As promised and advertised (hahaha Kim, very funny), my prose about God .
(Man, is my poetic juice running dry. I currently have no aptitude for it. It’s like that part of my soul slumbers and refuses to acknowledge me. Ha. I knew I had something monstrous within me. Arrogant beast. Keeps eluding me and laughing at me behind my back. Oh how the hair on the back of my neck tickles. Shiver shiver shiver and elongated scream: Daaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrn youuuuuuuuuuuu.)
Anyway. I want to talk about something that happened recently. Something serious, something quite funny, something that can be easily misunderstood if I had not the open mind.
So here’s how it happened.
Last week, I was approached by someone from the on-campus Christian organization, and I was asked if I were interested in participating in a small group Bible studies.
I said yes, even though I have a Buddhist background. (What?)
Okay. I am going to attempt to clarify my religion and spiritual position. Something that also confuses me at times.
I won’t categorize myself as a strict Buddhist, because I also believe in Christianity. Wacky, huh? Some people cannot accept how I can believe in multiple Gods at once, let along religion. Some people may wonder: how does that work?
Frankly, I have no idea.
I believe in the Buddha just as much as I believe in God and Jesus Christ, because I believe that the pursuit of spirituality should not be separated by the difference of religion. Religion is the way we choose to follow to pursue a better life, a better self, a better world. There is no better or worse religion. They simply cannot be compared. They are simply modes that reflect our choices as well as culture.
And besides, religion is more like a system. It suggests rather than enforces. I don’t believe you can enforce faith. That’s just not cool. As followers, I think we should be smart and absorb the religious teachings selectively. I mean, racism and prejudices exist in all religions. The Buddha was said to oppose the ordination of women into the sangha (becoming a nun and an official member of the religious officials) because the Buddha believed should women entered the sangha, Buddhism will last only half of however long it should supposedly last. Well, Buddhism is obviously still alive and kickin’ today. Christianity, too, during the Medieval Times stigmatized women because women are the descendants of Eve–that one that sinned and caused Adam to sin, the one that made Mankind fall. This even fueled the witch hunt and the subsequent massacre of innocent women in various regions of Europe.
Those racist statements might be something “extra” that was incorporated later by Buddha’s human followers, or they might just simply be a reflection of the society at that time. Whatever the reason, now is not like then. The world has certainly shifted from the old patriarchal society to a egalitarian society. Or, at least, we are striving to have an egalitarian society. Gender equality, in many places–rather it is workplace, education system or basically anything anywhere that involves authoritative dominance–still remains to be an idealistic situation.
But that’s beside the point.
If you’re defined by what you do and what you say–I guess–I am more of a Buddhist than a Christian. Because I burn incense and make offerings and bow to a statue–and since I’m inevitably Chinese. Buddhism is deeply rooted into Chinese culture. It’s in our superstitions, in our language, and in our traditions. I suppose I can better explain myself and my spiritual views in Chinese–mostly with Buddhist terminologies. I admit I am closer to Buddhist practice than I am to Christian practice. I haven’t read the Bible, though I’ve always wanted to. I read some books about Christianity, and at certain times I am exposed to Christian teachings. I think both religions are legitimate in their own ways.
There must be a term for where I stand–right? There has to be. There’s the atheist for the non-God believers, there’s the agnostics for people who are unsure…isn’t there a term for people who is sure of a God, or a Buddha, or some elevated powerful existence and believes in love, in what’s good and what’s right?
Anyway. I still haven’t finished my story yet. Some babbler I am, eh?
So I told the girl from the Christian club that I have always been interested and wanted to participate in something like “this.” I did not specify what I’m interested in, or what “this” refers to. I think she either misunderstood me, or was too hasty to jump into a conclusion. I meant that I have always wanted a chance to have discussions about spirituality and get in contact with Christianity, because I know each person has their own way of finding God and understanding God, and I think it’ll be awesome if I can share my own experience with others as well as hear about them.
And so, she probably assumed that I wanted to become a Christian, and I found that she kept trying to categorize me into the “parents are Buddhists but I’m okay with or without” type of person. Trying to make sure I’m somehow “clean”, or that my “spiritual level” is at “zero”, and I can be easily converted. It is possible that she didn’t mean anything of those things, but that was how I felt when she approached me.
So she gave me some paper to take away, and I smiled and nodded politely to thank her for her time. A few days later, she texted me and asked me if I wanted to join a small Bible study session. I texted back and said yes. Why not? I’ll give it a chance. After all, I might be thinking too much.
Well, it wasn’t exactly a Bible study session. It was more like…she managed to get her roommate to come, who also belongs to the same Christian organization, to try and persuade me to join their organization. They each take turns to explain their experiences with God, and how they came to believe in God. They started telling me how their lives all significantly got better after they started believing in God and pursuing spirituality, which, I’m sure is true–I believe in the power of faith, as well as the intention to be good.
But it’s just–the more they promoted Christianity in this manner, the more I felt–they were just simply promoting it. Like they were promoting a product. Like they were presenting me with a deal. This I can understand. Of course I’ll speak well of my own religion. But the way they justified everything good in this world with God–the politics, the environment, improvements of their personal faults–when they were telling me these things, I felt I was pushed further and further away.
I listened in silence, my mind frantically processing the information they had given me.
(Well, part of the reason I didn’t talk was because they were bombarding me with words. Their sentences did not have commas at all–they transitioned from one topic to another without any pause, which deeply amazed me.)
I didn’t know what to think at first. Maybe I’m not as unbiased as I claim to be. Maybe I’m not as open-minded as I think I am. Was I slightly offended when they were trying to “clear my mind”? They were so eager to pull me in, and I felt the discomfort of their tug and pull, and I felt myself resisting.
I just wanted to have some spiritual conversation, that’s all. That was all I wanted.
Or maybe, I was already in a “defensive” mode. There’s one thing that I haven’t mentioned. When we first met, and she politely asked me about my Buddhist experiences, she concluded (to my surprise and amusement) the word “upgrade”. She asked me consider “upgrading” to the Christian God.
So that’s what they’re trying to do. The whole time. They’re inviting me into Christianity by comparison. They were trying to convince me how Christianity was better than everything else I had ever believed in.
And this I can all understand. I mean, if I would recommend a religion to somebody to practice in, I would probably suggest Buddhism, because that’s the religion I’m familiar with, and that’s the religion that most reflects my culture, and it’s closer to me than anything other religion can get to, and it speaks to me in ways that no other religion can. It does, relatively, has a stronger voice and stronger appeal–to me. So I guess in this aspect, it is a “better” religion–for me, to practice and pursue my spiritual endeavours. But that’s just me. It’s a personal choice. It’s a preference.
What I don’t understand is–and perhaps cannot forgive–how others expect me to “switch” my faith because they think another religion is better for me?
I’m getting more critical by sentence. I can feel it. So I must stop myself before this post turns into a rant.
I guess what I’m trying to say is…religions are meant to be a guideline to spirituality, which I think is essential to all aspects of life. I don’t think we should be limited to its “system”, say, it’s rules and regulations that will end up restraining us when it’s seeking to “help us”. I don’t think we should be caught in its consciousness and merge our own with theirs. I think each religion is unique, just like every person is unique. And out of so many religions and people in this world, one person can manage to find one–or maybe, if you’re like me, a few–that speaks to them. For me, it’s a mysterious puzzle of the universe that we manage to find something that elevates us, something that makes us better people and strive for better lives–I think that’s an amazing power. And that power–the wisdom of the religions should not be marginalized by their followers, or their own doctrines, or the minds that inherit the doctrines. They should be shared. They should be wide-spread. They should be without boundaries. They should be one, in essence, and in goal, and in the hearts of those who strive to be good.
I don’t know if I’m making sense?
Am I understandable?
I sincerely hope that I haven’t offended anyone…
Oh, did I finish my story at all? Man. I am so easily sidetracked. Well, after they both finished talking (and I finally manually induced a conversational opening by coughing out loud–seemingly by accident, of course) I told one of them (because the other girl has class, and she left a bit early) that religion doesn’t matter to me. Because I believe in God. I also believe in the Buddha. I believe that things like religion shouldn’t matter to the pursuit of spirituality. I told her what my intentions are (just a generally picture, not the full picture…I didn’t have enough time. I had a class, too.) I told her I just wanted to have some nice talks about spirituality, maybe get in touch with the Bible, and share personal experiences about the pursuit of spirituality.
I didn’t have time to observe how she reacted, because she turned and…I don’t know if it was just me, or…I sensed a strange silence that trailed after her, a silence directed…at me.
She probably didn’t understand what I said.
To be honest, I’m not so sure either. But my faith is strong.
I guess it’ll still take a while before I can properly explain myself to others.