empire, but they chose to be protective of other religions. We have examples of such thinking in the edicts and words of sultans. One imperial decree was issued following the conquest of Constantinople in May 1453. It takes the form of a settlement (sulh), which was traditionally concluded following the peaceful submission of a population vanquished in war. In this case, it is in response to the delegation of envoys from Galata, whose identity is somewhat unclear from the text. They might have included representatives of the Genoese merchant community, which was settled in Galata at the time. It is called the Treaty of Galata. In this text Sultan Mehmed II extends privileges to the community for them to continue living “in accordance with their religious customs and fundamentals, in whatever way the ceremonies and fundamentals of their religion have so far been customarily enacted.” Having also ensured that their possessions would remain in their hands, Mehmed II asserted that they will be able to “go about their occupations and travel as they please and that they will be exempted and free [from the extraordinary taxes].” As was the case for Ottomans of non-Muslim origin, they would pay a tax that would be assessed on a yearly basis. And crucial to our notion of toleration, Mehmed II asserted that “their churches shall remain in their hands; they shall worship according to their customs. But they shall not ring gongs or church bells. And I shall not take their churches and turn them into mosques. And they, in turn, shall not erect new churches.” In return for their payment of tax, he further declared that he would “not take a son [from among them] for the janissary corps, and that no infidel shall be


Karen Barkey

converted to Islam without his consent, and that they shall install as their steward, for [looking after] their affairs, whomever they choose from among themselves.”24 On the other hand, Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520–1566) was famous for some of his pronouncements on diversity. For example, when asked whether Jews should be exterminated from his empire since they were usurers, he responded by asking his councilors to observe the vase of multicolored and multishaped flowers, admonishing them that each flower with its own shape and color added to the beauty of the other. He then went on to affirm that “he ruled over many different nations––Turks, Moors, Greeks and others. Each of these nations contributed to the wealth and reputation of his kingdom, and in order to continue this happy situation, he deemed it wise to continue to tolerate those who were already living together under his rule.”25 Such pronouncements insisted on the sultan’s care of his subjects and his expectations that his officials would follow suit and protect all the religious and ethnic diversity of the empire. Non-Muslims appreciated the protection that was bestowed from the highest ranks of Ottoman rule. They came out strongly in favor of the sultan, proclaiming their satisfaction and spreading the news of the favorable conditions for non-Muslims in the Ottoman lands. Isaac Zarfati in 1454 wrote the following: I have heard of the afflictions, more bitter than death, that have befallen our brethren in Germany––of the tyrannical laws, the compulsory baptisms and the banishments, which are of daily occurrence. I am told that when they flee from one place a yet harder fate befalls them in another . . . on all sides I learn of anguish of soul and torment of body; of daily exactions levied by merciless oppressors. [. . .] Brothers and teachers, friends and acquaintances! I, Isaac Zarfati, though I spring from a French stock, yet I was born in Germany, and sat there at the feet of my esteemed teachers. I proclaim to you that Turkey is a land therein nothing is lacking, and where, If you will, all shall yet be well with you. The way to the Holy Land lies open to you through Turkey. Is it not better for you to live under Muslims than under Christians? Here every man may dwell at peace under his own vine and fig tree. Here you are allowed to wear the most precious garments. In Christendom, on the contrary, you dare not even venture to clothe your children in red or in blue, according to our taste, without exposing them to the insult of beaten black and blue, or kicked green and red, and therefore are ye condemned to go about the meanly clad in sad colored raiment . . . and not, seeing all these things O Israel, wherefore sleepest thou? Arise! And leave this accursed land forever.26

In another example, a Christian subject describes the visit of Sultan Mehmed II to the Church of Saint Domenicus:

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My fellow residents in Pera told me that he [Mehmed II] entered their church (St. Dominicus) and took a seat in the choir to observe the ceremony and the manner of the worship service. At his request they also celebrated a Mass in his presence . . . He discussed the laws and rites of the Christians with them as well, and, when he heard that the churches were headed by bishops, he even desired that a bishop be appointed for the care of the Christians and promised to do everything in his power to provide his unlimited assistance. But how could anyone who learned from afar of his wars and victories, of the great size of his army, and of his fame and majesty imagine him to possess such simple frankness, or, if he did hear of it, not admire it?27

Such indications of sultanic respect for the communities and the positive responses of members of various communities mark moments of greater tolerance to be perhaps distinguished from the initial pragmatic toleration. Mehmed II and Suleyman the Magnificent are the two sultans who distinguished themselves in their more progressive understanding of religious tolerance. A pragmatic state–society organizational structure, however, was necessary to maintain everyday peace and order. This is what I turn to in the next section. THE STRUCTURE OF OTTOMAN TOLERATION For imperial states, what is behind their choice of policies of toleration is complex. It can be a religious understanding of diversity, a cultural past of living in diversity, a particular decision of rulers about their own religiosity and the protection of others, as well as a strategic response to conditions on the ground. For the Ottomans in the period from 1300 to 1800, each of these conditions impacted the particular type of toleration that emerged. The Ottomans appeared out of a frontier tradition of conflict and coexistence between Seljuks and Byzantines, with a past history of mixed ethnic and religious cohabitation in the Central Asian steppes. They brought with them an understanding of diversity. The religion they espoused, Islam, also had a particular understanding of relations with non-Muslims, which emerged as the Pact of Umar in the first centuries of the rise of Islam. The Pact of Umar (634–644) acknowledged Christians and Jews to be the Peoples of the Book and demanded the payment of an extra tax in return for peace and protection. Such historical and cultural blueprints provided the framework for engagement with the other. Consequently, in the Ottoman Empire religion became the prime mechanism of social and political differentiation. A particular structure, loosely defined, based on some administrative principles yet also seemingly ad hoc was to undergird the original relational agreements and early arrangements made between rulers and communities.


Karen Barkey

Ottomans arranged religious difference through a more or less institutionalized millet system, which was a form of indirect rule based on religious difference vertically incorporated into the state system. Indirect rule was affected through religious intermediaries who were incorporated into the Ottoman administrative and fiscal apparatus of the empire and who acted as the interface with the communities. With such a relational framework, Ottoman state leaders settled on a level of systemic toleration that was maintained both top-down and bottom-up. That is, Ottomans regulated the boundary between Muslim and non-Muslim, ruler and ruled, while they left inter- and intra-religious boundaries to community leaders to negotiate. It was no doubt in the interests of the community leaders to maintain interethnic peace, since failing that they knew they would be replaced. The differential incorporation of religious community leaders into the state administration ensured negotiation and compromise without strong struggles between Christianity and Islam. Such cultural modality of rule also ensured that, among the non-Muslims, the dominant religious organizations, the Christian Orthodox Church, the Armenian Patriarchate, the Jewish Rabbinate, and the Jewish lay organizations did not have to struggle for their existence. They knew they were tolerated.28 According to Halil Inalcik, the Orthodox millet was recognized in 1454, the Armenian millet in 1461, while the Jewish millet was unofficially recognized around the same time as the other two. In 1477 there were in Istanbul 3,151 Greek Orthodox households; 3,095 Armenian, Latin, and Gypsy households combined; and 1,647 Jewish households. The number of Muslim households had reached 8,951.29 Once millet arrangements were agreed upon, they were maintained by religious or secular intermediaries from each community who enforced them by incentives and punishments. As the key brokers between the state and the millets, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, the Armenian Patriarch, or the many Jewish rabbis of numerous communities strategically behaved as boundary managers, maintaining peace and order through the active and efficient monitoring of relations across religious and community lines. As such they restricted and monitored relations across communities, and when conflict occurred between different non-Muslim subjects, they tried to keep such disagreements contained. Fearon and Laitin, who discuss such issues of interethnic peace, call such attempts “institutionalized in-group policing,” where leaders successfully police their own members within the community and in transaction across communities.30 This intense monitoring was also successful because the ecclesiastical leadership was especially interested in maintaining boundaries for religious reasons as much as political ones and because they invested much time in learning the legal and religious systems of the others, particularly the ruling Islamic ones, in order to predict, prevent, and manage possibly detrimental breaches of intercommunal relational space.

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The result was all too often more restrictive and contentious community relations than state–millet relations. The character of Ottoman toleration was therefore not entirely a political and administrative product of state policy, nor was it the result of an internal organic ideological germination by Ottoman humanists who thought that toleration should be normative in society. It was rather an organizational byproduct of top-down interests in legibility and interreligious peace and order and bottom-up concern for maintaining an interference- and coercion-free imperial space. The upside of such an arrangement was that once it was perceived as successful, it acquired momentum as it got reproduced and applied more widely. The downside of such an arrangement was that it could be maintained as long as boundaries were prevalent and state and social actors were powerful enough to define and preserve the rules of inter- and intraboundary relations. CONCLUSION The Ottoman Empire lasted longer than many other early modern political formations, and it prospered for a long time. This longevity was in large part due to the understanding that the state had to work with religion and the diversity of identities. The state accommodated to difference rather than forced groups into its own perceived categories and boundaries. Such thinking was evident in the daily workings of the empire through the forging of an explicit relation between politics and religion and the enabling of an organizational framework, the millet system, based on a sophisticated and flexible set of arrangements between multiple actors. Once we see the complexity of such interrelated arrangements and the intricacies of such a large-scale system and observe that people more than ably accommodated to such complexity, we understand the manner in which the Ottomans used toleration. By the nineteenth century, the Ottomans, however, had forgotten their most precious lesson: that in a world of difference you have to accommodate and manage rather than fall prey to a Manichean view of “us” versus “them.” Therefore, an important question to ask is: can toleration that is accorded to a group also be withdrawn? We cannot speak of the toleration in the Ottoman Empire without discussing its breakdown and collapse into genocide. The societal balance of toleration was disrupted in the nineteenth century with changes in the world economy and the modern system of ideas that impacted all premodern societies. Where an equilibrium of subjecthood, imperial statehood, and diverse identities existed in a precarious balance and hierarchy, modernity imposed new ideals, and toleration that was based on pragmatism, inclusion, and respect unraveled.


Karen Barkey

The historical examples of toleration and tolerance more broadly remain important to understand since we continue to live amidst and question issues of religious, ethnic, and racial diversity in most parts of the world. Even if some homogeneity was achieved by some relatively smaller states in the twentieth century (at tremendous costs), continued globalization, warfare, and migratory patterns in the twenty-first century seem to create new mixings of and divide people. We have to find a formula that allows for diversity and promotes the understanding that there are multiple ways to believe, to respect, and to flourish. Still the best examples are historical. NOTES 1. Peter Nicholson, “Toleration as a Moral Ideal,” in Aspects of Toleration, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Methuen, 1985), 158–73 at 162. 2. I will call this form tolerance in accordance with the authors of this volume, to remain in sync with the larger enterprise of the edited book. However, many have just called this a more advanced form of toleration. See, for example, Sudipta Kaviraj, “Modernity, State, and Toleration in Indian History: Exploring Accommodations and Partitions,” in Boundaries of Toleration, ed. Alfred Stepan and Charles Taylor (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 233–66. Also see Sudipta Kaviraj, “Religión, Diversidad y Conflicto,” La Maleta de Portbou (Noviembre–Diciembre 2014): 69–73. 3. Ibid. 4. David Nirenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). 5. I do not discuss this coexistence of toleration and persecution in this chapter, though it is formally discussed in my Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). Many of the arguments in this short chapter make up the basis of my book, Empire of Difference. 6. There is a significant debate around issues of toleration. I do not address these debates in this chapter. See Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006). 7. Alfred Stepan, “Stateness, Democracy, and Respect: Senegal in Comparative Perspective,” in Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal, ed. Mamadou Diouf (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), 205–38. 8. I borrow the term and concept of twin-tolerations from Alfred Stepan, Arguing Comparative Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). 9. Ingrid Creppell, “Toleration, Politics, and the Role of Mutuality,” in Toleration and Its Limits, ed. Melissa Williams and Jeremy Waldron, NOMOS 48 (New York: New York University Press, 2008), 315–59. 10. John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, with an introduction by Patrick Romanell (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, 1955), 25. 11. Voltaire, Toleration and Other Essays, trans. Joseph McCabe (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1912), 23.

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12. Barkey, Empire of Difference; Aron Rodrigue, “Difference and Tolerance in the Ottoman Empire: Interview by Nancy Reynolds,” The Stanford Electronic Humanities Review (SEHR) 5, no. 1 (1996): 81–92. 13. Heath W. Lowry, The Nature of the Early Ottoman State (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), 91–92, 112; Halil Inalcik, “Ottoman Methods of Conquest,” Studia Islamica 2 (1954): 103–29; Halil Inalcik, “The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch under the Ottomans,” Turcica 23 (1991): 407–36; Sedad Bešlja, Osmanli Devletinde Istimâlet Siyaseti ve Bosna (Istanbul: Uluslararasi Türk Dili ve Edebiyati Kongresi, 2014), 2. 14. Elias Kolovos, “The Monks and the Sultan outside the Newly Conquered Ottoman Salonica in 1430,” Journal of Turkish Studies 40 (2013): 271–79. 15. Tom Papademetriou, Render unto the Sultan: Power, Authority, and the Greek Orthodox Church in the Early Ottoman Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). 16. Ibid., 75. 17. Inalcik, “The Status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch,” 407–36; Lowry, The Nature of the Early Ottoman State, 69. 18. Nevra Necipoglu, “The Coexistence of Turks and Greeks in Medieval Anatolia (Eleventh–Twelfth Centuries),” Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 5 (1999–2000): 58–76 at 58. 19. Michel Balivet, “A La Maniere de F. W. Hasluck: A Few Reflections on the Byzantine-Turkish Symbiosis in the Middle Ages,” in Archeology, Anthropology and Heritage in the Balkans and Anatolia: The Life and Times of F. W. Hasluck (1878– 1920), ed. David Shankland (Istanbul: Isis, 2004), 123–33 at 124–25. 20. Aristeides Papadakis, “Gennadius II and Mehmed the Conqueror,” Byzantion 42 (1972): 93. 21. Yuri Stoyanov, “On Some Parallels between Anatolian and Balkan Heterodox Islamic and Christian Traditions and the Problem of Their Coexistence and Interaction in the Ottoman Period,” in Syncretismes et heresies dans l’Orient seljoukide et ottoman (XIVe–XVIIIe siècle), ed. Gilles Veinstein, Collection Turcica 9 (Paris: Peeters, 2005), 75–178 at 97. 22. Ibid., 98. 23. Cited in Heath Lowry, “Random Musings on the Origins of Ottoman Charity: From Mekece to Bursa, İznik and Beyond,” in Feeding People, Feeding Power: Imarets in the Ottoman Empire, ed. N. Ergin, C. Neumann, and A. Singer (Istanbul: Eren Yayınları, 2007), 69–79 at 83. 24. Ahmed Akgündüz, Osmanlı Kanunnameleri ve Hukuki Tahlilleri, vol. 1 (Istanbul: Faisal Eğitim ve Yardımlaşma Vakfı Yayınları, 1990), 477. 25. Mark Haberlein, “A Sixteenth-century German Traveller’s Perspective on Discrimination and Tolerance in the Ottoman Empire,” in Discrimination and Tolerance in Historical Perspective, ed. Gudmundur Hálfdanarson (Pisa: Plus-Pisa University Press, 2008), 119–25. 26. Letter from Isaac Zarfati, born in Germany and settled in Edirne, dated ca. 1454, in Letters of Jews through the Ages: From Biblical Times to the Middle of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Franz Kobler, vol. 1 (London: Ararat Publications, 1953), 283–85, cited in Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), 135–36.


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27. Taken from Georgius de Hungaria, Tractatus de moribus, condictionibus et nequicia turcorum nach er Ersausgabe von 1481 herausgegeben, ubersetzt und eingeleitet von Reinhard Klockow (Cologne: Böhlau, 1993), 225–27, cited in Hakan T. Karateke, “Opium for the Subjects? Religiosity as a Legitimizing Factor for the Ottoman Sultan,” in Legitimizing the Order: The Ottoman Rhetoric of State Power, ed. Hakan Karateke and Maurus Reinkowski (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2005), 111–29 at 125. 28. This argument is further analyzed in my paper entitled “Debates on Toleration in the Ottoman Empire,” unpublished ms. 2003. 29. Halil Inalcik, “The Policy of Mehmed II toward the Greek Population of Istanbul and the Byzantine Buildings of the City,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 23 and 24 (1969–70), 247; Halil Inalcik, “Foundations of Ottoman-Jewish Cooperation,” in Jews, Turks, Ottomans: A Shared History, Fifteenth through the Twentieth Century, ed. Avigdor Levy (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002), 3–14 at 5. 30. James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, “Explaining Interethnic Cooperation,” American Political Science Review 90 (1996): 715–35.

Chapter 6

Tolerance and Pluralism in Islamic Thought and Praxis Asma Afsaruddin

A well-known hadith or statement of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632) states that the most beloved religion to God is the “primordial and magnanimous” one (in Arabic, al-hanifiyya al-samha).1 Samha is related to the Arabic word that is widely used in the contemporary period to mean tolerance––al-tasamuh. This latter nominal form literally means to be magnanimous or lenient toward one another, as well as to be reconciled with one another, and hence the notion of mutual tolerance that conduces to peaceful and harmonious relations is born. The concept of tolerance may thus be considered integral to the Islamic worldview and ethics, grounded as it is in the religion’s foundational texts and often practiced throughout its history as a world civilization.2 This chapter discusses how the concept of tolerance as defined in the introduction to this book finds reflection in Islamic thought, particularly in the Qur’an, the central foundational scripture in Islam. Institutional forms of tolerance and toleration are also evident in historical praxis. It further describes the efforts of modern, reformist Muslims to revisit premodern interpretations of the Sharia (a term that comprises both religious law and ethics) in order to exhume an ethos not only of tolerance but of genuine “pluralism” as a feature of Muslim socio-political thought that has increased relevance today. Such a hermeneutical and historicizing project ameliorates Western claims that both toleration and tolerance are uniquely Western ideas and makes a substantial contribution to larger, global discourses on this topic. TOLERANCE IN THE QUR’AN The adoption of the concept “tolerance” here in contradistinction to “toleration” is deliberate. The former usually implies acceptance of diversity and 99


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engagement with the “other,”3 while the latter generally suggests principled noninterference (usually on the part of the state) in the affairs of others, even if such groups engage in behavior that is disapproved of.4 Toleration in this sense clearly is not conducive to an “enthusiastic endorsement of difference,”5 perceived as desirable in increasingly multicultural and pluralist societies today. Based on these broad definitions, the concept of tolerance––going considerably beyond mere toleration as an ethical principle and moral virtue––is a better fit within the Qur’anic ethos. As will become evident from the following discussion, tolerance that is ultimately capable of fostering pluralism is robustly endorsed in the Qur’an, and Muslims are exhorted to cultivate and practice it. In practically any discussion of tolerance within the Islamic context today, the famous Qur’anic verse 2:256, which states, “There is [absolutely] no compulsion in religion,” is readily foregrounded by many Muslims. Its obvious and unambiguous meaning is that no one may be coerced into adopting a religion against his or her will. A related verse, Qur’an 18:29, similarly affirms the voluntary nature of human belief; it states, “Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject [it].” Modern Muslim scholars overwhelmingly derive a scriptural mandate for freedom of religion and conscience from Qur’an 2:256 in particular.6 In the premodern period, however, the verse’s prohibition against compelling anyone to adopt a particular religious creed was not to everyone’s liking. A quick survey of some Qur’an commentaries reveals a range of views on Qur’an 2:256. The celebrated tenth-century exegete al-Tabari (d. 923) in his famous Qur’an commentary documents a spectrum of views concerning the meaning of this verse. One of the earliest exegeses of this verse comments that the verse was revealed in regard to the situation of some of the early Medinan Muslims, known as the Ansar or the Helpers, who were previously raising their children to be either Jews or Christians. When the preaching of Islam began, they wanted forcibly to convert their children to Islam. The verse was consequently revealed specifically to prohibit them from doing that and to foreground instead free volition in the selection and practice of a religion. This was the commentary offered by early Companions (that is, close associates of the Prophet Muhammad) like Ibn ‘Abbas, Sa‘id b. Jubayr, and others.7 As mentioned by al-Tabari, according to the early exegete Mujahid b. Jabr (d. 722), the verse was revealed in reference to another group of Medinan Muslims who had grown up among the Banu Qurayza, a Jewish tribe, and who now wished forcibly to convert its members to Islam.8 The verse was revealed to forbid them from doing so. Both “causes of revelation” clearly establish that Qur’an 2:256 prohibits the forcible conversion of non-Muslims to Islam and allows them instead to continue in their religious practices. However, al-Tabari also documents that by the time we arrive at the second generation of Muslims, other less tolerant views had begun to surface. He

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quotes Ibn Zayd (d. 798), a Successor (from the second generation of Muslims after the Companions) who had asserted that the commandment “There is no compulsion in religion” had been abrogated by verses that command Muslims to fight non-Muslims.9 Al-Tabari’s own preferred interpretation in the late ninth century is that Qur’an 2:256 is not to be regarded as abrogated because it applies only to Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians; Arab idolaters, by contrast, were obligated to embrace Islam or be fought against.10 Al-Tabari also underscores that the Arabic word used for “religion” in the verse is aldin. The Arabic definite article (al-) attached to the word din signifies that it is a reference to Islam alone.11 Al-Tabari’s commentary became quite influential after him and in many ways became the predominant view at least among certain exegetes and jurists.12 Historically speaking, it is not hard to understand why this perspective gained ground in certain influential, official circles. Qur’an 2:256 in Arabic proclaims, La ikraha fi al-din. In its very simplicity and transparency, the verse clearly and unambiguously asserts that all humans have freedom of religion and that no one may be compelled either to accept or to reject any religion since Islam is not specifically indicated, despite al-Tabari’s attempt to derive this meaning from the verse. So transparent in fact was its mandate that some scholars, by no means all, felt compelled already by the second century of Islam to declare this verse to be abrogated so as to legitimate a more triumphalist worldview that asserted the superiority of Islam over all other religions, often for political reasons. Al-Tabari, it should be noted, was very close to the Abbasid ruling elite of his time; for the purposes of empire-building, it was useful to promote Islam as a conquest-based world religion that could be deployed to expand the imperial realms. Such scholars have been challenged by others, both in the premodern and modern periods, who categorically stated that this verse remained normative for all times and that its basic injunction of noncompulsion in religion could never be violated. Criticism of some of the classical exegeses of Qur’an 2:256 has, not surprisingly, been the sharpest in the modern period, a subject to which I will return later. Another verse which clearly conduces to tolerance in the broadest sense is Qur’an 5:48 which runs as follows, For every one of you We have appointed a law and way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community, but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you by means of what He has given you. So hasten to do good works!

Closely related to this verse is Qur’an 9:99: “If your Lord had so desired, all the people on earth without exception would surely have believed; do you then think, that you could compel people to believe?”


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Once again, a quick survey of al-Tabari’s commentary reveals a range of exegetical perspectives on the meanings of Qur’an 5:48. Al-Tabari himself fully recognizes that every religious community or nation (qawm) has its own religious law or tradition (shir’a) and way of doing things (minhaj). He quotes the Successor Qatada b. Di’ama who had remarked that religion is one, but religious laws or traditions (sunan) are many. Thus, the Torah has its own religious law, as does the Gospel and the Qur’an, which prescribes and proscribes various things so that God may know those who obey Him from those who do not. However, the religion that was proclaimed by numerous prophets through time is one, and it is the only one acceptable to God: that is to say, the religion that is founded on monotheism and sincere belief in God.13 Contraposed to this tolerant and inclusivist view, at least in the Abrahamic milieu, of religious traditions is that of others who averred that the verse actually referred only to those who embraced Islam as having a religious law and tradition. Among these exegetes was the early scholar Mujahid b. Jabr (d. 722), who maintained that only the Qur’an, and no other scripture, prescribed such a religious law and way of life. Once again, we see exclusivist views beginning to arise in the second century of Islam that directly contradicted the prima facie meaning of Qur’anic verses, such as 5:48. A number of modern commentators on the Qur’an have taken serious note of how Qur’an 5:48 envisions the relationship of Muslims to practitioners of other faiths.14 Possibly the most significant part of this verse is the statement, “For every one of you We have appointed a law and way of life.” Every community––religious or religio-cultural––is thus regarded as having its own law and its own way of life, and is capable of attaining spiritual growth in keeping with this law and way of life. According to the Qur’anic view of prophecy, various prophets were sent over time to different communities to give them specific laws and to indicate a way of life to their people in keeping with their genius and in a manner that would ensure their spiritual and societal development. This diversity is further emphasized in the next part of verse 5:48, which proclaims, “And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community.” It would not be difficult for God, after all, to fashion a single community out of humankind, but the Qur’anic view is that pluralism is a divinely mandated feature that adds richness and variety to human existence. Each community’s laws or way of life should be such as to ensure growth and the enrichment of life, without causing harm to others. Beyond this proviso, a wide variety of local customs and cultural variations have traditionally been tolerated in many Islamic societies through time. The last part of this Qur’anic verse affirms that everyone will return to God and that it is God who “will make you truly understand all that on which you were accustomed to differ.” Judgment on the salvific efficacy of religions is therefore a divine prerogative; humans are exhorted in the Qur’an not to

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judge and denigrate the religion of others, even when the tenets of such a religion would be deemed offensive. A parallel verse (6:108) drives home this message more forcefully. It states, “Do not revile those [idols] they call upon beside God in case they revile [the name of] God out of hostility.” Both verses stress that it is not for human beings to pronounce on the rectitude of religious doctrines, since that leads to dissension and strife in this world. The Prophet Muhammad himself is clearly warned that it is not among his duties to chastise people for their beliefs that are contrary to Islam, including idolatry, which represents the polar opposite of cherished Islamic tenets of monotheism and iconoclasm. Humans are expected to be concerned only with the performance of good deeds and should refrain from pronouncing on the salvific nature of others’ religious affiliations and personal deeds.15 Historically, this Qur’anic principle of deferral of judgment found reflection in the principle of irja’, which evolved in roughly the eighth century CE in the Muslim world. The root of the Arabic term irja’ connotes both “hope” and “deferment.” Because of a number of doctrinal schisms that developed in the early period, some Muslim theologians wisely saw immense virtue in postponing or deferring to God any definitive judgment on the correctness of a particular dogma that was not explicitly referred to in the Qur’an or hadith. Extrapolated from Qur’an 9:106, this principle was specifically formulated to undermine the notion of takfir (accusation of unbelief) resorted to by the seventh-century schismatic group, the Khawarij. The Khawarij had mutinied against ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, when the latter agreed to human arbitration to resolve the dispute between him and Mu’awiya, the governor of Syria, over issues of leadership. The Khawarij (literally, “the seceders”) claimed that arbitration was the prerogative of God alone and that human arbitration was unwarranted in this case. They considered those Muslims who disagreed with them (the overwhelming majority) to have lapsed from the faith and thus to be fought against until they capitulated––a chilling harbinger of today’s minoritarian extremist views.16 In contrast to the divisive doctrine of takfir––the accusation of unbelief––the principle of irja’ stated that any Muslim who proclaimed his or her belief in the one God and the prophetic mission of Muhammad (i.e., who affirmed the basic creedal statement of Islam) remained a Muslim, despite committing even gravely sinful actions, thereby holding out the hope and promise of moral rehabilitation in this world and of forgiveness in the next. A sinning Muslim was liable for punishment for criminal wrongdoing but could not be labeled an unbeliever by coreligionists. Those who subscribed to such views were known as the Murji’a.17 This liberal attitude was key in shaping the doctrinal positions of the majoritarian Sunni Muslim community. Its full appellation––ahl al-sunna wa-’ljama’a (the people of prophetic custom [that is, those who follow the practices of Muhammad] and communal unity)––underscores its basic accommodationist


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outlook, which strove to contain dissension in order to preserve the unity of the Muslim community. Modernist Muslims have begun to reemphasize the Qur’anic principle of human nonjudgment and noninterference in matters of faith, hoping to convince the skeptics among their coreligionists of a genuine regard for religious pluralism within Islam on the basis of these scriptural warrants. Extremist Muslims today, however, have resurrected the doctrine of takfir and, like the seventh-century Khawarij, attempt to wield it as a powerful cudgel to browbeat other Muslims into adopting their Manichaean worldview. Another Qur’anic concept which has a direct bearing not only on the concepts of toleration and tolerance but going further in mandating genuine pluralism is al-ta’aruf, which means “knowledge of one another.” This concept derives from Qur’an 49:13, which declares, O humankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you might get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.

The aforementioned medieval exegete Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari explains this verse as emphasizing that we may distinguish between human beings only on the basis of piety, not on the basis of lineage and descent. He quotes a hadith in this context which relates that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve. “Indeed,” the Prophet asserts, “God will not question you regarding your pedigree and tribal affiliation on the Day of Judgment, for only the most righteous is the noblest before God.”18 Another well-known medieval exegete, Isma’il ibn Kathir, cites the following hadith in exegesis of this verse, “The Muslims [al-muslimun] are brothers. No one among them has any superiority over another, except on the basis of piety/godliness (taqwa).”19 Here ibn Kathir apparently understands the term al-muslimun in its general confessional sense and thus restricts the notion of the equality of believers as applying to Muslims alone. This is in contrast to the hadith above cited by al-Tabari, which clearly propounds the equality of all human beings, recognizing distinction among them only on the basis of personal righteousness. But it would also be possible for us to translate al-muslimun as occurs in the hadith cited by Ibn Kathir in its basic sense of “those who submit [to God],” thus extending the purview of this hadith to include all [Abrahamic] believers who are united by their common faith in God and differentiated only on the basis of their piety. This inclusive understanding is more in accordance with the predominantly nonconfessional Qur’anic usage of this term, as in Qur’an 3:84, which states, Say: “We believe in God, and that which has been sent down to us, and sent down on Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in that

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which was given to Moses and Jesus, and the Prophets, of their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we surrender [muslimun].”20

MODERN EXEGESES Given the global emphasis on liberal values such as tolerance and religious freedom, Muslim scholars engaged in such topics are critically reappraising the classical interpretive and juridical literature on these topics. There is a strong awareness particularly among modernist and liberal Muslims that the diversity of interpretations––and they are diverse––encountered in these primary sources on these issues were engendered by the different socio-historical and political circumstances in which these interpretations developed, and therefore are to be regarded as historically contingent.21 As Muslims face vastly changed circumstances today and different sets of concerns, the same kind of interpretive flexibility and creativity is called for. It should be noted that the term “modernist and liberal Muslims” is being used here to refer to observant Muslims who, starting roughly in the eighteenth century, began to emphasize the inherent adaptability of Islamic principles and thought to modernity. Modernists typically argue that reinterpreted Islamic principles can reveal their congruence with modern liberal principles of democratic government, civil society, gender equality, etc., without necessarily being identical to their formulations in the Western context. With regard to a hierarchy of sources, for all Muslims, the Qur’an is the first and unassailable source for making ethical, moral, and legal determinations, followed by the sunna, as expressed mainly in hadith, the transmitted sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Historically, such prophetic statements, with varying degrees of reliability, have been used to amplify selected verses from the Qur’an and sometimes even to qualify drastically the purport of the meanings of specific Qur’anic passages. Today many liberal and modernist Muslims are insisting that this trend should be reversed so as to privilege the Qur’an over textual hadith. Such an approach allows for religious freedom to emerge as a valued basic human right within the Islamic context, even when defined as the right to alter one’s religion.22 The question of who may authoritatively make these interpretive decisions is not an easy one to answer today. Historically, this authority was vested in the religious scholars and jurists, the ulama and the fuqaha, who came to form a distinctive professional class from the third century of Islam onward, that is, the ninth century CE. Authority in the Islamic tradition is primarily epistemic: grounded in knowledge and not contingent on any process of ­ordination or claims to charismatic religious authority, at least in the majoritarian Sunni tradition. The Shi’i tradition developed different and


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more charismatic conceptions of authority. The Qur’an (4:59) speaks about the uli ‘l-’amr, literally, “those who possess authority,” also called in the later Islamic tradition ahl al-hall wa-’l-’aqd, literally, “the people who bind and loosen.” These terms, as the vast exegetical literature makes clear, referred to a broad group of people who by virtue of their superior knowledge of matters, both religious and practical, and greater intelligence and insight were qualified to assume leadership in various spheres of life, whether that be religious, political, administrative, etc.23 There has never been any centralized body or single individual after the Prophet deemed to speak authoritatively on behalf of all Muslims. Muslim scholars were expected through their interpretations of the Qur’an and sunna, the principal sources of the Sharia, and through reasoning to arrive at consensual positions on key matters of doctrine and praxis. In the premodern period, this system on the whole worked quite well. Scholars in general strove to uphold the objectives of the Sharia––above all, the creation of a just and ordered society which promotes the well-being of humans in this world and the next. As a result, they often took positions contrary to rulers and governors, speaking out against tyranny and moral and legal infractions. In the modern period, the general attrition in religious scholarship and the co-optation of many religious scholars by various governments have resulted in a dangerous vacuum in legitimate religious leadership, allowing extremist voices to gain center stage. This trend may be reversed by the revival of critical religious scholarship evident in the formative and classical periods of Islam that would thereby equip Muslims to challenge irresponsible and intolerant interpretations of Islamic doctrine and praxis in the contemporary period.24 One should also keep in mind that questions of religious and political freedom do not arise in a historical vacuum. Issues of disparities in political power and resources inevitably color these questions. In general, the Western unilateral insistence on the universal adoption of its specific understanding of toleration and religious freedom that is the result of uniquely Western historical and religious experiences could be and has been counterproductive. As is generally acknowledged, the concepts of toleration and religious freedom were born in Europe after bitter religious wars, resulting in secularism, leading to the strict separation of church and state and the relegation of religion to the private sphere. Western muscular promotion of toleration and freedom wedded primarily, if not solely, to secularism is bound to make hackles rise among Muslims. On account of their different historical experiences, Muslims have not come to assume an adversarial relationship between religion and basic human rights and freedoms. Muslims have traditionally turned to religious scholars as allies against tyrannical rulers, and they often marshal religious texts in support of religious tolerance as a fundamental Islamic value, arguing that it has existed from the very beginning of Islam as a core

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value within the Qur’an. It is also evident in the practices of the Prophet Muhammad; for example, in the treaty that the Prophet concluded with the Christians of Najran which allowed them full freedom in the practice of their religion in exchange for a tribute. Other such historical examples may be cited, as will now be briefly discussed, examples that create powerful mimetic precedents for contemporary Muslims. TOLERANCE AND TOLERATION IN HISTORICAL PRAXIS When Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, emigrated from Mecca to Medina (two cities in what is Saudi Arabia today), he found himself in a pluralist situation. There was religious as well as tribal diversity in Medina. He not only accepted this diversity but also legitimized it by drawing up an agreement with different religious and tribal groups and accorded them, through this agreement, a dignified existence with rights of their own. This agreement is known as the Pact or Constitution of Medina. The agreement represented a milestone which sought to lay the foundation of a new political and religious culture. What is noteworthy in this agreement is that all—Muslims from Mecca, Muslims of Medina belonging to various tribes, and the Jews of Medina belonging to different tribes—together were recognized as constituting a single community, in Arabic called umma, who were bound together not by a common religion but by the common dictates of upright and ethical behavior toward one another and by the moral obligation to uphold what is good and right and to prevent the doing of wrong.25 When Islam expanded beyond the Arabian peninsula into Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, for example, it encountered the earlier largely Christian populations of these areas. In return for the payment of a kind of poll tax from which the poor, the elderly, women, serfs, and religious functionaries were generally exempt, these Christian populations (as well as Jewish populations when relevant) were granted protection of life and property and the right to practice their religion. In the agreement that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab (d. 644), the second caliph, struck with the Christian residents of Jerusalem in 638, he specifically promised them that “he grants to all, whether sick or sound, security for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses, and for all that concerns their religion.”26 It is also worthy of note that for about three centuries after the early Arab conquests, until roughly the middle of the tenth century, the majority of the population in Syria and Mesopotamia remained Christian. This fact clearly establishes that they were not coerced en masse into accepting the faith of their rulers; Qur’an 2:256, as we recall, explicitly forbade forced conversions. This tolerance of religious others was also extended to the Zoroastrians of Persia and later to the Hindus and Buddhists of India,


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who, like Jews and Christians, could pay a tax to the Muslim authorities in return for protection of their lives and property and the right to practice their religion unmolested. In the early period, this tax, called the jizya in Arabic, was levied on ablebodied, financially solvent non-Muslim males who did not wish to serve in the state army. If non-Muslim males enlisted in the army, they were exempt from the poll tax. It should be noted that under the early caliphs, poor nonMuslims––primarily Christians and Jews––were instead awarded stipends from the state treasury, which was funded largely by monies derived from the zakat, the obligatory tax paid by Muslim men and women of financial means, and the jizya paid by non-Muslim men of means.27 If Muslim authorities were unable militarily to defend these protected (dhimmi) non-Muslim people in the event of an attack by an external aggressor, the former were required to return the jizya to the latter. The second caliph, ‘Umar ibn alKhattab famously returned the jizya he had collected from an Arab Christian tribe when he was unable to protect them from a military attack by the Byzantines.28 However, increasingly after the ninth century as earlier tolerant attitudes toward non-Muslims sometimes hardened, often in times of crises, payment of the jizya began to be conceptualized by a number of influential jurists as a marker of inferior socio-legal status for the non-Muslim.29 Through specific legal and hermeneutical stratagems, the full tolerance promised in the Qur’an was therefore gradually whittled down by certain jurists and scholars to “toleration” of non-Muslims, who continued to enjoy the legal protection of Muslim authorities but whose beliefs and ways of life began to be considered distinctly inferior to those of Muslims. Institutionalized toleration of this kind––that is to say, toleration that found reflection in formal legal provisions and enacted by the state––continued to allow Christians and Jews in particular to participate in the making of Islamic civilization. Our historical sources point to the active participation of many Christians and Jews in the flourishing intellectual life of the Islamic world from the eighth century onward. In the eighth and ninth centuries, Syriacspeaking Christians, funded by their Muslim patrons, translated the classics of the ancient world written in Greek and Old Persian in the libraries and academies established by Abbasid rulers. Individual Christians and Jews sometimes obtained high positions in Muslim administrations throughout the medieval period. The Islamic civilization at its zenith in the pre-Ottoman period—roughly between the eighth and twelfth centuries of the common era—was a cosmopolitan civilization, whose members were of different ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. In medieval Muslim Spain, Jews and Christians were active participants in the cultural and intellectual life that flourished under the Muslims; an era that is often nostalgically invoked today as evocative of an ideal, premodern tolerant period.30 The Ottoman Empire

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continued this tradition of toleration and attracted refugees fleeing from religious persecution in Europe. In the fifteenth century, for example, Jews forced to flee from the atrocities of the Spanish Reconquista found refuge in Muslim Ottoman lands and established thriving communities there. Relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims were therefore variegated and complex and would have to be studied in specific historical and cultural contexts. Most of what may be perceived as inter-confessional strife, however, tended to be driven more by historical and political reasons rather than theological ones. The Qur’an’s decree of noncompulsion in religion and its injunction to show kindness toward peaceful non-Muslims on the whole prevented the kind of persecution of religious minorities endemic in medieval Christian Europe.31 Furthermore, Islam is not a monolith, and the various legal interpretations of the premodern scholars, the product of their very human reasoning, are not carved in stone. One beneficial aspect of increased international focus on issues of tolerance and religious freedom has been to generate refreshingly critical discussions and innovative thinking among Muslims on these issues. The credibility of such reinterpretations will depend on how well one is able to marshal evidence from within the Islamic tradition, particularly from the earliest period, to make a case for tolerance, as well as how persuasively one can argue that specific interpretations of the law made sense in specific historical circumstances and are therefore not binding on Muslims in vastly different circumstances. When such historical circumstances lapse, so do the contingent interpretations generated in these milieux. For example, “citizenship” in the Islamic polity (as elsewhere) was faithbased in the premodern period. Historically, this has meant that, in Muslimmajority societies, the non-Muslim dhimmi (the protected Jew, Christian, Zoroastrian, and others), who on the whole enjoyed religious autonomy to a considerable degree, was not accorded the same legal rights by classical Muslim jurists after the second century of Islam. As citizenship has become defined in modern polities in nonreligious terms, privileges accorded solely to Muslim citizens in the past are insupportable and no longer consonant with the idea of a just and lawfully ordered society, which is, after all, a prime objective of the Sharia. This is in fact how Muhammad ‘Abduh, the rector of al-Azhar University in the nineteenth century, argued when he affirmed that just modern Muslim nation-states should treat all their citizens, including non-Muslims and the nonreligious, equally without exception and that this was mandated by the Sharia.32 For ‘Abduh, the Islamic nature of a given nation-state is established not through a consciously cultivated Islamic identity and Islamicizing rhetoric but through the enactment of recognized Islamic ethical principles, primary among which are justice and mercy. In the absence of adherence to such principles, no nation––regardless of how strident it is


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in proclaiming its “Islamic” nature––can be regarded as being in conformity with the Sharia. Many modern Muslim scholars will point to the previously mentioned Constitution of Medina, promulgated by Muhammad in 622 CE, as establishing a blueprint for a just Muslim polity that treats all its members equally, regardless of their religion or creed.33 Under the Constitution’s stipulations, the Jews were regarded as equal members with Muslims of the Medinan community (umma), entitled to practice their own religion and contributing to the common good. Even though Muhammad was the ruler of the Medinan polity, Islamic law did not apply to the Jews (the Sharia in general does not apply to non-Muslims). In fact, the Prophet when asked to adjudicate among Jews would apply the halakha (Jewish law) to them. Furthermore, since Jews were expected to contribute to the military defense of the Medinan polity, no jizya was levied on them. This model of premodern egalitarian “citizenship,” firmly a part of Islamic history, is broadly compatible with modern liberal notions of political belonging and available for replication mutatis mutandis in modern Muslim-majority societies. THE PROBLEM OF ABROGATION AND SUPERSESSIONISM The previously mentioned exegetical tool of naskh, usually translated as “abrogation,” has remained a highly contested tool of hermeneutics, and has resurfaced in the modern period as a particularly thorny issue. Throughout the premodern period, there was no unanimity among scholars about the status and number of abrogating and abrogated verses, and such unanimity remains just as elusive as ever in our own time. The validity of this interpretive technique is also increasingly being debated by contemporary Muslim scholars. The proponents of naskh will usually point to Qur’an 2:106 as their prooftext, which states, “Such of Our revelations as we abrogate (nansakh) or cause to be forgotten (nunsiha), we bring one better or the like thereof; do you not know that God is able to do all things?” The verse, however, explicitly refers to God as the abrogating agent and makes no reference to humans making these determinations on their own. In spite of this, naskh became deployed by a number of exegetes and jurists to justify particularist interpretations of key Qur’anic verses, usually but not consistently, on the basis of chronology, so that later verses could be understood to nullify the applicability of earlier verses on what was assumed to be the same or a closely related subject. It is not hard to discern why this hermeneutical tool was developed and used to great effect shortly after the death of the Prophet. If we start clustering the verses that are deemed abrogated by a significant number of exegetes, a certain pattern begins to emerge. First, almost all the verses are Meccan to

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early Medinan, according to traditional chronology. Second, the abrogating verses tend to promote a narrower, privileged definition of being Muslim at the expense of “others” (non-Muslims). Third, without the mediation of the “abrogated” verses, the “abrogating” verses may be understood to set up antagonistic, binary relationships––mostly between Muslims and non-Muslims. Read holistically, relevant Medinan verses may instead be understood to provide necessary “specification” (takhsis) rather than abrogation of Meccan verses that tend to be broader and more universal in their import. This, in fact, has been the understanding of a number of scholars who have found the deployment of the principle of naskh to represent an unwarranted exercise of human exegetical privilege.34 We see a similar process underway in criminalizing matters that have to do with doctrinal preference where the Qur’an stipulates no worldly punishment whatsoever, such as for apostasy. A prominent Muslim scholar, the late Jamal al-Banna from Egypt, has discussed the issue of apostasy which is one of the most obvious examples of legal divergence from the letter and spirit of the Qur’an. This situation has arisen primarily on the basis of one influential hadith recorded by al-Bukhari in his hadith collection known as Sahih. This hadith, narrated by ‘Ikrima from Ibn ‘Abbas, states, “Whoever changes his religion, put him to death.” In contrast to the text of this hadith, notes al-Banna, there are more than one hundred verses in the Qur’an that affirm freedom of conscience and religion and signify acceptance of a plurality of religions and ways of life. On the question of apostasy specifically, several verses in the Qur’an undermine the command in the previously cited hadith. For example, Qur’an 2:108 declares, “Whoever substitutes unbelief for belief has certainly missed the straight path,” while Qur’an 2:217 warns, “Whoever among you retreats from his religion and dies an unbeliever, they are those whose actions are in vain in this world and the next.” Other verses similarly criticize relapse into unbelief and warn of divine retribution in the next world, but they prescribe no worldly punishment.35 To those who would respond that this is an example of a case where the Qur’an is silent and the sunna provides the requisite answer and necessary specification, al-Banna identifies the following problems inherent in this position: 1. The Qur’an does in fact identify a punishment for apostasy; 2. This punishment, however, is postponed to the next world and is not the prerogative of any human being; 3. The Qur’an categorically affirms that no human being, including the Prophet, has the right forcefully to impose religious belief on another human being.36 Furthermore, the hadith itself does not qualify as an unimpeachable prooftext for the following reasons: first, it is one of the solitary reports (al-ahad) which are not admissible as proof-texts in matters of doctrine, since by their paucity of narrators and chains of transmission, they conduce not to certainty but only to presumption and conjecture. Second, there is no evidence that the


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Prophet ever put anyone to death for mere apostasy. The evidence instead shows that only when apostasy was coupled with treason and sedition was it considered a punishable offence. Third, the language of the hadith is imprecise, since it does not indicate in which direction the conversion went. The fourth reason is that the hadith is related by ‘Ikrima, who, although one of the most prominent narrators from Ibn ‘Abbas, was held in low esteem by the well-known hadith scholar Muslim b. Hajjaj (d. 875), who transmitted only one report from him concerning the pilgrimage. On such a weighty matter concerning belief and doctrine, it would be more prudent, al-Banna counsels, not to place one’s reliance on a narrator with less than sterling credentials.37 Al-Banna’s treatment of the contested issue of apostasy serves as an illustration of the critical vein in which many reformist and modernist Muslims approach the hadith and classical legal and interpretive literature. As cogently demonstrated by al-Banna, premodern scholars were either sometimes not overly concerned with context and did not exercise due diligence in determining the reliability of the content of hadiths, as opposed to their chain of transmission; or their texts were read by posterity in an ahistorical matter, which facilitated the rise of interpretations among modern Muslims that demonstrably militate against both the letter and spirit of the Qur’an, a situation that was not always intended by the classical scholars. Against this backdrop, one can appreciate the modernist emphasis on a return to the text of the Qur’an and to wield it as the final arbiter over all other non-Qur’anic literature, regardless of how authoritative they have been deemed through the centuries. Recourse to the hermeneutical tool of abrogation helped certain scholars fashion a narrower and more exclusionary understanding of Muslim relations with non-Muslims. Such views were perhaps more understandably congenial in the premodern world where one had good reason to be suspicious of the outsider and of that which is different. Law is after all an extension of culture; that legal specialists would incorporate these medieval views into their conceptions of what constituted the well-ordered society should not come as a surprise to us. It is therefore equally not surprising that modern sensibilities which value egalitarianism and freedom of conscience should find this historical, pragmatic development within the Islamic tradition to be in need of revisitation. And that is precisely what has been happening in modernist, liberal Muslim circles until today. Among the strongest critics of the phenomenon of naskh in the modern period have been Rashid Rida (d. 1935), Muhammad al-Ghazali (d. 1996), and Sayyid Ahmad Khan (d. 1998). Khan understood naskh in Qur’an 2:106 to refer to abrogation of previous scriptures, not of verses in the Qur’an. The Shi’i scholar Abu al-Qasim al-Khu’i (d. 1992) rejected the concept of naskh altogether.38 In contrast, those whom we can refer to as “hard-line Islamists” and as “conservative traditionalists” continue

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to invoke naskh to maintain special legal privileges for the Muslim over the non-Muslim. GOING BEYOND TOLERANCE: CREATING A MANDATE FOR PLURALISM AND ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT WITH THE “OTHER” The Qur’anic verses cited above and their exegeses thus remain of critical importance in our time, as humanity engages in a “quest” for genuine understanding among individuals, faith communities, cultures, and nations. As part of this quest, traditions of tolerance drawn from within the Islamic heritage that historically have accommodated a diversity of perspectives and have helped to keep extremism at bay for lengthy periods are being brought to the forefront by Muslims today as they battle intolerance and illiberalism in their midst. Others, however, are arguing that neither tolerance nor toleration of another’s belief and practices is enough anymore; that not only institutionalized toleration but even tolerance has become morally and ethically inadequate in a globalizing world that needs to embrace human diversity in an unprecedented manner. The religious scholar Diana Eck has critiqued tolerance as “too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity”; what we need instead is pluralism that she defines as “the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.”39 It is instructive to note that the term “tolerance” as used in the field of medieval toxicology and pharmacology indicated how much poison a body could “tolerate” before it would succumb to death!40 In the increasingly pluralist world we inhabit, such a minimalist understanding of tolerance is, needless to say, rather inadequate. In this context, the previously discussed Qur’an 49:13 becomes highly relevant. As we recall, in its most obvious, prima facie meaning, the verse goes beyond mere toleration of our diversity of backgrounds as individuals and communities. It clearly advocates that one should get to know one another actively; the Arabic verbal collocation (li-ta’arafu) used in the verse refers to proactive, mutual engagement with those who are different from ourselves so as to inspire in us affection for the other and to appreciate the diverse gifts that we bring, in accordance with the divine design, to one another. Because of the more parochial circumstances of their own time, medieval exegetes, as we noted, tended to gloss the verb ta’arafu to mean learning about each other’s tribal backgrounds and similar affiliations in order to establish bonds of kinship and affection. In our contemporary period, the significance of Qur’an 49:13 can be more expansively understood as offering a clear scriptural mandate for embracing the existing diversity among peoples


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and to engage proactively with the pluralism in beliefs and cultural practices that we encounter. Along with Qur’an 5:48 and 2:256, Qur’an 49:13 is invoked as a crucial proof-text particularly by modernist and liberal Muslims today to indicate divine sanction of pluralism that we can only now begin to comprehend more fully in our rapidly globalizing world. CONCLUSION Tolerance is a foundational Islamic concept. The Arabic word al-tasamuh used to connote this concept in modern parlance has a much broader semantic landscape than the English word toleration. Al-tasamuh additionally implies “inclusiveness” and “reconciliation among people,” as indicated at the beginning of this chapter, implications which transcend the idea of mere toleration of one another and point further to a potential embrace of pluralism. As a socio-political principle, it is widely regarded as an important building block in the fashioning of civil, democratic polities––a project that is yet to be fully realized in most Muslim-majority societies. Survey after survey, however, shows that Muslim populations globally, when compared to others, are among the most desirous of tolerant and democratic societies as the best expression of Islamic notions of just and righteous governance.41 The Arab Spring was a spectacular popular manifestation of these deep-seated desires. While some have been too quick to declare an Arab Winter in recent years, others pin their hopes on the entrenched traditions of tolerance and the ideal of representative, accountable government that continues to animate Muslim-majority societies, despite the extremism of violent fringe groups. Perhaps one day the Islamic world will get a respite from being held hostage to the geopolitical concerns of Western powers and be free to pursue its ideals without the interference of outsiders. In the meantime, the case continues to be made by liberal Muslim thinkers that tolerance and inclusiveness, which are ultimately nurturing of pluralism, are nonnegotiable characteristics of the good society and the good life within the Islamic milieu. NOTES 1. Recorded by Al-Bukhari, al-Adab al-Mufrad, ed. Kamal Yusuf al-Hut (Beirut: Alam al-Kutub, n.d.), 138. 2. Thus, Reza Shah Kazemi remarks, “For Muslims, tolerance of the other is integral to the practice of Islam. It is not an optional extra, a cultural luxury. The Quran sets forth an expansive vision of diversity and difference, plurality and indeed of universality”; “Tolerance,” in A Companion to Muslim Ethics, ed. Amyn B. Sajoo

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(London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 167–86 at 168; cf. Roy P. Mottahedeh, “Toward an Islamic Theology of Toleration,” in Islamic Law Reform and Human Rights: Challenges and Rejoinders, ed. Tore Lindholm and Kari Vogt (Copenhagen: Nordic Human Rights Publications, 1993), 25–36. 3. In observance of International Tolerance Day on November 12, 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon marked the day by remarking, “Our practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful coexistence, crucial as that is. It must be an active understanding fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.” Cited in Wong Pei Chi et al., “Tolerance Has Its Virtues but We Must Go Beyond It,” Association of Women for Action Research, November 17, 2012, 4. Andrew Jason Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” Ethics 115, no. 1 (2004): 68–95 at 68–69; Peter Nicholson, “Toleration as a Moral Ideal,” in Aspects of Toleration: Philosophical Studies, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Methuen, 1985), 158–73 at 162. 5. Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 11. 6. See, for example, Mohammad Hashim Kamali, The Dignity of Man: An Islamic Perspective (Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2002), 39–44; Muhammad al-Buti, al-Jihad fi al-islam (Damascus: Dar al-fikr, 1993), 52–54. 7. Al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, 1997), 3:15–16. 8. Ibid., 3:16–17 9. This is a highly contested position, as I describe in detail in my book Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), esp. 34–94. 10. Al-Tabari, Tafsir, 3:18. 11. Ibid., 3:19. 12. See, for example, al-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi ’ulum al-qur’an, ed. Mustafa Dib al-Bugha (Damascus: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1993), 2:706–12; Isma’il Ibn Kathir, Tafsir alQur’an al-’azim (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1990), 1:416–17. 13. Ibid., 4:610. 14. See Sohail Hashmi, “The Qur’an and Tolerance: An Interpretive Essay on Verse 5:48,” Journal of Human Rights 2, no. 1 (2003): 81–103. 15. See my discussion of Qur’an 6:108 and related verses in “Discerning a Qur’anic Mandate for Mutually Transformational Dialogue,” in Criteria of Discernment in Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Catherine Cornille (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 101–21. 16. These developments are discussed in my The First Muslims: History and Memory (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008), 54–58. 17. For a useful overview of these broad historical trends, see W. Montgomery Watt, Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1968), 54–63. 18. Al-Tabari, Tafsir, 11:399. 19. Isma‘il ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘azim (Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1990), 4:219.


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20. For a discussion of inclusivist and exclusivist understandings of this verse and of the term “Islam” itself, see Abdulaziz Sachedina, The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 38–40. 21. See, for example, Khaled Abou El Fadl, The Concept of Tolerance in Islam (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002). 22. Sachedina, Islamic Roots, passim; Asma Afsaruddin, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 25–50. 23. See my discussion of these concepts in Contemporary Issues, 28–38. 24. See Fazlur Rahman, Islam and Modernity: Transformation of an Intellectual Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). 25. For the full text of the Constitution translated into English and an analysis of its main tenets, see W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), 221–25; and R. B. Serjeant, “The ‘Constitution of Medina,’” The Islamic Quarterly 8 (1964): 3–16. 26. Cited in Afsaruddin, The First Muslims, 42. 27. Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, ed. Ihsan Abbas (Beirut: Dar al-shuruq, 1985), 122–26. 28. Abou El Fadl, The Place of Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), 21–22. 29. See my discussion of these changing attitudes in Striving in the Path of God, 75–79. 30. Cf. Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (Boston: Back Bay Books, 2003). 31. For example, see Mark R. Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), esp. 30–74. 32. Muhammad ‘Abduh, Tafsir al-qur’an al-hakim, ed. Ibrahim Shams al-Din (Beirut: Dar al-kutub al-‘ilmiyya, 1999), 10:61. 33. For example, Ali Bulac, “The Medina Document,” in Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook, ed. Charles Kurzman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 169–84; and Muqtedar Khan, “The Primacy of Political Philosophy,” in Khaled Abou El Fadl, et al., Islam and the Challenge of Democracy, ed. Joshua Cohen and Deborah Chasman (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), 63–68. 34. See this discussion in Afsaruddin, Contemporary Issues, 190–92. 35. See Qur’an 47:25; 16:109; 24:55. 36. Jamal al-Banna, al-‘Awda ila ’l-qur’an (Cairo: al-Ittihad al-islami al-duwali li ’l-‘amal, 1984), 122–30. 37. Ibid. 38. For a recent detailed study of naskh, see Louay Fatoohi, Abrogation in the Qur’an and Islamic Law (New York: Routledge, 2012). 39. Her comments are available in “What Is Pluralism?” The Pluralism Project, Harvard University, accessed January 27, 2016, what_is_pluralism. For a fuller treatment of these views, see Diana L. Eck, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003). 40. See, for example, “Tolerance,” The Free Dictionary, accessed January 27, 2015,

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41. Cf. Robert Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “The True Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Policy 135 (2003): 62–70; Alfred Stepan, “Muslims and Toleration: Unexamined Contributions to the Multiple Secularisms of Modern Democracies,” in Boundaries of Toleration, ed. Alfred Stephen and Charles Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 267–96.

Part III


Chapter 7

Tolerance in Nepal Mandala Communal Relations and Royal Religious Patronage in Malla-Era Kathmandu Anne Mocko

Toleration has been identified as the hallmark of Western liberalism: the central commitment or behavior allowing people to live in a society governed by rights.1 It therefore aligns conceptually with the modern, the rational, the secular, and the rule of law. This field of associations in its turn implicitly suggests an opposing list: that non-Western, non-liberal, or premodern societies are irrational, intolerant, excessively religious, uncommitted to (or outright lacking) rights or laws. The concept of toleration thus taps into broader Eurocentric narratives of the advanced, right-thinking, well-ordered West as superior to its own past as well as the East and global South. It thereby inhibits the possibility of looking to other places or times for alternate or even superior strategies for living in situations of diversity—cultures or systems that may have surpassed oppositional models of mutually antagonistic rights-holders in favor of a more engaged and mutually appreciative common community.2 In addition, when the concept of toleration is specifically applied to the ways societies and governments handle religious diversity, the discussion tends to presuppose a Western understanding of religion, rooted in the specific tradition of Protestant Christianity.3 As Anne Phillips points out, the Western political tradition has redefined “religion as a matter of private variation, . . . limit[ing] the relevance of religious precepts to practices in the private sphere,” and accordingly its demands have proved “far more congenial to the secularized Christianity that has developed in Europe” than to other religious traditions.4 Moreover, the central theoretical understanding of religious toleration—that it represents a principled noninterference with “an opposed other . . . in situations of diversity”5—would seem to rest upon a Christian tradition of religious exclusivism. In other words, Western theories of toleration presume that all religions are fully distinct and distinguishable from each other, that one person can only affiliate with and support the 121


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religion to which he or she “belongs,” and that a person will actively dispute and oppose the activities and beliefs of religions to which he or she does not “belong.” These assumptions about disagreement—that those who disagree with one another will disapprove of each other and that this disapproval must be overcome by principled commitments to the higher good or to the body politic—appear to reflect a specifically Christian emphasis on doctrine, and the correlating assumption that disagreement necessarily compromises community appears to reflect a Christian history of schisms over doctrine.6 None of these religious dynamics apply in the context of the traditional cultures of most of Asia, however. Rather, across Asian cultures and histories, one finds examples of complexity, plural identity, shared practice, and recognition of the legitimacy of other religions’ beliefs and practices. In premodern China, for example, people could simultaneously practice Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, while in Japan people continue to be “born Shinto, die Buddhist.”7 In Sri Lanka, devout Buddhists worship at the shrines of Hindu goddesses regarding worldly problems (such as poor health), and, in India, Hindus and Muslims worship side by side at Sufi shrines. None of these cases require(d) a philosophical principle or explicit government policy demanding noninterference in order for people to live together in multireligious communities. Indeed, there is some evidence that Western conceptual and institutional models (imported through colonialism/imperialism) disrupted interreligious equilibria in several Asian contexts and exacerbated or even created conflict between sectarian groups.8 To investigate alternate models for interreligious relationship and possible roles of government leaders in promoting such relationships, this chapter will examine the religious-political culture in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley during the Three Kingdoms period (approximately from the late fourteenth to the eighteenth century). The Kathmandu Valley during this period was home to vibrant Hindu and Mahayana Buddhist communities and practices and was ruled by explicitly Hindu kings in the adjacent city-states of Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhaktapur. These kings derived prestige from their religious activities, and they acted as patrons to both Hindu and Buddhist sites and traditions, moderating, monitoring, and fostering religious expression of multiple kinds in their domains. They also not only tolerated but actively encouraged the expansion of religious and cultural diversity in their realms, suggesting that they far surpassed a narrow, negative noninterference and achieved instead an appreciative openness toward otherness. NEWAR HINDUISM, NEWAR BUDDHISM In order to understand the remarkable strategies of the Malla kings for handling religious diversity, it is important to understand the complex religious culture

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of the people they ruled, the Newars. The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley (or Nepal Mandala9) have, for as long as there are historical records, upheld two major religious traditions: Hinduism and Buddhism. These two traditions have been practiced side by side and not infrequently in complex combination, in a strategically competitive but mutually respectful environment.10 Newars have for centuries participated in a religious culture that is radically nonexclusivist yet, at the same time, not radically inclusivist: they are not insensitive to differences between their two main traditions, and they are not open to all the religions of the world because they are idealistically committed to world peace and harmony. They are, rather, appreciative of religious practice for its own sake, knowledgeable about diverse ways to practice religion, and unwilling to declare one path singularly correct at the expense of other similar paths. Both Hindu and Buddhist Newars share many religious sensibilities and practices that foster mutual understanding and permit the legibility of an overarching Newari religious culture. In particular, for both Hindus and Buddhists, orthopraxy trumps orthodoxy, and so performing the correct observance is far more important than assenting to any form of doctrine. Newar Hinduism is dominated by Shaiva and Shakta traditions of worship, focusing on performing rituals that will sway intense but dangerous divine powers, especially Shiva and various goddesses. In this strain of Hindu tradition (which contrasts to more orderly and decorous Vishnu-centric traditions), the world is generally seen as populated by powerful, often chaotic beings needing to be brought into constructive relationship with humans through rituals and mantras. These rituals and mantras may be deployed by ordinary people at various temples and at their homes or they may be performed on larger scales and to greater effect by specially initiated Brahmin priests trained in esoteric ritual technologies and able to chant in Sanskrit. This religious tradition might sound sharply different from Buddhism (particularly to readers acquainted with Theravada or Zen Buddhism), but Newar Buddhism is remarkably congruent with Newar Hinduism.11 Newars preserve a late-Indic tantric form of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on ritual performance. Newar Buddhist rituals are performed by male priests trained in esoteric ritual technologies and able to recite texts in Sanskrit, and they feature elaborate costumes, intricate implements, mantras, images, and gestures very similar to Newar Hindu traditions. Moreover, Buddhist male priests are always married family men, much like Hindu priests, because Newar Buddhism has no major tradition in recent centuries of celibate monasticism. Newar Buddhist priests live in regular homes, perform daily puja in temples containing large brass buddhas or bodhisattvas, and pass on their ritual knowledge to their sons. In addition to the significant formal similarities between Newar Hinduism and Newar Buddhism, all Newars participate in important ways in a common


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worldview and religious culture that makes it quite easy for most people to appreciate and even to participate in practices across sectarian lines. Every person is expected to uphold standards of ritual purity, dependent upon their gender, their age, and their position in the elaborate Newar caste system;12 every person is expected to perform daily, monthly, annual, and stage-oflife rituals, and every person is expected to venerate images of higher-thanhuman beings. Newar rituals involve elaborate chanting, special garments, food offerings, feasting, alcohol, and often animal sacrifice, and most Newars understand that religious life involves following a large number of rules (especially regarding diet). Newars recognize that Hinduism and Buddhism are different traditions, but rather than characterizing them as wholly separate “religions,” they tend to describe them as separate “paths” (buddha marg versus shiva marg—the “path of the Buddha” versus the “path of Shiva”). Religious specialists have to follow one path or the other based on the lineage they are born into, but people born below the level of priesthood can walk either path or both. Most families have a multigenerational patronage relationship with a particular priest-lineage, meaning that each family consistently hires either a Buddhist priest or a Hindu priest for its major rituals, but, regardless of that nominal affiliation, any family is free to worship at any religious site or to participate in any local religious event. The majority of Newars thus worship at both Buddhist and Hindu temples, attend both Buddhist and Hindu festivals, and if asked whether they are Hindu or Buddhist are likely to answer, “Yes.”13 Accordingly, even if their specific beliefs or rituals differ from their neighbors (which they often would not), Newars still generally understand and approve each other’s traditions and so have no need for principled toleration to live constructively with their differences. Given this complex religious culture, it is not difficult to imagine how or why the Malla kings could patronize both Hindu and Buddhist religious activity: their subjects did not strongly demarcate the two traditions. During the Three Kingdoms period as in the present, local Newars and their kings would have presumed that Hinduism and Buddhism were distinct and distinguishable from each other yet that both were legitimate forms of religious expression that could be practiced side by side or even simultaneously. The Malla kings did not need to practice or impose policies of religious toleration to insist that their diverse population not interfere with other religious traditions on principle, because the existing Newari religious sensibility dictated that one could and should not just tolerate but observe and even participate in the religious traditions of one’s neighbors. Despite being strongly self-identified Hindus, often Vaishnava rather than Shaiva, the Malla kings would not have viewed Newari Buddhism as “wrong” or even necessarily different from their own beliefs and practices. Nor would they have necessarily judged local

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Hinduism, which often differed from court Hinduism, as something requiring toleration. Rather, they would have understood that religion, well-practiced, ought properly to be supported and nurtured by the king and his government.

NEWAR KINGSHIP IN THE MALLA PERIOD: POLITICS AND PATRONAGE During the Three Kingdoms period, politics in the Kathmandu Valley operated on a complex prestige system quite different from the claims to royal absolutism more familiar from early modern Europe. Throughout the Himalayan foothills, “kingdoms” were generally small, shifting territories that rarely blossomed into empires and more usually resembled city-states.14 Kings were also not necessarily rulers by blood: “Malla” was a title rather than a dynastic name, meaning that several Malla kings were genetically unrelated to their predecessors or successors, and a few were not even ethnically Newar.15 In other words, kings in premodern Nepal were not exclusively defined by birth, land, or military conquest. Rather, kingship meant royal performance, which could include military conquest but could also include owning many elephants, wearing impressive outfits, hosting literati at one’s court, renovating or improving one’s palace, funding and participating in local religious rituals, and endowing impressive temples. Indeed, this last duty—to serve as a religious patron—was integral to the role of the king: The aspect of kingship most central and conspicuous in the Valley’s permanent record is the linkage of the kingly person with his capacity to build and maintain temples to the gods. The capacity to order the affairs of mortals is of course implied, for templebuilding presupposes a command of resources and labor, but it is in the act of building—or gifting [for religious purposes]—that kingship was paradigmatically articulated.16

The king was thus not a neutral arbiter over the religious traditions of his populace but rather an active, often enthusiastic, participant in religious matters, cultivating the presence of consecrated divine beings in his realm and increasing the scope and grandeur of public religious activity. The local political-religious prestige economy was unusually highly developed in the Kathmandu Valley, compared to the rest of the Himalayan foothills, for several reasons. Not only was the Valley particularly fertile, allowing the local population to flourish and multiple cities and towns to form in close proximity, but it occupied a crucial location on the Kuti-Pass trade route from India to Tibet. The Valley became a conduit for goods and


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a stopping point for traders (who needed to time their journeys between the worst snows of the high mountain passes and the malarial season of the southern Tarai jungles); in addition, the Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley had an arrangement with the Tibetans to mint coins from the gold and silver ore mined from the high Himalayas.17 Through these various economic realities, the Kathmandu Valley was both food-secure and cash-rich on a scale unmatched elsewhere in the Himalayan foothills, giving the Malla kings the means to engage in cultural patronage far beyond the reach of any other kings in the region. Multiple kings were also in far closer proximity to each other in the Kathmandu Valley than elsewhere in the region. Elsewhere in the Himalayan foothills, each raja generally claimed a valley or hilltop, or a few contiguous valleys or hills that did not overlap with the territories of local competitors; thus, these small-scale kings rarely interacted with one another. In the Kathmandu Valley, however, several competing kings all ruled in the same small space. Through most of the period, there were three main kingdoms in the Valley, centered in the cities of Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, and Kantipur. The rajas of these three cities could probably see each other’s kingdoms from high points in their palaces and could theoretically walk to each other’s courts for major occasions. This proximity made the Malla kings intensely competitive with one another. Their friendship treaties often included two kings to the exclusion of the third and were discarded as soon as they became inconvenient. They inspected each other’s palaces and built ornate new wings and courtyards as soon as they saw that one of the others had undertaken a new building project. They also competed as religious patrons. If one of the rajas built a new Krishna temple, the other two scrambled to build Krishna temples; if one raja consecrated a new Durga image, his rivals would renovate their own goddess temples; if one raja had a divine chariot procession in his city, the other two rajas quickly instituted divine chariot processions of their own.18 The religious and ritual life of the Valley, as well as the local literature and architecture, flourished, then, under a nearly constant influx of royal cash and land grants.19 Because the local Newar population practiced both Hinduism and Buddhism in the complex and complementary ways outlined above, kings patronized both Hindu and Buddhist religious sites, specialists, and practices. They built temples for Hindu gods and goddesses and renovated temples for bodhisattvas. They funded the priests at the Pashupatinath temple to Shiva, and they renovated the Buddhist stupa at Swayambhunath. Moreover, they understood these activities to be eminently part of their identity and duty as Hindu kings. According to their own understandings of their positions, they did not need to “tolerate” the different traditions of their subjects, first because they did not necessarily disapprove of or disagree with

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Newar Buddhism or variant practices of Hinduism, and second because their proper roles involved not passive noninterference but rather pluralist, active acceptance of and support for religious activity. It was explicitly the job of the king to monitor, coordinate, and provide for the divine denizens of his city; regardless of whether he personally worshipped or “believed in” any particular deity, he was expected to grant approval for new temples and their permanently enlivened images and to ensure a proper balance between different temples and beings. While there are countless examples of Malla kings endowing Hindu temples or patronizing Hindu rituals, as well as examples of Malla kings endowing institutions or practices that blur sectarian lines, it will be particularly interesting to look at two examples of Malla kings handling explicitly Buddhist sites and activities, to see the range of royal religious activity and policy during the period. These examples fall somewhere between religious exclusivism and indiscriminate pluralism, and so it will be possible to see nuances of agency in the royal handling of religious matters. The first king worth examining is one of the most famous kings of the period, Pratap Malla, who reigned in Kantipur from 1641 to 1674 CE. Pratap Malla became famous because of the elegance and novelty of his building programs, but he also became known for his gifts as a poet and religious aesthete. He wrote well in Sanskrit and composed first-person stotras (classical religious poems) in praise of various divinities. He also was recorded to have participated in sacred dance and performed the role of Vishnu in the form of Narasimha at a dance-drama in the royal palace in the early 1670s.20 One of the most important religious acts of Pratap Malla’s reign, however, was the ornamentation and renovation of the great Buddhist stupa of Swayambhunath. Pratap arranged for the full stupa to be repaired and added a number of prominent ornaments to its campus, including commissioning a large statue of the Buddha Akshobhya and installing a large bronze vajra (the most distinctive symbol of tantric Buddhism) on a stone pedestal at the top of the stupa’s east staircase. He also had a stone inscription prepared, recording a praise-hymn to Swayambhu that he had written in Sanskrit. In this hymn, however, Pratap celebrates neither the glory of Buddhism nor his own ecumenism but rather his conviction that Swayambhu (the “self-born” stupa) is in fact Shambhu (“gives birth to happiness,” an epithet of Shiva). Through this play on words, Pratap Malla inscribed “a monument to the Buddha into a universe made of Śiva,”21 and thereby claimed his patronage of a Buddhist site as an act of Hindu devotion. This was not an example of “Sanskritization” or the gradual Hinduization of local Buddhism but part of an accepted dance of appropriation and redefinition; local Buddhists, for their part, claimed the king’s entire realm in the name of Buddhism and accepted his gifts at their iconographically Buddhist face value.22


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Another Malla king who dealt in complex ways with the Buddhist communities and practices of his realm was Pratap Malla’s uncle, Siddhi Narasimha Malla, who ruled in Lalitpur from 1619 to 1661 CE. Siddhi Narasimha was as notable a builder as his nephew, commissioning an exquisite stone Krishna temple as well as a beautiful temple to the goddess Taleju, but he was also asked during his reign to adjudicate between competing models of Buddhist life in his kingdom. It appears that in Lalitpur in the seventeenth century some buildings were set aside for renunciate monastic practice—the kind of Buddhist communities more typical elsewhere in Asia—but these buildings were largely uninhabited or under-inhabited and falling into disrepair. Siddhi Narasimha accordingly devised a plan to reorganize and reallocate Buddhist spaces: he assigned Buddhist priestly families to take over in Buddhist buildings that were abandoned or dilapidated, and required that any Buddhist specialist in his kingdom must perform death rituals (a measure that economically stabilized each institution, but drew Buddhist monks into the work of priests, farther from the ideals of isolated pursuit of nirvana but closer in line with the values and practices of the king himself). He also reformed the leadership structures of renunciate communities. Siddhi Narasimha’s overhauling of the local Buddhist institutional structure has drawn the ire of more than one scholar, contributing as it did to the eclipse of monastic Buddhism by priestly Buddhism,23 but, in fact, the intervention was requested by members of the specialist Buddhist community, who sought to leverage the authority of the Hindu king to bend Buddhist practice in particular directions. Moreover, Siddhi Narasimha consented to intervene, not because he was a Hindu king wishing to impose Hindu values on a community whose beliefs and practices he decried, but because in his role as Hindu king it was his responsibility to ensure that religious life ran smoothly within his kingdom and that religious spaces once put into use did not collapse or fall into disuse. His goal was to foster and nurture local Buddhist practice and to sustain active religious worship in a moment when one faction of the community (the renunciate monastic community) was shrinking and losing vigor. While this might be seen as pragmatic, it might also suggest an interesting example of religious intolerance: while Siddhi Narasimha could accept religions other than his own in his kingdom, he could not accept people practicing their religion badly and he needed to intervene accordingly. This would highlight the importance of orthopraxy over orthodoxy to the Mallas. The most important lesson to draw from Siddhi Narasimha’s intervention, though, is that it would be insufficient for a Malla king simply to allow a Buddhist temple to exist or host rituals in his kingdom, especially if that temple was falling into disrepair; this was not “live and let live” ecumenism. Rather, it was incumbent upon the king actively to provide the means for religious

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practice, even if not his own, to flourish in his domain. Religion was accordingly not a private enterprise, the concern of the practitioner, confined to home or family or free time, but a crucial aspect of public life. Religion was a fundamental part of the body politic, a key part of the health of the city for which the king was responsible. NON-NEWARS IN NEPAL MANDALA The religious toleration practiced by Malla kings in Nepal Mandala thus primarily represented a unique Newar religious-political culture, in which Hinduism and Buddhism could blend into a plural, nonexclusive tradition, and Hindu kings could establish their kingliness through their patronage of local Newari artistry and religious expression. So far, though, it might seem that the Mallas patronized both Newari Hinduism and Buddhism because local religious pluralism was enveloped in a broader Newar linguistic, cultural, and ethnic monism. In other words, it might appear that the Mallas established policies officially supporting both Hinduism and Buddhism because they were ruling a population that was religiously plural while being homogenous in all other respects. If true, this might suggest that the Mallas were inclusive of the two characteristically Newari religious traditions, while they were exclusive or even intolerant toward non-Newari traditions (as indeed tends to be the case among modern Newars).24 But this was emphatically—and counterintuitively—not the case for the Malla kings of Nepal Mandala. Instead, the Mallas actively cultivated small populations of non-Newars (including non-Hindus and non-Buddhists) living within their kingdoms. They not only permitted non-Newars to live among the broader ethnic Newar community, but they patronized non-Newar religious activities, and they even occasionally invited more foreigners to their kingdoms and courts. The non-Newars who were welcomed to Nepal Mandala included Hindus from outside the Kathmandu Valley, Buddhists from Tibet, Muslims and Sikhs from India, and Christians from Europe. The Malla kings appear then to have been not insular ethnic exclusivists but rather enthusiastic cosmopolites who did not just “tolerate” difference but actively embraced it. In this sense, they far exceeded the narrower vision of religious noninterference characteristic of Western political theory. The first category of “foreigners” embraced by the Malla kings includes coreligionists (Hindus and Buddhists) who hailed from non-Newar cultural and linguistic backgrounds, people whose religious practices were cognate with but not identical to those of the Valley’s main residents. To begin with their nearest neighbors, the Malla kings permitted pahadi-ethnic Hindus to settle in the Valley. These migrants were generally farmers from nearby regions of


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the Himalayan foothills, who spoke the language that would become Nepali (an Indo-European tongue related to Hindi rather than the Tibeto-Burman Newari language) and who often settled in scattered farmsteads outside the main Newari urban centers. These Hindu migrants made limited impact on city or court life but helped to make the Valley more agriculturally productive.25 They appear to have drifted into the Valley rather than having been recruited for residence, and they either worshipped at existing Hindu temples constructed by local Newars or established minor shrines of their own. Beyond this passive acceptance of “outsider” Hindus, the Malla kings actively invited some Hindus (especially priests) from more orthodox, often Vaishnava communities to the south to ornament their temples and courts. An ethnic Maithili community flourished in the Malla courts, hailing from the southern plains of what is today Nepal’s Tarai. Literature in the Maithili language flourished (alongside Sanskrit, Newari, and Nepali pieces), and Malla kings directly paid for many such texts to be produced, copied, or recited. Some major power players in the Malla courts were Maithili rather than Newari, probably including King Sthitiraja Malla.26 Significant numbers of Maithili priests were invited to Nepal Mandala, because their more rigorous caste purity and superior Sanskrit knowledge rendered them more prestigious than local Brahmins. Some Malla kings looked even further south for prestigious priests and brought Brahmins from various kingdoms in India. Sivasimha Malla imported four Brahmins from Tirhut to serve in his court, while King Ratna Malla brought a Brahmin priest from the Deccan to serve in the prestigious Pashupatinath Temple.27 In addition to migrants from the south, the Malla kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley hosted migrants from the north: Tibetans who came down from the high Himalayan plateaus for trade or pilgrimage. Tibetan traders traveled routinely to or permanently resettled in Nepal Mandala to facilitate economic networks, and significant numbers of pious Tibetans traveled for pilgrimage. Some pilgrims would pass through the Kathmandu Valley on their way south toward the Indic plains to visit Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Lumbini, but many stopped in Nepal Mandala to worship at Newari Buddhist temples and the major stupas at Swayambhunath and Bodhanath. In fact, as royal patronage began to drift during the later Malla era to favor Hindu sites and activities more than Buddhist ones, Tibetan Buddhists often stepped in to help fund the Kathmandu Valley’s Newari Buddhist sites. Tibetans joined together with King Jayaprakash Malla to finance the reconstruction of the Swayambhunath stupa in 1751, and they were allowed to add Tibetan prayer wheels and a Tibetan-style monastery (gompa) to the existing Newari complex.28 Around the same time, Tibetan funding permitted the Bodhanath stupa a few miles away to be “totally rebuilt to Tibetan taste, perhaps in conformity with the celebrated Tibetan stupa at Gyangtse.”29 In this way, Tibetans were able to

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become active stakeholders in the sacred geography and architecture of the Kathmandu Valley, and the Malla kings seem not to have viewed the Tibetans’ cultural, linguistic, or sectarian differences from the main Newari population as a barrier to their participation in the Valley’s religious life. These examples, however, still fall nominally within the religious culture of the Newari people: Hindus and Buddhists walking parallel paths to a similar destination. What is more remarkable is that the Malla kings cultivated populations of people with more foreign origins who were neither Hindu nor Buddhist. For example, Sikhs have been present in the Kathmandu Valley since the founding of Sikhism, and Guru Nanak himself is said to have spent a year of his life meditating in Kathmandu at the site now known as Nanak Math in Balaju. According to copperplate records of royal land grants, Jaya Prakash Malla (d. 1768), the last Malla king of Kantipur, endowed “twenty ropanis of rice land . . . to the Nanakshahi monastery,” for the support of the Sikh community’s fakirs and udasis; the gift was upheld and the birta grant reissued in 1876 during the later Rana period.30 One of his predecessors (probably Jagat Jaya Malla, who ruled Kantipur in the early 1700s) apparently gifted more than twice as much land to a different Sikh institution, the Nanak-Sangat in Gyaneshwor.31 Despite garnering some local converts, these Sikh groups would have had a distinctively Indian identity, yet the Malla kings actively and permanently supported their presence. In addition to Sikhs, there were also Muslims living in Nepal Mandala during the Three Kingdoms period. Many were merchants from Kashmir, who first came to the Valley around the turn of the sixteenth century during the reign of Ratna Malla (r. 1484–1520 CE). The king provided a land grant outside Kantipur city limits for them to construct a mosque, on the site where the Kashmiri Takia Jamme mosque continues to sit in the twenty-first century.32 In the early eighteenth century, King Mahindrasimha specifically invited Muslim merchants and musicians to settle in Kantipur,33 and throughout the Malla period kings hired north Indian Muslims to act as guards and soldiers in the valley. For example, Desideri, writing in the early eighteenth century, reports a Malla king (unnamed) who had taken “men from Hindustan, chiefly Muhammedans, into his service.” These men acted as personal body guards to the king, tasting food, warning against palace intrigues, etc.34

Some Muslims of Indian descent also capitalized upon their language skills to serve in Malla royal courts as secretaries, helping Malla rajas correspond with the Mughals. This Malla acceptance of and support for local Muslim populations confounds a common contemporary assumption, namely, that Hinduism and


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Islam are fundamentally antagonistic—a notion linked to the Partitioning of India and Pakistan and the communal violence that has shaped India in recent decades. Malla support for Islam is also counterintuitive given that, in the Mallas’ own time period, many Hindu kingdoms to the south were under intense military pressure from the Muslim Mughals, and the Mallas sheltered some refugee Indian Hindu royals in their courts after the latter had fled from Mughal invasion. The Kathmandu Valley itself even experienced a sweeping Mughal raid in the late fourteenth century, and (as was often done on the north Indian plains) the iconoclast invaders damaged many local temples and religious images. Clearly, though, the Malla rulers did not consider the small number of Muslims living in their kingdoms a threat to their sovereignty or to the majority Newar population’s practice of Hinduism and Buddhism and they valued the economic, musical, and military assets their Muslim subjects contributed. Perhaps the most surprising instance of Malla policies on religious diversity was the acceptance, even solicitation, of European Christians. Europeans began arriving in small numbers in the Kathmandu Valley in the mid-1600s, assortments of missionaries, traders, and explorers. Whereas the outsider Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, or Muslims in Nepal Mandala were cultural cousins to the Newars (and knew, for instance, to remove their shoes in a temple35), Europeans were far more culturally foreign. They also usually came to conquer, economically exploit, or convert the locals—goals which would understandably elicit hostility from their hosts. The Malla kings, however, greeted these very strange newcomers and their novel material goods with interest and occasionally outright enthusiasm. Several seventeenth-century European travelers report having their telescopes appropriated by Malla kings, and in 1716 a group of missionaries delighted the raja of Kantipur by presenting him with a wall clock.36 Though the first two Capuchin delegations to the Kathmandu Valley received a tepid response to their conversion efforts, a third delegation came armed with European medicines and treatments, thereby achieving massive popularity with local elites. Excitement over European medicine was so intense that in 1744 King Ranjit Malla of Bhaktapur wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XIV that read in part: Before now there were no European things in Nepal. Now, thanks to you, there are things and there are Padres. Since the Padres have given help to my subjects and made the people very happy, we are looking after the Padres as much as possible. In addition, send here for the things that you have not got there, and I will send there for the things that I have not got here. You must not have any anxiety about affairs here. You are my friend. I will do all I can. Also, there are no good doctors here. You must send me from there a good doctor and a good craftsman.37

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Over the next two decades, Malla rulers of the three cities actually vied with one another to attract the European missionaries, each making land grants and presenting houses to the missionaries and their small flocks to try to keep the exotic Europeans in his kingdom.38 By examining these different populations—outsider Hindus, Tibetan Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians—it becomes clear that the Malla kings of Nepal Mandala were remarkably open to hosting religious, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural “others” in their territories. They were prepared not just to condone but to pay out of their own treasuries or lands to support a variety of religious activities and beliefs that they did not share. The Malla kings did not personally spin Tibetan prayer wheels, bow to Allah in mosques, or accept Jesus Christ as their savior, but they appear to have assumed that the more religion their kingdoms had the better. They often supported the religious activities of their minority populations because they wanted something else from those particular individuals— whether Tibetan gold, European spyglasses and clocks, or Mughal military knowledge. The religious patronage they engaged in was thus not necessarily idealistic or spiritual; it was instead politically strategic, aimed at increasing the resources of their kingdoms. The fact that European medicine came packaged with proselytization was probably not ideal to the Malla rulers, but it was an acceptable price to pay for new knowledge and technology. In other words, religious tolerance was part habit and possibly part moral principle, but it was also solidly practical statecraft. CONCLUSION Anne Phillips writes, “Tolerance is surely an advance on intolerance, but is it not possible to do better than either of these?”39 Concerned that toleration may actually solidify disapproval and misunderstanding—that majority communities may never be pressed to understand the traditions or values of minorities, because “toleration that depends on abstention carries no obligations about rethinking the basis of disapproval”—Phillips challenges readers to consider situations where people live together based upon dialogue and “a better mutual understanding of our differences.”40 Such an arrangement, I argue, was achieved in the Malla kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley, where multiple religious communities lived and worshipped beside and with each other and were supported in their religious needs by the kings of each city-state. So why were Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley able to implement such open policies toward religious diversity? One possible factor predisposing them to pluralism was that they were Hindus, for Hinduism offers some strong resources for ruling diversity. While there are certainly Hindus (now and in the


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past) who are or have been exclusivist, intolerant, and xenophobic—in other words, while Hinduism is not definitionally tolerant or ecumenical—some distinctively Hindu sensibilities are nevertheless well suited to living constructively within and ruling diverse populations. First, Hindu traditions tend to be pluralist in conceiving divinity and truth. Most Hindus are radically polytheistic, and even if they venerate one particular god or goddess themselves, they generally grant the reality and importance of other divine beings. Even Hindus who hold that ultimate truth is unitary tend to assert that such truth expresses itself in myriad ways. This theological sensibility lends itself well to respecting the beliefs and deities of others: whereas Christians or Muslims are often taught that those who worship other gods are wrong (often, wrong in a dangerous way that ought ideally to be eradicated), Hindus have resources for viewing the religious traditions of others as legitimate expressions and pursuits of truth.41 This is not to say that all Christians or, worse, all Muslims are deterministically intolerant; just within South Asian history, the Mughal emperor Aurangazeb ordered the destruction of Hindu temples, but Akbar cultivated a famously multireligious court salon. Monotheists may, however, need more explicit commitments to “toleration” in order to accept diverse worldviews. Additionally, Hindu traditions regarding human nature may be better suited to diverse contexts than Western traditions. The dominant narrative in Euro-American thought since the Enlightenment has imagined a person to be an autonomous, rationalist individual and presumed each generic person to be basically interchangeable with every other person. By contrast, Hindus generally presume that each person’s structural identities (gender, age, lineage, marital status, residence, profession) matter deeply for his or her religious identity. A little girl growing up in a Brahmin household in South India will not have the same religious obligations as her father or as the low-caste woman who does her family’s laundry or as a kshatriya-caste boy growing up in the Punjab. Because of this radical belief in human particularity, Hindus presume that all societies—even apparently homogenous all-Hindu communities—are always already diverse, and that this diversity can be accommodated through structured community. Hindus also generally assume that every segment of any society has religious practices, beliefs, and needs distinctive to itself. This logic lends itself well to governing a society that includes communities of many religions, because just as the Brahmin community can have distinctive practices and beliefs unique to its particular identity, so, too, a minority Sikh, Christian, or Rastafarian community living in a Hindu polity could be understood to have distinctive practices and beliefs uniquely appropriate to its particular identity. In other words, a Hindu leader can expect that Christians, Muslims, or Tibetans would have practices and beliefs specific and appropriate to them. While there are certain religious practices that would be difficult to assimilate into

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this Hindu vision of religious social structure (most importantly, evangelism and iconoclasm), the task of integrating minority communities into a broader society seems eminently possible within a deeply traditional Hindu outlook, without turning to a modernist theory of toleration. It is true that there is a drawback to the traditional Hindu sense of community as a model, however, which is that the different diverse individuals and segments are not all envisioned to be equal. Hindu society is segmented but also hierarchical, meaning that each facet of the structure will be located as higher or lower than other facets. Some of these rankings are context dependent (so that political leaders trump religious leaders at military processions, while priests trump political leaders at rituals), but some rankings are understood to be inborn. The most familiar iteration of birth-based hierarchy in the West is the caste system, in which different family lineages are ranked against each other, but genders are also hierarchically ranked, and it is likely that Sikh and Muslim minorities were considered hierarchically inferior to local Hindus and Buddhists. In seeking a model to reproduce elsewhere, it would be preferable to envision systems where difference could be accommodated in nonhierarchical (or at least less hierarchical) ways. Nevertheless, traditional Hindu assumptions about natural difference provide a starting point. In attempting to account for the pluralism of the Malla kings, however, the fact that they were Hindu is not enough. When the Kathmandu Valley was conquered in 1768 and incorporated into the new empire which eventually became united Nepal, the Mallas were supplanted by the Shah dynasty— kings who were also Hindu but who did not pursue Malla-style policies of religious and ethnic pluralism. Prithvi Narayan Shah (d. 1775), who routed the Mallas, ejected all Catholic missionaries from the Valley as one of his first acts as king, and closed his empire to Europeans for the next several decades; his descendants’ governments admitted perhaps a dozen Europeans per decade from the late eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. Prithvi Narayan Shah’s conquests also disrupted the Kathmandu Valley’s trade with Tibet by causing the borders to close for five years;42 it is likely that the number of Tibetans living in Nepal Mandala dropped as a consequence. Similarly, most Kashmiri merchants fled from the Shah conquests, and while a few returned, there was not a major Muslim presence in the Kathmandu Valley again until the 1990s. While Prithvi Narayan Shah hired a handful of Muslim military experts, he expressed hostility toward the culture and practices of the Mughals and advised in his Dibya Upadesa Muglan (India) is near. In that place there are singers and dancers. In rooms lined with paintings, they forget themselves in melodies woven on the drum and sitar. There is great pleasure in these melodies. But it drains your wealth. They take away the secrets of your country and deceive the poor. . . .


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Let no one open the mountain trails for these classes of people. If they are needed for Holi, bring a few; but send them away quickly, and they will not discover your country’s secrets.43

This passage suggests that where the Mallas viewed the people, culture, and practices imported from the south as ornamentations to their courts, Prithvi Narayan Shah saw them as threats to his imperial sovereignty. While the new Shah regime did not actively eject Muslims or Tibetan Buddhists from its territories, the Shah kings made no overtures to lure the diversity back to Nepal Mandala. On the contrary, “foreigners were strictly excluded from the kingdom at this time,”44 and Prithvi Narayan Shah justified his antidiversity policies on the grounds that he was establishing a “pure Hindu state” (asali Hindustan). Accordingly, incursions from the impure outside world would sully his territory: “Indeed ‘non-Hindu,’ ‘foreign,’ and ‘immoral’ were all more or less synonymous concepts” under the new Shah regime.45 Such radical difference between two Hindu forms of rule—Malla and Shah—suggests that the Mallas indeed made a purposeful choice in favor of pluralism. It is nevertheless unlikely that the Mallas held a principled commitment to religious toleration. Instead, it is more likely that divergences in the two regimes’ geopolitics and foreign policy oriented them differently toward “otherness.” The Mallas were cosmopolitan rulers of “bijoux kingdoms” resting on international trade routes. Their wealth and importance stemmed from their Valley’s role as a conduit of valuable foreign objects and people. Moreover, during their main centuries of rule, the political administration of the entire region was decentralized and diffuse: the Himalayan foothills were governed by dozens of small-scale, shifting principalities; the Indian plains boasted dozens of small and mid-sized realms; and even the expansive Mughal empire controlled much of its territory through a network of local client-kings. Governance in Malla-period South Asia thus involved small-scale local rulers networked in complex relationships (and sometimes acrimonious competitions) with a wide variety of royal neighbors. But by the eighteenth century, the British colonial system was consolidating control over ever greater territories, and during Prithvi Narayan Shah’s lifetime the British took decisive control over nearby Bengal.46 The Shah dynasty was thus faced, not with dozens of neighboring mini-kingdoms competing over lavish temple patronage or bejeweled turbans, but with an aggressively expansive imperial power that coveted Himalayan territories. Prithvi Narayan and the later men who inherited his state were quite right to suspect outsiders and quite rational to pursue a policy of isolationism. If this example is instructive, then, it would suggest that government policies regarding religious diversity rest at least in part on that government’s sense of safety and cooperation in its foreign policy. Because religious plurality

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is also often cultural and ethnic plurality, the government and the majority population have to be comfortable not just with unusual beliefs or rituals but with “foreignness,” outsiders, and difference. NOTES 1. Jean Hampton, “Should Political Philosophy Be Done without Metaphysics?” Ethics 99, no. 4 (1989): 791–814 at 802. 2. Also see Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, eds., A Critique of Pure Tolerance (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969); Anne Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference: Does this Make for a More Intolerant Society?” in Toleration, Identity, and Difference, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (Basingstoke: St. Martin’s Press), 126–45. Regarding interreligious attitudes beyond toleration, see Diana Eck, Encountering God: A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Banaras (Boston: Beacon Press, 2003). 3. For a critique of normativity in Western political thought, see Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003). 4. Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference,” 127. Note, though, that even Phillips contrasts “secularized Christianity” with “more militant religions,” a binary that implicitly upholds the notion that public religiosity is definitionally excessive, inappropriate, intolerant, violent, and unsuited to civic discourse. 5. Andrew Jason Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” Ethics 115, no. 1 (2004): 68–95 at 69. 6. For instance, sectarian schisms just within North American Lutheranism have led Wisconsin Synod Lutherans to refuse communion to and from members of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. 7. See, for example, Judith Berling, A Pilgrim in Chinese Culture: Negotiating Religious Diversity (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1997); Ian Reader, Religion in Contemporary Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991). 8. See, for example, Nicholas B. Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011). 9. In the period in question, the Kathmandu Valley and its satellite settlements were often referred to as “Nepal”; once this name was adopted for the entire modern nation-state, usages only referring to the Kathmandu Valley became confusing, so this paper will use “Kathmandu Valley” and “Nepal Mandala” (preferred by contemporary Newar activists). 10. Bledsoe describes the relationships between Newar Hindus and Buddhists as a subtle dance “of ongoing mutual redefinition, reinterpretation, and partial appropriation.” Bronwen Bledsoe, “Written in Stone: Inscriptions of the Kathmandu Valley’s Three Kingdoms” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2004), 192. 11. For a comprehensive ethnography of Newari Buddhism, see David N. Gellner, Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).


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12. While caste is typically presumed to be definitionally Hindu, the Newar system locates Hindu and Buddhist priests jointly at the top of its hierarchy of ritual purity. 13. Gellner, Monk, 41. 14. See D. R. Regmi, Medieval Nepal, vol. 2 (Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay, 1965–1966); Michael Hutt, Nepal (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1995); Mary Slusser, Nepal Mandala (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982). 15. Jayasthiti (or Sthitiraja) Malla, the most powerful king of the fourteenth century, was “from the south,” probably Mithila, and claimed the throne through his wife’s dynastic lineage. Slusser, Nepal Mandala, 58. 16. Ibid., 101. 17. See the introduction to Ibid. 18. For more detailed accounts, see Bledsoe, “Written in Stone.” 19. In traditional Himalayan politics, kings owned all the land in their kingdoms and collected rent from the peasant cultivators. Kings could assign permanent land rights over cultivated land to a temple or worship group, and the crops from that land would then fund religious activity in perpetuity. 20. Slusser, Nepal Mandala, 192. 21. Bledsoe, “Written in Stone,” 192. 22. Ibid., 225. 23. Ibid., 218. 24. See Gellner, Monk, 89–90. 25. Slusser, Nepal Mandala, 69. 26. Ibid., 58. 27. Daniel Wright, History of Nepal (1877; New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1993), 202. 28. Slusser, Nepal Mandala, 71, 74. 29. Ibid., 71. 30. Regmi Research Series, vol. 9 (December 1977), 137, 31. Ibid. 32. Imtiaz Ahmad and Helmut Reifeld, Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation, and Conflict (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2004), 109. 33. Slusser, Nepal Mandala, 69. 34. Mark Liechty, “Selective Exclusion: Foreigners, Foreign Goods, and Foreignness in Modern Nepali History,” Studies in Nepali History and Society 2, no. 1 (1997): 5–68 at 20. 35. One Capuchin, Father Giuseppe, bragged about “gain[ing] admission into a particular temple without being forced to remove his shoes—a point of contention that had prevented other Fathers from entering.” Liechty, “Selective Exclusion,” 19. 36. Ibid., 34–35. 37. Ibid., 5. 38. Ibid., 17. 39. Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference,” 126. 40. Ibid., 130.

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41. In “What Toleration Is,” Andrew Cohen specifically lists “opposition” or disapproval as a necessary condition for toleration (71). Thus, theoretically, if Hindus do not disapprove, they do not need to tolerate. 42. Ludwig Stiller, Prithwinarayan Shah in the Light of Dibya Upadesh (Kathmandu: Himalaya Book Center, 1968), 48. 43. Ibid., 46. 44. Ibid., 58. 45. Liechty, “Selective Exclusion,” 11. 46. Stiller, Prithwinarayan Shah, 51–52.

Chapter 8

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India A Cultural Stance on Tolerance Neelima Shukla-Bhatt Stirred by an unprecedented growth in ethnic and cultural diversity in Europe, North America, and elsewhere in the world, interest in ideas about toleration, multiculturalism, and pluralism has risen tremendously in recent years. In an increasingly interconnected world, fruitful discourse on engagement with difference will necessarily be multivocal. This chapter contributes to such discourse. It discusses a perspective on difference prevalent in all layers of Hindu communities in India, numerous members of which have now settled in different corners of the world. The perspective is that of “the one in the many”––an understanding that the underlying reality of diverse life forms is one but is manifest in different forms in all existence. The perspective is based on an understanding of two levels of reality: 1. the phenomenal world of change and difference, and 2. the deeper ultimate reality that permeates all that exists and thus unifies everything. Both levels are real. But the awareness of the deeper reality changes the perspective on the phenomenal world of change and difference. When articulated within a multireligious context, this perspective translates into an attitude of acceptance toward various forms of worship of the divine by different people because the one reality that underlies all existence also permeates all forms of worship. It does not mean that everyone believes in or worships the same divine. It only means that all forms of worship, and non-worship for that matter, are different but are parts of existence unified by that one underlying reality. Difference is therefore to be accepted, even celebrated, with the awareness of this deeper unity. This approach to difference is distinct from principled restraint and noninterference when one encounters something with which one does not agree, which forms the core of the moral ideal of “toleration.”1 It is closer to “tolerance,” in that it pertains to people’s ability to cope with difference. But unlike “tolerance,” which Lorenzo Zucca terms a “natural human response to 141


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difference,” the attitude based on “the one in the many” is a cultural stance with a long history.2 This stance has its roots in ancient Sanskrit texts, which have been traditionally controlled by the elite of Hindu society for millennia. Yet it is also intricately interwoven in the worldview of the common people who do not know the classical language and therefore cannot read the ancient texts. How did the understanding of “the one in the many” then filter through the layers of Hindu society? I propose in this chapter that its prevalence today derives to a considerable extent from the popularity of devotional songs composed by saintly poets (poet-saints) in regional languages of India between the eighth and the eighteenth centuries. Many songs of poet-saints conveying the message of “the one in the many” have circulated among the masses for centuries through traditions of communal musical performance and have been immensely popular. They continue to be performed in diverse contexts–– even nonreligious and interfaith ones––today by people in all strata of Hindu society and have contributed greatly to the development of a cultural stance of acceptance of difference. This stance is further reinforced by traditional biographies of the poet-saints, which portray them as exemplars of ecumenical ideology. Distilled in the worldview of lay Hindus through songs of poetsaints and narratives about their lives, it offers a distinctive perspective on difference that can contribute to an ensemble of discourses on tolerance in the global context. In what follows I first review the roots of the idea of “the one in the many” in ancient Hindu sacred texts and their interpretations by modern thinkers who have presented the idea to international audiences. I then discuss popular devotional songs in the vernacular languages of India as a major religious current within Hinduism that clearly conveys this idea and its ethical implications. I examine songs of two poet-saints from North India and the hagiographic narratives about these saints as examples. ANCIENT SAGES AND MODERN THINKERS The earliest statement related to dealing with difference is found in the Rig Veda (ca. 1500 BCE), the oldest extant religious text of Hindus. Communities in ancient India worshipped different divinities, many of whom represented natural elements. For example, in Vedic literature, Agni (also called Matasrishvan) is the “fire god,” Indra is the deity of rains, Varuna is the “god of waters” as well as the moral order of the universe, Yama is the “god of death,” etc. There is also a term to refer to the collective of all the divinities: “Vishve-deva” (all-divinities). The Rig Veda contains hymns to these divinities composed by a host of sages. This multivocality, with multiple creation

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hymns that present different ideas about the beginning of the universe, reflects a diversity of religious views that prevailed in India in the early second millennium BCE. A hymn in book (Mandala) 1 of the Rig Veda indicates that the composer of this hymn saw the need to address the issue of the diversity of deities in some way. In the Rig Veda 1.164.46––the asya vāmasaya hymn––which is a hymn for Vishvedeva or all-divinities, the poet says, “The Truth is One, the wise refer to [literally, tell] it differently––by the names of Agni, Yama, Matarishva, etc.”3 The hymn mentions many divinities that were clearly recognized in the Vedic world as different entities. The statement that they were different expressions of one truth has been interpreted not as a rejection of difference but as the recognition of a deeper unity, which is distinct from uniformity. More explicit discussions of the idea of the one reality underlying innumerable forms are found in a set of texts collectively called the Upanishads (also called Vedanta––“the end of the Vedas”) that began to be composed from around the eighth century BCE. In the Upanishads, the term often used for the one underlying reality is “Brahman.” An often cited passage with regard to the idea of the one in the many (numbers being insignificant) comes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, dated around the seventh century BCE. Here, sage Yājñavalkya is asked a question by a spiritual seeker, Vidagdha Śākalya: “How many gods are there, Yājñavalkya?” “Three thousand three hundred and six,” he replied. “Yes,” said he, “but just how many gods are there, Yājñavalkya?” “Thirty-three.” “Yes,” said he, “but just how many gods are there, Yājñavalkya?” “Six.”

The questioning goes on until Yājñavalkya answers “one and a half” and finally “one.”4 Yājñavalkya’s answers have been interpreted by Hindus as showing recognition of a large number of deities unified by the one underlying reality. Three other important passages come from the Chandogya Upanishad (6.1.3–4, 6.13.1–3, and 6.12.3), in which a father instructs his son about the all-pervading reality. In the first passage he explicates his point through the example of clay vessels. He explains that although clay vessels have different shapes, serve different purposes, and are known by different names, their essential reality is clay. In the second passage, which contains one of the mahavakyas (great utterances) of the Upanishads––“Thou art that”—he explains his point through the example of salt dissolved in water. Just as the salt is not seen but is hidden in every drop in a bowl of salty water, the one


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underlying reality is hidden in everything. In the third, without using a figure of speech, he declares, “that which is the finest essence—this whole world has that as its soul.” This essence or all-permeating reality unifies everything that exists. This metaphysical understanding also has ethical implications. Its expression appears in the concluding passage of the Chandogya Upanishad, in which a person with true liberating knowledge is described as the one who is concentrated on the inner self and is harmless to all.5 Along with the above verses from the early Upanishads, a verse from the Mahopanishad, a text of later origin but often cited as authoritative, is “The small minded have the consideration of ‘this is brother and this is not’/for the generous of character, the whole world is a family.”6 Shankaracharya (ca. eighth century CE), a Hindu philosopher who was the greatest proponent of Advaita Vedanta or the non-dualist interpretation of the Upanishads, alludes to the above verse about the clay vessels to establish his point about the one underlying reality of all different forms and entities in his famous work Brahmasutra Bhashya ( Shankara’s philosophical stance is discussed extensively as referring to two levels of reality, a view that has proved highly influential in Hindu thought. One is the reality of the phenomenal material world in which we live; it is vyavaharika or the practical. The other is the deeper underlying ultimate reality or Brahman; it is paramarthika or the reality consisting of knowledge of the truth about the unified undifferentiated ultimate.8 This two-tiered understanding of reality makes it possible to recognize differences as important in the practical world but with an awareness of their underlying unity. Since the nineteenth century, several important Hindu thinkers have referred to these passages, Vedantic thought, and Shankara’s philosophical position of Advaita Vedanta in representing Hinduism as a tolerant religion to international audiences and when introducing reforms at home. Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833), a reformer who opposed image worship and is considered the father of modern India, for example, founded Brahmo Sabha/ Samaj, a society of intellectuals who followed religious practices based on the Upanishad’s teachings of one reality. Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), who represented Hinduism at the first Parliament of World Religions in 1893 in Chicago, spoke ceaselessly about Vedanta as the basis of Hinduism to American and British audiences, emphasizing the idea of “the one in the many” as a foundation of universal acceptance. In explaining the principle of unity to a gathering in Boston in 1893, he went on to say, “there is no fight and no antagonism between the Vedanta and any other system in the world.” Citing the Chandogya Upanishad, he further stressed that this “expression of oneness is what we call love and sympathy, and it is the basis of all our ethics and morality.”9 M. K. Gandhi (1869–1948) elaborated on a verse of

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


another Upanishad, the Isha Upanishad, to stress the unity of all beings in a speech against the practice of caste hierarchy in Hinduism.10 In his long career as a philosopher at Oxford and elsewhere, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888–1975), who later became the president of India, based his interpretation of Hinduism on the principle of unity in the Upanishads and even saw it as the guiding light for the future of the world.11 More recently, Dr. Karan Singh (1931–), a prominent intellectual in India, referred to the principle of unity of existence and its ethical correlate “the whole world is a family” as presented in various Upanishads as forming a pathway to resolve disharmony in India and in the world.12 As the above discussion indicates, the Upanishadic idea of “the one in the many” has been the cornerstone of the interpretation of Hinduism as a world religion in modern times. Some contemporary scholars, however, have problematized the interpretations of modern Hindu thinkers as part of a representation of Hinduism by its upper-caste and upper-class adherents for the sake of a positive self-image. Brian Hatcher discusses the nature of Hinduism as it developed in upwardly mobile classes since the colonial era as too focused on Vedanta spirituality in its rhetoric but ultimately oriented toward business. He also critiques casual and free references to Upanishadic texts as the core of Hinduism since its inception by scholars who neglect to look closely into the context of the origin and the history of the text. Hatcher finds the modern interpretations of Hinduism as a tolerant religion based on Vedantic thought apologetic and bourgeois.13 Robert N. Minor and Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach have critiqued Radhakrishnan’s view that the Vedantic perspective exemplifies positive acceptance rather than endurance and that it is universally applicable for peace building. Both argue that if someone considers another’s position as weaker, its acceptance lapses into endurance.14 Andrew Nicholson suggests, by contrast, that Radhakrishnan’s critics miss the point that at the most abstract level Radhakrishnan’s logic saw “all apparent contradictions as part of a higher synthesis” and privileged “unity over difference.”15 The claim to universality of the Vedantic position by Radhakrishnan from this perspective makes that position itself a part of the mosaic of differences that get synthesized through a higher unity. No specific position is supreme, not even Vedanta, because it is a part of the phenomenal world of differences, which is unified through the underlying reality. While the debate about the claims of universality for the Vedantic interpretation continues, the issue of its prevalence among Hindus is viewed differently by many scholars who work closely on the ground. Diana Eck observes that even though Yājñavalkya offers esoteric explanations for his answers in the Brihadarnyaka Upanishad, the point he makes is hardly esoteric. It is, in fact, a “part of the shared presuppositions of the culture.” Eck describes how in a Hindu temple, even the most uneducated worshipper today would


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respond to questions about the number of divinities in the same manner as Yājñavalkya. The shared cultural assumption is that behind the changing world of name and form (nāma rūpa), there is one reality.16 In Darśan, Eck is concerned with the multiplicity of deities in the Hindu pantheon and the shared beliefs regarding them among their worshippers. But the assumption of “the one in the many” is also commonly applied to divine names and forms in other religions. Of the numerous expressions of this shared presumption I have heard in every day interfaith interactions, two remain vivid in my memory because they occurred in Gujarat, my native region, where terrible communal riots took hundreds of lives in 2002. I heard the first in 2001, a year before the riots. It was early morning, and I was on a long drive to a temple in a village in a rickshaw. On our way, I was struck by the serenity of a scene where, next to a lush green farm, an old Muslim man with a silver beard was covering a small tomb of a local Sufi saint (Islamic mystic) with a new cloth offering. I asked the driver to stop by the roadside. The old man smiled and let me take a photograph. I bowed my head at the tomb, and as a courtesy I placed an offering of money at the tomb. The driver also made a money offering. After getting on the road again, I asked him if he was Muslim. He said he was a Hindu; but we had entered a sacred space, and he had to make an offering. After all, there is one behind all forms worshipped in many ways, Hindu or non-Hindu. I was struck by his matterof-fact way of answering. What he was articulating in his response to my question was a view of a deeper unity rather than uniformity. The incident kept coming back to my memory after I heard the news of the riots in which hundreds of people had been killed in some cities and towns of Gujarat. Some of those killed were Hindus; but a large number of them were Muslims killed by Hindu nationalists. Although the area where the above incident had occurred had remained relatively calm during the riots, terrifying responses to difference had unfolded in the larger region. What had happened? Had the spirit I had seen on that early morning in 2001 disappeared in Gujarat in less than a year? It was deeply perplexing. Then, in 2004, I was in the city that had been most impacted by the riots two years earlier. It was the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I was in a store owned by a Muslim and was waiting for my turn as a Hindu woman was completing a transaction. When the call to the evening prayer was heard from the nearby mosque and the store owner hesitated to go, the woman said that he should go; she would wait till he returned and keep an eye on his store. When the man left, the woman spoke, “Wouldn’t it be unethical to obstruct someone’s prayer for a transaction? In the end, all the divine names and forms belong to One.” The man returned in 20 minutes, and the transaction was completed. The woman clearly saw the man as following a different religion and having a different way of praying. However, like the rickshaw driver in

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


the 2001 incident, she also made a clear reference to an underlying unity. On another occasion, I accompanied a Catholic friend to an Easter service where a number of Hindu friends of the attendees had come to participate in the ceremonies. In none of these instances, which contained gestures of acceptance of difference with an awareness of an underlying unity, was there an expectation of a reciprocal gesture. In the political analysis of the riots in the public media in India and globally, a major focus was rightly on the success of an exclusivist Hindu nationalism in Gujarat. Yet respectful gestures toward non-Hindus with references to the idea of “the one in the many” remained interwoven in the fabric of daily life. The success of Hindu nationalist political forces in temporarily rupturing the social harmony had not completely displaced the enduring cultural stance prevalent in layers of Hindu society, both elite and non-elite. What was the source of this cultural stance among the ordinary Hindus I met in these instances? During research for my work on Gujarat’s poet-saint Narasinha Mehta (ca. fifteenth century), who composed his songs in Gujarati, I found that while many people were broadly familiar with the Upanishads, to a great extent the integration of the idea of “the one in the many” in their worldview was tied to devotional songs and hagiographies of poet-saints, which form integral parts of their daily lives. In the years following the Gujarat riots, Ashis Nandy suggested that a serious effort in the direction of rebuilding harmony in the region would demand drawing on “the philosophy, symbolism and theology of tolerance nascent in the faiths of citizens.”17 I found that songs of poet-saints like Narasinha offer valuable resources in this direction. My observation was affirmed when I learned about the multimedia “Kabir Project” started by Indian filmmaker Shabnam Virmani in 2003 to bring together diverse people engaging with the spiritual and sociopolitical resonances of the songs and biography of a North India poet-saint, Kabir (ca. fifteenth century), who composed his songs in Hindi.18 SONGS OF POET-SAINTS From the later centuries of the first millennium, many poets in South Asia (there have been Muslim and Sikh poet-saints, too) began to express devotional sentiments and teachings of their traditions with new interpretations in lyrics they composed in their vernacular languages rather than in classical languages such as Sanskrit or Arabic. Being linguistically accessible and performed in popular regional tunes in communal settings––often outside formal religious contexts––the lyrics circulated as songs among common people who have preserved them as their treasured religious and cultural heritage for centuries. Along with the songs, traditional biographies (hagiographies) of the


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poets, which portrayed them as saintly figures with exemplary devotional and ethical commitments, began to circulate. Within the Hindu fold, the earliest devotional lyrics that have been thus preserved come from the Tamil region in South India, where devotional lyrics of poet-saints have been popular since the eighth and ninth centuries. Over the next millennium, such currents of vernacular devotional poetry and their performance spread all over India, making poet-saints cherished religious and cultural icons of their regions. With traveling performers, popular poet-saints of one region were introduced to other regions, thus creating a large intersecting network of devotional traditions. The enduring hold of poet-saints on the popular imagination is embedded in both the profound messages they expressed in accessible language and the performative aspects of songs and narratives through which people have made them their own. The message of “the one in the many” is found in songs of numerous poet-saints from various regions of India. Let us now turn to a few lyrics and hagiographies of the two poet-saints mentioned above: Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat and Kabir from Banaras in North India. They are important regional poet-saints who have conveyed the idea of “the one in the many” as the basis for respectful treatment of all in several of their songs. Like songs of other poets, their songs have been preserved in popular melodies. The appeal of the melodies has, however, not overshadowed the message in their songs’ popularity. In fact, the messages in their lyrics remain at the heart of their continued circulation in performance. One of Narasinha Mehta’s songs that remains very popular even today begins with the words, “Akhil Brahmand ma Ek Tu Shri Hari” (Gujarati, “In the entire universe it is you, Shri Hari [Krishna]”).19 The lyrics reinforce the message of “the one in the many” in several different ways. It makes references to the ultimate with names of two Hindu deities: Shri Hari (one of the names of the Hindu deity Krishna) in the first line and Shiva (another deity in the Hindu pantheon) in the second last line of the second stanza. It enumerates many elements in nature as manifesting the ultimate. In the third stanza, it explicates the idea through the metaphor of the gold bar and earring that have the same substantive reality. What is important from the point of view of religious diversity is the line, “Each worships whom he likes.” In the entire universe, it is only you, Shri Hari [Krishna], appearing endless in a multitude of forms. You are the divine in a body. You are the inner substance of light. Becoming the word in the Void, You reside in the Vedas. You are wind, you are water, you are the earth, O Lord! You are the tree spreading to the sky.

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


You created countless things to enjoy many moods. From Shiva, you became a soul, only to fulfill that wish. The Vedas pronounce, and scriptures testify: “There is no distinction between gold and an earring. After they are molded, they have different names and forms. In the end, it is all gold.” The books created confusion; and did not tell the truth. Each worships whom he likes. What one accepts with thought, speech, and action, the mind sees only that as the truth. You are the seed in the tree; you are the tree in the seed; I see the veils so close. Narasinha says, “That is the search of heart. Let me love. He/it will become manifest with love.”20

The first line of the song addresses Krishna, Narasinha’s preferred deity in the Hindu pantheon, not as a singular divine entity transcendent from the world, but rather as a manifestation of the all-pervading divine. Immediately after his name “Shri Hari,” his endlessness is described in terms of a “multitude of forms.” The first form to be mentioned is a “body” (deha), referring to a corporeal human or animal body. But Shri Hari also manifests in various natural elements: light, air, water, the earth, and the trees. In the last two lines of the second stanza, the main message of the song–– the divine in a multitude of forms––is reinforced. This time the divine is identified as Shiva, who manifested in countless forms in order to enjoy many moods. Both Krishna and Shiva represent the all-pervading ultimate. By simply replacing a name, the lines reinforce the message in a matter-of-fact manner. That this is directly linked to the Vedantic idea of “the one in the many” is made clear in the next stanza. The first line of it invokes the authority of the Vedas; the second incorporates the metaphor of the gold and earrings, which closely parallels the metaphor of clay and pots discussed above. The third stanza explicitly lays out the implication of the idea of “the one in the many.” This stanza is directly relevant to the idea of toleration. While recognizing the authority of the Vedas in the preceding lines, the poet rejects textual debates that create confusion and mislead people. The critique is directed at the elite Hindu theologians who have a part in generating confusion. But the critique is not the focus here. The poet stresses that people worship different forms of the divine according to their inclination. Truth is not an abstract term. For each individual, truth is what engages his or her heart, body, and speech.


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In the last stanza, the poet refers first to his own spiritual quest and perplexity. To recognize the ultimate as the tree in the seed and the seed in the tree is to see through a web of veils. Only love can lift all the veils. The wording in the line is superbly open-ended. The poet only says, “let me love”; he does not say whom to love. The divine in a multitude of forms cannot be indicated with one name. But love can open the way to the divine in all forms. Another very popular song by Narasinha presents a similar message about the manifestation of the divine in a multitude of forms. Sporting everywhere between high and low, Narasinha’s Lord pervades the entirety. A saint binds Him with the fiber of love.21

While no formal commentaries on his songs are found before the late nineteenth century when printing technology popularized prose tracts for the reading public, people’s views of Narasinha are evident in the way his character is portrayed in the hagiographic narratives composed in the centuries subsequent to his life. Like the songs of the poet-saints, the hagiographic narratives were composed in performative genres and were recited in front of audiences, not read in private. In many such compositions, which draw from autobiographical poems attributed to Narasinha, the poet-saint becomes a representative of ecumenical devotion or bhakti. According to these narratives, Narasinha began his spiritual journey with meditation on Shiva and was later led to sing the glory of Krishna, to whom the majority of his songs are dedicated. Narasinha is known mainly as a Krishna devotee. Yet, in his life, he also retained his reverence for Shiva. An eighteenth-century text written with an explicit goal of moral teaching draws the following lesson from the saint’s life: “the one who discriminates between Gangadhar [Shiva] and the Lord of Gokul [Krishna] is not a true Vaishnava [worshipper of Vishnu, in this context a worshipper of Krishna] but one without proper religion.”22 The message is clear: a true devotee of Krishna does not disrespect Shiva. In contemporary times, people’s view of Narasinha’s songs and life can be seen on the internet. The following two comments were made on a video of the song on YouTube. They are interesting because they are spontaneous and not meant for formal publication. 1. Prabhu che Badha Ma Ane Badha Che Prabhu ma. . . . [Gujarati, “The divine is in everyone; and everyone is in the divine.”] 2. Thanks for uploading this beautiful bhajan . . . the essence of Vedanta.23

These comments suggest that the song is seen as conveying the core of Vedanta, which teaches one to see the divine in everyone. The names of the

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


writers of these two comments sound Hindu. That such a message is also heard by non-Hindu Gujarati speakers is evident in a reflective blog of an Ismaili Muslim, Shiraz Pradhan. In an entry entitled “Ideas of One Humanity, Love, and Peace in World Religions,” Pradhan compares and translates two songs: one is attributed to an Ismaili saint Pir Shams (Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase), and the other is the abovementioned song by Narasinha (also called Narsi Mehta) in which he conveys the message of Tawhid (the unity of God in Islam). Here is Pradhan’s preface to the translations: Our happiness and satisfaction must be anchored on pluralism and the underlying unity of faiths of mankind. The search for God must encompass the essence of His qualities in our hearts, that of love, that of compassion and love for Truth. I want to explore two different old traditions which echo these messages of antiquity. One is from the Shia Ismaili Ginanic tradition and the other is from the Hindu Gujarati tradition. Hum Dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase opens with a verse that situated or established the relationship between the devotee and the creator which is amply illustrated by a Hadith of the Prophet: “Neither My earth, nor My heavens can contain Me, but the heart of a believing servant contains Me.” Narsi Mehta continues this theme. In the opening verse of Akhil Brahmand ma Ek tu Shri Hari, Narsi Metha makes the bold declaration of Unity of God. Tawhid is beautifully stated: In the entire Universe, Oh, Lord you alone are the essence, despite all the various forms and names of your manifestations.24

I will end the discussion on Narasinha Mehta with a reference to his most famous song, which was Gandhi’s favorite because it defines a religious person in terms of compassion and moral integrity. In this song, too, one of the main qualities of a religious person is respect for all in the world: “[A religious person is the one] who bows to everyone in the world.”25 Responding to a musical rendering of this song on YouTube, a Muslim viewer from Pakistan wrote this comment for the Indian Hindu who provided the translation: @sridharavk thanx bro for translation first time in my life i read this naat [a poem praising the Prophet Muhammad]. . . i cant explain my feelings . . . seems you introduce my prophet peace be upon him to me today . . . sooo much prayers for you my brother God bless you and your mother amin the world is in mess right now. . . no one care about others. . . soulless people all around wolrd [sic]. . . it is nearly impossible to find peace in this world . . . we need more people like jesus and muhammad (peace be upon him).26

Writing in broken English, this writer links the vision presented in the song to the ideals of Islam and Christianity and to peace in the world. The song is found in more than 200 versions on YouTube. Some are innovative performances, such as the one by a group of young Indian Americans in the


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Islamic Sufi style of Qawwali. A Gujarati Jesuit priest interprets the song as a message of Christian spirituality in a two-part exegesis in which he stresses the virtue of respecting all extensively. Comments on a large number of other YouTube renderings also reflect impromptu interfaith dialogs in virtual space across linguistic and national boundaries replete with discussions of the underlying unity of all initiated by Hindu viewers who associate Narasinha Mehta with the idea of “the one in the many.”27 Kabir, the other poet of medieval North India to whom we now turn, has been translated extensively and is loved widely in the West. He is believed to have been raised by a poor Muslim couple who found him as an abandoned infant. Living in a Muslim family in the holiest city for Hindus, Kabir was caustically critical of all external markers of religion prevalent in both communities. The appeal of his songs in the West derives to a considerable extent from his pungent and humorous critique. As John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer put it, “In the whole sweep of north Indian religion there is no voice more stringent, more passionate, more confident than that of Kabir.”28 At the same time, his enduring legacy among singers and spiritual seekers, a large number of whom are Hindus, rests on his songs conveying teachings about the inner search to find the all-pervading divine in one’s own heart. Following poetic conventions of the time, Kabir calls the inner divine Ram (not to be confused with the Hindu deity Ram, the hero of the epic Ramayana). In his songs about this inner search, which are also sprinkled with lines rejecting conventional religious practices, Kabir presents the idea of “the one in the many” in a different way than Narasinha. His focus is on spiritual instruction rather than personal reflection. Yet both poets share a mistrust of bookish knowledge and stress the presence of the divine in all. Here are lines from a song by Kabir in which he teaches about divinity in every breath and critiques Pundits (Hindu priests) and Mullahs (Muslim clergymen): They are lost and immature fools who do not realize Ram in every breath. ................................ Pundits study Vedas and Puranas, Mullas read the Koran. Kabir says they go to hell if they don’t realize Ram in every breath.29

Like Narasinha, who questions empty discussions of texts, Kabir rejects as meaningless the customary parrot-like learning of the Puranas and the Vedas by Hindu priests and the Koran by Muslim clerics. But he stresses the search for the divine in every breath by all. On one level, “every breath” means “every breath of one’s own.” A spiritual seeker has to seek the divine in his

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


or her inner being every moment. Yet the term also means “in everyone’s breath” or “in all life.” The statement about “the one in the many” is not as direct here as in Narasinha’s songs. But the message of inherent worth in all beings because of the presence of the ultimate in them is clearly conveyed. Another phrase which recurs in Kabir’s poetry, as Linda Hess points out, is “ghaṭa ghaṭa mẽ, in every body, in every vessel.”30 The word ghaṭa, literally meaning “clay jar,” often stands for the human body in the Indic poetic tradition because the existence of both is fragile and temporary. This image is linked to the Chandogya Upanishad passage discussed above. One of the most popular songs attributed to Kabir is ghaṭa ghaṭa mẽ panchī boltā (“the bird sings in every body”). In every clay jar [body] a bird sings. It is the dowel [of the weighing scale]; it is the scale itself. And it sits weighing everything. It is the gardener; it is the garden. It is the one picking flower buds. It pervades all forests. It sways in the insentient and the sentient. Says Kabir, listen good brother. It opens the knob of the heart.31

In this song, found in many YouTube videos, Kabir speaks of the ultimate as the inner self of the gardener, the garden, and the flower; the accused and the judge; and so on. Indeed, many of Kabir’s couplets, which are commonly cited in YouTube conversations, support the perception that his songs express a Vedantic worldview. Here are two Dohe (Hindi, literally, couplets): the first stresses the presence of the ultimate in every individual through the metaphor of the ocean and a drop of water, the other through the image of redness in henna leaves. 1. Drop falling in the ocean–– everyone knows. Ocean absorbed in the drop–– a rare one knows.32 2. Lord, your essence is contained deep in every body. Just as redness is [inherent] not imposed, in every leaf of a henna plant.33

The stress on the unity of existence with the idea of the one all-­ pervading reality is sometimes interpreted as disregard of difference. The


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differences––the dowel, the scale, the garden, the gardener––are not presented as illusory in Kabir’s songs. From the perspective of the phenomenal practical world, differences are important. They make the world. But differences are not a cause of tension because of the essential unity of existence. Numerous different entities in the world are real; they are not uniform. But they are unified through the one underlying reality. Kabir consistently points out differences between the practices of Hindus and Muslims. And while he critiques the hypocrisy of their elites, he never refers to the two traditions as illusory. He rather sees a hidden unity behind them, which he calls “inner Ram.” This is why David Lorenzen views Kabir as a “radical pluralist.” Lorenzen observes that Kabir “recognizes the basic differences among the yogis, the Hindus and the Muslims, but also claims that in some sense all are true if one follows them with pure heart.”34 The hagiographic narratives about Kabir resonate with the messages of his songs. These narratives, on the one hand, highlight his differences with the religious elite who manipulated Hinduism or Islam for their personal benefit, and on the other hand, they stress his large following among Hindus and Muslims, none of whom left their religion to follow Kabir. According to tradition, despite his sharp remarks on Hindu and Muslim religious authorities in Banaras, Kabir had gathered a large number of followers in both communities. He taught them about the experience of the unity of all existence. When he was about to die, he asked all his disciples to leave the room and to close the door. The disciples got into a bitter argument about what kind of funerary rites should be performed for him. Hindus wanted to cremate him, and Muslims wanted to bury him. When the disciples finally opened the door, they did not find a body but only a heap of flowers, which they shared. The place where Kabir is believed to have died is an important site of pilgrimage for his followers today. It is seen as an example of peaceful Hindu-Muslim relations under a saint’s guidance. Kabir still remains popular among a large number of Hindus and Muslims. His songs are regularly sung in communal gatherings. In view of the popularity of Kabir’s songs and the nature of his hagiography, it is no wonder that even in Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories)––the most popular comic book series for children in India published since the 1970s––Kabir is presented as a national integrator. Hawley draws attention to several scenes in the comic book that highlight Kabir’s pluralistic message. He is portrayed as the saint who taught the message of the essential unity of all beings and who fought against discrimination based on differences. One scene in the comic books has the caption “It pained the good man to see religion, caste and creed keeping people apart.” In another, Kabir is seen addressing a huge crowd with the words, “Let people worship God according to their convictions.”35

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


In all regions of India, there have been poet-saints like Narasinha and Kabir who have conveyed in their songs the idea of “the one in the many” as the spiritual basis for establishing harmony among various religious and caste groups. Indeed, as Vijay Mishra suggests, it is in these cultural forms that the grand abstract narrative of the Upanishadic Brahman has become a part of everyday life.36 The cultural legacy of their songs and lives has been carried on for the past few decades in yet another popular narrative and musical space: Indian cinema. Indian filmmakers have conveyed explicit messages for religious harmony in film songs. Their messages generally reinforce the message of “the one in the many.” An iconic song in this genre, “Allah tero nam, Ishwar tero nam” (Hindi, “Your name is Allah, your name is Ishwar [Lord]” from the film Hum Dono, 1962), is a prayer for the safety of and the gift of good understanding for all. Written by a Muslim poet and sung by a Hindu woman, the song is depicted with a backdrop of war and destruction. The perspective of the one reality underlying the many names of the divine (all of which are different) is presented as the healing balm. CONCLUSION An examination of the idea of “the one in the many” in ancient Sanskrit texts, its representation as the core of Hinduism with claims for its universal applicability by modern Hindu thinkers, its prevalence among common people who have no access to ancient texts, and its presence in songs and hagiographies of regional poet-saints throws light on its dynamics in Indian society. As a philosophical position, the proposition of its universal applicability is not sustainable because of the tension inherent in positing a single perspective as the basis of universal acceptance of differing positions. The claim that this idea is the core of Hinduism is also problematic in view of historical evidence of multiple positions within the tradition itself. Yet its prevalence as the basis of a cultural stance of acceptance can be seen in everyday interactions of common people who have no access to ancient metaphysical reflections or modern philosophical debates. This stance can be related to a great degree to popular vernacular songs of regional poet-saints which convey the idea of “the one in the many” and its ethical implications in an accessible manner. These songs have been integrated into people’s everyday lives through centuries of performance. The ideals presented by the songs are reinforced in the hagiographic narratives about the poet-saints who are portrayed as their exemplars. That the people see these songs and narratives as conveying a message of ecumenism and acceptance is evident in the spontaneous comments found on YouTube videos and in individuals’ blogs, often leading to interfaith conversations.


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Informed by awareness of a fundamental unity of disparate entities, these everyday experiences provide an alternative in dealing with difference to the concept of “toleration,” which is based on principled noninterference. The respectful interactions I witnessed in everyday life in Gujarat bear testimony to the wide ethical impact of this alternative, even in the face of tragic communal riots. While some political analysts have viewed the message of unity contained in songs and hagiographies of poet-saints as a nice souvenir from the past that is not applicable in present day India, some social thinkers rightly see it as a cultural resource that can be creatively used in civic and governmental initiatives for harmony in India. The communal tensions and articulation of an exclusive Hindu identity that have been seen in India in recent history may, in fact, be a rupture in the ethos of the awareness of “the one in the many” that has prevailed in India for a long time. In the broader global context, one cannot make universal claims for a cultural stance such as this. It is too culturally specific. But it can contribute an important note to a multivocal chorus on peace-building alongside the concepts of “toleration,” “tolerance,” and other approaches to diversity from around the world. NOTES 1. Peter Nicholson, “Toleration as a Moral Ideal,” in Aspects of Toleration, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Methuen, 1985), 158–73. 2. Lorenzo Zucca, A Secular Europe: Law and Religion in the European Constitutional Landscape (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 14. 3. I have here used The Rigveda Samhita edition in the original Sanskrit (Bangalore: Shri Aurobindo Kapali Shastri Institute of Vedic Culture, 2005), http://www.; my translation. 4. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 3.9.1. The passage is quoted from Thirteen Principal Upanishads, trans. Robert E. Hume (1877; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992), 119–20. 5. Ibid., 240, 248, 274. 6. “Sanskrit Documents,” accessed August 5, 2015, doc_upanishhat/maha.html?lang=sa; my translation. 7. Shankaracharya, Brahmasutrashankarbhashyasangraha, compiled V. Swaminathan (Chennai: Saradambal Seva Samiti Trust, 2005), 9–10. 8. Darren Iammarino, Religion and Reality: An Exploration of Contemporary Metaphysical Systems (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 162; Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1997), 148. 9. Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, vol. 1 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1970), 388–89.

The One in the Many in the Songs of Poet-Saints of Medieval India


10. Mahatma Gandhi, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 70 (New Delhi: Government of India, 1999), 303–304, 11. Use of Vedantic thought is ubiquitous in Radhakrishnan’s work. See Robert Minor, Radhakrishnan: A Religious Biography (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987). 12. Karan Singh, “Thoughts on Vedanta,” India International Center Quarterly 28, no. 3 (2001): 100–8. 13. Brian A. Hatcher, “‘The Cosmos is One Family’ (vasudhaiva kutumbakam): Problematic Mantra of Hindu Humanism,” Contributions to Indian Sociology 28, no. 1 (1994): 149–62; Brian A. Hatcher, “Bourgeois Vedānta: The Colonial Roots of Middle-Class Hinduism,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 75, no. 2 (2007): 298–323. 14. Robert N. Minor, “Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on the Nature of ‘Hindu’ Tolerance,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 50, no. 2 (1982): 275–90; Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, “Toleration in Modern Liberal Discourse with Special Reference to Radhakrishnan’s Tolerant Hinduism,” Journal of Indian Philosophy 30, no. 4 (2002): 389–402. 15. Andrew J. Nicholson, Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 204. 16. Diana Eck, Dars˗an: Seeing the Divine Image in India, 2nd ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 26–27. 17. Ashis Nandy, cited in Janet Powers, Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2009), 153. 18. “The Kabir Project,” accessed August 8, 2015, 19. For instances of its popular performances, see 1. in a gathering: “Akhil Brahmanda ma ek tu—Narsinh Mehta—Gujarati Bhajan/Aanal Vasavada-Prahar Vira,” YouTube video, 2:21, posted by Gujrati Sugam Sangeet, May 21, 2005, accessed July 29, 2015,; 2. children dancing to the song: “Akhil Brahmand Ma,” YouTube video, 3:57, posted August 24, 2013, accessed July 29, 2015, 20. Narasinh Mehta, Narasinha Mehtanī Kāvya Krutio, ed. Shivalal Jesalpura (Ahmedabad: Sahitya Sansodhan Prakashan, 1981), 383; my translation. 21. Ibid., 385; my translation. 22. Narasinha Mehta nu Ākhyān, ed. K. H. Dhruv (Ahmedabad: B. J. Institute, 2000), 4–8. 23. Comments on “Akhil Brahmanda ma ek tu—Karsan Sagathia—Narsinh Mehta Poems—Gujarati Bhajans,” n.d., The first comment is by “raparikh” with my emphasis and translation, and the second is by “shakti kumar.” 24. Shiraz Pradhan, “Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan ‘Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vasse’ with a Hindu Bhajan,” Simerg––Insights from around the World, June 14, 2014, literary-readings/ideas-of-one-humanity-and-love-and-peace-in-world-religionscomparative-study-of-ginan-hum-dil-khalak-with-a-hindu-bhajan/.


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25. For my translation of this song and its discussion, see Neelima Shukla-Bhatt, Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat: A Legacy of Bhakti in Songs and Stories (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 91–93. 26. Muhammad Khan, comment in reply to Chaitanya Sreedhara V. K., “Vaishna Jana to Lata Mangeshkar xvid,” n.d., 27. In my book on Narasinha Mehta, I have sections on the use of this song in peace-building worldwide because of its connection with Gandhi and several interfaith conversations in the comments on its YouTube renderings that stress the theme of unity. See Shukla-Bhatt, Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat, 193–95, 230–37. 28. John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer, Songs of the Saints of India (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 35. 29. These lines are from Sabad or lyric #83 in Bijak, Kabir Sahab (Bombay: Shri Venkateshvar Press, 1904), 367–68; my translation. For a translation of the full lyric, see Linda Hess and Sukhdev Singh, trans., The Bījak of Kabir (Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1986), 69. 30. Hess and Singh, The Bījak of Kabir, 5. 31. A very popular Kabir song in the oral tradition; my translation. For a wellreceived musical rendering of the song, see “Ghat Ghat mein Panchi—Veena Sahasrabuddhe,” YouTube video, 10:10, posted February 27, 2010, accessed August 16, 2016, 32. See Hess and Singh, The Bījak of Kabir, 96. 33. See N. Gohil, Sat Sahebni Sarvani (Gandhinagar: Gujarat Sahitya Academy, 2000), 34; my translation. 34. David N. Lorenzen, “Religious Identities in Gorkhnath and Kabir: Hindus, Muslims, Yogis, and Saints,” in Yogi Heroes and Poets: Histories and Legends of the Naths, ed. David N. Lorenzen and Adrian Munoz (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011), 19–50 at 35. 35. John Stratton Hawley, Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir, in Their Times and Ours (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005), 153. 36. Vijay Mishra, Devotional Poetics and the Indian Sublime (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), 202.

Chapter 9

The Limits of Intolerance A Comparative Reflection on India’s Experiment with Tolerance Purushottama Bilimoria

The central contention of this chapter is that the Indian subcontinent exudes a much longer history than the West in its attempts to come to terms with intolerance, to set limits to it, and to develop a moral psychology of critically engaged tolerance between its multivocal groups and communities that might otherwise be rent apart by differences. India is known as a land of vibrant religious activity and variety where multiple exclusivist and inclusivist sects, as well as universalizing religious ideologies, have competed with and modified each other for millennia. To be sure, there have been tensions, shortcomings, and practices of exclusion––for example, within the caste-structure and toward women––as well as sporadic outbreaks of civil violence. Nevertheless, India may be said to be moving, at least in attitude or disposition, toward what Amartya Sen calls a trajectory of “symmetric tolerance,” meaning a balanced relation of mutual respect among and amidst contrary positions without foreclosing dialogic criticisms in a democratic spirit.1 This chapter elucidates this contention with a keen eye to the philosophical lessons drawn from the analytical surveys I present while interweaving the discussion with recorded exceptions, questions, and apparent paradoxes thrown up in the historical encounters. For example, when intolerance reaches its limits, is its opposite better characterized as tolerance or toleration? Is “inclusivism” part of the definition of tolerance, or is it just a matter of “putting up with (the confronting tradition, sect, or people)” despite the irritating and perhaps offending elements of the “other”? Tolerance with its focus on inclusivity, dialogue, and engagement is contrasted in this chapter with the Western idea of toleration that is based on a sharp separation between the state and the private sphere. I argue that the better instances of tolerance are those when one tradition integrates as part of its own possible tenet or practice what belongs to an “alien sect.”2 This will be illustrated with the inner 159


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struggle Emperor Akbar had in deciding whether it would be more prudent or counterproductive in the interest of maximizing intercultural understanding among his diverse subjects to espouse certain practices of the Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Christians represented in his court. But I begin with the religion that has an older pedigree in India, namely, Hinduism, and move through Jainism, Buddhism (albeit briefly), and Islam. I then examine modern secularism, whose introduction into India in the colonial to postcolonial eras has arguably been less effective in fostering tolerance in the Indian nation-state and perhaps accounts for the deplorable rise of intolerance in present-day India. HINDUISM: RIG VEDA TO UPANISHADS The Rig Veda (Sanskrit, ṚgVeda) is perhaps the oldest of the Hindu scriptural texts in its Brahmanical phase and is said to have been composed circa 1500 BCE. Among its many gems, this much-touted adage stands out: ekam sad viprā bahudhā vadanti. An approximate translation is “Truth is One, of which the sages know as many.” One could call this an epiphanous insight into the possibility of tolerant pluralism that suggests a metaphysical openness to the possibility of there being a one (not unlike the Neoplatonic concept of the “One”) at the transcendental level whose truth or real substantive nature remains elusive, an enigma, if not utterly ineffable. This Vedic insight is developed in the later apophatic testaments known as the Upanishads (Sanskrit, Upaniṣads). Certain passages suggest that Truth is another realm from which all words of our conventional speech return unable to reach the full extent of its magnificence and all-pervasive being, consciousness, and blissful beauty––sat-cit-ānanda.3 It follows that the best we can do is capture partial truths and express them in particularist perspectives: the whole still remains at large and exceeds the sum of its parts.4 The Upanishads are philosophical treatises written following the resettlement of the Aryans in the northwest Gangetic plains and over a 1000-year period (circa 800 BCE to 200 CE); they embed “often unsystematic expressions of multiple and competing religious and secular interests.”5 On the one hand, some passages strongly suggest exclusivist proclivities with wrangles over the sole proprietorship of one set of truths––basically, a sectarian religious claim––in the possession of one of the protagonist sects that proclaims it will deliver salvation and protection against the forces of darkness: “no others enjoy eternal happiness,” only those who see “the one God (eko devaḥ) in the self.”6 On the other hand, several passages veer the dialogical participants toward a more inclusive framework, inasmuch as the universalizing spirituality at the same time takes seriously the genuineness of particularistic and local positions. Kenneth Rose indicates that “a central inclusivistic image in the

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Upaniṣads is that of smoke billowing out of a fire made from wet wood, which serves as an analogy of the breathing out of all things from the ‘great being’ or the self.”7 So apt is this metaphor for the creative activity of the ātman (self) that it is repeated at least three times in the Upanishads. Elsewhere, another universalizing image is employed, namely, “All ‘forms’ of the one infinitely existing, all-pervading self: the self is the honey of all being and all beings the honey of the self, the self pervades everything.”8 So pervasive yet invidious is this inclusive tendency that Harold Coward challenges the Hindu approach of absolutizing the viewpoint that various traditions, customs, sects, and texts are simply different manifestations of the one Divine. As Rosen commenting on Coward writes, “The Hindu refusal to recognize claims to exclusive truth (for example, Christianity or Buddhism) that differ from the revelation of the Vedas indicates the limited nature of Hindu tolerance.”9 Others have retorted that Hinduism’s brand of inclusivism is capable of tolerating and absorbing the truths of exclusivism as much as inclusivism.10 There is no truth that is entirely antithetical or anathema to its own grand understanding of the possibility of there being other truths––similar to and radically different from its own. A claim to an exclusivist proclivity does not or should not mean that it has no path of its own toward enlightenment. Hinduism has had no difficulty in adopting (with due adaptations) both the Buddha and Jesus (with Mary) within its ever-expanding pantheon of 333,003+¼ gods! This bespeaks a kind of radical or apophatic inclusivism as the Upanishads paint a glorious image of differences defined minimally as recognition of multiple final vocabularies and maximally as the refusal to take any single body of teachings or perspectives as absolutely final for its own purposes while still respecting the fact that it might be so for others. This inclusivity is affected without any attempt to reduce or absorb all such differences into laying claim to possessing the final truth or for that matter universalizing the normative truth. This is what is meant by letting the multiple ways of “unsaying” or expressing the unsayable in the tradition-specific languages abound. It is not that dissenting and varying views should gradually and centrifugally become absorbed into ours, the presumed valid one; rather, each view should remain reflective of and be a contingently minimalist expression of the as-yet inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, unborn, imperishable, immortal, and unthinkable for which we have only provisional names such as the self, ātman, Brahman, YAHWEH, and the Tao. JAINA ANEKĀNTAVĀDA The Upanishadic wisdom of the espousal of inclusive pluralism as the sure path toward a culture of tolerance is reflected in the Jaina tradition in a more


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thought-provoking logical dialectism. During antiquity, the Jaina tradition (from the root jina, “one who has conquered”) enunciated an interesting thesis called anekāntavāda, literally, “no one view.”11 Embedded in this thesis is recognition of the epistemological instability in our ability to capture and grasp the whole of reality, or definitively even any point within it, for reality is by any measure (pramāṇa, epistemic instruments) more complex and multidimensional than one might think. Humanity’s quest is ever marked by the edge of uncertainty. The well-known parable is presented of an elephant and five blindfolded men who are asked to describe the species they had never encountered previously; each man touches a different part of the animal, and they individually report that the elephant is trunk, legs, ear-flaps, tail, or torso. In other words, each had a partial truth as none could feel the animal in its magnificent fullness as they could when the covering on their eyes was removed and their full vision returned. The lesson of the parable is that we cannot know anything with absolute certainty; human beings are forever compromised in their knowledge and fall short of the truth. What is possible though is to make reality––or the truth in a given situation––known through a series of partially true statements, without committing ourselves exclusively to any one of them.12 The truth of a proposition is relative to the context in which its sensitive assessment occurs. “This liquid is an elixir” is true in one context, from one perspective (where inebriation is acceptable), but may prove to be false in another context, from another perspective (where alcohol is considered to be haram, if not poison, as in some sects of Islam). This may sound like a distant echo of the fanciful postmodern obsession with relativism. But it points to the perniciousness of the absolutist and authoritarian tendencies in one’s lived reality. Human beings tend to hold tenaciously onto the view––even with little foreknowledge or investigation––that they grew up with or received from their own kind or from adulterated sources, such as the media and political leaders. Often out of pride or vanity, they are unable to let go of the view, even when its fissures begin to show. In this way, people render partial truths, even untruths, into full truths, all because we want to believe and not confess to our faults or any shortcomings in our epistemological forays. The ontological component of anekāntavāda as the theory of “the manysided nature of reality” proceeds via its logical corollary of a seven-step formulation, sapta-bhaṅgī, within the following form of dialectical reasoning or conditioned predication, called syadvāda (semantics of possibilities): 1. syād asti: from a particular point of view, a thing is; 2. syād nāsti: from another point of view, it is not; 3. syād asti nāsti: from 1 and 2 together, it is both;

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4. syād avaktavya: despite 3, it is indescribable; 5. syād asti avaktavya: combining 1, 2, 3, and 4, somehow the thing is itself and is still indescribable; 6. syād nāsti avaktavya: combining 2 and 4, the thing is not itself and is still indescribable; 7. syād asti nāsti avaktavya: combining 1, 2, and 4, the thing is itself, is not itself, and yet is indescribable.13 The Jaina logician is here attempting to capture a lacuna in our efforts at knowing anything in its nakedness; reality is multidimensional or varied, and even with all the strides we may have made in phenomenology and the sciences, we are still nowhere near uncovering the full truth about anything or any situation let alone in respect of the whole of metaphysics and cosmology.14 The same goes for our beliefs in ethics, religion, and aesthetics. It is sheer hubris to maintain that we have the full-throttle on knowledge in any of these areas: we are strangers in our own homes, how much more in the homes of others? This phenomenology of “strangification,”15 whereby we translate language game A into terms understandable in language game B, despite seemingly incommensurable differences, should be welcomed as a heuristic possibility and an invitation to explore deeper the beliefs and practices of others; or, as Nietzsche too reminds us, we should open ourselves to perspectivism. Each perspective captures different aspects of the ultimate reality, and none can claim to possess the whole truth. So syadvāda supplements and reinforces its corollary, leading to anekāntavāda, which literally means “no one view.” It embeds the moral lesson: not holding on to any one view, inconsistencies notwithstanding, for the contrary might be true in another possible world, in another timeframe or context. “This is my cup” may turn out to be a false statement of what I am holding in my hand: it is an origami (folded paper artwork) that cannot hold water, but you are mesmerized into believing it is a cup; or alternatively, I intended my statement to point more to the absence of tea in the vestibule than to describe the object in my hand. Tolerance is therefore an implicative virtue derived from the combined operations of anekāntavāda and syadvāda. ASHOKA The Buddhists in India (and Tibet also) are credited with instituting public reasoning or public discussion as a means of social progress.16 Most spectacular among the Buddhist leaders in the context of creating a working template for mutual tolerance is the Emperor Ashoka, who lived around the third century


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BCE. Ashoka Maurya was formerly a Hindu king who became disenchanted with violence after witnessing the devastating carnage that his own imperial crusades had wrought, and so he converted to Buddhism, which made the virtues of noninjury (ahiṃsā) and a nonhierarchical social order pivotal to the welfare of the people. The enlightened emperor not only outlined the need for tolerance and the virtues of heterodoxy but also developed “what are perhaps the oldest rules for conducting debates and disputations, with the opponents being ‘duly honored in every way on all occasions.’”17 Ashoka extended the number of extant Buddhist councils, which “were primarily concerned with resolving differences in religious principles and practices, but they evidently also addressed the demands of social and civic duties, and furthermore helped . . . to consolidate and promote the tradition of open discussion on contentious issues, without animosity or violence.”18 Ashoka’s codification called for exercise of restraint and moderation in matters of expression, checking against excessively eulogizing one’s own status or achievement or undermining another’s position or a contrary view. Even when engaged in arguing, one should honor the other sect as much as possible. Furthermore, during his reign, Ashoka had inscriptions inscribed on stone tablets all around the country promoting good behavior, positive effort at concord, and wise governance that included ensuring fundamental freedoms for everyone––including subaltern groups, that is, women, slaves, forestdwelling people, and pre-agrarian communities living away from urban areas. In the seventh proto-secularist edict, Ashoka made a plea for religious tolerance and mutual understanding among the diverse communities.19 Ashoka’s form of tolerance and especially his espousal of a tolerantly compassionate Buddhism are represented in the Wheel of Life. It symbolizes the idea that life proceeds in circles and cycles of birth, flourishing, then decay and dying, so that one should not become too attached to any one aspect or proclivity (such as one’s cherished “tradition”). One should remain open to various other pathways and possibilities and be free from the snares of attachment and bigotry. In other words, one should be free to roll like a wheel without gathering moss and be open to all roads and to others who share the same roads or choose to traverse their own pathways.20 AKBAR (ABU’L-FATH JALA UD-DIN MUHAMMAD AKBAR) Emperor Akbar, who ruled India during the late sixteenth century (1556–1605), was the third monarch of the Mughal Empire in India. In his temporal duties as a Muslim ruler of a non-Muslim majority polity, Akbar combined the best of ancient Iranian kingship and ancestral Sufism (mystical Islam). He promoted what he called the “path of reason” (rahiaith aql), insisting upon

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equity, open dialogue, and free choice rather than holding on stridently to one’s faith or “the marshy land of tradition,” much less imposing one’s faith and its institutions along with one’s own possessive greed onto others.21 Thus, while being a good and devout Muslim all his life, Akbar nevertheless challenged the influential court clergy (’ulama) and fought instances of bigotry among all communities under his purview. Convinced that he had to take serious interest in the religions and cultures of non-Muslims in India, he fostered dialogue among the different religions represented in his kingdom. To that end he established a hitherto unparalleled “house of worship” (’ibādatkhāna) for weekly gatherings that moderated conversations among Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Jesuits, Zoroastrians, and even Carvaka atheists. Akbar went to the extent of founding a brand of syncretistic “divine religion” (dīn-i-ilāhī) with its own combined calendar drawn from the various religions around India. This platform was short-lived; nonetheless, this innovative attempt left an imprint on the Indian psyche of the possibility in principle of an amalgam of religions bustling in India that by its integral nature made more room for coexistence and therefore mutual tolerance than it did for disharmony. Akbar also sponsored translations of religious scriptures into Persian.22 Tolerance toward the Hindu majority remained crucial in his skillful expansion of the Mughal territory under his control. With the help of his close confidant, Abu‘l-Fadl, Akbar issued an edict explicitly commanding the need to avoid religious violence so that “dissensions within and without be turned to peace and the thin bush of strife and enmity bloom into [a] garden of concord.”23 Sen contends that Akbar’s groundbreaking foray into respect for all religions with an attitude of neutrality on the part of the governing and legislative state impacted on the kind of secularism India formulated post-independence: Akbar not only made unequivocal pronouncements on the priority of tolerance, but also laid the formal foundations of a secular legal structure and of religious neutrality of the state, which included the duty to ensure that “no man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him.”24

Akbar did not hesitate to fill his court with non-Muslim advisers, intellectuals, writers, scholars, musicians, and artists, and he appointed a formerly defeated Hindu king, Raja Man Singh, as the general commander of his armed force. Note that Akbar’s religiously neutral secularism did not prohibit––as the French laïcité model does––religious associations in state activities. In sum, Akbar’s pronouncements on tolerance were uniquely magnificent for his time and remain remarkably so even today. One could say that Akbar was a major theorist in the direction of tolerance and a pioneering world


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leader in terms of arranging interfaith dialogues involving scholars from different religious backgrounds.25 Hence, if not before Akbar––and not to forget the Upanishads and Ashoka––then after him, the tolerance of diversity has been explicitly defended in India by strong arguments in favor of the richness of variation, including fulsome praise of the need to interact with each other, in mutual respect, through dialogue. After Akbar, a plethora of poets, writers, and local saints (or sants) worked on presenting a unified picture of the Sufi faith and bhakti, or devotional Hinduism, by translating each other’s literature into their respective languages. Thus, the epic Mahābhārata was translated into Persian (1598–1599) and later into Urdu, and the Qur’an into Hindi, and so on. MODERN INDIA’S TRYST WITH INTOLERANCE AND ATTEMPTS AT RECONCILIATION VIA TOLERATION The intellectual legacies of the Upanishads, Jains, Ashoka, Akbar, and an assortment of Sufi-Hindu saints influenced modern India’s adoption of its unique form of secularism. However, before the full transition to modern experimentalism in this regard, a rupture occurred in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that effectively set back the project by a considerable degree. Nationalist and patriotic proclivities and inter-communal tensions led to sporadic, violent encounters and bloodshed, particularly between majority Hindus and minority Muslims; Christians and Sikhs also found themselves caught in the clashes. The extent to which the destabilizing impact of British colonization on the subcontinent contributed to the communal tug-of-war is a question much rehearsed that we cannot go into here. Suffice it to note that the different religious and caste communities found themselves pitted against each other. There are indeed stories of heroic moments when tensions verging on a bloodbath eased due to tolerant understanding on both sides when the groups or their leaders engaged in dialogue and exchanged information on their respective grievances; sometimes, conciliatory redress arrived with the intervention of better intentioned British officers or judges who proposed compromises acceptable to both sides. However, as Korom notes, “it was by no means clear how transparently tolerant the majority religion, Hinduism, really was in terms of accepting the truth[-]claims of all other religions. Tolerance, after all, always involves the opposite, intolerance.”26 In this chaos, neo-Hindu leaders ignored the legacy of tolerance examined here and reformulated the Western principle of toleration to suit their surreptitious move to enshrine the supposed superior truth-claims that Hinduism possesses while acknowledging the “validity” of other religions. Unlike the earlier practices of the Hindus (barring caste and gender discrimination), this

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move placed the exclusivist claims of others outside the reach of Hinduism. The neo-Hindus held that all religions are valid, though not all are true or equal or of the same value to everyone at all times; further, when we say statement p is valid, we do not necessarily imply we approve of p.27 This discursive shift enabled the great Hindu savant Swami Vivekananda to proclaim at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, It [Hinduism] never demands any undue restraint upon the freedom of human reason, the freedom of thought, feeling and will of man. Hinduism is a religion of freedom, allowing the widest margin of freedom in matters of faith and worship. It allows absolute freedom of human reason and heart with regard to such questions as to the nature of God, soul, form of worship, creation, and the goal of life. It does not force anybody to accept particular dogmas or forms of worship. It allows everybody to reflect, investigate, enquire and cogitate.28

However, what was narrated, as a set of pristine principles to a global audience, was not necessarily reflected in practice. Here Hinduism was catapulted into a religion of modern times by appealing to the scrutinizing work of reason on dogmatic beliefs or blind worship and by being projected as a truly tolerant religion in accord with the Western principle of noninterference. Quite apart from what the philosophers were articulating, on the ground there was evidence of interreligious violence and Hindus expressing outrage at the proselytizing practices of Christian missionaries. In the past, Hindus had opposed and fought Buddhist and Muslim proselytizing, and now, with the advent of Europeans, they felt they had to deal with the attempted Christianization of India. All religions are considered valid, but not all––especially religions that do not have their historical roots in Greater India—can claim an equal share of adherents within the hoary subcontinent. One strategic ploy that the Arya Samaj (community of Arya/Aryans) developed was a mass reconversion program directed at non-Hindus, mostly Muslims, called shuddhi. Hindu neophytes argued that evangelical proselytizing disrupts the social harmony of the otherwise tolerant Hindu community, and it must be opposed on all fronts, for it turns them into aliens in their own homeland. This was the argument peddled again, as we shall see shortly, under the trope of “pseudo-secularism” in the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that extended the program of reconversion to Christians and Dalits (previously called “untouchables”). In place of shuddhi, it came to be dubbed ghar-wapsi, or “returning home,” supposedly to the “home-religion,” which, of course, under this ideogram is Hinduism. Cassie Adcock, in her study on the menacing proliferation of shuddhi, points out not only how perturbed M. K. or Mahatma Gandhi became but also how it set back the agenda of “selling” the idea of Indian secularism with a pluralist face to the majority of Hindus. “He [Gandhi] identified shuddhi as


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religious proselytizing, a movement to convert Muslims to Hinduism. And he described this practice to derive from religious misconceptions that were also false understandings of Hindu religious teachings.”29 In other words, shuddhi goes against the principle of religious tolerance and, hence, in humanistic terms is an intolerable practice. Gandhi was particularly grieved by the communal tensions as the strife was fragmenting the nation, which, in turn, weakened its base for the nationalist movement being fomented to restrain and arrest British rule in India. During his time in the United Kingdom and especially South Africa, Gandhi took lessons in the Christian Bible and talked with trappist monks, Quakers, his friend Reverend Charles F. Andrews, and the Baptist Minister Joseph J. Doke while also trying to understand Jainism, Islam, and Sikhism. When Gandhi was working on increasing nationalist consciousness in India, he did not see any reason to be intolerant of Muslims in India; on the contrary, he worked arduously toward integrating and enlisting Muslims in equal measure in various political movements, such as the refrain from cooperation with British authorities and the opposition to the Rowlett Act that had imposed a draconian curfew on the daily movements of citizens. The Hindu–Muslim unity was remarkable and enhanced the work of the anti-colonial agitations circa 1920. So when Gandhi was confronted with the maverick program of shuddhi, he was appalled and found it to be in contravention of the principle of tolerance he was advocating as the platform for the new secularism that he had envisaged for India. Gandhi, who was deeply influenced by the Jaina doctrines of anekāntavāda, syādvāda, and ahiṃsā (nonviolence), stood for religious pluralism, in which all religions are afforded equal respect (sarva-dharma-sambhava) as a virtue and a philosophical necessity that promoted appreciativeness of other traditions: I regard my study and reverence for the Bible, the Koran, and the other scriptures to be wholly consistent with my claim to be a staunch sanātani [orthodox] Hindu . . . I find Hindu scriptures to satisfy the needs of my soul. My respectful study of the other scriptures has not abated my reverence for or my faith in Hindu scriptures. They have indeed left their deep mark on my understanding of the Hindu scriptures.30

Gandhi was adamant that his Hinduism was not sectarian, demanded no pacts, and was fundamentally inclusive; and he added an adage or two, again, with respect to other religions: “I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality. I tolerate unreasonable religious sentiment when it is not immoral.”31 As Fasching et al. also point out, Gandhi found truth in all the great religions and that truth always drove him back deeper into his own tradition, even as it opened his communities and ashrams not only to all castes and outcastes but also to persons of every religion and

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culture. His communities were models of hospitality to the stranger. They were models for a postmodern community of unity-in-diversity.32

Gandhi was, indeed, not against the ideals of public reason or disputation or the need to scrutinize and be critical. He was more open than his counterpart Arya Samajists to this feat. Gandhi not only advocated tolerance of, but also insisted on engagement with, other traditions. He advised his son who announced his impending conversion to Islam that he should first study and understand as fully as possible the tenets, doctrines, and practices of other religions and then decide whether Islam is the one suited to his temperament rather than be lured to it for material or romantic comfort. The freedom to pursue one’s own religion without encumbrances from the state or from other religions was thus written into the Indian Constitution in 1950 under Article 25, which underscores equal entitlement of all citizens to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion.” As many jurisprudential clarifications in Indian courts have pointed out, “propagate” is not to be read as “proselytize.”33 Gandhi’s principle of interreligious tolerance and neutrality of the state was one that encouraged engagement, albeit critical engagement, rather than detachment, on the one hand, or blanket intrusion if not erosion, on the other hand. On the eve of India’s Independence from British sovereign rule, Gandhi was not in New Delhi celebrating the end of his long battle but was attempting to quell the riots and tensions between Hindus and Muslims in northwest India, insisting on the need for tolerance, forbearance, and mutual acceptance to be observed among India’s disparate and now torn-apart communities in the struggle for a share of the new-found power. The Nobel Laureate Tagore sympathized with Gandhi’s sentiments on the question of reconversion, but he took issue with Gandhi’s strategy of involving religion in the cause of patriotic nationalism. Indeed, Tagore remained skeptical about the value of patriotic nationalism and instead veered toward cosmopolitanism, but even that he tended to reject if it entailed a consequent denial of the individuality of culture and tradition. Tagore speaks through a female character in his novel The Home and the World.34 His argument is basically that patriotic nationalism (or idolatrous nation-worship) narrows and even absolutizes one’s spiritual disposition to the point of obscuring from vision another’s reality and viewpoint. Building on what she reads as Tagore’s idea of world citizenship, Martha Nussbaum forcefully argues that patriotic pride is “both morally dangerous and, ultimately, subversive of some of the worthy goals patriotism sets out to serve—for example, the goal of national unity in devotion to [the] worthy moral ideals of justice and equality.”35 A narrow, nationalist conception of cosmopolitanism was not the optimal choice for Tagore either as he emphasized “essential equality and the


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Right [of the individual] to exercise freedom in his/her mind and spirit.”36 So Tagore’s model of critical tolerance frays past national and narrow religious boundaries and expands into a more global, albeit still culturally nuanced, “home-and-world” vision of what the “World” should be, very much in accordance with the principles of dharma, informed by and undergirding the essential equality and freedom of the individual. TENSIONS WITHIN SECULARISM AND INDIA’S ALTERNATIVE Colonial authorities refrained from imposing an unadulterated secularism in which the state would distance itself from the religious sensibilities of the natives by assuming a neutral stance. The British developed a bifurcated or hybrid legal structure in which communities were demarcated by their respective religious affiliations, so Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, and Jaina retained certain features of their traditional moral systems. This came to be known as the “Personal Law” system. The Personal Law governed mostly property rights and family law, including marriage, fiduciary partnerships, divorce (or separation), inheritance, maintenance (alimony), adoption, succession, and other rites of passage recognized within the community’s traditions and textual resources. Jurisdiction of the Personal Law was passed onto the communities and their courts, while the “public” and, for the most part, “civil” as well as the “criminal” were the responsibility of the state. Codification of the Personal Law occurred at a very slow pace, mostly via court judgments, precedents, and some statutes. It was an egregious system, as Gandhi remarked later, but it worked inasmuch as the system did not isolate, alienate, or exclude religious communities from at least some codified and uncodified customary practices. The jurisdiction of the legislature and civil courts was restricted to disputes that were brought under the particular community’s provisions, dispensation, or exemption within the Personal Law (for example, bigamy or property distribution in an extended family upon the death of the father or husband) or litigated under the Penal Code when there was a threat to the livelihood of an individual following a family dispute (for example, the vagrancy of a woman following an enforced separation or denial of coparcenary entitlement). As nationalist India was preparing for a complete reclamation of nativist power from the British Crown, the Indian Constitutional Assembly debated the desirability of retaining the Personal Law. If India were to adopt a normative secular ideology based on the bifurcation of church and state, then the Personal Law would have to be abrogated and abolished, and a uniform civil code instituted across all ethnic, religious, and nonreligious communities.

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The debates in the assembly were quite vexed and divided over this question. In the end, in consonance with the long tradition and heritage of a form of secularism that was inclusive as well as tolerant of diversity––not just within the private sphere but also in respect to manifest public life and civil practices––the assembly recommended continuing the bifurcated model, albeit with significant modifications and a vaguely articulated directive to the state to move in due course toward a common civil code.37 But some Hindus became impatient, and extreme Hindu nationalists came to the fore to turn the coat, or dhoti, of secularism inside out. This shift is nowhere more apparent than in the pervasive polemic of “pseudo-secularism” that the Sangh Parivar (“family organizations” or network of Hindu rightist groups)38 and, in particular, the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership have all too readily utilized in criticizing the nation’s serious lapses in not being able to deal with its “other.” This polemic is made possible to a large extent by the inherent ambiguity in the hegemonic concept of “secularism” that is popularized by the Westernized (or post-colonized) intellectuals and, more significantly, its apparent failure in the Indian context.39 This claim is not original to the Hindu right or the ideologues of a strident Hindutva. The version of secularism that has apparently failed the nation is one that seeks to distance religion––viewed now as a rival ideology to the ideology of statecraft––and collective religious aspirations from the political structure and legal processes of a society in an otherwise multicultural and pluralist environment.40 But the importation of this Westernized version that privatizes religion was an impossible project for India.41 As Mushiral Hasan observes, “Delinking of state and religion remains a distant dream; secularization of state and society an ideal.”42 Yet the nuanced form of secularism taken on board by the Constitution makers bears testimony to a healthy diversity and harmony of all religions, ceteris paribus. The term “pseudo-secularism,” arising from the polemics of the Hindu Right, undergirds a convoluted attack on both forms of secularism. The first liberal form—a legacy of the Enlightenment—is being seriously undermined in world politics; and it was never true of pre-British India and most of the Christian and Islamic principles of governance. Indian society is basically religious, historically and at present. The second inclusive form evident in the Personal Law is shown to be rather weak in the face of real challenges, shortchanging religious rights in the state’s agenda for tighter political control and an uneven economic liberalization. In the climate of communalization, any group in control or through manipulative machination could engender a situation of insufferable compromises to the religious freedom, rites, and rights of another group while at the same time placing the onus of the constitutionally nuanced project of secularization on the doormat of the weak-kneed state which for its part abrogates the executive responsibility of protecting the harmony and culture of tolerance.


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This is precisely the argument used in the show of force with which the charge of “pseudo-secularization” is meted out by the ideologues of Hindutva. They see themselves as the ones on the losing end, the slippery slope of the secularizing promise, since they believe it is their religious freedom that has been severely compromised by Muslims and Christians. Appeasing the minority communities in their view has led to the state reneging on its commitment not to marginalize any religion nor for that matter to help and patronize one religion in preference to another, as guaranteed by Articles 25–28 in the Constitution. The Western liberal idea of secularism that prescribes a complete separation of church/religion and state had appealed to the elite fragments of the nationalist freedom movement for which Jawaharlal Nehru, who became India’s first prime minister, has been accorded most credit. The draft Constitution was initially prepared between 1946 and 1949 under liberal secularist assumptions and led by Dr. B. L. Ambedkar. The Constitutional Assembly, on the other hand, was all too cognizant of the diversity of the highly politicized religious communities, and so its recommended final draft adopted in 1950 reflected a series of accommodations and compromises on the design of the secular state and the normative order. It reasoned that a state can in principle be secular, but its disposition toward a society made up of divergent religious communities could and ought to be one of tolerance, regulatory neutrality, and reformative justice.43 A corollary to this would be a careful calibration of an active rather than a passive principle of “religious freedom,” which would cover a range of liberties, including the right to beliefs, rituals, and nondiscrimination on grounds of religion, language, race, and gender. With Indira Gandhi’s addition to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution later in the 1970s ironically of the hitherto absent term “secular,” there could be no argument, in principle, that the nation was not ready to make a firm commitment to an inclusive and mutually tolerable coexistence of different faith-traditions. Respect was thereby afforded to the Articles in the Adhikārapatra (Bill of Fundamental Rights) in the Constitution that enshrine and protect the right of each religious community to profess and propagate its own faith and to be free to establish places of worship, educational institutions, and self-sufficient procedural means to realize its own values and aspirations. It is here that the Hindutva Parivar and political cohorts have focused their attention on isolating a single group as the cause of the failure of secularism in association with the Western idea of toleration. They are grieved that, even as the majority populace practices its own religious rites, rights, representation, preferences, their needs are not being met by the secular state, nor do minority communities respect their entitlements. The state for its part also fosters patriarchal relations in negotiating political power and global

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capitalism.44 Hence the tension between “tradition” and “modernity” cuts both ways, and it does not augur well for movement toward a sanguine common code. Indeed, it was the Hindu nationalists and liberal secularists who foiled many opportunities to institute comprehensive gender equity on the grounds of preserving patriarchy.45 CONCLUSION In conclusion, I have surveyed India’s experiments with tolerance more than the lesser, albeit Western favorite, concern for toleration.46 We began with the quaint Rig Vedic adage: “Truth is One that sages know by many names,” and the Upanishads’s perfunctory gestures toward inclusiveness of people’s diverse philosophical proclivities. Then we looked at the Jaina formulation of anekāntavāda as the principle recognizing “many-ness” of faiths and beliefs, perspectives, and partial truths. After his conversion to Buddhism, Emperor Ashoka strengthened the principles of noninjury and tolerance toward the faiths of one and all while also establishing hospices to alleviate the suffering of human beings, regardless of their ideology, and of animals alike. The experiments in ecumenical tolerance in Emperor Akbar’s court, which included a short-lived syncretistic religion, houses for dialogue, and translating the scriptures of the major religions spawning in his kingdom, demonstrated his commitment to equality among religions and the need to respect all traditions. I then examined Mahatma Gandhi’s displeasure with the intolerance, especially toward Muslims and Christians, evinced in the reconversion program led by the neophyte-Hindu sect, the Arya Samaj, at the peak of the nationalist ferment. Gandhi’s secularism was grounded in the harmonious unity of religions (sarvadharmasamuccaya), whereby the state provides protection to the rights of all religions rather than exercising the separation of religion and governance (or “church and state” as in the Western model). We ended with Tagore’s quasi-cosmopolitan plea for a tolerance of the other, which, again, echoes the Gandhian ideal of inclusive secularism, adopted with qualifications in the post-independence Constitution as the legal-juridical mandate. Space did not enable an examination of more recent developments at the grassroots level reinforced by non-government organizations, womanist, and even judicial interventions in the “national psyche of intolerance,” but they are worth noting en passant. There are currently well-orchestrated and sporadic outbreaks of intolerance across the nation, from assaults on women, children, and minority groups to assaults on farmers or tradesmen from mostly Muslim or Dalit communities, who are found to be dealing in cattle or allegedly selling or consuming


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cow-beef since Jaina and Hindu sectarian groups have moved to outlaw cowslaughter in India.47 That India is the largest exporter of buffalo and ox meat seems to fall on deaf ears. There are cracks in the modern mirror of tolerance in India as elsewhere, and her intellectuals––and even Bollywood celebrities–– have spoken out against the rise of intolerance in the contemporary landscape. However, despite these many failures and lapses, the subcontinent has a far longer history than the West in attempting to come to terms with intolerance, to set limits to it, and to develop a moral psychology of critically engaged tolerance acceptable to all and sundry that goes beyond Western toleration. Indian secularism in contemporary times draws on the legacies of the exemplary emperors, Akbar and Ashoka, with Ashoka’s Wheel of Life the central and only image on the post-independence Indian flag. The kind of ban on the wearing of the burqa or hijab by Muslim women in public or in schools that exists in France would be a fundamental violation of India’s experiment with tolerance, for Indian secularism, true to its nativist intellectual history, is one of inclusiveness and engagement rather than one premised on the complete separation of state and religion. Furthermore, current activism plus some retrieval of wise experiences from the hoary tradition show that India is moving back toward, at least in attitude or disposition, what Sen calls “symmetric tolerance.” The successes, as much as the failures, of the myriads of experiments of tolerance in India have lessons for us in the modern globalizing world. When combined with theoretic deliberations over the post-Reformation secularization in the West and the unsettling challenges of intolerance, we may well reach a new crescendo in this area, as contemporary thinking has in other aspects of moral philosophy, such as environmental ethics, bioethics, feminist ethics, and virtue ethics. We should therefore welcome and embrace more open-minded comparative and cross-cultural inquiry in this area rather than continue the usual line of inquiry from Hobbes-Locke to Rawls.

NOTES 1. Amartya Sen, The Argumentative India (Delhi: Penguin, 2005), 296, 303–15. 2. Cited in Frank J. Korom, “Speaking with Sufis: Dialogue with Whom and about What?” in Interreligious Dialogue and the Cultural Shaping of Religions, ed. C. Cornille and S. Corigliano (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012), 224–49 at 241 n. 45. 3. Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.4, in The Principal Upaniṣads, ed. S. Radhakrishnan (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1953), 545. 4. Purushottama Bilimoria, “Negation (abhāva), Non-existents, and a Distinctive pramāṇa in the Nyāya-Mīmāṃsā,” in Comparative Philosophy and J. L. Shaw, ed. Purushottama Bilimoria and Michael Hemmingsen (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015), 183–202.

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5. Kenneth Rose, Pluralism: The Future of Religion (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 92. 6. Śvetāśvatara Up 6.11–12, in The Principal Upaniṣads, 746. 7. Rose, Pluralism, 94–95. 8. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad 2.5.14, in The Principal Upaniṣads, 202. 9. Rose, Pluralism, 6. 10. Representatives of these positions are discussed in Arvind Sharma, “All Religions are Equal? One? True? Same? A Critical Examination of Some Formulations of the Neo-Hindu Position,” Philosophy East and West 29 (1979): 59–72. 11. Jaina is said to be a sister system to Buddhism, although it precedes Buddhism by several centuries, having its roots exclusively in the forest-based ascetic yogapraxy (śramaṇa). 12. Arvind Sharma, “The Jain Doctrine of Syādvāda: A Critical Examination of Some Modern Perspectives,” in Religions and Comparative Thought, ed. Purushottama Bilimoria and Peter Fenner (Delhi: Indian Books Centre, 1988), 9–22, n. 5. 13. Adapted from Bimal K. Matilal, The Central Philosophy of Jainism: Anekāntavāda, series no. 27 (Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1981), 54–56; Bilimoria, “Negation (abhāva), Non-existents,” 186. 14. We may hear whispers of the Heisenbergian thesis of indeterminacy in Jaina dialectic-logic. 15. Vincent Shen, “Comparative Studies in Philosophy/Religion and Dialogue as Mutual ‘Strangification’ (Waitui 外推),” in After Appropriation: Explorations in Intercultural Philosophy and Religion (q.v.), ed. Morny Joy (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2012), 1–24 at 15. 16. Sen, The Argumentative India, 15, 82. 17. Ibid., xii. 18. Ibid., 15. 19. Nayanjot Lahiri, Ashoka in Ancient India (Delhi: Permanent Black with Ashoka University, 2015), 195–97, 229. 20. For further examination of Ashoka’s model see chapter 10 in this volume. 21. Abu’l-Fazl, The History of Akbar, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Wheeler M. Thackston (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), 393. 22. Wheeler M. Thackston, preface to Abu’l-Fazl, The History of Akbar, x. 23. Peter N. Stearns, Peace in World History (New York: Routledge 2014), 74. 24. Sen, The Argumentative India, 76 n. 2. 25. Ibid., 61. 26. Korom, “Speaking with Sufis,” 241. 27. Arvind Sharma, “All Religions are Equal? One? True? Same?” 67. Also cited in Korom, “Speaking with Sufis,” 242. 28. “Address at the Parliament of the World’s Religions/Welcome to Response” (Chicago, September 11, 1893), in The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda: Mayavati Memorial Edition, vol. 1 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1970), 11. 29. Cassie S. Adcock, The Limits of Tolerance: Indian Secularism and the Politics of Religious Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1–2; Mahatma


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Gandhi, “Young India” (June 1, 1927), in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 32: 1926–1927 (New Delhi: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1965–1969), 514–17 n. 219. 30. Mahatma Gandhi, “Young India” (September 2, 1926), in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 31: Jun–Nov 1926, 351; Sheshagiri K. L. Rao, Mahatma Gandhi and Comparative Religion (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990), 134. 31. Mahatma Gandhi, “Young India” (July 21, 1920), in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 18: July–Nov 1920, 73. 32. D. J. Fasching, D. deChant, and D. M. Lantigua, Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach to Global Ethics (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2011), 107. 33. Krishnadas Rajagopal, “Propagation without Proselytization: What the Law Says,” The Hindu (Daily), December 21, 2014, accessed July 17, 2016, http://www. 34. Rabindranath Tagore, The Home and the World, trans. Surendranath Tagore (London: Macmillan, 1919); also in Bindu Puri, The Tagore–Gandhi Debate on Matters of Truth and Untruth (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015), 129. 35. Martha Nussbaum, For Love of Country (Boston: Beacon Press, 2002), 4. 36. Puri, The Tagore–Gandhi Debate, 129. 37. Purushottama Bilimoria, “Disenchantment of Secularism: The West and India,” in Secularisations and Their Debates: Perspectives on the Return of Religion in the Contemporary West, ed. Matthew Sharpe and Dylan Nickelson (Dordrecht: Springer, 2014), 21–38. 38. “The Sangh”––comprising at the helm the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, a breakaway from the Hindu Sabha––was founded in Nagpur, Maharashtra, in 1925. Its ideologues have been V. D. Savarkar (who coined the term “Hindutva”), K. B. Hedgevar, Balasaheb Deoras, and M. S. Golwalker succeeded by Rajendra Singh, who launched the movement, to which were inducted the Jan Sangh (now defunct), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Kar Sevaks, Bajrang Dal, Shiva Sena, and a splintering of various parties and sectarian groups of the “saffron” (right-tending Hindu) shade. One of its main activities from inception has been to impart paramilitary training and ideological indoctrination. It provided a platform for two political parties—Jan Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party—and is represented in or has infiltrated the other major parties and minority communities. See Paola Bacchetta, Gender in the Hindu Nation: RSS Women as Ideologues (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2004), 6. 39. Ashis Nandy, “The Politics of Secularism and the Recovery of Religious Toleration,” in Secularism and Its Critics, ed. Rajeev Bhargava (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998), 321–44 at 321–22. 40. Pratap Banu Mehta, “India: The Politics of Religious Reform and Conflict,” in Religion, the Enlightenment and the New Global Order, ed. John M. Owen and J. Judd Owen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 174–92; T. N. Madan, “Secularism in Its Place,” in Secularism, ed. Bhargava, 297–320; Nandy, “The Politics of Secularism”; Mushirul Hasan, “Minority Identity and Its Discontents,” South Asian Bulletin 14 (1994): 24–40. 41. Rajeev Bhargava, introduction to Secularism, ed. Bhargava, 1–34 at 1–2.

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42. Hasan, “Minority Identity,” 26. 43. Rajeev Dhavan, “The Road to Xanadu: India’s Quest for Secularism,” in Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgment, ed. Gerald James Larson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 301–29 at 311. 44. Srimati Basu, “The Personal Law and the Political: Indian Women and Inheritance Law,” in Religion and Personal Law, ed. Larson, 163–83 at 180. 45. Archana Parashar, Women and Family Law Reform in India (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002); Basu, “The Personal Law,” 164. 46. On this distinction, see Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 28; Melissa S. Williams and Jeremy Waldron, introduction to Toleration and Its Limits, ed. Williams and Waldron, NOMOS 48 (New York: New York University Press, 2008), 1–30 at 4–5; David Heyd, “Is Toleration a Political Virtue?” in Toleration and Its Limits, ed. Williams and Waldron, 171–94 at 183. 47. Purushottama Bilimoria, “Animal Justice and Moral Mendacity,” Berkeley Journal of Religion and Theology 1, no. 1 (2015): 56–79.

Chapter 10

The Tolerations of Theravada Buddhism Benjamin Schonthal

Buddhism is frequently held out as the exemplar of a tolerant religion, one whose practices, doctrines, and clerics have an especially permissive and accepting attitude toward other faith traditions and communities. Popular culture and media images of Buddhism emphasize Buddhists’ stoicism, pacifism, patience, and compassion. Tolerant qualities are also visible in stories of the Buddha contained in Buddhists texts. These stories frequently portray the “awakened one” as a person who was not just accepting of others but remarkably nondogmatic in his preaching. For example, one well-known Tibetan Buddhist text describes the Buddha as encouraging would-be followers to scrutinize and question his philosophy in the same way that a customer might test the authenticity of a merchant’s gold.1 Buddhism’s tolerant image is justifiable in many ways, and Buddhist leaders have been key activists for peace in many parts of Asia. At the same time, however, for those who follow current events in South and Southeast Asia, this image sits uncomfortably alongside the exclusionary rhetoric coming from certain Buddhist groups in the region. In Thailand, for example, a number of Buddhist monks have served as nationalist ideologues in the country’s long-running conflict with Malay Muslims in the South.2 In contemporary Myanmar, monastic and lay Buddhist groups have led anti-Muslim rallies and have lobbied parliament and local governments to enact laws that would limit Muslims’ rights to marry non-Muslims and to proselytize.3 In Sri Lanka, in recent years, several new monastic organizations have engaged in public protests and media campaigns against the island’s minority Christian and Muslim communities, accusing them of threatening Buddhism by engaging in “forcible” conversions, economic collusion, and other conspiracies.4 While these Buddhist groups represent only a small proportion of the region’s Buddhist population (and should not, therefore, be taken simplistically as 179


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representatives of Buddhism as a whole), their activities and visibility nonetheless provoke important questions about the parameters and limits of Buddhist toleration both in theory and in contemporary practice. This chapter examines the idea of toleration in Theravada Buddhism, the dominant form of Buddhism practiced in South and Southeast Asia and one of the two major forms of Buddhism worldwide. (The other major “form” of Buddhism, which is dominant in Eastern, Central, and Northern Asia, is Mahayana Buddhism.5) Rather than coming to a single conclusion about whether Theravada Buddhism is or is not tolerant—or, to put it another way, whether contemporary manifestations of intolerant monastic nationalism are or are not properly Buddhist—I consider ways in which one might think about the multiple understandings, images, and modes of Theravada Buddhist toleration. In this chapter, I investigate when, where, and with what effects Buddhists in Southern Asia have made the deliberate choice to affirm the idea that followers of the Buddha ought not to interfere with the conduct or beliefs of others, including others whom they disapprove of or dislike. Such an investigation does not yield what one might call the Buddhist view of toleration. Rather, this chapter shows multiple ways in which this impulse has played a role in Buddhist life. Some forms of Buddhist toleration conform to notions of toleration celebrated in European philosophical liberalism; some do not. The Buddhist impulse to toleration has been embodied as much in programs of practice as in philosophical concepts. Therefore, when looking at the Buddhist world, I read the presence of toleration—a concept that, as many scholars point out, is taken from and understood in reference to European (particularly post-Westphalian) philosophical and political thought—as embodied not only in structures of thinking and reasoning but in patterns of behavior, including the administration of Buddhist polities, the writing and rewriting of myths, and the observance and reconfiguration of ritual. The following examination identifies three distinct configurations of Theravada Buddhist toleration: philosophical toleration, imperial toleration, and cosmological toleration. Each of these configurations offers a particular vision of toleration, as well as a particular prescriptive program for engaging with religious “others.” Philosophical toleration offers a complex model of engagement, one that encourages epistemological criticism of non-Buddhist traditions while, at the same time, prescribing indifference at the level of one’s emotions and social activities. Imperial toleration enjoins Buddhists to accept and accommodate the traditions of others, provided they pose no existential or moral threat to Buddhism. Cosmological toleration indicates a third alternative for acknowledging or affirming the beliefs and practices of non-Buddhists, one that links toleration to processes of inclusion or incorporation rather than differentiation: it uses architecture, art, ritual, and narrative to enfold into Buddhism’s mythological and soteriological universes new ideas, deities, clerics, myths, and religious goals. It therefore extends beyond the contemporary

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philosophical concept of toleration to include a more proactive engagement with difference that is termed tolerance in the introduction to this book.6 Through illuminating these different configurations, I seek to expand the possibilities for thinking about the nature of toleration and its peculiarity to Western philosophical thinking. In particular, I argue for a broader understanding of toleration outside the Euro-American intellectual context as a linked set of concepts and practices that, while not conforming purely to the narrow requirements and imaginaries of the European Enlightenment, nonetheless show similar impulses, echoes, structures, or dispositions. At the same time, I seek to complicate—or, perhaps, throw into question—the very idea of a “tolerant religion” as a trope used by writers, journalists, politicians, and scholars to valorize certain religious traditions while disparaging others. To the extent that Buddhism can be considered tolerant by the standards of EuroAmerican political philosophy, it exercises that toleration through multiple modes. Those modes coexist and influence each other; they also justify and encourage many different types of social and political arrangements, not all of which fit easily within the usual palate of positive qualities often associated with toleration as celebrated in Euro-American political discourse. Toleration, in its various Buddhist modes, is not always linked with strict neutrality, religious autonomy, state nonintervention, or pacifism. By considering these three modes of Theravada Buddhist toleration, I therefore hope to reflect further on an important line of inquiry provoked by the work of Wendy Brown. This line of inquiry approaches toleration (or tolerance, in Brown’s terms) as a putative political virtue that always “iterates the normalcy of the powerful and the deviance of the marginal,”7 and jumbles together a number of possible dispositions toward the “other”: aloof indifference, grudging (and temporary) acknowledgment, and chauvinistic self-centrism, as well as deep acceptance. An examination of technologies of toleration in the Buddhist world may cast into deeper relief these normalizing aspects of toleration, which apply equally to Theravada Buddhist and Western philosophical traditions. That is, looking at “other” tolerations, such as that of Theravada Buddhism, can help call attention to the often unacknowledged aspects of toleration as a discourse and practice in the Euro-American tradition of political philosophy: its ability to naturalize power and obscure it; and its tendency to claim as virtuous moral arrangements of people, power, and prestige that privilege certain groups while silencing, marginalizing, or assimilating others. PHILOSOPHICAL TOLERATION IN THE PALI TIPITAKA When popular authors, journalists, and others in the mass media describe Buddhism as a tolerant religion, they often tend to think about Buddhism in


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a very specific way. Rather than Buddhism as a changing, lived, dynamic, diverse set of practices and texts, they imagine Buddhism as a stable structure of philosophical and ethical principles, embodied in sacred texts that are thought to contain the sayings and teachings of a historical figure who would become known as Buddha, a title that means “awakened one.” It goes without saying that this stabilized, textualized, narrowly philosophical vision of Buddhism only captures one part of the religion.8 Nevertheless, when it comes to the topic of toleration, it is an important part. Central to the Theravada Buddhist textual tradition is the Tipitaka, the “Three Baskets [of knowledge]” that claim to contain the sayings and teachings of the Buddha. Comprising dozens of volumes, the Tipitaka includes stories, rules, philosophical speculations, and poetic verses that, according to the tradition, were preserved orally from the time of the historical Buddha’s death (in roughly 400 BCE) to the first century CE, at which time they were first committed to writing in Pali, the main liturgical language for Theravada Buddhists.9 It is from this oral and later textual tradition that many Buddhists, scholars of Buddhism, and interested laypersons have come to discern the core teachings of the Buddha.10 In the Tipitaka, one sees many stories in which the Buddha disagrees with the teachings and practices of contemporaneous religious leaders. Indeed, historians of Buddhism know that the Buddha lived and taught in an environment filled with competing renunciant movements. It is very common to read in the Tipitaka vivid depictions of the Buddha arriving in a town and settling in a public park, where he interacts with many other renunciant sects that are teaching their own religious doctrines. For example, one account of the Buddha’s travels describes his arrival in the capital city of Rajagaha as follows: Once upon a time the [Buddha] was staying at Rājagaha in a public park. . . . At that very time, many [other] famous wandering mendicants were staying nearby at [another] public park. . . . Among them were: Annahāro, Varadharo, Sakuludāyin and other very famous wandering mendicants . . . [One mendicant] was sitting with a great collection of mendicants who were noisy and making a large din with various kinds of chatter such as: chatter about kings, thieves, ministers, armies, fears, wars, food, drinks, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relations, villages, market towns, cities, regional entrepots, women, men, heroes, roads, rumors at the well, those who are already ghosts, small-talk, the source of the world, the source of the oceans and discourses on being and non-being.11

This description occurs virtually verbatim in other stories,12 and in each case the format is the same: the Buddha enters a city and resides at one public park near to other religious sects. The story then goes on to describe the differences between the followers of the Buddha and the followers of other religious leaders, disparaging the latter for their lack of discipline and improper

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teachings. Ultimately, the stories end with the Buddha converting the other mendicants and/or persuading the local king to patronize the Buddha’s group instead of the others. These stories are as widespread as they are formulaic: a significant proportion of the stories in the Sutta Pitaka, the first “basket” of the Tipitaka, contain some version of these events. The Buddha’s active disapproval of competing groups can be seen in other places as well. In several passages in the Tipitaka, the Buddha categorizes and criticizes a variety of faulty views (diṭṭhi), against which he positions his own proper teaching. In one well-known story, the Buddha intervenes in a philosophical dispute between one of his own followers and the follower of another sect, clarifying the tenets of his own teaching by contrasting it to 62 wrong types of viewpoints.13 All of these viewpoints are wrong, the Buddha says, because they arise out of (and/or contribute to) infelicitous mental states such as nihilism, craving, or confusion. Moreover, he insists, these wrong viewpoints fail to explain the phenomenal world as it really is: impermanent, changeable, and driven by laws of cause and effect. The Buddha analogizes these 62 views to 62 links in a fisherman’s net, which trap the minds of those who follow wrong views like a fisherman traps fish. In other parts of the Tipitaka and in commentaries on it, one sees other lists of opposing philosophies and philosophers, including further lists of wrong views. For example, one section of the Abhidhamma Pitaka––the section of the Tipitaka concerned with advanced philosophical explication and analysis of the Buddha’s teaching––concludes that the Buddha actually identifies 115 wrong views, each of which can be classified according to the way it explains (or fails to explain) the ultimate nature of reality.14 In yet other passages one sees descriptions not only of wrong views but also of the gurus and groups that hold those views. For example, in the famous Story of the Fruits of Renunciation (Sāmaññaphala Sutta), the Buddha pinpoints the faults of six competing mendicant teachers and explains in detail why one should not follow them. Reading the Tipitaka, one finds that the Buddha takes a number of stances toward the purveyors and followers of wrong views. On the one hand, the Buddha disparages false views as misguided, counterproductive, wicked, or as manifestations of ignorance.15 The Buddha also specifies that the first step on the path to gaining enlightenment is to cultivate the “right view” (sammādiṭṭhi), which is by definition the rejection of all wrong views.16 To the extent that cultivating right views constitutes a core principle of Buddhist piety, it corresponds with the eradication within the minds of individuals of all other false views. From this perspective, interference with wrong views is not just permitted; it is an essential feature of the Buddha’s program of selffashioning. If there is toleration in Pali Buddhist texts, then, it comes not at the level of epistemology: all views are not equal or equally tolerable for a


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Buddhist. Wrong views are not simply unattractive or unproductive, they are potentially hazardous to one’s ultimate journey toward becoming an awakened being like the Buddha and exiting what would otherwise be an endless cycle of births and rebirths, a process described as obtaining nirvana (literally, “extinguishing”). Buddhist toleration in the Tipitaka is therefore something slightly more complicated than it is often made out to be. Pali texts suggest that for the average (not-yet-awakened) Buddhist it would be impossible and ill-advised to maintain an attitude of perfect empathy and compassion toward wrong views and their proponents. Buddhist toleration does not therefore equate to the kind of proactive acceptance referred to in this volume as tolerance. Nor do these texts suggest precisely the kind of principled noninterference in the Western philosophical sense of toleration. Rather, what seems to be recommended is a stance of guarded vigilance against the adoption of any wrong views that might impede one in understanding and following the Buddha’s way to nirvana. However, as with the Western idea of toleration, this stance is not one of outward castigation or the active disparaging of other groups. In the beginning of the story about the 62 wrong viewpoints described above, the Buddha cautions his followers not to be angry or resentful of those who speak critically of the Buddha, his teachings, or his followers insofar as those sentiments would themselves produce and also reflect wrong views. In the same way, the Buddha cautions his followers not to feel pleasure when others speak positively of the Buddha and his message.17 What is telling here is the fact that although the Buddha advocates a posture of epistemological discrimination (the jettisoning of wrong views and the adopting of right views), he rejects a posture of social discrimination, positive or negative. Although wrong views are problematic, they are problematic only to the extent that they inhibit one’s own self-realization. Wrong views outside one’s own mind are morally neutral. Put another way, wrong views can only threaten the piety and accomplishments of individual Buddhists to the extent that those Buddhists accept or disparage them. In this brief analysis of examples from the Tipitaka (an analysis that could be extended further), one can see that Pali Buddhist texts contain a philosophy of toleration that blends together strong condemnations of wrong views at the level of epistemology with interdictions against such condemnations (or praising) at the level of personal attitude or outward behavior. One might characterize this pairing as epistemological intolerance blended with psychosocial toleration. As described in the Tipitaka, the ideal Buddhist ought to reject the beliefs and methods of spiritual leaders other than the Buddha, while not rejecting those leaders or their followers on an emotional or social level. This pairing of epistemological intolerance and psychosocial toleration has a strong relational element. It is one’s epistemological intolerance (one’s

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ability to guard vigilantly against wrong views) that produces the dispositions in which psychosocial toleration seems both proper and natural. This is because the Buddha’s teaching is conceived as superior to other views not only in its content (that is, as being more precise in its analysis of reality) but also in its ability to produce emotional equanimity. Pali texts describe the Buddha’s view as providing an understanding of reality that is so accurate that it permits adherents to engage the world without grasping, dogmatism, or defensiveness. Therefore, one can add a further nuance to this paradigm: the more fully one masters the Buddha’s view and rejects false views, the more impervious one becomes to psychosocial intolerance. The perfection of this paradigm is embodied in the figure of the Buddha, who is described as embodying a state of pure equanimity (upekkhā). Pali texts describe upekkhā as one of the most important mental states attained by advanced practitioners who are close to gaining nirvana. Rather than indifference or apathy toward other views, upekkhā (which comes from a Sanskrit root meaning to “look beyond”) suggests a disposition of total, composed neutrality toward all things in the world. Yet it is a state that can only be reached after many lifetimes of rigorous epistemological intolerance!

IMPERIAL TOLERATION OF ASHOKA AND VAMSA LITERATURE Pali texts provide one important source of information on early Buddhism. However, they are not the only source we have. Equally important for scholars have been the monuments and inscriptions left behind by Southern Asian kings, especially India’s first major Buddhist emperor, Ashoka Maurya. Ashoka conquered much of the Indian subcontinent in the third century BCE and left a wealth of monuments and material evidence, including edicts inscribed into rocks and pillars, which he intended all imperial subjects to heed. From these inscriptions one gains a very different understanding of Buddhist toleration, one exercised and enforced from the top-down by what imperial epigraphy and later textual sources depict as a very pious monarch. As it relates to the topic of toleration, the most important edict that survives is the Twelfth Major Rock Edict, which the famous Indian historian Romila Thapar translates as follows: [Emperor Ashoka] honours all sects [also translatable as religions] and both ascetics and laymen, with gifts and various forms of recognition. But [he] does not consider gifts or honour to be as important as the advancement of the essential doctrine of all sects. This progress of the essential doctrine takes many forms, but its basis is the control of one’s speech, so as not to extoll one’s own sect or


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disparage another’s on unsuitable occasions, or at least to do so only mildly on certain occasions. On each occasion one should honour another man’s sect, for by doing so one increases the influence of one’s own sect and benefits that of the other man; while by doing otherwise one diminishes the influence of one’s own sect and harms the other man’s. . . . Therefore, concord is to be commended, so that men may hear one another’s principles and obey them. This is the desire of the Beloved of the Gods [Ashoka], that all sects should be well-informed, and should teach that which is good, and that everywhere their adherents should be told, [“]The Beloved of the Gods does not consider gifts or honour to be as important as the progress of the essential doctrine of all sects.[”] The result of this is the increased influence of one’s own sect and glory to Dhamma.18

At first glance, Ashoka’s inscription offers a tantalizing portrait of what one might say is a strong form of religious tolerance, a positive and proactive approach toward religious difference. Rather than merely accept the presence of multiple sects or religions in his region, Ashoka appears to decree that all religions ought to be honored and fostered, such that (as the text indicates) the “essential doctrines” of all religions will “progress.” The policy of uplifting all religions is to occur, not only by preventing those activities that would deter or interfere with religiosity, but by preventing words of disapproval between religious groups. Moreover, the inscription indicates ostensibly that Ashoka championed religious diversity as something that redounded not just to social order and peacefulness but also to the benefit of all religious sects and to the morality of society in general. Viewed through this particular rock edict, Ashoka’s policies appear as exemplars of a strong form of egalitarian Buddhist tolerance. Indeed, taking inspiration from this and certain other edicts and hagiographical texts about Ashoka, a large number of political leaders, scholars, and Buddhists have read Ashoka’s legacy in precisely this way.19 On further inspection, however, the picture is more complex. Key to this is the reference to Dhamma in the last sentence of the edict. In the language of the Ashokan inscriptions, dhamma is a multifarious term, one that can refer either to the teachings of the Buddha (that is, the doctrines of Buddhism) or to teachings in general (that is, religious doctrines broadly speaking). Thus, one might read the final line of the Twelfth Major Rock Edict as indicating that religious toleration enhances the glory of all religions or the glory of Buddhism in particular. In this second interpretation, toleration appears less as a mode of egalitarian politics and more as a kindness extended to non-Buddhists by Buddhist rulers. In this interpretation, programs of noninterference and protection of religion have implicit limits: the programs persist as long as the principles and practices of those religions do not offend or assail those of Buddhism. Indeed, one sees evidence of this version of (more limited) toleration in other inscriptions of Ashoka. In Ashoka’s well-known “Schism Edict,” the emperor cautions that no one ought to cause dissension among Buddhist

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monks and that whoever “creates a schism in the Order” will be exiled to a place without Buddhist monks or nuns. In the same edict, Ashoka mandates that all laypersons must come to the full and new moon ceremonies that take place at Buddhist monasteries so they might “endorse” that particular monastic community. It is unclear whether Ashoka has in mind here only Buddhist laypersons or laypersons from other sects as well. Regardless, in Pillar Edict Five, Ashoka forbids subjects from engaging in certain types of economic behavior on the Buddhist holy days: regularly on fast days fish are not to be caught or sold. And these same days in the elephant-park and fisheries, other classes of animals likewise must not be killed. On the eighth, fourteenth and fifteenth days of the fortnight [Uposatha days] . . . bulls, goats, rams, boars and other animals which it is customary to castrate are not to be castrated.20

Not only was the observance of Uposatha mandated in Ashokan edicts, other non-Buddhist ceremonies, particularly those involving animal sacrifice (a common practice among brahmanical traditions in ancient India), are criticized.21 In his Fourth Major Rock Edict, Ashoka declares that non-Buddhist ceremonies are “doubtful in their effectiveness. They may achieve their objects, or they may not, and they are only effective in temporal matters. But the ceremony of Dhamma is effective for all time, for even if its object is not attained in this life, endless merit is produced for the life to come.” Passages like this indicate that Ashokan toleration may have been permissive, but it was neither relativistic nor entirely neutral toward non-Buddhist traditions. Ashoka’s model of Buddhist toleration had a first-among-equals flavor to it. When it came to religious doctrines, the Buddha’s doctrine was preeminent, and a policy of noninterference could be extended to other doctrines once the general moral and economic requirements of Buddhism were met. The Ashokan paradigm of toleration has resonances in other Buddhist written sources. Buddhist texts praise as virtuous kings (dhammarāja) those rulers who fulfill 10 royal duties (dasa-rājadhammā): the virtuous king gives alms to mendicants; keeps the Buddhist precepts; acts with generosity; shows honesty; embodies gentleness; remains austere; does not anger easily; opposes violence; exercises patience; and harbors no enmity toward others. Thus, as idealized in Buddhist texts, the perfect moral leader follows Buddhist precepts while also possessing personal qualities of compassion, forbearance, and calmness. Moreover, as portrayed in many Pali narratives, the dhammarāja does not face a dilemma in fulfilling his duties to Buddhism and acting patiently, peacefully, and tolerantly toward non-Buddhists. This is because stories portray the virtuous king as winning over non-Buddhists with his irresistible powers of charisma, truth, and virtue—even if those powers are backed up with an army.22


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Yet, there are other stories too, stories in which the imperial toleration is not free of violence. These stories can be found more prominently in a variety of Pali and vernacular texts outside the Tipitaka, particularly in narratives concerned with the lineages of kings and royal families. A particularly influential text of this type in Sri Lanka is called the Mahāvaṃsa or “great lineage,” and it traces the progression of kingship in ancient Sri Lanka from the past lives of the Buddha to roughly the time of the text’s authorship in the fifth century CE.23 In this text, one sees imperial toleration in a different form. As with Ashoka, the kings in the Mahāvaṃsa understand themselves as reigning over religiously diverse populations. However, in these stories, protecting Buddhism (which is the prerequisite condition for imperial toleration) requires not only encouragements for religious participation, it also requires neutralizing any existential threats that might interfere with the security of Buddhist monks or Buddhist property. Thus, one finds in the Mahāvaṃsa—and other lineagetexts from other parts of the Buddhist world—stories in which Buddhist kings, Buddhist saints, and in certain cases the Buddha, himself, engage in acts of taming, banishing, or pacifying (sometimes through violence) groups that might threaten the growth and prospering of Buddhism. These groups might be autochthonous spirits, marauding armies, or even demons. Although stories of the Buddha’s encounters with local inhabitants are much less violent than stories associated with Buddhist kings, there can be undertones of intimidation. For example, the early chapters of the Mahāvaṃsa describe the Buddha’s attempts to frighten away the demons (yakkhas) who inhabited Sri Lanka by floating in the air and conjuring rain, storms, and darkness.24 (The demons are eventually resettled on a nearby island.) The Mahāvaṃsa describes this act of intimidation as a necessary, if unpleasant, precondition for ensuring that Sri Lanka would be a “place where [the Buddha’s teaching] should (thereafter) shine in glory.”25 Thus, Buddhist imperial toleration in its extra-Tipitaka format presumes the importance of the rājadhamma and the first-among-equals type of Ashokan toleration, but it also rationalizes the forcible defense of Buddhism as a potential feature of that form of Buddhist toleration—or, in others cases, even a precondition for it. COSMOLOGICAL TOLERATION: TOLERATION AS INCORPORATION In the first two sections of this chapter, I have dealt with toleration as a concept that presumed and preserved the boundaries among religions and views, dhammas and sects. There is, however, a third model of Buddhist toleration that one finds mainly in the vernacular traditions of South and Southeast Asia. Like the other models, this type of toleration affirms the idea that followers

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of the Buddha should not interfere with conduct or beliefs that they dislike. However, the solution proposed—or, perhaps more accurately, the method of embodying this solution—does not preserve the boundaries between Buddhism and other traditions but rather enfolds into Buddhism the beliefs and practices of non-Buddhists. If the semi-toleration and perfect toleration of the Tipitaka maintained the boundaries of Buddhism through the promotion and maintenance of orthodoxy, and if the imperial toleration of Ashoka and/or vaṃsa literature maintained the boundaries of Buddhism through the protection of Buddhism as first-among-equals, this last model of toleration preserves the boundaries of Buddhism by expanding its ambit to incorporate and engulf various new traditions, deities, and ideas. When tourists visit temples or monasteries in Theravada Buddhist countries, they are frequently surprised to find that there are shrines on temple premises dedicated to a variety of deities and supernatural beings. In Sri Lanka, for example, temple compounds almost always include shrines to one or more of the island’s major Guardian Deities, as well as to numerous other local and trans-local divinities. These shrines are frequently adjacent to ritual pavilions housing Buddha images or to large reliquary mounds (stūpas or pagodas, discussed below) thought to contain funerary remains of the Buddha or famous monks. In Thailand, Buddhist temples often contain monuments or altars for local or national ghosts and other spirits.26 In Myanmar, as well, Buddhist temples include spaces dedicated to the worship of several of the country’s thirty-seven nats, “official” divine guardians who are thought to protect Buddhism as well as those who propitiate them. From the perspective of art history or spatial analysis, then, Buddhist temples are cosmologically and soteriologically diverse spaces. The Buddha may be given pride of place in temples, and the Buddha’s doctrine may be preached by the majority of religious specialists who live and/or conduct ceremonies there. However, it is not the Buddha’s teaching alone that is represented or materialized in what are often thought to be exclusively Buddhist spaces. Ultimate reality, as depicted in and through the art and structure of Buddhist temples, is impressively pluralistic and, by implication, tolerant. In Buddhist temples, there are elements that evoke and echo the cosmology and soteriology of so-called canonical Pali Buddhism—Buddhism as it appears in the Pali Tipitaka. As described briefly above, this tradition of Buddhism portrays the cosmos as entailing an opposition between two things: transmigration and nirvana. On the one hand, there are the cycles of death and rebirth that make up humans’ phenomenal existence; these cycles are characterized as essentially unsatisfactory and unpleasant. On the other hand, there is nirvana and the wonderful event of one’s “extinguishing” from those cycles of transmigration.27 This opposition between phenomenal existence and its extinguishing is echoed in the images and practices of Buddhist temples. Art


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historians frequently point to reliquary mounds (stūpas), which are contained at most Buddhist temple complexes, as symbolic articulations of this opposition: the large round (or octagonal) base stands for the cycle of reincarnations, while the tiered, pointed pinnacle on top stands for Buddhists’ aspiration to exit from that cycle. Similarly, Buddha-altars in Sri Lanka communicate this opposition by way of a small and widely seen plaque that appears just above the flat surface on which devotees place flowers, incense, and water. The plaque generally contains the text of a widely known Pali verse, which Buddhists are enjoined to say when offering flowers: “This heap of flowers, which has colour and scent, I offer at the blessed lotus feet of the lord of sages. I make an offering to the Buddha with this flower, and by this merit, may there be release. Just as this flower fades, so my body goes towards destruction.”28 Thus, in material elements such as altars to the Buddha and reliquary mounds, one sees some fidelity to what might be thought of as Pali Buddhist orthodoxy and an emphasis on its distinctive cosmological vision and soteriological aims. Through imagery and words, Buddhist visitors are called upon to recognize the unsatisfactory nature of phenomenal existence as saṃsāra (transmigration from rebirth to rebirth) and that experience or event which stands in opposition to it, namely, nirvana. While certain aspects of the visual arrangement of Buddhist temples do communicate an exclusive Buddhist cosmology and soteriology, others communicate what might be considered competing visions of the cosmos and devotees’ ideal relationship to it. This is visible both in their artistic and iconographic presentation and in the ritual specialists who occupy the spaces. While it is difficult to generalize about the cosmologies of deity and spirit shrines throughout the Buddhist world, one can say with some confidence that what is emphasized frequently in the statuary, murals, wall art, tapestries, and iconography tends to be the particular mythological histories of deities, indications of the powers of those deities, and associated visual references to other deities with whom that deity is associated. For example, in one Sri Lankan Buddhist temple near Kandy, there is a shrine to Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity (normally associated with Hinduism) linked to good fortune and opportunity. The visual tableau overflows with images of Hindu myths and cosmologies: it is dominated by Ganesh himself, as well as his familial ties to Lords Siva, Parvati, and Kataragama, along with images of his “mount,” a rat, and background images suggesting wealth along with India’s mythological landscape and an image of Mt. Meru. The point here is that the cosmology communicated through the image is, not one defined by the opposition between nirvana and rebirth, but one defined by broader Hindu mythological traditions. Similarly, nat shrines in Myanmar will communicate nat-centric cosmologies, which do not always directly implicate the nirvana/rebirth opposition. These alternative visual cosmologies also

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implicate alternative soteriologies: as expressed through the imagery of a deity shrine within a Buddhist temple, the ultimate goal of religious action may not appear to be nirvana but improvement of one’s situation within this life or the next life. This soteriological difference is visible as well in the various ritual specialists who operate within the space of a Buddhist temple. In Sri Lanka, shrines to deities within Buddhist temple compounds are attended by kapurālas, ritual specialists who take care of the sacred image, supervise the activities there, and administer and mediate the offerings made to those deities, while chanting Sanskrit verses and performing offering rituals. Similarly, in Thailand and Myanmar, there are particular ritual specialists, not always ordained monks, who mediate between worshippers and spirits or nats. The cosmological and soteriological pluralism of Buddhist temples and temple rites has been long observed by scholars of Buddhism and has been analyzed according to a variety of theories. Scholars have described this diversity as the product of Buddhism’s “tainting” by local traditions; its bifurcation into a trans-local “great” tradition and local “little” tradition;29 its trifurcation into sub-religions oriented around three different goals of nirvana, a better rebirth, and protection in this life, respectively.30 Regardless of how one classifies contemporary Theravada Buddhist art, ritual, and temple compounds, however, one can say that modern Buddhism’s multiplex cosmological and soteriological elements emerge from a longer history of Buddhists’ deep engagement with and accommodation of local ritual and mythological traditions—traditions that, at some point in time, did not constitute a central element of Buddhist religiosity as it moved beyond its origins in ancient India. In two books, Sri Lankan scholar John Holt offers two compelling historical portraits of the manner in which the Hindu God Vishnu and the Mahayana bodhisattva Avalokitesvara were “assimilated” into the mythology, rituals, and temples of Theravada Buddhists in Sri Lanka. For example, in the case of Vishnu, Holt describes numerous ways in which Vishnu was integrated into the Buddhist cosmos by way of myths in which the Buddha effectively “deputized” Vishnu as the protector of Buddhism on the island.31 Similarly, the well-known anthropologist of Sri Lanka, Gananath Obeyesekere, has written about the concepts and imaginaries used by the Buddhists in the highlands of Sri Lanka to position Hindu and local deities (and other supernatural entities) within a Buddhist cosmological vision.32 More recent ethnographic work by Obeyesekere and Richard Gombrich has illuminated further the development of myths and ritual innovations that join together in narrative and cosmological imagination the figures of the Buddha with the many divinities of Sri Lanka.33 The links between the Buddha and the deities in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar can be seen as part of a single tradition, which transcends the doctrinal/ lived, great/little, trans-local/local binaries.34 Indeed, this is a favored position


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among many Buddhist Studies’ scholars at the moment.35 However, it is also clear that Buddhists themselves see an opposition. In some cases, the opposition is described in terms of a distinction between the otherworldly (Pali, lokuttara) religion of the Buddha and the worldly (Pali, lokiya) religion of the deities and the spirits. In many other cases, past and present, Buddhists have characterized the distinction as Buddhism-proper versus its de facto entanglement with other religious traditions. This second characterization of the split tends to be favored by urban, modernist, reformist Buddhist groups. While these groups do not necessarily speak for the average Theravada Buddhist in Southern Asia,36 they do give voice to the more widespread idea that there is a separation, perhaps even an antagonism, between these two aspects of temple art and ritual practice. Regardless of how one conceptualizes the coexistence of the Buddha and the gods in contemporary Buddhist practices, one sees in contemporary Buddhism a clear element of noninterference in practices and beliefs that fall outside the Pali Buddhist orthodoxy and its central concerns, cosmologies, and soteriological foci. This toleration is, however, not a modus vivendi type of toleration, in which Buddhists agree to live apart from but alongside those religiosities which they do not endorse for pragmatic reasons. Rather, this toleration approximates a more active appropriation, accommodation, or integration of these alternate religious elements into the mythology, art, iconography, soteriology, cosmology, and rites of Buddhist elites themselves. It thus combines the notion of toleration as noninterference with tolerance when this term is employed to denote a more proactive acceptance of difference. Some may argue that this integration, while it has permitted the coexistence of divergent religious elements, has done so at the cost of destroying or contesting them through a process of assimilation that denies their autonomy and distinctiveness. However, modern practice provides evidence for another, equally plausible, conclusion: by extending the artistic, cosmological, and ritual boundaries of Buddhist practice, divergent elements have been adopted into Theravada Buddhist religious life without entirely damaging or challenging the authority of other Hindu or local traditions. A casual examination of the flow of devotees at Buddhist and Hindu temples in Sri Lanka today will show that many self-identified Hindus make offerings at the shrines in Buddhist temples just as many self-identified Buddhists make offerings at Hindu shrines. In many ways, then, this version of lived, enacted, cosmological toleration could be seen as equally robust as the philosophical liberal or legal-liberal variant, perhaps even more so. CONCLUSION There is no one concept of Buddhist toleration. There is no single, fully elaborated philosophical statement that explicitly celebrates the idea that Buddhists

The Tolerations of Theravada Buddhism


ought not to interfere in practices, doctrines, beliefs, and cosmologies which they do not endorse or with which they do not agree. To write about Buddhist toleration is, therefore, to some extent, to engage in an act of interpolation: to read Euro-American liberal philosophical rubrics onto Theravada Buddhist history. However, this is not the same thing as saying that Buddhist toleration does not exist or that one cannot see within Buddhism practices and ideas that reflect or echo conceptions of toleration as understood by thinkers like Locke and others. Indeed, one can identify at least three different modes through which Buddhists have effected and endorsed toleration. They have done so philosophically through the elaboration of principles and concepts that advise, at once, epistemological discrimination and psychosocial indifference. They have done so in imperial contexts through the use of edicts and myths that place Buddhism as first-among-equals alongside other traditions and communities, which are accepted as long as they are deemed nonthreatening to Buddhism. Finally, Buddhists have practiced toleration through the visual, material, mythological, ritual, and cosmological integration of other traditions into the spaces, stories, and practices of Theravada Buddhist life in ways that bring former “others” into the fold, while establishing their coherence with (or, in other cases, their subordination to) the ultimate goals and principles of Buddhist life. Considering these Buddhist models of toleration reveals something about the relationship between specificity and universality in politics and political philosophy. It shows that although not perfectly symmetrical, religious traditions in Asia have generated concepts, practices, and solutions to issues important to Euro-American political philosophy, including the issue of how to live peacefully with others. It confirms, to some extent, then, the transcultural and transhistorical importance of forms of toleration, elaborated through both discourse and practice. At the same time, doing comparative political philosophy in this way shows something else. It casts into deeper relief the various possibilities and potentials inherent within a particular Euro-American philosophical concept itself, possibilities and potentials that can be muffled or muted as a result of that concept’s broad use or—as in the case of toleration—a concept’s valorization in the discourse of Euro-American political liberalism. The very question that animates this edited volume––whether a concept like toleration appears in the world’s philosophical traditions—is salient precisely because toleration remains central to the Euro-American liberal tradition. In this case, the act of trying to “de-Westernize” the concept of toleration through examining its Theravada Buddhist approximations calls attention to features and qualities of toleration that may be under-acknowledged in the Euro-American philosophical canon. Looking at Theravada Buddhist tolerations illuminates the ways in which acts of noninterference in the practices of others (including


Benjamin Schonthal

those with whom one disagrees) may be dissectible into separate epistemological, behavioral, and emotional components. It calls attention to toleration’s utility to and links with imperialism and political control. It highlights the importance of toleration as a practice––its manifestation in art, architecture, behaviors, rituals, and narratives—as well as a philosophical concept. Beyond these aspects, one might also conclude that looking at Buddhist tolerations helps expose a somewhat less salutary feature of toleration. Although toleration is understood commonly as a productive response to the multiplicity of normative systems in a given polity, toleration (as a concept or practice) often has the effect of further hardening and deepening the boundaries around those normative systems. That is, one sees in the various modes of Buddhist toleration a staccato tacking back and forth between drawing two types of normative boundaries: separating boundaries that seek to distinguish between those things identified as “Buddhist” and “non-Buddhist” in order to preserve the purity and orthodoxy of Buddhism; and encompassing boundaries that seek to bring those things identified as non-Buddhist into Buddhism, as complementary and/or acceptable forms of diversity. These two boundarymaking maneuvers—which, I would contend, accompany toleration in the Euro-American liberal tradition as well—may have the effects of delegitimizing and depoliticizing, rather than endorsing and affirming, diversity. In this way, one sees in an examination of Theravada Buddhist tolerations the generalizability not only of toleration but of Wendy Brown’s critique of it: one sees clearly how postures of principled noninterference may give way easily to an aversion to otherness, proving the difficulty—perhaps even the impossibility—of maintaining a posture of tolerance in its purest form, as a sustained, selfless endorsement of difference. NOTES 1. Kulatissa Nanda Jayatilleke, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1963), 391. 2. Michael K. Jerryson, Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 3. Benjamin Schonthal and Matthew J. Walton, “The (New) Buddhist Nationalisms? Symmetries and Specificities in Sri Lanka and Myanmar,” Contemporary Buddhism 17, no. 1 (2016): 1–35. 4. Mahinda Deegalle, “Sinhala Ethno-nationalisms and Militarization in Sri Lanka,” in Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia, ed. Vladimir Tikhonov and Torkel Brekke (London: Routledge, 2013), 15–36. 5. Some scholars also identify a third form, Vajrayana Buddhism, to describe a major school of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and other Himalayan contexts. These categories are, naturally, unstable and inadequate in many ways. In particular,

The Tolerations of Theravada Buddhism


Mahayana Buddhism, as a label, purports to organize a great variety of very different types of Buddhism: from Zen Buddhism to Tibetan Buddhism and others. 6. While paying due attention to the book’s distinction and definitions in this chapter, I nonetheless continue to employ the term toleration also in a wider sense due to my aim to broaden its meaning beyond the Western philosophical conception. It thus includes tolerance, or a positive endorsement of different, in accord with Michael Walzer’s understanding of “everyday toleration.” See Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997). 7. Wendy Brown, Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 8. 8. For example, see Iselin Frydenlund, “‘Buddhism Has Made Asia Mild’: The Modernist Construction of Buddhism as Pacifism,” in Buddhist Modernities: ReInventing Tradition in the Globalizing Modern World, ed. Hanna Havnevik, et al. (New York: Routledge, 2017), 204–21; Nancy Eberhardt, Imagining the Course of Life: Self-transformation in a Shan Buddhist Community (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006); Justin Thomas McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Erik W. Davis, Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 221–22; Gregory Schopen, “Archaeology and Protestant Presuppositions in the Study of Indian Buddhism,” History of Religions 31, no. 1 (1991): 1–23. 9. The Pali Tipitaka is not the only ancient textual corpus. Scholars have discovered versions in Sanskrit and other ancient southern and central Asian scripts. These versions were (and are) important for other schools of Buddhism. 10. While often referred to as the “Buddhist canon,” there is some debate as to how central the Tipitaka really is (or has been) to Buddhist practice. See, for example, Anne M. Blackburn, Buddhist Learning and Textual Practice in Eighteenth-century Lankan Monastic Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). 11. Mahā Sakuludāyi Sutta, in Majjhima Nikaya 77.5, The Majjhima-nikaya, ed. V. Trenckner (London: Published for the Pali Text Society by H. Frowde, 1888); my translation. 12. For example, Dīgha Nikaya (hereafter, DN) 1.17, 9.3, 25.2, The Dīgha Nikaya, ed. T. W. Rhys Davids and E. Carpenter, vols. 1 and 2 (London: Published for the Pali Text Society by Kegan Paul, 1975). 13. Brahmājāla Sutta, in DN 1. On the topic of diṭṭhi, I draw from Paul Fuller, The Notion of Diṭṭhi in Theravada Buddhism (London: Routledge, 2005). 14. Ibid., 14–16. 15. Ibid., 28. The Pali terms are misguided (micchā), counterproductive (akusala), wicked (pāpaka), and ignorance (avidya). 16. I refer here to the Noble Eightfold Path, which the Tipitaka places at the core of the Buddha’s teaching. The Noble Eightfold Path is the program of knowledge, ethics, and mental cultivation that constitute the core directives of Buddhist piety. 17. DN 1, 4. Translation in Maurice Walsh, The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Boston: Wisdom Publishers, 1995), 68. 18. Romila Thapar, Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 255.


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19. Kristin Scheibel, “Towards a Buddhist Policy of Tolerance: The Case of King Ashoka,” in Religious Tolerance in World Religions, ed. Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton (West Chonsohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2008), 317–30. 20. Thapar, Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, 264. 21. See, for example, First Major Rock Edict. 22. The locus classicus of this type of narrative is the Cakkavatti Sīhanāda Sutta. For translation and analysis, see Steven Collins, Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities: Utopias of the Pali Imaginaire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 480–96. 23. Jonathan S. Walters, “Buddhist History: The Sri Lankan Pāli Vamsas and Their Commentary,” in Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia, ed. Ronald B. Inden, Daud Ali, and Jonathan S. Walters (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 99–164. 24. For a good description of this episode, see Mahanama Thera, “Buddhist Visions of a Primordial Past,” in The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics, ed. John Holt (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 13–18. 25. Ibid., 16. 26. Justin McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). 27. Nirvana, the common Anglicized version of the Sanskrit word nirvāṇa and the Pali nibbāna, comes from a verbal root meaning “to extinguish.” 28. As translated in Richard F. Gombrich, Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 136–38. 29. For a description and critique of the “great” and “little” tradition thesis, see Gananath Obeyesekere, “The Great Tradition and the Little in the Perspective of Sinhalese Buddhism,” The Journal of Asian Studies 22, no. 2 (1963): 139–53. 30. Melford Spiro, Buddhism and Society (New York: Harper and Row, 1970). 31. John Holt, Buddha in the Crown: Avalokitesvara in the Buddhist Traditions of Sri Lanka (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); John Holt, The Buddhist Visnu (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004). 32. Gananath Obeyesekere, “Religious Symbolism and Political Change in Sri Lanka,” in The Two Wheels of Dhamma, ed. Bardwell Smith and Frank Reynolds (Boston: American Academy of Religion, 1972). 33. Richard F. Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989). 34. For example, see Michael M. Ames, “Magical-animism and Buddhism: A Structural Analysis of the Sinhalese Religious System,” The Journal of Asian Studies 23, no. S1 Aspects of Religion in South Asia (1964): 21–52; Obeyesekere, “The Great Tradition and the Little in the Perspective of Sinhalese Buddhism.” 35. For example, see McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk. 36. For example, see George Bond, The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1988).

Part IV


Chapter 11

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime? Heresy and Immorality in Early Modern Japan Koichiro Matsuda In his Treatise on Tolerance (1763), Voltaire wrote of the intolerance within Japan and its closed borders to foreigners in the following words: The Japanese were the most tolerant of all men. A dozen peaceful religions throve in their empire, when the Jesuits came with a thirteenth. As they soon showed that they would tolerate no other, there arose a civil war, even more frightful than that of the League, and the land was desolated. In the end the Christian religion was drowned in blood; the Japanese closed their empire, and regarded us only as wild beasts, like those which the English have cleared out of their island.1

Was Voltaire right to say that Japan, having once been “the most tolerant” society, turned into a dreadfully intolerant society because of the behavior of Christian missionaries? It certainly would be appropriate to say that Voltaire’s statement was a reflection of his ideal of the perfectly secular state with no religious control by churches. However, what happened in Japan at the time the Jesuits came was far more complicated than Voltaire’s comment encapsulates. This chapter examines what the early modern Japanese political regime known as the Tokugawa shogunate (1600–1868) could tolerate or could not tolerate. The Tokugawa shogunate has generally been characterized on the one hand as a typically oppressive system ideologically dominated by the moral codes enforced by the ruling power. On the other hand, the ethical norms of daily life in Tokugawa society have been viewed as quite flexible or even anarchic in terms of their restrictions on sexual conduct, religious faith (except for Christianity, which was strictly prohibited), and family duty. How could these seemingly contradictory characteristics coexist? 199


Koichiro Matsuda

This chapter focuses on two points. The first is how “heresy” was defined and treated by the ruling power. The second is the legal categorization of “ethical misconduct.” It is argued that an examination of disputed cases over “heresies” and “misconduct” shows the authorities and people involved paid more attention to violations of administrative regulations or civil contracts than to the faith of violators or their negligence of ethical values. It is undeniable that there were social taboos and exclusions against unfavorable behavior. However, they did not mean that the Tokugawa government adopted a strict censorship and punishment system to enforce moral ideals. This chapter suggests a way to understand the historical character of “heresies” and “misconduct” in the politico-ethical arguments in early modern Japan. It is conventionally assumed that if the Tokugawa regime was an early modern or premodern, nondemocratic, authoritarian one, it had to be based on some kind of moral and religious orthodoxy. The mainstream view of Japanese intellectual history once maintained that Zhu Xi’s doctrine (a form of neo-Confucianism developed during the Song dynasty [960–1279] in China) played the role of the official orthodoxy in Japan as it had in the Chinese Qing dynasty (1644–1912) and the Korean Yi (Joseon) dynasty (1392–1897).2 This view assumed that any authoritarian regime is accompanied by an authorized ideology designed to make the people obedient to the government. Criticisms against this conventional formulation have been raised since at least the 1960s. One early example is George Sansom, who wrote in one of the classic textbooks on early modern Japanese history, “We may take it, therefore, that the Tokugawa government did not seriously object to criticism of its philosophy. Indeed it may even be that the government was unable to define its own orthodoxy.”3 Or amongst more recent academic achievements, Herman Ooms comments, “It is clear that during the period . . . no single tradition was privileged with exclusive bakufu [government] support that would have turned its teachings into an enforceable orthodoxy, as was the case in Ming China.”4 This type of criticism is still accompanied by the conventional view of the Tokugawa regime as an oppressive autocracy, which is characterized as despotic but with no single particular ideology legitimizing its political authority. It would appear, then, that the government and society of early modern Japan does not deserve to be called “tolerant.” The regime was without doubt authoritarian and autocratic. There was no parliament or any similar institution which made the voice of the people heard. No official places existed for regional, professional, or religious representatives in the political system. However, in recent years, historians have come to focus more on the eclectic or compromising character of the Tokugawa regime. Nevertheless, the difficulty of proposing a cogent and coherent explanation as to how these contradictory characteristics can be observed at the same time remains. Was

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


there any convincing reason why an authoritarian regime without ideological orthodoxy was successfully established and held on to its power for more than 250 years? RELIGIOUS HERESY UNDER THE TOKUGAWA REGIME The Tokugawa government had a strict policy banning Christianity. People who were suspected of holding Christian faith were severely tortured and punished.5 The purpose of this policy was not, however, to conduct or force people into the good faith or to nurture their spiritual and moral well-being. The main reason for this strict policy against Christianity was rooted in the civil war period (sengokujidai, from the mid-fifteenth century to the early seventeenth century), during which a number of warring feudal lords (daimyō) converted to Christianity and built up strong military forces in their domains. The Tokugawa government was extremely vigilant about any remaining renegade forces underpinned by religious faith. As Jurgis Elisonas points out, the Tokugawa government “asserted its supremacy by making the scrutiny of all possible traces of Christianity an instrument of social control throughout the country,”6 and not because Christianity was conceived as a maleficent cult. In addition to its alertness toward Christianity, the Tokugawa government kept a close eye on the movements of sects in Buddhism and Shintoism. The fujufuse sect (literally, to reject donations from believers of other sects), an independent Buddhist sect that emerged when it separated from the mainstream Nichiren sect, received a stern warning from the Tokugawa government because of its jagi (evil doctrine).7 The fundamentalist nature of the fujufuse sect caused concern in the Tokugawa government as the fujufuse sect had not accepted donations from the rulers and had refused to give services for them since the Toyotomi clan’s rule (1590–1603). The Tokugawa government set the stage for a public debate (Shinchi tairon, 1630) at Edo Castle between two contesting temples: the Minobu Kuonji temple of the Nichiren sect and the Ikegami Honmonji temple of the fujufuse sect.8 As a result, the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu (1543–1616), officially announced that the fujufuse sect was “confuted” in the debate. Leading preachers of the fujufse sect were banished. Their temples and lands were confiscated and granted to the rival sect. In spite of the Tokugawa government’s persistent pursuit, however, the fujujuse sect survived. It was reported that after the Meiji Restoration (1868), when the restored imperial government lifted the ban on the fujufuse sect (1876), as many as 30,000 believers were found to have secretly preserved their faith.9 The monitoring of religious movements was rigid. If someone started preaching outside the conventional practices authorized by a registered


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Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine, one could be accused of belonging to a “dissenting cult with novel doctrine” (shingi-iryū). In most of the cases, the accusations were made not by the governmental authority but by members of the established temples and shrines against dissenters who had started activities outside their control.10 Also, we can observe cases in which leaders of folk religions or practitioners of folk medicines were prosecuted and punished. Interestingly, they were often accused of being hidden “Christians” (kirishitan in Japanese) even if they worshipped conventional Buddhist or Shinto gods in performing their rites.11 Given this strict policy against religious leaders and groups that the Tokugawa government judged jashū (heresy or evil religion), we cannot deny that the Tokugawa regime was religiously “intolerant.” One bore a serious risk of punishment if one’s conduct caused suspicion of heresy. However, vigilance against Christianity and against other heretic sects of Buddhism and Shintoism differed in severity. Toward Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, the government’s main tactic was to adopt every measure to prevent them from growing into independent social forces through interventions in their personnel and restrictions on their properties. During the early years of Tokugawa rule, the Tokugawa government intended to benefit from trade with Western countries, therefore it did not implement severe regulation of Christian missionaries. The turning point was the Shimabara Rebellion (1637–1638), a peasant uprising which involved the Christian villages that had survived in the western part of Kyūshū. After the suppression of the rebellion, the Tokugawa government banned all trading with Western countries in 1639 with the exception of the Netherlands. It found more risk than benefit in trading with Christian countries. Once the foundation of its ruling power was settled, a stricter ban on jashū was introduced because the Tokugawa government came to be haunted by a fearful memory of the civil war period of the sixteenth century. During the civil war period, numerous provincial lords converted to Christianity and threatened the unification of the country because of the possibility of them colluding with Western countries.12 During this period, moreover, not only provincial lords but also rich and influential Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines had their own organized military forces to protect their properties and influence. Therefore, the Tokugawa government found the prohibition of jashū necessary, not only in the case of Christianity but also in regard to some sects of Buddhism and Shintoism. Putting it into a comparative perspective, the motive of the Tokugawa rulers was different from the apparent motive for intolerance in Western societies which John Locke, who was contemporary with the early part of the Tokugawa regime, lamented in his Letter Concerning Toleration (1689).

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


For if it be out of a principle of charity, as they pretend, and love to men’s souls that they deprive them of their estates, maim them with corporal punishments, starve and torment them in noisome prisons, and in the end even take away their lives—I say, if all this be done merely to make men Christians and procure their salvation, why then do they suffer Whore-dom, Fraud, Malice, and such-like enormities, which (according to the Apostle) manifestly relish of heathenish corruption, to predominate so much and abound amongst their Flocks and People?13

Later, in A Third Letter for Toleration (1692), Locke also criticized the idea that using force was justifiable to save souls by referring to the martyrdom of Christians in Japan. What think you of those great Numbers of Japaneses, that resisted all sorts of Torments, even to Death itself, for the Romish Religion? And had you been in France some years since, who knows but the Arguments the K. of France produced might have been proper and sufficient to have convinced you that you ought to go to Mass?14

Locke stressed how useless the magistrate’s use of punishments was in saving people’s souls; the Tokugawa rulers, by contrast, actually paid little attention to saving souls. Were they, then, totally practical, hard-and-dry minded totalitarian controllers? Jumping to this conclusion would be premature given the complicated and often contradictory policies that the Tokugawa government adopted toward religious institutions. The Tokugawa shogunate knew, not only the risk, but also the utility of religious institutions. Officially registered temples and shrines were permitted to maintain a certain amount of landed property and to claim donations from parishioners. Temples and shrines did not, however, enjoy full liberty or discretion. On the contrary, the Tokugawa government wanted to put every religious institution under its control. Temples and shrines had to ask permission from the Tokugawa government regarding the appointments and promotions of monks and priests. However, as long as those temples or shrines adapted to the regulation, it was also a system of protection for them. The Tokugawa clan, who survived and terminated the civil war as its victor, built a regime one may call totalitarian in the sense that they tried to compartmentalize each social group and suppress any initiatives which might challenge the authorized system. Gathering, traveling, and religious events were strictly monitored. The government used Buddhist temples as instruments for monitoring people’s activities. Each Japanese person, regardless of his or her status or class, had to register as a parishioner (danka) in a designated Buddhist temple, usually in his or her residential area.15 This registration system


Koichiro Matsuda

was called terauke (literally, belonging to a temple), and it was intended to function as an administrative system of resident registration. Under this registration system, every Japanese person was officially a Buddhist parishioner. Even Shinto priests were obliged to become parishioners of Buddhist temples.16 Usually, village-based parishioners were obligated to bear the costs of running and maintaining their registered temple and to pay donations for religious events. As previously mentioned, without a reason such as marriage, one could not officially choose or change a temple according to one’s faith. It was officially designated. However, in almost all the regions, village festivals celebrated regional deities. Villagers donated to and did maintenance work for their local Shinto shrine devoted to those deities, even though each villager had to be registered as a parishioner of a Buddhist temple.17 In this way, the Tokugawa government organized Buddhist temples into an administrative monitoring system with a clear political intention. Yet it had little interest in what kinds of sects or schools these temples belonged to, and it had no strict rule about which sects or schools ought to be protected. In fact, the Tokugawa family itself had two family temples, Zōjoji and Kan’eiji, in different Buddhist sects (Jōdoshū and Tendaishū, respectively). The two temples conducted the family’s funerals in turn. Besides that, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, Ieyasu, was enshrined as a Shinto god at the Nikkō Tōshōgū shrine. The politically pragmatic utility of religious authorities was more relevant than the doctrines. This was also true of the local domains ruled by the feudal lords. Generally, those domain rulers knew it was impossible to unify or to put all the different sects in their domains under their total control. They showed very little interest in the contents of doctrines, although they strictly required the registration of Buddhist monks and the reporting of personnel changes in every temple to the domain government. The top priority of the monitoring was the border control of each domain, including the recruitment of monks from other domains. Cases in the Okayama domain also show that the domain government “recommended [not forced]” a “one family, one temple” principle. Every marriage had to be reported to the government office by the Buddhist temple that a family was registered to, and intermarriage between different Buddhist sects might result in a warning from the officers but it was not banned. If an intermarriage case was reported, the office “recommended” that the bride should change her registered sect to the one of the groom’s family.18 CONFUCIAN ORTHODOXY? Then what about Confucianism, especially the neo-Confucian Zhu Xi school?19 Hayashi Razan (1583–1657), who was trained to be a Buddhist

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


monk in the Gozan temple, eventually came to be one of the pioneers of neo-Confucianism in Japanese intellectual circles and served the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1606, about a decade before the government banned Christianity, Razan held a debate with a converted Japanese Christian named Habian. In the record of the debate, which was later titled Haiyaso (anti-Jesuit or anti-Christian), Razan made rigorous and detailed criticisms of Christian doctrines.20 Elsewhere he also harshly condemned Buddhist doctrines. One of his letters clearly shows his opinion: “It has to be judged as heresy if one neglects filial piety and believes in tranquility of nirvana. . . . It is to delude common people to heresy and harmful to moral teachings.”21 It is noteworthy, however, that although Razan denounced Buddhism as “heresy” from his standpoint of Zhu-xi-ism, the official position he obtained to serve the Tokugawa shoguns was as a Buddhist monk. He tonsured and wore the monk’s garb. Moreover, Razan attempted to revive ancient Shinto by using Zhu Xi’s concept to “subsume both Shinto and the ‘Kingly Way.’”22 Criticism of Buddhism by Confucian scholars continued throughout the Tokugawa period. Kumazawa Banzan (1619–1691), who served as an adviser to Ikeda Mitsumasa, the lord of the Okayama domain, proposed the abolition of the temple registration system not because it was inefficient but because Buddhist temples were corrupted and their doctrines were mendacious. Accordingly, the Lord Mitsumasa transferred registration to Shinto shrines.23 In the late eighteenth century, a proposal to the chief senior councilor of the Tokugawa shogunate submitted by one of the most famous Confucian scholars, Nakai Chikuzan (1730–1804), raised a strong accusation against the Ikkō Buddhism sect. Nakai was the director of the Kaitoku school, which was founded by donations from Osaka merchants but became the only chartered school for commoners approved by the Tokugawa government. Nakai stated, Buddha’s teaching made false accusation to the secular life and deluded commoners. . . . Confucian teachers have to challenge it, along with teaching the Way of filial piety and politeness, in revealing the fallacy of Buddhist teaching, such as accumulating merits for well-being in the next life, three phases in the cycle of reincarnation, or the palace in the paradise of heaven. Our Confucian scholars have to enlighten the deluded people by making clear that the story about the pure land of Ikkō sect was only vulgar and shallow.24

If Confucian scholars gave any positive view of Buddhism, it was only because Buddhist teaching could be useful for the discipline of uneducated people.25 However, actual Buddhists seemed useless for this purpose not only in the eyes of Confucian scholars. A pseudonymous author of the samurai warrior class in the early nineteenth century deplored Buddhism as follows:


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The number of temples and shrines has gradually increased, as have their court ranks and office fiefs, and once more the monastics have grown arrogant. The Way of Buddhism has been lost completely, and even in provincial villages monks have become decadent and lost all sense of compassion. Buddhism was first restored in those exceptional reforms; then, it was lost once more. How deplorable! Although monks no longer bear armor and swords, their greed and wickedness and their craving for luxury have multiplied. The total number of temples in the whole of Japan today must be around five hundred thousand, while probably around two million live in these temples. In addition, there are countless practice halls, retreats, and wayside shrines, and the number of adherents, practitioners, nuns, and the like living there must be enormous. All these tens of thousands of people have grown into an idle class within the realm; what is worse, they have easy access to clothing, food, and shelter, and they spend their days and nights squandering the state’s resources. They do not devote themselves to the Way of Buddhism, they lead lives of luxurious laziness and evil greed, and they make a standard practice of swindling the people who uphold the state.26

The critical remarks about Buddhism made by Confucian scholars did not mean Confucianism was officially authorized as the orthodoxy of the Tokugawa regime. In contrast to the cases of China and Korea, where the Zhu Xi school of Confucianism was established as the orthodox doctrine of the regime and was regarded as “true learning” for the higher civil servant examination, the Tokugawa government showed scarce interest in the contents of the doctrines taught by Confucian scholars, Buddhist monks, or Shinto priests. It is true that in a few cases scholars were punished due to their publication of critical comments about Zhu Xi’s school, but most of these occurred in the 1650s and 1660s which was a highly unusual period due to one of the higher council members in the Tokugawa government (and a son of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun), Hoshina Masayuki, being an austere fundamentalist of the Zhu Xi school of Confucianism.27 The learning of Confucian classics became an essential part of education, not only for the samurai class but also for the relatively well-to-do class of commoners which included merchants in the cities and peasants in the rural villages. In the later Tokugawa period, the demand for education disseminated and penetrated to the lower classes, which did not mean, however, that Confucian moral doctrine was established as the orthodoxy. Along with the growth in the population of the cultured class and the reading public, different approaches to interpreting the classics flourished. Especially in the eighteenth century, a number of debates took place among the Zhu Xi school, the antiZhu Xi school, syncretism, Buddhist monks, and Shinto priests. One of the leading Confucian scholars of the anti-Zhu Xi school, Ogyū Sorai (1666– 1728), advocated a meticulous method of analyzing and interpreting Chinese

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


classics––not only Confucian ones but also historical works and poetry––that became highly influential and popular. Ogyū Sorai and his students avowedly criticized the doctrines of the Zhu Xi school, but no official accusation was raised against their opinions. On the contrary, Ogyū Sorai had various opportunities to submit comments on the government’s judgments and policies to his master who was a high official in the Tokugawa government and to a Tokugawa shogun who requested his advice.28 Also, many of his disciples obtained advisory or teaching positions in the houses of provincial lords because their knowledge of Chinese history, literature, and Confucian classics was highly esteemed. In sum, Confucian classics and teachings played an important role in cultivating both ruling and ruled classes, but no particular school of Confucianism or Confucian teachings in general obtained the position of the orthodox moral doctrine of the regime. Scholars were mostly free to criticize each other and even scholars in authority, such as the Hayashi family, as long as they avoided commenting publicly on decisions made by the Tokugawa shogunate, even if the comment was positive. Moreover, unlike in China and Korea, religious practices such as ancestral rituals and funerals in Confucian style were scarcely adopted in Japan. Several feudal lords and scholars tried to put Confucian rituals into practice, but they could not gain followers, and they had to compromise their plans with conventional Buddhist or Shinto styles.29 Most Confucian scholars were buried in Buddhist temples with tombstones in Buddhist style. Confucian moral codes about marriage and the adoption of children written in the authentic canons were neglected. Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, once registered, had privileges to run their institutions, to perform religious ceremonies, and to receive stipends and donations under the protection and control of the government. There was no Confucian institution that enjoyed these privileges. It is true that the Confucian Hall of Sages of Yushima was founded with financial support from the Tokugawa shogunate, but it was initially part of the private premises of Hayashi Razan’s family. The governmental position of the Rector of Education (daigakunokami) was finally created and given to Razan’s grandson, Hōkō (Nobuatsu), in 1691. However, the Hayashi family’s school was still a private institution patronized by the Tokugawa shogun. Its status was rather ambiguous until the late eighteenth century when the Tokugawa shogunate finally proclaimed it as a “state” academy (Shōheizaka gakumonjo) in 1797.30 The Tokugawa government issued the prohibition of heterodoxy (Igaku no kin) in 1790, in which “heterodoxy” meant the schools of non-Zhu Xi thought, including Yang-ming’s, Ogyū Sorai’s, Itō Jinsai’s, and so-called “eclecticism.” However, the intention of the Tokugawa shogunal regent Matsudaira Sadanobu, who presided over the series of governmental reforms


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(Kansei kaikaku) in the 1790s, was more to restore the morale of samurai serving the Tokugawa government than to implement an ideological censorship of the whole society. Also, it is noteworthy that the intention of the Confucian scholar who proposed the prohibition was, as Kiri Paramore points out, “primarily to create a standardized field of practical knowledge where knowledge would be utilized and assessed in terms of its functional capacity” and to provide room for some meritocracy in the hereditary feudal government.31 As a matter of fact, the prohibition was addressed only to the Shōheizaka academy, the officially chartered school for the sons of Tokugawa vassals, and the Tokugawa government left the matter to the discretion of the schools in the regional domains. According to current research, the total number of scholars who were affiliated to domain-run-schools increased as much as fourfold during the Kansei period, while the number of scholars affiliated to “heterodoxy” increased more than threefold during the same period.32 JUDGING RIGHTS AND WRONGS As aforementioned, the Tokugawa government paid very limited attention to the religious orthodoxy and heresy of the regime’s population. Its mode of governance, therefore, undeniably contrasts with governmental policies of Western countries in the same period. However, did it have any serious interest in judging rights and wrongs or giving moral teachings to the people and punishing misconduct? In the judicial records of the Tokugawa government, one finds the term “unfilial” (fukō). “Unfilial” behavior could be the basis for criminal punishment. The officials of the Tokugawa government and the local domain lords set up bulletin boards with ordinances as a method of public notification of legal codes. From at least the 1680s, on the typical bulletin boards set up in cities and local villages, it was usually written that “disloyal and unfilial persons have to be punished severely.” However, in most cases, “unfilial persons” were actually prosecuted for a breach of contract, rather than for rudeness to superiors or negligence of filial piety. There was an intriguing case in 1722 of the punishment of an “unfilial person,” which was actually punishment for the breach of an adoption contract. In this case, a young samurai escaped from his adopted family and asked the house of a high official of the Tokugawa government for protection and the abrogation of the adoption. But the family brought a countersuit to maintain the adoption. Adoption was widely used as a method to find an heir to the household in the early modern period (and even today). Under the Tokugawa regime, each household had to have a master of the house. It was a primogeniture system, so usually the eldest son would succeed to the position of the head of the

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


household. However, if a family only had daughters, or if the son died earlier than his father, the family had to adopt someone to be an heir, especially if it was a family in the samurai class. The stipend of samurai was given to the head of the house. If a family had no heir and could not adopt a male successor, the stipend to the house was likely to be confiscated. Adoption therefore became very common among samurai families, and abrogation of the agreement of an adoption would cause a serious problem for the family. In the case of this “unfilial person,” the family brought a countersuit, and the official of the Edo city administration ordered this young samurai to be detained in the house. The concept of an “unfilial person” was used to explain the reason for the punishment. He was punished officially because he had neglected his duty of filial piety to his adopted parents. However, the moral tone of the punishment was a pretext as the Edo city magistrate could not risk someone jeopardizing the utility of the custom of adoption for maintaining the households of samurai families.33 Also, “being unfilial” was often used as a reason to punish married women who were accused of neglecting their household duties. In most cases, they were punished because they were not diligent enough in the duties and work they were responsible for in the house. The crime of “unfilial” behavior was in fact about negligence of managerial responsibility for the household, rather than having reverence for elders.34 Death rituals were generally the most important issue in deciding proper conduct for most of the religions. The Tokugawa government issued an order in 1684 about the proper conduct in mourning (bukkiryō) based on Confucian teachings.35 One may take this as evidence that the Tokugawa regime wanted to subjugate the people under a Confucian ethical order. However, the expected period of mourning for one’s father was 13 months, and one could start working after only 50 days, which was far shorter than the 3 years (or 27 months in practice) required by the rites (li) originally ordained in Confucius’s Lun Yu and later established as the official li-system in Chinese states. The mourning regulations of the Tokugawa samurai officials were undoubtedly “unfilial” when judged by the standards of orthodox Confucianism. Therefore, the proper standard of mourning ordered by the Tokugawa government was not necessarily in accord with Confucianism. However, what about the ethical code for the poorest and uneducated peasants? Were the rulers expected to be tolerant toward ethically unfavorable conduct by miserable commoners? Controversies emerged among Confucian scholars about the ethical propriety of punishment of poor commoners. One of these controversies was about a peasant who abandoned his mother because of poverty. In 1696, an impoverished peasant was arrested because he had abandoned his aged mother when he was wandering the area and found himself unable to take care of her. The domain Lord Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu summoned several Confucian scholars and asked their advice about the possibility of prosecuting


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this peasant because of his disloyalty and unfilial behavior. Ogyū Sorai, one of Yanagisawa’s close advisors, wrote about this debate in the proposition he submitted to the eighth Tokugawa Shogun Yoshimune. Later, this proposition was published and read widely. Mino no kami [Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu] asked the scholars in his house what was the punishment in such a case. . . . All the Confucian scholars reached the following conclusion: “There is no punishment for the abandonment of a parent in the Ming code (min-ritsu 明律) or in ancient and modern works. The act of this man must be considered that of a hinin [literally, nonhuman] outcast [because he left his village and abandoned his status of peasant]. He had taken his mother with him until she had become ill and then they parted. Therefore it is impossible to call it a case of oyasute [abandoning parents]. He had four or five days earlier divorced his wife and even though he was reduced to beggary, he took his mother with him. For a hinin that was laudable conduct. If while living with one’s wife one abandons one’s parent, that is called oyasute. However, since there was no intent in this case of abandoning his mother, it is impossible to call it oyasute.”36

In the controversy, the scholars considered whether any legal reason could be found and applied to this case, and not whether the peasant had neglected any moral duty or Confucian teaching. The scholars summoned by the Lord Yanagisawa seem to have shared a legal positivist method in their deliberations. However, the lord Yanagisawa was not content with their comments. Yanagisawa had wanted someone to propose a punishment due to moral misconduct. He believed that the domain ruler had to be the ethical master of the people in the region. Although he was aware of his master’s intention, Ogyū Sorai opposed punishing the peasant. So he then attempted a different way of reasoning to justify why the peasant was not responsible for abandoning his mother. Sorai proposed, Under famine conditions, any number of such incidents would occur in other domains too. Abandoning one’s parent is a serious matter and should not take place and if this case were judged accordingly, whatever the punishment meted out, it would set a precedent for other domains. In my view, it is primarily the fault of the local administrators (daikan) and the district magistrates (bugyō), but also of the house elders (karō). Further, people higher up are also responsible. [In comparison,] Donyu’s share of the blame is quite small.37

As a result, the man was sent back to his village, and he was granted a oneman ration (ichinin-buchi) so he could take care of his mother. According to Ogyū Sorai, true responsibility for ethical conduct should not be assigned to commoners. It was the ruler and bureaucrats who were responsible for the immoral conduct of peasants. Only the rulers and the

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


government, not the ruled, had to bear moral responsibility. This way of reasoning was quite different from standard Confucian ethics, at least from the one established by the Zhu Xi school which held the place of orthodoxy for hundreds of years in China and Korea. The ethical theory of Zhu Xi considered it the central task of rulers to educate everyone, including the lowest class, in moral conduct. By contrast, Ogyū Sorai’s proposal advocated a more pragmatic and less moral-centered resolution to misconduct. So, would the government punish a samurai warrior because of his ethical misconduct? The most important element a samurai had to be cautious about was the honor (meiyo) appropriate to his rank and class. If a samurai stole or gambled, the punishment was more severe than in the case of commoners. The honor of ie (family or household) was a matter of critical importance. There was a case in which a samurai’s second wife had an affair with her son-in-law and they committed joint suicide. The authority suspended the husband and the father of the wife from duty as punishment because they were involved––even without any intention––in a disgraceful affair, and “they are samurai, not peasants or merchants.”38 Yokoi Shōnan (1809–1869), a Confucian scholar from the samurai class of the Kumamoto domain and later a political advisor to the feudal lord of the Echizen (Fukui) domain, once endured a serious punishment from the government of Kumamoto, his home domain, because of his “forgetting the way of samurai.” Loyalist assassins attacked him because he was known as a reformist who supported the opening of Japan to Western countries. He escaped from the site to fetch his sword and returned to help his colleagues only to find that the attackers had already fled and his colleagues were injured. The Kumamoto domain authority judged that Shōnan “forgot the way of samurai” by leaving his colleagues in danger. His stipend was confiscated, and he was expelled from the samurai ranks. Given his reformism and the attack on him, there was presumably a political intention behind this punishment, but officially disgraceful cowardice was enough reason to punish a samurai, even if he was a victim of illegal violence.39 In both cases, the moral intentions of the parties who were punished were ignored; punishment was instead meted out for their failure to meet the regime’s expectations with regard to the outward appearance of honor according to one’s status and class. Norms with respect to appearances in the public sphere were imposed, but the moral creed or inner motives and private beliefs of its populace were of no real interest to the regime. CONCLUSION The Tokugawa shogunate repetitiously declared itself the benevolent parent of the people.40 However, it implemented capital punishment, torture,


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and censorship without hesitation once it detected unfavorable signs of criticism or resistance against its authority. It might have wanted to be called benevolent, but it was determinedly intolerant toward those who challenged or neglected the social roles that were expected by the regime. Yet its indifference toward moral conduct meant the ruling power’s control over every religious group was limited to molding each one into a bureaucratic compartment. The government ordered every Japanese person to be registered as a parishioner of a Buddhist temple but rarely inquired into what one’s true faith was. The government never explicitly commanded commoners to worship Tokugawa shoguns as gods. In regard to academics, the government exercised vigilance against free communication and voluntary associations. However, the authority scarcely paid serious attention to the contents of arguments over ethical doctrines or to views that challenged authoritative interpretations of classical canons. As long as scholars who held seemingly alternative views about Confucian or other classical canons carefully and wisely stayed away from commenting on state affairs, or, at least, if they offered their opinions, they only did so confidentially to their masters, the risk of punishment was not so high. The regime was obviously intolerant of nonconformity in matters of governmental and household management but almost indifferent to ethical doctrines and to controlling the public’s mind through any ideological orthodoxy. On March 13, 1868, only a month after the war between the imperial force and the Tokugawa force ended, the new imperial government issued an imperial edict to declare the religious foundation of the “restoration”: As regards the restoration of the country to the system of saisei itchi (the unity of Shinto ritual and government) and the undertaking of a general reform based upon the restoration of Imperial rule first established by Emperor Jimmu [legendary first emperor of the imperial dynasty and a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu], the Jingikan (Council of Shinto Affairs) shall be restored first of all.41

Then, in April, the imperial government issued a reconfirming proscription against Christianity and “other evil cults” in accordance with, as it said, “a fixed law for all ages.”42 The result of this proscription was that more than 3,000 Japanese Christians were arrested and more than 600 of them died through torture, starvation, or sickness.43 These native Christians were socalled “hidden” (kakure) Christians who had survived in the communities around Nagasaki under the Tokugawa regime. They gradually came out to make confessions after the Tokugawa government permitted foreigners in the settlement to conduct religious services when the Treaties of Amity and Commerce with the United States and various European countries were

An Intolerant but Morally Indifferent Regime?


signed in 1858. After the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868, the new imperial government continued to prosecute Japanese Christians, but the situation was getting out of its hands. The persecution of Japanese Christians drew serious diplomatic condemnation from Western countries. Finally, the Meiji government reluctantly lifted the ban on Christianity in 1873. At the same time, the ban on other religious sects, including the fujufuse sect, was withdrawn. This did not mean that the imperial government abandoned the saisei itchi idea, that is, the unity of Shinto ritual and government. To establish Shinto as a state religion seemed unfeasible under the stern glances of Western countries. Instead, the imperial government found a way to implant the Shinto idea of emperor worship in school ceremonies.44 The Meiji imperial government wanted every Japanese citizen to believe that the emperor was the descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu whether one was a Buddhist, a Shintoist, a Christian, or a scientific rationalist. The desire of the “modern” government to indoctrinate the nation into an ideological orthodoxy to support its authority stood in stark contrast to the “intolerant” Tokugawa regime.

NOTES 1. Voltaire, Toleration and Other Essays, trans. Joseph McCabe (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1912), 24–25. 2. A typical example is Masao Maruyama, Studies in the Intellectual History of Tokugawa Japan, trans. Mikiso Hane (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974). For an overview of the function (and dysfunction) of Confucianism in Chinese legal practice, see Derk Bodde and Clarence Morris, Law in Imperial China: Exemplified by 190 Ch’ing Dynasty Cases with Historical, Social, and Juridical Commentaries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1973). For the case of Korea, see William Shaw, Legal Norms in a Confucian State (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Center for Korean Studies, 1981); Anders Karlsson, “Law and the Body in Joseon Korea: Statecraft and the Negotiation of Ideology,” The Review of Korean Studies 16, no. 1 (2013): 7–45; Michael L. Sprunger, “Grafting Justice: Crime and the Politics of Punishment in Korea, 1875–1938” (PhD diss., University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2011). 3. George Sansom, A History of Japan, 1615–1867 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1963), 78. 4. Herman Ooms, “Neo-Confucianism and the Formation of Early Tokugawa Ideology: Contours of a Problem,” in Confucianism and Tokugawa Culture, ed. Peter Nosco (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 27–61 at 59. 5. For the ideological utility of “torture,” see Lisa Silverman, Tortured Subjects: Pain, Truth, and the Body in Early Modern France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).


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6. Jurgis Elisonas, “Christianity and the Daimyo,” in The Cambridge History of Japan, vol. 4, Early Modern Japan, ed. John Whitney Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 301–72 at 369. 7. Miyazaki Eishū, Kinsei fuju fuseha no kenkyū (Kyoto: Heirakuji shoten, 1959), 4; Fujii Manabu, “Fujufuse shisōno bunseki,” in Nihon shisō taikei, vol. 57, Kinsei Bukkyō no shisō, ed. Kashiwahara Yūsen and Fujii Manabu (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1973), 557–73 at 558. Please note that except when a publication is in English, I use the Japanese convention of placing surnames first in the text and notes. 8. Jacqueline Stone, “Rebuking the Enemies of the Lotus: Nichirenist Exclusivism in Historical Perspective,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies: Conflict and Religion in Japan 21, nos. 2–3 (1994): 231–59 at 244–45; Peter Nosco, “Keeping the Faith: Bakuhan Policy Towards Religions in Seventeenth-century Japan,” in Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth, ed. P. F. Kornicki and I. J. McMullen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 135–55 at 144. 9. Takano Toshihiko, Kinsei no chotei to shūkyō (Tokyo: Yoshikawakōbunkan, 2014), 394–96. 10. This is what happened in the conflict between members of the Minobu Kuonji and Ikegami Honmonji temples. See n. 9. 11. Ohashi Yukiyasu, Senpuku kirishitan: Edojidai no kinkyōseisaku to minshū (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 2004). 12. Elisonas, “Christianity and the Daimyo,” 366–68. 13. John Locke, “First Letter Concerning Toleration,” in A Letter Concerning Toleration and Other Writings, ed. Mark Goldie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010), 36–67 at 36–37. The letter was written in Latin in the Netherlands in 1685, just after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and published in English in 1689, just after the English parliament conceded a statutory toleration for Protestant dissenters. See Mark Goldie, introduction to Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration, 6–15 at 7. Also see John Marshall, John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture: Religious Intolerance and Arguments for Religious Toleration in Early Modern and “Early Enlightenment” Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 14. John Locke, A Third Letter for Toleration, to the Author of the Third Concerning Toleration (London: Printed for Awnsham and John Churchill at the Black Swan in Pater-Noster-Row, 1692), 223. 15. Fumio Tamamuro, “Local Society and the Temple-Parishioner Relationship within the Bakufu’s Governance Structure,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies: Local Religion in Tokugawa History 28, no. 3–4 (2001): 261–92. 16. Kenneth A. Marcure, “The Danka System,” Monumenta Nipponica 40, no. 1 (1985): 39–67 at 42. 17. Fumio Tamamuro, “The Development of the Temple-Parishioner System,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 36, no. 1 (2009): 11–26. 18. Sakawa Senshō, “Chukinsei no Nichiren kyōdan to kōkenryoku” [The Nichiren sect and political power in the medieval and early modern period] (PhD diss., Risshō University, 2014), 273–77, 19. Zhu Xi (1130–1200): a preeminent scholar, classicist, and first-rate analytic and synthetic thinker, Zhu Xi created the supreme synthesis of Neo-Confucianism in the Song–Ming dynasty (960–1628 CE).

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20. Although scholars do not doubt Razan’s anti-Christian stance, recent research questions the authenticity of Haiyaso. It is possibly the creation of his son Hayashi Gaho; anti-Christian sentiment grew following Razan’s death and it is found only in a collection of his documents later compiled by his son and published in 1662. See Kiri Paramore, “Hayashi Razan’s Redeployment of Anti-Christian Discourse: The Fabrication of Haiyaso,” Japan Forum 18, no. 2 (2006): 185–206 at 187; Kiri Paramore, Ideology and Christianity in Japan (London: Routledge, 2009), 68; James Baskind and Richard Bowring, “The Myōtei Dialogues in Early Edo Thought,” in The Myōtei Dialogues: A Japanese Christian Critique of Native Traditions, ed. James Baskind and Richard Bowring (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 3–15 at 6. 21. Hayashi Razan, Hayashi Razan Bunshū [reprints of Collected writings of Hayashi Razan], ed. Kyoto shisekikai (Tokyo: Perikansha, 1979), letter no. 5. 22. Chun-Chieh Huang, East Asian Confucianisms: Texts in Context (Gettingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht; Taipei: National Taiwan University Press, 2015), 50–51. 23. James McMullen, Idealism, Protest, and The Tale of Genji: The Confucianism of Kumazawa Banzan (1619–1691) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 134, 225. 24. Nakai Chikuzan, “Sōbō kigen” [1789], in Nihonkeizai sōsho, vol. 24, ed. Takimoto Seiichi (Tokyo: Nihonkeizaisōsho kankōkai, 1917), 475; my translation. 25. Itō Jinsai (1627–1705), who established a high reputation among Confucian scholars in Kyoto, admitted the moralizing effect of Buddhism on the commoners: “Since the doctrine of Buddha spread in Japan, it penetrated the eyes and ears of people, affected people’s minds. People worship it more than [Japanese] deities or more than their own parents. The high authority turned it into the law, and the people turned it into mores.” Itō Jinsai, “Kogakusensei bunshū” [1717], in Nihon shisō taikei, vol. 33, Itō Jinsai, Itō Tōgai, ed. Yoshikawa Kōjirō and Shimizu Shigeru (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1971), 226. 26. Buyō Inshi (pseudonym), Lust, Commerce, and Corruption: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard, by an Edo Samurai, ed. Mark Teeuwen and Kate Wildman Nakai (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 173. 27. Yamaga Sokō (1622–1685) was arrested in 1666 because of his criticism against Zhu Xi’s interpretation of Confucius. Kumazawa Banzan (1619–1691) was forced to leave his advisory position for the feudal lord of Okayama domain in 1654 because he disagreed with Hayashi Razan’s interpretation. 28. Olof G. Lidin, trans., Ogyū Sorai’s Discourse on Government (Seidan): An Annotated Translation (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1999). 29. Tian Shi-min (Den Seimin), Kinseinihon ni okeru jurei juyo no kenkyū (Tokyo: Perikansha, 2012). 30. Robert L. Backus, “The Relationship of Confucianism to the Tokugawa Bakufu as Revealed in the Kansei Educational Reform,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 34 (1974): 97–162 at 110–14, 135. 31. Kiri Paramore, “The Nationalization of Confucianism: Academism, Examinations, and Bureaucratic Governance in the Late Tokugawa State, ” The Journal of Japanese Studies 38, no. 1 (2012): 40. A conventional view that the prohibition of heterodoxy was part of the official moral indoctrination “to reform all Japanese, not just the samurai, through proper Confucian morality” is in Tatsuya Tsuji, “Politics in the Eighteenth Century,” trans. Harold Bolitho, in The Cambridge History of Japan,


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vol. 4, Early Modern Japan, ed. John Whitney Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 425–77 at 468–69. 32. Robert L. Backus, “The Kansei Prohibition of Heterodoxy and Its Effects on Education,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 39, no. 1 (1979): 55–106 at 101–102. 33. Kukita Kazuko, “Bushi no rien to kakekomi,” Meijidaigaku keijihakubutsukan nenpō, no. 14 (1983): 25–53 at 37–42. 34. “Fukō” was used in the section on “punishment for women” in Oshioki reiruishū (Classified collection of precedents on executions). Oshioki reiruishū, Koruishū, originally compiled in 1804. A modern annotated edition is in Oshioki reiruishū, vol. 1, Koruishū 4, in Shihōshiryō, supplementary vol. 12 (Tokyo: Shihōshō, 1943), 185–87, National Diet Library Digital Collections, ID: 000000840939. 35. Hayashi Yukiko, Kinseibukkiryō no kenkyū: Bakuhanseikokka no mo to kegare (Ōsaka: Seibundō shuppan, 1998). 36. Lidin, Ogyū Sorai’s Discourse on Government, 114–15. 37. Ibid., 115. 38. This incident occurred in 1796. Ishi Ryōsuke, ed., Tokugawa kinrei ko, goshū, vol. 3 (Tokyo: Sōbunsha, 1960), 71. 39. D. Y. Miyauchi, “Yokoi Shonan (1809–1869), A National Political Adviser from Kumamoto Han in Late Tokugawa Japan,” Journal of Asian History 3, no. 1 (1969): 23–33 at 27. 40. “Parents of the people” is a Confucian formula that has appeared in the canons since the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE). 41. Yasumaru Yoshio and Miyachi Masato, eds., Nihon kindai shisō taikei, vol. 5, Shūkyō to kokka (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988), 425. The English translation is from William Nimmo Brown, “Saisei Itchi: The Identity of Religion and Government in the Early Meiji Years 1867–1872” (MA diss., University of British Columbia, 2010), 66, For an overview of the “saisei itchi” implementation in the early years of the Meiji government, see Thomas W. Burkman, “The Urakami Incidents and the Struggle for Religious Toleration in Early Meiji Japan,” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1, nos. 2–3 (1974): 143–216 at 166–71. 42. Yasumaru and Miyachi, Nihon kindai shisō taikei, 5:426; John Breen, “Shintoists in Restoration Japan,” in Meiji Japan: Political, Economic, and Social History 1868–1912, vol. 1, The Emergence of the Meiji State, ed. Peter Kornicki (London: Routledge, 1998), 128–48 at 128. Originally published in Modern Asian Studies 24, no. 3 (1990): 579–602. 43. Kataoka Yakichi, Nihon kirishitan junkyōshi (Tokyo: Jiji Tsūshinsha, 1979), 655; Burkman, “The Urakami Incidents,” 205. 44. Carol Gluck, Japan’s Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 146–59.

Chapter 12

Two Conceptions of Tolerating in Confucian Thought Kam-por Yu

The prevailing modern Western conception of tolerating seems to be related to the existence of something wrong or bad, that is, something of negative value. People do not speak of tolerating something that is right or good, but only something wrong or bad, or at least something regarded as wrong or bad. The interesting philosophical question then is this: Why should the wrong or bad be tolerated? There may be good political or practical reasons for doing so. But are there any good philosophical or ethical reasons for tolerating the wrong or the bad, or at least what is regarded as wrong or bad? The following are some common answers. 1. Skepticism: One common justification is an epistemological one. We cannot know for sure that some alleged wrong or bad is indeed so. For example, if I am right in believing in my religion, then other people cannot be right in believing in theirs. If I truly believe that other religions are false beliefs, why should I let other people continue to spread such false beliefs? The common answer is that I cannot be sure that I am right and others are wrong, and so I am not justified to act as if I am truly and completely right, even if I personally and subjectively believe I am. 2. Subjectivism: The denial of the existence or objectivity of the wrong and bad––if we have different views or values, it does not mean that one is right and the other is wrong. This is because the different views or values are just opinions, and none is more right than the other. 3. The public/private distinction: Another common answer is the distinction of the private sphere from the public sphere, which protects individuals from the public or state political power. If there is a clear distinction between the public and private spheres, then what is within the private sphere can be regarded as a personal matter to be decided by the individuals concerned and not the business of other people, institutions, or even the state. 4. Individual autonomy: The sanctification of individual autonomy gives the individual a right to be different or even a 217


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right to do wrong. Individual autonomy is prioritized as more important than other values, such as public interest, moral conventions, or social harmony. 5. A lesser evil: It is argued that tolerating the bad is a worthwhile cost to pay for a greater good (that is, toleration is a necessary evil and a means to a higher end). The basic argument is that while tolerating the bad is bad, not tolerating the bad is even worse. It will lead to greater confrontation and conflict and greater loss to multiple parties, including those who are innocent and just responding in a justified way to unacceptable behavior. In this chapter, I shall explore alternative Confucian outlooks on tolerating, which may challenge some of the widely accepted assumptions in the contemporary Western discussion on tolerating. Before I begin, however, I would like to take note of two apparently opposite features that are contained in the Confucian perspective. On the one hand, there is the recognition of pluralistic values, the welcoming of diversity, and the preference for harmony over uniformity. On the other hand, there is recognition of “quasi-objective” moral values, ethical goals, or rightness principles and a rejection of indifferent, neutral, or compromising attitudes.1 An accurate and complete understanding of the Confucian perspective has to account for both of the aspects above, which seem to pull us in different directions. Such an account is very different from the view of toleration which is based on personal autonomy, a lack of a common standard, the uncertainty and unreliability of human knowledge, respect of the private sphere outside public power, or sheer strategic and practical considerations. That is to say, the common arguments for toleration listed above are not readily available within the Confucian perspective. We will see not only how the conceptions of toleration are different, but also how toleration can be justified in a different and hopefully stronger way. I argue that there are two concepts in Confucian ethics that are comparable to the Western conception of tolerance or toleration. The first concept is kuan 寬, which literally means broad-mindedness. It is basically an attitude or a state of mind, a virtue that a gentleman and especially a leader should have or should cultivate. The second concept is ren 忍, which literally means selfrestraint. It is a threshold with a limit on the top and a range beneath it. These two concepts can be rendered as tolerance and toleration respectively, in the way the two words are used in this book.2 TOLERATING AS A POSITIVE VALUE: KUAN, BROAD-MINDEDNESS, OR TOLERANCE Tolerating, as it is ordinarily understood, is something far from ideal. It may be better than intolerance and is certainly better than mutual intolerance, but it is at most a second best or the least worst, something chosen more or less

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reluctantly. It implies something unacceptable or undesirable is there, but it cannot be eradicated without paying an ethical price or taking an ethical risk, which is considered unworthwhile. In Confucian ethics, there is a conception of tolerating that provides an interesting comparison. The term kuan寬 is sometimes translated as “tolerance,” literally it means being broad-minded, bighearted, open, and accommodating. It is highly positive and not something chosen reluctantly as a result of compromise. In Confucian ethics, it is regarded as a virtue. Kuan 寬 is regarded as the most important quality––or at least a primary or major quality––of a person who is “in high position” with political authority.3 It is a necessary condition––one of the five conditions in Confucian thought––for being a good ruler; a ruler with such a quality would “win the multitude.”4 It is also desirable for the layperson; it is not possible to be a gentleman without kuan寬, although the layperson who lacks it is not considered to be bad. As it is said in the Confucian classic The Book of Changes, there are two attributes that are most important to a gentleman: 1. self-strengthening: to model oneself after heaven and to have daily renewal and make persistent progress; 2. all-inclusiveness: to model oneself after the “earth” and to cultivate one’s virtue to accommodate the “myriad of things.”5 Self-strengthening is based on self-reflection and knowing one’s own inadequacies. Selfreflection leads to knowing one’s inadequacies, and knowing one’s own inadequacy leads to self-strengthening. Self-strengthening enables endless progress; it is the duty of a gentleman to himself, while cultivating the virtues of being accommodating and supportive is a gentleman’s duty to others. The point that kuan is a primary virtue of people with authority or power is stressed in a number of Confucian classics. For example, in The Book of Documents, the Sage Emperor Yao told the Minister Qi that the main point in dealing with the people is kuan: “the people continue unfriendly with one another, and do not observe docilely the five orders of relationship. It is yours, as the minister of Instruction, reverently to set forth the lessons of duty belonging to those five orders. Do so with gentleness [kuan 寬].” The gist of the message is that even when the common people are at odds with one another, the leaders should be broad-minded and accommodating.6 In another Confucian text Kungzi Jiayu, it is said even more directly: “An enlightened ruler must be broad [kuan] and open to accommodate his people, love and pacify them, so that they can be satisfied with themselves.”7 Here kuan is regarded as an essential quality or virtue of an enlightened ruler, not a means to some personal end. This conception of tolerating is not just self-restraint in the face of something that is bad, but it is itself a highly positive attitude. It also implies a tendency to support diversity and appreciate different kinds of good. A typical articulation of this idea is in Zhongyong, which says that the Confucian Way models itself after heaven and earth and adopts the following attitude:


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“The ten thousand things are all nurtured together, and yet do not harm each other. Different paths are simultaneously traveled, and yet are not contrary to each other. Small virtue flows like a stream; large virtue is truly transforming. These things are what make Heaven and Earth great.”8 Multiplicity is regarded as good. As a result, it is a virtue to preserve the existing variety and a greater virtue to promote further transformation. The contemporary scholar Zhao Tingyang “says that a cornerstone of Chinese philosophy is a broad openness to diverse perspectives, though this is different from toleration. Toleration is a kind of acceptance of something that one more deeply rejects.”9 Stephen Angle adds that “the ‘openness’ . . . in Chinese philosophy instead involves a magnanimous learning process, ultimately leading to a transformation of the underlying unity to accommodate the new element.”10 Confucius regards self-righteousness not as a virtue but as a counter-virtue. There were four things Confucius rejected: willfulness, obstinacy, narrowmindedness, and egotism.11 With broad-mindedness and an accommodating attitude, the gentleman is seen as “at ease without being arrogant.”12 Confucius’s role model is the Duke of Zhou, but without broad-mindedness and an appreciative attitude toward others, all his good qualities would become worthless: “were he arrogant and miserly, then the rest of his qualities would not be worthy of admiration.”13 In such a scheme of goods, broad-mindedness is regarded as constituting a fundamental good, and its absence is considered greatly to depreciate the value of other goods. Such broad-mindedness implies not just accommodating or welcoming diversity and having an appreciation of different forms of good, but also tolerating small wrongdoings or mistakes, not just opposing views or uncongenial competitions that one may find. When Confucius was asked about governance, he said, “Set an example for your officials to follow; show leniency towards minor offenders; and promote men of talent.”14 There should also be a presumption of tolerance; that is, differences should be allowed unless they are clearly in violation of what is right. Confucius said, “In his dealings with the world, the gentleman is not invariably for or against anything. He is on the side of what is moral.”15 Confucius also has his dislikes: “He dislikes those who proclaim the evil in others.”16 Even if the badness in others is clear and large, Confucius believes that the detestation of such badness can also be excessive and bad. He said, “Excessive detestation of a person who is unbenevolent is a source of chaos.”17 A person who is unbenevolent is not to be approved, but the disapproval of a malevolent person can also be excessive, and when the disapproval is excessive, both the malevolent person and the disapproval of him or her are sources of chaos. Confucius also said, “To attack one end [in the spectrum of views] from the other end leads to nothing but harm.”18 Although two views may be opposite to each other,

Two Conceptions of Tolerating in Confucian Thought


and one may be more right than the other, it does not mean that one is completely right and the other is completely wrong. They may both have some reasonable ground and be justified to some extent; for example, the conservative camp at one end and the radical camp at the other end. As a result, it is better to learn from both sides and see the reasons and limitations of each, instead of taking one side and attacking the other side, as if this is a fight between good and evil. To sum up, this Confucian conception of tolerance as a positive and crucial value implies more than tolerating the bad. It implies a recognition of legitimate differences, an accommodation of different ways of flourishing, an appreciation of different kinds of good, respect for people’s ability to transform themselves through cultivation, assimilation, and persuasion, and a principled refusal or reluctance to use coercion. It is both similar to and different from the liberal position. Confucians do not share the neutrality principle and do not regard individual autonomy as sacrosanct. There are moral values to uphold and political goals to realize. However, such values and goals are not to be pursued at all costs or to be imposed on the people in spite of their repulsion or resistance. At least the Confucian perspective shares this part of the liberal understanding of what constitutes a tolerant regime that William Galston defines as a “principled refusal to use coercive state power to impose one’s own views on others, and therefore a commitment to moral competition through recruitment and persuasion alone.”19 This Confucian conception of tolerance is based not on a division between the public and the private spheres, personal autonomy, or limits on the legitimate power of the state, but on an understanding of what constitutes a good life and good governance. For Confucians, a good life is a life in which one fully develops one’s human nature and becomes fully human.20 It is not about making individual (not to say arbitrary) choices. Kuan is regarded as a necessary and primary quality of good governance. It is itself a good thing, not just a means to avoid greater badness. It is not a very high good but a very basic one that must be realized first, otherwise other goods will be rendered less valuable. As such, it fits Michael Walzer’s characterization of everyday toleration very well: “Toleration itself is often underestimated, as if it is the least we can do for our fellows, the most minimal of their entitlements. In fact, . . . [e]ven the most grudging forms and precarious arrangements [of toleration] are very good things, sufficiently rare in human history that they require not only practical but also theoretical appreciation.”21 TOLERATING AS A THRESHOLD: REN, SELFRESTRAINT, OR TOLERATION There is another Confucian conception of tolerating that is more like a threshold than a virtue or positive value. As a threshold, there is a limit, and there


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are things to be tolerated and not to be tolerated. The threshold of tolerating implies that there are some kinds of practices that are regarded improper. The Confucian view is that even improper practices should be tolerated to some extent both for moral and practical reasons. Such practices may be below the minimum standard for a gentleman but not below that of a human being, and it is inhuman to aim at eliminating such human behavior. There is, however, still a limit to such toleration. Even when it is thought that certain practices should not continue and action has to be taken, there is still a strong ­preference for persuasion over coercion. The Confucian preference for the use of persuasion over coercion is one of Confucianism’s salient features. As Confucius said, “Guide them by edicts, keep them in line with punishments, and the common people will stay out of trouble but will have no sense of shame. Guide them by virtue, keep them in line with the rites, and they will, besides having a sense of shame, reform themselves.”22 Moreover, even in cases where changes are desirable, the aim is not elimination but transformation. The term ren 忍 can be translated as toleration. It literally means selfrestraint or patience. It implies that the object to be tolerated is something not so proper or acceptable, and self-restraint has to be exercised in order not to take any action or to give any negative responses. There are certain special features of this Confucian perspective. First, the toleration level should be higher for others than for oneself. Second, the operating principle should not be too precise and should focus on serious rather than minor unacceptable practices. Third, excessive intolerance of the bad is also bad. Fourth, persuasion rather than coercion is preferred in rectifying unacceptable practices. Fifth, there is a limit of toleration, and intolerance can sometimes be justified. Sixth, general intolerance is not to be tolerated. Seventh, the operational pattern is not conflict and victory or defeat or truce, but mutual growth and transformation. Although there is a limit to toleration, the limit is not the same for everyone. Confucians believe that one should set higher standards for oneself and lower standards for others. As Confucius said, “set strict standards for oneself and make allowance for others when making demand on them.”23 The leading Confucian of his time Han Yu 韓愈 (AD 768–824) further elaborates in this way: “The demands that the great men of the past made of themselves were heavy and comprehensive. What they expected of others was light and simple. The first saved themselves from laziness; the second made men glad to do good.”24 This is not a personal view of Han Yu’s but a very typical Confucian position, as noted by a modern scholar on Han Yu: Han Yu’s emphatic denunciation of slander places him squarely in line with early paragons in the Confucian tradition such as Confucius, Mencius, . . . all

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of whom warned against the political danger of the slanderer and the flatterer; for, calumny destroys the trust necessary for the proper practice of the relationship between ruler and servitor. This discernment to resist slander and flattery accordingly became a hallmark of the Confucian Sage and a moral injunction, as in Han Yu, to all in office.25

Confucianism emphasizes self-criticism and is averse to someone criticizing others. We are bound to meet people who are morally, intellectually, or spiritually superior or inferior to us. But no matter which case, no one should despise anyone. Confucius said, “When you meet someone better than yourself, turn your thoughts to becoming his equal. When you meet someone not as good as you are, look within and examine your own self.”26 If we are not really any better, we should start by attempting to improve ourselves first, or else we should have greater sympathetic understanding of others. “The superior man searches himself first before he demands it of others, and makes sure first he himself is not a transgressor before he forbids transgressions to others.”27 When Confucius’s disciple Zixia stated his principle of interacting with others, “One should approve people who are fine, and reject people who are not,” another disciple Zizhang said that this is different from the principle he heard from Confucius, which is as follows: “The gentleman esteems the worthy and tolerates the multitude; he commends the good and sympathizes with those who are incapable.”28 Zizhang then added, “If I am eminently worthy, what men can I not tolerate? If I am unworthy, others will reject me. How can I reject others?”29 When the disciple Zigong was busy commenting on and criticizing others, Confucius said sarcastically, “How superior Si [that is, Zigong] is! For my part I have no time for such things.”30 It is clear that Confucius discouraged such acts of judging and grading people. His criticism of excessive criticism is comparable to not tolerating intolerance. How about if the behavior of someone really deserves criticism or even condemnation? Confucius’s view is this: “Attack evil [e 惡] as evil and not as evil of a particular man.”31 This means that criticism should be directed at the evil but not at the person. If a person who has done evil corrected his wrong deed, then he is no longer bad. “The gentleman’s errors are like an eclipse of the sun and the moon in that when he errs the whole world sees it and when he reforms the whole world looks up to it.”32 Such a view on evil makes it easier for a Confucian to accommodate and forgive other people, and as a result he or she becomes more tolerant. Although there is a distinction between right and wrong, and what is wrong should be rectified, one must not be too precise in criticizing small mistakes. Small mistakes should be tolerated, and only big mistakes should be taken seriously. If we are too serious about small mistakes made by specific persons, we will lose our focus on rectifying the mistakes as errors and expend


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our energy on attacking or defending the specific persons. Self-restraint is needed for us to refrain from making a fuss about small mistakes, except when they are our own. Confucius said, “The lack of self-restraint in small matters will bring ruin to great plans.”33 Without such self-restraint, human relationships and collaboration will be ruined. As a general principle, small mistakes (guo 過) should be ignored or forgiven. Confucius’s principle of governance, “show leniency towards minor offenders,”34 is in the same spirit as commending the good and sympathizing with those who are incapable, which was discussed earlier. This may seem to go beyond Western liberal toleration––which allows people to disagree and say what they think as long as they do not actually interfere. From the Confucian perspective, magnifying one’s own small mistakes is good for one’s self-cultivation, but being too precise in picking out other people’s mistakes and too eager to criticize others is itself an evil, and perhaps a bigger evil than the small mistakes of other people. Even if evil is detected and serious enough to be pinpointed and criticized, the critique or the detestation should be proportional and must not be excessive, otherwise the critique or detestation itself can also become an evil. As Confucius said, excessive hatred of unbenevolence is bad.35 The response should neither be excessive nor inadequate. Excessive is not better but equally inadequate.36 Moreover, persuasion instead of coercion should be used as far as possible, and coercion can only be used as a last resort. Persuasion is morally superior and educationally desirable. Coercion is used only when it is practically necessary after other more desirable means have been tried and failed. Those who have power should set high standards for themselves and be exemplary for the common people. If they are able to do the difficult part themselves, people will find it reasonable if what they are required to perform is much less demanding. Confucius said, “The rule of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star which commands the homage of the multitude of stars simply by remaining in its place.”37 Confucius’s vindication of soft methods is well-known. As he said, “Guide them with government orders, regulate them with penalties, and the people will seek to evade the law and be without shame. Guide them with virtue, regulate them with rituals, and they will have a sense of shame and become upright.”38 When he was asked about governance, he replied, “Ensure that those who are near are pleased and those who are far away are attracted.”39 The soft methods are preferred, not as a means to some higher political goals set by the authority, but as a way to promote the moral good of the people concerned. However, there is a limit to toleration. There is something that is beyond toleration and a point when Confucius will say, “If this can be tolerated, what cannot be tolerated?”40 One example is given in the Analects: A student of

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Confucius was working for a powerful family who controlled the politics of the State of Lu, Confucius’s home country. The family in power was already extremely wealthy, and the student helped them to add further to that wealth by raking in the taxes. Confucius said, “He is no disciple of mine. You, and my young friends, may attack him openly to the beating of the drums.”41 At this point, even a person as tolerant as Confucius thinks serious public criticism and even political confrontation and rivalry are justified. It is interesting to read Analects 14.29 together with Analects 17.24. In the former passage, the disciple Zigong was disparaging other people,42 and Confucius disapproved of what Zigong was doing. In the latter passage, Zigong asked Confucius, “Does even the gentleman have his dislikes?” Confucius replied, “Yes. The gentleman has his dislikes,” but he immediately provided a supplementary remark: “He dislikes those who proclaim the evil in others. He dislikes those who, being in inferior positions, slander their superiors. He dislikes those who, while possessing courage, lack the spirit of the rites [that is, to respect others]. He dislikes those whose resoluteness is not tempered by understanding.”43 Here is a contrast between two kinds of attitude or practice. On the one hand, there is someone who regards himself as upright, courageous, and resolute and boldly censures other people, including people who have status and power. He may be able to demonstrate his uprightness, courage, and resoluteness to himself and to others, but what he is doing is not an effective way to achieve his purpose. If he really wants to help the person make corrections and has less concern for demonstrating his own uprightness, would he be doing the same thing? On the other hand, there is another way of doing which displays greater respect or benevolence and more sympathetic understanding. This is what a person who is really concerned about correcting evil would consider doing instead of demonstrating his or her own uprightness. The morally superior response is the more tolerating response, not in the sense of accommodating vice, but in the sense of displaying greater benevolence and sympathetic understanding in the attempt to correct wrong behavior of others without disrespecting them. Confucius then asked Zigong, “Do you have your dislikes as well?” Zigong’s reply also related to the issue of toleration: he said, “I dislike those in whom being unrelenting passes for wisdom. I dislike those in whom insolence passes for courage. I dislike those in whom exposure of others passes for forthrightness.”44 In spite of our persistence on wisdom, courage, and forthrightness, we do not need to be intolerant. By upholding toleration while at the same time upholding wisdom, courage, and forthrightness, one would surely avoid being unrelenting, insolent, and exposing the faults of others. The message Confucius wants to convey is that there should be a presumption of tolerance, intolerance should be avoided in general, and general intolerance is not something to be taken lightly. General intolerance should not be tolerated but should be rectified.


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The last interesting point about this Confucian conception of toleration is that for people or deeds below the threshold of toleration, the proper response is not eradication but transformation. There are two ways to resolve conflict. One way is through competition which can lead to victory or defeat. In this way, toleration can be regarded as a kind of truce. The other way is through mutual understanding, learning, growth, and transformation.45 When Confucius’s student Fan Chi asked about “the reformation of the depraved,” Confucius said, “To attack evil as evil and not as evil of a particular man, is that not the way to reform the depraved?”46 That is to say, do not make the attack personal. Depravity can be corrected, and once depravity is corrected, the person can again become acceptable. Such an approach can help people to reform or transform. Once when someone who was from a notorious group and had a bad past record went to Confucius, Confucius received him, and his disciples were perplexed. Confucius explained, “Approval of his coming does not mean approval of him when he was withdrawn. Why should we be so exacting? When a man comes after having purified himself, we approve of his purification but we cannot vouch for his past.”47 According to Confucius, if a person is reforming or transforming for the better, we should help him. This is compatible with our disapproval of what he has done in the past. If what is hated is the person, then it seems reasonable to continue to hate the person even after he has separated from the evil he has done. However, if what is hated is the evil, then, the person can be regarded as fine after he has separated himself from the evil. In addition, if we have love for people, then we should try to help when a person is moving away from the wrong path he or she has once taken. As a result, once depravity is corrected, the reformed person is again accepted. This is why it is said that even for acts that are below the threshold of toleration, the Confucian response is not eradication but transformation. This Confucian conception of toleration as a kind of threshold is accommodating and defensive at the same time. While defending minimal content of human good, it accommodates diverse conceptions of flourishing. It is in general tolerating, but toleration is not regarded as an absolute principle. There is a limit to toleration, but even in those cases the response should also be moderate, proportional, supportive, and out of goodwill. Perceptive readers may notice that in the above discussion of the Confucian perspective on toleration I have referred to three different terms, “evil” (e 惡), “mistake” (guo 過), and “dislike” (wu 惡). What exactly are the differences between these terms, and what are their implications for toleration? First, dislike is subjective; it can be used to guide one’s own actions, but it cannot be used to guide intervention in other people’s actions. So Confucius said that although he has his dislikes, he would not correct other people based on his own dislikes, and he dislikes “those who babble about other people’s vices.”48 Second,

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mistakes are unlike dislikes. They are not subjective, and they have to be corrected. But they are not based on bad intentions. The appropriate response is criticism and correction, but not hatred and enmity. “The superior man governs men, according to their nature, with what is proper to them, and as soon as they change what is wrong, he stops.”49 Finally, evil is the most serious among the three. Evil can only come from a malevolent man. As Confucius said, “If a man were to set his heart on benevolence, he would be free from evil.”50 There is a limit to tolerating evil. However, even for evils, one should only focus on significant evils and should not be too precise with small evils. Not tolerating and attacking significant evil is justified, but it is done because it is the morally right thing to do, not because one enjoys doing it or takes pride in doing it. Moreover, even in such a case, one should “attack evil as evil and not as evil of a particular man.”51 To sum up, the Confucian perspective rejects using dislikes as a basis for the threshold of toleration. Mistakes and evils may not be tolerated, but even in such cases, the focus is on the action rather than the person, and the proper response is criticism and correction rather than hatred and enmity. THE CONFUCIAN JUSTIFICATION OF TOLERATION Why would toleration be valued from the Confucian perspective? What can be the Confucian justification of toleration? The common justifications of toleration do not seem to be readily available to Confucianism. One major justification of toleration is based on individual liberty. As noted by Susan Mendus, “Liberals are frequently defined as people who value liberty and the toleration necessary for the promotion of liberty.”52 In the Confucian tradition, it is difficult to explain why liberty to engage in something presumably bad, such as pornography, superstition, or extravagancy, is itself good or something that has a positive value. With the emphasis on virtue and selfcultivation, it is unlikely that liberty in whatever direction will be regarded as a good thing. The Confucian justification is also not likely to be rights-based. Although rights imply duty, duty does not imply rights.53 While there may not be a right to be tolerated, there can still be a duty to tolerate. That is to say, the scope of duty is wider than the scope of rights. This implies that the scope of toleration can be wider in a non-rights-based account. “There may be no general right to freedom of worship, but still there is something very wrong with religious persecution.”54 The Confucian perspective which appeals to virtue, benevolence, and human nature can justify a scope for toleration that is significantly wider than with a rights-based justification. The argument which justifies toleration on the basis of the limited role of the state is also quite alien to the Confucian perspective. This argument holds


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that the state has a role only to maintain civil order rather than to impose preferred creeds or faiths upon its subjects. This argument is not available to Confucianism, which regards the state as having a role not just to maintain order but also to promote civilization and education and to help people to become better human beings. There are at least three major Confucian justifications of toleration. The first one is the argument from multiple values. Opposites, like yin and yang, are regarded as complementing each other. So when there is a conflict between two sides, it may not be a conflict between good and bad but rather a conflict between two sides both of which have legitimate interests to some extent. In such a case, the ideal solution is not to propagate one and eliminate the other, but to weigh and balance different considerations and concerns and to seek harmonious coexistence and human flourishing as far as possible.55 The second justification is perhaps most typical of Confucianism. It can be called the argument from humanity. Morality is regarded as based on the human condition, which includes human nature, human needs, and natural human sentiments. Human nature cannot be denied, and what comes from human nature is basically good and only needs some adjustment or correction, not a total remake.56 This implies that other human beings, like oneself, are to be affirmed as valuable. They can do wrong of course, but even in such a case, it is only necessary to correct the wrong, and after the correction, they will be fine again. To further develop one’s own humanity, one should extend one’s scope of care and concern beyond oneself, one’s family, one’s country, and finally to the whole world. If one makes such an extension, one is virtuous, but if one does not do so, one is not a bad person but just a small man or an underdeveloped human being, to be supported but not to be persecuted. Everyone is only responsible for one’s own moral development, so it is unreasonable to demand that others do something that one is not able to do oneself. As a result, one should have higher demands on oneself and only minimal demands on others.57 Such a view on human performance––both in demanding that people perform and understanding people for not performing––will lead to a rather tolerant standard for other people. Finally, there is a justification that is used in the West but also available to Confucianism. This is the argument from conscience in the West and the argument from cultivation of virtue in Confucianism. Just as the conscience cannot be coerced, the cultivation of virtue is also a voluntary matter. The Confucian project is about how to become a better human being and how to help others to do the same.58 As the cultivation of virtue is the main concern, the method to be used is not coercion but persuasion or, even better, setting an example. Joseph Chan points out, “Confucian tolerance is not grounded on liberal values like personal independence or sovereignty or any notion of a moral right to wrongdoing. It is grounded on sympathy, on the view that

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coercion is ineffective in promoting ren [仁, benevolence], and on a particular approach to moral edification.”59 Since value is put on self-cultivation and self-correction, the key issue is about the use not of legal coercion but of social sanction. Such an emphasis implies a broader understanding of the scope of toleration or intolerance: toleration is not just about legal coercion but includes social sanction as well. Intolerance does not have to be intervention. It can take the form of pressure from public opinion or the expression of hostile opinions in the public sphere. This is also the “tyranny of the majority” that John Stuart Mill worries about in nineteenth-century Britain.60 The Confucian perspective implies a broader understanding of the scope of toleration, which includes self-restraint in relation to exerting pressure through public opinion and the expression of hostile opinions in the public sphere. CONCLUSION The two Confucian conceptions of tolerating complement each other. The first conception regards tolerating as having positive value (tolerance). It applies mainly to people with political power, who belong to a set of people who are supposed to have a special capacity and duty to tolerate. Broad-mindedness or an accommodating attitude is a primary virtue of governance, although it is also desirable for the layperson. The second conception regards tolerating as a threshold (toleration) with two implications. On the one hand, there is a vast sphere that allows diversity and disagreement. On the other hand, there is a limit, beyond which appropriate actions should be taken. Unlike the positive and negative concepts of freedom which Isaiah Berlin categorized as conflicting and competing with each other,61 the two Confucian conceptions of tolerating are not mutually exclusive. They supplement each other and represent two important dimensions of tolerating. Together they contribute to defining both the breadth and depth of the Confucian perspective on tolerating. In contemporary Chinese, we still have two terms that correspond to the two Confucian conceptions. The two terms are kuanrong 寬容 (broadmindedness and accommodation) and rongren 容忍 (accommodating and self-restraining), and they still have different functions and implications in everyday language. The former is highly positive, while the latter is more a way to avoid mistakes, chaos, or undesirable results. The former is an ideal or a goal to be pursued, while the latter is an approach that should be adopted in a nonideal world. The two conceptions are not exactly the same as the prevailing modern Western conception of tolerance or toleration, but there are both remarkable similarities and differences, and they are certainly comparable ideas.


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Such Confucian conceptions of tolerating can be justified on multiple grounds. 1. On the ground of the existence of multiple values: there are multiple goods and tensions among multiple goods, instead of just a conflict between good and evil. As a result, one is not justified in rejecting other forms of practices just because they are in conflict with a good one that one holds dearly. 2. On the ground of the value of humanity which everyone shares: everyone has intrinsic value, what is needed is cultivation. Cultivation is a process of extending care and concern from oneself to other people. It is a process that no one can achieve for someone else. As a result, we should have higher demands for ourselves and lower demands for other people. Such an attitude implies general toleration toward other people. 3. On the ground of cultivating virtue: the cultivation of virtue cannot be achieved through coercion. As a result, people have to be left on their own to achieve such a goal. Education and persuasion can be given, but such practices are highly compatible with toleration. One significant implication of the Confucian account of toleration is that toleration should be understood in a broad sense, as part of the human world, and not just in the political or legal sense. The pressure of public opinion and expression of hostile opinions in public are examples of intolerance which may not take the form of intervention or coercion, and such kinds of intolerance are not taken lightly by the victims concerned. The Confucian account includes self-restraint in the arena of the exertion of public pressure and the expression of hostile speech in the public sphere. Moreover, as the scope of moral requirements is much larger than that implied by rights, a non-rightsbased account would allow more toleration than that supported by a rightsbased account. It is then possible to justify tolerating certain practices or customs without assuming that there is a right to those practices or customs. The Confucian principle of tui or extending––using oneself as the basis and extending care and concern to other people––can be applied to the issue of toleration. The Confucian account of tolerating therefore has something interesting to say that differs from the Western notion and hopefully it can contribute fruitfully to contemporary cross-cultural discussions of toleration. NOTES 1. For an account of the Confucian views on pluralistic values and harmony, see Kam-por Yu, “The Handling of Multiple Values in Confucian Ethics,” in Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously, ed. Kam-por Yu, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), 27–51; Kam-por Yu, “The Confucian Conception of Harmony,” in Governance for Harmony in Asia and Beyond, ed. Julia Tao, Anthony Cheung, Martin Painter, and Chenyang Li (London: Routledge, 2010),

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15–36; Kam-por Yu, “Harmony: Super Value or Multiple Values?” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 15, no. 3 (2016): 421–26. For an account of the naturalistic and constructive nature of human values in Confucian ethics, see Kam-por Yu and Julia Tao, “Confucianism,” in Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (San Diego: Academic Press, 2012), 1:578–86. 2. See the distinction between these two terms in the introduction to this volume. 3. Analects 3.26, in D. C. Lau, trans., The Analects (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1992), 27. 4. Analects 17.6, 20.1, in ibid., 172, 203. 5. John Minford, trans., I Ching: The Book of Change (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 13, 35. 6. James Legge, trans., The Chinese Classics, vol 3: The Shoo King or The Book of Historical Documents (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960), 44. 7. Kungzi Jiayu, section 21; my translation. The Chinese original can be found in Yang Chunqiu, Xinyi Kungzi Jiayu (Taipei: San Min Book Company, 1996), 317. 8. Ian Johnston and Wang Ping, trans., Daxue and Zhongyong (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2012), 369. 9. Cited in Stephen C. Angle, Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012), 79. 10. Ibid. 11. Analects 9.4, in Burton Watson, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 60. 12. Analects 13.26, in Lau, The Analects, 131. 13. Analects 8.11, in ibid., 73. 14. Analects 13.2, in ibid., 121. 15. Analects 4.10, in ibid., 31. 16. Analects 17.24, in ibid., 181. 17. Analects 8.10, in ibid., 71. 18. Analects 2.16; my translation. The interpretation here follows Wang Xiyuan, Lunyu Tongshi (Taipei: Taiwan Xuesheng Shudian, 1981), 68–69. 19. William A. Galston, Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 126. 20. For the term “fully human,” see Analects 14.12. 21. Michael Walzer, On Toleration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), xi. 22. Analects 2.3, in Lau, The Analects, 11. 23. Analects 15.15, in ibid., 153. 24. Han Yu, “Yuan Hui,” in Han Yu Xuanji, ed. Sun Changwu (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 2013), 267–70. English translation: Han Yu, “An Inquiry into Slander,” in Anthology of Chinese Literature: From Early Times to the Fourteenth Century, ed. Cyril Birch (New York: Grove Press, 1965), 255–57. 25. Charles Hartman, Han Yü and the T’ang Search for Unity (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 170. 26. Analects 4.17, in Lau, The Analects, 33.


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27. Daxue, translated in Lin Yutang, The Wisdom of Confucius (New York: Random House, 1966), 146. 28. Analects 19.3, in Chichung Huang, trans., The Analects of Confucius (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 179. 29. Ibid. 30. Analects 14.29, in Lau, The Analects, 141. 31. Analects 12.21, in ibid., 117. 32. Analects 19.21, in ibid., 195. 33. Analects 15.27, in ibid., 155. 34. Analects 13.2, in ibid., 121. 35. Analects 8.10, in ibid., 71. 36. Analects 11.16, in ibid., 101. 37. Analects 2.1, in ibid., 11. 38. Analects 2.3, in Watson, The Analects, 20. 39. Analects 19.3, in Lau, The Analects, 191. 40. Analects 3.1, in ibid., 19. 41. Analects 11.17, in ibid., 101. 42. Huang, The Analects of Confucius, 147. 43. Analects 17.24, in Lau, The Analects, 181. 44. Ibid. 45. Madsen contrasts two kinds of response to conflict: the liberal way responds with toleration, and the Confucian way responds with transformation. See Richard Madsen, “Confucian Conceptions of Civil Society,” in Confucian Political Ethics, ed. Daniel Bell (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 3–19 at 15. Nicholson also talks of toleration as a moral ideal which leads to transformation: “Where the moral ideal of toleration is practised, the person unwillingly being negatively tolerant will himself be treated with positive toleration by others who will note his dissent from toleration, and will set out to bring home to him the merits of toleration. If they succeed, he will have been helped to free himself.” Peter P. Nicholson, “Toleration as a Moral Ideal,” in Aspects of Toleration, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (London: Methuen, 1985), 158–73 at 168. 46. Analects 12.21, in Lau, The Analects, 117. 47. Analects 7.29, in ibid., 65. 48. Analects 17.23, in Huang, The Analects of Confucius, 172. 49. Zhongyong, ch. 13, in James Legge, trans., Confucian Analects, The Great Learning, and The Doctrine of the Mean (New York: Dover Publications, 1971), 394. See also Ian Johnston and Wang Ping, Daxue and Zhongyong (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2012), 429. 50. Analects 4.4, in Lau, The Analects, 29. 51. Analects 12.21, in ibid., 117. 52. Susan Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1989), 3. 53. See Joel Feinberg, Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980), 130–34, 144–47. 54. Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism, 41.

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55. For a Confucian account of multiple values, see Yu, “The Handling of Multiple Values in Confucian Ethics,” 27–52. For further discussion of a Confucian approach to conflicts, see Kam-por Yu, “The Confucian Vision of Peace,” in Vision of Peace: Asia and the West, ed. Takashi Shogimen and Vicki A. Spencer (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 67–84 at 70–76 in particular. 56. For a Confucian account of the naturalistic basis of human morality, see Yu and Tao, “Confucianism,” 1:578–86. 57. “Extending” or tui is a key concept in Confucian ethics. It constitutes the distinction between the good and the not-good, the virtuous and the not-virtuous. The Way of Confucius is described as “extending from oneself to others” (Analects 4.15, 15.24). Mencius also said that the difference between a superior man and a small man is the ability of “extending”––the one who extends one’s love to the full can protect the world, and the one who does not extend it cannot even serve one’s parents. See Mencius 1A7, 2A6, in D. C. Lau, trans., Mencius (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1984), 16, 67. 58. For a discussion of this Confucian project, see Kam-por Yu, “Filial Piety as a Path to Civility: The Confucian Project,” in Civility in Politics and Education, ed. Deborah S. Mower and Wade L. Robison (London: Routledge, 2012), 119–31. 59. Joseph Chan, “Confucian Attitudes Toward Ethical Pluralism,” in Confucian Political Ethics, ed. Daniel A. Bell (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 113–38 at 124–25. 60. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1985), 62. 61. Isaiah Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” in Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 118–72.

Chapter 13

All-Embracing A Laozian Version of Toleration Xiaogan Liu

This chapter explores a new perspective on Laozi’s philosophy, one inspired by the comparative study of the concept of toleration in contemporary Western political philosophy and in a premodern non-Western cultural tradition. Comparative studies and cultural dialogue are often not symmetrical: they compare things from different countries and from various ages. For example, in this chapter, I consider the Western concept of toleration in tandem with related issues in ancient Chinese Daoist theory. One difficulty of this approach is that there may not be straightforward counterparts on the two sides. In modern Chinese, “toleration” and “tolerance” are translated as kuanrong 寬容, a term that cannot be found in either Confucian or Daoist texts of antiquity. This does not suggest, however, that similar attitudes, theories, and virtues did not figure in ancient Chinese societies. Still, because there are no similar words, Daoist texts need to be explored for ideas and concepts that are comparable. The arguments here are based on the earliest Daoist text, namely, the Laozi 老子or Daodejing 道德经, the primary and most important source in both Daoist philosophy and religion. From the moment the Laozi began to circulate, its ideas became a river that has flowed ceaselessly, with many divergences and convergences, into modern China and the world. Its ideas have been understood in quite different ways and taken in many directions over time. The discussion of toleration will direct us to the original context and meaning of the text. In this chapter I present a new image of the Laozi, one different from prevailing popular interpretations. This is possible because the textual reexamination is conducted in light of four archeologically recovered versions of the work in silk manuscripts and batches of bamboo slips, whose key points differ slightly and sometimes significantly from the received versions or any 235


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single ancient version.1 The theoretical analysis is based on careful discernment of each term, concept, sentence, and passage under the general assumption that the text as a whole contains a relatively coherent system—that is, it is neither a collection of piecemeal ideas nor a modern logical philosophical body.2 This new perspective on the Laozi also accommodates modern social concerns on toleration. Thus, readers may find in the Laozi an intellectual figure they have never known before, although all points in this chapter are based on solid textual analysis done in light of the historical moment of the original work.3 When one wrestles with concepts from ancient Chinese thought in English, there is always the problem of working through the available Western philosophical terminology. As long as philosophical discussion is concerned, no matter if it is Chinese, Indian, or African, Western terms cannot be avoided, although there is no philosophical vocabulary appropriate for all cultures and periods. Therefore, care must be taken in the use of Western terminology and theoretical frameworks in the discussion of Laozi’s philosophy; when they are necessary to use, I will try to be sensitive to areas of discrepancy between them in their Western framework and in the context of Laozi’s thought. Thus, I will generally try not to apply Western concepts to Laozi’s text and I will coin new phrases where possible to convey the unique meanings of Laozian concepts; but when use of a Western term is unavoidable, I will indicate the difference between Western terms and Laozi’s ideas. For example, when I use metaphysics to discuss Laozi’s Dao, I do not mean to suggest that Dao is metaphysical in the Platonic sense—it does not suggest any dichotomy between the physical and metaphysical worlds, since the world is all of one piece in the Chinese cultural tradition. A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO LAOZI’S PHILOSOPHY Before discussing Laozi’s ideas related to toleration, it is first necessary briefly to introduce the basic principles of Laozi’s philosophy for those who have not studied the Laozi or Daoist thought. This introduction is not only helpful but also necessary because without a general understanding of Laozi’s theories, some of the sentences related to toleration will seem alien and eccentric. The following discussion focuses on the three most important concepts in the Laozi: Dao, ziran 自然 (naturalness), and wuwei 无为 (nonaction).4 The importance of the concept of Dao is self-evident: it is the root of the term Daoism. Dao literally indicates a path, road, or way and commonly extends to denote methods and principles as well as political and moral standards or the right direction. Laozi’s unique contribution is to use “Dao” as the symbol of the source and ground of the universe. Dao is commonly



described as invisible, inaudible, subtle, formless, infinite, vague, mysterious, oneness, and so on. Agreement in academic discussions that try to define and interpret Dao in simple terms and concepts is, however, nonexistent. There is no single word or term, even in modern Chinese, let alone in English, that can adequately encapsulate Dao. Thus, one may want to say that the concept of Dao is vague and ambiguous. However, any investigation into the origin and truth of the universe will face difficulties; this is true even of modern astrophysics, although this discipline uses the very latest theories and advanced powerful instruments. Thus, Dao must be assessed as an indefinite and ambiguous term with various interpretations of it. I nonetheless identify both some elements of it that can be seen to constitute its core meaning such as the ground and source of the universe, and its most important values and principles, especially naturalness in human societies and nonaction in the application of power. That this core and these principles might not be all that the term suggests to others might seem a disadvantage, especially to modern philosophers who are used to defining clearly concepts and propositions. But in Laozi’s case, in the context of cosmological and ontological issues that have eluded resolution by the measurements of science and mathematics, it might well be reckoned an advantage and a strength. Attention needs to be paid to Laozi’s naming of Dao. One point of extraordinary wisdom in Laozi’s philosophy is his admission that he does not know exactly what Dao is or what constitutes the source and ground of the universe. People often miss or neglect this point. The bamboo-slip version of chapter 25 reads, “There was some shape [zhuang 狀] undifferentiated and yet complete, which arose before Heaven and Earth. Still and indistinct, it stands alone and unchanging.” This account speculates on the primordial origins of the universe, but an even more significant claim follows: “It can be regarded as the mother of the universe. Not yet knowing its name, I have styled it Dao; forced to give it a proper name, I would call it Great.” This reluctance and careful ambiguity must derive from foresight and discretion. Laozi seems to know that he himself and even humankind have no grounds to suppose any specific things about the origin and basis of the universe. The concrete things human beings know, such as fire, water, wind, and earth, could not have produced the whole universe. This sounds logical and in accord with scientific principles. What Laozi is sure about is that there must have been a beginning stage and state from which the universe evolved, and Dao is the ground that maintains the universe, including the myriad things in it. He could not, however, know exactly what that might be. For him, Dao was simply a compromise, a symbol for that stage and state as well as the ground of the universe. If Laozi is forced to name it, he must say its name is Great. Obviously, “great” is not a proper name but a kind of exclamation. Laozi’s attitude is logical, rational, and even acceptable from a


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modern philosophical and scientific standpoint because it is compatible with various theories about the origins of the universe. Thus, we may not have to attempt a precise and specific definition for Dao. Laozi’s attitude has important implications: human beings’ capacity for knowledge is limited, especially about the fundamental issues of the external world. To recognize and admit this limitation is an insightful wisdom. It is the reason Laozi does not present dogmatic theories or simple and absolute standards of right and wrong, good and bad. This point is significant and suggestive regarding the topic of toleration; I will return to it later. Based on close textual analyses, it is evident that ziran or naturalness is the core or highest value in Laozi’s philosophy. The Laozi text asserts that “Dao models itself after ziran,” which puts ziran in the highest position of all things. By this, Laozi wants people to understand and be able to pursue the ideal state of the world through his idea that Dao is the model for man, earth, and heaven. In the compound zi-ran, zi 自denotes “self” and ran 然 denotes “so”; thus, ziran literally indicates a state of “self-so” or “so-in-and-of-itself,” suggesting the spontaneous existence and development of things without artificial interruption or arbitrary control. However, the translation “self-so” or “so-in-and-of-itself” is possibly misleading, because in ziran, zi does not necessarily denote a person or agent who might cause or initiate something. Ziran in most situations indicates that something exists or happens without any known cause or agent. It is different from the English word “self,” which usually indicates subjectivity or agency; thus, the translation of “self-so” may mistakenly lead to an individualist interpretation of ziran. Even though its literal meaning is clear, its implication and connotations are complicated and obscure, and there are many divergent and strange interpretations. Because there is no simple word that accurately and fully captures ziran, I will use naturalness as its token for narrative convenience. There are many levels of difficulty to reaching an understanding of Laozi’s ziran. First, based on extant texts and documents, Laozi must be credited with invention of the term, but he did not provide a definition or explanation of its meaning. It is necessary to analyze its meaning through its context and uses across the whole text. Second, scholars and commentators throughout history have repeatedly reinterpreted Laozi’s ziran according to their own logic and viewpoint, a practice that prevents later readers from gaining an accurate understanding of Laozi’s meaning. This is especially the case since modern scholars are inclined to follow later interpretations. For example, many scholars take Laozi’s ziran as the nature of all individual beings, following Wang Bi’s thirdcentury commentary, written five to seven centuries after Laozi’s era.5 We should consciously try not to read later interpretations into the original text.



The third level of difficulty derives from the history of its translation. The Chinese word ziran and the English word “nature” are often translated one for the other. Accordingly, modern scholars are inclined, consciously or unconsciously, to understand Laozi’s ziran through the meaning of the English concept “nature,” and contrary to human cultural and social life.6 This is a major obstacle in our faithful reading of the text. To understand Laozi’s ziran properly, we might first go to the last passage of chapter 25, which says, Man takes his models from earth, Earth takes its models from heaven, Heaven takes its models from the Dao, And the Dao takes its models from ziran. (Dao fa ziran 道法自然)

Obviously, these four sentences follow the “subject–predicate–object” structure so that “man,” “earth,” “heaven,” and “Dao,” separated into four sentences, act as the subject, “takes” is the common verb, and “earth,” “heaven,” “Dao,” and ziran are the four objects of the verb “taking models from (fa 法),” although ziran is not an entity, unlike earth, heaven, and Dao. This is the conventional straightforward reading, and it accords with syntactic analyses, admits no redundancy, and unfolds step by step from the human to Dao without distorting the grammatical parallelisms and coherence. The meaning of the passage here is that human beings should attend to the world to recognize the principles of heaven; heaven in turn operates in accordance with the principles of Dao; and Dao operates according to the value of ziran. Grammatically, ziran is a noun, though its meaning here is “natural” or “a situation developing naturally.” The Chinese word ziran in ancient times only had this adjectival or adverbial sense, even if it was used grammatically in a subject or object position. Ziran has nothing to do with the idea of nature, and it was not translated that way until early in the twentieth century. Recently I invented a new term, “civilized naturalness,” so Laozi’s ziran would indicate the naturally harmonious state of civilized human societies as distinct from the natural world, the nature of beings, some notion of primitive societies, or the “state of nature” as in Hobbesian theory—or the like.7 The clarification brought with the term “civilized naturalness” not only enhances the translation’s academic accuracy, but also provides a new horizon in relation to human civilization and social order. Taking natural harmony as the highest value and human goal is critical to understanding the relation between Laozi’s thought and toleration. Wuwei or nonaction is another key concept. Wuwei (無為) and ziran are often breezed over and taken to be similar terms in Daoism, but this conclusion is not based on a serious reading of the Laozi text. By careful analysis,


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it can be established that ziran is the core value of Laozi’s philosophy, while wuwei (無為) is a general method by which to realize the value. Wuwei is often translated as “nonaction,” which is not perfectly precise, but it may be used as a convenient token for the sake of discussion, so long as it is kept in mind that its true meaning goes well beyond the literal. Wuwei has also been rendered as “acting naturally,” “non-purposive action,” “effortless action,” “never overdoing,” “no conscious effort,” as well as “no set purpose.” Unfortunately, no terms or concepts in modern languages coincide with the meanings of wuwei in the Laozi. When the text is read closely and seriously, it is evident that Laozi repeatedly claims great advantages for wuwei as well as for other negatively stated terms such as “no-business,” “not struggling,” “not doing,” “not using force,” “not daring,” “no-anger,” “no-desires,” “no-possessions,” “no-dependence,” “no-controlling,” “no-knowledge,” “no-selfishness,” “no-body,” and the like. These are merely a handful of the dozens of wuwei-like terms and phrases that form a large family of terms related to the wuwei idea. Wuwei is actually a dual-meaning term: its surface meaning is wu 無 wei 為 or no-action, which seems to denote literally “not any action” as an isolated term, but its actual meaning in many rich contexts promotes an extraordinary Daoist form of action and behavior in leadership. These negative compounds, such as “no action,” “no behavior,” or “dare not act,” actually promote the natural order of societies and the world through an irregular method. One example of this is fu 輔. Fu as a positive form of wuwei is not a specific method of action. On the one hand, fu and wuwei can be understood as assisting, supporting, approving, encouraging, and they counter actions like control, oppression, exploitation, and coercion. On the other hand, fu and wuwei must also exclude spoiling, conniving, harboring, and over-protecting. In modern language, fu and wuwei can be interpreted as providing the necessary conditions and environment for all beings to thrive. After all, wuwei and fu should support an ideal world of natural development and prosperity without conflict and struggle, in other words, the ideal of civilized naturalness. Some scholars take wuwei as a general principle of behavior for the common people or consider Laozi’s sage equivalent to a ruler.8 But these readings are not careful enough. Close attention to these questions reveals that, in fact, in the Laozi the agent of wuwei is neither the common people nor any ruler in the real world. It is clear that the agent of wuwei is the sage, not a historical figure or any king or prince, and the sage figures as an ideal model for all people in power. Laozi advocates for rulers better to control their desire to use and show their power, so the myriad things have the freedom to develop and grow. In short, wuwei is not a purpose but a measure by which to realize the highest ideal, a world of natural order and harmony without human strife and tension.



The foundation of this theory of wuwei is Laozi’s dynamic reversed view of the world. Thus, he claims in chapter 40, “Reversion is the action of Dao, and softness is the function of Dao.” Laozi presents the pattern of a negative approach achieving positive results, which is captured in his famous phrase in chapter 48, “to do nothing yet nothing is left undone.” This means that if rulers practiced the principle of wuwei, the myriad things would have the freedom and opportunity to grow and realize prosperity. Obviously, this philosophy is different from our common thinking, and this is a critical point for understanding Laozi’s theory.

IDEAS RELATED TO TOLERATION IN THE LAOZI Western philosophers have also provided varied definitions of toleration, although its core meaning is generally more agreed upon than is the case with Laozi’s Dao. Andrew Jason Cohen states that “an act of toleration is an agent’s intentional and principled refraining from interfering with an opposed other (or their behavior, etc.) in situations of diversity, where the agent believes she has the power to interfere.”9 Anne Phillips cites John Horton’s similar description of toleration as “a deliberate choice not to interfere with conduct of which one disapproves,”10 while T. M. Scanlon reveals the complexity of the concept and practice of toleration: Tolerance requires us to accept people and permit their practices even when we strongly disapprove of them. Tolerance thus involves an attitude that is intermediate between wholehearted acceptance and unrestrained opposition. This intermediate status makes tolerance a puzzling attitude. There are certain things, such as murder, that ought not be tolerated. There are limits to what we are able to do to prevent these things from happening, but we need not restrain ourselves out of tolerance for these actions as expression of the perpetrators’ values. In other cases, where our feelings of opposition or disapproval should properly be reined in, it would be better if we were to get rid of these feelings altogether.11

Although Scanlon instead employs the term tolerance, he does so to denote the attitude of principled noninterference in accord with Cohen’s and ­Horton’s definition of toleration and not in the positive way this book defines tolerance. According to Scanlon, toleration involves complicated situations that need careful analysis. It is neither a simple action nor a distinct conception, although writing about it needs to be accurate and crystal clear, and serious scholars must struggle with this dilemma. The other noteworthy point Scanlon raises is that the achievement of a better state than toleration in lived experience requires attention and effort. These two points have important implications for understanding the relation between Laozi and modern political philosophy on toleration.


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While there is no precise counterpart for the concept of toleration in the Laozi, some ideas and statements share in its spirit, although the context and details are quite different. In chapter 49 of the silk version, the text reads, The sage is constantly without a mind of his own. He takes as his own the mind of the people. Treat as good those who are good. Treat as good also those who are not good. By doing so, you gain in goodness. Trust those who are trustworthy. Trust also those who are not trustworthy. By doing so, you enjoy trust. The sage presides over the world and forms a harmonious whole with the mind of his people. The people all try to satisfy the needs of their ears and eyes, and the sage cares for them all as infants.12

Here Laozi’s advocacy of “Treat as good also those who are not good . . . Trust also those who are not trustworthy” includes something similar to toleration. First, the sage knows the difference between good and bad, trustworthiness and untrustworthiness. Second, he knows that common people treat these two kinds of people differently. Third and finally, he purposely undertakes a different practice, by treating as good and trustworthy people who are not good and not trustworthy. Since the sage is superior to all people, he is in a position to correct and educate people who are not good and not trustworthy. He seems purposely to restrain himself and do nothing to or about those people. Hence we can say the sage exhibits an attitude of toleration. However, this case is not in fact typical of acts of toleration. In regular instances of toleration, it is the good who tolerate the not good and the trustworthy who tolerate the untrustworthy, but in the Laozi text, the sage “tolerates” both sides. The sage naturally treats the good and not good, the trustworthy and untrustworthy, in the same way. He does not purposely change his behavior in an expression of toleration. The sage’s goal is to realize his ideal, that is, to “form a harmonious whole with the mind of his people” or to achieve a natural harmonious society. In Western toleration, the final result may also be a harmonious society, but the direct point is restraint of an agent’s actions rather than the pursuit of natural harmony. Other ideas from the second part of chapter 27 also present a unique view of the relation between the good man and the bad man. Hence the sage is always good at saving people, And consequently no man is rejected; Nor does he reject any material where things are concerned, This is called inheriting enlightenment. Hence the good man is the teacher of the good man,



While a bad man is a useful source for the good man. Not to value the teacher Nor to love the source May perhaps be clever, but it betrays great bewilderment. This is called the essential mystery.

If the sage rejects no man or material, no one, not even bad people and useless things, should be dismissed. Laozi does not indicate the specific meaning of rejection, but it can be understood as throwing away something as waste, putting bad people in jail or to death, or judging them to be enemies who should be wiped out. Thus, there are no people who should be excluded. Laozi’s doctrine can be considered a kind of toleration that extends to everyone, including bad people by representing an expanded or extra-charitable version of toleration. But Laozi’s vision goes beyond mere toleration. It is more strongly positive and inclusive, so toleration is not necessary here and in fact beside the point. While everyone can accept the sentence “The good man is the teacher of the good man,” the assertion “a bad man is a useful source for the good man” raises the questions why and how? Laozi does not give details. We may try to understand his idea from two perspectives. First, a bad man is considered bad because of his behavior, for example, if he steals something from his neighbors. He is certainly “bad” for stealing, but he might be a good father or son, and he may be able to help police recognize other thieves after proper education. Here, a bad man may provide positive help. Second, bad men may be absolute evildoers, providing nothing good or helpful for normal society, like Hitler. But as we investigate their history, motivations, policies, collaborators, etc., we learn lessons. In this way, healthy societies may be kept alert and maintain sharp vigilance against the symptoms of social evil. In this sense, bad men may prove a useful resource, if from a negative perspective. Other Laozi passages also speak to not abandoning the bad. For example, the first part of chapter 62 reads, The Dao is the reservoir toward which the myriad things gravitate: It is the treasure of the good man, And that by which the bad is protected. Beautiful words can be used for bartering; Honorable behavior can put a man above others. Even if a man is not good, why should he be abandoned?

This passage links the universe’s ultimate source and foundation, Dao, to the nurturing of the myriad creatures, including bad men, who are one of the myriad things and therefore should surely be protected too. The sage as the anthropomorphic symbol of Dao does not reject anyone. Again, that Dao or the sage does not discriminate between bad men and good men offers a


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kind of toleration, but behind that, Dao and the sage embody concern for all creatures. This concern is again different from mere toleration of bad men. When Laozi contends that bad men are worthy of protection and inclusion, elsewhere this stance is pushed further toward generosity. Chapter 63 reads, Act with nonaction. Do with non-doing. Savor with no taste. Whether they be big or small, many or few, Repay resentments with virtue.

Here the first three lines present Laozi’s extraordinary philosophy, namely, to start doing something from its opposite: if you want to win in a fight, you need not strike the first blow. Being too active can reveal your weakness and mistakes to opponents and allow them to deal you a deadly blow. If everyone practiced Laozi’s philosophy, there would be no provokers or troublemakers. The same is true for the ruler of a country. If the ruler takes too much active control and coerces people, this brings about unease and eventually rebellion. Thus, Laozi promotes the principled method of wuwei for the result of “nothing left undone,” because it means people have the freedom to pursue their own benefit according to their will and condition. Generally speaking, Laozi’s idea goes against common sense or the usual approach to life. People actively do something for a purpose, so for a better outcome, you should do more and be more assertive. But by doing so they may go to extremes and exhaust themselves. When people fail at something, they usually think they did not try hard enough or believe it is their fate to fail. But in Laozi’s view, great effort, striving, and struggling are not necessary and may even be harmful by disappointing people’s wishes and spoiling their plans. For example, a swimmer who is overly eager to win a championship may fail because when it is time for the competition, she is either too nervous or too tired from training to perform well. Politicians may lose a campaign because they attack their opponent too harshly and praise themselves too much. A general may lose a battle because he is so thirsty for victory that he gets impatient and is not prudent. There are countless examples that show how actions that take a regular approach—being too eager, too active, or too harsh—lead to outcomes opposite to those desired. These are the lessons in Laozi’s assertion that “reversion is the action of Dao, and softness is the function of Dao.” The fourth and fifth lines read, “Whether they be big or small, many or few / Repay resentments with virtue.” Here Laozi suggests that we may not have to track and worry about damages or losses that cause conflict and resentment; instead, we can “repay resentments with virtue.” Surely this



recommendation equates to a kind of toleration of whatever or whoever arouses our feelings of resentment, but even here it is more than mere toleration. Again, it seems to fly in the face of common sense and moral principle. Mainstream culture and Confucian doctrines emphasize the importance of distinguishing right and wrong, good and bad. Thus, we should repay virtue with virtue, repay moral mistakes with criticism and even punishment. Resentment must be caused by someone’s wrong behavior toward us, so we repay it with criticism or teach him or her a lesson. However, by repaying resentment with virtue, we seem to muddle up good and bad, right and wrong. It is no surprise then that Confucius disapproved of Laozi’s ideas. One account in the Analects has someone asking Confucius, “What do you think of repaying resentment with virtue?” Confucius answered, “In that case how are you going to repay virtue? Rather, repay resentment with uprightness and repay virtue with virtue.”13 Here “uprightness” suggests an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth approach, making wrongdoers face the music or, at the very least, that those who display resentment should be criticized, which the Western idea of toleration also allows. To return to how Laozi extends something like toleration even to enemies in wartime, we need only look at a passage in chapter 31, in which the author argues, Thus weapons are not the instruments of the gentleman. They are instruments of ill omen. When one has no alternative but to use them, It is best to do so calmly without relish. One should not glorify them. If one glorifies them This is to exult in the slaughter of human beings. One who exults in the slaughter of human beings Will not succeed in the world. In an auspicious ceremony, precedence is given to the left; In an inauspicious ceremony, precedence is given to the right. The lieutenant commander is stationed on the left; The supreme commander is stationed on the right. This is to talk about how funeral rites are observed. When great numbers of people have been killed, One should think of them with sorrow. Thus, a military victory should be treated like a funeral ceremony.

The statement that “great numbers of people have been killed” purposely blurs the distinction between one’s enemies and one’s own soldiers, so this sorrow applies equally to enemies who have been killed. This suggests a kind of toleration toward political and military opponents after winning a


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war. Even if this sentiment is just for dead enemy troops, it is meaningful for rethinking how to treat enemies after a victory. Following the spirit of Laozi’s theory, constraining vengeance is better than sweeping away defeated and surrendered enemy soldiers. Extended and expanded attacks on captured people who once supported one’s enemies would prevent a nation’s reunion after a civil war or other national conflicts. This point is significant because we have seen the opposite happen with disasters and turbulence occurring as a consequence in some countries. Obviously, consistent violent attacks on former enemies, discrimination of them as well as their families and relatives would make the state highly alert and sometimes overly sensitive to any possible revolt and resistance. By contrast, if a country can successfully avoid large-scale conflicts and acts of revenge without further violence against the surviving enemies in battlefields, it will more easily realize reconciliation of the two sides in the aftermath of war. To show great restraint in unnecessary retaliation and punishment would also make it easier to realize a new peaceful and friendly international order in the wake of international conflicts. The spirit of Laozi’s statement that “a military victory should be treated like a funeral ceremony” is a kind of humanism and humanitarianism that is also the deep foundation of toleration behind Western notions of political equality. The sad truth is that Laozi’s wisdom and spirit have remained merely aspects of ancient Daoism; they have not taken hold in the mainstream of Chinese tradition and culture. Historically and popularly, Chinese people believe and practice the principle that “the victor becomes emperor, the losers [are deemed] bandits.” Furthermore, they adhere to the idea that “the orthodox can never coexist with the insurgent(胜者为王,败者为寇; 汉贼不两立),” which is a common proverb prevailing in China and influential in political and cultural conflicts. From Laozi’s perspective, these ideas would not lead to the reconciliation he recommends in the aftermath of wars, but to long-lasting political division and confrontation. While Laozi must be seen as a firm pacifist, he should never be understood as an escapist who embraces capitulation. He states that when one is confronted with war and invasion, by holding on to ci 慈 or deep-love, one can be confident of victory in attack and secure in defense. Chapter 67 states, Now I constantly have three treasures that I hold and cherish. The first is known as deep-love. The second is known as frugality. The third is known as not daring to take the lead in the world. Because of deep-love, one is courageous. Because of frugality, one is generous. Because of not daring to be ahead of the world, One becomes the leader of the world.



Now, to be courageous by forsaking deep-love, To be generous by forsaking frugality, And to be ahead of the world by forsaking following behind, This is fatal. With deep-love, one can win in the case of attack, And be impregnable in the case of defense. When heaven is to save a person, Heaven will protect him through deep-love.

Although there are three treasures, the most important and powerful is clearly deep-love. Deep-love is a compromise translation of the Chinese word ci 慈, which has been also understood or translated as kindness, compassion, benevolence, care, loving-kindness, tender-affection, maternal love, etc. While there is no single accurate counterpart for ci in English, it can be described as having four aspects according to ancient dictionaries and textual comparisons: 1. ci is a kind of love with no specific object, so it has nothing to do with the emotion between lovers; 2. because it has no specific object, it connotes a broad and inclusive disposition of love; 3. ci is a kind of soft and consistent disposition, different from strong emotions like eros; 4. although ci is a pure feeling toward others, its usage in texts implies that it also brings others actual benefit. While ci should not be narrowly understood as parental love, it is indeed the case that it is usually used for the protective emotion that superior persons feel for their dependents. Thus, ci or deep-love may be summed up as unconditional, inclusive, broad, consistent, and tenderhearted love. Laozi’s deep-love as the first treasure represents the sage’s basic outlook and attitude toward all people in the world. This is an extension of Laozi’s claim that the sage treats bad people and untrustworthy people as part of the myriad things without discrimination, and it makes intelligible why the sage would repay resentment with virtue, just like parents would guide rather than simply punish a child who has made a mistake. These attitudes are similar to toleration, although from a different theoretical background. Deep-love of all people also gives the sage the great courage, when absolutely necessary, to defend his people and attack his enemies. This demonstrates self-confidence and a determination to triumph because the sage never makes personal or political enemies, and he would never respond to stronger enemies in a cowardly or weak-willed way. Thus, he is confident that “With deep-love, one can win in the case of attack, / And be impregnable in the case of defense.” In other words, Laozi’s toleration of enemies is a choice derived from his special, even unique, social and moral deliberations; these determinations are grounded in his general philosophical system. In short, Laozi’s philosophy contains no discrimination. The sage takes all people’s minds as his own, and he does not represent certain specific values,


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preferences, or standpoints of ordinary life; hence, he does not have to tolerate certain people or their traits. The sage models broad inclusiveness and is all-embracing toward people and things, which are known through deep-love and treated with sincere care. COMPARISON AND FURTHER DISCUSSION To draw out further the precise similarities and differences between Laozi’s philosophy and the modern theory of toleration, it will be helpful to recap the earlier discussion with a working summary of the modern theory. As we saw above, Cohen has introduced a useful formulation that specifies “eight definitional conditions of toleration.” He emphasizes “that an action of toleration is (1) an agent’s (2) intentional and (3) principled (4) refraining from interfering with (5) an opposed (6) other (or their behavior, etc.) (7) in situations of diversity, where (8) the agent believes she has the power to interfere.”14 For convenience of comparison, I will reorganize these definitional conditions into two groups: Group A as the first condition is the agent––an individual or a group––who practices toleration. Four other conditions attached to this group are 2. the possession of a deliberate intention, 3. for a principled reason, 4. noninterference, and 5. being in a position to be able to interfere or at least having the belief that one has the power to interfere. Group B as the sixth condition is the object (the recipient of toleration), an individual or a group of people, their practices and/or their beliefs, who are 7. in situations of diversity in mainstream societies and 8. will be opposed by Group A if toleration is not practiced. According to these eight conditions of toleration, there are indeed similarities between Laozi’s theory and the modern liberal concept of toleration: if we take Laozi’s sage as group A 1., namely, the agent of toleration, his theory seems to be suitable as a kind of theory of toleration. The sage models treating the bad and untrustworthy the same as good and trustworthy people, repaying resentment with virtue, and treating a military victory as a funeral ceremony because too many people, including enemies, were killed. All of these actions are intentional and principled and refrain from more typical reactions to bad people and behavior, such as criticism, hatred, and rejection. In addition, the sage is in a position to criticize or punish such people and their behavior. At the same time, bad and untrustworthy people readily fit into group B: they have assumed a different or opposite side from the sage or normal people, so they would usually face criticism and punishment if the sage did not demonstrate an attitude of toleration. Laozi’s theory seems to tally nicely with all the conditions Cohen defines for the modern concept of toleration. Here Figure 13.1 shows the clear



Figure 13.1  A Simplified Version of Toleration in Lazoi’s Thought. Source: Created by the author.

correspondence between Laozi’s philosophy and toleration. The correspondence of the sage to Group A is the foundation of this comparison, which helpfully points out the similarities and universal concerns about toleration among human beings. This is a perspective in Laozi’s theory that shows what to do about something objectionable or wrong. It is also a significant finding in cultural dialogue and comparative studies. However, these similarities are not the outcome of a truly parallel comparison. Instead, I have organized the definitional elements in the Laozi to work within the framework of the modern theory of toleration; thus, we have lost sight of Laozi’s idea of toleration in its original shape. This is a simplified way to observe Laozi’s theory in light of the modern conception. To bring balance to the picture, it is also necessary to focus on Laozi’s original formulation. In the Laozi, the sage is not a direct agent of toleration, although he seems to promote a tolerant attitude. “He” is neither a historical figure nor a person in real life but a perfect model who speaks for Laozi to promote the world’s ideal order and condition. He is an anthropomorphized symbol of Dao, above and beyond the myriad things with great care and concern for all people and the myriad things. Thus, he is not a member of the myriad things or the human species, but a representative icon, an ideal model to guide all people. His greatest concern is the state of the whole world and how to let the myriad things grow and thrive. The relation of the sage to people as well as that of the two parties involved in toleration are demonstrated in ­Figure 13.2, where the agent of toleration is a hypothetical party whose actions are supposed to embody Laozi’s advocacy of nurturing all things, not just some things. Figure 13.2 reveals that the sage is above the myriad things and he cares for them with the arrow showing group A is representative of the sage. The sage is not an agent of toleration, and group A among the myriad things is a supposed agent who tolerates an equally permeable group B according to the doctrine of the sage. The other definitional conditions of toleration are all unstable in Laozi’s thought: intentions, principle, and restraint are merely possible attitudes of the supposed and not actual group A, who may or may not be in a superior position. As for group B, the objects of toleration, they


Xiaogan Liu

Figure 13.2  A Comprehensive Understanding of Lazoi’s Ideas. Source: Created by the author.

are equally among regular people but may come from diverse experiences and behave out of step with the mainstream and so usually come in for criticism and punishment. These object groups can be equally true in the world of myriad things. But neither group is equivalent to the sage. To sum up, group A as an equivalent of the sage does not actually exist in the system of Laozi’s thought, while group B comes closer to the reality of the common people. The sage is beyond the myriad things, good or bad, so he is not a true agent of the act of toleration. His seeming toleration is actually directed by the embrace of wuwei (nonaction), ci (deep-love), and ziran (civilized naturalness). Thus, strictly speaking, Laozi’s ideas that relate to toleration are quite different from those of modern Western theory. The key points arrived at here are summarized in Table 13.1. CONCLUSION While “toleration has been called ‘the substantive heart of liberalism,’”15 it may not be so important in Laozi’s thought. Behind the sentences that seem to speak to Western toleration, the more important values might be generosity and humanitarianism, although Laozi does not use these terms either. Beyond all this, Laozi was really concerned about the shape and order of the world, not that of a state or nation. In Laozi’s time, there was no conception of the sovereign state, though the character guo 国 indicated the ancient feudal territory held under the rulership


All-Embracing Table 13.1  A Comparison between Laozian and Contemporary Toleration Theory Items for comparison The leading role Respecting object Principled action Distinctions Theoretical principles Highest goal

Modern Theory of Toleration People in the mainstream / elites Minorities / people in divergence Communication and community engagement to control punitive effects and backlash Good/bad, right/wrong, conformist/ nonconformist Equality, respect, freedom Peaceful and prosperous societies

Laozi’s Thought The sage (ideal model of leadership) Myriad things Wuwei (nonaction) Irregular way for better results No distinction among the myriad things Ci (deep-love), humanitarianism Naturalness, harmonious societies

Source: Compiled by the author.

of a king. Instead of states, Laozi repeatedly talks about tian-xia 天下, literally “all under heaven”; however, this term should be translated as “the world”—that is, the whole world or even the universe for people of ancient times. What most concerned the sage were the myriad things and all human beings. His care and love for all people certainly suggests an attitude and style of toleration. The principled method of wuwei or nonaction suggests a kind of noninterference, which also contains a tendency toward toleration. This is important for grasping Laozi’s ideas related to toleration. While Laozi’s thought contains a formulation for toleration, it goes far beyond the Western conception of toleration per se. Laozi’s purpose and highest goal is the peace and harmony of the whole world, which is allinclusive and all-embracing. This might seem too ambitious and impracticable, especially for the current pragmatist trend in moral philosophy. Humanity must, however, confront the situation that the values of our modern world have become fragmented,16 our vision and our minds have become narrower due to the professionalization of knowledge, and almost everywhere in the world order and peace are threatened increasingly by terrorism and various conflicts. Professional or technical instruments, including the advocacy of toleration, cannot resolve these upheavals. The world needs a broader vision and a more inclusive mind to deal with these problems, which may involve coordinating varied techniques, instruments, and theories. Robert Paul Wolff’s critique is apt: “We must give up on the image of society as a battleground of competing groups and formulate an ideal of society more exalted than the mere acceptance of opposed interests and diverse customs. There is need for a new philosophy of community, beyond pluralism


Xiaogan Liu

and beyond tolerance.”17 In response to Wolff’s appeal, Laozi’s philosophy, especially his vision and mind that embraces all things, offers an alternative approach to opposed interests and diversity that is particularly inspiring and meaningful. NOTES 1. The four archeological versions include 1. three incomplete batches of Guodian bamboo slips, which I consider essentially one version, although they are not copies from the same source; 2. two silk versions (A, B) from Mawangdui; 3. a bamboo version collected by Beijing University. Regarding transformations of the Laozi, see Liu Xiaogan, “From Bamboo Slips to Received Version: Common Features in the Transformation of the Laozi,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 63, no. 2 (2003): 337–82. For discussion and debate about the author and dating of the Laozi, see Xiaogan Liu, “Did Daoism Have a Founder?” in Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, ed. Xiaogan Liu (New York: Springer, 2015), 25–45. 2. For a brief but comprehensive discussion of Laozi’s philosophy, see Xiaogan Liu, “Laozi’s Philosophy: Textual and Conceptual Analyses,” in Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, ed. Liu, 71–100. 3. There are debates about the identity of the historical person Laozi and the author of the Daodejing. In this chapter, I do not deal with this problem. I instead take the text of the Laozi as Laozi’s theory. Readers interested in this topic, please see Liu, “Did Daoism Have a Founder?” 4. For further details, see Liu, “Laozi’s Philosophy.” 5. Richard John Lynn, The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te Ching of Laozi as interpreted by Wang Bi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 96. 6. See Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973), 153. 7. Liu, “Did Daoism Have a Founder?” 82. 8. Once Marxist scholars maintained that the author of the Laozi and the sage in the text represented either the old slaveholder or the new landlord class. See Gu Di and Zhou Ying, Laozi Tong (老子通) (Jilin: Jilin Remin Press, 1991), 458. 9. Andrew Jason Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” Ethics 115, no. 1 (2004): 68–95 at 69. 10. John Horton, “Liberalism, Multiculturalism and Toleration,” in Liberalism, Multiculturalism, and Toleration (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993), 3, cited in Anne Phillips, “The Politicisation of Difference: Does this Make for a More Intolerant Society?” in Toleration, Identity, and Difference, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), 126–45 at 126. 11. T. M. Scanlon, The Difficulty of Tolerance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 187. 12. The texts of the Laozi are based on and selected from received versions, the bamboo versions, and silk versions. All translations are mine, although I have



consulted D. C. Lau, trans., Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 2003); Philip J. Ivanhoe, trans., The Daodejing of Laozi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2003); Richard John Lynn, trans., The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te Ching of Laozi and Interpreted by Wang Bi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Wing-tsit Chan, trans., The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching) (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963); Robert G. Henricks, trans., Lao-Tzu TeDao Ching: A Translation of the Ma-Wang-tui Manuscripts (London: Rider, 1991), and Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching: A Translation of the Startling New Documents Found at Guodian (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000); I am responsible for any errors. 13. Chan, The Way of Lao, 42. 14. Cohen, “What Toleration Is,” 78–79. 15. Jean Hampton, “Should Political Philosophy Be Done without Metaphysics?” Ethics 99, no. 4 (1989): 791–814 at 802. 16. According to Greg Pence, in Alasdair MacIntyre’s view, “modern societies have inherited no single ethical tradition from the past, but fragments of conflicting tradition: we are Platonic perfectionists in saluting gold medalists in the Olympics; utilitarians in applying the principle of triage to the wounded in war; Lockeans in affirming rights over property; Christians in idealizing charity, compassion and equal moral worth; and followers of Kant and Mill in affirming personal autonomy. No wonder that intuitions conflict in moral philosophy.” Greg Pence, “Virtue Theory,” in A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993), 249–58 at 251. 17. Robert Paul Wolff, “Beyond Tolerance,” in Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (London: Jonathan Cape, 1969), 3–52 at 52.

Conclusion Vicki A. Spencer

We began this book with the objective of testing the accuracy of the common assumption in Western political discourse that toleration is a uniquely Western idea. Having travelled in time and space from the twelfth century to the present and from the West to East Asia, we can conclude that it is not. A policy of pragmatic toleration, at the very least, was evident in the Ottoman Empire from the fifteenth century and served as an inspiration for European philosophers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Unlike the individualistic arguments of Bayle and Constant, the focus of the Ottoman regime and earlier Muslim jurisdictions was on groups. Yet non-Muslims also benefitted as individuals with their rights to life, property, and free religious practice protected by Muslim authorities on payment of their taxes, just as Locke’s duty of toleration accorded toleration to individuals while enabling nonorthodox religious societies to operate publicly in the realm of civil society free from state interference. Echoes of the Western idea of toleration also exist in Theravada Buddhism with a guarded vigilance recommended in response to wrong views and their holders. In Confucian thought, ren is remarkably similar to the Western philosophical concept of toleration: both have limits, entail self-restraint when one finds a belief or practice improper or unacceptable, are enacted due to a higher-order principle or reason, and show a preference for persuasion over coercion. This is not to suggest, however, that these ideas are precisely the same as the contemporary liberal concept, with Confucian arguments in support of self-restraint departing considerably from liberal ones. The authors in this volume have paid close attention to drawing out the ways alternative traditions differ in their understanding of toleration as much as they might be comparable. Yet liberal arguments are not uniform. Bayle and Locke differ on the limits to toleration, and in the nineteenth century, the Reformation 255

256 Conclusion

and Enlightenment concern for toleration became subsumed under the wider demand for individual freedom. Both Locke and Constant admitted the right to resistance while Bayle did not. Bayle’s acceptance of authority echoes Confucius’s warning against criticizing our superiors, and yet, at the same time, Bayle offers a strong individualistic case against the Confucian virtue of self-restraint in providing public criticism. Sufficient commonalities nonetheless exist to draw these comparisons, with the approaches toward combatting intolerance and dealing with objectionable beliefs and practices examined in this volume overlapping while simultaneously different, just like physical resemblances in families. There might be particular liberal arguments in favor of toleration, but toleration is not a concept unique to modern liberalism. The invention of the concept in medieval Europe with toleration’s objection component evident in Huguccio’s and Ockham’s thought suffices to demonstrate that it is a concept that goes beyond liberal thought, so its existence beyond the West is perhaps less surprising than it might have been if toleration were a modern liberal invention. Toleration is also not the only approach we have seen toward different beliefs and practices available in the Western tradition. What we have termed “tolerance” to denote a more proactive embracement of difference––where the objection component of toleration is lacking––existed in the thought of some medieval thinkers and in Locke’s demand that church leaders cultivate a gentle and non-arrogant disposition toward people with different views. In providing a more systematic definition of “toleration/tolerance,” contemporary Western philosophy has neglected the more positive component of tolerance in the work of past philosophers and in everyday speech. It might be the case, as it is believed in Confucianism, that it is artificial to consider one without the other, particularly if we are to develop a more inclusive approach to the pluralism in modern multicultural states and in the world-at-large. By expanding our appreciation of the diversity of approaches toward difference in the Western tradition, we have uncovered further connections between Western and non-Western approaches. American Indigenous perspectives suggest an everyday toleration might be better achieved by a relational ontology that rejects the possibility of noninterference. Although toleration assumes an ongoing interaction between conflicting parties with use of persuasion and influence permissible, engagement becomes according to this indigenous view an opening for both possibilities and fun. Toleration is enacted when a conflict exists, as it does between irreconcilable beliefs; however, a number of contributors to this volume have demonstrated that if the dualistic logic of x must not be “not-x” dominant in Western philosophy is nonoperational, such stark choices become unnecessary. In the case of the Newars, Buddhists and Hindus were not locked into seeing themselves as either Hindus or Buddhists in the way Christian sects



demand allegiance so one is either a Catholic or a Lutheran and never both simultaneously. The uniqueness of the Newar version of Mahayana Buddhism and the fact that it shared many deities with Hinduism might explain, in part, the ability of Newars to worship both. But Christians likewise have many beliefs in common, which did not prevent their willingness in the early Reformation to fight each other over the correct interpretation of Christian precepts. By contrast, at least for a number of centuries, the Newar Hindu princes considered it their duty to promote both religions equally. Toleration did not create this conflict in the West; the arguments in its favor were a response to the existing violence and coercive mechanisms of ideological conformity employed in various European jurisdictions. In this context of intolerance, the kind of noninterference Locke, Bayle, and others called for was a significant advance. A positive endorsement by state officials of multiple religions or even Christian sects would have been impossible, just as the privatization of religion in Western secularism is considered inappropriate for many other traditions examined here. Despite the bureaucratic authoritarianism of the Tokugawa government, its general indifference toward the content of religious faiths also possessed clear advantages for its subjects over a strict regime of religious and ideological censorship. Indifference over these matters is nevertheless insufficient to talk of early modern Japan as a tolerant society. The proactive promotion of religions to the extent found in the Newar case is also clearly not an Asianwide phenomenon, and yet it is noteworthy that the Tokugawa family used temples in two different Buddhist sects for alternate family funerals, suggesting a certain fluidity of religious identity uncommon in the Christian tradition. Along with American Indigenous perspectives, certain philosophical ideas in a number of Asian traditions appear more conducive to a positive embracement of difference than occurs with the contemporary concept of toleration. The ancient idea of the “one in the many” that has been passed down to everyday people through the songs of Hindu poet-saints facilitates respect for religious sites and deities irrespective of the faith to which they belong. Since all reality is ultimately one, the various forms it assumes in the world are not based on irreconcilable differences; plurality emerges as manifestations of a foundational sameness that means we are all interconnected while there is not a single divinity. The Jaina perspective, by contrast, reminds us, like Locke, of our human fallibility in epistemological matters as we are never able to grasp fully the complexity and multidimensional nature of reality. Absolute truth of metaphysical issues is not only impossible, but what is true or good in one context may not be true or good in another. The embracement of uncertainty leads to an exhortation to put aside our authoritarian tendencies. It is especially the recognition and embracement of human complexity that appears to lend itself to tolerance. A belief or practice is not considered good

258 Conclusion

or bad in black-and-white or absolute terms since both sides of a disagreement can possess a degree of legitimacy from a Confucian perspective. The need for the self-restraint entailed in toleration is therefore dissipated. Seeing every individual as a complex whole as Laozi recommends also enables us to realize that while we may consider someone wrong for a certain action or belief, our attention ought not to focus one-sidedly on that fault to the neglect of the good in that person. Locke, too, with his emphasis on human fallibility as a fundamental hallmark of the human condition urges us to take more care with our own foibles than disapprove of others for failing to agree with our beliefs. Both toleration and the more positive embracement of diversity we have coined tolerance nevertheless sit side by side with intolerance. In Islamic philosophy, tolerance is a basic precept in the Qur’an with the stipulation that there should be no compulsion in religion, and we have seen that many early Muslim governments enacted this precept in their relations with nonMuslims. Yet this precept has often been overridden in exegesis interpretations and in practice. A deeper recognition of the value of diversity was evident at times in the Ottoman Empire, but a genocidal intolerance nonetheless emerged with the empire’s breakdown. The toleration in Theravada Buddhism exists alongside stridently intolerant Buddhist groups in South and Southeast Asia, and the examples of tolerance in India in theory and practice have not prevented horrendous conflict, at times, between religious groups. As Western theorists search for more positive forms of engagement with others than the self-restraint demanded of us by toleration, it is important to keep in mind that a deeper tolerance can just as easily slide into intolerance. Extensive resources within a wide variety of intellectual traditions nonetheless exist to combat such intolerance. The privatization of religion might be the most suitable model for the West, but it is illegitimate to insist on its uniform application when alternative models potentially create greater respect for diverse others and may be better suited to other contexts. The importance of the self-restraint entailed in toleration should not be underestimated when irreconcilable beliefs exist, but, as contemporary theorists increasingly recognize, in many instances we can be far more generous toward others. Recognition that many intellectual traditions share the desire to overcome intolerance, albeit in different forms, is an important step in forging more respectful and civil relations in our multicultural world. The failure by a philosophical and/ or political tradition to adopt the contemporary liberal idea of toleration does not thereby mean it promotes intolerance. On the contrary, we have seen that many traditions offer insights from which we can learn to achieve greater cooperation in the effort to create a more tolerant world and there are far more allies committed to this task across traditions than world politics and the media sometimes might lead us to believe.

Suggested Further Readings

Abou El Fadl, Khaled. The Place of Tolerance in Islam. Boston: Beacon Press, 2002. Adcock, Cassie S. The Limits of Tolerance: Indian Secularism and the Politics of Religious Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Afsaruddin, Asma. Contemporary Issues in Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. ———. Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Angle, Stephen C. Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity. Redwood City, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003. Atleo, Richard E. Principles of Tsawalk: An Indigenous Approach to Global Crisis. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011. ———. Tsawalk: A Nuu-chah-nulth Worldview. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2004. Barkey, Karen. Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Bayle, Pierre. A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel, Luke 14:23, “Compel Them to Come In, That My House May Be Full.” Edited by John Kilcullen and Chandran Kukathas. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005. ———. Political Writings. Translated and edited by Sally L. Jenkinson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ———. Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet. Translated and edited by Robert C. Bartlett. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000. Bejczy, István. “Tolerantia: A Medieval Concept.” Journal of the History of Ideas 58, no. 3 (1997): 365–84. Bell, Daniel, ed. Confucian Political Ethics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.



Suggested Further Readings

Bhargava, Meena, ed. The Decline of the Mughal Empire. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. Brown, Wendy. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006. Burghart, Richard. The Conditions of Listening: Essays on Religion, History, and Politics in South Asia. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Buyō, Inshi (pseudonym). Lust, Commerce, and Corruption: An Account of What I Have Seen and Heard by an Edo Samurai. Edited by Mark Teeuwen and Kate Wildman Nakai. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Chan, Wing-tsit. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973. Chatterjee, Margaret. Gandhi’s Religious Thought. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983. Constant, Benjamin. Constant: Political Writings. Translated and edited by Biancamaria Fontana. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ———. Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments. 1810. Translated by Dennis O’Keeffe. Edited by Etienne Hoffmann. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003. Crepell, Ingrid. Toleration and Identity: Foundations in Early Modern Thought. New York: Routledge, 2003. Fontana, Biancamaria. Benjamin Constant and the Post-Revolutionary Mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991. Forst, Rainer. Toleration in Conflict: Past and Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Fuller, Paul. The Notion of Diṭṭhi in Theravada Buddhism. London: Routledge, 2005. Gandhi, Mahatma. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. 98 vols. New Delhi: Publications Division Government of India, 1999. http://www.gandhiashramsevagram. org/gandhi-literature/collected-works-of-mahatma-gandhi-volume-1-to-98.php. Gellner, David N. Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest: Newar Buddhism and Its Hierarchy of Ritual. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Gombrich, Richard F., and Gananath Obeyesekere. Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. Hasan, Zoya, and Ritu Menon, eds. In a Minority: Essays on Muslim Women in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005. Hawley, John Stratton. Three Bhakti Voices: Mirabai, Surdas, and Kabir in Their Time and Ours. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005. Holt, John. The Buddhist Visnu. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Horton, John, and Susan Mendus, eds. John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration in Focus. London: Routledge, 1991. Hutt, Michael. Nepal. Boston: Shambhala, 1995. Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age 1300–1600. Nairobi: Phoenix, 2001. Kabir, Winand M. Callewaert, Swapna Sharma, and Dieter Taillieu. The Millennium Kabīr vānī: A Collection of Pad-s. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 2000. Kemper, Steven. The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life. Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1991.

Suggested Further Readings


Kilcullen, John. Sincerity and Truth: Essays on Arnaud, Bayle, and Toleration. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Kornicki, P. F., and I. J. McMullen, eds. Religion in Japan: Arrows to Heaven and Earth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Labrousse, Elisabeth. Bayle. Translated by Denys Potts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Lau, D. C. Tao Te Ching: A Bilingual Edition. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2001. Levine, Alan, ed. Early Modern Skepticism and the Origins of Toleration. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, 1999. Liu, Xiaogan. “Daoism (I): Laozi and the Dao-De-Jing.” In The Routledge History of Chinese Philosophy, edited by Bo Mou, 209–36. New York: Routledge, 2008. ———. “Laozi’s Philosophy: Textual and Conceptual Analyses.” In Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, edited by Xiaogan Liu, 71–100. New York: Springer, 2015. Locke, John. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by P. H. Nidditch. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975. ———. A Letter Concerning Toleration. 2nd ed. Translated by William Popple. London: Printed for Awnsham Churchill, 1690. Lowry, Heath W. The Nature of the Early Ottoman State. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003. McDaniel, Justin. The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. McKenna, Erin, and Scott L. Pratt. American Philosophy from Wounded Knee to the Present. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. Malvania, Dalsukh, and Jayendra Soni, eds. Jain Philosophy Part I. Vol. 10 of Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2007. Marshall, John. John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture: Religious Intolerance and Arguments for Religious Toleration in Early Modern and “Early Enlightenment” Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Matilal, Bimal Krishna. The Central Philosophy of Jainism (Anekāntavāda). L. D. Series 79. Ahmedabad: L. D. Institute of Indology, 1981. Menocal, Maria Rosa. The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. Boston: Back Bay Books, 2003. Mishra, Vijay. Devotional Poetics and the Indian Sublime. Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 2000. Mocko, Anne. Demoting Vishnu: Ritual, Politics, and the Unraveling of Nepal’s Hindu Monarchy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Nederman, Cary. World of Difference: European Discourses of Toleration, c. 1100–c. 1500. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2000. Norton-Smith, Thomas. The Dance of Person and Place: One Interpretation of American Indian Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010. Paniker, Ayyappa, ed. Medieval Indian Literature: An Anthology. 4 vols. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1997–2000.


Suggested Further Readings

Paramore, Kiri. Japanese Confucianism: A Cultural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pratt, Scott L. Native Pragmatism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. Rosenblatt, Helena, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Constant. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. ———. Liberal Values: Benjamin Constant and the Politics of Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Sachedina, Abdulaziz. The Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Sajoo, Amyn B., ed. A Companion to Muslim Ethics. London: I. B. Tauris, 2010. Schonthal, Ben. Buddhism, Politics, and the Limits of the Law: The Pyrrhic Constitutionalism of Sri Lanka. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Shogimen, Takashi. Ockham and Political Discourse in the Late Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Shukla-Bhatt, Neelima. Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat: A Legacy of Bhakti in Songs and Stories. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. Slusser, Mary. Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982. Stepan, Alfred, and Charles Taylor, eds. Boundaries of Toleration. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. Tao, Julia, Anthony Cheung, Martin Painter, and Chenyang Li, eds. Governance for Harmony in Asia and Beyond. London: Routledge, 2010. Thapar, Romila. Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973. Vine, Deloria, Jr., and Daniel R. Wildcat. Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2001. Waldron, Jeremy. God, Locke, and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Watanabe, Hiroshi. A History of Japanese Political Thought, 1600–1901. Translated by David Noble. Tokyo: International House of Japan, 2012. Yu, Kam-por, Julia Tao, and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds. Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010.


‘Abduh, Muhammad, 109 Abelard, Peter, Collationes, 6, 8 absolutism, 61, 62, 64, 71, 75, 162 Abu‘l-Fadl, 165 Adhikāpatra (Bill of Fundamental Rights), India, 172 adoption among samurai families, Japan, 208–9 Advaita Vedanta, 144 affirmation, 4 agency, 34, 35, 36 ahimsā (nonviolence), 168 Akbar, 134, 164–66, 173, 174 Alexander of Hales, 12–13 Alsea people, 23, 25–26, 27–29, 33, 35, 36–37, 38n7, 39n37 al-ta’aruf (knowledge of one another), 104 al-tasamuh, 114 Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), 154 Ambedkar, B. L., 172 American Indian metaphysics of toleration, 23–30, 33–37, 256 Andrews, Charles F., 168 anekāntavāda (no one view), 162–63, 168, 173 apostasy, 111–12

Arab idolators, Muslim lack of tolerance towards, 101 Arab Spring, 114 Aristotle, xi, 32, 35, 51 arrogance, 51 Arya Samaj community, 167, 169, 173 Ashoka, 163–64, 166, 173, 174, 185–88, 189; Fourth Major Rock Edict, 187; Pillar Edict Five, 187; “Schism Edict,” 186–87; Twelfth Major Rock Edict, 185–86 assimilation, 83, 87 atheists, 54, 55, 62, 66–68, 73, 74; Carvaka, 165; virtuous, 67, 68 Atleo, E. Richard, 26–27, 28, 29, 35 Augustine, Saint, 63, 64, 66 Aurangazeb, 134 authoritarian regimes, 82–83, 200. See also Tokugawa shogunate authority: Confucian virtue of kuan, 219, 256; Islamic tradition, 105–6. See also public authorities autonomy, 11, 17, 42, 63, 134, 217–18, 221, 253n16. See also freedom; voluntariness; individual rights 263

264 Index

Avalokitesvara, 191 al-Banna, Jamal, 111, 112 Bayle, Pierre, 61–62; common front with Constant, 62–64; defense of toleration, xv, 64–69, 75–76, 255, 256, 257; Historical and Critical Dictionary, 67; A Philosophical Commentary on These Words of the Gospel …, 64, 66, 67, 68; Various Thoughts on the Occasion of a Comet, 67 Bejczy, István, 8, 9, 17 belief: acceptance of other beliefs without interference, xii, 24–25, 30, 34– 35, 36, 41, 141; as a disposition to act, 34, 36. See also erroneous beliefs; knowledge; religious beliefs; truth Benedict XIV, Pope, 132 Bhaktapur kingdom, Nepal, 122, 126, 132 bhakti, 150, 166 Bharatiya Janata Party, India, 171, 176n38 Bodhanath stūpa, Nepal, 130 Brahman concept, 143, 144, 155, 160, 161 Brahmins, 123, 130, 134 Brahmo Sabha/Samaj, 144 Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 143, 145 British colonial system, India, 136, 166, 168, 169, 170 broad-mindedness, xiii, 218–21, 229 Buddhists and Buddhism: Ashoka, 163–64, 166, 173, 174, 185–88, 189; and Christians, 179; and Confucianism, 205–6, 207; and Hinduism, xv, 161, 167, 190, 191, 192; Japan, Tokugawa Shogunate, 201–2, 203–4, 205–6, 212, 213;

Mahayana, 122, 123, 180, 191, 195n5, 257; Malla kings’ inclusion of non-Newar Buddhists, 129, 132; and Muslims, 107, 179; Myanmar, 179, 189, 190, 191; Newar, 122–25, 126–29, 130, 132, 256–57; Sri Lanka, 122, 179, 188, 190, 191–92; Thailand, 179, 189, 191; Tibetan, 129, 130, 133, 163, 194–95n5; tolerant image, 179–80, 181–82, 184, 186; Vajrayana, 194–95n5. See also religious toleration, Theravada Buddhism; temples, Buddhist al-Bukhari, Muhammad, 111 Byzantine–Seljuk relations, 89, 93 Carvaka atheists, 165 caste hierarchy, 124, 130, 134, 135, 145, 154, 155, 159, 166, 168 censorship, xii, 42, 200, 208, 212, 257 Chandogya Upanishad, 143–44, 153 charity, 12, 13, 51–52, 55, 203, 243 Christendom (respublica christiana): and growth of nationality, 6, 7; Marsilius’s rejection of church intrusion into civil matters, 8; non-Christian practices, 10; “one religion in a variety of rites,” 7, 11 Christians and Christianity, 6, 102, 253n16; and Buddhists, 179; conversion to, 10–11; correction of doctrinal errors, 11–18; explicit faith, 14–15, 16, 18; fragmentation, early modern Europe, 11; and Hindus, 134, 147, 161, 166, 167, 172, 257; intolerance between sects, xi, xii– xiii, 50–51, 53–54, 86, 122, 257;

Index 265

intolerance of beliefs and deities of others, 134; Japan, 199, 201, 202, 203, 205, 212–13; Locke’s promotion of toleration, 50–53, 54–55, 86; and Muslims, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92–93, 94, 100, 101, 107, 108–9, 151, 173–74; Nepal Mandala, 129, 130, 132–33, 135; Ottoman Empire, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92–93, 94, 108–9; unity of truth, 7, 18, 46, 47; virtues, 51, 52, 55, 63; Western assumptions, 121–22 church and state, separation, 8, 71, 84, 86, 106, 165, 227–28; India, 170–71, 172, 173; Locke’s examination, xiv, 44–46, 52–53, 54–55. See also secularism cinema, India, 155 citizenship faith-based, 109 nonreligious, 109, 110 civil intolerance, 71, 74 civil society, 53 coercion, xiii, 7, 83; Bayle’s and Constant’s perspectives, 63, 66, 69, 70, 72; Confucian perspective, 221, 222, 224, 228–29, 230, 255; Locke’s perspective, 41, 42–43, 44, 46, 47, 62; Qur’an teaching, 100, 101, 107, 111; Rousseau’s general will theory, 63, 74; in the West, 255, 257. See also persecution; religious persecution Cohen, Andrew Jason, 3, 11, 241, 248, 249 community: ability to enforce norms, 36–37; acts of intolerance, 30;

alienation of individual rights to the community, 75; collective decision-making, 27, 28–29, 35, 36; disconnected members, 33, 35; diversity accommodated through structured community, 134; enforcement of norms, 36–37; philosophy of, 251–52; unity in diversity, 169 compelle intrare, 64 conflict: as a norm, 36; resolution, 226, 228, 232n45; toleration, xiii, 256 Confucian conceptions of tolerating, xiv, 218, 256, 258: Confucian disapproval of Laozi’s ideas, 245; justification of toleration, 227–29, 230; kuan, broad-mindedness, or tolerance, 218–21, 229; ren, self-restraint, or toleration, 221–27, 229 Confucianism: Analects, 224–25, 245; The Book of Changes, 219; The Book of Documents, 219; China and Korea, 206, 207; disciples of Confucius, 223, 225; Japan, 204–8, 209, 211; Kungzi Jiayu, 219; Zhongyong doctrine, 219–20 conscience, 16, 17, 42, 44, 63, 65, 67, 68, 228: erroneous, 63, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69–70, 72, 75; freedom of, 66, 70, 76, 100, 111, 112, 169 conscientious objectors, 54 consent, 27, 28 Constant, Benjamin, 61–62; common front with Bayle, 62–64; defense of toleration, 69–75, 76, 255, 256; De la religion (On Religion), 73;

266 Index

Du polythéisme romain (On Roman Polytheism), 73; political theory, 70, 72, 74–75 Constantinople, fall (1453), 7 constitutional government, 75 contempt, 42 contexts of toleration, 4, 48 contradictions, 29, 32, 33, 34 correction: Confucian perspective, 225, 226, 227, 228; of doctrinal errors among Christians, 11–18; in the Laozi, 242; legitimacy of, 13, 14, 16–17 cosmopolitanism, 169–70 critical engagement, 31 criticism: in Confucianism, 223–24, 225, 227, 245, 256; in Laozism, 248, 250 cultural diversity, ix, x, 5, 7, 87, 102, 108, 114, 122, 129, 133, 137, 141, 142, 160 Dalits, India, 167, 173–74 Dao, concept of, 236–38, 243–44, 246, 249; ziran, the core or highest value, 238, 239, 240 deep-love (ci), 246–48, 250, 251 Deloria, Vine Jr., 33–34 determinism, 28, 36 Dhamma, 186, 187, 188 dharma, 170 difference, xi, 4, 5, 10, 29, 49, 85, 87, 113, 137, 141, 256; coexistence of, xx, 31, 34, 36, 84, 87, 89, 90; underlying unity, 7, 141, 143–44, 145, 147, 153–54, 155–56, 169, 257. See also diversity difference, acceptance and accommodation of, x, xiii, xiv,

4, 6, 7, 8, 29, 83, 99–100, 103–4, 141–43, 257; Confucianism, 220, 221; Nepal Mandala, 122, 123, 124, 129, 131, 133, 135; Ottoman Empire, 82, 83, 84, 87, 88, 90, 91, 95; Theravada Buddhism, 181, 184, 186, 192, 194 disapproval, ix, x, xi–xii, xiii, 10, 32, 82, 100, 122, 186, 241; Buddhism, 180, 183; Confucianism, 220, 226; Locke’s doctrine of toleration, 41, 49, 55, 258; Malla kings, 126–27, 133. See also negative evaluation; toleration – objection component dislikes, in Confucian toleration, 220, 225, 226, 227 dispensation, 8 diversity, ix, 4, 5, 6, 11, 18, 84; active promotion of, xiv–xv, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30, 113–14; Confucian concept of kuan, 219–21; cultural, ix, x, 5, 7, 87, 102, 108, 114, 122, 129, 133, 137, 141, 142, 160; impartiality to moral claims, 10, 11; national, 6, 7. See also difference; ethnic diversity; pluralism; religious diversity diversity, respect for, xiii, 74, 84, 95, 96, 151, 156, 159, 166, 225, 251, 258; religious diversity, 10, 71, 83, 84, 89, 93, 123, 134, 146–47, 148, 150, 152, 165, 168, 173, 257 Doke, Joseph J., 168 Eastman, Charles, 23, 24 Eck, Diana, 113, 145–46 Edict of Nantes, 50, 53, 62, 64 equality, 46, 54, 74, 76, 104, 110, 112, 169, 251, 253n16;

Index 267

gender equity, 105, 135, 166, 172, 173 equanimity (upekkhā), 185 erroneous beliefs, 69–70, 71, 75, 76; free error worth more than forced truth, 63–64, 69–70, 76; mistakes, in Confucian toleration, 220, 223–24, 227; religious, 48, 63–64, 65, 67, 68, 69–70, 72, 217. See also fallibility ethical misconduct, Tokugawa shogunate, 200, 208–11 ethnic diversity, ix, 81, 83, 84–85, 96, 141; Islam, 107; Nepal Mandala, 129–33, 135, 136–37; Ottoman Empire, 82, 86, 89, 91, 92, 94, 95; toleration of, 84–85, 86, 129–33. See also cultural diversity; multiculturalism everyday toleration, 23, 31–33, 221, 256 evil, 69; civil intolerance, 71; Confucian perspective, 218, 223, 224, 226, 227; criticism of the evil not the person, 223, 226, 227; medieval concept, 9, 10; modern philosophical concept, 9–10; toleration of the lesser, to avoid the greater, 8–9, 10, 17, 218 example, setting for others to follow, 220, 228 excommunication: of heretics, 7, 8; for offences against laws of religious societies, 45 extending (tui), Confucian ethics, 230, 233n57 exterior action, 67, 68 extremist Muslims, 103, 104, 106, 113, 114

faith, 46, 47–48; explicit, 14–15, 16, 18 fallibility, 41, 48–50, 52, 55, 63, 68, 72, 257, 258. See also erroneous beliefs Farrand, Livingstone, 26 first-among-equals, 187, 188, 189, 193 flattery, 222–23 forbearance, xi, xiii, 28, 29, 31, 50, 51, 87, 169 Frachtenberg, Leo, 25, 26, 29 freedom, xii, xiii, 74, 106, 164, 167, 229, 241, 251; coerced, 63, 74; of conscience, 66, 70, 76, 100, 111, 112, 169; Constant’s understanding, 70, 71, 72, 73; of the individual, 63, 70, 73, 169–70, 244, 256. See also autonomy; voluntariness; individual rights friendship, 41, 49, 51, 52 fujufuse Buddhist sect, 201, 213 Galata, Treaty of, 91 Gandhi, Indira, 172 Gandhi, M. K., 144–45, 151, 167–69, 170, 173 Ganesh, 190 gender equity and inequity, 105, 135, 159, 166, 172, 173 general will, Rousseau’s theory, 63, 64, 71, 74–75, 76 generosity, 87, 144, 187, 244, 246, 247, 250, 258 genocide, 29, 85, 95, 258 gentleness, 52, 55, 187, 219, 256 George, Alsea, 25, 26, 29 ghar-wapsi (returning home) reconversion program, 167 Gombrich, Richard, 191 governance. See public authorities Gujurat, India, 146, 147, 156

268 Index

hadiths, 99, 103, 104, 105, 111–12, 151 Han Yu, 222–23 harm, Locke’s principle, 53 harmony, 27, 69, 99, 123, 218, 228; India, 145, 147, 155, 156, 165, 167, 171, 173; Laozism, 239, 240, 242, 251 Hatcher, Brian, 145 Hayashi family, 207 Hayashi Razan, 204–5, 207 heresy: Bayle’s view on duty to guide heretics, 68; excommunication of heretics, 7, 8; Locke’s view, 52; papal, 12, 13; Tokugawa shogunate, 200, 201–4, 205; William of Ockham’s theory, 11–18 Hewitt, J. N. B., 34 “higher-order” reasons, xiv, 4, 255 Hindus and Hinduism: bhakti, 150, 166; and Buddhism, xv, 161, 167, 190, 191, 192; and Christians/Christianity, 134, 147, 161, 166, 167, 172, 257; Gandhi, 167–69, 173; hierarchical society, 135; limited nature of tolerance, 161; Malla kings’ inclusion of non-Newar Hindus, 129–30, 132, 133; and Muslims/Islam, 107, 131–32, 135, 146, 152–53, 154, 155, 164– 66, 167, 168, 169, 172; nationalism, India, 147, 156, 166, 168; neo-Hinduism, 166–67; Newar, 122–25, 126–27, 128, 129, 132, 256–57; “the one in the many” cultural stance, 141–47, 155–56, 160; Rig Veda, 142–43, 160; shuddhi non-Hindu reconversion program, 167–68;

songs and biographies of poet-saints, 142, 147–55; traditions open to religious diversity, 133–35, 160–61; Upanishads (Vedanta), 143–46, 147, 153, 155, 160–62, 166 Hindutva Parivar, India, 171, 172, 176n38 Hobbes, Thomas, 46, 50, 239 Holt, John, 191 Horton, John, 241 Hoshina Masayuki, 206 Huguccio, 8–9, 17, 256 Huguenots, 50, 54, 62, 66 humanity, 7, 73, 113, 151; argument for toleration, 49, 228, 230, 246, 250, 251 human rights, 70, 105 Hum Dono (film, 1962), song “Allah tero nam, Ishwar tero nam,” 155 “hyphenated citizens,” 31, 32 hypocrisy, 42, 52, 63 Ibn Kathir, Isma’il, 104 Ibn Zayd, Muhammad, 101 iconoclasm, 103, 132, 135 identity, principle of, 32, 33, 35, 39n49 Ikeda Mitsumasa, 205 Ikkō Buddhism sect, 205 ‘Ikrima ibn ‘Abd Allah, 111, 112 inclusivism, 123, 129, 219, 256; Hinduism, 159, 160–61, 168, 173; Islam, 102, 104, 114; Laozism, 243, 247, 248, 251; secularism, 167–68, 171, 172, 173, 174 incredulity, 73, 74 Indian Constitution, 1950, 169, 172, 173 indifference, 4 individualism, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66, 69–70, 72, 73, 76, 255, 256 individual rights, 70, 71, 75, 169–70, 217–18, 221, 227, 230. See also autonomy; freedom; voluntariness

Index 269

institutionalized toleration, x, xi, xiii–xv, 15, 56, 71, 81, 82, 85, 99, 108, 113 intolerance, x, xii, xiii, xx, 24, 25, 30, 31–32, 37, 84, 85, 113, 121, 133; approaches toward combatting, 256, 258; Bayle’s and Constant’s perspectives, 62, 63, 64, 67, 70–71, 73–74, 76; civil, 70–71, 74; Confucian perspective, 220–21, 222, 224–25, 227, 229, 230; epistemological intolerance and psychosocial toleration, 184–85; India, and attempts at reconciliation, 166–70, 173–74, 258; Locke’s perspective, 41, 46, 50, 51, 52, 55, 202–3, 258; resistance, 29, 37, 42, 62, 74, 75–76, 212, 221, 246, 256; restraint of, 46, 51, 54, 225; Tokugawa shogunate, Japan, 199, 200–13. See also conflict; genocide; persecution; tolerance; toleration – limits; violence; war “invincible ignorance,” 68, 75 irja’ principle, 103 irrationality, 41–44, 47 Isha Upanishad, 145 Islam: exclusivist views, 101, 102; and Hinduism, 107, 131–32, 135, 146; mandate for pluralism and engagement with the “other,” 113–14; modern interpretations of religious tolerance, 105–7, 114; problem of abrogation and supersessionism, 110–13; religious leadership, 106; Sufism, 90, 164, 166; tolerance and toleration in historical praxis, 107–10;

tolerance in the Qur’an, 99–105, 107, 109, 110–14. See also Mughal Empire; Muslims; Ottoman Empire; Qur’an; Sharia istimalet (securing goodwill) policy, 87, 88, 90–91 Ito Jinsei, 207 Jagat Jaya Malla, 131 Jainism, 161–63, 165, 166, 168, 170, 173, 174, 257 Jan Sangh political party, India, 176n38 jashū (heresy or evil religion), 202 Jayaprakash Malla, 130, 131 Jesuits, 165 Jews and Jewish faith, 6, 53; and Islam, 100, 101, 107, 110; Ottoman Empire, 85, 86, 90, 92, 93, 94, 109; persecution, 86; tolerantia, 10–11, 17; Torah, 102 Jingikan (Council of Shinto Affairs), 212 jizya (tax), 108, 110 John of Salisbury, 6, 8 John XXII, Pope, 12, 13 Jones, William, 34 judgment, 15–16, 32, 35, 48, 62; Confucian perspective on judging and grading people, 223–24, 226–27; indispensible to concept of toleration, xii, 18; judgmental toleration, 10; limits, 6; moral judgment, 9–10, 54; Qur’anic principle of deferral, 103, 104; skepticism suspends, 6, 46 Jurieu, Pierre, 62 justice, 10, 52, 54, 63, 71, 74, 90, 109, 169, 172 Kabir, 147, 148, 152–54; ghaṭa ghaṭẽa mẽ panchī boltā, 153

270 Index

Kabir Project, 147 Kaitoku school, Japan, 205 Kansei kaikaku (Tokugawa reforms), 208 Kantipur kingdom, Nepal, 122, 126, 131, 132 Kashmiri Takia Jamme mosque, 131 Kathmandu Valley. See Nepal Mandala Khawarij, 103, 104 Kirloskar-Steinbach, Monika, 145 Ki.wáˋkwe (cannibal), 23–24, 29, 30, 33–34 knowledge, 14, 15, 18, 41, 68, 105, 144, 152, 162, 208, 218, 238, 251; demonstrative, 46, 47, 48; intuitive, 46, 47, 48; sensitive, 46, 47, 48. See also belief; erroneous beliefs; fallibility; religious beliefs Koran. See Qur’an Krishna, 126, 128, 148, 149, 150 Kumazawa Banzan, 205 laïcité, 61, 74, 165 Lalitpur kingdom, Nepal, 122, 126, 128 Laozi (or Daodejing), 235–36, 238, 239–40, 241; ideas related to toleration, 241–50, 258 Laozi, brief introduction to philosophy, 236–41 liberty, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 227; religious, 71–72, 74, 172, 227 Locke, John, xv, 5, 62, 253n16, 255, 256, 257; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 41, 42–44, 46, 47–49; Essay Concerning Toleration, 53; Letter Concerning Toleration, xiv, 41, 42, 43, 44–45, 46, 47, 49, 50–52, 53–54, 66–67, 86, 202–3; The Reasonableness of Christianity, 46; Third Letter for Toleration, 53–54, 203

Louis XIV, 61, 75 love (deep-love, ci), 246–48, 250, 251 Mahāvaṃsa, 188 Mahindrasimha Malla, 131 Mahopanishad, 144 Maithili community, Nepal Mandala, 130 Malla kings, Nepal, xv, 122, 124–25, 136; capacity to build and maintain temples, 125, 126, 127; competition, 126; examples of Buddhist activities and policy, 127–29; inclusion of non-Newars, 129–33; politics and patronage, 125–29; reasons for openness to religious diversity, 133–37 Manitou, 34 Man Singh I, 165 Marsilius of Padua, 7–8 Matsudaira Sadanobu, 207–8 McCumber, John, 31–32, 33 Medina, Pact or Constitution of, 107, 110 Mehmed II (Mehmed the Conqueror), 91, 92–93 Meiji imperial government, Japan, 212–13 Melibaeus, 54 Mendus, Susan, xi, 4, 32, 42, 47, 227 metaphysics of toleration, 31, 32, 33; American Indian, 23–30, 33–37 Middle Ages, toleration concepts, 3, 5–18, 256 Mill, John Stuart, 5, 229, 253n16 millet system, Ottoman Empire, 94, 95 Minor, Robert N., 145 mistakes, in Confucian toleration, 220, 223–24, 227 monotheism, 73, 102, 103, 134 moral judgment, 9–10, 54 Mughal Empire, 82, 131, 132, 133, 134–35, 135, 136, 164, 165

Index 271

Muhammad, 103, 105, 107, 110, 111, 112 Mujahid b. Jabr, 100, 102 multiculturalism, xx, 47, 55, 100, 141, 171, 256, 258. See also cultural diversity; ethnic diversity Murad II, 88 Murji’a, 103 Murphy, Andrew, x Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, 112 Muslims, 94; Akbar, 134, 164–66, 173, 174; and Buddhists, 107, 179; and Christians, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 92–93, 94, 100, 101, 107, 108–9, 151, 173–74; extremism and intolerance, 103, 104, 106, 113, 114, 134; and Hindus, 107, 131–32, 135, 146, 152–53, 154, 155, 164–66, 167, 168, 169, 172; Locke’s toleration of, 54; medieval toleration of, 17; Medinan, 100; modern interpretations of religious tolerance, 105–7, 114; Nepal Mandala, 129, 131–32, 133, 135–37; practice of religious tolerance, 100– 105, 107, 109; practice of religious toleration, 50, 82, 85, 86, 87–89, 90, 91–94, 95, 255; tolerance and toleration in historical praxis, 107–10. See also Islam; Mughal Empire; Ottoman Empire; Qur’an; Sharia Nakai Chikuzan, 205 Nanak, Guru, 131 Narasinha Mehta, 147, 148–52; “Akhil Brahmand ma Ek Tu Shri Hari,” 148–50, 151 naskh (abrogation), 110, 111–13

nationality (natio) and nationalism, 6; Buddhist nationalism, 179, 180; conflicts stemming from differences, 7; Indian nationalist movement, 147, 156, 166, 168, 169, 170–71, 173; patriotic nationalism, 169, 170 nat shrines, Myanmar, 190, 191 naturalness (ziran), 238–39, 250, 251; civilized naturalness, 239, 240, 250 Nederman, Cary J., 3, 4, 5–8, 18 negative evaluation, 4, 6, 9, 13, 14–15, 18. See also disapproval; toleration – objection component Nehru, Jawaharlal, 172 Nepal Mandala, xv, 122, 133–37; food-secure and cash-rich, 126; non-Newars in, 129–33; politics and patronage, 125–29. See also Malla kings, Nepal; Newars neutrality, xiii–xiv, 54, 91, 125, 165, 169, 170, 172, 181, 184, 185, 187, 218, 221 Newars: Buddhism, 122–25, 126–29, 130, 132, 256–57; Hinduism, 122–25, 126–27, 128, 129, 132, 256–57. see also Malla kings, Nepal Nicholas of Cusa, On the Peace of Faith (De pace fidei), 6–7, 8 Nicholson, Andrew, 145 Nicholson, Peter, x, xi nirvana, 128, 184, 185, 189, 190, 191, 205 noncontradiction principle, 29, 32, 33, 39n49 noninterference, 75, 84, 167, 256, 257; acceptance of other beliefs, xii, 24–25, 30, 34–35, 36, 41, 141; Buddhism, 187, 189, 192, 193–94; everyday toleration, 23, 27, 31; as a form of interference, 34; Locke’s toleration theory goes beyond, 41, 55, 56, 257;

272 Index

Middle Ages, 4, 6, 9, 11, 14, 15–16, 17, 18; in the Qur’an, 100, 104; Western liberal tradition, xi, 29, 31, 32–33, 34, 121, 122, 129, 141, 184, 241, 248. See also disapproval; restraint of interference Obeyesekere, Gananath, 191 Ockham. See William of Ockham Ogyū Sorai, 206–7, 210–11 “the one in the many” Hindu cultural stance, 141–47, 155–56, 160, 257; songs and biographies of poet-saints, 142, 147–55 orthopraxy, 123, 128 Osman I, 87, 88 Ottoman Empire: breakdown and collapse, 85, 95, 258; conquest of Balkans, 87–91; emergence of toleration, 85–93; ethnic toleration, 82, 86, 89, 91, 92, 94, 95, 258; incorporation of religious leaders into state administration, 88, 94–95; longevity, 95; religious toleration, xi, 50, 82, 85, 86, 87–89, 90, 91–94, 95, 108–9, 255; structure of toleration, 93–95 Pact or Constitution of Medina, 107, 110 Pact of Umar, 93 Palamas, Gregory, 89 Pali Tipitaka, 181–85, 189, 190 paramarthika, 144 Parliament of World Religions (1893), 144, 167 participation, 39–40n49 Pashupatinath Temple, 130 passive disobedience, 54 peace, x, xi, xii, 83, 84–85, 123, 145, 151, 156, 165, 193;

Bayle’s and Constant’s perspectives, 64, 65–66, 68, 71; Buddhism, 179, 186, 187; Islam, 99, 109; Laozism, 246, 251; in Locke’s writings, 49, 51, 52, 55; Ottoman Empire, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95; peaceful coexistence, x, xi, 7, 10, 27, 31, 37, 81 Penobscot people, 23–24, 29, 33–34 perfectibility, 72, 73 permission: granted on an exceptional basis, 8; granted to indifferent things, 8; for intrinsically evil activity, 8–9; in judgmental toleration concept, 10 persecution, 76, 82, 83. See also genocide; religious persecution Personal Law system, India, 170–71 perspectivism, 163 persuasion, preference to coercion, xii, xiii; Confucian, 221, 222, 224, 228–29, 230; Western philosophy, 255 Pir Shams, 151 place, relations with, 33–34, 35, 36, 37 pluralism, 4, 5, 10, 15, 18, 23, 84, 141, 171, 256; Islam, 91, 99, 100, 101–3, 104, 111, 113–14. See also cultural diversity; difference; diversity; ethnic diversity; religious diversity poet-saints, India, songs and biographies, 142, 147–55 political liberty, 70 polytheism, 73 power, 75; exercising for maintenance of peace and order, 65–66, 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 84, 95; wuwei principle of behavior, 240. See also sovereign power

Index 273

power relationships: Confucian virtue of kuan, 219; distinguishing one person from another, 34, 35; resulting in violence, 82, 83, 84; tolerating agent and tolerated, xiii, 15; toleration assumes an asymmetrical relationship, 74, 76 Pradhan, Shiraz, 151 pragmatism, xi, xiv, 41, 48, 55, 83, 91, 95, 128, 192, 204, 211, 251; toleration, x, xi, xvii, 41, 50, 83, 85, 87, 93, 255 Pratap Malla, 127 Prithvi Narayan Shah, 135–36 private sphere, respect of, 217, 218 privatization of religion, 106, 171, 257, 258. See also church and state, separation; secularism prostitutes, 10, 17 public authorities: attempts to use religion for own benefit, 74; Confucian perspective on good governance, 220, 221, 222–23, 224–25, 227, 228, 229; exercise of power for maintenance of peace and order, 65–66, 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 84, 95; Laozi’s perspective, 244; Ottoman Empire, 87, 88, 90, 91, 92, 93–95; refusal to exercise restraint, 82–83; toleration by, x, xi, xiii, xiv–xv, 15, 56, 71, 81, 82, 83, 84–85, 99, 108, 113. See also church and state, separation; sovereign power public opinion, 229, 230 public sphere: expression of hostile opinions in, 229, 230, 256; respect of private sphere, 217, 218 public welfare and good, 54, 65–66, 67, 68, 71, 72, 75, 164

punishment: Confucian perspective, 222, 245, 246, 247, 248, 250; justification of, 65–66, 67, 68, 70; Laozi’s perspective, 245, 246, 248, 251; Tokugawa shogunate, Japan, 208–11, 212 purpose, centrality of, 35 qwaasasa is (just the way (he, she, or it) is), 23, 27, 28, 29, 31, 35, 36; understood as “principle of consent,” 27 Qatada b. Di’ama, 102 Qur’an, 152; abrogation and supersessionism, 110–13; first source of ethical, moral and legal determinations, 105, 112; scholarly interpretations, 106, 112; tolerance in, 99–105, 107, 109, 110–14, 258; translation into Hindi, 166 Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, 145 rājadhamma, 187, 188 Ranjit Malla, 132 Rastafarians, 134 rationalism, xiii, 74, 134 Ratna Malla, 130, 131 Rawls, John, xxn1, 10, 174 Raymond of Peñafort, Summa de iure canonico, 9 reality: Buddhism, 185, 189; Buddhist analysis, 183, 185, 189; many-sided nature, 28, 141, 162–63, 257; one reality underlying innumerable forms, 141, 143–44, 145–47, 148–56, 169, 257; purposeful, 28, 35; two levels, 141, 144 reasoning, 44;

274 Index

capacity fundamental to human condition, 48; effect of education, 48, 68; effort to seek truth, 68–70, 72, 73; and faith, 47–48, 50; individual critical examination, 69–70; limits of, 6, 7, 8, 55, 68; and moral right and wrong, 65 reciprocity, 24, 27, 52, 54, 55 Reformation, Europe, ix, x, 86, 255–56, 257 refugees, 82, 109, 132 relational ontology: approach to toleration, 85, 94, 187, 256; epistemological intolerance and psychosocial toleration, 184–85; indigenous toleration, 33–35, 36–37 relativism, 162, 187 religious beliefs: authority’s attempts to use for own benefit, 74; cannot be changed on command, 42; differences unified by underlying reality, 7, 141, 143–44, 145–47, 148–56, 257; discernment, 43–44, 46, 52, 55; dogmatic incredulity, 73, 74; false or erroneous, 48, 63–64, 65, 67, 68, 69–70, 72, 217; historical evolution, 73; individual responsibility for decisions, 42, 43–44, 45, 47, 48–49, 63–64, 65, 68–69; a matter of faith, not knowledge, 47–48, 49–50; motives, 42, 43; privatization of religion, 106, 171, 257, 258; sincerity, 42, 43, 47, 55, 63, 65, 69; social role of religious sects, 45; uniformity, 11, 18, 42, 43, 49, 50, 72, 143, 146; Western assumptions, 121–22.

See also church and state, separation; coercion; salvation; zand names of individual religions religious diversity, ix, x, 10, 18, 69, 70, 71, 72, 113, 189, 257; India, 142–43, 146–56, 160–61, 165– 66, 167, 168, 170, 172, 185–86; Islam, 100, 101–3, 107–8; Nepal Mandala, xv, 127, 129, 134, 135, 136–37; Ottoman Empire, 81, 82, 83, 86, 89, 90, 92, 93–94, 96 religious liberty, 71–72, 74, 172, 227 religious persecution, 3, 7, 41–42, 43, 50, 52, 53, 54, 62, 65, 66, 71, 86, 109, 227; Japan, 201–2, 203, 212–13; justification of, 54, 62–63, 64. See also coercion religious tolerance, India, 159, 160; Akbar, 164–66, 173, 174; alternative to Western idea of secularization, 172–73; Ashoka, 163–64, 166, 173, 174, 185–88; Ghandi, 168–69, 173; Hinduism, 160–62; intolerance and attempts at reconciliation, 166–70, 258. See also “one in the many” Hindu cultural stance; secularism, India religious tolerance, Islamic: historical praxis, 107–10; mandate for pluralism, 113–14; modern interpretations, 105–7; in the Qur’an, 99–105, 107, 109, 110–14, 258 religious toleration: Asian cultures and histories, 122; Bayle and Constant’s advocacy of, 61, 62, 63–64, 65, 69; Bayle’s defense of, xv, 64–69, 75– 76, 255, 256, 257; Christian Middle Ages, 5, 6–7, 10, 11–18;

Index 275

Christian sects, 50–51; Constant’s defense of, 71–74; definitions, 82, 121; Locke’s writings, 41, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49–55, 62, 66–67, 256, 257; neo-Hinduism, 166–67; Nepal Mandala, 122–37; Ottoman Empire, xi, 50, 82, 85, 86, 87–89, 90, 91–94, 95, 108–9, 255; post-Revolutionary France, 70, 76; public statements, 84; Western concepts and understanding, 106, 121–22, 184 religious toleration, Theravada Buddhism, 179–80, 181–82, 192–94, 255, 258; Ashoka and Vamsa literature, 185– 88, 189; cosmological, 180–81, 188–92, 193; imperial, 180, 185–88, 189, 193; as incorporation, 188–92; in the Pali Tipitaka, 181–85, 189, 190; philosophical, 180, 181–85, 193 resistance, 29, 37, 42, 62, 63, 74, 75–76, 212, 221, 246, 256 respect, 17, 41, 44, 50, 51, 65, 251. See also diversity, respect for restraint of interference, 4, 13–14, 84, 141, 164, 167, 241, 242, 249; institutional, 15, 44, 82–83, 246; self-restraint, xii, xiii, xiv, 51, 55, 218, 219, 221–27, 229, 230, 255, 256, 258. See also noninterference revolution, 62, 75 Rig Veda, 142–43, 160, 173 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 63, 70–71, 74–75, 76 Roy, Ram Mohan, 144 Sahih hadith collection, 111 salvation, 8, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46; motives, 8, 42; preconditions, 55

samurai, Japan, 206, 208–9, 211 Sandel, Michael, 10 Sangh Parivar, India, 171, 172, 176n38 Sanskrit, 123, 127, 130, 142, 147, 155, 185, 191 Santee Dakota people, 23, 24 Scanlon, T. M., 241 secularism, xv, 106, 171, 257. See also church and state, separation secularism, India, 165, 166, 167–68, 173, 174; failure of Western liberal idea, 171, 172–73; pseudo-secularism, 167, 171, 172; tensions, and alternative, 170–73 security, as a limit on toleration, 53–54 self-expression, 27 self-restraint, xii, xiii, xiv, 219, 221–27, 229, 255, 256, 258 separation of powers, 75 Shah dynasty, Nepal, 135–36 Shankaracharya, Brahmasutra Bhashya, 144 Sharia, 99, 106, 109, 110 Shi’i tradition, 105–6 Shimabara Rebellion, Japan, 202 Shintoism, 201–2, 204, 205, 206, 207, 212, 213 Shiva, 123, 124, 126, 127, 148, 149, 150 Shri Hari. See Krishna shuddhi non-Hindu reconversion program, 167–68 Siddhi Narasimha Malla, 128–29 Sikhs, 129, 134, 135, 147, 160, 165, 166, 168, 170 Singh, Karan, 145 Sivasimha Malla, 130 skepticism, 6, 46, 47, 50, 73, 74, 217 slander, 222–23, 225 Smith, Louisa, 25, 29 Smith, William, 25, 26, 29 social contract, 43, 44, 71 sovereign power, 70, 71, 74, 75, 250–51;

276 Index

limitation of, 70, 71 Speck, Frank, 25 Spinoza, Baruch (Benedict), 66 state. See church and state, separation; public authorities; sovereign power Sthitiraja Malla, 130 “strangification,” 163 stūpas, 190; Bodhanath, 130; Swayambhunath, Nepal, 127, 130 subjectivism, 47, 217, 226, 227, 238 substance, metaphysics of, 32, 33, 40n49 Sufism, 90, 164, 166 Süleyman I (Süleyman the Magnificent), xiv, 92, 93 sunna, 105, 106, 111 Sunni Muslims, 103, 105 Susquehanna people, 24, 27, 30, 33, 34–35, 36 Swayambhunath stūpa, Nepal, 127, 130 syadvāda (semantics of possibilities), 162–63, 168 syncretic religions, 90, 165, 173, 206 al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir, 100– 101, 102, 104 Tagore, Rabindranath, 169–70, 173 takfir (accusation of unbelief), 103, 104 Tawhid (unity of God in Islam), 151 temples, Buddhist: cosmological and soteriological pluralism, 189–92; Japan, Tokugawa shogunate, 202, 203–4, 205, 206, 207, 257; separation of temple art and ritual practice, 192. See also stūpas Tibetans, 134, 163; Nepal Mandala, 129, 130–31, 135 Tokugawa Ieyasu, 201, 204, 205, 206 Tokugawa shogunate, 199–201, 211–13, 257; Confucianism, 204–8;

control and administrative use of temples and shrines, 203–4, 205, 206, 207; judging rights and wrongs, 208–11; prohibition of heterodoxy, 207–8; religious heresy under, 200, 201–3 Tokugawa Yoshimune, 210 tolerance: Atleo’s treatment, 27; Confucian kuan concept, 218–21; critical, 170; distinguished from toleration, x–xv, 3–4, 27, 83, 84–85, 256; India, 159–60, 162–70, 171, 173–74, 258; Locke’s doctrine, 48; “natural human response to difference,” 141–42; Nederman’s treatment, 5, 18. See also intolerance; religious tolerance tolerantia, 3, 8–9, 10–11, 17 toleration, 81–82, 181, 193–94; acceptance of the unacceptable, xii–xiii, 32–33, 217–19, 220, 222, 223–24, 227, 241, 242–46, 248; coexisting with persecution, 83; Confucian justification, 227–29, 230, 258; Confucian ren concept, 221–27, 255; critiques, 83–84, 251–52; definitions, x, xi–xii, 3, 11, 82, 83, 241, 248–49; distinguished from tolerance, x–xv, 3–4, 27, 83, 84–85, 256; duty, 50–53, 55, 227, 255; as forbearance, xi, xiii, 28, 29, 31, 50, 51, 87, 169; historical antecedents, 82, 84, 96; institutionalized, x, xi, xiii–xv, 15, 56, 71, 81, 82, 83, 84–85, 99, 108, 113; Islamic historical praxis, 107–10;

Index 277

judgmental, 10; Laozi (or Daodejing), related ideas, 241–52; limits, xii–xiii, 4, 14, 27, 28–29, 53–55, 62, 221–27, 226, 227, 229, 241, 255. See also intolerance; may solidify disapproval and misunderstanding, 133, 194; pragmatic, x, xi, xvii, 41, 50, 83, 85, 87, 93, 255; reliquishing of desire to dominate others, 55. See also disapproval; everyday toleration; metaphysics of toleration; noninterference; religious toleration; restraint of interference toleration, Western assumptions and practice, ix, xv, 4, 46, 81–82, 181, 193–94, 217, 224, 236; Constant’s defense, 69–75, 76, 255, 256; core notion, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13–15, 18, 141, 241; a core value of human society, 82, 84; differences in arguments, 255–56; insistence on universal adoption of concepts, 106; medieval concepts, 3, 5–18, 256; objection component, xii, xiii–xiv, 4, 6, 7, 11, 14, 15, 18, 29, 249, 256; a personal virtue, x, xi–xii, 41, 43, 51–52; related ideas in Laozi (or Daodejing), 241, 242, 243, 245, 248–52; a social practice, 31, 41, 43; toleration of atheists, 54, 55, 62, 66–68, 73, 74. See also Locke, John truth: authorized, 64; context, 162, 257; difference between Western and indigenous conceptions, 24, 38n6;

free error worth more than forced truth, 63–64, 69–70, 76; importance of truthfulness, xvii; individual truth-seeking, 6, 68–70, 72, 76; process of historical development, 72, 73; speculative, 65, 68, 72. See also belief; erroneous beliefs; knowledge; religious beliefs tyranny, 63, 73, 74, 75, 106; “tyranny of the majority,” 229 Umar, Pact of, 93 ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, 107, 108 uncertainty, 162, 257 unfilial (fukō) behavior, 208–9, 210 Upanishads (Vedanta), 143–46, 147, 153, 155, 160–62, 166, 173 ?uusumc (careful seeking), 27, 29 values, 84, 133, 217, 237, 251; as component of toleration, 11, 27, 52, 55, 84, 228, 230, 250; liberal, 105, 228; moral, 218, 221; of pluralism, 84, 218 Vedantic thought, 143–46, 149, 150–51, 153, 160–62, 166 violence, x, 82, 83, 84, 132, 146, 159, 164, 165, 166, 187, 188, 257 Virmani, Shabnam, 147 virtue: Christians and Christianity, 51, 52, 55, 63; Confucianism, 228–29, 230, 245; Laozi’s ideas, 244–45, 248 Vishnu, 191 Vishvedeva (all-divinities), 142, 143 Vivekananda, Swami, 144, 167 Voltaire, Treatise on Toleration, 86, 199 voluntariness, xx, 9, 42, 45, 63, 65, 69, 100, 212, 228.

278 Index

See also autonomy; freedom; voluntariness vyavaharika, 144

wuwei (nonaction), 239–41, 244, 250, 251; fu, positive form, 240

Walzer, Michael, On Toleration, x, xi, 23, 31, 221 Wang Bi, 238 war, 164, 245–47, 248, 251 Western liberal tradition, 33, 73, 106. See also noninterference; toleration, Western assumptions and practice William of Ockham, 5, 11–18, 256; Dialogue (Dialogus), 12, 16–17 Wolff, Robert Paul, 251–52 wunnégin (welcome, good), 23, 24, 30, 34, 36, 37n5

Yachats, Alsea subagency, 29, 39n37 Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, 209–10 Yang Ming, 207 Yokoi Shōnan, 211 Yushima Hall of Sages, 207 Zarfati, Isaac, 92 Zhou, Duke of, 220 Zhu Xi neo-Confucian school: China and Korea, 206, 207, 211; Japan, 200, 204–5, 206, 207, 211 Zoroastrians, 101, 107, 109, 165

About the Contributors

Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author and editor of eight books, the most recent of which is the award-winning Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2013). Her previous publications include The First Muslims: History and Memory (Oneworld Publications, 2008), which was recently translated into Turkish, and Islam, the State, and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). She was named a Carnegie scholar in 2005. Karen Barkey is the Haas Distinguished Chair in Religious Diversity at the University of California and Director of the Shared Sacred Sites collaborative project that seeks to develop a rubric for the classification, analysis, and publication of work relating to spaces and locations used by multiple, disparate communities for religious purposes. Her book Empire of Difference (Cambridge University Press, 2008) received the Barrington Moore Award from the American Sociological Association and the David Greenstone Award from the American Political Science Association. She is also author of the award-winning Bandits and Bureaucrats (Cornell University Press, 1994). Her latest book, Choreography of Sacred Spaces, is co-edited with Elazar Barkan (Columbia University Press, 2014). Purushottama Bilimoria is Senior Lecturer at Graduate Theological Union, Visiting Professor at the University of California, Mentor with Sanchi IndoBuddhist University (India), and Honorary Associate Professor with Deakin and Melbourne Universities in Australia. His books include Sabdapramana: Word and Knowledge as Testimony in Indian Philosophy (D. K. Printworld, 279


About the Contributors

2008) and Indian Ethics vol. 1 (Ashgate, 2007). He is editor or co-editor of a number of books including the forthcoming Routledge History of Indian Philosophy, the editor of Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Religion, and the co-editor of the International Journal of Dharma Studies. Xiaogan Liu is a Professor and leading scholar of Daoism in the world. Since he received his PhD from Peking University, he has taught and conducted research at Peking University, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Professor Liu is the founding and honorary director of the Research Centre for Chinese Philosophy and Culture, and the founding editor of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture. He is also the author and editor of many books and journals in English and Chinese; his most recent edited collection is the Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy (Springer, 2015). Koichiro Matsuda is Professor of Japanese Political Thought at Rikkyo University, Tokyo. He is also an advisory board member for Monumenta Nipponica. He received his PhD from Tokyo Metropolitan University in 1991. His recent publications in English include Patriotism in East Asia, co-edited with Jun-Hyeok Kwak (Routledge, 2014), and “The Concept of ‘Asia’ before Pan-Asianism,” in A Documentary History of Pan-Asianism: The Development of Ideas of Asian Identity and Solidarity, vol. 1, 1800–2007 (Rowman and Littlefield, 2011). Anne Mocko is Assistant Professor of Asian Religions at Concordia College in the United States. A graduate of the University of Chicago, her research has focused to date on the role of religion and religious ritual in conceptualizing and performing politics in Nepal. Her first book, Demoting Vishnu: Ritual, Politics, and the Unraveling of Nepal’s Hindu Monarchy (Oxford University Press, 2016), theorizes the role ritual played in the construction–– and eventually the deconstruction––of kingship in Nepal and the ways ritual has permitted the reconfiguration of the Nepali state. Scott L. Pratt is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Oregon in the United States. He is co-author of American Philosophy from Wounded Knee to the Present (Bloomsbury, 2015), and the author of Native Pragmatism: Rethinking the Roots of American Philosophy (Indiana University Press, 2002) and Logic: Inquiry, Argument and Order (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). He is co-editor of four volumes, including American Philosophies: An Anthology (Blackwell, 2002). He has published articles on the philosophy of pluralism, Dewey’s theory of inquiry, Josiah Royce’s logic, and on the intersection of American philosophy and the philosophies of Indigenous North American peoples.

About the Contributors


Benjamin Schonthal is a Senior Lecturer in Buddhism and Asian Religions at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He received his PhD in the field of History of Religions at the University of Chicago and has taught at the University of Chicago and Victoria University in Wellington. His first book, Buddhism, Politics, and the Limits of Law: The Pyrrhic Constitutionalism of Sri Lanka, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2016. Takashi Shogimen is Professor of History and Head of the Department of History and Art History at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His research encompasses medieval European and modern Japanese political thought. His publications in English include Ockham and Political Discourse in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Western Political Thought in Dialogue with Asia, co-edited with Cary J. Nederman (Lexington Books, 2009); and Visions of Peace: Asia and the West, co-edited with Vicki A. Spencer (Ashgate, 2014). One of his four books in Japanese received the 2013 Suntory Prize, Japan’s prestigious award for scholars in the humanities. Neelima Shukla-Bhatt is Associate Professor in South Asia Studies at Wellesley College in the United States. Her work focuses on devotional literature of medieval north India, particularly its performative aspects, goddess traditions in Gujarat, Gandhi’s thought and work, and South Asian religions in the context of globalization, especially as they traverse popular media. She is the author of Narasinha Mehta of Gujarat: A Legacy of Bhakti in Songs and Stories (Oxford University Press, 2015) and co-author with Surendra Bhana of A Fire that Blazed in the Ocean: Gandhi and the Poems of Satyagraha in South Africa, 1909–1911 (Promilla, 2011). Vicki A. Spencer is Associate Professor of political theory in the Department of Politics at the University of Otago, New Zealand. She is the author of Herder’s Political Thought: A Study of Language, Culture, and Community (University of Toronto Press, 2012), and co-editor of Visions of Peace: Asia and the West with Takashi Shogimen (Ashgate, 2014) and Disclosures with Paul Corcoran (Ashgate, 2000). Her research encompasses seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European political thought and contemporary political theory with a focus on culture, identity, and the concepts of recognition and toleration. Ken Tsutsumibayashi is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Keio University in Japan. He was educated at Keio University (BA), Nottingham University (MA), and Cambridge University (MPhil and PhD). His published works in Japanese include The Idea-World of Benjamin Constant (Soubunsha, 2009) and “Rousseau and the Future of Democracy in East


About the Contributors

Asia,” Journal of Law, Politics and Society 85, no. 6 (2012); and in English, “Nineteenth Century French Liberalism: Its Belated Victory and New Challenges,” Keio Journal of Politics 13 (2008) and “Fusion of Horizons or Confusion of Horizons? Intercultural Dialogue and Its Risks,” Global Governance 11, no. 1 (2005). Kam-por Yu is a moral philosopher and a Confucian. He is currently Director of the General Education Centre of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His latest publications in English include Ethical Dilemmas in Public Policy: The Dynamics of Social Values in the East–West Context of Hong Kong, co-edited with Betty Yung (Springer, 2016), and Taking Confucian Ethics Seriously, co-edited with Julia Tao and P. J. Ivanhoe (State University of New York Press, 2010); and in Chinese, The Hows and Whys of the Classic of Filial Piety (InfoLink, 2013), and Social Ethics: An Introduction, co-edited with Mok Ka Tung and Chan Ho Mun (Oxford University Press, 2012).