interfaith dialogue

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interfaith dialogue

Postby Zenshin 善心 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:52 pm

hi folks, i just wondered what your thoughts are on the subject? what makes for good dialogue? what should such dialogue's aims and purposes be? any experiences you wish to share?

a bit of personal history...like a great deal of westerners coming to Buddhism, i was raised a Christian (growing up, my dad was a rector for the CoE)...when i finally became interested in pursuing Dharma beyond just my readings of it, my parents were nothing but encouraging to me. Last Christmas my mother visited the temple i attend for the first time - v. happy occassion for me - and when i was uhming and ahing about whether to say yes to an invitation of retreat in Japan, it was my dad and stepmother who encouraged me to say yes and go for it.

despite their encouragment i've not always been so reciprical. despite my mother's honest wish to share, i've often treated her own expressions of her faith with arrogant contempt and disdain. i guess i harboured a lot of ultimately unfounded anger towards the religious tradition i was raised in. it's only really been in the past year or so that i've come to let go of that anger and appreciate and be immensely grateful for the spiritual mileau my parents provided during my youth. i've begun to show an active interest in my mother's faith, borrowing from her the works of people such as Merton, Kempis and St John of the Cross and discussing with her the places of con- and divergence between our respective paths.

of course, Dharma means everything to me and i have no intention of rejecting it for the "Good News" but rather, in looking back over my religious upbringing with less anger and more open acceptance, sharing in and seeking to understand as much as possible...it feels like a weight has fallen that for a long time i wasn't even aware i was carrying. and this has only really been made possible through the support of my Dharma friends, teacher and family.

i guess the reason i mention all this is because often in cyberspace i come across a lot of that same anger (sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle) i had whenever the "C word" appears on Buddhist forums (and i'm not pointing fingers here, this is more just a general observation)... often conversation seems to be founded on restating one's belief about how superior Buddhism is to Christianity or sweeping generalisations about how all Christians are fundamentalist nutjobs at worst or at best (ironically enough) poor misguided souls. i don't really see an interest in open discussion and appreciation of similarities and differences which may lead to fostering greater understanding and harmony between the two.

anyway, i'm talking about Christianity because that's where my history lies but i wouldn't wish this thread to exclusively focus on it if people have experience of other faiths and religions. enough blathering! over to you folks...
All beings since their first aspiration till the attainment of Buddhahood are sheltered under the guardianship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, responding to the requirements of the occasion, transform themselves and assume the actual forms of personality.

Thus for the sake of all beings Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become sometimes their parents, sometimes their wives and children, sometimes their kinsmen, sometimes their servants, sometimes their friends, sometimes their enemies, sometimes reveal themselves as devas or in some other forms.


- Ashvaghosa, The Awakening of Faith

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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Ogyen » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:02 pm

First of all, I am quite touched by your post. There are not many people who stop and really consider that their native religion might touch their families in the ways that Buddhism touched their children later in life.

I'm a firm believer that you can find kindness and love for the welfare of others no matter what religion you may have grown up with.

Every religion has at its core humans, and humans have some values I think that are supra-religion. The "ultimate" truths are the same for everyone.

Love thy neighbor as thyself
Do unto others as you would have done unto you
don't kill
don't steal
you know the usual ... don't be a piece of crap human being.

LOL.

People are people, imperfect but always trying to do their best with what awareness they've got. That's just the brass tacks truth.

I come from mixed ethnicity as you already well know, so my perspective was always "in between" two worlds. I never felt I fully belonged to either, but I'm deeply grateful for all I've learned.

I have a good friend who is very very Christian. He's not preachy, he's not ignorant, he's a very well educated scientist, who also happens to endorse the philanthropic humanitarian values of Christianity and well, a feeling that god permeates all.

I have a deep amount of respect for those who use their native religion to do good. I do not believe all truth lies in one religion, because all truth lies in the human heart and that goes beyond aesthetic, usually makes the format of religion obsolete, when we connect at the basic level, my breath and heartbeat, your breath and heartbeat.

Aesthetic is simply a means to express the inherent resonance to truth. Like, you get what you give. That's a pretty old truth. Whether it's god giving it to you, or yourself, the truth stands, you get what you give, you get out of your experience what you bring with you into it every moment. This truth comes in every format, from heaven to hell, to this very moment, pick and choose.

I agree with HHDL that people should not be so ready to abandon their native religions, that is find what works for you, but honor where you came from whether you agree or disagree with the ideology, it's important to recognize the universality of human truth.

If you reach out to starving child, with a bit of food, no matter what religion you or he is, what faith you or he hold, that food helps his little belly. That is also part of the human heart.

I've been very wounded by institutions because they tend to distort and politicize the human truths, but if you can step a bit outside that, and just see the heart of the message, and encourage your interfaith dialogue by encouraging the human aspect of their practice, I think interfaith dialogue is not only possible, but connective.

If I were you, I'd apologize to your mother for being an a$$ with lots of ((hugs)) and recognize you came from her. :rolling: You may not be her, but you came from her and her kindness and unconditional caring for you in part made you who you are. No matter how silly her ideologies may have seemed to you in your life, there is no reason to be harsh with her, your mother. Yes the institution has many faults, and I'm sure you recognize that difference, a bright young man like you. You already know she is doing her best, and I'm sure you love her dearly, and part of you feels bad for having been hurtful to her at times. We all learn when we leave space for our loved ones to breathe and go at their own pace.

I have no relationship to my mother, and despite the heartbreak we've both experienced in our relationship, I'm grateful to her nonetheless for having tried her best with what she had to work with. Right or wrong, clumsy or skillful, she always tried to do "the right thing." And I'm sure your mother did too. All moms do. As guided or misguided as they may be as human beings, they love their children and try.

I feel that to honor our own imperfections and give ourselves the same gentleness in space to develop our own steps for our journey, we have to lend lots of room to other people and whatever faiths they hold, because they are humans before followers of this or that faith.

Does that make sense? Sorry for the long rant. BTW, I'm still subscribed to your blog and have been quite a long time, it's very nice to see you again.

Love,
:heart:
Ogyen.

I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit. ---Kahlil Gibran

My addition is we are all of one religion - the human heart.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Zenshin 善心 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:30 pm

hi Ogyen, thankyou for such a heartfelt response. you've given me much to mull over and sit with.

I've been very wounded by institutions because they tend to distort and politicize the human truths, but if you can step a bit outside that, and just see the heart of the message, and encourage your interfaith dialogue by encouraging the human aspect of their practice, I think interfaith dialogue is not only possible, but connective.


i think that must take a great strength of character. i feel extremely fortunate to have not been wounded, which makes the anger i felt all the more silly and self-centered. however, if my parents had been fundamentalists or similar then who knows, i'm not sure i would have possessed the strength and fortitude to face up to my wounds and let them heal rather than picking at the scabs.

If I were you, I'd apologize to your mother for being an a$$ and recognize you came from her. You may not be her, but you came from her and her kindness made at least part of who you are. No matter how silly her ideologies may have seemed to you in your life, there is no reason to be harsh with her, your mother. She is doing her best, and I'm sure you love her dearly, and part of you feels bad for having been hurtful to her at times. We all learn when we leave space for our loved ones to breathe and go at their own pace.


a big part of my Chomon (retreat) was facing up to and confronting the hurt i've caused others, despite continuing to receive their love, support and compassion. needless to say, this matter came up quite strongly and tears of shame at my ignorance nature where shed, alongside tears of joy at being held in the light of Amida and embraced despite the hurt i'd caused.
funny thing, which illustrates how self-centered and blinded to the compassion we receive from others we can be - a few months before Chomon, we were discussing our respective paths and i told my mother that it was of utmost importance to me that i be born in the Pure Land so i could return and guide her there. but, confronted by how selfish i can be, i realised i could not bring her to the Pure Land....even as i was trying to, all the time she was carrying me on her back all the way there.

I feel that to honor our own imperfections and give ourselves the same gentleness in space to develop our own steps for our journey, we have to lend lots of room to other people and whatever faiths they hold, because they are humans before followers of this or that faith.


absolutely, it's too easy to get blindsided by labels of belief. perhaps when we don't honour our own imperfections then we lash out and attack others?

Does that make sense? Sorry for the long rant. BTW, I'm still subscribed to your blog and have been quite a long time, it's very nice to see you again.


yes, all of it. no need to apologise - i'm a ranter myself sometimes lol. thanks for reading the blog, and the warm welcome back :smile:
All beings since their first aspiration till the attainment of Buddhahood are sheltered under the guardianship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, responding to the requirements of the occasion, transform themselves and assume the actual forms of personality.

Thus for the sake of all beings Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become sometimes their parents, sometimes their wives and children, sometimes their kinsmen, sometimes their servants, sometimes their friends, sometimes their enemies, sometimes reveal themselves as devas or in some other forms.


- Ashvaghosa, The Awakening of Faith

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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Tilopa » Sun Nov 14, 2010 5:33 am

I never really appreciated Christianity until I met the Dharma but now I have come to see it as a profound and beautiful spiritual tradition. The parallels between Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism are often astonishing. :buddha1:
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Sonrisa » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:26 pm

Oh goodness. dumbbombu, Ogyen, and Tilopa. I cant help but to notice how similar our lives are when it comes to this.

I too, had a resent toward Christianity. I thought they were just fundamental nutjobs who just loved to shove their beliefs down peoples throats. I come from a Catholic family (actually, most of my family is Protestant/Evangelical. Only my direct family practices Catholicism).

Little by little, as I matured and delved into the Dharma, I actually started to appreciate wholeheartedly my Catholic heritage. I know there are differences but now I truly realize, as Ogyen put it, that the true religion is the human heart. I thought to myself that this is a great chance to practice tolerance. I thought about it this way:

My mother is Catholic and I practice Buddhism. Naturally, I would never dare to be unkind to my own mother..who cared for me, loved me, and provided all the best for me. What does religion matter when it comes down to kindness and love? I take this as a great opportunity to practice tolerance.

Sometimes I cant help to treat Catholic saints as deities who are in higher virtue than I am. So I make offerings to them. Sometimes, I even feel the urge to prostrate out of respect for them. I still attend processions, which I really love. It is something that I have been exposed to as a child. I am attracted more to the spiritual side of the faiths. I like to "live" my faith whether through festivals or observances. It truly helps me connect with myself.

I come to realize that all in all, we are all human being. Regardless of faith, we are trying to be happy. We are trying to be good and descent people. Isnt that what matters? I think that once this is realized, you will get a sense of humility and being to cherish others.

From my culture, I learned to blend in aspects of indigenous and Catholic traditions in order for the dharma to feel more "at home". Truth be told, I think my ancestors (European) were pagans before converting to Christianity. So I use these traditions to remind myself of certain Buddhist teachings.


I was watching videos on indigenous spirituality, Hindu festivals, Shinto prayers, rituals, etc. I found it amazing how humanity has ways of celebrating life. Celebrating life...that is what it's all about :namaste:

Now that I think about it, I consider myself fortunate because from my mother, I learned about humility. From Catholicism, I learned about my traditions. So it is as if I had this rich heritage that I did not even know about.

Ogyen wrote:I agree with HHDL that people should not be so ready to abandon their native religions, that is find what works for you, but honor where you came from whether you agree or disagree with the ideology, it's important to recognize the universality of human truth.


Truly, IMHO, I come to believe that Buddha dharma is just a way of life. No need to abandon your culture, native religions. Just apply the teachings into your daily life and find what you feel with help you to stay connected to your spiritual practices (finding what works for you). From my perspective, I dont care whether I agree or disagree with the ideologies of my native religion..what is most important to me is to be a kind person and find ways of celebrating life.

You too, can find ways to enrich your life just as you described :)
Namo Amitabha
Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

May I continue to practice loving-kindness and compassion for sentient beings. May my friends and loved ones be free from suffering. May those who have hurt me also be free from suffering.

Hatred is like throwing cow dung at someone else. You get dirty first before throwing it to someone else.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Will » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:49 pm

It is curious and wonderful that when we live deeper within our own better natures, every thing, person, religion looks better too. A mystic Xtian or Buddhist or Muslim or Jew appreciates (even understands) other religions more.

Contrariwise, if we think we are getting deeper into the Dharma and find other religions more stupid, repulsive etc. we are doing something wrong.
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Sonrisa » Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:26 pm

Will wrote:Contrariwise, if we think we are getting deeper into the Dharma and find other religions more stupid, repulsive etc. we are doing something wrong.


This was my first step. When I began practicing Dharma, I said to myself "How can I develop a mind of compassion and humility, and want to realize wisdom while belittling other religions and thinking they are stupid or finding them repulsive?"

So you see, I think that when one begins to go deep into their practice, these negative feelings begin to fade away bit by bit. It's as if compassion begins to naturally rise. (Is this what our true nature is?). Perhaps if one keeps this up, even more compassion will rise and help one on their path, as if purifying their minds from the three poisons of ignorance, HATRED, and greed?
Namo Amitabha
Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva

May I continue to practice loving-kindness and compassion for sentient beings. May my friends and loved ones be free from suffering. May those who have hurt me also be free from suffering.

Hatred is like throwing cow dung at someone else. You get dirty first before throwing it to someone else.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Jechan » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:03 am

Will wrote:It is curious and wonderful that when we live deeper within our own better natures, every thing, person, religion looks better too.


That is so true, Will! :good:

Few years back Sydney hosted the World Youth Day event. Catholics from all over the world and countless devout catholics in Australia made the pilgramige to Sydney for the events. The crowds were even bigger than when the Olympics were held in Sydney and people where living in makeshift shantytowns for the duration of the festival. They didnt mind sleeping outside on the ground at all, because their faith is so strong they felt content in any situation. When I saw that I respected their strong faith (even though I dont know much about catholicism), and wondered if one day I would possess such strength of faith in my Buddhism and go to such lengths of devotion. :bow:

Before I started to practice Buddhism and gain the benefits I`d have probably called them all nuts :crazy:
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby seagrace » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:56 pm

very interesting! I too, come from a christian background and I too, embrace hostility toward those that profess Christianity. My mother has had her own spiritual journey and is currently practicing Messianic Judiasm. I think that in reality, my hostility is not directed at the religion, but more specifically at those that practice it and use it as a weapon to show how wrong anything outside of their narrow interpretation is. After being attacked by my mother for my adoption of a "fad religion" repeatedly, I suggested that she stop pestering me and if she really has questions about Buddhism, she should talk to somebody more knowledgeable than me. I am myself always questioning and trying to understand what I read about Buddhism, and I do not feel as though I am knowledgeable enough about the concepts to intelligently debate them theologically. As a belief system and as a way to live your life, Buddhism simply makes more sense to me than any other belief system. My mothers response to my refusal to debate with her was to angrily deny my existence and disown me. Oh, well, at some point we will need to address that :crazy:

In contrast, my Mother-In-Law is a non-practicing Christian Scientist. She is non-practicing because she left the church over philosophical differences over the teachings of Ms. Baker Eddy as interpreted by her church. She is, however, a devoutly religious woman who still practices the idealogy and has a very open mind. We often get into very enlightening discussions about different theologies and their core similarities. From what I can see, as has been stated, all religions have at their core some basic ideas that are common. It's when man get's ahold of it and starts "interpreting" what the ideology is for others that we diverge and start to get into trouble. A true Christian is a forgiving, loving, non-judgemental person that is open and accepting of different ideas - at least willing to discuss them and has no problem with examiining their own idealogy with a critical eye. I think the same can be said for any true believer of any faith.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Luke » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:34 pm

I went to a snobby, fashionable Episcopal church when I was a child where I observed all kinds of vain and shallow people. I used to intensely hate Christianity until I discovered Tibetan Buddhism a few years ago and began to develop some compassion and was able to appreciate the similarities between the compassion teachings of all the major religions.

I like visiting Eastern Orthodox churches the best because they have such a mystical feel about them with all the icons and other things (and well, they're more eastern).

dumbbombu wrote:hi folks, i just wondered what your thoughts are on the subject? what makes for good dialogue? what should such dialogue's aims and purposes be? any experiences you wish to share?

A good dialogue results in both the Buddhists and non-Buddhists learning something new from each other and gaining new respect for one other.

Some Buddhists may say, "What could I possibly learn from other religions? I already follow the perfect teachings of the Buddha." But I know that there are many members of other faiths who are much more compassionate than I am, and I can learn by observing them and by listening to their thoughts.

As far as goals for interfaith dialogues go, I think that anything which results in benefiting more beings is good. If Buddhists agreed to help Christians feed and clothe the homeless, that would be a good thing. If Christians and Buddhists donated blood together, that would also be a good thing.

But before any words can succeed, I think that members of different religions just need to be able to sit next to one another without animosity and accept each other as human beings. If one group is always restlessly scheming and plotting to convert the other or to do outdo the other in debate despite displaying smiles outwardly, not much can come of any discussions.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby justsit » Thu Nov 18, 2010 12:00 am

No plotting here...

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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby Ogyen » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:15 am

Anything that encourages inter-being should at least be considered.

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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby spiritnoname » Thu Nov 25, 2010 4:01 am

I like communication and focusing on similarities, but I think interfaith churches white wash things and try to make all religions say the same thing,.. whatever they want to say.
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby plwk » Thu Nov 25, 2010 4:20 am

No plotting here...

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Probably just comparing notes on the latest iPod :D
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby KeithBC » Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:05 am

spiritnoname wrote:I like communication and focusing on similarities, but I think interfaith churches white wash things and try to make all religions say the same thing,.. whatever they want to say.

Interfaith churches? You mean like the UUs? I'm a bit skeptical of anyone who claims that all religions say the same thing. I'm pretty sure that not only do they not say the same thing but that some of the things they say are mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, some of the best interfaith dialogue I have participated in was refreshing precisely because the participants acknowledged the irreconcilable differences. Having recognized that we would never agree on those points, we were able to discuss rationally what exactly the differences were, as well as finding and discussing the similarities that did exist.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: interfaith dialogue

Postby spiritnoname » Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:20 am

Keith, that sounds like a much better way to go about things.

Interfaith Churches,.. haha,.. when I was a kid I used to talk to a Interfaith Lama,.. Lama Chuck,.. I probably shouldn't mention my opinion of him back them because he's qualified to give vows now and I might bother students unnecessarily.
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