Disclaimer: These are just thoughts. Not meant to offend anyone’s beliefs. If you are, here’s an apology in advance.
So I was talking to a friend the other day and we brought up the subject of religion. He’s an atheist – and he didn’t agree with my opinion on the subject. He got pretty annoyed when I explained to him my point of view. What he said was, “HOW can you think that? It doesn’t make sense. THIS is the only logical way you can see things.”
Well what makes sense to one person doesn’t necessarily needs to make sense to another. I know a lot of people debate passionately about religion. Humans are the only creatures to fight for their beliefs, after all.
People usually raise an eyebrow whenever they ask me what religion I am practicing, because I tell them I don’t have one. If you told me to label myself, I would probably be an agnostic. I’m registered as a Buddhist in my identity card because my parents are Buddhists, but I am not a devotee of Buddha. So I tell people that I don’t have a religion. Confusing? Let me explain.
Today, especially in Malaysia, Buddhism has become mixed with Taoism and local beliefs/cultures – I have friends (both Buddhists themselves, and non-Buddhists) thinking that Buddhism is about loud chanting, burning paper offerings, joss sticks, etc. Maybe that is ONE part of Buddhism, maybe it is not. I’m not claiming to be an expert here, but from the way I see it, Buddhism really just teaches you on how to life your life aka what people would say in Canto : “yun sung dou lei“. One of the sayings of Buddha is that “You, yourself should make the effort to walk the Middle Path. The Buddha merely teaches and guides the way Forward.” As an individual, we are responsible for our own actions. Nobody else can force us to do what we don’t want to. And even if we do because we want to conform to religious norms, it wouldn’t be truly heartfelt. The concept of karma comes into play – you reap what you sow. If you’re kind, the chances are that people will be kind to you, and vice versa.
Now one part of Buddhism I don’t agree with is the karmic concept explained by a lot of Buddhist scholars – that you will reap ‘karma’ in a supernatural way. There are Buddhist beliefs that ‘you will be born as an animal/deformed in your next life because you did something really horrible in this life, so you’re paying for the sins of your past life’, stuff like that. Logically speaking, as mentioned above, if you are kind to those around you, people will tend to be kind to you too. And, well, even if they’re not, at least you feel satisfied that you did the right thing. If you’re born with something, it’s coz something went wrong somewhere and it isn’t right (in my opinion) to blame someone for something that they don’t even know if they did or not.
Buddha was a real person, as we learned from history, just like Jesus and Prophet Muhammad were said to be real people. In a sense, he is not really a God, but an ‘enlightened being’.
Here’s the thing – I am not an atheist. Atheists do not believe in the supernatural world at all – there are no ghosts, no gods, no heaven and hell in an atheist’s world. Me, I do believe other beings and dimensions exist. The universe was created on balance – there will always be another side to everything. When there is dark, there is light, where there is good, there is bad. So it is with what people call ‘ghosts’ and ‘Gods’. Ghosts to me are residues of energy – if you remember biology/chemistry classes, we learned that energy never dies, it is merely converted to another form. When people die, where does the energy go? If this energy is strong, it might linger in places where we hung out the most, becoming what people call spirits and ghosts. Negative energy may result in higher probabilities of negative things happening in a particular area. Or, we might enter another ‘dimension’, what some might call Heaven and Hell. Just like how the bones of enlightened monks in Tibet were said to transform into sacred stones when cremated, the energy from the body might have gone to another dimension – what Buddhists and Hindus call Nirvana. Nirvana may be a dimension where positive energy goes to. Who is to say that Nirvana is not the same Heaven in other religions?
No one knows for sure. No one can claim to know all the mysteries of the universe. We are only human – it is not our job to understand everything. If a human were to gain knowledge of everything in the world, it would probably be too much for a brain to handle. To those who believe in whatever they believe in, let them continue believing. And for those who do not, let them not believe, or if they find their path and become believers of any particular religion, it is their choice. It is never good to start anything off with force and fear, only through kindness and compassion can one truly be at peace.
I love cultures, and religion is a strong part of cultures all over the world – people have their own beliefs, thoughts and opinions on the supernatural. It’s fascinating to discover insights on how different or how similar these are to each other – but the bottom line is that all religions teach us to strive to do good. Just coz I’m not following one religion doesn’t make me a badder or a better person. I think Buddhism is good because it teaches compassion and self-development. I think Christianity is good because it teaches moral values and kindness to others, I think Islam is good, I think Hinduism is good. There is no religion on Earth that teaches one to do bad – it is merely the way it is interpreted. In the end, it is the human that decides whether he or she wants to lead a meaningful life.
What everyone should remember though – it’s someone else’s beliefs, so don’t mock them. Show proper respect, even if sometimes it might be completely different from your own. You wouldn’t want people to do that to your beliefs.
Anyway here are more pictures from the visit to Thean Hou Temple during Chinese New Year. Some people find it weird that I like to go to these places when I’m not even praying – but the culture is just too fascinating. Since I was young, I have always loved ancient history and delving into lives past – nobody taught me or influenced me : I just did. I’m glad that I’ll be visiting Europe this year, it’s one of my dream places.