Why I am committed to building relationships with those from different religious and ethical traditions

Managing Director’s Note: beginning in the Spring of 2013, all Contributing Scholars will answer the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions?

Humanism was not exactly the word that I grew up with in the former USSR, yet it was the closest and the most inclusive one that allowed us to look into the depth of our meaningful existence. Nobody spoke of religion, for it was the fruit forbidden in the Soviet empire. Having lived as a teenager through the Perestroika and witnessing the revival of multifaceted religious life, I have come to appreciate many traditions that search for meaning, their lost cultures and ancient wisdom, and deeper connection with one’s faith.

While many argue about our differences, my goal is to celebrate the best in them. I tend to think that each tradition, be it theistic or non-theistic, at its very core, finds its best interpretation in human heart through its compassionate responses to the interdependent world around us. No religion, tradition or philosophy can be viable if it is not responding with an understanding to the discoveries and re-discoveries, both scientific and spiritual, of our universe. For that I greatly admire Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who is dedicated to an interfaith dialogue and to building bridges between religion and science, highlighting universal principles of human ethics.

My personal commitment to building these bridges is rooted in my humanity, influenced by geographical and cultural migration, and deeply interwoven with lives of people, including family and friends, who practice one or another religion or adhere to atheism. Like the Dalai Lama, I am an optimist who believes that practice of true compassion is a way to happiness that benefit all sentient beings.

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