- Every religion is true.
- Every religion is imperfect.
- Ahimsa (the principle of nonviolence) shows us what to accept or reject in any religious tradition.
A friend recently lent me a book called Gandhi on Christianity (Orbis Books, 1991). In reading it, I came to realize just how Gandhian my own approach to interfaith work has been. I am sure his influence had come to me through many indirect channels. Above I have listed some of his basic points.
Gandhi labored for independence in an India that had experienced in its history, conversions of Hindus to Islam, missionary efforts to convert Indians to Christianity, and efforts to convert Indians back to Hinduism. Indian independence and partition into India and Pakistan were accompanied by inter-communal bloodshed, which tragically continues on occasion to this day.
In that context, Gandhi discouraged people from converting from their birth religion to another one, and thus he also discouraged attempts to convert others to one's own religion. Instead he urged the sympathetic study of other religions, a study which seeks to understand another religion from the religious life of its own practitioners. He felt, for instance, that studying Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.made him a better Hindu.
While I would affirm every person's right to choose their own religious commitments, I find that Gandhi's principles resonate with my own experience. When I served on the board of the South Coast Interfaith Council in Long Beach, we were not there to debate religious differences; we were not there to convert one another. We were there to learn from each other, to promote mutual understanding, to speak out for justice, and to help heal a broken world. We were motivated by the conviction that there will never be world peace without peace among the religions.
More recently, I have been attending classes and worship at the Buddhist Temple of San Diego. As I gradually absorb the teachings of Shinran and the meaning of Shin Buddhism for its practitioners, I am deepening my own journey on the Christ-path. And I am getting new insights into Swedenborg's concept of Heaven.
To all my fellow way-seekers, whoever and wherever you are, I say peace!