A blessing from the Dalai Lama

Twelve years ago, I went to see the Dalai Lama with the small seeds of a big dream: a movement … Continued

Twelve years ago, I went to see the Dalai Lama with the small seeds of a big dream: a movement of young people from different traditions building bridges of interfaith understanding through service. Last week, I had the chance to thank His Holiness personally for speaking encouraging words to a 22-year-old kid with a head full of radical spangles.

The Dalai Lama was in Bloomington, Ind., giving a teaching on the Buddhist Heart Sutra. He took time out to meet with a small group of Muslim and interfaith leaders to launch a new book — and a new dialogue — called Common Ground Between Islam and Buddhism.

Muslims have lived in Tibet for four centuries, His Holiness recounted, in full peace and solidarity with their Buddhist neighbors. The Dalai Lama told a story of one of the earliest memories he had with a Muslim, the local watch-repairer. “I was a restless child,” the Dalai Lama said, that priceless smile playing upon his lips, “so I would always break my watch.” The Muslim watch-repairer would come and fix the watch, and lovingly admonish the young Dalai Lama to play more gently. At this point the Dalai Lama broke out in full laughter — a Muslim telling a Buddhist to be more gentle, that is a story the world should hear more often!

And then the Dalai Lama got serious. He spoke of his sadness that the image of Islam is all violence. This was not his experience with Muslims or his understanding of their faith and he was especially concerned about the isolation this image was causing.

Several times His Holiness spoke of the importance of “coming together”, emphasizing that when people interact positively with each other they learn how similar they are, and when they are separated the gap is often filled by hostility.

The Buddhist-Muslim dialogue affirms how faith communities can come together on shared values while disagreeing vehemently on key matters of theology. Indeed, the theological core of Islam is belief in one God, while Buddhists don’t believe in God at all. His Holiness is, of course, well aware of this fundamental difference, but his eye is always trained on the similarities. He writes in his forward to Common Ground: “My Muslim friends have explained to me that since God is characterized as compassionate and merciful, faithful Muslims are actually offering complete submission to the ideal of universal compassion … Such a practice is clearly a way of purifying the mind and seems to parallel what the Buddha himself said about the importance of actually living your life in a compassionate, ethical way.”

The Dalai Lama goes on to widen the circle beyond Muslims and Buddhists, and call us collectively to act on what he sees as the chief value in all of our traditions: “Clearly, compassion lies at the heart of the teachings of both Islam and Buddhism, as it also lies at the heart of other great religious traditions … The time has certainly come for followers of the world’s great religions to work together to create a more compassionate and peaceful world.”

The Dalai Lama led the group in Bloomington in a short meditation, and as I was focused in on my breath and silently chanting the name of God in Arabic, I thought back to my first audience with His Holiness. I was experimenting with Buddhism back then, trying to figure out who I was and what I hoped to contribute to the world. I was eager to explain the Interfaith Youth Core to His Holiness during that first audience, but the Dalai Lama insisted on asking me questions about my own religious path first. I stammered that I didn’t know. He prodded gently, asking if I was a Muslim. I said my ancestors were. He spoke back then in Dharamsalla as he did last week in Bloomington, about his friendships with Muslims and his admiration for Islam. “Be a good Muslim,” he told me. Only then did he allow the discussion to turn to the Interfaith Youth Core.

In my short statement to His Holiness in Bloomington, I thanked him from the bottom of my heart: “It was you, a Buddhist monk, who showed me my path and affirmed my purpose. The dream I shared with you 12 years ago, we are building it.”

I told him the network of interfaith leaders is growing. I asked him to pray for us.

Eboo Patel will be on a panel about interfaith cooperation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama this Sunday at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. Click here for details.

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  • areyousaying

    Poor Eboo, like Timothy Shriver, is terminally sincere.Muslims displayed their love of Buddhism when they destroyed the priceless Buddhist artifacts in Afghanistan.

  • quo_vadis

    The Dalai Lama is magnanimity and erudition himself, and a shining example for all to follow.But could someone please invite these individuals to a “Kindness” session with the Dalai Lama, and teach them a little bit of what is commonly understood as civility, humanity and plain old fashioned fairness.But I doubt whether any of these basic concepts are in the realm of their grasp, given the unrelenting display of their unmitigated ……!

  • karsanghasi

    A Muslim praising a Buddhist! Only in America. In a Muslim nation, Buddhism is not even recognized as a religion. It is considered even worse than Judaism and paganism.The WSJ has an editorial today about the plight of Copt Christians at the hands of Muslims in Egypt. Remember, it was once a Christian nation before Islamic crusades.

  • Navin1

    I am sure the DL would be honored to go to Mecca to teach in open, to the public, the common findings of Buddhism and Islam. I am not sure he would get an invitation. Perhaps that can be EP’s next jihad: the DL tours the Middle East – what a great idea.hariaum

  • PSolus

    Good to see that the spirit of Phineas Taylor Barnum is alive and thriving.Did you also get to see the bearded lady?

  • YEAL9

    Eboo Patel never misses a beat in trying to convince us that he is indeed in favor of the equality of other religions while still holding fast to the koran that demands world and women domination by Muslim males.

  • gimpi

    Seriously, what is the matter with you people? Mr. Patel can’t put up any post without being expected to account for every Muslim problem in history. Do any of the Christians here take responsibility for the KKK? They claimed to be Christians. Do any of the atheists here take responsibility for Stalin? He claimed to be an atheist.We are all only and ever responsible for ourselves. Mr. Patel seems to be a fine young man. He had a profound discussion with the Dalai Lama, and offers it here. Can anyone actually read what he wrote, and address HIS statements, not the actions of Muslims halfway across the world.Mr. Patel, I appreciated your column. I have never had the pleasure of meeting the Dalai Lama, but I have read much of his writings, and I know he has come to the belief that what you believe is less important than what you do with it. His advice to you is in keeping with that. You seem to be taking it to heart, and being a ‘good Muslim,’ as he suggests. Well done.

  • DebChatterjee

    Eboo, as always, is a wishy-washy, shallow friend of Buddhism.This is what Quran [009:029] says (about all non-Muslims):YUSUFALI: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”Yeah, Buddhist-Muslim peace dialogue – my foot !

  • DebChatterjee

    Yasseryousufi:You are right that Muslim tyrants who ruled India for more than 1000 years had enough time to finish off Hindus and other religions. They tried their best. They did not succeed because they mostly found life pleasuresome in India. They engaged in wild sex by raping and abducting Hindu women and finally confining them to brothels (harems). The Muslim rulers listened to music, played polo, drank like a fish, and just enjoyed life. Yes, when they were in a bad mood they started their bad Muhammadan ways of pillage, loot and mayhem. But mostly they kept the Hindus alive because they could levy heavy poll (protection) tax (jaziya) on tem per Quran [009:029] which I had quoted. If you read Will Durant’s THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION (Our Oriental Heritage, vol. 1), Simon and Schuster, NY, 1957, you shall find these documented. Ala-ud-din Khilji had made such barbarianism a common place and that was taken up much later by his successor Aurangzeb. Reading history it appears that under Muslim rule India never progressed; it turned back into the dark ages that Islamic culture/civilization brings with it.

  • yasseryousufi

    Debchatterjee,Muslims ruled for a 1000 years over you Hindus, If what you say is true wasn’t there enough time to finish hinduism for good?

  • Navin1

    so Yasser,are you disagreeing with koranic verse quoted? Can you provide a more correct translation of that verse. You and I have discussed this. Yes, islam failed to convert Hindus. They wiped out all of the ancient cultures of the middle east, continue to wipe out the B’hai and the Zoastrians, and they wiped out greater than 1/2 the Hindus. No there wasn’t enough time or power, but then allah has all the time in the world to hate the infidel. By the way, will you support the DL’s lecture series on Buddhism to the entire middle east and northern africa for the peace loving people of allah? hariaum

  • yasseryousufi

    Harium,For the umpteenth time I tell you……go read the context before you quote from the Quran.I know we have discussed this dozens of times……all religions attempt to consolidate their base venture out to attract more and more converts. This true for Christianity, Hinduism and Buddism as well. There are still hundred’s of thousands of non-muslims (Christians, Jews, Bahai’s etc.) living all over Middle East. None of them were wiped out…….most of them converted to Islam because they thought of Islam as a superior religion to their previously held set of believes. And surely you would know…..Islam didn’t get all its converts through conquest. No muslim army went to Indonesia, Malaysia or Brunei. Indonesia alone has more muslims than the entire Middle-East.So Muslims wiped out half the Hindus?? Got any proof of that?? Sounds more like typical hindu bigot garbage coming out of Bal Thackeray’s mouth.

  • yasseryousufi

    Debchootarjee,Looks like all that Cowpee Cola’s have filled your brains with Goober. Try reading an authentic history of India. If the muslim rulers only indulged in pleasure seeking how could they have ruled over people twenty times bigger then them for 1000 years. Sure they kept Harems, listened to music, played polo or whatever! Thats what kings do. I cant understand your gripe with that.I have written many times Jizya. It was an effective tool of governance. The hindu’s who paid Jizya, didn’t have to pay Zakaat tax like the muslims did. Also they didn’t have to serve in the Army, so they got protection without putting their lives in danger. Didn’t the British impose taxes as well? doesn’t the Hindu Government of today charges taxes from its subjects? And most of the muslim rulers of India didn’t even impose Jizya. You cite Aurangzeb but fail to mention his great grand father, Akbar the greatest of all kings of India, who followed all the hindu customs. All his close confidantes were Hindus.Try reading real history not the Hindu Fundamentalist BJP sanctioned text books for a change. India was the richest country in the world before the Europeans came. Muslims spent all of India’s earnings in India. Didn’t loot its wealth and shipped it back to UK like the Europeans did. Muslims introduced India to the marvels of Islamic architecture and the cutting edge innovations that were taking place in the Islamic world outside India. How far has India progressed since the muslims have not been in power? Shining India is a myth. Over half a billion people live below the poverty line. Millions sleep over the footpaths. Hundreds die of hunger everyday. For the 200 million untouchables of India who would be killed if they as much as walk beside an upper class hindus…..its still the dark ages!

  • YEAL9

    Deepak,If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go of God”. You are one of the “stars” in the show.(Ex-Catholic, now atheist) Julia Sweeney’s monologue “Letting Go Of God” will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book or blog on the historical Jesus, your “Ultimate Happiness Prescription”, atheism or secularism.Buy the DVD or watch it on Showtime. “Letting Go of God ~ Julia Sweeney (DVD – 2008)Five Star Rating