I was priviledged to hear an exceptional speech by Dr. Robert Thurman at the conference on Wednesday. My few words really don’t do justic to his passion and humor. He is the embodiment of the ultimate professor. You know, the one you really want to have. For more on Dr. Thurman, please visit his site: http://www.bobthurman.com/

 Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, and co-founder and President of Tibet House US. He writes and lectures frequently on Buddhism, Asian history, and critical philosophy. A personal friend of the Dalai Lama for over 40 years, his latest book is Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet and the World.

 Words from Dr. Robert Thurman

Religion has long been identified as a cause of conflict and war. It is important to understand that it is not religion itself that causes war, but the misuse of it. All religions are united by what Dr. Thurman calls ‘The religious experience’. This religious experience is composed of three things:

1)     An experience of the transcendent

2)     Tangible fruit of this experience, known as love, compassion, truth and so forth

3)     A belief in the immortality of the soul

It is the purpose of all humans (including atheists and agnostics) to find that religious experience and spread the feeling to others. We become citizens of the universe by sharing this religious experience that transcends our own culture and tradition.

 On the subject of interfaith dialogue, the Dalaï-Lama considers two things. First, he aknowledges his own personal excludism in that he has chosen his own personal religion at the exclusion of all others. He believes in the wisdom teachings of his religion and ascribes to its practices. Secondly, he promotes social pluralism. While each person walks within the beliefs of his own chosen religion, there should be a common understanding that each religion upholds the same truth and should be respected and honored. This leads to many traditions walking side by side, instead of having one universal, non-denominational human spirituality devoid of inner complexity and challenge. Our religious tradition is the one best suited to our disposition and the most likely to lead us to that religious experience which unites us all.

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An awe-inspiring, soul building day yesterday. I attended the 2nd annual conference on peace through world religions, held in my home town of Montreal.  (http://gcwr2011.org/) Imagine. In one room, a multitude of religions and cultures coming together for one purpose: making the world better.

The guest of honor was his holiness the Dalaï-Lama who graced us with a morning filled with wisdom and laughter. The afternoon was reserved to a talk by well-known author Deepak Chopra and a panel discussion by fantastic speakers from different religious backgrounds. I’d like to share a bit of the wisdom that I received yesterday. Please pass it on! 

Words of wisdom by His Holiness the Dalaï-Lama

The Dalai Lama - Sa Sainteté Le Dalaï-Lama

Religion is supposed to be a source of moral ethic. There are only 2 ways that it can become a source of conflict:

1)      When religion is mixed with the quest for power and economic interest.

2)      When you espouse the belief that there is only one truth expressed through one religion.

The first example is pretty self-explanatory and we have multiple examples of this occurring throughout history.

In today’s world, it is simply impossible to continue to espouse the attitude that there is only one truth expressed by one religion. Back in the day when people lived in isolation, this was possible. We cannot dispute the fact is that there are multiple religions. The Dalaï-Lama gave the example of India and its rather peaceful co-existence of most of the world’s religions. What we need is to come together and express ourselves on our own religions and to learn the value of other religions as well. We have to start talking to each other to discover that we are pretty much all aspiring to the same things.

Rather than thinking in terms of one truth-one religion, we have to come to the understanding of a same truth being expressed by all religions. All religions have the same message and potential. All religion teach truth, honesty, compassion, love. Being religious is living a practice of love and compassion, meditating on selflessness and having faith in God the Creator.  There are people of all religions who do this.

Why did God create so many teachers? You cannot call God ignorant for doing that. Students of Buddha would criticize him for giving contradictory teachings. They would ask him: ‘How can you say this when you just said that?’ To this Buddha would answer that even among followers of one teacher, there are many dispositions. Contradictions can suit people of different dispositions and bring them to enlightenment. It is the same with different religions.

We all need 2 levels of spirituality: we need a general humanism to reach out to others and fight inequity. We also need a religious faith that guides our practice. All religions have good things. Practice includes the reduction of self-centered arrogance and the upholding of moral ethics. If you believe and pray to God, you cannot support corruption, lying, cheating. If you pray, you have to be serious in your belief. When you practice love, honesty and compassion, you pass it on to your family, and they pass it on to theirs and love keeps growing.  To grow in peace, we have to reach out to others and understand what they believe.

A young boy asked the Dalaï-Lama: ‘What do you have to do to save the world?’

You have to work on the individual. You have to make your mind peaceful and keep negative feelings fleeting. You have to train yourself in compassion and selflessness and find opportunities for altruism. There are always troublemakers. We ourselves can be troublemakers sometimes. We have to remember that these troublemakers are also created by God. We have to create inner peace and share with others.