Coinciding with last week’s Vesak festival, celebrating the birth, awakening, and mahaparinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Young Buddhist Association of Indonesia held an interfaith study event on the theme “Religion of Love” from the perspectives of Buddhism and Islam.
The event, held on 6 May, centered on two speakers representing the Buddhist and Islamic communities of Indonesia: Bhante Jayamedho Thera, who leads the Sangha Theravada Indonesia in East Java Province and the Guardian Council of the Young Buddhist Association of Indonesia; and Muhammad Nur Jabir, director of the Jakarta-based Rumi Institute.
The Young Buddhist Association (YBA) is the leading Buddhist youth organization in Indonesia. Through a deeply held conviction in the Buddha’s message of compassion, growth, and liberation, the association promotes a positive lifestyle among the young in order to cultivate a society founded on wisdom, compassion, and gratitude. The association is involved in establishing Buddhist organizations nationwide, propagating the study of the Dharma among young people, and providing leadership training.
The Rumi Institute is an educational and cultural institution inspired by the poetry and philosophy of the 13th-century Persian mystic, Jelalludin Rumi. The institute aims to promote cross-cultural understanding, spiritual growth, and personal development through a variety of programs and activities.
The YBA announced that the event was the first inter-religious dialogue in Indonesia to focus on the work of Rumi in creating a program of religious moderation and sharing the spirit of kindness and love.
Quoting Rumi, Bhante Jayamedho explained that only by letting go of traditional concepts of identity can we open ourselves to pure truth—the truth that is obtained beyond the boundaries of religion: “Rumi says, I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Magian nor Muslim . . . get past your narrow notions of right and wrong so that we can meet in ‘a pure space’ without being limited by prejudice or bad thoughts.”
Bhante Jayamedho observed that it is necessary for true practitioners to take responsibility for making sure that religion is used for peace and not for violence: “If religion is used for reasons of social order, and religious regulations create violence against humanity, then that is where religion is used by irresponsible people. Religious people should give pure love to the universe in order to produce harmony and peace like the Sun, which always shines on this Earth because of pure love. Therefore, I agree with the words of Mahatma Gandhi, namely, ‘To me, God is Truth and Love.’”
In Buddhism, Bhante Jayamedho continued, there is the teaching of unconditional love, where we can love without the risk of suffering because of unfulfilled conditions. “Even at this moment, Buddhists can be happy—not because they are loved but because they can give love. If we ask to be loved, suffering is ready to follow, if it doesn’t meet our expectations, the conditions we want are what we want,” he added.
The monk then expressed hope that this interfaith dialogue would contribute to raising awareness across society. “Hopefully we are enlightened to the truth that God is the religion of lovers, not people who like to use religion for violence. Evil should be rewarded with good, changing anger into friendliness,” he said.
During his own address, the Islamic community leader Muhammad Nur Jabir gave the perspective of Islam through the work of Rumi, emphasizing that that religious teachings should be applied through love and compassion. “When Muslims want to do something they often say ‘Bismillahirrohmanirrohim’—that every step of their actions be followed by love and affection. But the sad thing is that many do not implemented these two characteristics, even when they say these words,” he said. “This is our shared responsibility.”
In countries across the planet, including Indonesia—especially in urban areas with easy access to online information—many people choose to become atheists, Muhammad Nur Jabir noted. Even so, he observed, life is a process, in the Sufi interpretation, religious people should be far from violence and will move toward the stage of wisdom. “When we have carried out religious teachings, we will slowly let go of the world and then enter the ‘Kebatinan’* stage then the ‘Mortal’ stage and finally we will go to ‘Arifa.’”** he said.
The deputy chair of the YBA, Limanyono Tanto, observed that it was was vitally important to ensure that young Indonesians of all religions were exposed to this kind of dialogue and meeting of minds, and this sharing of hospitality, so that they could come to understand the teachings of each other’s religion. The ultimate goal, he said, was to cultivate moderation and tolerance between religious communities.
“This is where we hope to build a sense of brotherhood and a sense of caring for each other as brothers and sisters among human beings in the name of love.” he added.
Tanto expressed his appreciation and gratitude for being able to hold this interfaith talk on “Religion of Love,” with the blessing of Bhante Jayamedho and the cooperation of the Rumi Institute, who invited Muhammad Nur Jabir as an expert in translating the works of Rumi into Indonesian.
“As we observe this year’s Vesak celebration, we young Buddhists in Indonesia can learn from the two religious leaders at this event—that is that all religions agree to give love to the universe in their own way and finally we meet at a meeting point of happiness for all,” Tanto concluded.
* Kebatinan is a term that describes various traditional beliefs and practices in Indonesia that combine animism, Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, and Islamic mysticism, emphasizing personal experience and direct communication with the divine.
** The Sufi term “Arifa” refers to someone who has attained a state of spiritual awareness or enlightenment.
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