The Role of Religion
Religion has a definite role to play in people's search for world peace. The moral principles and values contained in the teachings of great religious teachers are essential factors for the reduction and ultimate eradication of greed, hatred, and delusion—which form the root cause of various conflicts and wars, both within and without. Within oneself, these three evil or unwholesome roots bring about great unrest in the mind, resulting in physical outbursts of violence culminating in global warfare.
The fact that war begins in the minds of people is well recognized by certain peace-loving people. The preamble to UNESCO's constitution says: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed." That is, if one wishes to have peace of mind, one must also construct defenses of peace in one's own mind.
The world cannot have peace until nations and people begin to reduce their selfish desires for more and more material possessions, give up their racial arrogance, and eliminate their madness for worldly power. Material wealth alone cannot bring peace and happiness to the minds of people. The key to real and lasting peace lies in "mental disarmaments"--disarming the mind from all kinds of "poisonous" defilements such as greed, hatred, jealousy, egotism, etc.
Religion not only inspires and guides people but also provides them with the necessary tools to reduce greed with the practice of charity; to overcome hate and aversion with loving-kindness; and to remove ignorance with the development of wisdom and insight in order to understand the true nature of beings and "see things as they really are."
The negative aspects of religion lie in the madness of some so-called religionists who try to convert and win followers by hook or by crook, rather than adhering to proper instruction and guidance. The purposeful misinterpretation of scriptural texts for various ulterior motives has led to religious persecutions, inquisitions, and "holy wars." These terribly awful experiences have really marred the very name "religion."
In the context of today's spiritual need, religionists should work together in earnestness and not in jealous competition with one another. They must work in harmony and cooperate in the true spirit of service—for the welfare and happiness of the many. It is only then that they can effectively influence the opinions of the masses and truly educate the people with some higher values of life, which are very necessary for peaceful co-existence and integrated human development.
Differences in religious beliefs and practices should not hinder the progress of various religionists working for a common cause, for world peace. Let all religions teach people to be good and proclaim the brotherhood of humankind. Let religions teach people to be kind, to be tolerant, to be understanding.
Enough suffering and destruction have been caused by human "cleverness." It is time that we pause and reflect upon the true values of religion and seek proper spiritual guidance to develop our "goodness," to work for peace and harmony instead of war and disunity.
For the cause of humanity and for the cause of peace, let us hope that all our religious leaders will stretch out their hands in friendship to one another and to all people irrespective of race or creed—with a genuine feeling of love and brotherhood--to work for a peaceful world and to work for humanity.