Somewhere I read the phrase, “Unity in essentials, concession in peripheral and charity in all.”
This came in my mind when I was thinking about the concept of “agreeing to disagree”. No two people are going to agree with each other on everything in life. Thankfully, we need not agree with others on everything. Having a different opinion doesn’t need to result in a disagreement, but rather in seeing the thing from a different perspective. This is called “interpretation”.
Interpretation is well demonstrated through various stories and proverbs. For example, we are familiar with the proverb: if you see the stone, you don’t see the dog and if you see the dog you don’t see the stone (kallak kanda naayak kaanum; naayak kanda kallak kaanum). Of course, as we all know this is not talking about stones and dogs, but about a symbol. If you see the stone, you don’t see God; if you see God, you don’t see the stone. Our disagreements and having a different (or second) opinion challenges our settled perception and helps us think differently.
However, in the name of “agreeing to disagree” we cannot function as a group without a minimum agreement on essentials. We can explain the differences within a group as “personal opinion”, but this personal opinion should not misrepresent the collective ideology of the group. Both the individual who has a personal opinion and the rest who oppose it should deliberate whether the personal opinion is related to the interpretation of essentials or comments on peripheral issues.
Take for example the recent controversy on Jinnah by Sri Jaswant Singh. The way the issue was handled by both parties snowballed into unnecessary developments where both began to call each other names. The main reason for this is the lack of “charity in all”. The way Jaswant Singh was expelled, the way the other party reacted, and the way he then responded clearly demonstrates this. Of course this is completely a political issue, but in a democratic country politicians should try to set a model for common people to learn certain values. Thankfully, we need not imitate them, as their life does not deserve imitation. However, even in this incident we can learn the lesson to agree to disagree with others, keeping charity in all.
Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, September 10, 2009.