Speech at the Special Discussion on Interfaith Education and Harmony at UNESCO

Speaker: Venerable Master Chin Kung AM

Date: 27 September 2017

Venue: UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

Respected Director-General Madame Bokova, Ambassadors and Delegates, religious leaders and representatives, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, my warmest greetings to you all.

It is a great privilege for me to be able to join the ‘Special Discussion of Interfaith Education and Harmony’ with you at UNESCO headquarters. This is a topic of profound significance. Society today is experiencing increasing chaos. How can we restore peace, stability, and harmony of the world? Only by promoting religious education can we truly resolve the problems.

Dr Arnold Toynbee, a British historian, once said, ‘The true purpose of a higher religion is to radiate the spiritual counsels and truths … ’ His statement expresses the same idea with the meanings of religion in Chinese characters 宗教, zongjiao. The Chinese character 宗, zong, has three meanings: principal, important, and revered. Jiao, 教, means education, teaching, and transformation. When combined, the two characters mean principal education, important teaching, and revered transformation for humankind. Religion is therefore an indispensable universal education for humanity. It teaches us love and peace, and encompasses ethical and moral education as well as causality education. In particular, religious education teaches us the truth that the whole universe is one entity and it enables us to become sages and saints. It is therefore exceedingly important. So, religious education can indeed resolve all kinds of social problems and bring peace, stability, and harmony to the world.

A. Love Education

The core value of all religions and faiths is love. This sacred love is in human nature, and it is the source of all the good deeds of humans.

The Bible says, ‘Love one another! Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.’

The Qur’an says, ‘Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, All-Powerful.’

A Sikh text says, ‘More than all else do I cherish at heart that love which makes me to live a limitless life in this world.’

The Bahá’i writings say, ‘Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.’

A Hindu text says, ‘May all beings regard me with the eye of a friend. May I regard all with the eye of a friend. May we regard one another with the eye of a friend.’

A Taoist sacred text says, ‘Rescue those in difficulty. Relieve those in a desperate situation. Be compassionate towards the desolate. Forgive the wrongs of others.’

A Confucian text says, ‘Love all beings, for we all live under the same sky and are supported by the same earth.’

In Buddhism, the Avatamsaka Sutra says, ‘Because the essence of all Buddhas is based on the great compassionate mind, for the sake of all beings, they give rise to the great compassion. From great compassion, they develop the bodhi mind. Through the bodhi mind, they attain supreme, perfect enlightenment.’

The Avatamsaka Sutra explains the significance of compassion. Compassion is sincere and selfless love. In Buddhism, to cultivate the bodhi mind, a person starts with fostering his or her compassion. The bodhi mind of Buddhas arises from their great compassion. And why do Buddhas have great compassion? It is because they see all beings suffering in the cycle of birth and death, and sympathise with them all. Therefore, with equal and inclusive compassion Buddhas help all beings. This is the true mind of benevolence, compassion and love which all sages demonstrate.

B. Ethical Education

Ethical education teaches us how to interact with others properly and is an essential education that each one of us should receive.

The Christian Bible says, ‘For God said, “Honour your father and mother” and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother is to be put to death.”’ ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.’ ‘Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.’ .’

Hindu texts say, ‘She is a true wife whose heart is devoted to her lord (her husband). … The wife is a man’s half.’ ‘There should be no error in the duties towards the gods and manes. Let your mother be a goddess unto you. Let your father be a god unto you. Let your teacher be a god unto you. Let your guest be a god unto you.’

Buddhist sutras say, ‘Be filial to and provide for parents. Be respectful to and serve teachers.’ ‘Parents and children, siblings, spouses, and relatives should respect and love each other, and should not be hateful or jealous of one another. They should share what they have with those who do not. They should not be greedy or stingy. Their speech and manner should always be gentle. They should not be defiant or unkind to one another.’

The sacred text of Islam, the Qur’an, says, ‘Do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masâkin (the needy), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.’

C. Moral Education

Moral education teaches us correct thoughts, speech and behaviour and it provides benchmarks against which we ought to think, speak and behave..

Judaic texts say, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people.’ ‘To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.’ ‘Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.’ ‘The first step in transgression is evil thought, the second scoffing, the third pride, the fourth outrage, the fifth idleness, the sixth hatred, and the seventh an evil eye.’

A Taoist text says, ‘Accumulate virtues and merits. Be compassionate towards all living beings. Be loyal to our duties. Be filial to our parents. Be loving to our younger siblings. Be respectful to our elder siblings. Reform others by correcting ourselves first. … Sympathise with others’ sufferings, and rejoice at their meritorious deeds. Succour those desperately in need. Rescue those in peril.’

Bahá’i writings say, ‘Do not busy yourselves with your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men.’

Buddhist sutras say, ‘The ten virtuous deeds. What are the ten? They are eternally refraining from killing, stealing, immoral conducts, false speech, divisive speech, harsh speech, enticing speech, greed, anger, and wrong views. . . . These ten virtuous deeds will lead us to perfectly accomplish the ten powers [of a Buddha], the [four kinds of] fearlessness, the eighteen unique Dharmas [of a Buddha] and all Buddha-dharmas.’ ‘Always using the practice of the Six Paramitas of giving, precept observation, patience, diligence, meditative concentration, and wisdom, he taught and transformed beings to help them steadfastly establish a bodhi mind and dwell on the unsurpassed true way to the supreme, perfect enlightenment.’

D. Causality Education

Teaching about the law of cause and effect introduces people to the causal law that ‘good deeds bring about good consequences, whereas bad deeds result in bad consequences’. This is a guiding principle for people to head towards good fortune, avoid misfortune and change their destinies.

Confucian Classics say, ‘Good deeds turn into abundant blessings while evil conduct results in myriad misfortunes.’ ‘Blessed are the ones who follow the Way; Condemned are the ones who go against the Way. Cause and effect go in pairs like shadow and body, echo and sound.’ ‘By accumulating goodness, a family will enjoy good fortune for generations; by amassing evil, a family will suffer misfortune for generations.’

The Catholic Bible says, ‘His evil intent recoils upon his head; his wicked design comes back in his face.’ ‘The generous man does himself a favor while a cruel man wounds his own flesh.’ ‘Remember: the one who sows meagrely will reap meagrely, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously.’

The Christian Bible says, ‘Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.’ ‘I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.’ ‘But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.’

The sacred text of Islam, the Qur’an, says, ‘And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned.’ ‘The good will live in bliss, and the wicked will burn in the Fire.’ ‘Whosoever does a good deed, it is for his ownself, and whosoever does evil, it is against (his ownself).’

E. The Oneness of the Education of Sages and the Virtuous

Becoming sages and virtuous people is the ultimate goal of religious education because each one of us has the potential of becoming a sage and a virtuous person. It is only that this potential has been shrouded by delusion, discrimination and obsession, and hence cannot now emerge. .

The Christian Bible says, ‘All of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.’

The Noble Qur’an says, ‘Mankind were but one community.’ ‘He said, “(As to) My Punishment I afflict therewith whom I will and My Mercy embraces all things.”’

The Catholic Bible says, ‘… We are members of one another.’

A sacred Judaic text says, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.’

A sacred Sikh text says, ‘He is known to be Immortal, Unborn and Permanent; the True Mansion of His Presence is everlasting.’

The Bahá’i writings say, ‘There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God.’

A Hindu sacred text says, ‘Here in Me living as one, O Arjuna, behold the whole universe, movable and immovable, and anything else that thou wouldst see!’

A Confucian classic says, ‘Sages are able to regard the whole world as one family and the whole country as one person. Such insight is not personal deliberate thinking. The sages achieve this by knowing and according with people’s feelings, guiding them to fulfill their responsibilities, and showing them what is of true benefits, and comprehending what are their disasters. Being so, then they can govern the country well.’ ‘What is filled between heaven and earth is my body, what governs everything between heaven and earth is my true self-nature. All human beings are my siblings by blood; all other beings are my good friends.’

A Taoist classic says, ‘Heaven, Earth and I came into existence together, and all things and I are one.’

In Buddhism, the Surangama Sutra says, ‘All dharma arisen are only the manifestations of the mind. All causes and effects, worlds and the tinest dust within the universe take on substance due to the mind.’ The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch says, ‘Who would have thought that the True Nature is intrinsically pure! Who would have thought that the True Nature is intrinsically free from arising and ceasing (cycle of life and death)! Who would have thought that the True Nature is intrinsically and perfectly self-sufficient! Who would have thought that the True Nature is intrinsically free from change! Who would have thought that all things are the manifestation of the True Nature!’

As we recognise oneness of all, loving all beings in the universe is to love ourselves. We will thus naturally be able to serve all beings, as caring as a mother of her child. The ultimate goal of sages’ education of all faiths is to guide people to return to the oneness. Truly experiencing the concept of ‘oneness’ is the most cherished virtue of human beings.

In conclusion, we believe that restoring religious education will help people truly abandon rivalry, conflicts and wars. Human beings can help earth to become a blissful heaven of happiness, benevolence, virtues and mutual collaboration. This is a great mission of profound significance.

Recently, we have been advocating establishing religious universities where talented individuals of religious education can be developed. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David has established the Harmony Doctoral Scholarship Programme, which will enrol twenty-five PhD students. We would like to invite religious leaders to recommend the candidates. The students will intensively study the teachings of their own religion to acquire in-depth understanding, and also develop an understanding of other religions. In a few years’ time, we hope to establish an academy of religion and later a religious university to train religious teachers of all faiths to give talks on their respective sacred texts via the Internet and television channels. In doing so, people all over the world will be able to hear their talks. We hope that the concept of religious education will be promoted, and will unite all faiths and bring good fortune to the humankind. This is the most outstanding contribution that religious education can bring to the world.

As Dr Arnold Toynbee said, ‘A time may come when the local heritages of the different historic nations, civilisations, and religions will have coalesced into a common heritage of the whole human family.’ This is both the common ideal and hope of all humankind!

Lastly, we sincerely wish religious education will prosper and spread throughout the world and bring social safety, stability, and happiness to all people and achieve world peace! Thank you very much.