Fostering Peace in Multi-religious and Multicultural Communities

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Ajahn Brahm

Is there a solution to inter-religious harmony?

To answer this question, Ajahn Brahm told a story from his book “Opening the Door to Your Heart” entitled The Most Beautiful Sound.



An uneducated old man was visiting a city for the first time in his life. He had grown up in a remote mountain village and now he was enjoying his first visit to his children’s modern homes.


One day, while he was being shown around the city, the old man heard an awful noise. He had never heard such noise and he wanted to find its cause. He found that the grating sound came from a room in the back of a house where a small boy was practicing on a violin. When he was told that it was a “violin”, he decided he never wanted to hear such a horrible thing again.


The next day, in a different part of the city, the old man heard a sound that was enchanting. He also wanted to find its cause. Following the delightful sound back to its source, he came to a room in front of a house where a maestro was performing a sonata on a violin.


At once, the old man realized his mistake. The terrible sound that he had heard the previous day was not the fault of the violin, or even the boy. It was just that the young man had yet to learn his instrument well.


The third day, in a different part of the city, the old man heard another sound that surpassed in its beauty even that of the maestro on her violin. What was that sound that moved the old man’s heart more powerfully than anything before? It was a large orchestra playing a symphony.


It was the same with religion. When we come across a religious enthusiasts causing strife with his beliefs, it is incorrect to blame the religion. It is just that the novice has yet to learn his religion well. When we come across a maestro of her religion, it is such a sweet encounter that it inspires us for many years whatever their beliefs.


When every member of an orchestra was a maestro of their own instrument and they had further learned how to play together in harmony, then it would be the most beautiful sound in the world.


Learn our religion well and let us go further and learn how to play with other religion in harmony together.

Ajahn Brahm continued telling his story about how he was interviewed by a journalist regarding the news of a US marine flushing a Quran down the toilet. The journalist asked, “If someone took Buddhist holy books and flushed them down the toilet, what would you do? Ajahn Brahm answered, “First, I will call a plumber.” The journalist commented that it was the most sensible thing he heard all day. Then Ajahn Brahm continued by saying that you could flush books, destroy statues or vihara, but you could not destroy compassion, forgiveness and peace.


You need to differentiate between the container and the content. Churches, mosques, temples are just container; it’s the content, the people that are important. Buddhist statue is a container, but it is the content such as  peace, virtue, compassion and forgiveness that are more important. What’s important is the Dhamma, not the book.


Instead of focusing on the container, remember the content, what Buddha actually teaches: virtue, peace and compassion.

Ajahn Brahm also shared his story about his friendship with a Benedictine monk. Once they had a discussion about what do the Buddhist feel about God. The Benedictine monk said that every human being was always searching for God. Ajahn Brahm said that Buddhists were always in search of truth, compassion, peace and virtue. If every human being was searching for the same thing, then God also meant truth, compassion, peace and virtue. In conclusion, seek what’s in common between religions to live in harmony.


In a nutshell, to foster peace in multi-religious and multi-cultural communities, we need to:

  • Learn our religion well and learn how to play with other religion in harmony together
  • Focus on the content instead of focusing on the container
  • Seek what’s in common

May all beings be happy!

Inge Santoso, B. Com





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