Stories from the Big House

Religious Dialogue

Interfaith Dialogue
Photo of the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893

In September of 1893, the World’s Parliament of Religions met at what is now the Art Institute of Chicago. This heralded the first time religious diversity had been addressed. It was, as C. C. Bonney the president of the World’s congress Auxiliary indicated, “Something higher and nobler . . . demanded by the enlightened and progressive spirit of the age.”

The Parliament was held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition. Speakers and participants assembled from a wide spectrum of religious traditions. Leaders from the ten great religions of that time spoke. Represented were Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

At one of the sessions, Paul Carus spoke on Science, a Religious Revelation. In his conclusion, he said, “Religion is as indestructible as science; for science is the method of searching for the truth, and religion is the enthusiasm and goodwill to live a life of truth.”

Nothing like the World’s Parliament of Religions had been seen in the history of the world, and nothing like it was to be seen again for many years. It was a turning point in American life, presaging the multiculturalism of a century later.
Shaku Soen

Paul Carus returned to La Salle from the World’s Parliament of Religions with a lasting interest in Buddhism and by 1894 had completed the definitive Buddhist text, The Gospel of Buddha According to Old Records. Keichyu Yamada was commissioned to do the illustrations, but they were not used in the book until its most recent reprint in 2004.

D. T. Suzuki

Carus began corresponding with Shaku Soen, whom he had met at the Parliament. Shaku Soen visited the Hegeler Carus Mansion. He introduced Paul Carus to D.T. Suzuki. Suzuki was invited to come to work for Open Court Publishing as an assistant editor and as a translator of Asian religious and philosophical classics.

It was Suzuki who first translated Carus’s Gospel of Buddha into Japanese for use in Buddhist seminaries in Japan. He stayed at this job for 11 years during which time he and Carus worked in tandem to bridge Eastern and Western philosophies. Suzuki is now revered as one of the world’s great Buddhist scholars.

"There can be no peace among nations without peace among religions."
-Hans Kung