The Words of the Kittel Family
I have had the honor of living and working in South Asia (and parts of Southeast Asia) for the best part of thirty-five years. In 1975, Father sent me with a one-way ticket to Pakistan and I lived there for eight years. Since then I have lived in Sri Lanka (four years), India (seven years) and now Nepal (three years). So I have had a good dose of religious education through on-the-job-training.
To supplement this, I took some time to study at Unification Theological Seminary and the University of Bridgeport. This gave me the academic skills to research and write professionally. Even during my studies in the United States, however, I would come back to South Asia for special events, such as True Parents' speaking tours. I also did my UTS field education project in India.
My mission, as I see it, is to build bridges. In this case, I am trying to connect two theologies. One is the Principle and the second is from one of the other faith traditions. To do this, I begin by choosing a point where the divide is not too wide. I don't choose to build a bridge across the greatest distance at the outset. These wide theological gaps can be bridged later, after first building common ground.
Next, I need to be true to both theologies. I cannot fudge or exaggerate in the slightest. This is absolutely essential. Misrepresenting either religious tradition will not work because at some point any bridge built on shaky ground will collapse. The foundation for the bridge must be solid; both religious teachings must be represented fairly and honestly.
When this bridge is built, it is very exciting. I've had Hindus jump with joy, saying, "You have explained the meaning of the images in Hinduism better than I've ever heard before." Buddhist priests have said to me, "This explains the Buddhist Dharma, especially the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-fold Path and the Story of the Poisoned Arrow, so clearly. You really understand the teaching of Buddha."
It is, of course, not me. It is the application of Father's teaching; applied in a way that can bridge hitherto unbridgeable theologies.
Muslims are happy to see how the Principle explains intricacies of Shariah law, that is, in such areas as the purpose of human responsibility, God's and man's portion of responsibility, the emphasis on moral purity, and why God did not intervene to prevent the Fall.
One area that I've worked a lot on is the history of restoration. The Principle explains the providence of restoration using primarily Judeo-Christian history. This is the key to understanding human history. Yet, when non-Christians see this powerful explanation they are left wondering how God is working in non-Christian areas of the world. This is a legitimate question. Essentially, they are asking, doesn't God love us? Has He left us out? Is He ignoring us?
To address these concerns, we must do two things -- be true to the Principle's explanation of God's providential timetable, and incorporate non-Christian histories into our presentations. For me, this is one of the most thrilling parts of the Principle. History ultimately shows not two but four sets of axial periods [parallel time lines] and is a testament to God's love and sacrifice to save all humankind.
As Father explains in his Peace Messages, "If you carefully examine the progress of human history, you will undoubtedly discover God's resolve and the fingerprints He left as He tirelessly worked behind the scenes of human history." If you look at Buddhism, you find many sutras, too many to even read them all, but the Buddhists themselves percolated out the essence of their teachings into a very small book called the Dharmapada. In parts of the Dharmapada you can see the original mind working. And the Dharmapada is the core; it transcends all the Buddhist groups, so if I'm quoting that, I don't have to worry. From Sri Lanka to Tibet, it is something that is central.
In Hinduism you have centuries of writing, but somehow the Bhagavad-Gita has emerged. There's a reason for that. These central pillars within their faith connect with the Principle.
In the Islamic world, the Qur'an is stronger than the Hadith, but once you go into the Hadith, you're getting into political territory. You have to know the political group or the political viewpoint from which the person spoke. Somehow, you have to validate the authenticity of this Hadith. With the Qur'an, you don't have to go through all that. I don't speak Arabic so I read many translations of the Qur'an -- Marmaduke and Yusufali, I have them all; I've compared them all before.
I'm trying to find the Principle context within the Qur'an.
The point is, the Principle is there, and you're going to bridge their teachings to the Principle.
Several things happen as a result of this. One is that you're validating the Principle content within their faith. You're validating their religion and connecting it to the Principle. As you present aspects of other religions that connect at the same point within the Principle you're bridging these religions with one another. The windfall, or side effect, of connecting religions to the Principle is that as they are all bridged together, it's as if the audience suddenly goes, Wow! Within the context of the Principle, between their religion and others, they realize they can actually find common ground.
I'm not looking for tolerance. I think tolerance doesn't go far enough. We have to show them, help them, coach them in, how to discover their own faith in another faith. Discovering that common ground doesn't lead merely to tolerance. What it does is support religiosity, which is transcendent of religious doctrine. We are religious people; that's what brings us together. You connect to that and you start to build on that. That's the philosophy of what I've been trying to do with them.
In Nepal, we're become stronger about proclaiming Father's value. For us to proclaim that Father is the Messiah, which is a Christian theological concept, would not make much of an impression because it's new to Nepalese and not something they know about. For these reasons, we've proclaimed Father as the Avatar. I've gone back and I've looked at the tenth avatar, Kalki, the one that is going to usher in a stage of eternal peace. There are different schools of thought on this, but most of them lean on there being ten avatars. One school of thought believes in twenty-two. In both of those lists, the second to the last one is Buddha and a Kalki avatar is the next one. My understanding, and the way taught also by some Buddhists, is that Jesus should have been the Maitreya Buddha. Buddha means, "enlightened one," but Maitreya is the Buddha of love, who is not going to just give you knowledge or enlightenment, but will actually keep for you this beam of light, the love that you're looking for.
The key to witnessing, as I say, is education. When guests engage in this process it leads to transformation, the realization of the value of Father's teachings and to their joining of our movement. Education solves problems and changes lives. This is what I like so much about the Original Divine Principle -- the introduction states that we are solving problems. It's got to be applicable. We're going to solve your problems, your family problems, your nation's problems and these world problems. We can do that. Basically, the transformation that were looking for on the individual up to the global level is through education. If we don't have education, we're not going to transform people and this whole thing is going to get bottlenecked, or people will be disheartened. The key -- I think -- is effective education once you bring the guest, because you get one chance. If they're touched, they'll come again, and if not, they're gone.
I look at that realistically and I try to make it an interactive session. The first time I speak to guests, I will ask them clearly, what problems do you want to solve? Are they personal familial, societal?
Whatever they are, the Principle must be able to give an answer, one that is deeper than what they already understand. They need to come to the realization that this is a practical solution for a very real, serious problem.
One thing I keep going back to is that you have to have repetition, consistency and growth in the education process. In other words, the fundamental principle we have to build on is just the dual-characteristic principle -- mind-body and man- woman. You start with that, because it is universal and no one can deny it. Everyone has a mind and body -- past, present, future, from whatever culture; and everyone is either a man or a woman. It's universal. You take this model, and you explain it within the Principle of Creation.
Then, you go into the Fall, and there are two aspects to the Fall. One is fallen nature; and the other is original sin. We can clearly see these two elements. Fallen nature is just the mind- body problem -- selfishness, putting oneself above others. Original sin is the man-woman problem, the lineage problem.
Father refers to fallen nature in terms of excessive individualism and Hyung-jin nim calls it hubris. It is very strong; it's a serious problem. Fallen nature is a precursor to the original sin, the misuse of love. You take that to the next step, and you ask, How do you rectify that? I believe this involves the element of the Eastern religions. They deal with the mind-body problem; they don't deal with God. That's not a central issue for them. The meditation, the mantras and the disciplined life -- they are dealing with fallen nature. You have to change your nature.
The ones that are dealing with lineage and God and the Messiah are the Western religions. These are monotheistic religions. The best way to change your character is to follow the ways of the Eastern religions -- Buddhism and Confucianism and Hinduism. But if you want to deal with sin you have to do it through Western religions. We have to bring the two of them together.
This takes the mind-body paradigm at the very beginning and continues emphasizing it throughout the process of restoration. It becomes more powerful. It amplifies it. The scope and sequence of the educational program is used to the maximum.
We cannot change the content of the Divine Principle, but I believe we can change the order we present it in and the scope of the areas that the Principle addresses.
I learned at Bridgeport that the critical point of education is not so much the content as how its scope and sequence will amplify its impact. And education is the key.