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Lions Roar : March 2006
Ethiopia and Eritrea (Muslims vs. Chris- tians), Sri Lanka (Sinhalese Buddhists vs. Tamil Hindus), Indonesia (Muslims vs. Timorese Christians), Iran and Iraq (Shi- ite vs. Sunni Muslims), and the Caucasus (Orthodox Russians vs. Chechen Muslims; Muslim Azerbaijanis vs. Catholic and Or- thodox Armenians) are merely a few cases in point. These are places where religion has been the explicit cause of literally mil- lions of deaths in recent decades. Why is religion such a potent source of violence? There is no other sphere of discourse in which human beings so fully articulate their differences from one another, or cast these differences in terms of everlast- ing rewards and punishments. Religion is the one endeavor in which us-them think- ing achieves a transcendent significance. If you really believe that calling God by the right name can spell the difference between eternal happiness and eternal suffering, then it becomes quite reasonable to treat heretics and unbelievers rather badly. The stakes of our religious differences are immeasurably higher than those born of mere tribalism, racism, or politics. Religion is also the only area of our dis- course in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give evidence in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet, these beliefs often determine what they live for, what they will die for, and-all too often-what they will kill for. This is a prob- lem, because when the stakes are high, hu- man beings have a simple choice between conversation and violence. At the level of societies, the choice is between conversation and war. There is nothing apart from a fun- damental willingness to be reasonable-to have one's beliefs about the world revised by new evidence and new arguments-that can guarantee we will keep talking to one another. Certainty without evidence is nec- essarily divisive and dehumanizing. Therefore, one of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first cen- tury is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns- about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering-in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. Nothing stands in the way of this project more than the respect we accord religious faith. While there is no guarantee that rational people will always agree, the irrational are certain to be divided by their dogmas. It seems profoundly unlikely that we will heal the divisions in our world simply by multiplying the occasions for interfaith dialogue. The endgame for civilization cannot be mutual tolerance of patent ir- rationality. All parties to ecumenical reli- gious discourse have agreed to tread light- ly over those points where their world- views would otherwise collide. Yet these very points remain perpetual sources of bewilderment and intolerance for their coreligionists. Political correctness simply does not offer an enduring basis for hu- man cooperation. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dis- pensed with the dogma of faith. A CONTEMPLATIVE SCIENCE What the world most needs at this mo- ment is a means of convincing human beings to embrace the whole of the spe- cies as their moral community. For this we need to develop an utterly nonsectarian way of talking about the full spectrum of human experience and human aspiration. We need a discourse on ethics and spiritu- ality that is every bit as unconstrained by dogma and cultural prejudice as the dis- course of science is. What we need, in fact, is a contemplative science, a modern ap- proach to exploring the furthest reaches of psychological well-being. It should go without saying that we will not develop such a science by attempting to spread "American Buddhism;' or "Western Bud- dhism," or "Engaged Buddhism." If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world-truths like emptiness, selflessness, and impermanence-these truths are not in the least "Buddhist." No doubt, most serious practitioners of meditation realize this, but most Buddhists do not. Consequently, even if a person is aware of the timeless and non- contingent nature of the meditative insights described in the Buddhist literature, his Recalling Chögyam Trungpa Compiled and edited by Fabrice Midal Foreword by Diana J. Mukpo In wide-ranging essays and interviews, contributors from the fields of Buddhist practice and scholarship, philosophy, the arts, and literature examine the work of this modern genius. Contributors: Pema Chödrön · The Dalai Lama · Sherab Chödzin Kohn · Jack Kornfìeld. Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche · Charles Prebish · Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche · Bernie Glassman · Traleg Kyabgön Rinpoche · and others. Visit our website to receive a 20% discount on this and many other books. SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS t To order call (888) 424-2329 or visit www.shambhala.com SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 77