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The Dalai Lama’s Wishful Thinking June 15, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, religion.
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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.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



1. Asur - June 16, 2010

To evaluate something, it is necessary to disregard what it says in favor of what it does — at best, such verbiage serves only to fill the unknown of what we cannot see to judge for ourselves.

Sans derangement, we, all of us, pursue the same ends, seek to satisfy the same desires. Show me an instance where this is not so, and I will show you where you confuse a means for an end — for means are the only respect in which our actions differ, one from another.

When one person says everything can be reconciled, their gaze is in the distance, fixed on the ends around which we converge; when another says everything is divided, they look nearby and see the endless parade of means-as-ends.

2. Paul J. Moloney - June 17, 2010

Being “a nice person” seems to be a neutral quality in itself. I say this because in one of my current situations the nicest person is also the most unjust person to me. It seems impossible to argue against niceness, even if it is a cover for injustice. Good people are nice but so are child molesters and murderers. The latter two can be nice to their victims in order to seduce them. People can be nice in order to indoctrinate others into a cult.

As far as religion goes, the Catholic Church is so bad today, to historic proportions, like the oil spill, that I could be tempted into becoming Protestant, but I realize that the Protestant Reformation was initiated by Catholics. I wouldn’t want to join any Christian denomination started by Catholics or derivatives thereof. Maybe this is why some people are anti-Semitic. Christianity was started by Jews, and, therefore, they blame Jews for Christianity.

I can hardly believe that the Dalai Lama still remembers Thomas Merton, since Merton died more than forty years ago. Merton does not seem to have had any great influence on him. It is good, though, to see that Merton is still causing controversy after having been dead for so long.

It does seem to me that Groucho Marx, not Karl, has the greatest social philosophy when he argues that he would never join a club that would have him for a member.

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