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R. Engle: On The New Seminary - Interfaith Youth Forum in New York

Address to the Symposium in Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA

Religion is a manifestation of the original intent to bring our consciousness to an enlightened state of mind.

In my humble opinion, religion maps that illumined path and over a long time of surrender brings our own consciousness to an enlightened state of mind. The very nature of this process breaks down all the barriers that exist within the self.

It is our faith that delivers us from the separate self and graces our consciousness with the compassion and tolerance that bridges the gap from separation to Divine Union. It is in this Divine Union that we find peace.

If our goal is to promote world peace, then it would seem that our faith has done the job for us. We serve others through our own surrender to the Divine. But religion has its limits; it is still an identity.

You only have to look at the current news to see how the extreme minds of the world highjack religion and use it to divide, stripping it of its intended purpose.

Just as group consciousness crosses the boundaries of the self, religious consciousness crosses the boundaries of nations. I believe religion is the last boundary to overcome.

Interfaith dialogue sends the signal to the world that human rights — and humanity itself — has a need that is greater than one religion. If religious world leaders can find compassion and tolerance, they can find peace with the idea that we all serve one another and that nobody has a monopoly on salvation.

More than 84% of the world's population, 5.5 billion people, embrace a higher power, a belief that there is something greater than them. It is unacceptable to me that there isn't a voice for those people. Where is that voice when people take the life of others in the name of religion? Why isn't the media turning to religious leaders for their input and guidance? Interfaith dialogue fans the flames of peace. It is an outreach to the masses.

Currently, where does mankind turn for this overreaching view? If such a boundless view of humanity represented by religious leaders or divine doctrine does not exist, then how is world peace possible?

I'm not saying that interfaith dialogue will create world peace; what I am suggesting is that world peace is impossible without it. I envision a day when the United Nations turns to a council of religious leaders for the viewpoint that is innate within any devotee, that compassion plus tolerance equals peace. We should promote the doctrine that humanity is to be honored. People of all races and all beliefs are in this together. I believe that the survival of the human race depends on this realization.

Our faith has done this for us, the message is there. We only need to unite, move out of the way, and allow Divine grace to deliver its message.

There once was a time on this planet when the 'Word' had tremendous meaning; you only had to speak a word and it would become manifest. But now we have talked too much and our words lack intent. Now is the time when action has more power than the word. It is time to act.

I am new to this game, and most likely a little naïve, but naiveté in this case is good, for I don't see the limitations that would keep this new reality from happening.

Todd (Rama) Engle was raised as a Christian. In 1991 he studied under a Buddhist master, becoming an ordained monk in March 1993. In 2002 he began studying under Dattatreya Siva Baba and currently practices Hinduism, borrowing from other faiths from his past. Upon graduating from The New Seminary in New York City, he plans to become an interfaith minister.