Secretary of the Thai monastery Bodh Gaya, Ratna Thero inaugurates the Buddhist-Christian dialogue workshop held in Bodh Gaya, India. (Photo by K.C. Philip)
An interreligious workshop in the eastern Indian state of Bihar focused on ways religions can work together to create a healthy and peaceful planet.
The Jesuit Conference of Asia-Pacific Region organized the three-day workshop on Buddhist-Christian dialogue, which concluded March 7 in Bodh Gaya, the town linked with Buddha's enlightenment.
"Gone are the days of individual salvation. One can no longer today attain salvation without the community and the entire creation, that is why we need to mend our ways and heal the wounded planet," Jesuit Father Jose Kalapura said at the workshop.
The workshop, held under the Interreligious Wisdom Sharing Program and organized by the Indian Buddhist Jesuit scholar Lawrence Eucharist, dwelt on the theme — ecology and religion.
Jesuits from Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan and more than 100 Buddhist monks and nuns from the monasteries in Bodh Gaya took part in the event.
Jesuit Father Cyril Veliyath, coordinator of the Dialogue Commission of Asia-Pacific Jesuit Conference, said that the Catholic Church teaches that every religion includes elements of truth and "that is why we should reach out to other religions and dialogue so that humanity improves."
Noel Seth, prominent Jesuit scholar on religions, stressed on the need for a multireligious identity.
"One needs to go beyond one's own religion and learn to treat all with respect, which is the only way to reach our destination," he said.
Buddhist monk Kabir Saxena argued that "we have still not discovered nature and the creation."
"We have become self-forgetful, imitative and artificial. The call is to become original and thus restore the true creation," he said.
Father Lawrence Eucharist said that, "in an age of religious violence and exploitation of nature, the enlightened believers should come together to appeal to the world about the essence of religions, which is love, compassion and peace and also jointly care for mother earth."
Father Bernard Senecal, a French-Canadian Jesuit who teaches a course on Buddhism at the Sogang Jesuit University in Seoul, South Korea, considers himself lucky to visit Bodh Gaya because of its importance to the Buddhist religion. "What touched me most was the deep personal sharing by some monks as to how Buddhism has changed their lives," he said.
Father Ingun Joseph, a Korean Jesuit working in Cambodia, shares the same feeling. "This was the sixth such workshop held in various parts of the world, but the first in India. Dialogue of this kind is very enriching and ennobling," Father Joseph said.