The Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama remembers a discussion he had with Thomas Merton on how the great religions of the world could learn from each other’s spiritual traditions.
In this era of rapid secularisation it has become all the more necessary. It is often in encounter with others that we discover ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi admits the debt he owed to Tolstoy and Emerson who both reminded him that the concept of non-violence was an Indian tradition. While people like Martin Luther King and Mandela looked to India to study the Gandhi model, Indians often look to America and South Africa to learn from experiences of promoters of the peace model. We need continuously to learn from each other in an era when we are hastily discarding many of the values we inherited, for example, community feeling, a sense of common belonging, family values, and respect for elders, women and modesty. It is time that we remind each other of our cherished traditions.
If we were to read the ‘signs of the times’, we would develop a farsighted strategy to enter into happy relationship with global Islam and other religious traditions in an intelligent and respectful manner. It will open doors to billions of people.
Our primary duty is to learn to live together in peace and harmony and collaborate in common ventures for the growth and development of the societies of which we are a part, working in happy relationship, respecting differences; not indulging in mutual contempt, violence, exaggerations and hasty generalizations.
Indian religious scholars have found the experiences of Christian mystics extremely interesting. There they find a common ground. South Asians understand religion as a continuous quest for the Ultimate Reality. One remembers Gandhi’s books, Experiments in Truth.
Buddhist expressions like ’empty fullness’ sound similar to Christian thoughts such as the last becoming first, the poor becoming rich, strength being present in weakness, having everything when not having anything. Spiritual experiences, as they reach deeper, are full of paradoxes. They induce spontaneous humility.
Asian holistic understanding of spirituality demands of religious people not to be over-assertive and compels scientists not to be dismissive of what they do not know. Asians feel that spirituality must be brought to every field. When it is brought to politics, one understands democracy as not capturing power but serving the causes of justice and right. In the secular world, spirituality fosters dialogue, search, trust, mutual acceptance, tolerance, and respectful curiosity.
Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil,