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Prof. Gholamreza Aavani gave a lecture entitled “Religious Tolerance” in the PKU

On the afternoon of May 28, 2014, Professor Gholamreza Aavani, IPS director and ISIP chairman, gave a lecture concerning “religious tolerance” at No.2 Teaching Building, PKU. Prof. Aavani first pointed out, “The premise of achieving religious tolerance is to understand what religion is fundamentally about, and it needs to define tolerance.” Professor Aavani thought the kernel of religion lies in the relationship between the Creator and all things he created. He said of the etymology of religion “ligament”, which means “to bind” and the link between man and god. The Prophet David’s proverb goes that “I created all things for you, but I created you for myself”, showing the sacred bond between man and god. So the belief in god is the fundamental tenet for each religion, which serves as the primary foundation for religious tolerance.

Prof. Aavani continued, “All religions stress the importance of virtue. And human virtue is one of the forms of tolerance.” Records in the Koran go that “God gives all holy names to Adam.” So man is created with the possibility of having all holy names, and prophets are the few among man to achieve the possibility. They embody patience and tolerance. In addition, almost all religions lay emphasis on precepts that are rules and holy laws of faith. For instance, the “rite” in the Confucian traditions highlights inner self-discipline rather than the exertion of authority. Meanwhile, love plays an essential part in all religions in varying forms. True religion concerns the practice of love, which is the very source of tolerance. All these are widely found in all sects and serve as the spiritual basis of religious tolerance.

Subsequently, Prof. Aavani illustrated religious plurality and exclusiveness. He held that religion involves external and internal aspects. They are totally different from an external perspective but similar internally. Just like mosquito and elephant are completely different but both are animals, because a mosquito are no different from an elephant in terms of animality. In order to achieve religious tolerance, we must focus more on the essence of religion. Just like a circle has the center and periphery, each religion differs peripherally from one to another, but shares the center. This is the holy wisdom. It can’t be denied that almost all religions are exclusive, which presents the biggest impediment to religious tolerance. However, once we focus on the core of each religion, we will ignore trivial differences but pay more attention to common foundation of all religions. This is the reason for making religious tolerance possible.

During the Q&A session, students raised various questions about religion and metaphysics, suggestive of their personal concern and thinking. For example, one student asked the question about relationship between reward and virtue and why the virtuous suffered in the present life. Prof. Aavani replied there are different levels of religious reward, and the one we often talk about is basic, the highest level of reward is to become a sage. When asked whether we don’t pay attention to the ultimate question until financial improvement, prof. Aavani restated the god’s proverb “I created all things for you, but I created you for myself”, that is, man is not created for all things, so the ultimate goal for man is not possessing materials but becoming a god. At last, when asked how to learn with the soul not simply the brain, he told students that the works and sayings of sages are the best guide for spiritual cultivation.

Following the conference, though the host said prof. Aavani would have to pack his things for next-day departure, students surrounded this old yet energetic scholar and bombarded him with questions.


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