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Dalai Lama’s religious advocacy from viewpoint of John Hick’s pluralistic theory Essay Sample

Dalai Lama’s religious advocacy from viewpoint of John Hick’s pluralistic theory

The treble typology of pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism was proposed by Alan Race in his influential work Christians and Religious Pluralism: Patterns in the Christian theology of religions. According to his book, Pluralism is the belief that any existing religion in the world is equally valid in conveying God’s truth about salvation. Inclusivism does not deny that other traditions have an authentic experience, but it also does not deny that the final and complete Divine Revelation is available only in a particular tradition. Exclusivism is complete denying of authentic experience in alien religions. Alan Race gave the typology from the point of view of Christianity; however, those doctrines can be successfully applied to any religion that sees itself as the primary one (Race, 11).

John Hick is considered to be the most influential advocate of pluralistic point of view in relation to the multitude of world religion traditions. In his book Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion John Hick wrote: “this suggests that each concrete historical divine personality – Jahweh, the Father, the Allah – is a joint product of the universal divine presence and a particular historically formed mode of constructive religious imagination” (Hick 159). Dalai Lama is also considered by many people to be of pluralistic believes. However, in this paper it will be further proved that while his tolerance towards other religions is absolutely sincere, he is still prioritizing the Buddhism over other religions This can be seen in many of his recent utterances, for example: “liberation in which a mind that understands the sphere of reality and annihilates all defilements in the sphere of reality is a reality that only Buddhists can accomplish” (Griffits, 169).

In the paper, Dalai Lama’s inclusivism will be critically analyzed from the vantage point of John Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis. It will be shown that Dalai Lama’s tolerability of other religion traditions lies not within the pluralist believes, but on the contrary – it is enacted by an ardent devotion to the teachings of his Buddhist traditions. Dalai Lama is sincerely tolerant to other religious traditions if they do not contradict his teachings.

Dalai Lama’s Teachings

Most of the Buddhism schools share a core belief that any Christian finds to be entirely incompatible with Christianity. Firstly, the doctrine of not-self (anatta) rejects the existence of an immortal soul. Secondly, Buddhist dogmas of emptiness and dependent origination contradict to one of the principal postulates of Christianity that existence is God’s free gift. Considering such fundamental contradictions, it is obvious that Dalai Lama cannot be the leading advocate of Buddhism and absolute adherent of pluralistic doctrine at the same time. However, by prioritizing the essence of belief over the dogma, Dalai Lama is able to advocate tolerance and acceptance of other religious teaching. Therefore, Dalai Lama presents the “essence of religion” as compassion, (Dalai Lama, 13) and defines the aspiration of all religious traditions, without exclusions, as “making the mind more peaceful, disciplined, moral and ethical” (Rinchen, 101). Hence, Dalai Lama explains that the compassion is the key aspect in all religions, so the promotion of mentioned-above virtues is the main concern of the multiple teachings. He concludes his point of view with the words: “we must consider the question of religious diversity from this viewpoint … and when we do so, we will notice no contradiction” (Griffits, 167). In this relation his point of view is similar to John Hick’s conception.  In one of his philosophically-religious writings Hick stated: “…while visiting synagogues or gurdwarars or temples or mosques it is obvious that substantially the same kind of communication is occurring in them as in a Christian church – videlicet, human beings opening their minds to a higher divine Reality” (Hicks, 2).

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Nevertheless, Dalai Lama’s endorsement of other religious traditions emerges from his Buddhist believes. His confident opinion about essence of compassion emerges from dGe Lugs Buddhism, tradition that Dali Lama XIV belongs to. One of its principal aspects is the concept of the Bodhisattva path. According to this tradition, Bodhisattva is only for those who shares belief that “liberation, not for himself alone … but for all sentient beings” (Williams, 49). Thus, considering that  Bodhisattva is a person who can reach nirvana but does not do so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings, the Bodhisattva is a paragon of absolute compassion. Moreover, the Dalai Lama defines the main point of Buddhism as “altruism based on compassion and love” (Dalai Lama, 32). The basis of nirvana is the emptiness. However, emptiness is an extremely complex impression for everybody to experience, so one has to be trained until the subject is ready. In the meantime, it is enough to be compassionate to have good rebirth and evolve in the spiritual direction to reach the point of highest development in enlightenment.

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John Hick’s Basic Teachings

In comparison with Dalai Lama, John Hick began by rejecting not only absolutism but naturalism too. He proposed his own vision of religious heritage: “the grand post-axial believes compose various ways of experiencing, comprehending and living in respect to an ultimate divine Reality which transcends all our multifarious visions of it” (Hick, 236). By saying so, John Hick acknowledged that experiences of every religious community are true and equal. Hick states that the Divine Entity could be called different names and could be worshipped in many different ways. However, it does not mean that omnipotence of the Divine Entity may depend on the name or the way of worshipping. John Hick also reminded the history about two contradictory approaches (wave and particles) to understanding the nature of light; and both approaches ultimately turned out to be correct. Hence, he suggested that various conceptions of the Divine Entity, as personal and impersonal, are likewise to “the two ways of conceiving and registering light, namely as waves and as particles” (Hick, 245).

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John Hick in his pluralistic hypothesis achieved acceptance of all world religions through abandoning the ultimacy or exclusivity of the doctrines or postulates of any existing or non-existing religious tradition. He tries to explain how it is possible that they all are true and authentic without emphasizing one element of religion and suppressing another. The fact is without absolute compassion – the pass to enlightening and nirvana is closed. It is obvious that John Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis shows simplistic view on the problem of consolidating different religious views. His theory, however, has no ultimate preferences or prejudices towards any existing religion. In contrast to Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis, Dalai Lama’s acceptance of various religious traditions became possible only due to emphasizing the common element, which is also turned out to be a key aspect of dGe Lugs Buddhism teaching (the doctrine of which Dalai Lama teaches). The main theme of Dalai Lama’s teachings is compassion. Therefore, despite the fact that Dalai Lama is genuinely tolerant to other religions and sees a lot of common in postulates and aspirations of various religious traditions, he remains an ardent believer that only by following the Buddhist tradition a person can ultimately comprehend the Divine Revelation. Such a position of  Dalai Lama’ contradicts John Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis. Therefore, Dalai Lama’s Soteriological Inclusivism of other religion traditions is based not on the pluralism but on strict following of Buddhist teachings that tolerate doctrines of other religions to a certain extent.

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