Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: interreligious dialogue
Monday, 05 July 2010 18:09

Tea break with Taipei's only Rabbi

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1918, Rabbi Dr E. F. Einhorn has witnessed huge global change throughout his 91 years.  He moved to Taipei in early 1975 where he has since served as Rabbi.

Belying his age, Rabbi Einhorn is the Chairman of Republicans Abroad Taiwan; Honorary Representative Asia and Pacific Region for the Polish Chamber of Commerce; and Honorary Secretary of State for Montana, USA, among several other roles.

Here Rabbi Einhorn discusses his role as Taipei's Rabbi and shares some insights on how he remains motivated after so many years of dedicated activity.


Monday, 21 June 2010 16:40

Spiritual experience and interreligious dialogue

Religions are not only made of rituals, creeds and cultural expressions. They provide different paths for one’s spiritual experience and growth. For sure, spiritual experience can happen and develop outside religions but religions provide written traditions, guides and beliefs that lead one along the way. Religions are not only spiritual experiences, and spiritual experiences are not only religious in nature. But there is a strong connection between the two.

Different religions provide different kinds of religious experiences. The way the Absolute is conceived, the cultural context where these religions grew or still the styles of prayers and liturgy proper to different religious traditions shape the spiritual experiences that a given religion allows. But this does not mean that one religion would allow for only one type of spiritual path, nor that there is no communication possible among these paths. Actually, spiritual experiences are also determined by the psychological characteristics of the pilgrim, or maybe, even more basically, by human nature itself. Said otherwise, spiritual experiences are anthropologically determined.

In fact, studying spiritual experiences in their variety makes us able to investigate both things at the same time: (a) the nature of Man as an animal capable of praying, meditating, and investigating what he cannot see or touch; (b) and also, maybe, the nature of the Absolute itself, since dialogue among different spiritual traditions might reveal common insights. For using a crude comparison, the nature of Man and the nature of the Absolute are the hardware on which can play the various “software” of the spiritual paths. Spiritual experience, when lived and reflected upon, has much to tell us about the ‘hardware” of human and divine nature.

Seen in this light, religious dialogue, when anchored into dialogue among spiritualities, is also a way to explore our common human condition. It is an investigation, a way of growing into one’s spiritual identity, and not only a way of building more harmony and peace among religions. When seeing interreligious dialogue as the cross-fertilization of various spiritual experiences, a few interesting insights might occur to us. For instance, spiritual traditions put a special stress on some basic virtues that are anchored into our everyday experience and that prove to be fundamental for starting the spiritual path: the most important of these qualities is to be deeply attentive to Life within us, to the Other and to the world. This is the way to develop “pure attention”, which, in many traditions, has often been defined as the essence of prayer. “Attention” goes along a growing awareness of the richness of the our world and of the inner mystery of the things and beings that surround us.

All spiritual traditions also develop a paradoxical language that mixes metaphor of “summit’ and “abyss”, of fire and water, of awe and deep confidence. They try to subvert our ordinary categories and experiences so as to open us to the novelty of the Absolute. They make us see the spiritual path as a pilgrimage that we are called to undertake.

A third characteristic of spiritual cross-encounter is that all spiritual traditions develop ways of transcending the limits of the Self, so as to abolish the distance between “subject” and “object.” They want us not to concentrate on ourselves but rather to open us to a transforming reality. Becoming more familiar with the object of our quest and being progressively and deeply transformed by it is one and the same operation. In this respect, spirituality is a form of experimental knowledge. It aims at experiencing and revealing the inner world within the external one by making us dare to be transformed by the reality we investigate. Spiritual writings can thus be seen as “maps”, as itineraries. Among them, mystical writings are of a special quality, as they are personal testimonies on life-long experiences that have led their authors to the very limit of their humaneness. Mystics can be seen as “explorers” on the boundaries between human and divine nature.

Finally, there is a post-modern twist in the way inter-spiritual encounters are lived today: many people do not live only an experience of inter-religious dialogue but also of intra-religous dialogue; they can internally refer to various traditions (for instance aboriginal religions and Christianity), due to the fluidity of cultural contexts. This can enrich their own spiritual experience and the one of all Humankind. Spiritual pilgrims do not live their experience for themselves alone but for the community of which they are part - and ultimately for the whole of Humankind searching for its nature and destiny.

Photo by B.V.


Tuesday, 25 May 2010 00:00

Towards a global ethic

On May 11th, 2010, the Inaugural International Forum on "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" was held to open the new Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at  Shanghai's Fudan University. Dr. Stephan Schlensog, the Secretary General of the Global Ethic Foundation, Tübingen/Germany, gave his speech on “Global Ethic as the Basis for the Dialogue of Civilizations”.


Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00

Religions as languages

The remarkable diversity of religious expressions typical of South-East Asia has led to a focus on the interaction between the various faiths operating in the region. Such attention has been also fostered by the various ethno-religious conflicts that have developed, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia. If religious communities had to be agents of peace, the narratives on which they rely would play a role: creative interpretation of canonical narratives can stress peace and reconciliation; in the pluralistic situation of the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao, some narratives play a mediating role by incorporating elements from different religious traditions; the sharing of stories (especially role-model stories) at the local grassroots level is by itself a factor of reconciliation.

At the theological level, some thinkers nowadays see hermeneutics not as a tool for redefining religious identities in the region but rather as a resource for challenging them. R.S Sugirtharajah says that “the task is seen not as adapting the Christian Gospel in Asian idioms, but as re-conceptualizing the basic tenets of the Christian faith in the light of Asian realities. … There is a willingness to integrate, synthesize and interconnect.” The need to connect with other believers in order to implement justice, peace and environmental concerns also plays a role in the “communication and interconnection” paradigm, which is strongly influenced by theologians such as Michael Amaladoss, Raimundo Panikkar, Paul Knitter and Aloysius Pieris. Of special relevance might be the concept of intra-religious dialogue as championed by Panikkar: one’s religion is very akin to a native tongue, and any religion is as complete as a language is. The discovery of the Other draws us out of our language and leads us to understand what its “words” mean to our religious partner. To enter another's world is a religious experience that engages a dialogue not only with the Other but also within our self.

In this approach, and other similar, the hermeneutics of inter-religious dialogue is not seen as a theological task among others but as the one that determines the future of Christianity in Asia and even the shaping of religious forms, identities and experiences in the world. South-East Asia is a place in which the intermingling and communicability of religious faiths is especially visible, which gives it a prominent role in the continuation of this global endeavour.

Photo courtesy of James Russell

 

 

 

Friday, 06 February 2009 01:34

Remembering Master Sheng Yen

This morning I prayed for the followers of Master Sheng Yen.

Master Sheng Yen’s passing will be mourned by many in Taiwan and throughout the world—including his many friends and admirers in the Catholic Church—but it will be feIt especially by his disciples.

I prayed that his disciples might be comforted as they adjust to the painful departure of their beloved Master. Even good Buddhists, whose beliefs and practices help them overcome their desires and emotions, are still human beings and need time to process the loss of someone so close and important to them as Master Sheng Yen.
But I prayed especially that these students and disciples of his might continue the work and spirit of their teacher. Master Sheng Yen had a unique, humble, and effective way of imparting wisdom and peace to others.

We met many years ago on the set of a TV talk show hosted by Lee Tao and broadcast live by CTS on Sunday noon. I was a bit nervous because I had never spoken with Master Sheng Yen and was worried that I might not understand his Buddhist terminology, or that I might inadvertently say something inappropriate and offend this revered Buddhist teacher.

But my fears were unfounded. After a few minutes of conversation and discussion, I could sense Master Sheng Yen’s profound good will and gentle warmth. He smiled at the stories of my sometimes awkward experiences in Buddhist temples or with Buddhist friends. He nodded approvingly when I related how Zen meditation had become an important part of my spirituality and prayer life. He shared my desire that religion play a leading role in improving the moral life of the people and the healthy development of society.

As the program was ending, after bidding good-bye to the audience, Master Sheng Yen rose and came towards me. I felt drawn to him like a magnet and had to restrain myself from giving him a big, Italian-style hug. (I know that Buddhist monks are very restrained in physical expressions of affection.) Still, he reached out and grasped my arms in a warm expression of friendship. And there we were, before a large TV audience—a Buddhist monk and a Catholic priest—locked in an embrace of mutual friendship and respect.

There were many others happy meetings and experiences with this extraordinary spiritual leader. After our program at CTS, Master Sheng Yen visited us at Kuangchi Program Service to learn how TV programs are produced. I was honored to join him in his multi-media campaign on "protection of the spiritual environment" ("心靈環保"). He chose Kuangchi to help him produce his TV program series. Last year, once again he came to our studios to film a series of TV commercials on social morality.

That was the last time I saw my good friend and mentor—Master Sheng Yen. Even while suffering from kidney disease, he had the same bright spirit, peace and warmth that has inspired so many.

So I hope you will understand and forgive me if I permit myself a few tears as I pray for this spiritual Master and all his followers, asking my God that He keep the bright light of Master Sheng Yen shining on us in this world, as he passes on to another.

Photo courtesy of KPS

 


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