Edited by Jerry Katz
Acharya Rita M. Gross is author of Religious Diversity, What’s the Problem? Buddhist Advice for Flourishing with Religious Diversity. Its themes are the subjects of this interview.
Acharya Rita is Professor Emerita of Comparative Studies of Religion at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and a Senior Dharma Teacher in the Nyingma Lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism. She is the author of many books and articles.
What is nonduality? What is unity or oneness? Nonduality encourages diversity without blending religions into some lowest common denominator.
Acharya Rita’s intense personal experience at age 21 with a claim to exclusive religious truth, confirming her interest in studying religions and motivating her to proceed.
Appreciating different religious points of view in the same we way appreciate different forms of art, writing, or music.
Acharya Rita’s favorite student evaluation of her course on world religions and its significance.
Dropping fixation and ideology.
Limitations of language. Intuitive way of being in reality. As a Buddhist you give up the label Buddhist. Truth has no label. Religions live by relative truths and pointers often considered exclusive truths.
It’s unrealistic to imagine that in the future all people will belong to the same religion and if it did exist it would fragment into different sects and truths.
It would be sad if our religious understanding at age 75 was the same at age 14 as it would mean there would have been no maturing.
Religious practices: a person must find practices that lead to comfort with diversity, compassion, kindness, and lead to better functioning in the world. No single practice works for everyone.
Gazing into the comparative mirror is endlessly fascinating. It is a way to appreciate uniqueness of one’s religion as well as the diversity of religions. To know one religion is to know none.
Need for total separation of church and state. Combination of exclusive truth claims and the integration of that religion with political functions is extremely dangerous.
Nature is our model for how we can live sanely, the Dalai Lama says. Monocultures aren’t healthy.
The role of humor. Seeing the humor in your own seriousness.
Nothing good comes of arrogant claims to exclusive truth.
Opening and closing music by Prosad.