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Planting Seeds of Understanding 2017-06-06T11:38:11+00:00

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Planting Seeds of Understanding

Posted on 15/10/2012

Planting Seeds of Understanding

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Imagine … “a world where people are deeply grounded in a moral and ethical tradition, where humility and service are highly valued and where reason, science and technology are fully utilized for the benefit of all.” [1]

Does this sound like some sort of utopia that we would like to choose for the human race? A place where harmony reigns and suffering is diminished? From a Buddhist perspective, does it resonate with the ideal of following the middle path for the sake of all sentient beings?

These words, this dream, mirror the dedicated work of a Turkish Muslim scholar living in our modern times. His force of philosophy and concerns for peaceful coexistence among men has spawned a movement of believers around the world. His name is Fethullah Gülen.

But Buddhists, Christians, and Jews alike could voice these same words, too. This is why the connections begin, in ways to bridge the great divides that often separate us. Humanity is a shared concern, and while religions offer guidance in their doctrines, the common essences link us all in spirit. We are connected, whether we face it or not, in cooperation.

The Gülen Movement has promoted interfaith and intercultural dialogues for decades in many countries in order to encourage understanding, cultivate mutual respect and cooperation between disparate societies.  Finding ways to live in peaceful coexistence are a mission. One such invitation for dialogue led a group of Buddhists to travel to Turkey this summer and discover the hosts’ intent.

The Pearl Institute (Formerly known as Anatolia Cultural & Dialogue Center) in Hong Kong initiated and arranged the intercultural visit. The PI mission is to share their national ethos and friendly hospitality to promote bridging in human kinship and community. The Buddhists went to learn about a country with a rich cultural and religious history that has evolved into a contemporary secular society. Metaphorically, Turkey is balanced between East and West, and Muslim faith is the dominant religion today.

‘Warmth of hospitality’ abundantly springs to mind when travelling within Turkey as a visitor. Laughter, teasing, and friendly people greet you in all manner of casual encounters. They gleefully shouted “Japon” and “Kung Fu” in the direction of our Chinese appearance trying to make connection with labels that they knew. It was innocent and endearing. The monastic clothing of the monks and nuns in our group was a magnet for the curious. We became a ‘tourist attraction’ of sorts with Turkish locals requesting photo-ops.

It was the special month of Ramadan and the extra-holy atmosphere beheld the prayer and fasting rituals. No food, no drink in the daylight hours for the pious Muslims. We had something to learn in terms of patience on an empty stomach.  While we wilted in the summer heat and cherished every meal, it was a marvel to observe our abstaining hosts in their positive repose.  Although they were sometimes sleepy, their willingness to cope was an admirable display of faith.

One night in the mountains outside Bursa was a memorable dinner shared with five host couples that wanted to meet the Buddhist group.  The restaurant was exceptional in that a village women’s association, the first of its kind in a male-dominated society, run it and the delicious food is locally grown. The ambience was as comfortable as a private home with children running about and attentive service from the traditional ladies. The unity of breaking fast together in the evenings created fellowship and sincere appreciation for our nourishment.

Gathered over coffee in a quiet room, we all joined “sharing” that night to exchange our views. After all, wasn’t that one of the reasons for our journey? Taking turns around the room, my heart beat fast to speak out loud and share the feelings hiding there.  In contrast to my Asian friends, the story began with a cultural difference: “I am from New York”, were the words in introduction. Only days before, I had flown from there to join the group. Sitting in the warm circle gaze of those kind Muslim people, my tears began to fall.

Still too often now, the words New York and Islam occur together with 9/11.  Like other pairs:  of love and hate, extreme and not, and bias and intolerance. My tears sprang from a deep well of emotions – a place of misconceptions. I felt for the Americans who struggle to comprehend why these events took place. Terrorism spoils the amity and confounds the well-meaning people. Why is there so much hatred?

We met these sincere and gentle Turkish people who revere their Muslim faith. Their willingness to listen, and engage with other backgrounds, defies the negative perceptions.  How I wish that life could be this way, with both sides reaching out in trust and conversation. The questions about religion and the mysteries of fear… make any of us vulnerable when facing strangers.  There was compassion in that room and concern for making change.

That night taught me a lesson, to remember what is possible. The sincere efforts of our hosts reminded me of the goodness in human nature. When we laughed and dined together, the values of their community and humble service were clear. I reflected on this during the rest of our trip, and thought about my own connections with others. How do I reach out generously, and try to make a difference for harmony in the world?

In both small steps, and big strides, the Gülen movement spreads outwards with patience and, in many ways, common sense. Through faith, education, communication and humanitarian assistance – these grass-roots communities strive to make the world a better place. For me, to meet these people is an encouragement to make my own contribution. To imagine what can happen next and in the future for our children.

Buddhism is a journey of self-discovery and development of moral virtue. As individuals, we do not live in isolation. I have always felt that departing from one’s comfort zone is an excellent way to gain an understanding of different people, places, and things – and our connections to one another. With this in mind and working on awareness, how can we learn to help each other? We begin with ourselves, and make improvements to lead by positive example.

What I brought home from Turkey was inspiration. My heart has opened up. The dialogue arose, and the disparities explored. We learned about each other and probed the ways for peace. In so doing, the seeds of hope were planted and fertile ground was sown. We may be different in cultures and religion, but the sun shines on all of us as equals.


http://www.acdc.org.hk/components/com_jce/editor/tiny_mce/themes/advanced/skins/default/img/items.gif); background-position-x: 50%; “>[1] Bruce Eldrige, “The Place of the Gülen Movement in the Intellectual History of Islam, Particularly in relation to Islam’s Confrontation with Post modernism”. Page 526, Gülen Conference, Dec. 4 – 6, 2009, Los Angelos, CA.  http://gulenconference.net/

Buddhistdoor International

Cathy Ziengs
2012-10-15

For more articles about Interfaith Travel to Turkey

想像一下……“一個人們具備深厚道德與倫理觀的世界,在這個世界中,人們心存謙卑,富侍奉服務他人的心,同時充份利用理性及科技造福世人。”[1]

聽起來像不像人人嚮往的烏托邦? 一個充滿和諧,甚少苦難的世界。從佛教的角度看,這理想是否與 “為眾生走中道” 的信仰和應?
這番說話,這個理想,正好和一位現代土耳其伊斯蘭教學者的信念一致。他的信仰主張全人類和平共存,在全球吸引了眾多追隨者。他就是法杜拉.葛蘭(M. Fethullah Gulen)。

可是佛教徒,基督徒和猶太教徒不也會說出同一番話嗎?這正是彼此溝通對話的起點,一直往下走,便可以把分隔彼此的鴻溝縮窄。人道精神是屬於所有人的。不同的宗教以其不同教義教導人們,但連結我們的是它們的共同精髓。而人類大同的精神還是深植人心之中,無論人與人之間有否合作,人類終究是緊密連接一起的。

多年來,古倫運動在很多國家中,推動不同宗教及不同文化之間的對話,使分裂敵對的族群重新建立相互的理解,尊重與合作。找出和平共存之道是一項使命。為了這個使命,為了找到對話的契機,一群佛教徒應邀在今夏到訪土耳其。

在香港的安娜多利亞文化及對話中心(Pearl Institute / Anatolia Cultural & Dialog Centre)籌辦了這次跨文化訪問。中心的使命,是透過分享不同民族間的信念與待客之道,把人與人之間的友愛與共濟之心發揚光大。這群佛教徒希望認識一個有深厚文化及宗教歷史的國家怎樣發展成為一個現代社會。土耳其可比喻為遊走益東西文化之間,而伊斯蘭教是其c主流宗教。

在土耳其旅行時,“熱情待客”是遊客們對土耳其常有的印象。友善的人們,滿溢的笑聲,頑皮的調侃,在與當地人的接觸中經常讓遊客經歷到。土耳其人會向著中國人模樣的佛教徒們大喊“日本”和“功夫”,顯露出他們心目中對亞洲僅有的印象,既純真又親切。我們團中比丘和比丘尼的袈裟,更是深深吸引著一些好奇心特強的當地人,我們都成為“旅遊景點”了,有不少當地人要求合照。

當時正值伊斯蘭教拉瑪丹大齋月。伊斯蘭教徒的禁食與祈禱,讓當地瀰漫著異常神聖的氣氛。飢餓讓我們學習忍耐,炎熱叫人疲乏,因此每一頓飯都叫人珍惜。但看到主人家們堅持禁食,態度虔敬,又使我們十分驚異。他們有時餓至昏昏欲睡,仍堅持信仰,實在可敬。

其中一晚,五對希望認識佛教的主人家夫婦在布爾薩(Bursa)的山區和我們一同晚宴,就特別難忘。餐館由村中的婦女協會開辦,在男尊女卑的當地還是第一次。所用的美味食材,全是當地的土產。餐館的風格親切家常,就像自己的家一樣。孩童四處玩耍,傳統的婦女們殷勤招待。到晚上禁食完畢,可以一同用飯時,人與人之間更感親切,飯菜也特別可口美味。飯後在一個寧靜的房間,我們一邊喝咖啡,一邊分享交流。畢竟我們此行的目的,正在於此。每人輪流開腔。我的心跳加速,開始急促而響亮的分享內心的感受。跟我的亞洲朋友不同,我的開場白先就顯示著文化差異。“我來自紐約”是我的第一句話。幾天前我才從紐約出發,加入探訪團。在這些善良的回教徒溫暖的凝視下,我的眼淚來了。

拜「九.一一」所賜,今天“紐約”和“伊斯蘭”好像分不開似的。就像愛與恨,極端與溫和,偏見與包容。我的眼淚來自深層的感受:一種誤解。我同情美國人,明白他們難以接受為何慘劇發生。恐怖活動破壞了人們的善意與友愛。為何有那麼大的恨?

這些跟我們相交的土耳其人既誠懇又溫文,也對他們自己的宗教非常敬虔。他們既願意聆聽,也願意和來自不同背景的人溝通對話,跟一般人對伊斯蘭教徒的負面印象迥異。但願人生可以如此,雙方懷著互信,願意踏前一步,展開對話。宗教以及恐懼的陰霾,總叫陌生人對彼此難以釋懷。但在那個房間裡卻存在著同理之情以及對改善現況的期盼。

那個晚上讓我上了一課:別忘了一切也有可能。主人家誠懇的接待,使我毋忘人性中的美善。當我們一同用餐,一同歡笑時,他們樸實的接待以及所付出的時間與友誼,都顯得可貴。在旅途餘下的時光,我重溫這段經歷,同時也思考自己與別人之間的連繫:我怎樣可以向前踏出一步,為世界的和諧出一分力?

透過大小快慢不同的方式,葛蘭運動(Gulen Movement)耐心而理性的不斷擴展。以信仰、教育、溝通及人道援助,這些草根族群願意為改變世界作出努力。對我來說,遇上這些人,使我服務世界的心得到鼓勵,也驅動我敢於想像未來的路向以及下一代的將來。

佛學的精神,在於走上自我探索之旅及道德修行的推展。每個人都不是孤立的。我認為要認識不同的人和事以至地方以及我們之間的連繫,跳出自己熟悉的環境,是最好的方法。讓我們以這點為本,並努力提升心靈素質,然後反省:怎樣可以學習幫助別人。就由自己開始吧,以自身作則,為改善世界樹立典範。

土耳其之旅讓我得到啟示:我的心靈敞開了,對話出現了,分歧得到雙方的審視,我們學習認識對方,摸索和平共存之道。過程中,希望的種子給播下了,肥沃的土地得到開墾。我們的文化與宗教可能有別,但陽光卻普照我們每一個。

[1] 布魯斯.艾得利茲:“葛蘭運動在伊斯蘭教思想史的地位,尤其是伊斯蘭教與後現代主義的對峙”(Bruce Eldrige,“The Place of the Gülen Movement in the Intellectual History of Islam, Particularly in relation to Islam’s Confrontation with Post modernism”),美國加州洛杉磯葛蘭會議論文,2009年12月4-6日,526頁。 (http://gulenconference.net/)

圖、文:Cathy Ziengs 中譯:Helen Chan 編輯:林思瀚
2012-10-30

The views and opinions expressed on this posts/pages are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Pearl Institute, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.

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