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The Official Website of Dr. John WorldPeace JD
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A Response to:

"Living Buddha, Living Christ"
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright 1999-2002 by John WorldPeace

All  rights reserved



A.  Religious Life is Life  112699

Twenty years ago at a conference I attended of theologians and professors of religion, an Indian Christian friend told the assembly, "We are going to hear about the beauties of several traditions, but that does not mean that we are going to make fruit salad."

The truth is that all religion is a product of what went before.  No religion just sprang from nothing.  Every religion had its beginning in the modification of what went before.  Like all life in this reality, there is diversity.  And as the living creatures on this planet evolve, so the social religious institutions evolve.

When it came my turn to speak, I said, "Fruit salad can be delicious!  I have shared the Eucharist with Father Daniel Berrigan, and our worship became possible because of the suffering we Vietnamese and Americans shared over the years."

This is not actually mixing a fruit salad.  This was just the sharing of the husks of religion; the rites and rituals.  This was not a modification of the intransigent doctrines and dogmas of two bureaucratic religious institutions.  Sharing rituals is harmless.  Mixing a fruit salad can be deadly.

Some of  the Buddhist present were shocked to hear I had participated in the Eucharist, and many Christians seemed truly horrified.  To me religious life is life.  I do not see any reason to spend one's whole life tasting just one kind of fruit.  

It seems obvious that God can hear Christian prayers even if uttered in a Buddhist Temple; and Buddhist prayers in a Christian Church.  It is the religious bureaucrats who are horrified that the inner sanction of their respective religions have been defiled by the presence and participation of a non-believer.

We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions.

At the most fundamental level, there is no difference in the teachings of the various religions.  At the core all teach "Love one another".  Everything beyond this is just commentary.  So I think what is being said here is that within each religion one can find the fundamentals of spirituality and those fundamentals are what nourish the soul.

Professor Hans Kung has said, "Until there is peace between religions, there can be no peace in the world".  

I think more to the point is the statement that, "Until there is peace between the religious bureaucracies, there can be no peace in the world."

People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies.  When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.

We each inherit a religion from our parents or our community.  And once within that religion there is always an underlying teaching designed to preserve our chosen religious bureaucracy.  This is because the primary function of any religion is preservation and only second the spreading of the fundamental teaching of spirituality.  I suppose the bureaucratic argument is that without the bureaucracy there would be no one to teach.  I would say that without the bureaucracy there would be no one to teach a separatist exclusive belief system that distinguishes those who worship through other religious vehicles.

The second precept of the Order of Interbeing, founded within the Zen Buddhist tradition during the war in Vietnam, is about letting go of views: "Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth.  Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views.  Learn and practice non attachment from views in order to open and receive others' viewpoints."  To me, this is the most essential practice of peace.

This is good advice.  Each religion defines the universe in a way that its followers can understand.  The diverse people of the world cannot all speak the same language and they cannot at the same time understand the religious metaphors from all the various religions.  So each individual listens to the religion that he or she can understand.  There are many religions but only one God.

[There are two concepts of God; the personal God and the Infinite Potential.  The Infinite Potential is all things and nothing.  It is the infinite realm of everything.  It is the concept that God is everywhere.  "Where can one go an not be a part of God?  The answer is nowhere."

The personal God is the God of the West; Jehovah, Allah, Yahweh. This is a personal super being.  But that God is a product of the Infinite Potential which manifested him. The personal God is a limited view of God.  The Infinite Potential is an all inclusive view.]

B.  Dialogue: The key to peace  112699

I have been engaged in peace work for more than thirty years: combating poverty, ignorance, and disease; going to sea to help rescue boat people; evacuating the wounded from combat zones; resettling refugees; helping hungry children and orphans; opposing wars; producing and disseminating peace literature; training peace and social workers; and rebuilding villages destroyed by bombs. It is because of the practice of meditation - stopping, calming, and looking deeply - that I have been able to nourish and protect the sources of my spiritual energy and continue this work.

I have been engaged in the work of fitting into society as an insurance salesman, an accountant and presently as an attorney. I have helped people with all kinds of recurring problems like paying taxes, financial bankruptcy, criminal acts, abuse from others.  I have also fathered four children who have to date given birth to four grandchildren.  I have experienced the trauma of divorce and its disruption of family and the negative impact on my children.  I have fought my ex-wife in a bitter post divorce battle.  I was drafted into the U. S. Army two months after graduating from the University of Houston, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1970.  I was trained for twelve months as an infantry sergeant to kill the Vietnamese people but at the end of that training I was instead sent to Vicenza, Italy.  My first marriage lasted seventeen years and I have now been married to my second wife for eleven years.

I have helped take care of my present wife's ailing father until his death, her mongoloid sister, and I have fought with my wife's other sisters in typical family conflicts.  I have been attacked by my ex-wife and consequently had to move to Colorado to remove my children from her influence.  I have worked as a day laborer and I have fought legal battles in the court system.  I have been well off and I have been without.

It is because of my faith and spirituality that I have endured and grown in each and every one of these environments.  I have never lost my faith.  I have never complained about my situation.  I know from personal experience that there is more to existence than can be easily perceived in this reality.  I have been on a lifetime quest for an understanding of the spiritual side of this reality.  I have always moment to moment walked in both this reality and the spiritual reality.

There is no doubt  in my mind that there is an order to the universe.  There is no doubt that I receive help from the spiritual reality.  There is no doubt that all things are as they should be and that I am experiencing exactly what I am supposed to be experiencing, and I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.

During the war in Vietnam, I saw communist and anti-communist killing and destroying each other because each side believed they had a monopoly on the truth.  Many Christians and Buddhists in our country were fighting each other instead of working together to stop the war.

All my life, in every aspect of the local and world society, I have seen the apathy that permeates humanity.  I have seen the vast majority of my fellow human beings foist hatred, prejudice, physical and mental violence on others.  Nothing has changed in my lifetime.  I hear of nations fighting, religions killing in the name of their God and beliefs, I have seen unfounded racial prejudice and I have seen women treated as chattel.  And I have seen the rich ignore the poor, and the healthy avoid the sick, children abused by their parents and parents abused by their children.  I have come to believe that nowhere within any society do these hurtful acts not exists. The pain and suffering from war is nothing compared to what I see happening every moment of every single day.  The question is how many eyes do others require to see the suffering and how many ears do others need to hear the pain?

I wrote a booklet entitled "Dialogue:  the Key to Peace," but my voice was drowned out by the bombs, mortars, and shouting.

I wrote a book entitled "The Book of Peace" and one of the Vice President's of Harper's San Francisco was interested in publishing it.  However when it was submitted to his editors they said that Peace does not sell.  I was mad.  But the editor was right.  People's apathy applies in daily life and during times of war.  Unless you are directly negatively impacting on someone's life, discussions and considerations of Peace are among the lowest of priorities.

An American soldier standing on the back of a military truck spit on the head of my disciple, a young monk name Nhat Tri.  The soldier must have thought we Buddhist were undermining America's war effort or that my disciple was a communist in disguise.

No I think the soldier had depersonalized every Vietnamese in order to justify his committing of murder. I was drafted.  I was told that I would kill the yellow man or he would kill me and my friends.  I could not avoid the draft without having my life destroyed.  I believe that life is transient and that one cannot actually kill anyone.  This is the theme of the Hindu Bhavagad Gita.  I was prepared to kill. My grandparents were farmers and when you live on the farm you very soon understand that the life of an animal is cheap. I had hunted and killed birds and animals.  I had shot them in the guts and rung their necks.  I knew that I could kill if someone tried to kill me.  During my military training I prepared myself to survive a war that I did not agree with but a war that I would not let destroy my life.  I was prepared to murder for my country because I did not want to have to go to Canada and leave my family in Houston, Texas.

Brother Nhat Tri became so angry that he thought about leaving the monastery and joining the National Liberation Front.  Because I had been practicing meditation, I was able to see that everyone in the war was a victim, that the American soldiers who had been sent to Vietnam to bomb, kill, and destroy were also being killed and maimed.

I did not need one minute of meditation to know that war was a mixture of genocide and insanity.  That it is a failure of leadership at the highest levels that manifests war.

I urged Brother Nhat Tri to remember that the G.I. was also a war victim, the victim of a wrong view and a wrong policy, and I urged him to continue his work for peace as a monk.  He was able to see that, and he became one of the most active workers in the Buddhist School of Youth for Social Service.

I am glad that Brother Tri had a choice.  I am glad that he chose not to join the insanity.  But the policy was defective in both the United States and Vietnam.  Nothing justifies war.  Nothing.  War is no more than human beings murdering other human beings and it can never be justified.

In 1966, I came to North America to try to help dissolve some of the wrong views that were at the root of the war.  I met with hundreds of individuals and small groups, and also with members of Congress and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.  The visit was organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace organization, and many active Christians helped me in these efforts, among them Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Father Thomas Merton, and Father Daniel Berrigan.  These were, in fact, the Americans I found it easiest to communicate with.

I never had the privilege of doing any more than reading the works of Dr. King and Thomas Merton.  In 1966, I entered the University of Houston.  Had I not gone to college ( I intended to go anyway) I would have been drafted to go and fight in Vietnam.  On the UH campus at that time there were the radical hippie "end the war" types and the traditional staunch conservative "My country right or wrong" types.  In the middle was the vast majority of apathetic observers.  

I have never been a joiner and so I did not participate in the activities of either group.  I just went about my business of working full time and going to college full time.  I wore blend-in clothing and just attended class observing the constant demonstrations and rhetorical exchanges about the war between both large and small gatherings of students.

My feelings at that time were that the hippies had some valid but unrealistic concepts about the war.  I tended to view the most radical of the war activists as fearing a stint in the military under any circumstances.  After being drafted I well understood what these radicals were afraid of.  There was no way that the majority of them would have been able to put up with the strict discipline of the military.  This has nothing to do with the morality of murdering other human beings or the potential of being killed or worse, permanently disabled.

My father had been in World War II and my uncles had served in the Army in peacetime.  My great uncle was gassed in World War I and I had a relative who served in the American Civil War as another who served in the Revolutionary War.  Virtually all the men in my neighborhood who were the age of my father had served in WWII and a lot of them were U.S. Marines.  So in the early fifties when I was a child, I would often hear the men of the neighborhood telling war stories.  I found these interesting but more than anything I felt that, regardless of the politics, one had an obligation to serve in the military if called on to do so.  And more importantly, these neighbors impressed on me the obligation that one had if one lived in the United States and enjoyed its freedoms.  I seemed to believe that it was better to serve in an unjust war than to avoid serving one's country.  

During the Vietnam war there were alternatives to actually going to Vietnam.  One could, at the beginning of the war, avoid being drafted by getting married or going to college.  There were also opportunities to go into the National Guard which would significantly reduce the possibilities of going to Vietnam.  There was also the possibility of joining the military (as opposed to being drafted) and choosing a military job other than the infantry.  And of course there was alternate service and conscious objector status.  Most of the hippie (I use hippie metaphorically as a generic ultra liberal mindset) radicals that I knew did not find any of these alternatives acceptable and I viewed that negatively.  I felt that to refuse under any circumstance to serve one's country, to make a real commitment, was a form of shirking one's responsibilities.  If one accepts the benefits of one's country, one should contribute to the preservation of those benefits in a real way.

So while Brother Hanh was working in the peace movement I was trying to live a normal life in abnormal times.  Not only was the Vietnam war going on, the civil rights movement was in full swing.  American society was in the throws of radical change and in the Southern states the Civil War mentality was still very real.  One has to understand that when my grandparents were young, there were still a lot of civil war veterans alive.  And those veterans in the south had not abdicated their racial prejudices just because they lost the war.  So discrimination was very real and taken as a given when I was a child.  

And here was Dr. King trying to pry loose the death grip that the South had around the African American population.  He was moving too fast and he was assassinated because of it.

C. Touching Jesus  112799

But my path to discovering Jesus as one of my spiritual ancestors was not easy.  The colonization of my country by the French was deeply connected with the efforts of the Christians missionaries.  In the late seventeenth century, Alexandre de Rhodes, one of the most active of the missionaries, wrote in his "Cathechismus in Octo Dies Divisus: " Just as when a cursed, barren tree is cut down, the branches that are still on it will also fall, when the sinister and deceitful Sakya [Buddha] is defeated, the idolatrous fabrications that proceed from him will also be destroyed."

My path to Jesus was rather easy; my parents were practicing Christians and in the 1950's there were no significant (in the sense of large membership) religious institutions in Houston, Texas.  This is not really strange because during that same time African Americans could not drink out of the same water fountains as whites or use the same bathrooms.  An African American who attempted to enter a white church for purposes other than taking care of the cleaning and maintenance of the building would have been sternly talked to about not returning.  If  the talk was not enough, no doubt some level of physical violence would have accomplished the goal of maintaining segregation.

So Jesus was easy because there were no real alternatives.  Everyone I knew was a Christian.

As regards to the words of Mr. Rhodes, that mindset was applied to the extreme in the Americas.  In the Americas starting in the late 1400's, the native populations were exterminated as quickly as possible, their holy places ransacked, their gold melted down and shipped back to Europe, and their sacred texts were destroyed and burned, mostly in the name of Jesus.  It was murder then and it is murder now.  What happened in Vietnam was just another chapter in the Christian book of arrogance and genocide and oppression.

Later, in the late 1950's and the early 1960's, Catholic Archbishop Ngo Dinh Thuc, in his efforts to evangelize Vietnam, leaned heavily on the political power of his brother, President Ngo Dinh Diem.  President Diem's 1963 decree prohibiting the celebration of Wesak, the most important Buddhist national holiday, was the straw that broke our back.  Tens of thousands of lay and ordained Buddhists demonstrated for religious freedom, leading to a coup d'etat and the overthrow of the Diem regime.  In such an atmosphere of discrimination and injustice against non-Christians, it was difficult for me to discover the beauty of Jesus' teaching.

What is interesting here is that Buddhism preaches non-attachment to the world as a way to its equivalent of the Christian heaven.  But it seems that religion is not one of the things that Buddhist should detach themselves from.  What is more interesting is that Brother Hanh was or is a Zennist who are extreme in their teachings regarding non-attachment.  However, the main thing that strikes me here is that the Buddhists who are perceived as pacifists are not that passive when it comes to Buddhism.  From a Western perspective, it seems that Buddhism is much more tolerant and less aggressive that Christianity, Islam and Judaism.  But it would be hard to say that Buddhism is a perfect example of non-violence.  Although it is not mentioned by Brother Hanh, I believe there was some Buddhists who committed violence in the name of Buddhism during those days.

It was only later, through friendship with Christian men and women who truly embody the spirit of understanding and compassion of Jesus, that I have been able to touch the depths of Christianity.

I think that there is no religion without its share of zealots, its fundamental literalist, its elitist, as well as its share of beautiful souls who see behind the religious metaphors and do good naturally.  There is absolutely no combination of human traits that does not exist in every single religion.  Every person of every religion has his or her counterpart in every other religion.  It is my belief that had a saintly Buddhist been born into a Christian community, he would have become a saintly Christian.  Likewise, it is my belief that Christian fundamental literalists were they born in Asia would probably have become fundamental literal Buddhists.

The moment I met Martin Luther King, Jr., I knew I was in the presence of a holy person.

I think that I would have used the word spiritual person as opposed to holy person.  The word holy tends to indicate a self-righteousness or an institutional religious bureaucrat.  For me ,spiritual persons exists in all social levels of society and in all the various professions.  I think that Dr. King would have been just as spiritual had he been a carpenter as opposed to a preacher and the son of a preacher.

Not just his good work but his very being was a source of great inspiration to me.

I think there is a level of admiration for anyone who tries to live his or her convictions as well as an admiration for someone who has dedicated his  or her heart and soul to a cause or endeavor.  I admire Dr. King for standing up against great hatred, prejudice and injustice. But I cannot say that I was inspired by him.  I can only say that he set a significant example for anyone who would stand up for truth in a society living a lie.

And others, less well known, have made me feel that Lord Jesus is still here with us.

Again, there are no doubt that there are people, who because of their association with Jesus, have changed their lives.  But I wonder if those same people at the point in time when they found Jesus had been presented with the works of some other great soul would not have gone on to accomplish great humanitarian endeavors under the banner of another religion.  I believe that certain people are saintly regardless of the religion they embrace.

Hebe Kohnbrugge, a beautiful Dutch woman who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during World War II, was so committed to helping Vietnamese orphans and other desperately needy children during the war that when her government refused to support this work, she gave them back her World War II medals.  Reverend Heinz Kloppenburg, General Secretary of the German Fellowship of Reconciliation, also supported our humanitarian work.  He was so kind and so open, I only needed to say a few words to him and he understood everything right away.  Through men and women like these, I feel I have been able to touch Jesus Christ and His tradition.

Did these people do these acts because it was their nature and they happened to be Christians?  Or did they do it because they were Christians; in the sense that had they been Buddhist they may not have done it.  I believe they did these things because they had to and they just happened to be Christians.

I seem to be hearing Brother Hanh stating that he had stereotyped all Christians negatively prior to meeting these people.  What is interesting is that Brother Hanh did not look into his own religion and see the dark souls who embrace Buddhism and consider that it was only a few unChristian Christians in positions of power who had caused so much misery.  I am surprised that he could not see that the vast majority of human beings want to live in peace and provide for their families regardless of their race, religion or nationality.

D. Real communication  112799

On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus, and every time I light incense, I touch both of them as my spiritual ancestors.

In my office, which is in my home, I have pictures of Jesus and figurines and images from not only Buddhism but also Hinduism, Islam and Judaism in addition to masks which to me represent the native american (both north and south)  as well as the African religious traditions.  I do not consider these icons as representatives of my spiritual ancestors but as representations of spiritual traditions.  I also light candles and burn incense.  I do this as a reminder of the spiritual reality which is the essence of my being.

I can do this because of contact with these real Christians.

I do this because of a lifetime quest to increase the depths of my spiritual knowing and understanding.  I do this because I, like all human beings, am an immortal, infinite spiritual being who is temporarily residing in this reality.  I do this to remind me of my true nature and the transience of this reality.  I do this so as to reduce the confusion that comes when I forget my oneness with the earth, my oneness with the universe, with God and with every human being presently living on this planet.

When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition, you not only touch his or her tradition, you also touch your own.

This is true.  Because the all religious traditions are linked together by the common denominators that are the foundation of every religion:  Remember you oneness with God, Love one another, Do not judge one another, Ask and receive, search and find, knock and enter.  This is true because all human beings are birthed from the same earth and come from the same spiritual essence and are at one with the all inclusive oneness.

This quality is essential for dialogue.

I do not think it is essential but it is undeniably helpful.

When participants are willing to learn from each other, dialogue takes place just by their being together.

I do not think it has anything to do with a willingness to learn.  I think it has to do with understanding the experience.  And the experience is the non-verbal, non-physical acknowledging of the infinite, immortal being who resides within the physical body of the person in your presence.  Dialogue takes place among the entire human race at every instant.  The trick is to hear what is not spoken.  To see what is not visible.  To feel what is not tangible.  To experience a wider range of being.

When those who represent a spiritual tradition embody the essence of their tradition, just the way they walk, sit, and smile speaks volumes about the tradition.

I do not agree with this except to the extent that there is much communication that goes on without speaking.  I believe that we are spiritual beings first and second, based for the most part on where we were born or the religious traditions that our parents embrace, we become initiated into a religious mindset.  It is through that religious tradition that our infinite, immortal being acts upon its environment.  So I do not believe that religion impacts on the soul, but that the soul expresses itself through the religion.  Therefore, when you meet someone, it is best to filter out the religious facade and open yourself to experience the spiritual essence of the person in your presence.

In fact, sometimes it is more difficult to have a dialogue with people in our own tradition than with those of another tradition.

I think this is true.  We tend to not attack what we do not truly understand.  One understands the nuances of the religion in which one has been raised but intuitively knows that he or she does not fully understand the religious tradition of others.   I think it is true that a person who has been a Christian all his life cannot ever truly incorporate Buddhism into his mindset.  That Christian will never be able to know what it was like to live as a child in a Buddhist environment.  It is like marrying into a family.  You can come to know and love the family, but there will always be this sense of being an outsider.

Most of us have suffered from feeling misunderstood or even betrayed by those of our own tradition.  But if brothers and sisters in the same tradition cannot understand and communicate with each other, how can they communicate with those outside the tradition?

It is easy.  You communicate with the infinite, immortal soul and look past the husk of religion which is being temporarily embraced by the being in your presence.  This goes on both within and without any religious tradition.  In fact, it is very possible that two liberal religionist of different religions can better communicate that a fundamental and liberal religionist within the same tradition.  Communication is very dynamic and it can never be as pure as a discussion limited to religion.  There are even times when two hard core fundamentalist from two different religions will marry and live harmoniously in all aspects of their life with the exception of how they pray and meditate.  The diversity of life and the paradoxical beliefs of human beings is part of the beauty of this reality.

For a dialogue to be fruitful, we need to live deeply our own tradition and, at the same time, listen deeply to others.

The word fruitful indicates a need to accomplish some goal. There should be no goal.  There should only be the experience.  By living deeply, I mean to increase one's awareness of the non-verbal communication that one receives from the soul of another human being.  The experience itself is the fruit.  The perceived influencing of someone is not as dynamic and fulfilling as increasing one's awareness of the infinite, immortal being who happens to be in one's presence.

Through the practice of deep looking and deep listening, we become free, able to see the beauty and values in our own and other's traditions.

Yes, by concentration and intention we can increase our awareness of the differences in religious traditions.  But by even deeper concentration we see past the duality to the oneness of all traditions.  It is at this point that one begin to ignore the husk of the fruit and experience the fruit itself.

Many years ago, I recognized that by understanding your own tradition better, you also develop increased respect, consideration, and understanding for others.

This is true.  The deeper one goes into one's religion, the better the chance one has of seeing past the religion into the underlying spiritual nature of not just the religion but  of all things.

I had had a naive thought, a kind of prejudice inherited from my ancestors.  I thought that because Buddha had taught for forty-five years and Jesus for only two or three, that Buddha must have been a more accomplished teacher.  I had that thought because I did not know the teachings of the Buddha well enough.

The interesting thing is that the patriarchs of all the dominant world religions taught for about 40 years.  Moses led the Israelites for 40 years from the time of the exodus from Egypt to  the entry into the land of Caanan.  Mohammed taught for about 40 years, Buddha, Bodhidharma, Confucius, Baha'U'llah, and Buddha did also.  What is interesting about Jesus is that he only taught for about 3 years but then the apostle Paul took up his ministry and taught for about 35 years.  So if one combines the teaching of Jesus with those of Paul, again we have about forty years.  So it would seem that it takes about forty years of the patriarch's presence for the establishment of a major religion.

[As an aside, we are now at a time in history when all the major religions are expecting the manifestation of a great soul.  The interesting question is ,with the advent of the Internet, how long would it take for the establishment of a new major religion?  Unlike all the patriarchs of the major religions, a new messiah (Avatar, Iman, Messiah, Buddha) will not need forty years to spread his (or her) message throughout the world.]

One day when he was thirty-eight years old, the Buddha met King Prasenajit of Kosala.  The king said, "Reverend, you are young, yet people call you 'The Highest Enlighten One.'  There are holy men in our country eighty and ninety years old, venerated by many people, yet none of them claims to be the highest enlightened one.  How can a young man like you make such a claim?"

The Buddha replied, "Your majesty, enlightenment is not a matter of age.  A tiny spark of fire has the power to burn down a whole city.  A small poisonous snake can kill you in an instant.  A baby prince has the capacity of becoming enlightened and changing the world."  

The aged should be respected for their longevity but the universe does not always require advanced age of the one through whom the reality of the spiritual realm is communicated.  Only those who desire to accept the gift of understanding and seek that understanding and are willing to endure the tribulations of such a gift will receive it.  Age is not a factor.  

We can learn about others by studying ourselves.

And this is so because all of humanity is linked together on the spiritual level.  So if one looks deeply within, one finds all of humanity.

For any dialogue between traditions to be deep, we have to be aware of both the positive and negative aspects of our own tradition.

It is not just a matter of being aware, but more importantly a matter of being willing to acknowledge those negative aspects once one becomes aware of them.

In Buddhism, for example, there have been many schisms.  One hundred years after the passing of the Buddha, the community of his disciples divided into two parts; within four hundred years, there were twenty schools; and since then, there have been many more.  Fortunately, these separations have, for the most part, not been too painful, and the garden of Buddhism is now filled with many beautiful flowers, each school representing an attempt to keep the Buddha's teachings alive under new circumstances.  

The Tao te Ching says that what is flexible endures and what is rigid breaks.  This is true of all the major religions.  As a new religion spreads into new areas it is modified somewhat by local traditions and adapted to the new environment.  The nature of every single thing in this reality is diversity.  And the evolution of religious teachings are no exception.  As the religion spreads among the diverse populations, those populations modify the teaching or repackage them to meet its own needs and expectations.  This is necessary because people need a bridge from the old to the new.  There are always the aged who will refuse to change and the younger generation who accept the new ways because they do not have long held preferences for the old beliefs.  So the destiny of any teaching, if it has a universal appeal, is to be modified by the local beliefs.

Living organisms need to change and grow.

I do not believe they need to change and grow.  I believe it is the nature of all things to survive and to survive change is usually required because everything under the sun is in a constant state of change.

By respecting the difference within our own church and seeing how these differences enrich one another, we are more open to appreciating the richness and diversity of other traditions.

I think by observing how everything changes, one comes to understand that even one's long held beliefs are subject to change.  If one accepts change, one finds peace and harmony within.  If one opposes the inevitability of change, one becomes an impediment to peace and harmony by trying to hang onto the past.  In religious traditions, those who cannot change remain within the confines of the old church, while those who accept change break off into their own splinter group.  The tension within the old combined community is relieved as the two views are separated.  Sometimes both survive, sometimes neither and sometimes one or the other.  It does not matter which survives.  The separation served its purpose; peace and harmony was increased.

In a true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.

I do not agree with this.  I do not think that a true dialogue consists of anything more than a willingness to listen.

We have to appreciate that truth can be received from outside of - not only within - our own group.

I agree.  However, each religion tends to believe that it is the sole possessor of the Truth.  Each refuses to acknowledge that it is just taking a turn at understanding the spiritual reality.  Each refuses to believe that its doctrine and dogma are just a belief system - no more or less valid than the belief system of any other religion.

If we do not believe that, entering into a dialogue would be a waste of time.  If we think we monopolize the truth and we still organize a dialogue, it is not authentic.

I do not believe this.  Even the most cursory of dialogues can have long reaching, but not obvious, consequences.  As long as there is a dialogue, war tends to be postponed.  Remember most of the wars on this planet have an underlying religious motivation.

We have to believe that by engaging in dialogue with the other person, we have the possibility of making a change within ourselves, that we can become deeper.

I personally engage in dialogue to look for the weaknesses in my own belief system.  I am looking for the things that I have missed in crafting my spiritual mindset.  

Dialogue is not a means for assimilation in the sense that one side expands and incorporates the other into its "self."  Dialogue must be practiced on the basis of "non-self".  We have to allow what is good, beautiful, and meaningful in the other's tradition to transform us.

Dialogue should not be a means for acquiring new adherents.  One should participate in dialogue in order to find the common denominators in both beliefs systems, in order to gain a true understanding as to why the other person believes as he does, and to test the validity of one's own belief system.

But the most basic principle of interfaith dialogue is that the dialogue must begin, first of all, within oneself.  Our capacity to make peace with another person and with the world depends very much on our capacity to make peace within ourselves.

I believe that the purpose of dialogue should be to find peace within one's self.  I think the beginning point is a realization that one's religion has not been entirely successful in creating true inner peace.  It is easy to be at peace with another person if we consider for just a moment that that person may in fact have the answers that we are looking for;  Answers that will allow us to increase the peace and harmony within ourselves.

If we are war with our parents, our family, our society, or our church, there is probably a war going on inside us also, so the most basic work for peace is to return to ourselves and create harmony among the elements within us - our feelings, our perceptions, and our mental states.

I agree.

That is why the practice of meditation, looking deeply, is so important.  We must recognize and accept the conflicting elements that are within us and their underlying causes.  It takes time, but the effort always bears fruit.  When we have peace within, real dialogue with others is possible.

When we forget that we are infinite, immortal beings who are at one with the earth, with the universe, with God and with each other, we become confused in the manifestations of this transient reality.  And this confusion negatively impacts on our level of internal peace and harmony.  If our religion is not solving this problem by reminding us of our spiritual connection, then we need to consider what another religion may have to offer.  Regardless of the problem, one's level of peace and harmony can generally be increased by one simply quieting the mind in prayer or meditation.  All that we need to know can be found within our own inner being.

Peace and WorldPeace begin within.  The only person that anyone really has any control over is oneself.  WorldPeace cannot be achieved by imposing it on others.  True peace can only be achieved by increasing the level of peace within oneself and that peace will  then automatically transfer to those about us.

E. Interbeing  112899

In the Psalms, it says, "Be still and know that I am God." "Be still" means to become peaceful and concentrated.  The Buddhist term is samatha (stopping, calming, concentrating).  "Know" means to acquire wisdom, insight, or understanding.  The Buddhist term is vipasyana (insight, or looking deeply).  "Looking deeply" means observing something or someone with so much concentration that the distinction between observer and observed disappears.  The result is true insight into the nature of the object.

One does not have to sit and stare at the wall or close one's eyes to meditate.  I used to watch my grandmother crochet and I later realized that she was in fact meditating as she sat for hours working the white thread with the long needle.  And I also realized that when one does a repetitive task like painting a room or mowing the grass or cutting firewood, one is in fact meditating.  One becomes one with the task and often transcends the world when one does these kinds of repetitive moronic things.  The only difference between this form of meditation and what is generally thought of as meditation is that these mundane actions do not take place with an intent to reach some level of understanding.  These acts are considered just chores or hobbies to be performed.  I believe that the soul demands rest from the hectic goings on in day to day life and these tasks are the way that the soul finds relief and the time to reconnect with the Infinite Potential (or God if you will).  I think that some form of meditation is essential for one to maintain his or her balance while existing in this reality.  I think that meditation is essential to keep from becoming too confused in the manifestations of this reality.

When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it.  

This is too logical for me.  It is a form of conscious meditation but I think sometimes in performing repetitive tasks one looks up at the clock and can't believe that an hour has past.  There is a surrealistic feeling that one has not been present for a period of time.  In this form of meditation , one has so deeply meditated that one has lost awareness.   This is very different from conscious meditation.  One knows that one has meditated if when the task ends one feels renewed somehow.  The conscious mind can never understand or define the unconscious experience.  If one loses track of time, one has in my opinion achieved the deepest of meditation.  At the deepest levels of meditation one loses track of not only time but everything.  One regains consciousness and realizes that the room is already painted but there is no real memory of painting it.

Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower.  Without time, the flower could not bloom.  In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements;  it has no independent, individual existence.  It "inter-is" with everything else in the universe.

We are a manifestation of the earth.  Our bodies manifest from the elements that is the earth.  And therefore we are at one with the earth.  The earth manifested from the universe and as we are at one with the earth and the earth is at one with the universe, we are one with the universe.  The universe manifested from the Infinite Potential which had no beginning and so has no end and which forever manifests all things and then disintegrates all things back into itself.  All things and nothing is within the Infinite Potential.  From the intangible oneness ,manifests the tangible duality of this reality.  As we are at one with the earth and the universe, we are at one with the Infinite Potential (or the omnipotent God if you prefer).

Interbeing is a new term, but I believe it will be in the dictionary soon because it is such an important word.  When we see the nature of interbeing, barriers between ourselves and others are dissolved, and peace, love, and understanding are possible.  Whenever there is understanding, compassion is born.

I use a term I coined, "Infinite Potential".  Within the Infinite Potential all things exists.  All things are at one with it.  There is nothing that is not a manifestation of the Infinite Potential.  Within the Infinite Potential all things are merged into oneness, duality does not exist.  But from this oneness all things are manifested and eventually disintegrate back into the oneness.  As we are all part of this oneness, manifested by it, at one with it, there is an "interbeing" among not just human beings but all things and no-things.  Interbeing is oneness within and with the Infinite Potential.  It is when we acknowledge that we are all children of this same God, all infinite, immortal beings of equal birth, that the facade of this reality disappears and we become enlightened to the nature of all things.  And this understanding which is very scary at first because there is nothing to hold onto, reconnects with the true nature of this reality and manifests peace within  us.

Just as a flower is made from non-flower elements,

And as those tangible elements were manifested from the intangible Infinite Potential

Buddhism is made only of non-Buddhism elements,

And Buddhism is at its core, teachings that are common to all religions

including Christian ones,

As Christianity is at its core, teachings that are common to all religions

and Christianity is made of non-Christian elements, including Buddhist ones.  We have different roots, traditions, and ways of seeing, but we share the common qualities of love, understanding, and acceptance.

We have the same (not  different) roots but each tradition uses a different set of metaphors to define these common denominators.

For our dialogue to be open, we need to open our hearts, set aside our prejudices, listen deeply, and represent truthfully what we know and understand.  

For dialogue to be open, we need to acknowledge the infinite, immortal spirit which resides within every single human being.  We need to understand that religious conflict arises over the husk of religion (the rituals and rites, doctrine and dogma) and not over the fruit of religion (which is the teachings of "love one another, acknowledge your oneness with God, do not judge others, ask and receive, seek and find, knock and enter).

To do this we need a certain amount of faith.

To do this we need to let go of our faith in our religion as possessing the only religious and spiritual truth.

In Buddhism, faith means confidence in our and others' abilities to wake up to our deepest capacity of loving and understanding.  In Christianity, faith means trust in God, the One who represents love, understanding, dignity, and truth.  When we are all still, looking deeply, and touching the source of our true wisdom, we touch the living Buddha and the living Christ in ourselves and each person we meet.

When we acknowledge the Infinite Potential ( a term that is not burdened with preconceived notions about God as defined by any particular religion) and that we are at one with it - the source of not only wisdom, but of all things - we touch not just Buddha and Christ but all the great souls who have visited this reality and all those who have gone before us and all those who presently reside on the planet with us in addition to all those who will come after us.  Such is the great mystery of the Infinite Potential.

In this small book, I shall try to share some of my experiences of and insights into two of the world's beautiful flowers, Buddhism and Christianity, so that we as a society can begin to dissolve our wrong perceptions, transcend our wrong views, and see one another in fresh, new ways.  If we can enter the twenty-first century with this spirit of mutual understanding and acceptance, our children and their children will surely benefit.

In responding to this small book, I hope to relate some ways to maintain spirituality within the reality of this combative and aggressive plane of existence while at the same time relate some of the deepest and most abstract metaphysical concepts.  The Infinite Potential (God) can only be conceived in the abstract because in truth the God we define is not the true God and the God we understand is not the actual God because our minds are not capable of understanding the Infinity of God.

All I can relate is that we are one with God, with the universe, with the earth and with each other and when we accept this oneness ,we will find peace.  I can only attempt to relate that the nature of the world is diversity, which is God manifesting the infinite oneness in billions of ways.  I can only relate a concept of finding peace among diversity.  This reality will always change and will always tend to diversify.  But if we can see the common denominators, the common oneness within the diversity, then there is a chance for peace within ourselves and WorldPeace in the world society.

Go To Chapter Two

Go To Table of Contents

How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?


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