Along with the technological advancement and globalization, every being in this world is closely connected to one another from all direction. Environmental crises, depleted resources, ethnic conflict, cultural clash, religious dissension, and so forth have been imposing threat to the wellbeing of mankind. Among all the chaos, how does religion play a role of a loving carer?
First of all, how does conflict come about? When we see another party as a competitor, we’d destroy them by all means for maximum self-interest. Warfare is one of the most destructive methods of annihilation. Wars are often triggered by the interests of few individuals on the toll of harming the majority. Most people’s lives, wealth, and families are broken.
However, the optimal value of life does not come from conflicts but interdependency. The great love of religion helps us to resolve conflicts and confrontations. Because of love, we understand and embrace differences. By reaching out a friendly hand, we can communicate and embrace one another. By seeing the value of interdependency, we’d recognize that conflicts only bring harm and destruction.
Yet, mutual trust is the basis of shared value and collaboration. Dialogue is a great means to create friendship and restore mutual trust. When the Museum of World Religions (MWR) first established, I tried my best to learn about religions other than Buddhism. To accomplish the platform for open and harmonious dialogues, my students and I traveled extensively to visit and learn from teachers of other faiths. Not only have we shared the joy of pursuing spirituality, but we've also built a strong friendship and trust. We have been sharing life and wisdom on the basis free from the intention of conversion and cultural conflict.
After the 911 incident, I founded the Global Family for Love and Peace (GFLP) in advocating the motto of MWR, “respect, inclusivity, and love”. Meanwhile, we’ve been holding a series of Buddhist-Muslim dialogues. We hope to make some input with the tender nature of Buddhism to mitigate the increase of violent sectarian. For decades, we've had over ten interfaith dialogues that had received great appreciation and acknowledgment from the society. These events also encouraged more harmonious collaboration among local religious groups wherever we visited.
Because of trust and friendship, we could expand our network of positivity. Together, we work for a harmonious interdependency. In 2008 , King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held a Conference of Religions in Madrid, Spain. It was organized by the Muslim World League. The conference brought together representatives of Islam and major religions to reinforce the common values shared by their respective faiths. With the trust that we’ve established, I was also invited. I hoped to share some of my experiences through this open door of dialogue.
The trust issue is one of the greatest threats nowadays. Let’s look at the examples of the Israel-Palestine relations, the North Korea-South Korean relations, etc. Although the ceasefire agreement has been signed, the civilians are still exposed to great fear. People cannot trust the agreement to be genuine and permanent. A slight doubt and mistrust could break an agreement if not being careful. A detrimental conflict might be the result.
Mistrust and doubt exist among people. With the lack of trust, we create restrictions and rules to ensure personal rights. Yet, we end up limiting ourselves within a small space. We've become imprisoned, restricted, and unfree. To change this, we need to restore trust as the foundation of humanity. Let go of doubts and mistrust. By building trust and friendship could we attain freedom and peace on a personal and global level.
I believe that peace can be acquired through collective effort. Inside every one of us, we already have a shared value that we are unaware of – life itself. Whenever a disaster occurs, like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami or the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, the first thing that crossed our mind wasn’t religions, ethnicities, faiths, or nationalities but the people that are struggling and calling for help. In times like this, our wish and action to rescue are the same regardless of religions or ethnicities. Fundamentally, we have no doubt that the value of life surpasses everything.
Start loving now. Before we initiate any conflicts, think of the helpless, crying, and desperate faces as a result. Do not ruin this out of self-interest or selfish intent. In a special place like Ladakh, it might not be a prosperous city, however, it is filled with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The beauty of multi-faiths expands fully in Ladakh that should never be forgotten. Such beauty is a happy source of life.
May it be the instruction from God (for theists) or the collection of causes and conditions (as Buddhists believe), we should not ruin this special land. Instead, we must cultivate it with love and harmony. Take Ladakh as an example, we should make it a place close to heaven instead of hell being torn by conflicts.