Bodhgaya, Bihar, India - Members of an Inter Faith Forum from Gaya, comprising Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and Brahmakumaris came to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Gaden Phelgyeling today. The Secretary, AK Khan speaking on behalf of the Forum welcomed His Holiness to this sacred place once more. He told him that the Inter Faith Forum was established in 2001. Among their activities members visit each others’ places of worship and join each other in celebrating their festivals, acknowledging their common message of love and compassion. They reject terrorism at any level and work to encourage respect for all major religions.
“Spiritual brothers and sisters,” His Holiness said, addressing the group with a fond smile, “as I always say, we belong to the seven billion human beings. With two eyes, one nose and so on, we are the same; some of us just have more hair. Mentally we are the same, emotionally we are the same. Each one of us wants to live a happy, joyful life. In our childhood we learn that love and affection are a source of happiness as our mothers care for us.
“My mother was essentially kind. She would weep when she encountered people who were really poor, but always found something to give them. She was my first teacher of compassion. Now, scientists tell us, based on experiments I’ve seen, that basic human nature is compassionate. So, our education systems need to teach how to develop peace of mind, how to be a happy individual in a happy family and a happy community here and now.
“I sometimes ask if religion is relevant today and since everyone needs love and affection, the answer seems to be “Yes”. However, it’s crucial that members of different religious traditions live in harmony with each other. If instead we quarrel and fight, people are entitled to ask, “What’s the use of religion?” Therefore, we need to be active in promoting religious harmony. In June next year, there will be an All-India Muslim Conference in Delhi focussed on encouraging Sunnis and Shias in the Middle East and elsewhere to befriend one another.”
His Holiness remarked that if we follow religion properly, all our various traditions have the potential to bring about peace of mind. He added that paying lip service to tradition is not enough, nor should religion be a vehicle of exploitation; he insisted that we have to be sincere in our practice. He observed that materialistic education has brought many problems from too much competition to dividing people into ‘us’ and ‘them’. To counter this, His Holiness suggested it should be possible in India to combine modern education with ancient Indian understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions.