Peace Symposium

47The Review of Religions – June 2004 A DHARMA TALK ON BUDDHISM’S EMPHASIS ON PEACE by Phrakru Sarnu Lom Despite the fact that we can find happiness with the aid of science and hi tech that provides us with physical comfort and eff i c i e n c y, there has still not been the possibility of everyone achieving a true sense of peace in human would. On the other hand, if we don’t use hi tech carefully, it regulates not only our modes of action alone but it also rules over our modes of thought and feeling. As a result we can be grown up mechanical not only in hand but also in head and in heart and we may neglect inner peace altogether. The plain truth is that our peace and happiness depends on our mind, which is within us not on materials, which are outside us. Therefore, from time immemorial, the only possible way for mankind, for all of us to have both temporary and ultimately peaceful happiness is only through the training of the mind. According to this, Buddhism and other religions of the world have an important part to play. Ever since the 5th Century BC the Buddha who discovered Buddhism has been the Light of Asia. His teaching gives light and radiance over the region from Kabul Valley in the west to Japan and Thailand in the Far East, from Java in the south to Siberia in the North. Today His teaching attracts many people around the world. For this reason in the year 2000 the United Nations realised that the Buddha is the true spiritual Teacher of peace. Therefore, the UNO reserves one day of each year to pay heartfelt tribute to the Buddha whom millions of people around the world look upon as their guide. Throughout his ministry from his First Sermon and other discourses Religion is Peace Symposium On April 25th the Ahmadiyya community hosted a Peace Symposium at Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, where speakers from a number of different faiths spoke to a large audience about the subject of peace within their own religion. We produce below, speeches from religious representatives from the Buddhist and Jewish faiths with the kind permission of the two speakers. 48 Peace Symposium The Review of Religions – June 2004 the Buddha urged both monks and family people to tread and follow the Middle Wa y. The cardinal feature of his teaching is the emphasis on respect for the religions of others and tolerance of all people, regardless of race, culture and nationalities. His teaching is above all a religion of peace. In the Third Century BCE, the Buddhist emperor, Asoka, carved in the rock, ‘One should not honour only one’s own religion… but one should honour religions of others. In so doing one helps one’s religion to grow and also renders service to the religions of others’. The Buddha did not set out to convert people to any belief system or dogma. His mission was to show people the way to liberation and peace from violence and suffering. To this end he always taught the system of truly ethical conduct of daily living, which he advised and recommended to all people. Before his sermons, whether a short one or a long one, he says: N ATTI SANT1 PA R A M SUKHAM, The highest bliss and happiness is the peace of mind. LOKA MISAM SANT1 PEKKHO PROOHAYA All must cultivate the element of peace. How can we develop the peace of mind? The essential answer is to follow the religious principles. The B u d d h a ’s teaching shows both democracy and science, which means the two gods for modern people. But one needs to study and practise it correctly in accordance with the Middle Way and with individual status and maturity. On the whole the Teaching of the Buddha bases on Truth and correct Reason. He strongly stated, NATTI DOSA SAMO AGGI….. These ‘Greed, Hatred, Delusion’ are real Fires. These fires cause misunder- standing and estrangement between two groups of people, the result of which always brings about all kinds of grief, sorrow and suffering to mankind. The present circumstances reveal not only a sickening and serious imbalance of compassion and love, but they also testify, give evidence, as witness to this truth. Please look around and see what happens not according to what we like or do not like but look at the fact without distortion. We find and see trouble 49 Peace Symposium The Review of Religions – June 2004 and violence almost everywhere. Therefore we should not allow ourselves to be burnt by the fires of hate, greed and delusion. If we let them occupy our minds and hearts we will find no peace. Buddhism does not recommend the use of force, which is conducive to killing. Whatever is evil, Buddhism does not support it at all. The Buddha pointed out quite clearly that the most important element of peace, whether in ourselves, in our families and in our society at large, is true love, real compassion, tolerance and charity. May I suggest that all of us who live here in the multiple-culture should cultivate true love, compassion and tolerance or plant them in our minds and hearts. Only through this sole way can we and the world achieve peace, which is the long wished for and dreamed of. And only through this practice can man justifiably be called civilised. In short the Buddha advises us: Not to commit any evil But to cultivate love and compassion And to purify the minds This is the steppingstone to peace. May all the accumulated merit, which all of us have made today be conducive to the progress of peace. About the Author – Phrakru Sarnu Lom The Venerable Lom is one of the chief Thai Monks teaching Budhism at the Buddhapadipa Temple in Wi m b l e d o n , London. He is also the Secretary to the Temple and a member of the interfaith groups for Wimbledon, Merton, Kingston and Wandsworth. 50 Peace Symposium The Review of Religions – June 2004 A JEWISH VIEW ON PEACE by Rabbi Danny Rich I am honoured to be able to contribute a Jewish view to the symposium: ‘Religion is Peace’. I shall cover w a r and peace, for a major aspect of the Jewish understanding of peace is the absence of war. The Hebrew word most often rendered as ‘peace’ in English is ‘s h a l o m’ which enters Hebrew vocabulary in the first book of the Hebrew Bible, Genesis. Its verbal origin means ‘to be whole, to be complete, to be sound’, and is used in the Hebrew tradition in the senses of Divine kindness and m e r c y, of alliance between friends and allies, of an individual who is p h y s i c a l l y, mentally and morally ‘at one’, and of the absence of war and m a r a u d i n g . The Hebrew prophets are abundantly clear that the whole purpose of Jewish and human life is the eradication of war and the fulfilment of a ‘Messianic’ peace. Thus the words of the 8th Century BCE Isaiah (2:2-4) are engraved in the Great Hall of the United Nations building in New York: ‘In days to come the mountain of God’s house shall be established as the highest mountain, towering above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall go and say ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Eternal One to the house of the God of Jacob, so that we may learn God’s ways, and walk in God’s paths’. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Eternal God from Jeru s a l e m . And God shall judge between the nations and decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning- hooks; nation shall not lift up s w o rd against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ War, that is the absence of peace, is in Jewish tradition at best a necessary evil, and thus Jewish tradition neither glorifies war nor extols the warmongers. Jewish heroes are rarely warriors. King David was refused the privilege of building the Temple because he had engaged in warfare (I Chronicles 22:8) and the Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 10b) depicts, at the very moment of Hebrew liberation from Egyptian slavery, God rebuking the 51 Peace Symposium The Review of Religions – June 2004 angels for bursting into song while the Reed Sea covered the Egyptian pursuers: ‘My cre a t u res are drowning in the sea and you would sing before me.’ In spite of the Jewish horror of war, Judaism does not adopt a pacifist attitude. Whilst everything possible should be done to prevent war, defence (perhaps including a pre- emptive strike) is not only permitted but may be obligatory. The Talmud declares starkly (Sanhedrin 72a) ‘If a person intends to kill you, be the first to kill your enemy.’ Killing the one who is about to kill you is not a matter to be undertaken without regard for the innocent and neither is excessive violence sanctioned. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) goes on to say: ‘It has been taught by Rabbi Jonathan ben Saul: If one was pursuing his fellow to slay him and the pursued could have saved himself by maiming a limb of the pursuer but instead killed his pursuer, the pursued is subject to execution on that count’. From these texts emerged the ‘just war’ theory. For Judaism a ‘just war’ requires moral justification to begin the war and moral means in fighting the war. Self defence or defence of an innocent bystander is such a justification, but Judaism requires that in an offensive or pre- emptive war the executive (the King in ancient Israel) must gain the approval of the Sanhedrin. Judaism mandates that a declaration of war is preceded by a clear offer of peaceful resolution, giving the enemy the right to surrender and non-combatants the opportunity to flee. Whilst military targets are fair game, Jewish teaching protects the environment (from the admonition in Deut 20: 19 – 20: not to destroy fruit bearing trees), a principle that Moses Maimonides (circa 1135 – 1204) expanded thus: ‘Not only one who cuts down fruit-bearing trees but also one who smashes household goods, tears clothes, demolishes a building, stops up a spring, or wastes food in a destructive way violates the command: ‘Yo u must not destroy.’” (Mishneh Torah, ‘Laws concerning Kings and Wars’ 8- 10) Thus Jewish teaching permits war if the war is against an enemy who 52 Message from Heaven The Review of Religions – June 2004 threatens you or other innocent persons. The war must be declared by a balance of the executive and the legislature, following a clear o ffer of peace and time for the innocent to flee. The war must then be conducted conscious of the following responsibilities: to protect the environment and minimise damage to persons, property and natural resources, to resist glorification and remain aware of the tragedy and necessary evil of war, and to pursue and promote avenues for peace wherever practicable. The object of the war is, ironically, the advent of real universal peace as predicted by the 8th Century Hebrew Prophet M i c a h (4:4) when ‘everyone shall sit under their vine and under their fig-tree and none shall make them afraid.’ It is to that peace to which I shall now return. Peace and justice were the highest of rabbinic values. Rabban Simeon bar Gamaliel declared (Avot 1:18) ‘By thre e things the world is preserved: by truth, by judgement and by peace’. These aspects are three parts of the same for when justice is done, the truth is vindicated and peace prevails. The hope for peace is a part of every Jewish statutory time of prayer, and the Talmud (Berachot 64a) reminds scholars that their role is to increase peace in the world. Passivity was not good enough. Following Psalm 34:15 ‘Seek peace and pursue it’, the Midrash (Numbers Rabbah, Hukkat 19:27) declared: ‘The Torah does not command you to run after or pursue other commandments, but only to fulfil them on the a p p ropriate occasion. But p e a c e you must seek in your own place and pursue it even to another place as well’. Peace does not just happen. As my teacher, Rabbi John Rayner wrote:’ ‘It is not enough to pray for peace; it is not enough to talk of peace. We have to work for it: to challenge those who foster conflict and refute their propaganda; to ascertain and make known the truth, both when it confirms and when it runs counter to conventional views; to denounce injustice when it is committed against us but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only our own but also theirs; to insist that peace requires sacrifice – of pride, or 53 Peace Symposium The Review of Religions – June 2004 wealth, or territory; to practice and promote the way of moderation, compromise and reconciliation; and to build bridges of respect and understanding, trust and friend- ship, across the chasms that divide humanity’. That, is Peace the Jewish way. Let me conclude with two midrashim which takes us back to the early chapters of Genesis and the legend of the creation. The Rabbis asked: ‘Why was only one man and one woman made at creation? So that in future no person could say to another: ‘My ancestry is better than y o u r s . ’ Elsewhere we read that humanity was created btselem elohim: in the image of God. This should teach us that like us every other human being has a spark of btselem elohim . How could the other be an enemy if one could look in their eyes and see the same spark of btselem elohim. About the Author – Rabbi Danny Rich Rabbi Danny Rich JP BA hons began his Rabbinic studies at Leo Bæck College in London. He served as an assistant to Rabbi Julia Neurberger at the South London Liberal Synagogue. He became a fulltime Rabbi at Kingston in 1988. Danny was ordained in 1989, submitting a thesis on ‘The Teachings of Torah to non-Jews’. He serves as a Director of the Youth Department of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues and for 15 years as Director of the Kadimah Summer Camp. Danny serves as a Jewish chaplain to HM Prisons, Kingston Hospital and also the Surrey Oaklands NHS Trust. He is the founding chairman of the Ditton Branch of the Council of Christian and Jews and the first Chair of the recently formed Kingston Inter-Faith Forum.