Lama Zopa Rinpoche meets a new friend in Abu Dhabi. Both display their rosaries, the usage of which is shared by Buddhists and Muslims. November, 2016. Photo by Ven. Roger Kunsang.

For Muslims all over the world, Ramadan is a happy time. It just started, on the evening of Friday, May 26, and it runs until late June. Ramadan is the month in which the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad more than 1,400 years ago. During Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and also practice charity: ways to remain aware of God and of the sufferings of the less fortunate.

It is friendly to wish practicing Muslims “Happy Ramadan” or “Ramadan Mubarak” (“Blessed Ramadan”). 

A Muslim student greets Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Bangalore, India, December 2016. Photo by Ven. Lobsang Sherab.

On the value of Islam and other religions to the world, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has explained, “There are many religions in the world, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and so forth. These different religions are needed. It’s like having different clothes or different kinds of food in a restaurant; we need variety for different people. … We must respect other religions.”

And His Holiness the Dalai Lama? When he was teaching in Strasbourg, France, in 2016, he talked about his concerns about the stereotyping of Muslims. Attendee Laetitia Franceschini, from Toulouse, France, was quoted in a Mandala online article about the Strasbourg teachings. She noted His Holiness’s words about educating people to maintain harmonious relations with others. “I was happy,” she said, “when he spoke about Muslims. His Holiness said that the phrase ‘Muslim terrorist’ is wrong. He said that any person who wants to indulge in violence is not a genuine Buddhist or genuine Muslim. All major religious traditions carry the same message: a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, and self-discipline. It creates stigma for Muslims when one person’s actions brand the whole community. It was inspiring when he spoke about being harmonious with Muslims, and not focusing on one act. That’s very important.”

His Holiness’s main English translator, Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., speaks to an interfaith group about compassion—taught in all major religions—at the 2017 Festival of Faiths, Kentucky, US, April 2017. Photo courtesy of Thupten Jinpa via Flickr Creative Commons.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche also values interfaith work. When he developed his Vast Visions for FPMT, Rinpoche said, “[It would be good] for the centers to arrange regular interfaith dialogues with religious leaders in their local community,” noting that this is one way FPMT can offer service to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and support his objectives.

Happy Ramadan!

In the Indian Himalayas, a mosque is neighbors with Tibetan shops flying the flag of free Tibet, as well as Buddhist prayer flags. Leh, Ladakh, 2009. Photo by McKay Savage via Flickr Creative Commons.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service.