An Interfaith Summit for Peace and Harmony in Australia and the Asia-Pacific Region

Distinguished faith elders, scholars, and guests:

Hello, everyone! It is quite rare that I have this opportunity to listen to your valuable opinions. I am truly grateful.

Australia is a country where many cultures, many ethnic groups, and many faiths intermingle. This country pays particular attention to the human spirit of equality, harmony, mutual respect, and mutual help. The reality is that, because of ease of travel, advanced technology, and availability of information, the whole world has become a village, and we are now in an era of the intermingling of religions, of ethnic groups, and of cultures. I deeply believe that determining how to strengthen interfaith communication and cooperation, and to achieve the ideal of social and world harmony is an important issue that everyone present is concerned about.

Unearthing the Root of Conflict

After the September 11 attacks, the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland invited me to participate in a symposium at the university attended by professors from the centre. During the panel, I presented my view, explaining that the true root of conflict is the conflict between our true nature and our acquired habits within us.

The true nature is of the utmost purity and virtuousness. It is perfect and radiant. Habits are the bad thoughts and views that one acquired after birth. Simply put, the conflict between the true nature and acquired habits is the conflict between altruism and self-benefit. Compassion, loving-kindness, and all virtues are innate in the true nature of all beings, but selfishness and all bad thoughts are not.

Therefore, if those who engage in the teaching of peace can (1) truly resolve in their minds their conflicts with anyone, any matter, and any thing, (2) let go of all selfish thoughts and actions of controlling and possessing, and (3) interact with others and engage in tasks with sincere love, then this would truly be the basic way to resolve all contradictions and conflicts in the world.

A harmonious world must begin with our minds
Modern science has gradually come to prove this fact. Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan has conducted water experiments for more than a decade and found that water can understand human thoughts, react naturally to them and thus change accordingly. When water was introduced to thoughts of love and gratitude, it displayed beautiful crystals. When the same water was bombarded with thoughts of hatred and disgust, it displayed broken, ugly crystals. Dr. Emoto once said with deep feeling, “In hundreds of thousands of experiments, the most beautiful water crystals are elicited by the thoughts of love and gratitude. ‘Love’ and ‘gratitude’ seem to be the core of the universe.”

I deeply agree with this view. Consider this: water, which is only a mineral, can react this way. So, if human beings, who have the highest spiritual awareness of all creatures, can communicate with one another with sincere love, there is no reason that conflict and contradiction can not be resolved.

In October 2005, I met with Elder Mahathir, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia. The elder asked if there would ever be any peace in the world. I have humbly learned the teachings of the Buddha and the sages for fifty-eight years and dare not slack off for even one day. I believe the ancient teachings and affirm that human nature is originally good.

Therefore, I sincerely proposed that if every country, every ethnic group, every political party and faction, and every religious group can broaden their minds and horizons, treat one another equally, get along with them harmoniously, seek common ground and put aside differences, and exist and flourish side by side, then an ideal harmonious society and world will definitely be realized. It is difficult to achieve this, but if we start with achieving religious cooperation, it will have a positive impact on the cooperation of countries, of ethnic groups, and of political parties. Elder Mahathir readily agreed with this proposal. The next day, he invited me to attend the Perdana Global Peace Forum to be held in Kuala Lumpur under his sponsorship in December 2005.

Why Can Religious Cooperation Resolve Conflict?

In 1998, I was living in Singapore. At that time, there were nine major religious groups there. I interacted with them with sincerity and we became good friends. Later on, I also had wonderful opportunities to interact and seek advice from religious elders in countries such as Japan, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, and Australia. I learned tremendously from them.

I deeply feel that all religious sages used the intrinsic essences of “compassion, loving-kindness, sincerity, respectfulness, humility, and harmony” to teach all beings to end wrongdoings and practice virtuous conduct, to break through delusion and attain enlightenment, and to get along harmoniously with one another and treat one another equally. Their teachings encompass the teachings of morality, virtues, the law of cause and effect, philosophy, and science.

For example, Hinduism teaches “No harming, no stealing, chastity, kindness, impartiality, patience, perseverance, a moderate diet, and cleanliness. These are the ten precepts.”

Zoroastrianism teaches “Consider them as thine own, and this is thy religion.”

Catholicism teaches “You love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Christianity teaches “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Confucianism teaches “Human beings, regardless of nationality, race, or religions, everyone should be loved equally. We are all sheltered by the same sky and we all live on the same planet Earth.”

Islam teaches “There is only one moral norm, which is the principle of universal love originating from selfless and virtuous deeds.”

Taoism teaches “Be loyal to one’s superior, be filial to one’s parents, respect one’s brothers, and be a trustworthy friend.”

Sikhism teaches “More than all else do I cherish at heart that love which makes me to live a limitless life in this world.”

Bahaism teaches “The purpose of the one true God in manifesting Himself is to summon all mankind to truthfulness and sincerity, to piety and trustworthiness,…” and “The peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God.”

Buddhism says “Be filial and provide for parents, and be respectful to and serve teachers,” “Do nothing that is bad; do everything that is good,” “Be greatly compassionate. People will abide by morality. The land and people will be enveloped in peace.”

Therefore, we know:

Love is the true mind, the true nature, truly what it is (suchness), and Dharma nature.

Love is the original nature, the innate goodness, the utmost purity, and the utmost virtuousness.

Love is the truth, true meaning, life, and eternity.

Love is holiness, God, Allah, and the holy spirit.

Love nurtures everything in the universe. Everything in the universe is born and grows from love.

Love is the root of all virtues, all abilities, and all good fortune.

From this we can deeply believe that if the religious groups whose teachings are based on sincere love can truly work together and propagate their teachings extensively, they will definitely be able to help all beings uncover their innate goodness and resolve all contradictions and conflicts.

All Religions Are One Family

Although the texts of each religion give different descriptions of the origin of life and the universe, my religious friends all affirm that the one and only True God has perfect wisdom and extraordinary powers and his teaching varies according to the geographical environment, lifestyle, culture, education, and the needs of each ethnic group. In China, he manifested as Confucius, Mencius, Laozi, and Zhuangzi. In Buddhism, he manifested as Sakyamuni Buddha. In Christianity, he manifested as Jesus, in Judaism, as Moses, and in Islam, as Muhammad. Buddhism teaches that everything is one entity; everything is “manifested by the true mind and altered by the consciousness.” The true mind is actually another name for Allah and God. The same True God has various manifestation bodies, which are ultimately the same. Their common goal is to help all beings end wrongdoings and practice virtuous conduct, and break through delusion and attain enlightenment.

The concept of holomovement proposed by modern scientist David Bohm is a great inspiration to us. The core of this concept is that the universe is an undivided wholeness. The whole has closely interconnected parts. Any one of the parts carries the information of the whole. In other words, the whole is included in every one of the parts.

All the religions are like the different departments of a university. The chancellor is the one and only True God. The professors of each department are the manifestation bodies of the True God.

From this concept, we can deeply appreciate that all of the different religions in the world are one family. We should completely let go of arrogance, jealousy, and greed, treat one another equally, get along with everyone harmoniously, and work together to help people awaken. Suffering arises from delusion. Happiness arises from awakening. Only when we are truly awakened will we naturally leave suffering behind and attain happiness.

Traveling Will Enhance Communication

When I was living in Singapore, I invited the nine representatives from the Inter-religious Organization of Singapore (IRO) to come to our lecture hall to teach and to have dialogs with the Buddhist practitioners. I also visited them and lectured at their invitation. We learned from one another. During the millennium dinner party, the representatives of the IRO sincerely prayed together for world peace. In addition, a group was formed to visit China in 2000. In 2003, when the Pure Land Learning College held its grand opening, the IRO came and conveyed their best wishes. During the trips, all the religious representatives shared ideas and truly communicated, and thus became close friends.

In July 2004, an Indonesian interfaith delegation visited Cairo, Egypt and the Vatican. On that trip they met with the elders at Al Azhar University, an Islamic university that has a history of over one thousand years, and then Pope John Paul II.

In December of the same year, an Indonesian interfaith delegation, led by the former president of Indonesia, Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, visited Chinese religious representatives. As the proverb says: “Read ten thousand books and travel ten thousand miles.” Being invited on these trips as advisor, I, too, benefited a great deal in the harmonious atmosphere of such various interfaith visits.

In October 2006, at the invitation of Dr. Preeyanuch Jariyavidyanont, Deputy Permanent Delegate of Thailand to UNESCO, the Pure Land Learning College co-hosted the three-day “Celebration of the 2550th Birth Anniversary of the Buddha” with UNESCO at its Paris headquarters. We sincerely invited representatives of the religions from Singapore and Australia to pray together for world peace on stage. With the lectures and an exhibition, we successfully proved three things to the delegates from the 192 countries in UNESCO and participants from all over the world.

Religious groups can indeed work together. There is only one True God in the universe. This True God is love.

One can indeed be taught to be a better person. In the township of Tangchi, Lujiang, China, the teachers at The Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education practiced and taught the Confucian Guidelines for Being a Good Person. These actions deeply moved the local residents. Within three months, good social values were restored significantly, which serves as proof [that one can indeed be taught to be a better person].

From this we can see that the teaching of traditional culture of the sages around the world can truly be applied to resolve contradiction and conflict and achieve world peace today.

In May 2008, I was invited to join a Malaysian religious delegation visiting Islamic groups in Xinjiang Province, China. We visited the Islamic Institute and amiably exchanged views with local Muslims. It was a rare opportunity in learning.

The aforementioned trips and visits greatly enhanced interfaith learning, communication, and understanding, and these generated very good results. Generally, religious leaders have limited contact with one another. Even when they meet occasionally, their time together is short. If they can travel together, they will be in one another’s company from morning till night and the best communication in every aspect will be achieved.

Delving Deeply into Religious Teaching

For religious groups to get along harmoniously and to understand and help one another, the most important foundation is to understand the core teachings of every religion and to practice them. Therefore, it is indeed necessary for religious groups to learn one another’s religious texts.

In Chinese etymology, religion, or zongjiao, has profound meanings. Zong conveys the meaning of “fundamental,” “main,” and “revere.” Jiao is “education.” Therefore, zongjiao means “a fundamental, main education; a teaching that is worth respecting and praising.”

Once an Indonesian practitioner asked me, “How can different religious groups get along harmoniously without conflict?”

I answered that the most important thing is to diligently learn one’s own religious teaching. For example, Indonesia acknowledges five religions: Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. These five religions are like a person’s five fingers. They differ in length, but when one traces them back to the palm, the wrist, and the arm, one will know that the fingers share the same root and the same origin. Therefore, as long as one continues to delve deeply into one’s religious texts, when one gets to a certain level, one will naturally comprehend the teaching. When one is exposed to the texts of other religions, one will also be able to understand them. An ancient saying speaks of “delving deeply into one teaching and immersing oneself in it for a long time.” When one delves deeply and reaches a certain level, one will attain a pure mind and will naturally have a thorough understanding.

I feel that when different religious groups begin to interact with one another, they should seek common ground and put aside differences. They should especially point out the common teachings in the texts and put aside the teachings that are different. The teachings of the sages come from great minds, and great minds think alike. We see differences because our level of cultivation is not deep enough. If we continue to learn and delve deeply into our own teachings and elevate our level, we will naturally understand and all the differences will dissolve.

A proverb says: “Everyone shares the same heart. Since they share the same heart, they would think in a similar fashion.” Different religious groups will naturally be like brothers and sisters, respecting, loving, and working with one another.

For years, I have diligently learned various religious texts such as the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an. When I study the Bible, I become a devout Christian or a devout Catholic. When I study the Qur’an, I become a devout Muslim. My sincerity and respect for Allah and God are pure and impartial, just like my sincerity and respect for Buddhas and bodhisattvas. I deeply understand that only when I completely put down the three obstacles of jealousy, anger, and greed and affirm that all sages are my best teachers will I benefit from studying the texts and really understand the true meanings of the sages’ teachings.

Taking up the Mission of Propagating the Proper Teachings

Today, the world is in chaos. The root reason is that Easterners neglect the teaching of the sages and Westerners neglect religious education. Take traditional Chinese teaching for example. The two most important subjects for children are the classics and history. Chinese classics are the basis of the teaching of the sages. History books are the accumulation of previous generations’ experiences. If one does not study the classics, one will not grow in learning and virtue. If one does not study history, one will not be enriched in knowledge and experience. People today neglect the classics and history and abandon religion. They do not know that religious teaching and the teaching of the sages are about natural law. Or that truth, virtuousness, beauty, and wisdom are innate in the minds and nature of all beings. Therefore, they are at a loss; they do not know what to do. From individuals and families to society, countries, and even nature and the universe, enormous conflict arises and cannot be resolved.

At this critical moment, propagators of each religion, without a doubt, should take up the great mission of “reviving and passing on the teachings of the ancient sages and achieving everlasting peace for future generations” and fulfill the sacred aspiration of propagating and protecting the proper teachings and saving the world from pending disasters.

When we carefully look at history, it is easy for us to see that the teaching of every religion in the world is a perfect multicultural social teaching of the utmost virtuousness. The founders of all the religions were voluntary multicultural social educators. Jesus taught for three years. Muhammad taught for twenty-seven years. Confucius taught for five years. Sakyamuni Buddha taught for forty-nine years. They all completely let go of prestige, wealth, and greed. They were pure in mind and body. They engaged in cultivation and taught people from all walks of life, without discrimination. Therefore, they were able to exert profound and wide-reaching influence on people of their times and later generations.

I sincerely hope that the United Nations or the government of each country will establish a university of religions to nurture good teachers of religions, who will delve deeply into their own religious teachings and learn from one another. The students will give lectures every day. After being assessed by a governmental review board as to whether it is truly beneficial to social stability and harmony, approved lectures can be broadcasted to people on national television and around the world via the Internet and satellite television for long-distance learning.

Important religious maxims can be extracted and compiled into books to enhance interfaith communication and understanding, truly affirming “One Humanity, Many Faiths.” Indeed, all of the cultures, all ethnic groups, and all learning are one entity.

This way, all the contradictions and conflicts will naturally be resolved. We can gladly expect a harmonious world. All beings will be happy.

I hope that everyone present today will share this great wish and have the same mind and the same aspiration. I sincerely hope that everyone here will courteously invite the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Kevin Rudd to be the first one to establish a global university of religions or a global multicultural university, so that Australia will lead the world to peace and stability and set the best example for other countries. This will be the true contribution that everyone present today makes to their countries and people and to the humanity.

In conclusion, I wish the summit every success! And I wish all of you good health! May the propagation of your teachings be truly successful!

I also wish Prime Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd good health. May Australia continue to enjoy every prosperity.

Shi Chin Kung, AM
President, Pure Land Learning College, Australia
Honorary Professor, University of Queensland, Australia
Honorary Professor, Griffith University, Australia
Honorary Ph.D., Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Indonesia