THE BUDDHIST-MUSLIM DIALOGUE CONFERENCE
GLOBAL ETHIC AND GOOD GOVERNANCE
SUMMARY OF THE PROCEEDINGS
Tuesday, May 6th at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris
On the second day of the Conference the panel of Global Ethic and Good Governance was convened.
Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid stated that good governance can only be based on global ethics, with policies and actions based on the interests to and the benefits of the people. In Islam, a religion of law, the law is sovereign, and demands equal treatment of all citizens.
Dr. Ananda Guruge, Dean of Academic Affairs and Director of the International Academy of Buddhism of Hsi Lai University in Los Angeles, spoke of good governance in terms of Buddhism. Those governing must be righteous, generous, giving, honest, gentle, self-controlled, non-violent, and accommodating. Dr. Guruge then described a seven-point program for good governance:
1. Meet frequently in harmony, discuss in harmony, and disperse in harmony.
2. Introduce no revolutionary laws -- balance between the traditional and modern.
3. Honor and esteem elders -- recognize the value of the wisdom.
4. Safeguard women.
5. Honor, revere and esteem inner and outer shrines.
6. Perform spiritual practices -- safeguard religions.
7. Practice tolerance to all religions and spiritual activities. The mission of religion is to reconcile people with one another, creating links between the physical reality and the heart.
In the end, good governance must be based on the principals of virtue, treating all life as sacred. Our conquest over violence is accomplished by righteousness.
Dr. Mohammed Taleb, President, Universite Transdisciplinaire Arabe, stated that the things that separate us are not necessarily religious but human, and that it is not possible to separate interfaith dialogue from the era of globalization. Underlying globalization is a westernizing of the world. The world is not participating in globalization but is subject to it with the range of western problems being presented to the world. In this process cultural traditions are being ignored. In order for dialogue to be successful there must be more than good words and a non-alignment of a metaphysical nature rather then the political non-alignment of the 1950's and 1960's. And in Dr. Taleb's view, a discussion of good governance is about the deconstruction of sovereignty. Now, there are two visions of mankind:
1. One is capitalization in which the heart of capitalization is disenchantment with the world producing an un-dimensional man, drained of internal sanctuaries. It is the purpose of interfaith dialogue to put enchantment back into the world.
2. The second is a whole, completed being through which God is revealed in humankind, creating the universal man. The concept of the universal man is not a geographical concept but is a concept of quality, breaking away from the dualism where one must choose.
Dr. Sulak Sivaraksa, Thai Social Critic and winner of the Right Livelihood Award, stated that politics requires relationship with others in respect and trust. To be truly religious is to work for social justice and change in such areas as education, the role of women, the elderly, greed and consumerism, and the weapons of mass destruction. For Dr. Sivaraksa, "isms" all create division. These collective sources of suffering must be addressed by collection action. Good governance means non-violence that includes structural non-violence and the elimination of poverty. Further we must address the issues of weapons of mass destruction, the role of women, respect for the elderly, greed, and consumerism. Evil can be transformed into good by creating a culture of peace.
Professor Dr. Michael von Bruck, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Munich, spoke about the need to recognize that people all over the world, including the West, are being exploited by globalization. Where religion can assist us is in the process of developing an inner consciousness of peace and good will that can be used to transform society. To use the wisdom that can create change we must be committed to a spiritual practice that is true to our religious traditions while at the same time encouraging resistance to the present system of exploitation.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao reaffirmed his vision of a global family. This concept of a global family is even more important in light of the ongoing crisis facing the world. We must have as starting point -- a concern for all life. In a materialistic world with monopolies in markets and capital, the race toward profits will only make things worse. We must strike a balance between materialism and spirituality, and in religion we find intrinsic meaning in life. To reach this balance we must explore the essential principals of life common to all religions, and call ourselves into questions to regain confidence that the world will exist forever.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar called upon the ethical principal that transcends all others, what Dr. Muzaffar referred to as the "golden rule of life: do to others what you want others to do to you". Dr. Muzaffar then related that this principal is part all the religious traditions. Thus, for good governance we must recognize the rights of others in all relationships, and open our hearts to overcome the violence within ourselves. In this regard there are two prerequisites to acknowledge:
1. The structures of power reflected in the huge disparities of wealth and access to information. These disparities must be addressed. Dr. Muzaffar then described the three dimensions of contemporary capitalism -- 3C capitalism: the corporate dimension with huge enterprises, the casino dimension that emphasizes speculation, and the consumer dimension that is predicated on unending consumption. 3C capitalism has failed humankind. It has led to the weakening of spiritual and moral values, the rapid depletion of scarce resources, the serious degradation of the environment, and the gap between rich and poor that is widening at an alarming rate.
2. Attitudes and values are beyond structural transformation and require more giving and sharing. The resource that helps transform is religion, restoring faith and connecting us with the transcendence. Religions must be made attractive in today's world to reshape a new world order that is just, humane and compassionate.
Professor Ghalaleb Bencheikh, Physicist, Vice President of the Conference Mondiale des Religions pour la Paix, began by stating that the challenges to Muslims is to extend their horizons. There is a challenge for Muslims to break from the theology of domination. Dialogue with Buddhism opens up consideration of religious traditions to make a reference point for forbearance. Men and women of good will must interact, and we need others even though it might displease us in order to mutually agree on an ethic that has a common call the dignity of the human being. The common basis is human dignity, remembering that men and women are icons of God. Unity of the human gender does not mean cloning; cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity is a sign of God and a divine project. Diversity is a source of happiness, yet we all have a responsibility to insure that the present disparities do not exist
Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein summarized the session. How can we use the resources of religion to solve problems? What is there about religion that can stand on its own outside the context of globalization? This allows religion to make a contribution beyond the immediate purpose of solving problems and finding commonality. These contributions can include the understanding of the material and spiritual and of the relationship between the individual and community.
Lama Denys Teundroup, Universite Dharma Orient-Occident said that the universal dimension of spirituality is a search for meaning and knowing oneself, beyond concepts and representations so that we can act in the sphere of metaphysical non-alignment. Through experience of the heart we can find common ground and the underlying unity in diversity. In the end, it is more important to be good then to believe. Lama Denys then spoke about a legal resolution that has been suggested that makes the use of religion to cause violence a crime against humanity.
Professor Dr. Michael von Bruck served as the Respondent for the session. Everything starts in the mind, and the problem of global awareness is the necessity to address today's issues. Globalization is a cover-up for domination, exploitive of everyone, and democracy is at risk because of ignorance and a disparity of wealth. Right speech requires mental clarity, optimism comes from knowing, and wisdom can create change. It is important for each of us to contribute a spiritual practice that is true to our traditions and to encourage resistance to the system of exploitation.
The final presentations of the afternoon concerned Buddhism and Islam in Europe. Lama Denys Teundroup reported about Buddhism in Europe. The origins of the Dharma (teachings of Buddhism) in Europe began in the colonial period, particularly the colonialism of India and China. In the 1960 Eastern masters came to Europe, bringing an affinity with western scientific views because both begin with an epistemological viewpoint. Now there are millions of Buddhists in Europe with over 600,000 in France alone. The mission of Buddhism seeks harmony in the transformation of the self, and the many principals of the Dharma can serve to foster interfaith dialogues with a fundamental humanism that takes into consideration the body, mind, and spirit. Further, dialogues cannot only be between theologians but must include members of each faith tradition. With specific regard to the present situation in Europe, Lama Denys believes it important that education bolster diversity.
The Muslim presence in Europe began in 711 when Muslim troops landed in Spain. Even though this presence ended in 1412, there remain intellectual and spiritual sites in Spain and in Southern Italy as well. As the Ottoman Empire came into being, and during the Middle Ages, Islamic thought influenced Christen and Jewish thinkers. The colonial period witnessed some influx of Muslim immigrants but it was not until the 1960's that a significant number of immigrants came to Europe. Today there is a growing individual and collective Islamic identity in Europe numbering 15-20 million people. In this context, Islam will be renewed by its contact with other cultures.
Day Three of the Conference