His Holiness the Dalai Lama (sitting 3rd from right) at the release of book titled "Common Ground between Islam and Buddhism" in Bloomington, Indiana, on 12 May 2010/Photo by Richard E. Farkas
Bloomington, IN: His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in a function on Wednesday to launch a book, “Common Ground between Islam & Buddhism.” This is a book that explores the common ground shared by Islam and Buddhism in the domains of spirituality and morality.
The book is inspired by meetings His Holiness the Dalai Lama had with Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan and their discussions on the promotion of religious harmony. It is authored by Reza Shah-Kazemi, Managing Editor of Encyclopaedia Islamica.
In his foreword to the book, His Holiness had written, “This is an important and pioneering book, which seeks to find common ground between the teachings of Islam and of Buddhism. It is my hope that on the basis of this common ground, followers of each tradition may come to appreciate the spiritual truths their different paths entail and from this develop a basis for respect for each others’ practice and beliefs. This may not have occurred very often before, because there has been so little opportunity for real understanding between these two great traditions. This book attempts to set that right.”
Upon His Holiness’ arrival at the venue, Ms. Virginia Gray Henry Blakemore from Fonts Vitae that published the book, began by saying they were honoured to publish this book. She said her publishing firm was aware of His Holiness’ outreach to other religious communities, particularly to the Islamic community, and became inspired to publish Islam in Tibet and as well as a video, The Ornaments of Lhasa, Islam in Tibet.
She said Prince Ghazi was unable to be present but had sent a message which was then read. In his message, Prince Ghazi said,
“Your Holiness the Dalai Lama, respected lamas, scholars and friends.
“I am grateful to God that the Book Common Ground between Islam and Buddhism is being launched today in the presence of Your Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. The aim of this initiative in Muslim-Buddhist relations is to spread understanding, compassion and mutual warmth between Muslims and Buddhists everywhere, and to remove, through our sacred texts, any basis for conflict or tensions based upon our religions. Therefore it is quite fitting that this occasion should coincide with the teaching of the Heart Sutra by Your Holiness. I give my humble apologies for being unable to be with you in person and for the form of this message. Please allow me to thank all those who have made this possible and are present with you today, starting with Your Holiness and his staff; with the author Dr. Seyyed Reza Shah-Kazemi and in particular with our dear friend Gray Henry, the publisher, who has worked with her husband so hard to make this day a reality. I do hope and pray this will lead to some real good in the world, in sha Allah.
“And all praise belongs to God Alone, and from Him we seek help.”
Thereafter, the author of the book, Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, spoke.
He said the intention was to go beyond the surface level. He said “I would like simply to echo the sentiments expressed by HRH Prince Ghazi, and to say how honoured I am that this book is being launched on such an auspicious occasion: the teaching of the Heart Sutra by His Holiness. Indeed, the aim of this initiative in Muslim-Buddhist relations is precisely to illuminate paths to the Heart: to engage in a mode of dialogue which goes beyond the surface level of ecumenical politeness, in order to engage with dimensions of spiritual depth, with everything that relates to the Heart. I hope that this book may shed light on the common ground of our shared Heart, where transformative love and enlightening truth interpenetrate. I hope and pray that, in so doing, it may come to assist believers in both faiths not just to come to know and respect each other more deeply: but also to manifest to each other that compassion which flows from wisdom, and that wisdom which is deepened by compassion.”
The next speaker was Ingrid Mattson, president of Islamic Society of North America. She said, “It is so fortunate to have the opportunity to express to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am grateful to you, Your Holiness, for being an example to all us and to me in particular of the possibility of remaining dignified in the face of persecution. Your kindness towards the Muslim community these last few years, publicly standing by us during a difficult time has been a priceless gift.
“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to learn good character from you and I pray that you will continue to teach us for many years.”
Thereafter, Imam Plemon T. El-Amin, Resident Imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, spoke. He said, “On behalf of the indigenous Muslims of the United States, he wanted to express his wholehearted and sincere appreciation that you have placed to bring religious communities together. We support these efforts.”
He was followed by Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama’s Faith Advisory Council, who said, “Your Holiness. I came to see you 12 years in Dharamsala facilitated by our friend, Brother Wayne Teasdale. I was a young man seeking a path and a purpose.
“You gently reminded me of the tradition of my ancestors, the tradition of Islam. You illuminated, a Buddhist monk, for me a Muslim, who had lost his way. You showed me the straight path. And when I told you about the small seed in my mind a growing of young people who had the ability to build bridges of compassion with religions instead of bombs of destruction or barriers of division, you said, Go Build. Your Holiness we are building. This network of young people building those bridges is growing. Please keep us in your prayers.”
Before beginning his address, His Holiness led a silent meditation, which he prefaced by saying, “In philosophical field, all religions accept certain ultimate truth that is something inconceivable and beyond words. So think about that ultimate truth and ultimate reality and remain in silent meditation.”
“Indeed I feel very, very happy. This is one result out of many years effort with sincere motivation. Basically, after I have more interaction with follower of different tradition I develop the firm conviction that despite different all carry same the same message, message of love and compassion. All have the same ability to bring happiness on this earth. In Lhasa the few thousand Muslim community, no record of quarrel, very peaceful, very gentle. That is the Tibetan impression, my own impression since my childhood.”
His Holiness recalled interacting with one Muslim who repaired watches and how he had to call this person quite often to repair his pocket watch. His Holiness said the individual advised him saying that a person who has a watch should have the feeling that in his pocket there is an egg.
His Holiness than talked about the impression in people, particularly after September 11 events, that Islam as a whole being militant. His Holiness said he felt that was unfair. He said there are some mischievous people in all religions. Talking about Buddhism, His Holiness said even during the life time of the Buddha there were some mischievous Buddhists.
His Holiness said some sad activities are undertaken by people with Muslim background, but that cannot represent the entire Islamic teaching or tradition. He said since then when participating in interfaith services, he had been coming to the defense of Islam. He said Islam is one of the important religions on this planet. He said he made every effort firstly to reach out to Muslim brothers and sisters. He recalled a meeting in San Francisco which was participated by people from all Islamic countries. His Holiness said he had told the Muslim community to do something when killing was taking place in the name of Islamic. He said that was morally wrong.
He recalled visiting the oldest and largest mosque in Delhi, wearing the Muslim cap and with his hands in the gesture of Islamic prayer. He said the next day the photo appeared in all major newspapers. His Holiness felt a little anxious as to the reaction of the Hindu hardliners. But he later learnt that his participation in that event had created immense positive impression among the Hindus. The Muslims are part of the Indian community and the image of him in the mosque brought the two communities closer and the Hindus appreciated that, His Holiness said.
His Holiness said since his first visit to Jordan he developed close friendship with Prince Ghazi who he called a wonderful person. His Holiness said the “young, energetic king” of Jordan was also a wonderful person.
His Holiness said more effort was needed to reach out from the non-Muslims to the Islamic community. His Holiness said the book may be the rare book of its kind representing efforts from the Islamic community to reach out. His Holiness thanked the author of the book. His Holiness said he prayed all the wish would materialize within a short period so that the problems on account of distance between religions can be reduced.
His Holiness concluded by urging people to read the book and also to buy it.
--Report filed by Bhuchung K Tsering of ICT