The roots of non-religious, religious and inter-religious disharmony
are universally the same –
greed, hatred and delusion.
The most common problem in inter-religious dialogue is disagreement on perspectives of Truth. But disagreement is not the real problem if there is mutual agreement to disagree. The true problems arise from insisting to others that one’s disparaging view of their religion is correct, and the imposing upon them that one’s own religion is the only true one worth following. There is nothing wrong though, with sincere personal belief that one’s faith is the best. That would be “making peace” with oneself. However, when one insists others to agree likewise, that would be “making war” with others.
Asoka, the great Buddhist emperor (circa 304 B.C.) had this to say – “Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honour other religions for this [or that worthy] reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others.”
There is a diversity of religious beliefs in our world simply because there is a corresponding diversity of mindsets. Even two random adherents of the same faith are unlikely to have totally identical views. We need to respect this worldly reality – before arguing on any spiritual reality. If not, there would be no harmony but only conflict. Surely, a religion that is pro-conflict is not one we need. What if it is a central tenet of a religion that it cannot agree to disagree with others? Thankfully, there is no such religion in practice today, or there would be inter-religious chaos. With all orthodox religions advocating peace, this implies that those who cannot agree to disagree might not really be religious at heart.
When any inter-religious dialogue is not so much to learn, but to be preachy, there is no true dialogue. One will notice that those truly interested in understanding others ask and listen more than they speak. Sadly, those uninterested in dialogue are usually the close-minded ones too sure and proud of themselves, while belittling others’ religions. This itself is potential for conflict. During inter-religious dialogues, it is wise to discuss in a “monkly” manner – in a way calm, kindly, harmonious, rational and gentlemanly – a manner similar to the Buddha’s, as opposed to rude and impatient name-calling or ridicule – which often happens anonymously in cyberspace. We need to be mindful that this virtual tension can spill over into the real world.
The roots of non-religious, religious and inter-religious harmony
are universally the same –
generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom.
Excerpt from ‘The Importance of Inter-Religious Harmony’: