Sharan Shetty –  B.E. (EXTC) , Persuing MBA at Thakur Institue of Management Studies & Research , Mumbai

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

-Dalai Lama

One purpose of all religions is to bring about peace, both individual and collective. Despite this, there remains a misconception that religion is often associated with conflict, for example, that religious differences cause strife. Often this is due to a lack of understanding of the true nature of religious teachings. Religion emphasizes to the believer the importance of one‟s duty to God as well as one‟s duty to man. One of the key duties of man to his fellow human beings is the showing of compassion and kindness. In addition, mutual respect for other faiths is an important factor in developing an atmosphere of peace and understanding and fostering the conditions for interreligious dialogue.

A society, which has many religions, should also have many prophets and sources of refuge. In such a society it is very important to have harmony and respect amongst the different religions and their practitioners. We must distinguish between belief and respect. Belief refers to total faith, which you must have in your own religion. At the same time you should have respect for all other religions. This tradition of believing in one’s own religion and having respect for others should be in existence. Therefore you do not have to invent it. The most important thing at the moment is to preserve and promote this tradition.

If a harmonious relationship is established amongst societies and religious beliefs in today’s multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural world, then it will surely set a very good example for others. However, if all the sides become careless, then there is a danger of imminent problems. In a multiethnic society the biggest problem is that of between the majority and the minority. For instance, in the capital Leh, Buddhists constitute the majority of the population whereas Muslims belong to the minority community. The majority must consider the minority as their invited guests. The minority, on the other hand, should be able to sensitize with the majority. In other words, both sides should live in harmony. In order to sustain this harmony, both sides should not take lightly the sensitive issues between themselves. Indeed, the majority should pay attention to and appreciate the views and opinion of the minority. Both sides should discuss and clearly express what they think about the other’s view and opinion. The minority, on the other hand, should be careful about where the sensitive issues of the majority lies and express whatever doubts they have in their minds. If problems are resolved in

such a friendly manner; then both sides will gain. Suspicion of each other will only harm both communities. Therefore, it is very important to live in harmony and analyze where the opinion of the other lies. The best way to do this is to engage in dialogue and converse with each other.

“Peace and religious harmony come about through taking action, not necessarily through making prayers and good wishes. In order to carry action out, enthusiasm is very important, and enthusiasm comes from being clear about our goal and the possibility of our fulfilling it. Here, we need educate young people about our ultimate goal, peace in the world, and how to fulfill it by cultivating inner peace within themselves.”

-DALAI LAMA

Humanity‟s response to a diversity of religions has either involved a sense of disharmony and conflict, or in recent times, a somewhat more tolerant but often aimless, postmodern religion-moral relativism resulting in an ethical void.

It is a common and idealistically beautiful notion, that all the religions of the world essentially practice and preach the same teachings for the betterment of the world. In fact, this forms part of the spirit that makes harmonious inter-religious dialogue possible – when we choose to focus on the similarities of compassion and wisdom. If we are to harp on the differences to one another instead, there would be inter-religious conflict.

If we truly wish to deeply comprehend various religions, we need to not only look at the similarities, which many tend to prefer to stop at, but to look at the differences too. However, this should be done for greater understanding and acceptance, not for debate.

In this ever-shrinking global village called the world, there is increasing interaction between adherents of various faiths. Depending on how this happens, it can be for better or worse. Rub shoulders in a friendly way and mutual understanding is fostered. Rubbed the wrong way, enmity is stirred up instead.

There is a diversity of religious beliefs in our world simply because there is a corresponding diversity of mindsets. Even two random adherents of the same faith are unlikely to have totally identical views. We need to respect this worldly reality before arguing on any spiritual reality. If not, there would be no harmony but only conflict. Surely, a religion that is pro-conflict is not one we need. What if it is a

central tenet of a religion that it cannot agree to disagree with others? Thankfully, there is no such religion in practice today, or there would be inter-religious chaos. With all orthodox religions advocating peace, this implies that those who cannot agree to disagree might not really be religious at heart.

The Buddha himself actively engaged in much skilful inter-religious dialogue with great compassion and wisdom. As there were more than 60 different stems of religious thought in his time, the feat of being able to engage in harmonious dialogue is most remarkable. His is the example that Buddhists aspire to follow. The Buddha‟s timeless advice on critical-thinking is still valid.

Religious harmony is brought about through realizing that „Truth is One but the Paths are Many‟. When we realize that the goal of every religion is essentially the same – the search for Truth then we can foster an attitude of open dialogue and mutual exchange of ideologies rather than imposing our beliefs on others by force. Through the correct practice of religion we should develop not only harmony between faiths and nations but a harmony or state of peace within ourselves and gradually a harmony or experience of Oneness with something greater than ourselves! This is Religious Evolution – which starts with Harmony or Peace.