THE NEW ASIA
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - May 11, 2002
MUSLIM-BUDDHIST DIALOGUE SERIES
Moderator: David Anthony
Speakers: The Venerable Dharma Master Hsin Tao
Founder, Museum of World Religions and Global Family for Love and Peace
Ustaz Uthman El-Muhammady
Religious Scholar and Fellow of the Institute of Islamic Understanding, Malaysia
Representing Dr. Sri Dharmmananda, a professor of World Religions at Taylor College
President of the International Movement for a Just World
It was the consensus of the speakers that Buddhism and Islam in Asia have always existed comfortably together. They are two of the biggest religious communities in Asia: Buddhism is one of the official religions of Indonesia, in Malaysia there are a number of pagodas, there are beautiful Mosques in Thailand. The actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan are not representative of the history of accommodation and tolerance that has been evident since Islam can to Asia. Indeed, the great Muslim scholars such as Ibin Anadib and Al Birudi have paid tribute to Buddhism in their writings, just one example of how scholars in the past crossed boundaries and how they built bridges.
But is this enough, to live "comfortably" with each other? The answer is that the leaders of Islam and Buddhism must work to create a new Asia guided by the beautiful teachings of these two religions, and that the human values common to these religions will help transform Asia.
The Asia Pacific Region will be the major regional community in the 21st century. Consequently it is important to focus on the real needs of the new Asia with vision and to make choices consciously and with awareness.
Each speaker drew attention to the present situation of globalization and the emphasis on consumerism, materialism, power and greed. Simply, materialism cannot give the answers to happiness, and chasing material development will limit the resources for future generations, and in the end greatly reduce the quality of life for everyone. Most significantly, the global system works against human values, unraveling the sense of spirituality, and weakening discipline, moral values, and the sense of community. Having fallen prey to the mass media and information, we have forgotten the example of the personalities recognized by all Asian cultures: men of learning, men of pure morals, scholars, and spiritual leaders.
Yet, it was recognized that the social imbalances present in Asia result from economic and social imbalances, not the different religious traditions. These problems transcend Islam and Buddhism, not only in Asia but everywhere around the world. Accordingly the new Asia of the 21st century must revolve around balancing human needs with technological development, and it is spirituality that must get in touch with real life, with people, with nature, and with history.
The speakers acknowledged that these religions have commonalties that enable them to exist and prosper together. Muslims and Buddhists need be to united, to have dialogue among themselves and with others to reassert and spread a message of human values.
All religions have an essential core of righteousness, and the moral values that are common to all human beings are the basis of dialogue. Among these values common to Islam and Buddhist are
· The equality of man -- Islam and Buddhism have no concept of class: "There are many different rivers but when
all the rivers reach the sea they have only one taste, the taste of salt."
· Living in harmony with the environment -- if you harm the environment you are harming yoursel.
· Both share a fundamental principal of the divine, the transcendent, something that goes beyond what we "know"
as reality and that tells us why we are here.
· Justice is an important principal for each religion.
· Both religions value simplicity.
· Both religions subscribe to the fundamental principals of compassion.
· The concept of a cohesive community that is integrated and united are important for Islam and Buddhism
· A harmonious relationship among persons of different religions.
· Faith is based on reflection.
· Respecting life and realizing the existence of each life as important.
In moving forward we must emphasize our human identity while accepting diversity. All differences are essential and necessary -- different races and religions are requirements for different people. This is what makes life so interesting. Further, it is important to undertake activities at the individual level, for this is where change begins.
For Islam and Buddhism, there is a virtue of solving problems with the knowledge of compassion and spiritual contemplation. A person who understands their religion is a person who is happy and peaceful, and who will respect the religion of other people. Knowledge is only a means to serve God. In the process of learning this knowledge one will deepen their spiritual experience.