Friday, November 25, 2011

Interfaith Initiative - Part 2 of 2

In the early 1980s when I was in the weekly study class at our temple led by Nobuo Haneda, he told us he attended a panel discussion on religions at the University of Chicago – just to hear the famous Zen Buddhist scholar, Masao Abe (1915-2006). Dr. Haneda said he was extremely disappointed because the whole time was taken up with the Jewish, Christian and Muslim speakers attacking each other and defending their own faith while Prof. Abe hardly said more than a few words. I remember Dr. Haneda (in his 30s at the time) saying if he was on that panel, he would have been speaking up for Buddhism.



That story comes to mind because I wonder if there were Buddhists who felt that way after my appearance on the evening panel of the Interfaith Conference at Northeastern Illinois University on Nov. 17. Only one member from our temple was there and she said to me, “It seemed your talk was so short compared to the other people.”

I said, “They told us on the panel that we only had about five minutes each to speak.”

“So you’re the only one who followed instructions,” she said.

Although the event was scheduled for an hour, after I and the other speakers (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) spoke, there was barely time for two students to ask questions.

The theme of the conference was “Hope and Healing: Reconciliation Through Peace.” I said for Buddhists, it meant we have to stop criticizing other religions for causing wars and abuse. By looking at how Buddhists have failed to live up to the core teachings of peace, we could have more understanding towards people of other faiths who get pulled away from their own religions’ teachings of peace due to various causes and conditions.

The other speakers could tell dramatic stories of reconciliation, but I only came up with the fact that our temple has several Asian American (U.S. born and immigrant) members from ethnic groups (Korean, Chinese, Filipino etc.) that were brutally oppressed by Imperial Japan. (That imperialistic expansion was supported by all the Japanese Buddhists except the handful who were executed or imprisoned.) To me, those non-ethnic-Japanese members who come to hear the teachings and become actively involved in our temple help to break down the prejudice many Japanese Americans have felt towards other Asians.

From being on the Northeastern campus and talking to some of the students, I felt a lot of hope for the future – there’s a real spirit of diverse people working together to make things better for all of society.

(I composed most of this entry a couple days ago. Now I’m struggling with the news today that my teacher Dr. Haneda is ill and had to cancel his visit to Chicago this weekend.)

2 comments:

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  2. Since I know how hard it is to learn a foreign language, I try to be patient with non-English speakers. But...I can't help chuckling over spelling errors like "lode Buddha's peace massage." I don't agree with the idea that Sri Lanka is a "Pure Buddhist" country - there have been decades of inter-religious conflicts there. I mentioned at NEIU that self-identified Buddhists have attacked Hindus and their temples. Anyways I appreciate Samadhi's comment.

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