The Center for Inter-religious Studies attempts to awaken:
Change of Education
An alternative Spirituality
These three aspects hopefully will increase Inter-religious and Inter-cultural Tolerance
Self-Transformation is gradually accomplished by decreasing the gaps between the body, emotions, mind and energy or Spirit.
The effort to overcome the rift between these four dimensions is a result of deterring inborn automatic cultural patterns, belief systems, particular social values and idiosyncratic characteristics.
This inborn automatic heritage serves as a tool of self-definition and consequently self-limitation. The Ego is built of layers of self-definition as nationality, race, religion, social status…
These layers of the Ego form virtual screens that prevent us from grasping the world as it is – an Eternal unforeseen Flow.
The Universe- earth, water, fire , air, galaxies, planets, moons, suns, natural phenomena (known and unknown) Everything is in a dynamic coming into being and disappearing.
Within the ineffable Infinity or Permanence of becoming and disappearing, all phenomena are finite, impermanent.
Actually the Finiteness or Death of Everything should trigger the Feeling of Co-Existence, Co-participation in the Wave of Existence.
Facing the world with such a mental and emotional baggage helps to overcome the illusive belief of me versus the other, human versus animal, human versus vegetal…All have lungs, all are coming into being for a while and disappearing again.
Creation myths of the human always refer to the sin of pride and egotism. Pride separates us from the others by emphasizing self-importance, the urge to conquest, the need to compel one and only truth.
In the name of one sole truth most nations, religions and institutions have killed physically and mentally the non-followers.
By teaching how to unite Body, Mind, Emotions and Energy, we decrease inherited automatic patterns, enhance contemplation at the Flow and slowly learn to adapt the value of Tolerance.
The studies include a variety of cultural sources, never emphasizing the particularity of ethnicity but the universal amplitude of the insights.
(See more in the presentation of The Book of Inter-religious Peace, Museum of World Religions, Taipei, Taiwan.)
Change of Education
I. Inner Transformation – from Being towards Becoming
Any intention to change the existing way of education has to begin with the effort towards a gradual self-transformation, learning to think beyond the territorial frame into which we are born, forcefully tinting our views about ourselves and our surroundings.
Self-transformation will lead to explore Life and Death as a continuous flux, the Becoming rather than the static illusion of Being. Becoming can be sensed, by its inherent essence, out of territorial limitations as Becoming means dynamism, and change, a frontier less metaphoric, happening. Being is necessarily related to fixed characteristics, ruled by the criteria of pertinence.
II. Overcoming loneliness by cultivating the virtue of Solitude
Belonging to a particular territorial frame means to confide in something which is apparently solid and permanent. Thus, belonging to a certain territorial frame (be it nation, faith, party, etc.) requires adherence to an implicit corpus of behavioral ethic, which determines virtue versus vice, the presumably Good Way as the opponent of the Bad Way.
By freeing oneself of inner territorialism and learning to be an integral and inseparable part of the Becoming or Infinity, we learn different Ethics. Not those imposed by the rules of temporary cultural context but those linked to the Universe Breath.
Every day becomes a new challenge to improve the adaptation of body, soul, mind and energy to the outer phenomena and events, so that we become a part of them. We become the observer and the explorer at one and the same time. Paradoxically, the non- pertaining mind is continuously involved in the big cosmic happening. This alertness is also a magnificent solitude. Solitude enables us to participate in the Great Flux of everything.
III. The Effortless Effort
Loneliness is a product of the territorial experience, as the members of a community might feel lonely if their way of life does not respond to the dominating notions of success or failure.
Free of the box of fixed social views about success or failure, every new endeavor enriches our spirit just because of its freshness and the link to the mysterious and the Unknown. Daily life becomes an adventure, leading to new gates, new paths. This way of living the days is not conditioned by a final goal, which will presumably grant us the crown of success or bestow on us the shame of failure.
By making the way an inseparable part of the goal, success or failure lose their significance, as every occurrence is appreciated by its Uniqueness.
IV. The Ultimate teaching of an interdisciplinary insight.
We are part of Nature, part of the minerals, stones, plants, animals, landscapes – nothing is separated; every fragment is prompt to be alternated, according to a different context. Over sophistication, definitions, categorization and similar conceptual pre-concepts might darken the mind and avoid grasping reality, which, similar to a mirror- never shows the complete picture or an ideal wholeness. Thus, in order to attain inter-disciplinary complexity, we may start practicing simplicity and anchoring, so as to avoid being lead astray by personal anxieties, ambitions, fancy or any other illusionary fantasy.
V. Process-based approach to Education
Education that stresses a continuous process has a dynamic that unites a way-of-thinking and a set of goals. This is opposed to an education that emphasizes a rigid plan with an associated method and goals. The teaching of process, in any domain of studies, requires a complex approach that is based on a continuum or interlinking within time and space.
In order to adapt a way of thinking that mimics a continuum with no definite beginning or end, there is a need to modify the inner vision. The Way of Process does not make any differentiation between the rational and the emotional, the spiritual and the physical.
Categories are artificial – serving an a priori thesis, and they depend on a cultural context in space and time. As such, they are relative and unable to comprise the continuum .The Way of Process gives up definite answers or solutions. In fact, it triggers the curiosity to find multiple interlinking approaches and thus enables the mind to continuously explore and experience the multifaceted universe. This ever- new interlinking process brings forth new insights. The new insights enrich the spectrum of the interlinking effect and so the teaching\learning endeavor becomes a real celebration.
Due to its regenerating aspect, education by process, gives up absolute truths or deterministic theories, and opts for a lively search, always open to the Unknown. It cannot be fully comprehended as the unknown of yesterday becomes the Known of today bringing forth the Unknown of tomorrow…. A process marks the infinite interlinking of things and phenomena, introducing a space for mystery, for the yet unexplored. Everything is relative and comparative, as we are part of impermanence. Acknowledging our inherent limitation as mortal beings permits an approach that is both humble and daring. Humble due to our finite nature and daring due to our willingness to explore the Infinity of The Ever Changing Nature of Everything.
The Way of process, shedding light on the potential infinite interlinking act, increases the ability to experience the vanishing concreteness and thus, paradoxically, also increasing our capacity to touch The Subtle.
VI. Intercultural experience
Process avoids seeing the world by means of grouping into categories or asserting by pre-conceptual hierarchical criteria. Both methods depend on cultural context. However, Reality that seems to be sensed, can be imagined as an unseen thread, with no beginning or end, in which all phenomena appear, to remain or not, in a personal or collective memory apparatus. All phenomena intermingle in the invisible flux. The intercultural aspect in teaching/learning can help to point out the flux of successive events, the ever- changing context of The River of Being. By resigning to count the drops of the River we may be enriched by the running water.
Within the running water, the beliefs – icons, myths and symbols of Humanity – may be envisioned, each time by an alternative cultural point of view. The intercultural journey may become an enriching source of information and enticing excitement.
As Life is, by its nature secretive, for it is a continuous walking towards the Unknown, we may teach and learn the Vitality of Awe.
Awe is vital as it is a disposition to be openminded towards the coming events. In comparison to memories of the past, which depend on our personal and collective good or bad experiences, awe may be grasped as a latent emptiness to be refilled in one way or another. Good memories are likely to drag the learner into a futile attempt to repeat his past deeds. Bad memories are liable to become an imaginative obstacle, withholding any possible achievement. So as to overcome both repetitive acts as well as the abstention of initiative and endeavor, we should cultivate, as teachers and learners, the ability to wonder. This is done not only by will but by a daily effort. Contemplation and observation are excellent tools to trigger awe. Contemplation of the continuum necessarily requires an innovative eye to hunt the perceived reality, with no prey in the hand. The act of aimlessly hunting the passing events – brings forth the awareness of transformation and transfiguration. The Science of Awe makes us alive, as we become an integral part of the Flowing Life.
VIII. Less is More
Awe has to be attained by hard work as it requires freeing oneself of the memories grip. Experiences, if seen in the context of Awe, obtain in every moment a different facet. They escape a defined monolithic significance. The memories of past experiences may become a dynamic particle of the fluidity of events, enriching our awareness. If past experience is absorbed and ever-colored by changing circumstances, we need not worry about the accumulation of data and information offered by the past. Instead, we should live ad hoc, overcoming the artificial separation of past, present or future tenses.
The teacher/ learner of awe may, therefore, consider sometimes using less learned argumentation in order to prove a certain theme. They would rather choose a succinct refreshing insight, causing the mind to abandon the logic of causality, always depending on a preconceived and linear system.
Maybe universality can be comprehended as the contribution of every new learning field to improve the quality of everyday life. Universality might be realized only if we overcome the separation between theory and practice, soul and body, life and death….
Every material body is actualized by its soul or Spirit….Every creature is born, nurtures itself, begins the process of growth and ends in death. It is better if a botanist tends his own garden and if a veterinarian avoids eating meat…Theory, as part of praxis, and vice versa, helps annul inner conflicts, avoiding the fall into stigmas, prejudice and generalizations. Freshness of ideas is counterbalanced by the freshness of the effortful action. The non-separation of body/mind/feelings/energy facilitates the exploration of the Existent.
X. The Cyclic and Linear Enterprise
All creatures participate in the cyclic and linear enterprise of Creation.
Every individual – be it a plant, an animal, natural phenomena – follows its own linear path starting by birth and ending in death. However, the cycle of birth and death of everything (the species, the plants, galaxies….) is unending. The abstract and absolute cyclic characteristic of all things cannot be grasped without the concreteness of the particular and linear death (John, Jane, Yana ….)
The teacher/learner therefore is asked to see at one and the same time, the circular and the linear: the linear which is finite and vanishing, as well as the Eternal Cycle of the Universe or the Ever-Changing Essence. Such an educational path, comprising both the visible linear and the invisible circular, may ameliorate both the observation of detail as well as the capacity of abstraction. Thus, we could feel at ease with temporary solutions as well as with pending questions, with the presumably known and the Unknown.
To be relevant is to act according to the flux of Being. In other words, to be equally released of past experiences and of future goals. The present way is the present goal, which continuously evolves as the way goes on. Amplifying the here and now unites inner and outer worlds: body, feelings, mind, energy and momentary experience. We, then, decrease the tension between a subjective trained mind, which confronts the world by labeling, looking for answers, fearing…. Instead we become explorers who delight in searching The Unsearchable.
Peace among the living can be envisioned and furthered by the process of reeducation, stressing the importance of self-transformation by assimilating the ideas that we have attempted to suggest. We hope to contribute, if only a little, toward a new era inspired by Tolerance.
(For more extensive text and bibliography see The Book of Inter-religious Peace)
An Alternative Spirituality
“The Book of Peace” attempts an alternative spirituality, based on four assumptions:
• We, the creatures, have a Common Source – The Infinite Creator.
• All creatures are mere reflections of the All Including Abstract Oneness (The Void, The Essence, The Seed, The Source, The Ultimate, Infinity…)
• The Infinite Abstract Oneness is manifested in the concrete world of creation by an infinite number of apparently finite creatures, phenomena and belief systems.
• Reconsideration of the infinite natural phenomena and a sincere attempt to abolish remnants of separateness, polarity and dogma will appease hatred and fortify the spirit of sharing and interconnectedness.