The Dalai Lama on Kinship (Not Identity) of Faiths and Peaceful Coexistence

I just finished reading the most recent book of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together. The Dalai Lama is someone for whom I have tremendous respect and admiration. I continue as a Christian to benefit from his writings, as I benefitted as a Buddhist listening to his oral teachings during the time I lived in Nepal and India. (And the fact that when I was a Buddhist nun, he was the one to ordain me, has left me with a special feeling toward him.)

This book is a wonderful and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in inter-religious dialogue and the importance of peaceful coexistence in the world in which we live.

Although there are many people who try to claim that there are no real differences among religions, the Dalai Lama is not one of them. Instead his claim is that “[t]he establishment of genuine inter-religious harmony, based on understanding, is not dependent upon accepting that all religions are fundamentally the same or that they lead to the same place.” His book attempts to both explore the convergences among world religions and to establish “a model where differences between the religions can be genuinely appreciated without serving as a source of conflict.

This is not a subject of merely academic interest. I think the Dalai Lama is absolutely correct that the greatest challenge we face today is the question of peaceful coexistence. Religion can either be a force provoking conflict or a force promoting peace; in the Dalai Lama’s view, there can not be a “true peaceful coexistence” unless there is harmony among the world’s major religions.

Although a number of his suggestions address religious leaders, he ends his book with an appeal to all “fellow religious believers.” It is an appeal we should all take seriously and could profitably use as a basis to examine our own behavior.

Obey the injunctions of your own faith; travel to the essence of your religious teaching, the fundamental goodness of the human heart. Here is the space where, despite doctrinal differnces, we are all simply human. If you believe in God, see others as God’s children. If you are a nontheist, see all beings as your mother. When you do this, there will be no room for prejudice, intolerance, or exclusivity. Make the vow today that you shall never allow your faith to be used as an instrument of violence. Make the vow today that you may become an instrument of peace, living according to the ethical teachings of compassion in your own religion. Open your heart so that the blessings of your faith may reach into its deepest recesses. To all people, religious and nonbelieving, I make this appeal.