world council of churches

My Neighbours of Other Religions Help
Me Becoming a Better Buddhist

Waichi Hoshina

There are, in our world, many religious traditions and each has its own history, its own foundation of faith, ceremonial form and daily practices. I think that all religions teach us to abandon selfishness and to become one with God or the Universal Truth which bestows life upon every creature in the world.

In the Sutra of "Innumerable Meanings," Buddha confides that "My teachings with innumerable meanings originate from one law." Buddha applied only one universal truth, in accordance with each person's ability, nature and desires, so that everyone should be saved without exception.

Then, what is the truth? Buddha reveals it in the second chapter of "The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law": "Many Buddhas, Saints or Sages come into this world to save people. They give a variety of necessary preachments; however there is one common main message. That is, firstly, to open the mind of man and to let us realize our own divine and eternal life, which is hidden in the innermost part of our mind. Secondly, to show the authentic meaning of our life, which is to grow up to the divine life until perfection. Thirdly, to let us get convinced about the significance of the way. Then, fourthly, to let us start walking the way."

Though people can embark on the way from their particular stand point and keep their own pace, there is one common and necessary way. That is "prayer, gratitude, love and voluntary service not for compensation." If people of all religions practice the way, all according to their own beautiful tradition, we will serve the will of God or Buddha and we can live together. Furthermore, when we meet people of other traditions with an open heart, we can learn many good things and discover that which we have in common and the essential constituents of life. I would like to share with you some of my own experiences.

I lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for three years. As we arrived, a Catholic friend came to the airport to pick us up. Although he had broken his leg and was walking with crutches he still came to meet us. Such encounters are important. They made me understand the significance of words such as "... it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

Another experience of great significance for me was when I visited Jerusalem with my wife, tracing the way where Jesus had walked. Touching the inside of the hole, where once the cross had been raised, I couldn't help but feel something profound and eternal, enabling me to discover some of the most inspiring elements of Christian faith, the strength to be found in the message of Christ who had burdened himself with the misery and affliction of everyone.

Such experiences actually offered me new encounters with Sakyamuni Buddha. Buddha was born as a prince in ancient India. He abandoned all earthly status and chose the most humble way to seek the Universal Truth that saves everyone. Ultimately he reached supreme enlightenment and taught people the way of salvation, Dharma. He devoted himself to save people until the end of his life and he left us an eternal way of hope.

Although we may all aspire to personal peace, we are anxious to avoid suffering, too much of a burden.

I have shared with you some of my experiences, where through the encounter with someone of another faith, in this case a Christian, and my pilgrimage to a holy place of another faith, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, I met Buddha anew. By meeting with good Christian friends I was helped to become a more committed Buddhist.

Jesus answered the question "Who is my neighbor whom I am to love as myself?" by telling the story of the Samaritan who cared for a wounded traveler on the road, irrespective of race and religion. He was the neighbor. I have met many good neighbors, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and people following different African traditions. I would like to be a neighbor for them. The words of President Nichiko Niwano of Rissho Kosei-kai strengthen me in this resolve: "Everything in the world is impermanent and changeable. This whole universe is one life. The origin of every human wish is the salvation of all neighbors."

Mr Waichi Hoshina is a member of the Japanese lay Buddhist organization RKK where he serves in the Department for External Relations.

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