Yesterday, I received teaching with some 12000 other people from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Long Beach Arena. It's been an interesting year, as this is the third big event I've attended. I first went to see Amma when she was in Seattle and then attended the first national Druid Gorsedd for Lughnasadh. In all three cases, there was an interfaith mix (more or less) and I got to see some interesting ways that this diversity was handled while retaining the distinct flavor of each spiritual tradition. What struck me about the Dalai Lama was his openness and joy in religious diversity, and his willingness to assist people in using spiritual practices in ways that could be altered to suit their own religious tradition. For some time before his lecture on the Four Noble Truths (which was delivered in Tibetan and translated), he spoke in English about the necessity of religious diversity to accommodate the natural and cultural diversity of human beings. He spoke frankly about the wide variety of religious philosophies and their differences, but also said that at their heart, all useful religions helped people on a path of love and happiness. He radiated acceptance, while still remaining firm about the need for honesty with oneself, avoidance of hypocrisy, and commitment to practicing one's religion for the good of all beings. In the afternoon, he led the Amitabha Buddha initiation, a series of visualizations and meditations designed to lead pracitioners into union of themselves and the Amitabha Buddha. What really struck me was his thoughtful inclusion of diversity while retaining the purity of Buddhist tradition for himself and Buddhist practitioners. He did not change the initiation to suite everyone's needs, but neither did he ignore the thousands of people before him that were Jewish, Sikh, Christian, Pagan, and so forth. Instead, he guided people in ways of altering the interior visualizations to fit with their own religious tradition. For example, he encouraged non-Buddhists to pick a spiritual teacher or master to visualize in place of the Amitabha Buddha. At the end, in a powerful act that brought me to tears, thousands upon thousands of people knelt and vowed to serve all sentient beings. And as the Buddhists claimed refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the sangha... so too could I claim refuge in my masters, my way of harmony, and my spiritual community. There was a profound sense of unity of purpose and flowering of human potential and compassion, yet without any deviation from either the Buddhist tradition and without any feeling that one could not remain true to one's own non-Buddhist tradition. I think it was one of the most amazing interfaith practices I have ever seen- rising beyond debate, yet embracing difference without qualm. It was a universal act of changing one's attitude, consciousness, and dedication to compassion without any necessity of changing one's tradition. I was so inspired... I had to share and this seemed the place to do it. (Well, my Facebook friends got the three-liner version. ) Do you think there is a place for these kinds of interfaith practices? Why or why not? Is there a potential for greater unity without losing all our distinctive histories, traditions, and philosophies? How could we practice in this way in our everyday lives and communities? Or does it take the Dalai Lama gathering 10000+ people in a culturally diverse but reasonably tolerant place like southern California?