September 18 : Interfaith Dialogue
All religions are worthy of respect because all have something in them that is conducive to the welfare of human beings. They are all based on ethical conduct, like not killing or stealing, but having love, compassion, and forgiveness. Even if someone is not religious, these basic principles can help them live a good life, which is why His Holiness the Dali Lama emphasises secular ethics. His Holiness says, “My religion is kindness,” because kindness is the first thing we encountered when we are born. Kindness is what sustains us throughout our lives, and kindness is what we can give to others. Different religions have different rules and regulations, and their sacred texts may have been written in different historical times and cultures, but most contain the same basic teachings on how to live a good human life and create a peaceful society. This is so much the case that it is as if we are criticising the Buddha’s teachings when we criticise other religious teachings with a high degree of commonality.
We do not have to say that all religions lead to the same goal or reach the same conclusion. Theological differences do exist, but it is usually because one set of theological reasons for cultivating love, compassion, and ethical discipline makes sense to one group of people, while other sets work better for other groups. We can debate, but it should be for increasing our understanding rather than criticising another faith and its followers. I am not qualified to comment on the ultimate aims of other faiths because I have not yet actualised emptiness or bodhicitta — the goal of my Buddhist faith. Nevertheless, I feel very comfortable going to other religious services and enjoying the company of people who are thinking about more than just “me, I, my, and mine”. Our common belief that our life has a larger purpose than our sense pleasure enables us to have dialogue and respect each other. For these reasons, it is very important that we not only get along with people of different faiths but actively learn about them. We must speak out in our communities to counter any religious intolerance, hatred, or just general fear-mongering.
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