The following is an excerpt from a public talk by His Holiness Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok:
There are three major world religions and countless minor religions, spiritual pursuits that are available in this world which we should actually embrace in this lifetime. It doesn’t really matter which one one embraces in terms of the point that is being made here. The point is that everyone should enter a spiritual pursuit so that there is a purpose to this life. Otherwise it is like the cows and the horses that are just grazing and eating the grass and just kind of surviving aimlessly. There is no point to spending your life just so that you can acquire the comforts of eating good food and drink and just getting by. This is really, truly the greatest waste of a human existence. Nor is it suitable to just enter any path without examining that path, without questioning others about that tradition. One must carefully examine the spiritual path that one is going to enter because this is something that affects you for this and all future lifetimes. You shouldn’t just do this mindlessly in a state of delusion. For example, if one day you can choose whether you are going to eat delicious food or foul food and you check to see whether it is good or bad, then it is quite important that you would choose the best, and you would want it to be very delicious. When it comes to the spiritual practice and Dharma, this is something that affects you for all of your lifetimes, so it is totally unsuitable not to examine the path that you are going to be involved in. Another reason for examining is because it also very unsuitable to become partial about religious dogmas and to actually feel some hate for other religions. People who feel this way are usually people who are not intelligent enough to examine. If you examine each of the religions, at least you can gain some sense of appreciation. At the same time you can understand very clearly which is a pure path, which is an impure path, which path is beneficial, which path is nonproductive. If you are unable to discern that because you haven’t examined, then you are someone who is experiencing the conflicting emotion of delusion.
For example, in this world there may be spiritual traditions or religions which actually encourage adultery or encourage thievery or encourage the killing of other sentient beings or animals for ritual offerings or sacrifice or what have you. Maybe these types of activities might even go against the rules of the country, might even break the law of the country and yet are still encouraged by the religion. We have to examine to see if these are activities that are the play of desire and attachment, anger and delusion, or not. If we clearly examine, then we can recognize for ourselves that this is non-beneficial and nonproductive, and it is something that we can avoid getting involved in. But in order to avoid getting involved in it, in the beginning we must examine.
In some religions, some spiritual traditions, there is only a focus upon some personal gain or some personal pursuit for one’s own happiness. It is very self-oriented. This is also something that we should examine, because if that is the case, it is not pure and not ultimately beneficial. If there is no focus upon how one can truly be of service and of benefit to others—because if the religion you are involved in is only going to bring you happiness in this life and doesn’t even focus upon how you can somehow bring happiness to others in this life—how could it possibly be truly pure? In this way we must examine it. and we should get involved in a religion that focuses on the benefit of others as well.
The excellent spiritual traditions, the sublime traditions, are those which bring benefit to self and others alike. So first and foremost, please examine to see if the religion that you are engaged in or thinking to engage in has these qualifications. Finding then a religion that brings benefit to both self and others is a prerequisite, but the methods in order to employ that must be available. It must be a profound path that brings about the benefit of self and others. For example, even if an old woman who has no arms has love and compassion for her son and wishes to uplift him and help, she cannot. She has that wish but there’s nothing she can do because she’s crippled. Therefore if we want to achieve ultimate, permanent results in this and future lifetimes, we have to be sure that our path has the power to bring about those results. It can’t just be something that is filled with fancy rhetoric and good thoughts, but doesn’t have any methods which produce good results.
Speaking of those methods then, the spiritual path that can bring that about is one that includes the different sciences and also transmissions based on experience, and also has the valid source through which strong faith and conviction can be developed. There must be a true and valid source of the lineage of a spiritual tradition. That must be established over a period of time by those who are intelligent scholars and true practitioners who have been able to uphold the line of the lineage of transmission. One has to go back and see where the religion finds its origin. The religion should be validated by the presence of the different categories or sciences of spiritual knowledge or development that validate the ability of that path to bring forth the results of what one wants to accomplish. You can’t just expect to go to someone who promises you that if you do this according to what I am teaching then it is going to bring you happiness and peace, and if you avoid this you won’t suffer. This kind of shallowness is something that must be avoided and can only be avoided by examining the tradition to see if it is validated by the different categories and presence of sciences and methods which have already been tested. And thirdly, from the point of view of, experiential validity, one must be able to see that it has been proven by those who have practiced this path that both temporarily and ultimately the results have been and are and will be achieved. One has to take a look and see if those results have borne out through the different efforts of the practice of those who are practitioners on the path—if they have been able to bring out the fruition, and if the results that they have achieved are permanent or not.
In this world, in terms of benefit both temporary and ultimate, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni has presented the methods which are according to his miraculous activities and deeds. For the most part, those great leaders of other religions are also considered to be emanations of the compassion of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. For instance in Hinduism, the leader Jangjuk is said to be an incarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni, and also Wangchen, or King Brahman, is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. So even these religious leaders of those traditions that are said to bring only temporary benefit, that bliss comes about through the miraculous activity of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. Also in the Christian path, a religion that is founded upon the principles of love and compassion for sentient beings, these principles of love and compassion are also the essential points of the Buddhist doctrine, and the fact that that is so is due to the concerned miraculous activity of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. This also points out why it is very unsuitable for us to ever have partial attitudes towards other religions. Really, when we think in terms of what has just been presented to you, all the religions in this world have very much in common. The most important points are the points which are similar, and we shouldn’t try to find the differences.