Earlier this month in Garrison, New York, Buddhist and Christian clergy gathered at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center for the ninth annual interreligious dialogue between members of both traditions (sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement). “A Buddhist & Christian Understanding of Greed: Personal and Structural” was the topic for the day. All in attendance agreed that Christian scriptures and Buddhist sutras decry greed, though each offered different solutions to the problem.
“Greed, anger and ignorance are three poisons which control us sometimes,” said Rev. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, a Jodo Shinsu priest and the vice chairman of the Interfaith Center of New York. “Observing the precepts will remove the impurity of greed, concentrating the mind in meditation removes anger and gaining wisdom removes the impurity of foolishness or ignorance.” He goes on to state that the practice of compassion is one effective way to eradicate greed within.
A Catholic priest, Fr. Francis X. Mazur, ecumenical and interreligious officer for the Diocese of Buffalo, described greed in terms of sin, citing St. Augustine, who said that greed is “…a disabling sin that leads to envy, hatred and detraction.” Fr. Mazur believes that greed comes from within and that “clergy should use preaching to challenge people to overcome it individually and within society.”
The purpose of such dialogue is to foster understanding between the two traditions through explorations on how life is to be lived, according to each. Fr. John Keane, a Franciscan who directs the dialogue, said, “We’re not trying to convert each other, but to understand and to try to make the world a safer place to be.”