In 1986 at Purdue University, notable thinkers from around the world gathered to discuss the Buddhist-Christian divide. On the final night, before a packed crowd in the Krannert Auditorium, Masao Abe and Hans Küng struggled to define the undefinable. Abe insisted that there could be no names for the Buddhist experience of Nothingness, but just as the dialogue stalled, Abe asked, “Can you describe the essence of your God?” Küng turned, paused and stated that his God could be defined as love.
A hush fell over the crowded masses of attendees, and we waited. Finally Abe spoke, “I can call Nothingness--love.” As the audience erupted in applause, the two men stood before each other, staring through the lengthy miles and long years of their journey. They had bridged the divide. One word had changed everything. Love.
Their bridge did not declare that either side was wrong or right or that the two sides were now equal. But, their bridge did announce common ground from which we could begin to understand one another.
It seems we are daily confronted by the fringes of humanity, those who use sacred scriptures to divide or to justify the unjustifiable. Appalled by the actions of a few, I think back to these two extraordinary individuals--Hans Küng and Masao Abe, deep thinkers, deep believers.....and recall their commitment to the possibility of change. And I think: blessed are the peacemakers, the bridge-builders, the ones who take time to pause--to listen, to try to understand the other. They are our hope--for years of tomorrows.
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