Buddhist-Christian dialogue of life
Although Buddhists represent one of the smaller religious communities in Britain and Ireland, it is one of the three largest global religions along with Christianity and Islam. I spent time with two Buddhists committed to interfaith collaboration
Christianity and Buddhism are vastly different religions which sometimes seem to occupy different philosophical worlds. Nevertheless, there are many initiatives that seek to develop better understanding between Christians and Buddhists.
Interfaith cooperation is based on the dialogue of life: at grassroots it is a living dialogue between persons of different religions. The dialogue of life between people and communities uncovers common values that are necessary for the common good. Given the global issues facing the world today, this search for shared values can no longer be regarded as optional. This is not only true from a practical point of view, but also for theoretical reflection on global issues.
I had the privilege of spending time with Suzanne Rees Glanister and Bridget Gilfillan Upton, who are both practising Japanese Nichiren Buddhists. They play an active role in and around Narberth, Pembrokeshire, as well as in London. Suzanne has been a monk of this tradition for more than 18 years while Bridget was previously a first order Franciscan Nun who left the order due to spiritual bankruptcy. Now, together, they both strive to do as much as they can in helping people around London and Narberth with whatever their needs are, be they financial or spiritual. They support the churches in Narberth, the food banks, the museum and have a commitment to interfaith dialogue, being regularly joined by Muslims, Christians and members of other faiths. Suzanne is also an artist and you can see her paintings at https://suzannereesglanister.co.uk/
In conclusion, to understand the Buddhist life of wisdom and compassion in depth requires an understanding of the experience that transformed Siddhartha Gautama into the Buddha, the Enlightened One, 2500 years ago. To understand what is at the core of the Christian life of faith and love, we are required to look at Jesus of Nazareth, who gave his life on the cross out of love and who is the Risen Lord. Interfaith dialogue is ultimately not about exchanging information and knowledge, but about communion of hearts in the deepest layer of human existence. It is a shared experience that transforms us into brothers and sisters living together for the common good—for the “common well-being” of all humankind and the natural world.