Here are six short talks (under 20min. each) from six different perspectives on faith from the Charter for Compassion, a document (although it is more than a document) that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.
These six speakers were chosen for many reasons. The five who are religious leaders are not just eloquent sermonists — each one is also known for his or her own compassionate leadership. And all six are known for their thoughtful efforts at explaining faith to the larger world.
Together, these six speakers bear witness to the fact that compassion and the Golden Rule lie at the heart of all religion and all morality.
One of the great blessings of the 20th century is the ability for different faith communities to learn more about one another in greater depth than ever before. We have discovered the profound unanimity that lies at the core of all religion and ethics, and will never be able to see either our own or other people’s faith in quite the same way again. Each tradition has its own particular genius, and we are now able to learn from one another, enriching thus our own quest for enlightenment. These six talks provide just such an opportunity, reminding us at this time of global tension, suspicion and conflict of what we hold in common.
Tenzin Bob Thurman became a Tibetan monk at age 24. He’s a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, and co-founder of Tibet House US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization.
Thurman’s focus is on the balance between inner insight and cultural harmony. In interpreting the teachings of Buddha, he argues that happiness can be reliable and satisfying in an enduring way without depriving others.
He has translated many Buddhist Sutras, or teachings, and written many books, recently taking on the topic of Anger for the recent Oxford series on the seven deadly sins. He maintains a podcast on Buddhist topics. And yes, he is Uma’s dad.
Author Robert Wright thinks the crises the human species now faces are moral in nature, and that our salvation lies in the intelligent pursuit of self-interest. In his book Nonzero, Wright argues that life depends on a non-zero-sum dynamic. While a zero-sum game depends on a winner and loser, all parties in a non-zero-sum game win or lose together, so players will more likely survive if they cooperate. This points to an optimistic future of ultimate cooperation among humans — if we recognize the game.
Well-respected for his erudition and original thinking (Bill Clinton hailed him as a genius), Wright draws from multiple disciplines — including science, religion, history and politics — in his search for big-picture perspectives on today’s problems, particularly terrorism, while offering guarded hope for where we might be headed. A Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, Wright also hosts an interview series with celebrated thinkers at Meaningoflifetv.com.
Wright’s newest book, The Evolution of God, explores the history of the idea of God in the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
Rev. James Forbes once said, “If I don’t preach, I won’t be well.” Luckily, he has always had the opportunity to preach. He was the first African-American to be appointed as Senior Minister of the Riverside Church in Harlem and spent 18 years serving the interdenominational, interracial and international congregation. While at Riverside, be brought the church to play a role in redeveloping the neighborhood and hosted prominent guests, such as the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. The sermons he delivered from the pulpit were often the cause of controversy, and certainly never boring.
Today, he continues to deliver his call for spiritual revitalization as the host of The Time is Now on Air America Radio and as president and founder of The Healing of the Nations Foundation. His foundation is, in part, a national ministry and the organization is devoted to encouraging peace, justice, interfaith cooperation and environmental responsibility. Forbes travels extensively, speaking out and spreading this vision for a new future.
Rabbi Jackie Tabick is known for being the first female rabbi in the UK and for her remarkable efforts to reach out to distinct faiths. She serves as chair to the World Congress of Faiths, working with patrons such as Rev. Desmond Tutu and the Dali Lama towards deepening religious understanding, respect and co-operation. To this end, Rabbi Tabick also serves as an executive member of the Inter Faith Network, and the Three Faiths Forum, as well acting as patron for the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE).
While reaching across religions, she continues rabbinical duties at the North West Surrey Synagogue and is well known for her engaging and down-to-earth sermons. Her synagogue is part of the Movement of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Tabick has also held the positions of Chair of the Assembly of Rabbis, of the Council of Reform and Liberal Rabbis and Vice president of the Movement for Reform Judaism.
Swami Dayananda Saraswati has been teaching the traditional wisdom of Vedanta for more than four decades, in India and around the world. His success as a teacher is evident in the successes of his students — over 100 are now swamis themselves, and highly respected as scholars and teachers. Within the Hindu community, he has worked to create harmony, founding the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, where heads of different sects can come together learn from each other. In the larger religious community, he has also made huge strides towards cooperation, convening the first World Congress for the Preservation of Religious Diversity. However, Swami Saraswati’s work is not limited to the religious community.
He is the founder and an active executive member of the All India Movement (AIM) for Seva. Since 2000, AIM has been bringing medical assistance, education, food and infrastructure to people living in the most remote areas of India. Growing up in a small, rural village himself, the Swami understood the particular challenges to accessing aid faced by those outside of the cities. Today, AIM for Seva estimates that they have been able to help over two million people in need.
In 2003, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf founded the Cordoba Initiative, a non-partisan and international organization that works to provide innovative solutions to conflict between Muslim and Western communities. He also serves as chair of the Initiative, actively promoting and moderating dialogue between individuals and groups. What’s more, this project was not the Imam’s first foray into interreligious talks. In 1997, he started the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a group that brings American Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in policy, current affairs and culture.
Also, Imam Rauf regularly attends the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum (both Davos and Dead Sea) and has written three books on the topic of bringing peace to Islam’s relations: Islam: A Search for Meaning; Islam: A Sacred Law; and What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West. He continues to balance his mission of creating peace with his regular duties as Imam of Masjid al-Farah, a mosque twelve blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, that he has led for 25 years.
To go to the Charter for Compassion website, click here.
# # #