E s s a y s
TOMAS HALIK´S WELCOMING ADDRESS TO THE CHRISTIAN-BUDDHIST MEDITATION WITH H.H. DALAILAMA
let me welcome you at the Academic Parish of Prague with the words of the Song of St. Francis. Let me also welcome all of you, particularly the participants of the Conference Forum 2000, to the Christian-Buddhist meditation. (I will continue in Czech from here and a summary in English will follow).
One of the reasons why I have chosen the Song of St. Francis is that this text clearly illustrates both that which we have in common as well as that in which we differ. This song is an expression of faith in one God - The Creator. This faith is what we share with the Jews and Muslims, but not with the Buddhists. Yet for St. Francis faith is not a question of doctrine, theory or words - he understands far too well that no one can truly utter the name of the Highest. A true expression of faith is love for all creation, for all beings, for all nature. It is a love filled with respect, compassion, non-violence and understanding. In this respect the Christians and the Buddhists are very close to each other – or at least those who truly live according to what they claim to believe in.
It is extremely interesting and inspiring to explore the philosophical aspect of our religions and spiritual paths; to study the various views of God, man and the world which are the basis for our beliefs; to ask whether these views, in all their variety, can be compatible; to contemplate the different perspectives – defined surely by the differences in our cultures and historical experiences – from which we approach the mystery. The mystery which ultimately lies beyond the capability of human language to give it a name.
Yet it is absolutely essential – particularly in our times – to also cultivate the practice of our religions and apply it in the field of ethics and spirituality.
The word “religion” appears in the headlines of the news on daily basis – unfortunately with rather depressing connotations: the terrorists from Arab countries are killing innocent people in the name of Islam; the Hinduists are killing the Christians; Christians of various denominations were not able to find reconciliation in Ireland and the Balkans; in Sri Lanka even the Sinhalese Buddhists have shot men from a Tamil village who were not able to recite Buddhists texts. It is obvious that each religion – including the most peaceful one – can sometimes be abused by human hatred and turned into its very opposite. By themselves, the sacred scriptures and symbols of all the religions cannot prevent such abuses from happening.
This is the reason why so much responsibility lies with the religious leaders and teachers, who are interpreting and transmitting these teachings. These people themselves must become examples of peace and they need to have the courage to oppose the mixing of religion and violence.
It is not enough to find and quote the words about peace, love and mercy from our respective traditions. What is essential is that these principles are apparent in our lives and actions - and in our mutual relationships.
Few years ago, when we were parting with the 20th century, we were surely reminded of many scenes of horror and violence. Little did we know back then how soon the horror movie is going to continue. Still I believe that the 20th century has left at least two powerful images of hope, two signs that the century was perhaps not merely a painful and dark night of the history of mankind. The first image is the picture of the Earth taken during man’s first landing on the Moon. The second is a photograph taken at a meeting of world religious leaders on which Pope John Paul II is holding hands with The Dalai Lama and the representatives of the Jews, the Muslims and other religions in front of the basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
These two images have much in common. The picture of the Earth taken from the Moon is not only a testimony to the success of human courage and intelligence, but it also shows how small our planet is, what a tiny bark it is, sailing through the endless space of the universe. The picture from Assisi is a sign of hope that we are beginning to understand that aboard this fragile boat we must learn to live together with each other.
If we want the future of this world to be good, we have to learn to connect faith and thinking. John Paul II taught that religion without reason (as well as without the ability of a critical self-analysis) is dangerous. Yet reason, when it is not aware of its own limitations, can also be one-sided and therefore dangerous. His successor Benedict encourages a new alliance of faith and reason, religion and science. In his recent lecture the Pope pointed out that only a faith which gives due respect to LOGOS can withstand the temptation to promote religion with the use of violence.
What is equally urgent and essential is for us to nurture faith with a constant striving for a spiritual depth, the spiritual dimension of every religion. Only by cultivating the silence and peace of our minds and hearts can we create space for LOGOS, the inherent meaningful order, which – despite all the chaos we often perceive in and around ourselves - is deeply engraved in the nature of every human being and of every world.
To be able to use the gift of reason in a healthy way, to be able to read God’s message in the order of the universe, to understand the “signs of the times”, to be open, ready and free to perceive the Spirit of God – all this requires a constant cultivation of inner awareness.
It is excellent that events like the Forum 2000 provide us with an opportunity to talk to each other. But it is perhaps even more important to learn to be quiet with each other – to step out of the world of our words, concepts, ideas and images. Our world can only be healed by such words and actions which come from the depth, from silence, from meditation, from prayer. The mystics and saints of Europe and Asia always knew this very well.
May even this our brief meeting in the heart of old Prague become a sign that despite of our boundaries we are willing and able to share, inspire and encourage each other on our paths.