The God Squad: The Dalai Lama on mountain climbing
My column on John 14:6 (“I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.”) continues to generate thoughtful and loving responses by many readers. There were a few comments that let me know in strong language that as a Jew I have no chance to get to Heaven. To each of them I responded, “Maybe so but it will have nothing to do with my being Jewish.”
Most of the responses were strongly in support of my belief (shared by my faith) that the righteous of all nations have a share in the World To Come (the Jewish term for Heaven). Here is a sampling,
A thought: Consider, if there were only one cookbook, then there would be only one way for all food to be cooked. But we know there are many ways to cook the same food. -- (From K)
MG: One of the great spiritual giants of our time is the Dalai Lama. I have been honored to meet him and he honored us by writing a foreword to one of our books, "How Do You Spell God." He used the same metaphor that you used to answer the question of why there are so many different faiths in the world. His Holiness wrote:
“All the world’s religious traditions are similar because they help us become better human beings. For centuries millions of people have found peace of mind in their own religious tradition. Today, the world over, we can find followers of many faiths giving up their own welfare in order to help others. I believe that this wish to work for the happiness of others is the most important goal of a religious practice.
Human beings naturally possess different interests. So, it is not surprising that we have many different religious traditions with different ways of thinking and behaving. But this variety is a way for everyone to be happy. If we have a great variety of food, we will be able to satisfy many different tastes and needs. When we only have bread, the people who eat rice are left out. And the reason those people eat rice is that rice grows best where they live.
But the important point of all the religious traditions is to be helpful, we must maintain harmony and respect between us. This will benefit not only the followers of each religion but will make our own neighborhoods and countries more peaceful. To do this we need to understand something about the world’s different religions. Therefore, I am happy that my friend Rabbi Marc Gellman and Monsignor Thomas Hartman explain in a clear and easy way what the world’s religions are about.
For most of us, our religion depends on our family and where we were born and grew up. Usually, I think it is better not to change that. However, the more we understand of each other’s ways the more we can learn from each other. And the more easily we can develop respect and tolerance in our own lives and in our behavior towards each other. This will certainly help to increase peace and friendship throughout the world, which is one of the aims of all major religions.”
(MG). I am touched by those words deeply every time I read them. I guess you could call me a spiritual foodie. Faith, like eating, is a natural and basic and universal human need. I know that there are those who strongly disagree and who believe that faith is not a basic need and some who even believe that it is a harmful delusion. I do not agree yet I also do not feel the need to convert atheists or agnostics or judge them harshly because I know that in their own ways, they also are trying to find hope and love and community which are the fundamental goals of religion. I wish all people well in their quest for true human flourishing.
In my view, what is needed within the religious world in our time is a new openness and a stronger commitment to find the ways our beliefs intersect not the ways they diverge. However we interpret John 14:6, our overarching task must remain clear. In a world deeply divided by ideologies, we must find a way to create a world united by hope.
I surely cannot improve on His Holiness’s eloquence and spiritual generosity. Let me therefore close our mountain climbing discussion with his advice and my amen ... eat what grows best where you live.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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