Thank you for inviting us to participate in this meaningful activity. We are very fortunate to have the chance to learn about different religious and to share our view.
We are given the theme OUR SOUL JOURNEY and when Sylvia asked for my topic, I added 2 words to it Our Soul Journey "the one-self".
I was very delighted after reading the leaflet that Sylvia sent us, in particular, this paragraph and I quote:
"There may be a diversity of beliefs but we believe that the same golden thread of truth underlies all religious and spiritual groups: We are brothers and sisters, born of the one Creator God to express our God-given qualities. On our Interfaith days we look past all the seeming differences and celebrate our spiritual oneness."
I can't help but to keep nodding my head. And I thought we are not alone.
Our spiritual master Ven Master Chin Kung has been working in this area for many years. He brings all different religious together to promote multicultural understanding and religious education so as to achieve world peace and harmony.
A student once asked the master how he perceived different religions. He responded: "Different religions could be seen as the twigs, branches, leaves, and flowers of the tree. They all stem from the same root. They all teach us to be sincere, pure, wise, and compassionate. The principles and methods of practice of different religions can co-exist without conflicts." When conflicts arise, it is man-made. It is simply because we have misinterpreted the Holy teaching.
God manifests in various identities to give countless forms of guidance to meet the needs of beings in different areas. In the Middle East, he manifested as Jesus and Mohammed. In China, he manifested as Confucius, Lao-Tzu, and zhuang-Tzu. In India, he manifested as Brahma and Buddha. His incarnation is omnipresent and supreme. The image of his incarnation may be different, but his teachings are similar - sincerity, purity, equality, wisdom, compassion and nondiscriminatory love.
Our teacher, Master Chin Kung further elaborated: Our body is a multicultural system. It is formed by different elements and organs. They are interdependent and interrelated. Can we say that our eyes are more important than our ears? Each and every organ and element that forms our body is important to us. They are all number one. Without any one of them our bodily system can't function properly. We should learn to appreciate them. Each has a unique identity but they all live in a big family.
The leaves of a tree are different in size, shape and some even have different colours. I remember one of my friend told me her collogues has a capsicum plant which bears different types of capsicum fruits with different size, shapes and colours, what a unique plant I thought. But when we look in depth we realize that they grow from the same root, from the one original nature, the one seed, the one self. Differences arise from our perception and desire to view things differently. Our discriminatory thoughts and attachments cause inequality, and differentiation.
To a more significant extend it causes confrontation and war.
Some of us might ask why there are so many different religions. If the world has one religion, one nation, one culture there won't be any problem. The answer is different religious arise simply to meet the uniqueness of human needs, to meet different levels of spiritual capacities, preferences and adaptability of human. In modern day's term, it is known as customization! The methods and wordings used by different religions may be different but the essence of the teachings is similar.
For example, Christian speak of Love. The uniting Church in its flyer stated "God is seen as having many attributes but, most important, that GOD is LOVE. When we open the Quran, we find that the beginning of each paragraph starts with "In the name of Allah, the merciful". In Buddhist sutras, we learn that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate. It is the same with all different religious, they teach us to be kind and avoid evil. As the Buddha said that the generosity of minds of saints and sages can indeed encompass the universe.
The core teachings of all religions are to help all of us to cultivate kindness, to love others and ourselves: The unrestricted, unselfish love, the same love that we receive from our creator. Since all religions teach us to embrace kindness and avoid evil, it seems that the principles and methods of practice can co-exist without conflicts. That's why we are here for today!
Where do we start in our soul journey? We model after saints and sages. The three most remarkable qualities saints and sages have are Morality, Meditation (calmness of mind) and Wisdom.
Morality means ethical behavior. Jesus, Muhamad, Sakyamuni Buddha, and all religious leaders in the world conduct themselves according to strict moral standards. They had set themselves as an example for us to follow. In addition, each and every word in their holy teachings encourages us to perform wholesome deed, and avoid unwholesome action. Their words flow from their sincere hearts that want to help us to progress in our spiritual path.
These leaders are respected and honored as Saint and Sages because they have sacrificed themselves for us, to liberate from suffering to eternal happiness. In Buddhism we respect all religions leaders as our teachers that we learn from all of them.
Meditation (Calmness of mind) - Through meditation comes calmness of mind. Please do not be mistaken that Meditation must have something to do with Buddhism. All religious practice has some form of meditation. It is to help practitioners to achieve concentration power. The aim of meditation, or sometime known as chanting, is to develop concentration power, so that our minds are not affected by external phenomena. In other words, we are the master of our mind; we will not be easily influenced by deviated thoughts, and pressured by deviated condition. We are then able to still our mind to learn from the saints and sages. Gradually, we will be able to see our true nature. In fact, all religious leaders have such quality. They stand firm on goodness and conquer the influence of evil.
Wisdom -Wisdom does not refer to intelligence. Wisdom is the quality that naturally arises from calmness of mind, which has its foundation in morality and meditation. Wisdom flows from right understanding and right thought. With wisdom, we will be able to see the truth of the universe. Naturally our thinking, speech and conduct will be prefect and correct.
The Buddha said that innate wisdom is within us. We all have the quality to become a Buddha, an enlightened being. What is the difference between a Buddha and a human being? The difference lies in our minds. The Buddha let go of all afflictions of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance and doubt, and hence he sees the world with an impartial eye and loves all beings equally. Human beings, on the other hand, hold tightly to the five poisons, refuse to let go of them. They chase after fame, wealth and power, refusing to see their flitting nature. They differentiate among people, they label things according to their personal feelings. They are perpetually swayed and trouble by them.
Today we realize all of us share the same nature. What had separated us from our original nature are the afflictions of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance and doubt. To walk the spiritual path is to conquer our afflictions and return to our original nature, to live harmoniously with our brothers and sisters in this big family, and ultimately, to return to eternal happiness.
In our soul journey, we ought to look through the differences of all religions. We need to see that the leaves and branches of the tree grow from the same root, the one seed. We need to realize that although our 5 fingers are all different, they are connected to one palm. We should not limit our level of understanding at the finger level, at the leave and branch level. The only way to find true happiness, eternal happiness is to go in-depth to the palm level, to the root level. We will then realize the oneness in the universe, the one-self.
Only then will we see all religions, all nations, all cultures as one big family. Members are brothers and sisters, where we will happily and sincerely love and help each other.
I'll end my speech today with the words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, as an encouragement to all of us:
"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin."