The Dalai Lama’s Wishful Thinking June 15, 2010Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, religion.
Tags: Dalai Lama, religious pluralism
Everybody likes the Dalai Lama (except the Chinese government) and he seems to be quite a nice person, full of wisdom and all. But in a recent NY Times article he engages in a bit of wishful thinking:
Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity. Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.
This is a nice thought and I hope it is true, but given the amount of evidence to the contrary, such a claim would require some defense. So what is his defense?
A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.
I’m a firm believer in the power of personal contact to bridge differences, so I’ve long been drawn to dialogues with people of other religious outlooks. The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths. And these days we need to highlight what unifies us.
The rest of the article details the commitment to compassion in Hinduism and Islam as well.
But there is no argument here. The fact that all all religions share some feature does not entail that they have much in common. And it strikes me as simply false that the main idea or raison d’etre of most religions is compassion. Christians and Muslims seek salvation and the end of sin. Buddhists seek the end of suffering and the achievement of Nirvana. Compassion is a means to an end at best; just a side issue not the central concept. And al religions teach that their doctrine is a divine truth that require intolerance toward others.
What reason is there to think that religions could somehow ditch their doctrines and make compassion the point?
None as far as I can see.
For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com