12. Religious Diversity and Dialogue: A Buddhist Perspective

Buddhist Responses to Religious Diversity - Theravāda and Tibetan Perspectives - Douglas Duckworth

Asanga Tilakaratne [+-]
University of Colombo
Asanga Tilakaratne graduated from Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka, specializing in Buddhist Philosophy. He has published, both in Sinhala and English, more than one hundred papers on Buddhist studies. Of his more recent academic works, Theravada Buddhism: the View of the Elders (2012) was published by University of Hawaii Press. He co-edited with Prof. Oliver Abenayaka 2600 Years of Sambuddhatva: Global Journey of Awakening (2012), a work covering the history and the current status of global Buddhism of all three traditions. Prof. Tilakaratne founded Sri Lanka Association of Buddhist Studies (SLABS), an academic and professional organization of Buddhist scholars in Sri Lanka, and continues to serve as its joint secretary.

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With the understanding that one’s views on religious diversity shapes one’s attitude to interreligious dialogue, in this chapter I try to articulate how the Buddha perceived the phenomenon of religious diversity and then to discuss how this perception could inform the Buddhist practice of interreligious dialogue. I begin this discussion with reference to the diversity of views held by the Roman Catholics themselves on interreligious dialogue and the Colonial and more recent history of dialogue in the local context of Sri Lanka. Next I move on to discuss Buddhism’s own self-understanding as a non-theistic system. In order to support the non-theistic claim of Buddhism I produce two arguments, one philosophical and the other experiential, both derived from the discourses of the Buddha. Having supported the non-theist stance of Buddhism, I propose that the Buddhist attitude is to be open to religious diversity while upholding the position that nirvana is the ultimate goal irreducible to any other similar goals. The discussion shows that to accept diversity is not necessarily to accept pluralism in religion, and that this position does not preclude Buddhists from engaging in interreligious dialogue.

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Citation

Tilakaratne, Asanga. 12. Religious Diversity and Dialogue: A Buddhist Perspective. Buddhist Responses to Religious Diversity - Theravāda and Tibetan Perspectives. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781799055. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=38398. Date accessed: 14 Dec 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38398. Jul 2020

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