Inter-religious harmony and understanding are good things although they have only become widely accepted and praised recently. But how recently and how widely? In about 257 BCE the Buddhist king Asoka Mauriya wrote -
‘The king…values this, that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. This can be done in different ways, but all of them have their root in restrained speech, that is, in not praising one’s own religion and condemning the religion of others without good reason. And if there is cause for criticism this should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason; by doing so one’s own religion benefits and so do other religions, while doing otherwise both are harmed. Whoever praises his own religion due to excessive devotion and condemns others thinking ‘Let me glorify my own religion’ only harms his religion. Therefore, contact between religions is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. The king desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions (The Fourteen Rock Edicts No.12).
This edict mentions several important things – (1) that the promotion of the essentials of all religions is a good thing; (2) that there should not be criticism of other religions without good reason; (3) that where criticism is legitimate, it should be done in a tactful and reasonable way; (4) it is desirable that devotees on one religion should be familiar with the doctrines of other faiths. I think that these recommendations are a very good foundation for inter-religious harmony and understanding.
I would like to invite my readers to submit quotations from sacred literature, religious personages or representatives of religions which likewise recommend or praise any of these four ideas. The quotes can be (a) from any religion, (b) should pre-date 1850 and (c) should be accompanied by a reference to its source and its date. When sufficient quotes arrive I will publish them in a separate blog and post it. Please let as many people as possible know about this project so that we can get as many of such quotes as might exist. I have a sneaking suspicion that my readers will be struggling to find anything nice that one religion has ever said about another. But I may be wrong. Surprise me!