Friday, June 13, 2008

Can You Help?

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!


Seraph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seraph said...

Well, they're undeniably ambiguous, but there are a couple quotes from the Christian bible that I think promote religious sharing. I’m only going to give one example-for the moment. Romans 12:16 reads: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but willing to associate with people of a low position.” Now, at first glance this doesn’t suggest anything. However, remembering the culture of the Jewish writers we know that not only the lower class in material wealth but also pagans, polytheists, and cultists were considered to have held “low positions.”

Shravasti Dhammika said...

I agree, it looks ambiguous at first glance, but also at second, fifth and fifteenth and does not seem to relate to what I'm looking for. Perhaps Romans 12:14 comes a bit closer, although not much. But thanks anyway.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm on topic here by including The Bramhajala Sutta"The Supreme Net" from the Digha Nikaya,ie the longer discourses of The Buddha. Not exactly an entry level discourse even for Buddhists! nonetheless the discourse includes some behavioural guidelines for The Buddha's followers, should they encounter those who would disparage his teachings,his community of followers and even The Buddha himself. He recomends that one should not respond with anger or resentment but should respond in a balanced way that includes explaining why that critical person is inccorect or not in accord with the what Buddha's teachings are understood to mean.
Likewise, to any person who praises the teachings (as he or she understands them), The Buddha or his followers, one should remain balanced, not elated , but point out that which is in accord with the teachings and the Buddha's followers. The Sutta also discusses the 62 religious positions or views held by those of other faiths at the time of The Buddha and probably still applicable to today's religious smorgasbord. Creationist Theism (the basis of) Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism etc, is amongst the 62 religious positions examined. This Sutta is alternatively known as"What The (Buddha's) teachings are not" Thus here at least, other religions are discussed -in some detail- to help understand The Buddha's specific teachings relative to other faiths. I am using as my referance The Wisdom Publications Edition of The Digha Nikaya, translated by Maurice Walsh.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

A very good point. But of course that is what one would expect from the Fully Enlightened Buddha. Can anyone find anything from the founders or followers of other religions?

Ken and Visakha said...

Dear Bhante,
We've passed your query on to the interfaith group we were active with when in the US. So far, no response.

boyadine said...

at first i thought the parable of the Good Samaritan would be a good example of a leader of a religion praising someone of a different faith, however on reading up about Samaritans on wikipedia i find that their central belief is that "There is one God, the same God recognized by the Hebrew prophets"; ie they believe they are true believers and that the Jews are deviants.. but pretty gd example anyway because Jesus praised the Samaritan over a Jewish rabbi, pretty strong praise considering the strong rivalry between the Samaritans and the Jews...

Ken and Visakha said...

A minister from an interfaith group we participated in wrote:

"That's easy :)

The Qu'ran says: VERILY, those who have faith in the Quran, as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.

The Bhagavad Gita says: Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and the rise of unrighteousness, then I manifest Myself. I incarnate from time to time for the protection of good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness."

Do these satisfy? If not, why not? We'll certainly give him your feedback!

Shravasti Dhammika said...

These are two interesting quotes. Please ask for and provide references, i.e. chapter and verse, so they can be checked and those who wish to can look them up.

Ken and Visakha said...

Well, here are the references from the minister:

"Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and the rise of unrighteousness, then I manifest Myself. I incarnate from time to time for the protection of good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness." (Bhagavad Gita 4.07-08)

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians,a whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they have their reward with their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve." HQ 2:62

I'd certainly like to share with him your musings on their meaning.

Oh, and many thanks for the spot-on comments about the generals of Burma!

Shai Gluskin said...

Up until the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the peoplehood and religion of the Children of Israel cannot be distinguished. So there is no chance of finding references to other religions. In the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) you have numerous references to treating the citizen and the outsider under one law. And there is usually a reference to remembering how the Children of Israel were treated poorly in Egypt as a reason why we should treat the "stranger" justly.

With Judaism emerging as a religion in the wake of the the destruction of the Temple, there should be some texts in the Talmudic literature. I look for some. Also when Jews lived, relatively peacefully under Islam - 700-1000, there might be some texts. But the Jewish/Christian relationship is fraut and was not likely to foster warm texts.

Let me know if you want those references about the "stranger." Otherwise I'll try to look for some others.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

The ancient Hebrews lived in close proximity to other faiths so there must be many comments about them. I certainly would be most interested if you can find quotes from the Torah (Old Testament) of later Jewish literature advocating or encouraging, as requested in the blog (a) positive comments about other faiths, (b) respect for, tolerance towards other faiths, or (c) that different faiths should exist in harmony. I look forward to seeing what you can find.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

the above comment should read 'or later Jewish literature'

David ( said...

The quote from the Bhagavad Gita just says that Vishnu will reincarnate and return several times, not that he (or she) will be a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Taoist in another life or not that other religions are "okay."

The quote from the Qu'ran is mistranslated and taken out of context. The actual verse says "Allah" and refers to the time of Moses at Mt. Sinai, not Jews of today.


There are other Buddhist writings too, such as the Upali passage where the Buddha tells Upali to seriously investigate before becoming a Buddhist and Upali is especially pleased to see the Buddha not trying to convert him or force his religion on him. And the Buddha even tells him to continue with his patronage to the Niganthas (Jains).

Seraph said...

Hello, S.D. You posted that the Torah was the O.T, but I wanted to let you know that you were mistaken. The Torah is only a portion of the O.T, specifically the first five books. Supposedly the Torah was written by Moses, and it’s also called the Pentateuch. The Jewish term for what we westerners refer to as the O.T is actually Tanakh, but the Torah is only a portion of this.

As far as the blog request, I really don’t there are any unambiguous verses from the Tanakh or Torah that fit the criteria for what you’re looking for. However, I am completely certain that you can find plenty of quotations within the Sikh cannon the “Guru Granth Sahib.” I’m still too lazy to dig up any specific citations though.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Seraphcaelumsixwing,
I'm aware of the Torah/New Testament difference but thanks anyway. I am also aware that there are plenty of 'unambigious' references in it/them to other religions, none of them particually positive, some of them pretty terriable. Nontheless, I hold my breath and wait to see if anyone can find anything close to what Asoka said 2200 years ago. I agree with you that Sikh texts may hold some.

David ( said...


No, no, please don't hold your breath, it may be years before we find such a passage, if at all.

I still have not found one, but here is something from the New Testament which is exactly opposite of what you are looking for, it is often called "The Gospel in a nutshell" :

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
– John 3:16 (KJV)

Many Christians quote this verse often, but it is so intolerant. I don't like it. To me it says that only those who believe in Jesus will have an afterlife or a heavenly afterlife, that is.

Seraph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seraph said...

I see. Well, I’m sorry if I was being arrogant or rude. Just trying to be helpful. By the way, I went out and did a search of Judeo/Christian/Muslim cannons and uncovered that the Qur’an, the Tanakh, and the N.T all contain references of religious tolerance. Here:

Qur’an “For each [religious following] there is a prayer…wherever you may be, Allah will bring you forth…” 2:148


Micah 4:5 “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods…”

Reading that more in context he’s basically prophesying that there would be a time of peace and prosperity where religions co-exist without fighting or arguing.

Essentially Micah says, “They will worship their gods, we’ll worship ours.”

So, it’s not encouraging a melting pot of religion, but perhaps it is encouraging of a salad-bowel? You can read and judge for yourself.


In the book of Luke (9:52-56) we find a group of people that refuse Jesus Christ. His disciples tell him toe punish the villagers but Jesus refuses. He simply turns and goes to another place where is welcomed. This story is retold in some of the other synoptic gospels.

No surprise, the book of Roman’s is also a good place for this kind of thing. Roman’s 14 is the particularly powerful one.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man whose faith is weak eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not.”

Basically being a Christian believer benefits us but that doesn’t make us better than anyone else. We’re still supposed to peacefully coincide without judging or bickering. It goes on to say:

“…Who are you to judge somebody else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.”

Which obviously means that he’s measured by his own morality. To me, though some “conservative” Christians might argue, this is basically saying that God is going to judge us based on our attempt to serve goodness. So, a Muslim isn’t condemned for bowing to Allah. He’s rewarded because this person feels that doing so is a good thing.

1st Corinthians 10:26 “If and unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conciseness.”

On verse 32 of the same chapter I found two translations. I don’t currently know what the language boundary is or what caused this-but I may pursue and try to find out. The first translation was:

“…Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or church of God.”

The second was:

“Do not cause anyone to stumble whether they be Jew or Gentile.”

So, is this more helpful than my initial and half-hearted comment? Hope you enjoyed, eager to hear your response.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Seraph,
A good selection which I will examine and comment on later. Aggorance and rudness? Sorry, I didn't see that part.

David ( said...

Interesting selection of passages from other religions.

The quote from the Qu'ran is not accurate. Perhaps you have quoted the wrong verse number?

The quote from Micah is referring to the "Last Days" not to current time. It is a utopian end of time, like Judgment Day, not what is now.

The passage from Luke refers to a group of Samaritans who did not welcome him. Technically Samaritans are Hebew people too and not much of a "different" religion.

The quote from Romans is just advocating eating whatever is put in front of you, a sort of pro-meat verse.

The quotes from Corinthians are similar and advocate eating everything. 1 Corinth. 10:33 ends with, "For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved" which does not sound very tolerant at all. It is basically saying that it is okay to push your beliefs since you are trying to "save" the others.

Sorry, but I still don't see anything that calls for tolerance to other religions, at least not directly, like the way Buddha and Ashoka put it.

Seraph said...

Well, you have some interesting points, David. However, I think you’re being a little too literal. The verses aren’t talking about eating everything in front of you. Jesus Christ said, “I am the door,” but I don’t search for a knob. Obviously he isn’t being completely literal.

Jesus also called his blood whine and his flesh bread. Drink and you will not be thirsty, you remember? It’s not talking about eating-except perhaps in Corinthians, it’s talking about spiritual nourishment.

Food and drink are used repeatedly for metaphors in the bible. My favorite example is found in Acts chapter 10. It tells us a story about how Peter went up on the rooftop to pray after a journey. He fell into a trance and saw a vision in which “animals of all species were lowered on a sheet from the heavens.”

Peter heard a voice that told him to eat, and he said “I have never eaten anything unclean!” The voice responded, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean!”

At first I thought this was just making reference to eating animals. However, Peter himself later goes on to explain that the vision was actually talking about the equality of people. He explains his vision in Act 10:34 by saying, “…I now know that God does not show favoritism…”

Anyway, the bible actually tells you to only eat what is needed and not to take more. It’d be silly if it then went on to say, “just eat whatever is in front of you.” The fact is that the passage isn’t talking about dinner-manors and finishing your plate any more than Jesus Christ was literally saying he was a bleeding bread-monster.

As far as the Samaritan and early Christian religions not being “different,” I disagree. I think they were very different. Judaism and Christianity are different religions, even though they’re undeniably related. Actually in this case a better comparison would be modern Christianity to modern Islam. The gods reign from the same origin-but their identities are variable and, subsequently, the religion themselves are different religions.

Besides, the authors of the bibles were just people with cultural limitations. So, they wouldn’t have viewed the Samaritans as members of the same religion even if they were. Nobody of that time, least of all Jews/Ebionites, thought that. So, assuming the religions are the same, he was still encouraging religious tolerance…just doing so in a painfully blundrous and hilariously ignorant way.

As far as the ending of Corinthians I don’t think that’s narrow-minded or anti-tolerant at all.

Especially if I’m correct in my assumption that God rewards people for doing what they feel is morally right.

Seraph said...

Also, as far as the quote from the Qur'an being wrong... I looked it up and it was correct. I even tried two different tangible sources (The Qur’an I own and one from the local library,) and another on the internet. It’s al-Baqarah: 148

David ( said...

Hi Seraph,

Can you show me where the Qur'an verse is in this website, translation below?

If the link does not hyperlink, copy and paste into your browser. If you find it, can you post the link to the actual verse? Thanks.

Seraph said...

What’s going on, David? Well, I’m not comfortable following the URL you posted. My computer’s not in the best shape right now and I’ve got enough problems getting it to function. However, if you visit my blog there’s a link to a website on which you can order your own copy of the Qur’an. They’ll mail it directly to you, and it should arrive within a few days. The best part is that not only is this a reliable translation by Muslims…it’s also free. I don’t remember the website address so I’ll just link you to my blog:

The link should be listed under: "Free Qur'an," or something like that. Just go to my blog, click the link, and fill out the information.

David ( said...

I already own several copies of the Qur'an, in English and Arabic. I have seen several translations and none of them have the quote you showed. Here are three other translations:


YUSUFALI: To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) Towards all that is good. Wheresoever ye are, Allah will bring you Together. For Allah Hath power over all things.

PICKTHAL: And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth; so vie with one another in good works. Wheresoever ye may be, Allah will bring you all together. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things.

SHAKIR: And every one has a direction to which he should turn, therefore hasten to (do) good works; wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together; surely Allah has power over all things.

here is another link to see the above:

Why won't you go to the links? They are just Qur'an translations.

Here is another translation of Al-Baqarah 2:148 :

[2:148] It is the truth from thy Lord; be not, therefore, of those who doubt.

I think the translation you have is either very wrong or a pc (politically correct) version / interpretation.

David ( said...

In addition to Ashoka's edict on relgious tolerance, there is this directly from the Buddha (below in quotes):

Upali lived during the time of Buddha and was the follower of another religion and went to the Buddha in order to argue with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he was so impressed that he decided to become a follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha said:

“Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself.

Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me: 'Make a proper investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a discipline they would have paraded a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord says to me: Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself."
Majjhima Nikaya 2.379

The Buddha even told Upali to continue his patronage to the Jains.

I still have not seen any writings that come close to this or to what Ashoka said.

Seraph said...

My copy is the Saheeh International English translation of the Qur'an. There’s some authority behind that name that I wouldn’t quickly cast aside. It’s a pretty universal translation.

Well, whatever the case I guess there’s no use arguing. I’m not a Muslim and I’m not really concerned with whoever is right or wrong.

As it stands I think that Buddhism is pretty much the power-house when it comes to a religiously tolerant religion-next to Sikhism, of course.

I believe that certain sects Christianity encourage religious tolerance, but not at all like Buddhism.