H. H. Dalai Lama: Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India – 1°Day
Settembre 21st, 2014 by admin

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India – 1°Day

New Delhi, India, 20 September 2014 – This morning, well before the announced starting time for the ‘Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India’, of which he was host, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was at the door of the hall to greet each of the delegates as they arrived.In a prepared statement given to all participants he explained why he had invited them. “Followers of all spiritual traditions try in their own ways to overcome the suffering that afflicts beings in the world and to bring about their happiness. However, it would be better if we worked together to fulfil such aspirations.”

Once representatives of nine spiritual traditions had taken their seats on the platform, former diplomat Lalit Mansingh opened proceedings. He warmly welcomed His Holiness, the Chief Guest, Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, and all the delegates. He cited several topics that such an illustrious gathering of spiritual leaders and representatives might discuss, such as violence in the name of religion; climate change and the continued existence of many thousand nuclear weapons in the world. He invited His Holiness to inaugurate the occasion by lighting the lamp, and he called on his companions on the stage to join him in this.

Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, Prof Samdhong Rinpoche addressed the gathering. He pointed out that there has been great progress in terms of scientific and technological developments. However, the persistence of violence in the world and damage to the natural environment were among the reasons prompting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to think of convening this conference.

A colourful musical interlude followed as members of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts sang a Song of Inter-religious Harmony specially composed in Hindi for the occasion.

The representatives of nine faiths were next provided the opportunity to recite a prayer or message. Ezekiel Isaac Malekar for Judaism recited the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew and English, Dadi Mistry recited two short Zoroastrian prayers. Ms Nazneen Rowhani gave a short reading from the Bahai scripture and assured delegates that her community would remember them all in their prayers. Prof Manjit Singh for Sikhism recited a prayer in Punjabi. H.E. Ganden Tri Rinpoche, Rizong Rinpoche concluded his short Buddhist message with a bodhichitta dedication:

May the supreme and precious bodhichitta

Take birth where it has not yet done so;

Where it has been born may it not decrease;

Where it has not decreased may it abundantly grow.’

Acharya Mahashraman recited a Jain prayer and H.E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias concluded his homily with the Christian prayer attributed to St Francis that begins: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace …” Sheikhuni Masheikh Dewab Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan for Islam counselled: “Become good by doing good”. Finally, Swami Avimuktetshwaranand Saraswati in his message reported that the Shankaracharya who is his teacher had advised delegates to consider how water and grain are needs common to all.

Lalit Mansingh then invited His Holiness to give the keynote speech and he began: “Spiritual brothers and sisters, I really appreciate how many of you accepted my invitation and have joined us for this meeting. Thank you all for coming.

I am just one human being among many. We human beings are social animals; we each depend for our existence on other people. Even the Buddha depended on begging for alms. Wherever I go, as I say, I just think of myself as another human being. I don’t think of myself as a Tibetan, a Buddhist or as somebody special like His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All of us human beings are the same physically, mentally and emotionally. We all want to live a happy life and we have a right to do so. And yet many of the problems we face are our own creations. Why? Because we think only of ourselves and neglect others.

If we were to think of others as our human brothers and sisters there’d be no room for quarrelling or killing each other. We’d remember that even the person we call our enemy is another human being. This means that our intelligence needs to be guided by warm-heartedness.” He said that since by some estimates 200 million people died as a result of violence and bloodshed in the 20th century, it is important that this century be a century of peace instead. We have to learn to resolve conflict through dialogue, the basis for which is a concern for the other’s well-being. This is borne out by the fact that if you are warm-hearted, you, your family and your neighbourhood will be happy, free from fear and anger. Such a secular basis for ethics may also appeal to those of the 1 billion who don’t believe in any spiritual tradition.

All the world’s major spiritual traditions convey a message of love and compassion, which is why we can view those who belong to them as spiritual brothers and sisters. However, His Holiness said, these days we hear repeatedly about conflict in the name of religion. This is very sad. The idea that people are killing others in the name of religion is unthinkable.

India is the only country where all the major religious traditions live together side by side and have done for more than 1000 years. This is an example from which the rest of the world can learn. And that is one of the reasons why I convened this conference.”

When the Chief Guest, Najeeb Jung, was called upon to speak after His Holiness he said he felt the challenge was comparable to that faced by Swami Vivekananda when he addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. He quoted what the Swami said: “I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.” He concluded with a common prayer: “As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

The Chief Guest continued, explaining that sectarianism and bigotry exist, but need to be overcome. If they are not, he warned, the eventual disaster could be worse than the destruction of Hiroshima. He remarked that mystics of all faiths have described their experiences in different ways, which is a reason to speak of the goodness of other faiths. He concluded by quoting Swami Vivekananda again at some length:

Do I wish that the Christian would become Hindu? God forbid. Do I wish that the Hindu or Buddhist would become Christian? God forbid. The seed is put in the ground, and earth and air and water are placed around it. Does the seed become the earth, or the air, or the water? No. It becomes a plant. It develops after the law of its own growth, assimilates the air, the earth, and the water, converts them into plant substance, and grows into a plant.

Similar is the case with religion. The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.” As the inaugural ceremony came to an end, His Holiness distributed souvenirs to the delegates and they all gathered together for a group photograph.

The first plenary session after lunch on the theme ‘Inter-religious Understanding and Human Values’ was chaired by media anchor, Karma Paljor, who called on Gopalkrishna Gandhi to open the discussions. He first cited three different cases in Kanpur in 1931, in Ahmadabad some years later and in Calcutta in 1947 when individuals intervened between violent mobs. They died but saved many others. They acted not because they were overtly spiritual or religious but because they were fundamentally good human beings. Their example, Mr Gandhi said, should encourage us to rescue ethics from religious institutions. He suggested that religious harmony is not the work of religious institutions, for it is the common people of India who maintain communal and religious harmony rather than their religious leaders. He mentioned that one of Mahatma Gandhi’s qualities was to recognise but also embodies a basic human decency. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati suggested that conflict happens when we only think of our own agenda, of our own interests; when we think of ourselves at the centre of things. He said that if we turn away from such a narrow view and see others as we see ourselves there would be effective change. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan told the gathering that if there is a difference between my religion and your religion we should try to manage it, to adjust to it. The difference creates a point for dialogue and discussion, which in turn stimulates intellectual development. He also recounted that when the Prophet was in Medina he showed respect to a Jew and when he was asked why he had done so replied: “Is he not a human being?”

Paul Dhinakaran spoke of how India is the only country he’s come across that observes respect for all spiritual traditions and cherishes inclusiveness. He told a story of the rich girl who offered to help Mother Teresa. The Mother asked her to comfort and bandage a newly arrived leper. The girl could not do it, so Mother Teresa did so saying that she visualized that she was dressing the wounds of Christ. Karmyogi Peethadheesh Swasti Shri Ravindra Keerti Swami repeated that by following different paths we can reach the same conclusion, but that to do so requires a sense of brotherhood and not thinking of your own religion as the best.

Sheikhul Masheikh Dewan Syed Zainul Abedin Ali Khan pointed out that if you have a group of children awaiting hospital treatment in need of blood, you do not ask for Sikh, Hindu or Muslim blood; the only stipulation is the necessary blood group. He advised that we cannot take what we cannot give; since we cannot give life, we should not take it either. When he finished speaking, Swami Avimuktetshwaranand Saraswati rose from his seat and came up to the stage to offer the Maulana a flower as a mark of his appreciation. Lochen Rinpoche asserted that without harmony world peace will remain a myth, At the same time, however, he felt the conference offered an opportunity to shape history. Dr Shernaz Cama recalled that she was taught in childhood to believe that happiness comes to those who bring happiness to others. However, she remarked that today, happiness is more and more being associated with material things.

Several questions were put from the floor to the panel before the entire assembly broke for tea and split up into four discussion groups. His Holiness the Dalai Lama spent time today with two of these groups, mostly listening to the spirited talk.

Tomorrow the conference will continue with a 2nd plenary session on the theme ‘Environment, Education and Society’, and a 3rd session that will involve presenting group reports.

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