Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue
April 23, 2003
Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara
Present: M. Pannaloka, Miao Yi, Miao His, Lin P. Huang,
(all from Hsi Lai Temple), Ven. Karuna Dharma, Michihiro Ama,
Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Hon. Consul General of Sri Lanka Pradeep
Gunawardana and wife, Bhante Piyananda, Bhante Purmaji, Saman
Wagaarachchi, Fr. Jim Fredericks, Rev. Heidi Singh, Cynthia
Shimazu, David Chappell, Michael Kerze.
Michael Kerze: Msgr. John Sheridan, pastor emeritus
of Our Lady of Malibu parish, recently told me that the question
was not whether the recently initiated war in Iraq is a just war
or not, but in what direction is the nation going in the use
of force. I think that given the contemporary situation, the
question is an important on for us to consider.
Fr. Fredericks: In my class Monday at Loyola Marymount,
the doctrine of Original Sin came up. This doctrine is complicated
and misunderstood by many Christians, but if understood correctly
it shows affinities with the 4 Noble Truths on the human condition.
Original Sin highlights the fact that we rebel against being
the creatures God created us to be to be at peace, in
love, loving in harmony with the environment and each other,
and to be free, that is to promote harmony and love. We dont
want to be that. We reject it to be something else. The class
discussed: why do we do this make a prison of our freedom?
A student made the point that the strongest driving force is
fear, and it drives us to do terrible things. We think we can
find peace through violence, safety through domination. What
would Buddhists say about how fear rules us and drives us?
Rev. Heidi Singh: Ive been wrestling with this
since 9-11. I was more horrified by the reaction than to the
event, for it was out of proportion if we put it into the global
context of terrorism. But further, we must look at root causes
and rectify them. In India, this winter, I thought of
Mahatma Ghandi, about how to act and not turn anger towards
the aggressor. We have to do something, but it is a struggle,
to do peace and educational work without being angry. This is
an unprecedented time for the United States: constitutional
rights are over-ruled, civil liberties, civil and human rights
are circumvented. So many Buddhists have experienced oppression
in their own lives like Thich Nhat Hahn, MahaGhosananda, the
Dalai Lama. My husband is from South Asia and wears a turban,
my son is of dark complexion they have been targets
of this fear reaction in the United States. I attended the
Friday prayer service at the Islamic Center where Dr. Hathout
spoke, and I felt the power of compassion and non-violence.
Ven. Piyananda: The Pope and the Dalai Lama condemned
the war, advised Bush against it and to try to do his best to
avoid the war. How can we help these people in their chaos?
But in a panel with Rabbi Kushner, Dr. Hathout, Deprak Chopra
and a Catholic father, Rabbi Kushner and the Catholic explained
that it is OK to kill but not to murder.
Fr. Alexei: At a similar gather on the day we bombed
where we thought Saddam was, a Christian minister was almost
ecstatic about it. I think all killing is wrong. One could argue
that it is all right to kill but not to murder, capitol punishment,
for example, but the Catholic Church is against it. I appreciated
what Heidi said. I was disturbed by how the United States public
responded to Sept. 11. What response would there have been if
we sent aid to Afghanistan and not invaded?
Ven. Karuna Dharma: What karma are we developing now
for the future? We ourselves are part of the karma of our country.
Im terrified of the karma coming back to our country.
Bush doesnt seem to understand theres always a reaction
to action. Im afraid for my children and grandchildren.
It makes me so sad to think of that.
Ven. Piyananda: I talked to many Buddhist leaders here
in the United States and they all have fear about Bush. He is
a born again Christian and he only listens to them, not to Catholics,
Methodists or others. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, we all share
this fear. This country belongs to all of us, not just fundamentalists.
Fr. Alexei: The recent Newsweek had a feature article: Bush and God. Bush
did not receive any delegation from the Methodist Church. He
received the one from the Vatican out of courtesy.
David Chappell: Bush participates in the CBS the
Community Bible Study, run by Billy and Franklin Graham.
Michael Kerze: I would like to expand on this with reference
to our dialogue last time about faith and awakening. In Asvaghosas
Awakening of Faith, when he described faith he described
practices. In Christianity, one would have to say faith is also
practice, more than a cognitive assent to propositions. The
question I have is what is the relation of faith to the war?
The sense I picked up from Asvaghosa was that faith represented
transformation. The same I would say would be true of Christianity
transformation of self through the grace of God but also
a responsibility to transform society in view of the grace weve
been given. Can we think of the relationship of our faith in
response to the war.
David Chappell: The text Mike refers to is about self
transformation. But transformation of society? Thats
a real problem for Buddhist. Buddha left home, society. King
Asoka, even after converting to Buddhism, killed his wife and
18,000 Jains, as related in a Sanskrit biography of Asoka translated
by John Strong. For Buddhists, politics is always a problem.
A state will claim it is the one institution with the right
to kill. In democracy it is very difficult because it is a
Rev. Heidi: Many times, for a Buddhist to do our practice
is a political act. To make peace in any way is a political
act. We might be in great danger at some time because of this.
In Loving Kindness meditation, we get to the same love degree
as a mother to child to everyone, even your enemies. War makes
someone other, less worthy. The Buddhist goal, is
to love as a mother loves a child for any sentient being. One
cant make a distinction.
Ven. Piyananda: Faith, Saddha, means the
highest qualities we hold within ourselves. It means trust.
Ven. Purmaj: Sat is goodness, dhr is to uphold, faith
is goodness as what everyone upholds. In the gospels a man
comes to Jesus and asks: Good sir, what is the way to eternal
life? Jesus answers: Do not call me good, only God is good.
He upholds the good. Divinity is really goodness if
we uphold God we uphold goodness. Buddhist uphold Buddha, his
goodness. To appreciate goodness is to have the right sense
of values. If we believe right is might, we uphold goodness.
Sila is the behave in the right way. It comes from Saddha,
to uphold right values.
David Chappell: None of us can be as good as we wish
to be; we all need one another to be good. Should we choose
to do social acts, should we support the UN?
M. Pannaloka: Right after Sept. 11, our abbot at Hsi
Lai said that if there is war, we must fight the war with compassion.
We must help innocents. It is more than simple giving, we must
practice compassion with strength.
Rev. Ama: Is it possible to have an Islamic speaker
at our dialogue? In an Orange County interfaith group, an Islamic
speaker corrected our misunderstandings could we do
something like that?
Ven. Piyananda: In the 12th century at Nala
University, 10,000 Buddhist monks were shut and burned. There
are many conflicts today about Islam.
Cynthia Shimazu: In different religious traditions, there
are people who use them not in accord with teachings. This war
is one of the things feeding how the world sees the US. Yes
we have power, but we ought to withhold it. We must not take
the actions of one group and predicate it of the whole religion.
Rev. Heidi: When the Oklahoma Federal building was bombed,
all white people were not condemned and rounded up. We can
always find reasons not to like some other group, but it is
personal connections, relations, with individuals, that cuts
through that. In the partition of Pakistan, my husbands brother
was killed by a Hindu. They worked through the issues for if
you love people from a certain group, you cant condemn
all for something that happened 500 years ago or last
David: Id like your help. I have 12 students through
next month who want connections to listen to Muslim peace makers.
Wed appreciate your cooperation to get the news out. We
are not large enough to become an NGO in UNESCO, but we can
participate in our local UN group 16 chapters will meet
on May 3.