World Harmony Needs Communication Among Religions
(Ye Xiao Wen, State Administration for Religious Affairs of PRC)
I. Communication Among Religions Is Essential for World Peace In today's world, peace, development and cooperation are the main aspects of the time, but outside of these, there are surging undercurrents and violent waves. Growing opposition and conflicts among different countries, nationalities, and religions are becoming more and more violent and seriously challenging human wisdom and civilization.
The challenge comes most from the conflict between "terrorism" and "unilateralism". In the last hundred years, the influence of Western culture has expanded, and egocentricism and Western self-centered pride have been flaunted in the world, leading to the development of unilateralism and its accompanying opponent, terrorism. The conflict between "unilateralism" and "terrorism" has caused the irreconcilable contradiction and conflict between Christian civilization and Islamic civilization. Some people call this a "conflict of civilizations". As a result, regional conflicts occur frequently, terrorist activity is rampant, and the world has been shocked by terrifying wave after wave of terrorism.
In this nightmare of "conflict of civilizations", religions that maintain peace and tolerance are distorted and utilized by some people. They either interfere in other countries' internal affairs in the pretense of religion, or produce violence in the pretense of religion. Their purpose is to further stimulate estrangement, suspicion and hatred and trigger tension, conflict and confrontation. Pure religion is also blasphemed and holy religion trampled. The Manifesto of the World Religion and Religious Leaders Millennium Peace Convention says with indignation, "Our world is destroyed by violence, calamity, war and a variety of other destructive conduct, but all this conduct is often said to be 'in the name of religion'."
Therefore, world peace is closely related to religious issues. Since the relation between religion and peace has already become the focus of people's concern, the attitude toward peace and international cooperation on the part of the world religion, especially religious leaders, seems especially important. What Hans Küng, an advocate of "global ethic" and "dialogue among religions", says rings so true: "Without peace among religions, there would be no peace among nations; without dialogues among religions, there would be no peace among religions."
Therefore, world peace requires dialogue among religions. I appreciate very much the symposium on "the Dialogue Between Islam and Buddhism" co-organized by Taiwan Lingjiushan Buddhist Society and the Department of Religion of Peking University. This is a dialogue between scholars of religion and religious leaders. Scholars of religion have a deep understanding of different religions and their ideas, as well as issues concerning theology, philosophy, religion, psychology, sociology and social history. In the study of religion and discussion of the relation of different religions, the objectivity of their approaches and the non-religious nature of their language can help disciples of one religion to have a more accurate and objective understanding of other religions. It can also build up a bridge for the mutual understanding of different religions. Religious leaders each have a deep understanding of their faith, a unique religious wisdom and an enchanting personality. Their influence can be so strong and deep on their disciples that it can turn religious dialogues into dialogues among religious people, which in turn refines mutual understanding and tolerance among religions into that among religious disciples.
II. Religious Dialogues and the Importance of the "Oriental Model" In having religious dialogues with the aim of obtaining religious peace and world peace, we need to recognize the importance of studying and summarizing China's unique experience of a long-term harmonious coexistence of its religions.
In its five-thousand-year long history, China's religions have been able to respect and get along with each other. We see little mutual distain and no attempt to trample on the others; instead, we observe more of mutual respect and appreciation. We see little jungle law or bullying from the strong to the weak, but we observe more of the practice of the maxim "The ocean takes thousands of rivers so that it becomes vast, and a man accepts a variety of ideas so that he becomes great." We see little differentiation between superior and inferior or competition for survival, but we observe more equality and harmonious coexistence. We see little of indulgence in self-admiration or allowing only one idea to be expressed, but we observe more of mutual support and sharing, and allowing of "hundreds of flowers to bloom" and many ideas expressed. Among mankind, this is a very treasured experience. Do you suppose it could be called the "Oriental Model"?
This "Oriental Model" has its support from a profound culture. China is a country with multiple ethnic groups and religions.
The fifty-six ethnic groups treat each other equally, and Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Christianity coexist in harmony. This is decided by a cultural tradition that respects credit establishment, harmony building, and peace loving. "Harmony" is the eigenvector of the traditional Chinese culture as well as the faith of life and foundation of thought of its ancient philosophers. The meaning of "harmony" is actually recognition, respect, gratefulness, a blend and fullness, while its intention is kindness of heart, harmony of family, and harmony of society and world peace. The foundation of "harmony" is a harmony with dissimilarity, mutual inclusiveness, a seeking of similarities with a reserving of differences, and intergrowth. The best stage of harmony is a blending of love of one's own beauty, love of other's beauty, and coexistence of types of beauty, so that the world is harmoniously beautiful. Having successfully absorbed the Indian Buddhism and accepted Islam and Christianity, the idea "harmony is the most precious" of the traditional Chinese culture has helped to build in history a fine cultural ecology for the intergrowth and harmony of multiple ethnic groups and religions. This "Oriental Model" has come from rich practical experience. Traditional Chinese culture has maintained an attitude of openness and inclusiveness to all other cultures. China now has five major religions, and among them, all except Taoism were introduced to China from the outside at different times, and then took root and developed in China. Since then, harmonious coexistence has been the main theme in the history of China's religions and ethnic groups.
Take Buddhism for example. After its introduction into China around the years just before and after Christ, Chinese culture openly welcomed the religion from India. By the 3rd century AD, Buddhism was wide spread in China and gained a variety of schools from it. In 7th century AD, Buddhism reached its peak and formed denominations with unique Chinese ethnic characteristics. In addition, the long term amalgamation of Buddhism and China's indigenous Confucianism and Taoism has produced a rich and colorful Buddhist culture that in turn has grown into an important organic part of China's traditional culture. What is worth mentioning is that many years later, when Buddhism declined in India, the great number of Sutras preserved in China filled many missing pieces in the history of Buddhism in India. In April of 2006, The Buddhist Association of China and China's Religious Culture Communication Association co-organized the First World Buddhist Forum in Hangzhou and Zhoushan in Zhejiang Province. This forum was the first multilateral international religious conference held on the mainland since the founding of the People's Republic of China. Having "a harmonious world starts from the heart" as its theme, this conference aimed at building a platform of an equal, multilateral, open and high-level dialogue for Buddhists all over the world. It was one in which people were able to discuss issues that are common concerns of the world, declare propositions of Buddhism, promote solidarity of the Buddhist world, and further clarify Buddhist social responsibility and its mission of maintaining world peace. Its purpose was to obtain peace of heart, promote harmony of society, maintain world peace, and bring blessings to mankind. The forum concluded in the Buddhist Putuo Mountains with the "Putuo Mountain Declaration" that appealed to all humans to follow Buddha's instruction. It also brought forward "Six Wishes" as following:
A wish to cultivate benevolence and practice benevolence, so that hearts are filled with peace and love.
A wish to stabilize family feelings and have hearts brimming with love, so that families are harmonious and happy.
A wish to communicate earnestly and help each other equally, so that human relationships are harmonious and easy.
A wish for people to be content with what they have and live in peace with each other, so that societies are peaceful.
A wish that people appreciate, respect and include each other, so that civilizations enjoy harmony. A wish that people understand others as themselves and transform resentment into friendliness, so that the world is at peace.