I have seen and heard remarks from Buddhists these days through which they state their utter contempt for Islam. A Danish lama has been well known for such views for a long time. Somebody just sent me a snapshot of that man together with a well known Dutch right winger. A facebook account under the name of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse calls people who represent a sophisticated position regarding Islam “liberals, leftists, moderates, and cherry-picking apologists.” The same and worse can be read in the blog of a German Theravada-Buddhist meditation teacher. Except for stating the obvious, namely that there is a difference between Muslims and terrorists, I will not say more about this debate here. But I would like to share with you one of Kyobpa Jigten Sungön’s positions regarding other religions and views in general.
Jigten Sumgön’s general approach to spiritual views, conducts, and practices is one that attempts to perceive something in terms of what its nature is. In this sense he acknowledges that (1.19) there exists much that is virtuous by nature to be practised in [the systems of] the non-Buddhists too. This stands in contrast to a general opinion according to which “the complete view, conduct, and practise of the non-Buddhists is only something to be abandoned.”
One of Jigten Sumgön’s most basic positions is simply that whatever is virtuous by nature has a joyful result. Such virtue, however, is not confined to the realm of Buddhism alone. As he had pointed out in vajra-statement 1.1, the Buddha did not “invent” his own Dharma, but revealed the ultimate true nature as it is — and that nature exists as it is, independent of whether someone reveals it or not. Therefore, whoever acts in accordance with that nature will receive the respective appropriate results, no matter whether that person is a Buddhist or not, or whether that person has realised “the definite meaning that perceives the truth” or not. In fact, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa explains that even animals will enjoy the joyful fruits if they are “temporary [in] possession of … virtuous things to be practised,” such as loving kindness for their offspring. Furthermore, even a tenth level bodhisattva has to abandon that which is by nature non-virtuous, or he will suffer the consequences (which is another vajra-statement), and everyone, even animals and the lowest beings in hell, will experience the joyful fruit when they practise virtue.
An example for a wise handling of this nature is the Buddha’s own adoption of the “ritual of the three grounds,” which first did only exist among non-Buddhists. The “ritual of the three grounds” (gzhi gsum gyi cho ga) refers to the poshadha ceremony (Tib. gso sbyong), the summer retreat (dbyar gnas), and the release from summer retreat (dgag dbye). By adopting this originally non-Buddhist practise, its virtuous potential was made available to ordained Buddhists. Another example offered by Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa is Padmasmbhava’s adoption of many non-Buddhist activity rituals (mu stegs byed las), such as cycles of protection and repelling, for the removing of temporary impediments. These have, when embedded in bodhicitta, great virtuous potential, and they are particularly interesting examples because they make skilful use even of forceful and wrathful activities.
Therefore, whatever virtue is found anywhere is to be practised. The Rinjangma points out that even though one might already possess vast amounts of pure qualities, one should also accept the pure qualities found in the mental continua of other beings that are perhaps seen as inferior to oneself, as this is a matter of abandoning pride. It was through such a practise, Rinchen Jangchub says, that the Buddha was able to purify all faults completely and to complete all good qualities, causing him to obtain Buddhahood. On the other hand, if something incorrect exists in the mental continuum of a high person, this is to be abandoned. Nothing is to be accepted only because it exists in the mental continuum of, or is taught by a high person. Thus Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa quotes the well known words of Aryadeva (Jnanasarasamuccaya, D vol. 97, 27v5):
Monks and scholars should accept my words
having first investigated them thoroughly,
like gold, which is smelted, cut and burnished,
but not out of [mere] veneration.
Dorje Sherab quotes at this point the almost same words from the Shri Mahabalatantraraja (D vol. 79, fol. 216v):
Like smelting , cutting, and burnishing gold,
accept my instructions after due investigation,
but, oh Skilful Ones, do not accept it
out of reverence or other [reasons].
These lines are well known and generally accepted by all Buddhists. But what is not so generally accepted is what Jigten Sumgön advises to do, namely to make an effort to perceive the virtue in all non-Buddhist paths, too, and to practise it. To do that, I think, would prevent a Buddhist from making statements such as those mentioned in the beginning, which, I think, may lead directly to political hell.