“Dialogue is essential for a thoroughly self-reflective look at our own tradition”
Ben Bowler is an Australia social entrepreneur and spiritual adventurer. He and his wife Jildou are the founders of Blood Foundation, Monk for a Month, Muslim/Sufi for a Month and World Weavers. Ben believes in the emergence of convergence and the gradual coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Ben speaks to Victor Edwin for Salaam.
How did you get interested in inter-religious dialogue?
Being raised a Catholic, while also being exposed to various cultures through experience in China and with native Australians had me thinking at an early age of the diversity of world-views and the lofty idea of a transcendental truth. I always felt that genuine spiritual experience has more in common among the various traditions, than we often realize.
Why do you think that dialogue between religions is essential?
I believe that all of man's religions are evolutionary vehicles and that dialogue between traditions is not only conducive to greater understanding and affection for one another but such dialogue is also essential for a thoroughly self-reflective look at our own tradition. I see this as a necessary step towards an expansion of cosmic understanding and fostering the evolutionary process of our spiritual perception.
What is the idea behind the unique concept of Muslim for a Month (MfM)?
Muslim for a Month is built upon the unique value of actual experience. We tend to have many opinions that we "acquire" through the media or other second hand channels, we believe that there is altogether too little first-hand experience between Muslims and non-Muslims. The point of the program is to achieve a greater realization of our greater humanity and to dispel fears and unwarranted suspicions though the bonds of friendship and love.
What does the program focus to do?
The point of the program is to achieve a greater realization of our greater humanity and to dispel fears and unwarranted suspicions though the bonds of friendship and love.
What does it mean to live as a Muslim during MfM? Will participants give attention only to Spirituality? What about the Islamic law?
For Muslim and Sufi for a Month there is a broad spectrum of activities. Much accent is placed on the high-minded spiritual wisdom of Rumi, though we also learn about Islamic history and there are lectures on Theology and Sharia
More critically, is it really possible to live as if one belongs to another religion? Does one need to suspend one's own religious beliefs? Will it not be an indication of compromise: which is against the spirit of dialogue?
We are experiencing Islam from the inside, just for a short moment. There is no need to suspend one's own beliefs at all, it is a short exploration into (for most) an unfamiliar land.
Who are the participants? Are they only seekers, who have not settled in any particular religious tradition or other committed Buddhists, Christians and Hindus?
The program has been host to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Agnostic, Atheists, and secular modernists. People come for many different reasons.
Do they discuss their personal faith during MfM?
Yes indeed. All our programs are a rich opportunity to explore our own personal faith and spirituality. By operating inside other point of view, we give ourselves a great basis for discussing and renewing and expanding our own walk with God.
Have any one turn to Islam as the fruit of doing MfM?
No. Conversion is not encouraged on any of our spiritual development programs. Having said that, many of our guests have come much closer to the Islamic faith by doing the Muslim for a Month program.