Thursday, March 02, 2006

Other faiths and traditions

I was thinking about Buddhism and Christianity and Islam, and how so many of us divide ourselves into different groups and have feelings of animosity toward or superiority over people who don't belong to the same groups we belong to. I found this great quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, and I had to share it:


I would like to tell you a story. Thirty five years ago I had a student who fell in love with a young man who was Catholic, and the family of that young man required that the young lady abandon the practice of Buddhism in order to be baptized as a Catholic. That was the basic condition for the marriage, and she suffered very much. Her family was also opposed to that. She cried and cried, and one day she came to me. I said that Buddhism is not there to make you unhappy. Buddhism is not an obstacle, so I think in the name of the Buddha I can tell you that you can become a Catholic and marry him, but I would like to make a recommendation. You have received The Five Mindfulness Trainings; you should continue to look on them as the guidelines of your life. You don't have to be called a Buddhist; you only have to be a true Buddhist within yourself. Live accordingly and practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and that would make me happy enough. She was so joyful that she was allowed to marry the person she loved. But she did not sleep during that night, and the next morning she came very early, and she said, "Thay, a tradition that is so embracing, so tolerant, so open, if I abandon it and turn my back to it, I am not a person of value. A tradition that is so strict, that has no tolerance, that is not able to understand, how could I formally identify myself with it?" So she just refused to get married to that person. I thought that I would help her get married to that young man, but I caused the opposite to happen. Today, thirty five years later, she is here somewhere in this Sangha.

When I was in Korea a few years ago, I participated in the first dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, and I said that many young people have suffered due to being caught in that kind of situation. So I proposed that we should be able to allow Buddhists and Christians to marry each other, with the condition that the young man would learn and also practice the tradition of the young woman, and the young woman would also learn and practice the tradition of the young man. Instead of having one root, you have two roots. Why not? If you love mangoes, you are free to continue to eat mangoes, but no one forbids you to eat pineapples or oranges. Your favorite fruit is the mango, yes, but you don't betray your mango when you eat pineapple. I think it's too narrow-minded, even stupid, to enjoy only mango, when there are so many different fruits around in the world. Spiritual traditions are like spiritual fruits, and you have the right to enjoy them. It is possible to enjoy two traditions, to take the best of two traditions and live with that. If you like to eat Italian food, you can still enjoy French and Chinese cooking. You cannot say, "I have to be faithful to my Italian cooking", that's too funny.

--Thich Nhat Hanh

41 Comments:

At March 02, 2006, Blogger flux said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger PA said...

Thanks for that,Jules.
Isn't it funny how these posts often seem to be just what one needs at the right time...
I find myself, time and again, getting attached to this idea of Zen, and taking it too seriously -"I said that Buddhism is not there to make you unhappy"
Sound like wise words to me :-)

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

well i do sympathise with that idea on one level but:

i am one of the few people who have actually read and formally studied the bible (i've met a suprisingly large no. of people who consider themselves christians who haven't read it). it's a pretty weird book let me tell you. it is nothing like any buddhist scriptures i've ever read.

the thing is:

christianity and buddhism actually contradict eachother in several fairly fundamental ways. for example christians believe in an immortal soul and buddhists don't.
christians (at least the one's i've talked to over the years) believe that if you're not christian you're going to hell. they also believe in an eternal heaven which u get into just by trying to be a good person and (of course) excepting jesus as your one true saviour.
they also worship the creator of the universe whereas buddhists don't seem too mind much who created it or how it was created the fact is yor here an it's not going away anytime soon.

i once said to some christians (the kind that hang around tube stations trying to convert people) that i accepted jesus because i thought of him as a boddhisatva but no one boddhisatva could claim a monopoly on my faith cos they are all equal etc etc.
they hit me with: " I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." -- John 14:6

i replied that the words 'I' and 'me' in that sentence did not to my mind just refer to the actual guy jesus. it could be interpreted as referring to what jesus stood for (as a manifestation of a Buddha for instance). unfortunately they didnt really dig it and looked at me funny.
another conversation i had with a christian ended up with him asking me about the buddhas death and if it was important to buddhists (jesus' death being fundamental to christian philosophy of course). i said not really cos the buddha is not limited to the body that was gautama buddha so the fact that he passed away isn't that important. again he kinda looked at me funny.

of course to the theravada buddhists there is only one buddha per universe per cycle. infinte buddhas is a mahayana concept. this illustrates that it would be bloody difficult to be even a theravada buddhist and a mahayana buddhist at the same time let alone being a mahayana buddhist and a christian at the same time.

although i think it is theoretcially possible to reconcile eg. zen and catholicism, it would take such mental gynastics and bending of meanings of teachings etc that i'm not sure it is really worth the bother trying to commit whole heartedly to both at once. it's kinda like different languages. all languages are talking about the same thing but if u try and talk two different languages at literally the same time u just end up getting confused.

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

incidentally ( i love that word) the dalai lama says that you should commit yourself to only one religion and that you should strike a balance between knowing 100% that your own religion is absolutely the best one there is and knowing that this in no way means that other people are inferior to you because their religion is different. he also says that u should stick to the one you're born into but that would be the subject of a different post i think.(or maybe not!) not sure what he says about people who weren't born into any religion. maybe they're free to choose.

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

you see the kind of mayhem it causes?


http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29540

lol

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

Well, my mother is a christian and my father is nothing. My mother finds my interest and practice of buddhism to be against what she thinks I should be doing. However, she accepts it and does see that it has given me benefits.

In turn I have taken some of what I have learnt and taught them. I don't call it Buddhism and neither do they, but they can still use and see the truth in it.

I used to be hardcore christian many years ago so the leap to buddhism was seen by many as huge.

BTW. I don't consider myself to be a Buddhist. It is just something I do - like eating or playing squash.
Nothing special.

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger ryunin said...

i remember when I was seeing a woman who was catholic, I was so curious about christianity - no matter that I was a practicing Buddhist- I started to read articles about the most interesting Christians, and of course, Christian mystics - to me those were very interesting issues and I was happy I found so much in common between Christianity and Buddhism, especially some kind of meditation experience, but as I was eager to share my Christian excistement with my girlfriend, she was not interested at all - so I started to feel as if her interest in Christianity was a little bit superficial, anyway I am happy I did that personal research and now I know much more about Christianity - but still, Christianity to me is something interesting while Buddhism is something I experience in my everyday life so I cannot compare these

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger earDRUM said...

It would be nice if it was as easy as Hanh suggests. But most religions are exclusive by their very nature. They require adherents to "believe" in certain things.

I grew up within Christianity. I knew of no other religions until I was older. When I was around 10 or 12 years of age, I began to question things. And since nobody could answer my questions sensibly, I turned away from Christianity.

Later, while going to university, I became curious about Christianity. I wanted to understand the religion that my parents and grandparents professed to believe in.
One evening, a couple of young women approached me in the hallway of the university, inviting me to a discussion group that was going to talk about Christianity. So I went. It turned out to be a cult that was looking for money.

Later (1990), I wanted to get married. So my fiance and I started going to church. We went for a year, and liked the minister a lot. He seemed very "Buddhist" to me. I told him about the things that I could and could not accept. And he seemed fine with that. Maybe he hoped that my beliefs might grow. Or maybe he saw that I was a well-intentioned person, and felt comfortable with a degree of uncertainty.
Just before the wedding, the congregation kicked this minister out of their church. Their resaon? He was helping people with AIDS, downtown. The congreagtion believed that AIDS was a "gay" disease, and that by helping these people, he was going against the beliefs of the church. (And this was the United Church, not a fundamentalist one.)
At that point, I had to face reality and give up on lying to myself. It was the most honest thing I could do. I was tired of compromising, and tired of believing only so much. It didn't feel right to me to belong to a group, but not really believe what they said that they believed.

I think I could have a girlfriend/wife who belonged to a religion... but only if she didn't demand that I believe what she does. And only if she could accept me for who I am. I would have trouble with it, for sure. But I could accept it. After all, we all have different beliefs.

It is too bad that religions cause such huge divisions. But they do.

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

There are people who believe that if you chant Amitabha Buddha's name a thousand times a day, through devotion you'll be saved and be reborn in the Pure Land when you die.

Do you let those people define what Buddhism is for you? If not, why let people of similar inclinations define what Christianity is for you?

/Just playin' devil's advocate here. >;-)>

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Well, while we're busy playing devil's advocate, let's try this on for size.

Thich Nhat Hanh said,

"If you love mangoes, you are free to continue to eat mangoes, but no one forbids you to eat pineapples or oranges."

How narrow minded of him. Like any other sectarian, he's treating other faiths as if they were variations of his own. He's ignoring their actual character in favor of his preconceived notions -- his prejudices. And that, boys and girls, is what religious intolerance is all about.

What's the most obvious thing about the religions of this world? That they're tapestries of doctrine. That's what they're made of: each is a bunch of statements about truth, and the differences in those statements are what makes one a Catholic Christian or a Shi'ite Moslem. Believers are apt to die over points of doctrine, because that's the important thing.

Most religions deal in absolutes. It's no good saying they shouldn't be that way: they are. Tolerance begins with respect; and in this context, that means not telling religions to be something they aren't, but acknowledging what they are. It means granting the differences and addressing them somehow, not pretending they aren't there.

Now, Zen doesn't like absolutes. Fine. But here Thich Nhat Hanh offers his solution to religious differences. It's simple, sez he: just make all the other religions more like his. All they have to do is scrap what they believe, and do what he believes.

That's not the solution, it's the problem.

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Wow, rot-13, that was an impressive feat of mental gymnastics. Tolerance is intolerance, open is closed, black is white, ignorance is strength, and Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. :-)

He's ignoring their actual character in favor of his preconceived notions -- his prejudices.

You argue from the preconceived notion that some religions are inherently antagonistic to other religions. Aren't they all just paths to the Truth? That's what they all claim, anyway.

Sure, some proponents of almost every religion often paint their own religion as the One True Path, and that any deviation from their stone-carved doctrine is surely the whisperings of whatever their symbolism for "Evil" is. My earlier question was, why do you take that on faith?

What's the most obvious thing about the religions of this world? That they're tapestries of doctrine. That's what they're made of: each is a bunch of statements about truth, and the differences in those statements are what makes one a Catholic Christian or a Shi'ite Moslem. Believers are apt to die over points of doctrine, because that's the important thing.

Maybe it's way past time we all realized we're not Catholics, Shi'ites, or Buddhists. We're just human beings looking for the Truth about ourselves, which to some extent is contained in Catholic doctrine, in Shi'ite doctrine, and in Buddhist doctrine.

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger ryunin said...

If you don't go beyond words, what use is religion, be it Islam, Buddhism or Christianity? If you are not tolerant truly, what use is tolerance? If you don't kiss somebody, what use is talking about kissing?

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger me said...

Coincidentally, in my last post on my own blog I compared Christian to Zen selflessness.

Here is an excerpt:

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For if we live, we live unto the Lord. And if we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Simply replace the word "Lord" with "universe" and this becomes extremely Buddhist!

The original post

But the above comments reiterate the problems of comparing religions - it sounds like the "unamed is the mother of all but the named is the mother of the 10,000 things" [including multiple mutually exclusive religions] issue.

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Without demolishing religious schools (madrassahs) and minarets and without abandoning the beliefs and ideas of the medieval age, restriction in thoughts and pains in conscience will not end. Without understanding that unbelief is a kind of religion, and that conservative religious belief a kind of disbelief, and without showing tolerance to opposite ideas, one cannot succeed. Those who look for the truth will accomplish the mission.

--Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, famous 13th century Muslim teacher, scholar, and poet

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

“My brothers, when I think of this spiritual heritage (Islam) and the value it has for man and for society, its capacity of offering, particularly in the young, guidance for life, filling the gap left by materialism, and giving a reliable foundation to social and juridical organization, I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us, in order to preserve and promote together for the benefit of all men, ‘peace, liberty, social justice and moral values’ as the Council calls upon us to do (Nostra Aetate 3).”

--Pope John Paul II, address to the Catholic community of Ankara, Turkey, November 29, 1979


“It is in mosques and churches that the Muslim and Christian communities shape their religious identity, and it is there that the young receive a significant part of their religious education. What sense of identity is instilled in young Christians and young Muslims in our churches and mosques? It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict. It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence.

--Pope John Paul II, address on his Visit to the Umayyad Great Mosque, May 6, 2001 – first pope to enter a mosque

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

You WILL embrace tolerance OR ELSE!!!

kidding, kidding. :-)

 
At March 03, 2006, Blogger DA said...

See, I consider myself a Muslim, but I don't see any huge irreducible problem. Sufism has LONG held that the "self" is a transitory illusion that has no basis apart from the supreme essence of reality, which has also been taught in Taoism and Buddhism as well. I don't believe EVERYTHING is valid and true, but I do believe that there's more to the discussion than most sides are willing to admit. I do not think people should stick with whatever "religion" they were born into automatically; I was born into Mormonism, which advocates all kinds of ridiculous dualistic nonsense that will only confuse the issue. But, as has been pointed out, we're all just human, moreso than Buddhist, Muslim, whatever. And even Rumi said that he was not Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, or even human more than mineral, vegetable, or animal.

I think part of what makes the discussion rocky is the insistence by many modern Buddhists that Buddhism, particularly that of the Japanese Zen schools, is not a "religion", which I think is a bit disingenuous. By almost any reasonable criteria, Buddhism is a religion. When its presented as other, I feel like it's being set up as a "science" in opposition to other paths, which are "just" "religions".

I tend to think that though we take different approaches though, it's a valid path to the ultimate reality. I don't claim to know much. I do know that there's a central, connective force that underlies everything. And I tend to view those who seek it as my brothers and sisters, regardless of most other differences.

Sorry if I'm not making much sense here, just my views on it all.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

I like the Rumi quotation.

I remember reading a good answer to the 'Is Zen a religion or a philosophy?' question, which was that the aim of Zen was to find the source of all religions and philosophies. Ultimately I think that is a point where many religions meet. But on a popular level they all tend to manifest themselves as dogma.

Zen is relatively free from dogma, but you can see it there too: 'conceptual thought is bad', 'dogma is bad', 'enlightenment is good'.

Ultimately, I think the point is to be free from (which is not the same as denying) all dogmas and doctrines, all religions, all philosphies (including this) in order to find the origin of all doctrines, religions and philosophies.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger me said...

da & Justin - my take is that Zen is more of a method than a religion. In this way it is very much like science because science is a method. There is no guarentee what will be discovered using the method, but since there is only one reality the answers tend to stabilize / converge over time. The 'facts' discovered by science or zen are never properly thought of as eternal truths but are all provisional - ready to be changed if new evidence turns up.

I think this difference is critical and is the basis for the Buddha's statements concerning not believing his words - find out for yourself. What religion says 'don't believe anything that any member of this group says is true - do your own "testing" to confirm or reject these statements' ?

Additionally, where Buddhism departs from this zen method it becomes a religion with a belief system that its practitioners hold on to the way any religion expects its followers to do.

Consider also the phrase "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha." What religion would advocate this? If you meet Jesus, kill Jesus????

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Consider also the phrase "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha." What religion would advocate this? If you meet Jesus, kill Jesus????

David Koresh and Jim Jones certainly wouldn't have liked that statement...

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger DA said...

Well, true, as a matter of respect we would not advocate killing any of the sages or divine messengers, whether it was Muhammad (pbuh), Issa (pbuh), or for that matter Siddhartha Gautama (pbuh). Nevertheless, I understand that you don't literally suggest killing so much as not counting on these figures too much. And I couldn't agree more! One thing Muhammad said was "Obey me as only as long as I serve Allah; when I serve allah not, obey me not." I wouldn't exactly interpret this as an exhortation to authoritarianism. Muhammad even forbade his followers from treating him as a divine being, as the Buddha did, and ate with them in the humble mud-brick home he maintained, though he could have lived in the finest palaces of the Arabian peninsula.

Allah, in the tradition sufis have preserved, is not some bearded capricious sky-god. Allah is simply the name for the ultimate reality that pervades everything.

While I appreciate that Zen has often served as a very individualistic, very powerful means of bringing people towards truth, it has also (especially in Japan) been extremely regimented and authoritarian at times. I really don't think it's credible to say that the majority of Zen rituals (observed very stringently by most of the Soto sect) are "experiments in truth" while other rituals are just superstition or what have you.

I don't think organized religion, on the balance, has been good for the world. On the other hand, I do think true, powerful, revolutionary spirituality that lies at the root of the religions, is amazing and wonderful. And I'm gonna include Zen alongside that, whether it likes it or not :-P

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

I think that for some people Buddhism is a religion and some it is not. To say that Buddhism is not a religion would be a little wide of the mark.

There are plenty of things talked about in the tibetan and indian traditions that are religious in nature - not intrinsically provable either way.

The belief in enlightenment is itself an act of faith unless you have met someone who is enlightened (rather rare).

Buddhism is capable of being a non-religion. It depends on the practicioner. For me it is not a religion. For others it is.

I have seen some amazing rants about Kesa and robes elsewhere that are to my eyes arise from a religious viewpoint.

Dogen was some monk who had lots of ideas about various things including how to shit with dignity. To take everything that he says as 'gospel' requires a certain religious inclination.

Buddha was a spoilt little rich kid who freaked when he met the real world and worked out a way to come to terms with it. Thank God ;-)

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Jules, you've proved my point for me nicely, two different ways.

First, you said this:

"Maybe it's way past time we all realized we're not Catholics, Shi'ites, or Buddhists. We're just human beings looking for the Truth...."

If that isn't a perfect example of intolerance, what is? You want to solve the problems between Catholics and Shi'ites by removing the differences between them -- leaving us with no Catholics and no Shi'ites.

This is mighty high-handed, to ask the people of the world to scrap their beliefs. It's like preaching a "multiculturalism" that makes everyone dress the same and speak the same language. It's like "ethnic cuisine" with all the salsa and borscht and sushi and apple pie taken out.

But the hubris of this doesn't matter, because it'll never happen. Shi'ites and Catholics are going to remain what they are, no matter who tries to make them into something else. You'll have to begin by tolerating the religions that actually exist, not the ones you imagine.

The second way you've made my point is to give some excellent quotes about religious tolerance. From whom? From the late Pope, the sine qua non of dogmatic rigidity, the man who exemplified the meaning of the word "doctrinaire."

And you're right! Absolutely right. John Paul II was a beacon and a model of religious tolerance -- but he'd never modify his beliefs in order to "fit in" with some other religion. He knew that cooperation doesn't mean compromise.

So you've shown these two things: first, that your "tolerance" is antireligious; and second, that dogma and tolerance can coexist in the same heart.

Nicely done.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

You want to solve the problems between Catholics and Shi'ites by removing the differences between them -- leaving us with no Catholics and no Shi'ites.

Who ever said anything about asking anyone to scrap their beliefs? Neither I nor Thich Nhat Hanh suggested that anyone abandon their faiths, quite the opposite in fact. You seem to be putting words in my mouth.

So what do you suggest? Should we all stop talking with each other because discussion is pointless? Or maybe we can all use what we have in common as a starting point to begin peaceful discussions with each other. Of course, peaceful discussions can't happen if we're not really listening to what the others are saying.

And maybe, as Thich Nhat Hanh was saying, it would in some cases make sense to change a single rule or two where the rules are obviously wrong and, as in Hanh's story, prevent a wonderful thing like the marriage of two people who love each other.

You suggested there would be no Catholics and no Shi'ites if we start changing the rules that don't match up with reality. You think the rules should never change?

Pope John Paul was the leader of a very large, very rigid organization. And he was the first Pope in more than three hundred years who thought maybe the Church ought to issue Galileo an official apology because, hey, it looks like the guy was right after all, and we probably shouldn't have thrown him in prison to rot until he died.

It didn't destroy Catholicism to change the rules and admit that the earth revolves around the sun. In fact, it strengthened Catholicism to change the rules where they didn't match up with reality, don't you think? They made a change to the rules, and look around: there are still Catholics.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger me said...

I knew Jules hated dogs!

I feel like I just say something like, "Cats are cute." Then a bunch of people decide that my liking of cats implies that I hate dogs and I want to slit the throats of innocent puppies with rusty razor blades and sell them on the streets of Osaka as high priced snacks - Brad Warner

But I recall rot-13 is a wordsmith and thus is probably thinking that Jules' words are more important than his intention.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger endofthedream said...

My experience with the notion tolerance (religious or otherwise), leads me to conclude that it exists only when two conditions are met:

(1) the individual has a sense of psychological-emotional security in his/her own belief (religious or otherwise) and,

(2) the belief (or belief system) itself recognizes that what it postulates is not The Truth (as in absolute, i.e., "true for all people throughout all time"), but simply one version of the truth (the relative truth which may have relevance for some people some of the time).

As is said in Taoism: "The Tao which can be spoken is not the Tao."

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Me said,

"But I recall rot-13 is a wordsmith and thus is probably thinking that Jules' words are more important than his intention."

Waitaminnit, Me. You've just quoted a message from Brad, in which he slams people for assuming his intentions rather than sticking to his words. And in the same message you want to fault me for sticking to Jules's words rather than guessing at his intentions?

Look, we're in a text medium here. The only thing I can know about Jules is what he says. To guess beyond that would be to do exactly what Brad was complaining about. Jules is a good writer and expresses himself well. It would be insulting to assume he means something other than what he says.

So I try to write carefully and to read very carefully, and to respond to what people actaully say, not what I guess that they kinda sorta maybe must've meant.

When I fail, someone as articulate as Jules will have no trouble pointing it out.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

someone as articulate as Jules

Thank you!

Sorry if I've misinterpreted or overemphasized anything you said... So much of our daily communication is in body language, tone of voice, or other clues, and it's so easy to misread other people's intention when all we have are the words.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Jules, I need to preface this message. Coupla things. First, thanks for sticking with this topic: obviously it's as important to you as it is to me. Second, IIRC you're practicing Zen in Thich Nhat Hanh's lineage, so I know I'm criticizing someone you admire a great deal. Thanks for discussing it, rather than mudwrestling about it.

So okay. You said,

"Who ever said anything about asking anyone to scrap their beliefs?"

Well, you did, when you said,

"Maybe it's way past time we all realized we're not Catholics, Shi'ites, or Buddhists."

And so did Thich Nhat Hanh, when he said,

"You cannot say, 'I have to be faithful to my Italian cooking', that's too funny."

You two said it, not me. Both of you advocate a tolerance based on compromise. But what about those who think that what they believe is actually true? How can you ask that of them?

When I say that that's asking the Catholic to be something other than a Catholic, and the Shi'ite to be something other than a Shi'ite, I'm not making it up, I'm just stating the obvious. Both religions are defined by their doctrines; change the doctrine and you have some other religion. That's how come there are zillions of Protestant churches.

Nobody's saying that the various religions haven't been guilty of stupidities. But what we need is not to correct the faiths, or to compromise their beliefs, but to find some kind of tolerance that embraces them as they are and as they are probably going to stay.

You asked me,

"So what do you suggest? Should we all stop talking with each other because discussion is pointless?"

Of course not. Is that what John Paul II did? No. I suggest that tolerance has nothing to do with whether or not people believe the same things.

In fact, it's impossible to tolerate sameness: the very notion of tolerance implies difference. What we tolerate are those who aren't the same as us, who don't believe the same things. Anything else can't be called "tolerance" at all.

Wanna know an excellent model of religious tolerance? New York City. It's full of strummels and kafkans and saffron robes and clerical collars and crucifixes and Levi jeans and turbans and kaffiyehs and crescents and Stars of David, and nobody much gives a rip or lets it get in the way of business.

Put all of New York's religious in a room to work out a compromise, and you'll end up with a riot. Instead, what they do is, they live with their differences and wholeheartedly pursue their diverse beliefs.

Perfect it ain't; but it's not too bad, either.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger karen said...

There is something beyond all of this talk. I have just started to read Rumi and I find more I am more familiar with the experience he speaks of. Some of the christian mystics, such as Meister Eckhart, eastern mystic or philosopher Krishnamurti, and now that I'm reading Rumi, I think he too have gone beyond forms and point to the ground of our being. At the risk of sounding self-righteous or maybe just plain stupid amongst all these words, I have begun to think think that a lot of the so called masters, many modern day masters have got it partly wrong because they are stuck in a form. Maybe the form feels comfortable or familiar but, if you don't go beyond the form, you can only go as far as the form. If you read some of these guys you might get an idea. If you haven't tasted fresh garden tomatoes it's hard to explain the taste.

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Wanna know an excellent model of religious tolerance? New York City. It's full of strummels and kafkans and saffron robes and clerical collars and crucifixes and Levi jeans and turbans and kaffiyehs and crescents and Stars of David, and nobody much gives a rip or lets it get in the way of business.

Exactly. Humanity first, then religion.

Which is exactly what I meant when I said "Maybe it's way past time we all realized we're not Catholics, Shi'ites, or Buddhists. We're just human beings looking for the Truth about ourselves..."

I guess I wasn't articulate enough...

 
At March 04, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Jules, you said,

"Humanity first, then religion."

As long as there's room for the full expression of both, we're in agreement.

"I guess I wasn't articulate enough..."

You do write well, you know. Your blog is a pleasure to read. Plus I agree with you: I don't like spiders and I do like Linux.

Karen: you said,

"There is something beyond all of this talk...."

I hope you'll be patient because, yes, I do like to talk about such stuff. It helps me shape my own thinking.

I agree that there's something beyond the thinking, and that it's present in diverse traditions. (BTW when you talk about the taste of tomatoes, you sound just like the early Zen masters, who said that when you drink water, you know for yourself how cold it is.)

Still, the issue of religious tolerance remains. Mysticism is one thing, but hoi polloi are another. Religious tolerance is about the millions of standard-issue believers out there, the garden variety Baptists and Brahmins. How should we think about them? How should they live together?

It's a real issue, mysticism or no. So we've been chewing it over, and I do think that's worth doing.

I don't know whether or not you caught my message to you the other day, when I recommended the book Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, by D. T. Suzuki. Given what you're experiencing lately, and what you've been reading, I think it's a book you'll appreciate.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger Chris said...

Seems a rather nice thought/ story posted here.

Yet I can't get over the fact that it seems somewhat naive. It assumes that all parties will be quite open minded yet we are adressing an issue in which close-mindedness is at the core.

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Rot-13,

It's like preaching a "multiculturalism" that makes everyone dress the same and speak the same language.

Multiculturalism isn't about cultural sameness as you suggest - that would be monoculturalism. Multiculturalism is about multiple cultures and subcultures living together harmoniously in a society which is probably politically secular.

Well, you did, when you said,
"Maybe it's way past time we all realized we're not Catholics, Shi'ites, or Buddhists."


I don't think that's Jules' point. I don't think he has said or suggested that people of these faiths abandon their faiths. What he's suggesting is that people of these faiths are ultimately just human beings with a great deal in commoneven while practicing their respective faiths

Wanna know an excellent model of religious tolerance? New York City. It's full of strummels and kafkans and saffron robes and clerical collars and crucifixes and Levi jeans and turbans and kaffiyehs and crescents and Stars of David, and nobody much gives a rip or lets it get in the way of business.

Put all of New York's religious in a room to work out a compromise, and you'll end up with a riot. Instead, what they do is, they live with their differences and wholeheartedly pursue their diverse beliefs.


Yes, its a good example of multiculturalism

 
At March 05, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

First, I said to Jules,

"It's like preaching a "multiculturalism" that makes everyone dress the same and speak the same language."

And then Justin said to me,

"Multiculturalism isn't about cultural sameness as you suggest...."

Justin, I've suggested no such thing. I said the opposite. What you're saying is exactly what I was saying. I had thought it was clear that I was arguing for diversity.

Obviously, "multiculturalism" achieved by homogenization is no mulcitulturalism at all. That was my point, and we agree on it.

I think if you reread my message, you'll see that that's what I was saying; but if not, then I'm sorry for not making it clear.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Ah OK, sorry I must have misunderstood you. But I think you were misunderstanding Jules too. Has anyone argued in favour of cultural homogeneity?

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Cultural? No. Religious? Yep.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that point, rot-13. I think you misread both me and Thich Nhat Hanh.

 
At March 06, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Fair enough, Jules. But thanks for discussing it with me. I'm still not entirely happy about Thich Nhat Hanh's position as I see it -- but I do see it somewhat differently than I did at first. So, for my part, the discussion has been worth while.

Again, thanks.

 
At March 07, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

What TNH was teaching was certainly not intolerance but a high degree of tolerance. He was proposing that from the Buddhist side at least it is perfectly possible to follow another faith alongside it.

There are differences in doctrine of course but there's nothing in Buddhism to say that those who believe in a creator god (etc) cannot practice it. People who practice Buddhism have all sorts of beliefs and in a sense they're all wrong.

 
At March 08, 2006, Blogger rot-13 said...

Justin, I don't want to redo the whole discussion. So, the Cliff Notes:

You said,

"He was proposing that from the Buddhist side at least it is perfectly possible to follow another faith alongside it."

Right. And I was pointing out that for a lot of other religions, that's impossible.

Some religions put compassion before doctrine, others put doctrine before compassion. TNH ridicules the second group: "narrow-minded," "stupid," "funny," blah blah.

But I say, any tolerance that can't embrace them in all their rigidity is no tolerance at all. If we can't respect their different principles, then we are just as rigid as they.

Jules says I'm misreading TNH. I'd like him to be right, but I'm not convinced. This is where our difference lies.

 

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