The Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Australia conducted an interfaith webinar, “Why Faith?” on 24th of July 2021. Vice chair of Religions for Peace Australia and President of the Multifaith Association of South Australia – Ms Philippa Rowland – participated in this event. Her contribution includes the interconnectedness of all things, the care of the Earth and the need to help guide our global family in the right direction.
Salaam Alaikum – Firstly, I acknowledge I am living on unceeded Kaurna/Peremangk land and pay my respects to Aunty Heather and to Elders past present and emerging across the many First Nations of this vast Country. Eid Mubarak! I acknowledge this important time of Eid al-Adha for Muslim communities around the world and how hard it is for so many during this time of global pandemic. I speak today as a practising lay Mahayana Buddhist, of Anglican heritage who grew up in different countries.
“The word ‘Buddha’ comes from the Sanskrit root Budh, to be awake, to be conscious, to know. From the same root comes Buddhi found in the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, meaning in different contexts: intelligence, reason, vision, wisdom. It’s a human faculty that helps us to distinguish what is good and beautiful from what is evil and ugly, what is true from what is false, and thus helps one to walk on the path where this great prayer of the Upanishads finds its fulfilment.
From delusion lead me to Truth.
From darkness lead me to Light.
From death lead me to Immortality
It has been said that the Upanishads are the path of Light; the Bhagavad Gita is the path of Love; and the Dhammapada is the path of Life – but Buddha says simply:
Do not what is evil. Do what is good. Keep your mind pure. This is the teaching of Buddha. Dhammapada 183.” 1
- As a source of inspiration and hope;
- For a sense of the universal divine beyond our human frailties;
- Guide to daily living and the choices within our power to make – how we live, how we treat our family, our community and the wider world;
- Thus as a moral compass in our daily lives to motivate our efforts for the sake of all.
In Buddhist thinking, this “all”, encompasses all living beings. The interconnectedness of all things and the specific role given to humanity is treated variously across different faiths.
Yet at the core of all religions is a sense that we Humans were given great gifts. With those gifts come great responsibilities: a key one is to be responsible stewards of Mother Earth and our fellow creatures.
Pope Francis explains Integral Ecology in Laudato Si’,2 calling us all to “heed the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor and vulnerable”. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn also teaches on Interbeing3. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says ‘..we need a clear awareness of the interdependent nature of nations, of humans, of plants and animals and this world’.
Two key concepts sit at the heart of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and other eastern theologies:
- Ahimsa – the concept revered in Ahimsa is respect for life, for all life – it calls us to non-violence to self and to all others, non-violence in thoughts, words, and deeds;
- Karuna – means compassion or loving kindness, directing our actions to actively care for others.
and the second is also central:
In the Baha’i faith : Baha’ullah wrote – “It is not for one to pride oneself who loveth one’s one country, but rather for one who loveth the whole world. The Earth is but one country, and humankind its citizens. Beautify your tongues, O people with truthfulness and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty… Be ye trustees of God amongst His creatures, and emblems of His generosity amidst His people.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said: “In a sense, a religious practitioner is actually a soldier engaged in combat. With what enemies does she or he fight? Internal ones. Ignorance, anger, attachment and pride are the ultimate enemies; they are not outside, but within, and must be fought with the weapons of wisdom and concentration’ – Other traditions might add here regular prayer and supplication to their God.
Responsibly meeting humanity’s goals and aspirations require action & support from us all.
Environmental degradation & climate change, first seen as mainly a side effect of industrial wealth, has become a survival issue for developing nations. It is part of the downward spiral of ecological and economic decline in which many poorest nations are trapped.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has also said,
Because we all share this planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. This is not just a dream but a necessity. Many people consider science and religion to be in opposition. While certain religious concepts may conflict with scientific facts and principles, I feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of the challenges we face together in our interconnected world5.
In 2021, with a global population nearing 8 billion, we face the reality of a predicted increased intensity and frequency of extreme climatic events. As pointed out in the recent UNESCAP Disaster Report for the Asia Pacific Region 6, many countries could be reaching tipping points beyond which disaster risk, fuelled by climate change, exceeds their capacity to respond.
Citing His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve our problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged. If humankind continues to approach its problems from the perspective of temporary expediency, future generations will face tremendous difficulties.
Yet there is hope, and our faith teachings can provide an antidote to despair:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
A mind committed to compassion is like an overflowing reservoir – a constant source of energy, determination and kindness. If you are a compassionate person, then you build a compassionate family and then a compassionate community and then a compassionate world. The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.
I’d like to end with a short Taizé chant, learnt at the Gathering Place in Canberra:
Ubi caritas, et Amor
Ubi caritas, Deus ibi est
Living Charity, and steadfast love
Living Charity, shows the heart of love
1 This “section” is taken from Juan Mascaro’s Introduction to the Penguin Edition of The Dhammapada (1973)
2 Laudato Si (2015) https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-
3 Thich Nhat Hahn interview on Interbeing https://tricycle.org/magazine/interbeing-thich-nhat-hanh-interview/
4 HHDL is an acronym for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet
5 See Mind and Life Institute 10/01/21 HHDL, Greta &IPCC Scientists on ‘Climate Feedback Loops and Promising
Solutions’ + Brief films subtitled in 20 languages narrated by Richard Gere to inform and educate our communities.
© Philippa Rowland, 2021