Towards Transcending Religious Differences

A Middle East-Asia Dialogue
Beirut, Lebanon, November 11-15, 2006

Opening Remarks

Your Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church and eminent religious leaders, it is with regret that I am not able to attend this conference. Even though I cannot be there in person, I am very honored to represent Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association and say a few words in this opening ceremony.

Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA) is a global organization. At first glance, the work we do at DDMBA seems to be of a religious nature. However, in reality, we are working diligently towards transcending the religious scope of our work and contribute towards the welfare of humankind.

My own religious background is Buddhism, and I belong to the Chan School in Chinese Buddhism. From a Buddhist perspective, whenever we are interacting with different religions, we do not impose upon others to accept our religious faith and the doctrines of our religion. Rather, we recognize the diversity of religious faiths that is observed by people around the world, and we strive to understand, accept, share and foster tolerance and acceptance of these traditions. Therefore, my first proposition is to urge everyone to focus not so much on the discussion of one’s own religious background, of one’s own religious doctrine, of the similarities and differences between different religious faiths, but to focus more on the shared needs of humankind as a whole.

Due to the historical developments in all the religions, people approach their faiths from very different diverse cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Even within the same faith, they approach it from very different angles. I believe that the convergence of different religious faiths into one religious faith, or, urging all people to share a same religious faith is unlikely to happen. What is important in the 21st century is for us to cultivate and develop a tolerance and understanding of the diversity of religious faiths and backgrounds of all people and appreciate this diversity. Within this diversity and tolerant culture, we still need a common value: together to make an effortful contribution to the current society and to humankind as a whole.

Therefore I would like to make a second proposition for the religious leaders’ consideration: In this world of ours, starting now and continuing on into the future, all humankind must find a common path that reflects a set of global ethics which transcends religion, ethnicity and culture. Each religious faith tradition can preserve their unique set of ethical rules at the same time discuss the development of a set of global ethics that is shared by all of humanity. We can then come to an agreement of the content of this set of global ethics, instead of approaching it by using one set of specific religious ethics to replace the other religions’ ethical rules. Thereby, the planning and creation of this set of global ethics will be a platform for dialogue and communication amongst people of all cultural faith traditions around the world. When they come together, they will have a common path and a common goal.

I would like to elucidate: What we are attempting to do is neither to establish a new religious tradition nor to replace an existing religious tradition. Rather, while simultaneously preserving the uniqueness of all religious traditions, we can establish a set of shared ethics that can lay down a common path for the entirety of humankind to walk down in the future. However, I believe that this process would be difficult because each religious tradition has its own perspective, its own interpretation and views of ethics. But for there to be a peaceful future for humankind, it is necessary to establish a set of shared global ethics that can help guide human beings in their interactions. Otherwise, there will continue to be conflict between different religious and faith-based traditions and also sectarian struggles within the same religion/faith. If this were the state of our future, it would be very regrettable. So it is very important for us to find this basic ethical path of which all humankind can walk along, thereby creating a foundation for a peaceful future.

I would like to offer these propositions to the participants of this congregation, and send my best wishes for this meeting

Again, I would like to extend my best wishes.

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