Unity of Religion and of Mankind:
In Thich Nhat Hanh's Interbeing: Fourteen
Guidelines for Engaged Buddhism, Hanh restates the traditional Buddhist precepts
as "mindfulness trainings." In other words, one would wisely consider
deeply the true origin and purpose of each precept before committing to it.
In each mindfulness training, he uses with the formulation, "Aware that [a
certain evil exists], we are committed not to [engage in conduct which leads to
This perspective of looking outward and then
looking inward is found in the Dhammapada, one of the greatest Buddhist texts.
In it, in the chapter entitled, "The Rod of Punishment" (Canto X,
Verses 129-132), The Buddha says:
All tremble before the rod of punishment; all
fear death; likening others to oneself, one should neither slay nor cause to
slay. All tremble before the rod of punishment; for all life is dear; likening
others to oneself, one should neither slay nor cause to slay. He who, desirous
of happiness for himself, torments with a rod others who are likewise seeking
enjoyment, shall not obtain happiness in the hereafter. He who, desirous of
happiness for himself, does not torment others who likewise long for happiness,
shall obtain happiness in the hereafter. [emphasis added]
Similarly, do we not hear the echoes of Jesus
Christ in Matthew 7:12: "Do to others whatever you would have them do to
you. This is the law and the prophets." The great religions, always
and consistently parallel each other, because this is the primary means by which
we attain a moral life in relation to others: by first recognizing others in
In fact, in Tibetan Buddhism, there is a
meditation involving visualizing one's enemy, known as "exchanging oneself
for others," and there is also the meditation of tonglen. In the
meditation of exchanging oneself for others, we visualize the enemy as oneself,
not only as the enemy may act badly, but also as the enemy suffers. In the
meditation of tonglen, we visualize actually taken in the other's suffering
(commonly as a black vapor) and visualize breathing out healing to the other
(commonly as a white vapor). Thus, one's inner character is transformed,
over time, by actually wishing good, not only to one's friends but to one's
perceived enemies, in the process of mentally seeing and understanding that we
and the other are one.
But beyond this, it is also stressed time and
again in world scriptures, that we are also to recognize the divine in each
other. After all, it is one thing to treat another person as worthy of the
respect we, as common people, deserve, but it is quite a higher level to expect
that we treat the other person as a child of God.
For example, a common Hindu greeting is
"Namaste," and is made with both hands flat together in front of one's
chest or forehead and pointing generally outward, toward the other person. Its
significance as the recognition of the divine in the other person, and thus the
gesture is a sort of prayer to the other person, seeing God in him or her.
Indeed, I recently attended a Catholic service where a Passionist priest used
that very same gesture and phrase at the end of the service--fully intending
that we see God in each other.
This is the ultimate challenge of religion--but
it is also the possible salvation of religion as it moves past its parochial
divisions into a larger context, such as that provided by Cao Dai: If we take to
logical conclusion these lessons of different religion's views of humans being
equal children of God, then we will see that the religions themselves are also
children of God in ideas, and in the power to inspire and change the human
spirit. Thus, CaoDai's bold assertion that all religions come from one original
source, and all of humankind comes from one original source.
We are, after all, brothers and sisters of God.