Believers from all around the world are tolerant of the restrictions placed upon their religion by their nations policies through the various religions are still in competition with each other. In order to limit the competition between religions, philosophers have sought alternative ways to build cohesion by coming up with a common ground for the worlds religions.
This has, in turn, led to efforts that equalize and harmonize the religions, which are seen by many as disparate and incompatible. Such efforts seek to establish an ethical foundation by arguing that global peace can only be achieved through syncretism. In his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh states that when you believe, for example, that yours is the only way for humankind, millions of people might be killed because of that idea (Hanh, 1995, p. 92). This paper examines Hanhs arguments concerning Christianity and Buddhism with regard to the attainment of peace. In addition, this paper attempts to scrutinize the philosophy of Hanh according to his book, Living Buddha, Living Christ.
Thich Nhat Hanh
Hanh is a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, though he lives in France. His book, Living Buddha, Living Christ, seeks to convince his audience that both Buddha and Jesus can be the spiritual ancestors of humankind. The global appeal of his life and message is due to its ability to consolidate modern concerns and ancient wisdom in a manner that is acceptable to various religions and regions. His religion shrine contains images of both, Buddha and Jesus since he claims that there are many similarities between Buddhists and Christians.
Hanh claims that the existing variations between the two religions are artificial since the truth has no boundaries. While Hanh does not propose a theory that unifies all religions, his writings attempt to convince the audience that Jesus and Buddhas teachings are similar. He further claims that Christians who are truly happy become Buddhists at that point, and the same happens for happy Buddhists. In his arguments, Hanh provides his own definition of Christianity in order for the religion to be accommodated in his religious framework.
Hanhs claim truth has no boundaries implies that Buddhism is the truth. Hence, Christians are required to interpret Christianity in terms of Buddhism. This conception of the two religions does not reflect the open-mindedness of Hanh, though an evaluation of his approach can only be achieved by understanding his interpretations of the biblical message in his own views (Hanh, 1995).
Be still and Know
In this chapter, Hanh claims that there is no reason for human beings to spend their one kind of fruit. He uses this argument to show that individuals should seek to identify and benefit from the best values of various traditions and teachings. He claims that opening oneself to the teachings of another tradition impacts both individuals traditions. Hanh further states that individuals who represent a spiritual tradition embody its presence through their mannerisms such as the way they walk, sit or smile. He also seeks to link the notions of faith of both Christians and Buddhists.
It is difficult to challenge the notions of Hanh since he was considered as one of the most prominent Buddhist masters. However, the argument that there is no reason for violence since the diversity of religion does not contradict the notion that there is only one God, appears to be flawed.
To begin with, conflict resolution is a concept that involves various interactions between multiple entities in order to arrive at a common line of thought. Understanding the religion of another individual does not necessarily mean accepting the practices. All parties should be at liberty to exercise what they feel is just to them, regardless of whether they believe in God or not, in order for violence to come to an end.
Hanhs argument that conflicts are due to the resistance of mankind to peace through their beliefs that they alone hold the truth about religion is also limiting in that it for maintaining peace. Sharing the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, such as the belief in an afterlife, only implies that this is not the only chance that one gets to live.
It does not stop one from committing acts of violence towards a friend or neighbor since conflicts arise due to the unique attributes in religion, and not the shared elements. Buddhism preaches that individuals should not be attached to the world; conversely, Christians believe in Heaven. He claims that the attachment of Buddhists to the world is what makes their religion more docile and tolerant than Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Hanh also identifies the flaw in adopting this line of thought when he claims that Buddhism does not give the best illustration of a peaceful existence (Hanh, 1995).
Furthermore, Hanh identifies the existence of various human traits common to all religions. He claims that there are elitists in every religion, who interpret their religions in a peaceful manner. As a result, the birth of those people in any religion would have resulted in the same devotion to the traditions that they were born into. Based on this argument, it is true to state that any prominent leader like Steve Biko, Mahatma Gandhi, or Dr, King would have been a spiritual leader irrespective of his background.
This implies that the effort made by Dr. King to shun prejudice, injustice and hatred, as well as, the efforts of other leaders, would have remained the same had they been born in different religions. I concur with Hanhs opinion regarding this claim when he proposes that the leaders would have stood for the truth in society because their actions portray the influence of Lord Jesus (Hanh, 1995). One challenge that may arise due to this line of thoughts involves the adversity that may have led to the emergence of such leaders. Different approaches could have been in play to limit the need for rebellious actions that involved masses of people.
Hanhs argument that people of different religions should engage in dialogue in order to foster love and eliminate judgment implies that it is the role of individuals to promote peace at their own level. The argument that various religions should attempt to pick elements from each others traditions in order to advance moral development tends to push the responsibility of peace to the individuals, demanding that they take an interest in other religions.
This is not necessarily true, especially due to the current trend in the world, in the effort to attain peace, involves multiple avenues including conferences, peace talks, treaties, intervention by bodies such as the UN, among others, which have little to do with individual effort. Learning the mannerisms of other individuals is only advantageous to one entity, which uses such information to bend the regulations that govern their interaction in their favor. Such conflicts deter the formation of relationships between different religions. As such, Hahns proposal that individuals from the same religion should focus on living right according to their religion without focusing on the role of the self in religion (Hanh, 1995), does not ultimately lead to peace.
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