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“Buddhism in its multiple forms acknowledges the radical insufficiency of this shifting world. It teaches a path by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, can either reach a state of absolute freedom or attain supreme enlightenment by their own efforts or by higher assistance.” – Nostra Aetate, 2.
Buddhism is widely recognized is the world’s fourth largest religion, behind Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, lived and taught in northeastern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. He came to be considered an enlightened teacher by those who followed him, inviting others to a path of awakening in order to overcome the cycle of suffering and rebirth by achieving the spiritual state of nirvana. Today, Buddhism as a religion and philosophy encompasses many traditions, beliefs and practices.
Between the years of 2003 and 2009, the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs co-sponsored an annual Northern California Ch'an/Zen Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue, drawing on the expertise of Catholic theologians and representatives of Buddhist organizations throughout the country. The purpose of the annual dialogue was to promote understanding of the differences and similarities between Christianity and Buddhism. Discussions included such topics as transformation, grace, vows, community life, meeting, abiding in Christ, and taking refuge in the Buddha, among others.
Due to financial constraints, in 2009 the national dialogue concluded its work, but it encouraged regional initiatives organized on the local level. The USCCB's CEIA continues to be involved in a consulting and/or participatory fashion in a number of these local initiatives and networks, according to invitation, interest, need and availability, and continues to have the opportunity to collaborate with the Buddhist community in a wide-range of activities. Dr. Anthony Cirelli is currently the lead staff of the USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs' on-going relationship with the Buddhist community on a national level.
“May we together promote a healthy relationship between human beings and the environment. By enhancing our efforts to promote ecological consciousness for serenity and peaceful coexistence, we can give witness to a respectful way of life that finds meaning not in having more, but in being more. By sharing the insights and commitments of our respective religious traditions, we can contribute to the well- being of our world.”
-Message published by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue on the occasion of the Buddhist feast of Vesakh. Vatican City, May 17, 2010.
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