The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue highlighted the importance of pursuing truth in a March 31 message greeting the world's Buddhists, who will soon be celebrating the holiday informally known as “Buddha's birthday.”
“In the pursuit of authentic peace, a commitment to seek truth is a necessary condition,” wrote Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. “All persons have a natural duty to seek truth, to follow it and freely to live their lives in accordance with it.” He cited the Second Vatican Council's declaration “Dignitatis Humanae,” which states that all people have this duty “especially in what concerns God and His Church.”
In anticipation of the Buddhist holiday of Vesakh, also known as Hanamatsuri, the cardinal reminded Buddhists of the Church's positive attitude toward inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. He recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who described such activities as “an important means of cooperating with all religious communities for the common good,” while acknowledging important differences.
“Such dialogue is also a powerful stimulus to respect for the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of worship,” Cardinal Tauran noted.
“Wherever religious freedom is effectively acknowledged, the dignity of the human person is respected at its root,” he continued. “By the sincere search for what is true and good, moral conscience and civil institutions are strengthened, and justice and peace are firmly established.”
The cardinal also observed that inter-religious dialogue can provide a public witness to the importance of religious convictions in an increasingly secularized world.
“In today’s world, marked by forms of secularism and fundamentalism that are often inimical to true freedom and spiritual values, interreligious dialogue can be the alternative choice by which we find the 'golden way' to live in peace and work together for the good of all.”
“Dear Buddhist friends,” he wrote, “we pray that your celebration of Vesakh will be a source of spiritual enrichment and an occasion to take up anew the quest of truth and goodness, to show compassion to all who suffer, and to strive to live together in harmony.”
Vesakh, which different countries and Buddhist traditions celebrate on a range of dates between April and June, commemorates the life, death, and teachings of the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. Celebrations often involve visiting temples and monasteries, abstaining from meat, and releasing captive animals as a gesture of compassion.