By Dr. Sulekh Jain
Before commencing with interfaith dialogue, it is important to establish some ground rules, or rather some golden rules for behavior. Here are some excellent recommendations for inter-religious or interfaith dialogue, written by a very dear friend Professor Cromwell Crawford, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii, Honolulu.
Do not apply one standard to yourself and another to adversaries.
Avoid selective memory that conveniently forgets evidence that does not support your thinking and to remember evidence that does.
Do not compare strengths of your religion with weaknesses of others.
Do not see an enemy in every stranger.
There is place for all in a vast social order.
All religions are a search.
Absolutistic thinking is hubris, because it claims to know the mind of God.
It is a bad habit to say those holding beliefs contrary to our own are heretics.
Avoid use of the word ‘tolerance’ if it implies a gratuitous assumption of the inferiority of other faiths to one’s own.
Expand the meaning of non-violence (ahimsa) from not killing cows to respect for the religious faiths of others.
Difference is not conflict.
Note well that silence is the one great art of dialogue, and that it can be enormously improved by the constant use of four simple words... “I do not know.”
Certainty is the death of meaning.
Dialogue consists in building on another person’s argument, not demolishing it.
In dialogue clear thinking is of more value than debating skills.
The Buddha states: “Clear thinking leads to Nirvana. A confused mind is a place of death. Clear thinkers do not die. The confused ones have never lived”.
Dr. Sulekh Jain is Chairman of the Governing Council of International School for Jain Studies, a Senior advisor to Center for Jain Studies at Claremont Lincoln University and a trustee of Mahatma Gandhi Library in Houston. The views expressed in this post are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.