by Alexander Berzin
Both Buddhism and Biblical religions have been tolerant of other
faiths. Both have also instigated forced and subtle conversion
campaigns, although each has used different methods. Biblical
religions have launched holy wars, while the First Kalki King of
Shambhala gathered non-Buddhists into the Kalachakra mandala through
a demonstration of psychic powers. Biblical religions have used
economic incentives as a subtle means for conversion, while Buddhism
has used debates of logic.
Accepting Buddhism, however, differs significantly from conversion
to a Biblical faith. It does not entail complete renunciation of
oneís previous faith, but leaves room for many of its assertions to
remain as valid stepping-stones along the spiritual path.
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, however, discourages
conversion to Buddhism. Although followers of other religions, as
well as nonreligious persons, may learn helpful methods from
Buddhism, discarding oneís native system of belief may bring
unforeseen problems. Except for a small minority, most people
benefit more from deepening their understanding of their traditions
In Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, conversion means to give up
oneís former religion and to adopt a new faith. The incentive is
conviction that the new religion is truer than the former. Although
converts are often allowed to blend in nondoctrinal elements from
their native cultures, they needs, in fact, to recognize the new
religion as the only true one. This follows from conviction in the
"One Truth, One God" ethos of these Biblical religions. Optimally,
one gains this conviction by studying its doctrines or by an
epiphany. Some people, however, change religions for less profound
reasons, such as economic or social gain, or for marrying someone of
Sometimes, zealots have converted others by force to their religions
- an extreme action officially allowed only in certain cases. Islam,
for example, sanctions forceful conversion only for those causing
harm to Islam. Historically, Muslim rulers have allowed followers of
other faiths who have peacefully accepted their rule in lands they
have conquered to keep their religions if they paid a poll tax.
Forcefully converting enemies, on the other hand, is a means for
neutralizing and ending their destruction. It is also purportedly a
method for saving "sinners" from falling to hell and for leading
them to heaven. Rehabilitation programs for prisoners, whether to
become productive members of Western societies or cadres in
communist states, have the same objective. One could also describe
the actions of some governments for spreading communism, capitalism,
or even democracy, as examples of forced conversion to stop
Many people, especially idealistic newcomers to Buddhism, would like
to believe that Buddhism has been immune to the phenomenon of
conversion, especially forced conversion. Dividing the world into
good versus evil, and with images of inquisitions,
missionaries, and conversion by the sword, they see forced
conversion as something that only the bad side has done.
self-righteously condemning other religions or governments for this
phenomenon during the dark chapters of their histories, however, one
needs to examine objectively whether Buddhism too has fallen prey to
the practice of forced conversion. Otherwise, desperate yearning for
a flawless religion and romantic projection of a Shangrila paradise
onto Tibet, for instance, may turn to disillusioned despair and
dismay, like that when learning of the misdeeds of a teacher one had
thought was a Buddha.
from Tibetan History
It is true that, in principle, Buddhism is not a proselytizing
religion. It is also true that neither Tibetan nor Mongolian history
has seen forced mass conversions of conquered populations to
Buddhism or to one of its sects. Even when rulers of these lands
have declared Buddhism as the state religion, they may have levied
taxes on their people to support the monasteries, as in the case of
the Tibetan King Relpachen (Ral-pa-can) in the early ninth century.
Yet, neither the rulers nor their religious councils forced the
population to accept and practice the Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism
spread among common people slowly and organically.
Nevertheless, numerous examples exist of the forced conversion of
Tibetan monasteries from one Buddhist sect to another or the
recognition of a tulku (reincarnate spiritual master) as being of a
different school than was his predecessor. The unstated motive has
usually been to neutralize political or military opposition, as was
undoubtedly the case in the seventeenth century with the recognition
of a Mongol prince as the Gelugpa reincarnation of the Jonangpa
master Taranatha. Taranatha was the royal advisor for the opposing
side during a civil war.
Further, Padmasambhava and several later Tibetan masters have used
their superior extraphysical powers to overwhelm and "tame" harmful
spirits, such as Nechung. Forcing the spirits to accept Buddhism,
they have made them vow to protect the Dharma. In effect, they have
converted and rehabilitated the spirits to become Dharma protectors.
Although it would be difficult, based on Buddhist scripture, to
justify gross, obvious forms of forced conversion such as these; are
there textual references regarding subtler forms of conversion in
Buddhism? The Kalachakra literature provides a revealing source for
investigation. It emerged in Kashmir and northern India in the late
tenth and early eleventh centuries, when invading Muslim armies were
conquering lands to the west with primarily Buddhist and Hindu
Its discussion of history undoubtedly drew also on the
experiences of the region between eastern Afghanistan and Kashmir
during the previous two centuries and described interfaith relations
among the three religions there.
According to the traditional account, King Suchandra of Shambhala
received the Kalachakra tantra teachings from Buddha himself in
South India and brought them back to his northern land. Seven
generations later, his successor Manjushri Yashas gathered the
brahman wise men of Shambhala in the three-dimensional Kalachakra
mandala palace his ancestors had built in the royal park.
to warn the brahmans about a future non-Indic religion that would
arise in the land of Mecca. Many scholars identify this religion
with Islam, since the predicted year of its founding is only two
years past the start of the Islamic calendar. For ease of
discussion, let us provisionally accept their conclusion, although
one needs to qualify this identification in terms of the forms of
messianic Islam the formulators of the Kalachakra teachings most
The Kalachakra Presentation of the Prophets of
the Non-Indic Invaders]
Manjushri Yashas described that the followers of the non-Indic
religion will slit the throats of cattle, while reciting the name of
their God Bismillah (Arabic for "in the name of Allah"), and then
eat the meat. He told the brahmans to examine how people around them
were observing their Vedic religion. They needed to correct
misunderstandings and corrupt practices, particularly the sacrifice
of bulls to their gods and the subsequent eating of their flesh.
Otherwise, their descendants would see no difference between the
religion of their ancestors and
that of the foreigners, and would embrace the latter, facilitating
foreign takeover of their land. Moreover, the brahmans needed to end
their custom of refusing to intermarry or even to eat or drink with
members of other castes. If religious beliefs cause internal
divisions and people cannot cooperate in the face of danger, society
cannot survive an external threat.
Based on the logic of his arguments, Manjushri Yashas invited the
brahmans to join with the rest of the people of Shambhala in the
Kalachakra mandala, receive empowerment, and form one "vajra-caste."
At first, the brahmans refused and fled toward India. The King saw
that if their spiritual leaders departed, the people of Shambhala
would take it as a sign that forming one caste was wrong, and so
they would continue their self-destructive customs.
Manjushri Yashas used his psychic powers to draw the brahmans back
to the mandala. Examining more deeply the wisdom of the King and
seeing its truth, the brahman leaders now accepted his advice and so
Manjushri Yashas conferred upon the population the Kalachakra
empowerment. In uniting the people into a single vajra-caste, the
King became the First Kalki of Shambhala - the First "Holder of the
Issue of Conversion
Was this first mass empowerment an example of forced conversion of
the brahmans or of the entire population of Shambhala to Buddhism?
Are the mass Kalachakra empowerments that have followed, and which
continue to today, also examples of covert conversions? Were the
First Kalkiís actions consistent with scriptural authority and
historical precedent? Let us critically analyze the textual account
of the event, trying to avoid the extremes of either whitewashing
the evidence to make Buddhism look innocent and nice, or inflating
it to make Buddhism look evangelistic and bigoted.
Conversion by Logic
Buddha taught people not to accept his teachings merely out of faith
or respect for him, but to examine them critically as when buying
gold. Thus, at the great Indian monastic institutions of the first
millennium AD, Buddhist monks supporting various philosophical tenet
systems debated with each other and with scholars from non-Buddhist
centers of learning. The losers were required to accept the tenets
of the victors and thus, in effect, to "convert" to the more
logically consistent systems. After all, they had "examined the
teachings critically as when buying gold."
Whether their conversions were voluntary or forced is a moot point.
The assumption is that those who accept logic will adopt the most
logically consistent view, and not act irrationally by insisting on
a defeated position because of attachment to it. One must not be
naÔve, however. Not every highly educated person is consistently
rational in his or her behavior. Moreover, local kings often
officiated at such debates and awarded royal patronage to the
winning parties and their institutions. Thus, considerations of
financial support may also have influenced a change of religion or
In Tibetan history as well, King Tri Songdetsen (Khri
Srong-lde-btsan), in the late eighth century, chose Indian Buddhism
over the Chinese form after the former defeated the latter at the
famous Samyey (bSam-yas) debate. Surely, political considerations
also influenced the Kingís decision. A xenophobic faction had
assassinated his father because of his close ties with China due to
his Chinese queen, and a pro-China faction was again growing
powerful in the court. The King and his Religious Council wished to
avoid a repetition of the violent events of the past.
Conversion through Contests of Psychic Powers
Contests of psychic and extraphysical powers, both in
Tibet, likewise ended in conversion. Just as cutting or burning
equally attests to the authenticity of gold, defeating an opponent
with logic or psychic powers equally demonstrates the superior truth
of a teaching.
Thus, the most plausible reason for the
thirteenth-century Mongol ruler Khubilai Khanís adopting the Sakya
tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is not because of the superior logic
of its philosophical views. His grandfather, Chinggis Khan, had
summoned Chinese Buddhist, Taoist, and Nestorian Christian clerics
to his military camps to perform rituals for his long life and
Nevertheless, Chinggis was killed in battle fighting the
Tanguts, a people who lived in the region between Mongolia and Tibet
and who undoubtedly received their superior power from their
reliance on the Tibetan Buddhist protector Mahakala. The Biblical
equivalent would be to explain military success in terms of the
victorsí having had God on their side. The Sakyapas were the most
politically convenient Tibetan sect able to confer upon Khubilai
Khan the secret weapon of Mahakalaís might.
One needs to understand the picture of religious conversion
portrayed in the Kalachakra literature within the context of these
traditional contests of logic and psychic powers. In countries
influenced by Indian civilization, a religion needed to prove that
it had the highest truth by winning contests in one or both of these
fields. It could not simply assert its supremacy as dogma and force
others to accept it by the stretching rack or sword.
Conversion "For Othersí Own Good"
Although the brahmans of Shambhala became convinced to receive the
empowerment based on the Kalkiís extraphysical powers and lines of
reasoning - although, in fact, no contest was held - it is still a
moot point whether they voluntarily agreed or were forced. After
all, they did not gather to receive the empowerment on their own
initiatives, but were summoned by the King and forced to listen to
his arguments, "for their own good." All forced conversions,
however, are ostensibly for a candidateís own good. And such
explanations as that by the Second Kalki in his commentary to his
"the Kalki saw that the brahmans were ripe for
forming one caste,"
...can be used by leaders of any religion or
politico-economic system to justify conversion by force.
The fifteenth-century Tibetan Gelug scholar Kaydrubjey (mKhas-grub
rje), however, explains in his Kalachakra commentary that Manjushri
Yashas was not forcing the Hindu castes to give up their religious
and social customs and to convert to Buddhism. No one has the right
to do that to any group. The First Kalkiís intention was for the
people to examine their behavior to see if it accorded with the pure
teachings of the Vedas. If it did not, they needed to correct it. To
face any threat to society, followers of all religions need to
combine in spirit and adhere to the good intentions of each of their
Kaydrubjeyís comment, then, implies that being ripe for forming one
caste is not equivalent to being ripe for converting to Buddhism.
Forming one caste would be for the people of Shambhalaís own good in
a sociopolitical sense, not specifically in a spiritual sense. The
First Kalki was pressing for religious harmony and unity of purpose,
not religious uniformity, as the means to ward off threats to
Nevertheless, the brahmans who received the empowerment did
constitute the majority of the audience to whom Manjushri Yashas
gave the Kalachakra teachings. Thus, although it is unnecessary and
even inappropriate for everyone to convert to Buddhism, nevertheless
some followers of other religions may be "ripe" for that as well. Is
that still conversion, but just in a cleverly rationalized form?
After all, Manjushri Yashas assumed the title Kalki, the name of the
tenth and final avatar (incarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. One
could easily construe this as a clever tactic for winning the
allegiance of Hindus.
"Those Who Are Ripe"
Despite the general Buddhist principle that a spiritual teacher may
not teach others unless explicitly requested, Buddha allowed
exceptions in the case of potential disciples who were especially
ripe. A spiritual teacher, however, needs advanced extrasensory
abilities to recognize correctly when someone is ripe. Those lacking
such abilities may easily abuse the dispensation and fall to the
extreme of becoming proselytizing missionaries.
Even if one is not
in the position of being a teacher, one might patronize other
religions, or Buddhist traditions other than oneís own, and think
that they are perfectly suitable for feebler, less spiritually
developed minds. When holders of inferior views become maturer and
"ripen," they will be ready for the more profound Buddhist teachings
of oneís own tradition.
The lessen here is that one needs great care nowadays when making
the Buddhist teachings available in order to "provide the
circumstances for otherís good karma to ripen to become Buddhists."
One needs nonattachment to Buddhism and a truly nonpartisan attitude
of respect for all religions; otherwise, oneís naÔve good intentions
may mask a chauvinistic missionary mentality to spread the true
Conversion by Showing Deeper Meanings of Othersí Scriptures
Nevertheless, Buddhists have traditionally engaged proponents of
other belief systems in philosophical debates, whether or not with
the motive of conversion. What is the Buddhist method for convincing
others of the superior logic of the Buddhist path? As the
eighth-century Indian master Shantideva explains, two parties can
successfully debate only when based on using examples that both
sides accept. Without a common basis for discussion, they have no
Thus, as the commentaries explain, the First Kalkiís
intention was to wean the brahmans from attachment to their literal
reading of the Vedas, by showing them alternative, deeper ways of
understanding some of the topics discussed in them.
An example accepted in common by the Vedas and Tantric Buddhism is
the injunction to take life and to eat flesh. In Buddhist tantra,
the two have hidden meanings. Taking life refers to taking the life
of the disturbing emotions, which means to take the life of the
energy-winds on which they course through the subtle body.
represent the disturbing emotion of naivety, a form of unawareness
(ignorance). Eating their flesh means to bring the energy-winds of
naivety into the central channel and to dissolve them there. The
Vedic injunction to sacrifice bulls and to enjoy their flesh can
also be read with the same hidden meaning in reference to an inner
yoga dealing with the subtle energies. Manjushri Yashas used Vedic
terms and concepts in this way to lead the brahmans to the
Kalachakra path to liberation and enlightenment.
In Buddhism, then, a skillful method for "converting" followers of
other religions avoids refuting the doctrines of their creeds, but
shows instead alternative ways of interpreting them. In examining,
as when buying gold, the deeper meanings of their own texts as
revealed by Buddhism, they will become convinced of the validity of
the Buddhist path. Peopleís religions of origin thus become valid
stepping-stones on the Buddhist path, if they should choose to
A clever mind, however, can fabricate elaborate and beautiful
intellectual schemes to show that the concepts of any system
actually have the deeper meaning of the concepts of another.
Motivation is essential; although, again, is it easy to rationalize
by saying that one compassionately wishes to lead others to
liberation and enlightenment. After all, with compassion, one could
equally wish to lead others to heavenly salvation or to an economic
and political paradise. To avoid the pitfalls of arrogance and
doctrinal chauvinism, one needs sincere respect for other systems of
belief and for those who follow them.
Conversion without Totally Rejecting Oneís Previous Views
The acceptance of Buddhism, then, does not entail total rejection of
all oneís previous views. It is not a formal renunciation of oneís
former religion, as when converting to a Biblical faith. One may
still take provisional refuge in the god or gods of another
religion, just not ultimate safe direction. What one needs to reject
completely is only oneís previous "distorted views."
defined not simply as views that differ from Buddhaís deepest
intentions, but as views that are also antagonistic toward them. If
one overcomes aggressive antagonism toward Buddhism - and, it is
reasonable to add, aggressive antagonism toward all other religions
and systems in general - some of oneís previous views may act as
stepping stones. Tibetan Buddhism uses the same stepping-stone
method to lead its followers along a path of progressively more
sophisticated Buddhist systems of philosophical tenets, from Vaibhashika to
Manjushri Yashasís method of teaching the brahmans reveals the
methodology. Although many assertions of the brahmansí religion may
serve as stepping-stones to Buddhism, not all the assertions that do
so have an equal status. As with the Buddhist tenet systems, some of
the brahmansí assertions can be accepted on a literal level as valid
on the Buddhist path, such as certain features of astrology. Others
need to be rejected as false on a literal level, despite having
deeper valid levels of meaning. Moreover, within the latter
category, Manjushri Yashas distinguished between those that have
deeper meanings also within the Vedic context, and others that lack
such meanings and are simply false.
For example, the nineteenth-century Nyingma Kalachakra commentator
Mipam (íJu Mi-pham) explains that the hidden profound meaning of the
bull sacrifice taught in the Yajur Veda was clear to the Vedic yogis
in previous times. Yet, due to the degeneration of the times,
knowledge of the inner yoga it symbolizes was lost. Therefore, Manjushri Yashas taught it to the confused brahmans to help them
realize the wisdom that was lost within their own tradition. Those
who interpret the bull sacrifice literally and actually take the
lives of creatures cannot possibly attain the bliss of liberation
from their acts. They will only fall to worse rebirth states.
Manjushri Yashas was not implying here that Vedic yogis of the past
understood the inner yoga practices of Buddhist tantra as the hidden
meaning of the bull sacrifice taught in the Yajur Veda. They
understood the inner yoga practices of Hindu tantra. After all,
Hindu and Buddhist tantras share many features, such as the
assertion of subtle energy-systems with chakras, channels, and
energy-winds. The main point here is that even brahmans who are not
ripe for the Buddhist teachings must stop sacrificing bulls. The
Vedic injunction concerning this practice was never meant to be
taken literally, even within the context of the Vedic tradition.
On the other hand, Manjushri Yashas pointed out other features of
the brahmansí assertions that were completely false on a literal
level, such as the measurements of the size of the continents. He
detailed the size according to the Kalachakra system to help the
brahmans overcome their proud attachment to their own assertions.
The thirteenth-century Sakya Kalachakra commentator Buton (Bu-ston)
explains that Manjushri Yashasís intention, however, was not to
refute all systems of measurement other than the Kalachakra one, for
example that which Buddha taught in the abhidharma literature. He
had a specific motivation, namely to benefit the brahmans.
Kaydrubjey adds that neither the measurements the First Kalki taught
nor those found in the Vedas correspond to reality. Nevertheless, a
big difference exists between them. The Kalachakra measurements are
congruent with those of the human body and those of the Kalachakra
mandala. Thus, the intention of Manjushri Yashasís teaching them,
despite their falsehood, was to lead the brahmans to the Kalachakra
path to enlightenment.
The Vedic system has nothing similar
regarding the measurements of the size of the continents.
Nevertheless, the First Kalki used a description of the world that
shared many features with the Vedic one, such as rings of
continents, mountain ranges, and oceans around a circular Mount Meru.
This was a skillful means that allowed the brahmans to relate to his
description and to go deeper.
Issue of Unconscious Assimilation in Kalachakra
It is noteworthy that Manjushri Yashas did not warn Buddhists
against unconscious assimilation into Islam, as he did the Hindus.
In fact, the Kalachakra literature contains no mention of the
followers of Islam explicitly trying to convert others to their
religion, either forcefully or peacefully. Even when Manjushri
Yashas predicted that, in 2424 AD, a non-Indic ruler of India will
threaten an invasion of Shambhala and the Twenty-fifth Kalki would
defeat his forces in India, he speaks of a threatened military
takeover, not specifically a religious takeover. The First Kalki
addressed his warning only to the brahmans in terms of their
assimilation into Islam now.
Perhaps the Kalki felt no need to warn the Buddhists, because he was
confident in the strength of Buddhism and did not foresee its
assimilation. This would mean, however, that the Kalki was naÔve and
his extrasensory perception of the future contained a flaw, which is
an uncomfortable conclusion for Buddhists to draw. Perhaps,
assimilation of Buddhism into Islam had not yet occurred to a
significant degree at the time when the Kalachakra teachings emerged
Historical evidence, however, indicates that by the late
tenth century, not only Hindu, but also many Buddhist landowners,
merchants, and urban educated persons - particularly in Central
Asia, northern Afghanistan and southern Pakistan - were already
converting for various reasons, including economic advantage.
Islamic rulers were not forcing them to convert upon penalty of
death if they refused. They could keep their religions if they paid
a poll tax.
Alternatively, Manjushri Yashas might have believed that if people
of all religions united in the Kalachakra mandala and those who were
"ripe" converted to Buddhism, this would be the best solution to the
problems of the difficult times. A population threatened by invasion
and military takeover can only surmount the danger if it presents a
united front. The Buddhists would naturally come to the Kalachakra
empowerment. Therefore, the First Kalki needed to address only the
non-Buddhists of Shambhala. This seems to have been the main motive
for conversion to Buddhism "for those who were ripe."
It is curious, however, that one of the tactics the First Kalki used
to unite the Hindus and Buddhists was a tactic that the Ismaili
Shiite Muslims later used to assimilate Hindus as a stepping-stone
for their eventual conversion. In the thirteenth-century text
Dasavatara, Pir Shams-al-Din identified the tenth and final avatar
of Vishnu, Kalki, with the first imam, Ali. The Ismaili imams were
the successors to Ali and, in accepting Ali as Kalki, the Hindus
would also be accepting the legitimacy of his Ismaili successors.
Similarly, Manjushri Yashas termed himself Kalki, also to gain the
acceptance of the Hindus.
Accommodation of Islam into Buddhism
Manjushri Yashas even explained how the stepping-stone method could
also lead followers of the non-Indic religion to Buddhism.
Apparently insensitive to the strong Islamic prohibition of
renouncing Islam and converting to a different faith, his priority
seems to have been uniting people of all faiths, not just Hindu and
Buddhist. After all, there must have also been Muslims in Shambhala,
and they faced the same threat of invasion and military takeover as
did everyone else. This certainly was the case in eastern
Afghanistan at the time, the most likely location that served as the
historical model for Shambhala or represented it on earth.
The First Kalki described the non-Indic religion as asserting
external matter as consisting of atoms, a permanent soul that
temporarily takes rebirth, and the achievement of the happiness of a
heavenly rebirth as the highest goal. Knowing the disposition of
people with such beliefs, he explained that Buddha taught in
accordance with what they could accept. In certain sutras, Buddha
taught that the body of a bodhisattva about to achieve Buddhahood is
made of atoms.
Elsewhere, he explained that a continuity of "self"
exists, which carries responsibility for experiencing the results of
its behavior (karma), but without speaking of the "self" as either
permanent or impermanent. Buddha also taught the provisional goal of
achieving better rebirth in a heavenly god realm. The assertions of
the non-Indic religion can function as stepping-stones toward
accepting these sutras and onward to increasingly more sophisticated
Accommodation of Buddhism into Islam
As Manjushri Yashas did with Islam, Muslim authors of the period
also explained Buddhism in terms that followers of their religion
could understand. For example, at the beginning of the eighth
century, al-Kermani wrote a detailed account of Nava Vihara
Monastery at Balkh in northern Afghanistan. In it, he described that
Buddhists circumambulate and prostrate to a stone cube draped with
cloth, as Muslims do at the Kabah in Mecca.
The cube referred to the
platform in the center of the main temple on which a stupa stood.
The Muslims, however, did not draw these similarities for the sake
of using them as a device to lead Buddhists to the path of Islam.
They gave Buddhists a simple choice: either keep their religion and
pay an extra poll tax, or accept the truth of Islam and be exempt
from the levy.
Even when Muslim conquerors destroyed Buddhist
monasteries as part of their invasion tactic to dispirit a
population into surrender, they usually allowed their reconstruction
so that they could exact a pilgrimage fee.
Several important questions remain. Is the Kalachakra portrait of
conversion to Buddhism in the mythical land of Shambhala merely a
description of what might have been beneficial and necessary in
Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent from the ninth to the
eleventh centuries, or is it timeless advice? Granted the universal
wisdom in members of all religions reaffirming the spiritual values
of their creeds in order to ward off threats to their societies, is
the optimal defense convincing as many people as possible to
It would be difficult to defend this position,
either in reference to only the above-mentioned historical period or
as general advice, without being chauvinistic. The unbiased
conclusion, then, is to admit that the tone of the Shambhala legend
is indeed chauvinistic, although understandable, given the
circumstances of the times. It does not follow, however, that
Buddhist teachers nowadays need to be chauvinistic when presenting
Buddhism to non-Buddhist audiences.
When presenting Buddhism to non-Buddhist audiences, His Holiness the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama always stresses that he is not trying to win
converts. He is not challenging others to a debate contest, with the
loser required to adopt the assertions of the victor. He explains
that he is merely trying to educate others about Buddhism. Peace
among different societies comes from understanding each otherís
systems of beliefs.
Educating others differs greatly from trying to
convert them. If others find something of value in Buddhism, they
are free to adopt it, without any need to become Buddhists. For
those who are strongly interested, they are welcome to pursue their
studies further and even to become Buddhist, but only after a long
period of deep reflection. For most, however, His Holiness strongly
cautions against changing religions.
Buddhism is no different from other religions or philosophical
systems in that it claims to have the deepest truth. Nevertheless,
the Buddhist assertion is not an exclusivist claim to the "One
Truth." Buddhism also accepts relative truths - things that are true
relative to certain groups or to certain circumstances. So long as
oneís views are not aggressively antagonistic, oneís relatively true
beliefs may serve as provisional stepping stones on the way to the
deepest truth as Buddhism defines it.
They may also serve as
stepping-stones to the deepest truth that other religions teach. So
long as the Buddhist assertion of deepest truth is not chauvinistic
and does not belie a missionary policy, it may benefit those for
whom it suits.