Christians have been converting people, Mohammedans have been converting people. Buddhism has never converted people; it has simply allowed itself to be open, available. It has opened its own heart and helped other people to open their hearts, and there has been a meeting – but the meeting was not the victory of anyone. It was simply a merger.
In India itself, Buddhism has a totally different characteristic – more philosophic, more logical – because in India, Buddhism had to survive amongst many Indian philosophies which had reached to a climax of understanding. To survive amongst them, Buddhism developed great philosophies. Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Dharmakirti – such philosophers are unique in the whole world in their logical penetration.
But in Thailand Buddhism is completely non-philosophic: it is devotional. In Japan it is neither philosophic nor devotional; it is pure meditation. In Tibet, it is all methodological. In China, it is no method, no effort, no action.
But the beauty is that Buddhism – mixing with so many different philosophies, cultures, viewpoints – still retains its basic character. It is not lost. It has a tremendous vitality to survive. It adapts to any kind of situation without fighting, and slowly, slowly absorbs the situation into itself.
And in those days, twenty-five centuries ago, spreading a totally new vision to a whole continent just by sheer intelligence and discussion was a miracle. Not a single man has been killed, not a single stone has been thrown. And all these people have contributed and made Buddhism richer.
Ordinarily religions like Christianity or Mohammedanism are afraid that if they allow somebody to come too close, they may lose their own identity. Buddhism was never afraid, and it never lost its identity.
I have been to Buddhist conferences where people from Tibet and Japan and Sri Lanka and China and Burma and other countries were present, and that has been my one experience – that they all differed with each other, but they were still connected with a single devotion towards Gautam Buddha. About that there was no problem, no conflict.
And this was the only conference – I have attended many conferences of other different religions, but this had something unique about it, because I was using my own experience in interpreting the teachings of Buddha. They were all different, and I was bringing still another different interpretation.
But they listened silently, lovingly, patiently, and thanked me, “We have not been aware that this interpretation is also possible. You have made us aware of a certain aspect of Buddha, and for twenty-five centuries thousands of people have interpreted it, but have never pointed this out.”
One of the Buddhist leaders, Bhadant Anand Kausalyayan, told me, “Whatever you say sounds right. The stories that you tell about Gautam Buddha look absolutely true, but I have been searching into scriptures – my whole life I have devoted to the scriptures – and a few of your stories are not described anywhere.”
I asked him, “For example?”