Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Promise of Interfaith

Where can interfaith dialogue take us? I was asked this recently, and want to share my answer with you here.

There are many levels of inter-faith dialogue: sharing accurate information and correcting of misinformation about our respective religions; sharing our personal faith journeys; sharing our respective scriptures on a topic of mutual interest; finding common ethical ground and working toward common social goals; etc. All of these are important, and all of them can work toward the creation of a more loving community.

I would like to suggest one more. All our religions are, to borrow a phrase from Zen Buddhism, fingers pointing toward the moon; none of them is the moon itself. I want to get to the point where we can say with the Hindu Rig Veda that “Truth is one, different people call it by different names;” and then, even deeper still, to say with the Taoists, “the tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.”

I long for an interfaith dialogue where participants, while steeped in their respective traditions, read these traditions as metaphor and myth pointing toward truths that can be articulated in no other way. I want to be in dialogue with people who not only learn about one another, but from one another; and where the participants can be changed by what they learn.

This kind of interfaith dialogue would be rooted in deep humility. All we could affirm is that we know we don’t know what ultimate Truth or Reality is; all we could say is that real meeting happens when we step out of our scripts and speak together from a place of common questioning rather than uncommon answering.

This is why I put so much effort into interfaith work. I want it to take us through religion and beyond religion to stand together in awe of What Is. At this moment silence reigns, opinions cease, and there is a wordless wonder that leaves us each humbled, hopeful, loving, and courageous.

Can interfaith dialogue bring us to this place? Yes. I have experienced it with the faculty of the Spiritual Paths Institute, with the participants in Father Thomas Keating’s Snowmass Group, and with the participants at my twice-monthly interfaith luncheons at Wisdom House.

I know this kind of encounter is possible. My hope is that more and more people get to experience it.


deegilb said...

Beautifully spoken.

Tricia Datené said...

As an Anglican (Episcopal) Christian, I wholeheartedly agree that truth is one.

No One Special said...

My Soul longs for this type of interaction and community.

Thank you for speaking so clearly on this.

Mary said...

Thank you, Rami, for bringing a new depth to the meaning of interfaith dialogue. I am an ECKist who has learned so much about Judaism from my boyfriend in this past year. Together we are working in our corner of the world to share the message that Reality is Beyond our human definitions and divisions. You are an inspiration to us.

Changeless Chariot said...

As Mary says, "You are an inspiration to us." So true. I wonder if you also have practical guidance for how to replicate what you have done in these various venues and contexts? I can see that there could be many ways to seek the kinds of interfaith encounters you are pointing at here -- but as someone who has found success in doing this, what works well? Many bows to you.