Today is World religion day 2020. I’m the MC for the devotional event in my small rural community in far north Australia. While it is a small community – the local government are has about 18,000 people – there are around 40 ethnic groups representing all the larger religions of the world. Here is my welcoming address.
Eckhart Tolle, in telling the story of his coming to meditation, said, “ There’s great freedom … in not compulsively interpreting other people, situations, and so on, not imposing thinking continuously on the world, which is so alive and so fresh and new at every moment… What we are talking about here is a state of alert attention to what is … where you rise above thinking to a large extent in your life, still being able to use it, but not being used by it.” Interview with Krista Tipppet On Being
Eckhart Tolle is famous for his books and courses on meditation. Meditation and mindfulness have been made popular and perhaps the single most common modern person’s access to the spiritual life. For many people, meditation is access to happiness. And, as we will hear in today’s readings, across the various religious traditions, meditation has a vital role not always connected to our personal happiness, but always connected to a view of the human being as a relationship to God and ourselves as more powerful than we ordinarily consider.
The image you are seeing on the screen is a composite of the Brandeberg Gate in Berlin – a hub a tourist activity from all around the world. Off to one side, hosted by a committee of all the religious organisations in Berlin, a number a little bigger than those of our religions, here – is a Room of Silence. Anyone can enter and stay as long as they want, in meditation, reflection or silent prayer. The past 200 years of Berlin since Napolean has been fraught with tyranny and wars. Only these last 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down could it be said that Berlin has had reprieve. It really looks like it might keep that way. However we cannot build a fully human planet with paying attention to how we are human. And meditation is a crucial element to being human.
This comment from the World Community of Christian Meditation Interfaith Program is very relevant to todays gathering. “Religion is becoming more, not less important in the world today. It is urgent that the deep changes taking place in religious consciousness across all faiths and in their relationships are connected to the contemplative power residing at the heart of all the great wisdom traditions.
Meditation opens us to the common ground of humanity – and the essential goodness of human nature. The differences between traditions and cultures are as important and enlightening as their similarities. Meditation establishes a spiritual friendship between the members and practitioners of all faiths and ensures that the differences do not become divisions or false justifications for intolerance or violence.