On the occasion of the Visakha Puja Day, such a solemn moment to the people of Thailand, I feel deeply honoured of being invited to present some considerations about the relation between peace and deliverance.
There are many aspects and ways of thinking and behaviour that show us the differences between Buddhism and Christianity. On the other hand it is more than obviously that peace and deliverance are of fundamental significance to both religions. Buddhism and Christianity agree in the deep value of peace and deliverance, although their ideas of it are different. But it is exactly this difference that leads us into a very productive dialogue about the relation between peace and deliverance.
"Deliverance instead of peace"
Our world is determined by dangerous conflicts which often seemed to be religiously motivated. We know of course that it is dangerous and that it does not serve to peace, if we understand these conflicts as only religiously motivated. People use religions to give their longing for deliverance a passionate expression.
So every religion, which is able to reflect herself in the light of rationality, will also be able to realize that religions are in danger of becoming containers of quite different, notreligious purposes. For the moment this is not a strong problem of Buddhism and Christianity which are both especially
endeavoured to do philosophical reflections. But religion, becoming a container of not religionpurposes is a problem, for example, of some currents of the political Islam.
What does that mean? Is it true, as to say by a word of a critic: clash of cultures that religions are more of a hindrance than a help for peace? Although considering the clear religiously motivated acts of the Hizbollah, the answer to this question is no.
Religions do not create conflicts, but they may be susceptible to intensify them. Such a process depends on a wrong definition of the relation between deliverance and peace.
The suicide assassin is an example for the conception of "deliverance instead of peace". He is against any kind of communicating deliverance and peace; to him they are in opposition to each other. He believes that he will have deliverance exactly then when he is fighting violently against peace. Such an idea is absurd.
Deliverance instead of peace" is not worth the name: because the lack of peace is the main characteristic of nondeliverance.
"Peace instead of deliverance"
To put deliverance instead of peace seems to be the result of tempted hearts and thoughts. So there are quite a lot of people thinking that it would be helpful to separate the religious aspects from any kind of conflict in the world, to give way to more objectivity. Such a way of argumentation can also
be called "peace instead of deliverance".
We expect economical measures and institutions of a state under the rule of law to favour peace. That is to say that peace will not be carried through against religion, but not either that peace will be carried through by religion.
But also by the term peace instead of deliverance" we do not grasp the relation between them. In this model deliverance seems to be something private to whom I apply myself just as I like, but it has no mean for peace.
The conception peace instead of deliverance" presents a distorted picture of peace. For people without deliverance peace means only (though welcome) break in the fighting. Peace is not a merchandise, peace can not be produced and exported. Wherever people believed in being able to produce substantial peace by themselves this conception showed itself to be a misconception which causes bloodshed: to be without deliverance is in an essential way causing
"Peace by deliverance"
Against the two problematic conceptions of first fundamentalistic deliverance instead of peace" and second laicistic peace instead of deliverance" I like to set a deeper understanding of the relation between peace and deliverance. On the occasion of the Visakha Puja Day I will call this "peace by deliverance".
Of importance to build peace, the papal message at the Interreligious Prayer Meeting for Peace, Assisi, 4th of September 2006 acknowledges, are "ways of a cultural, political and economic character. However, in the first place, peace must be built in hearts."
Besides all differences between Buddhism and Christianity it is mostly impressing to see that both religions take peace as a substantial characteristic of deliverance and that both religions believe that there will be no peace without deliverance.
The deciding factor, which in Buddhism and Christianity is reflected in a philosophical way, seems to be the estimation of the relation to the world.
In Buddhism peace means that fighting for the world has come to an end. One who stops fighting not because of being exhausted, and not only for the sake of peace, but because of having grown taller than these simple aims; this one according to your tradition gets on close terms with deliverance.
That demonstrates a deep understanding of the relation between peace and deliverance.
So it is quite consistent that Buddhism directs its attention to the practice of letting go of all relations to the world. Buddhism names the appearances of all things.
Christianity and its relation to peace means that real peace for everybody and for the whole world is possible only by deliverance, to say by Jesus Christ. So the Christian idea of peace is dependant on reality, on existence of Jesus Christ, God's Son come to the world as Son of Man.
So it seems to Buddhism that for Christianity there is still to come a long way before understanding the triviality of only coincidences.
Actually, it is rather different and more complex. Christianity distinguishes between action and passivity; that is important. To do something or not to do it, it is always an activity: I turn myself towards the world or I avert myself from the world.
In Buddhism averting seems to be substantial. The behaviour is right to the wise man and in consequence to this all objects in the world become only appearances. Christianity's concept at first glance does not look so different, but it is connected with a quite different philosophical thought. It is right to say that also a Christian should not be attached to the world, but Christianity is not focusing on averting from the world but on passivity. Christianity replaces the quantitative difference between activity and nonactivity by a qualitative difference: that distinguishes one's activity from one which is having an effect on me.
In opposite to activity Christianity does not see too much averting but something that happens with us, something that we never could have done by ourselves.: Because of that for Christianity the Other is not only an appearance, but he is the one through whom we will get deliverance.
Christianity is event: Something that happens to me, that comes to me as a gift, something I could never accept responsibility for. As it was said by the Pope in his first encyclical letter Deus caritas est
: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction".
In Buddhism we have such a mature and deep conception of deliverance as an overcoming of the world. In Christianity this overcoming of the world has a substantial personal dimension. Overcoming understood as an act of grace or to mention once again the Pope: "Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift".
What we can not do for ourselves, the active overcoming of the world, that is given to us by another: deliverance and peace.
Although there is a substantial difference between Buddhism and Christianity, there is also a deep understanding uniting us: the world is languishing for peace, but peace is nothing we can develop in the world or by the world: real peace is always a fruit of deliverance.