Sunday, 21 August 2011

Forced to believe

A fellow blogger friend, bohtakchek, just posted an entry on Proselytism in Singapore.

I agree wholeheartedly with him on this issue, which I have been concerned with for the longest time. This is because it is from my personal experiences and that of others which I have witnessed. In our daily lives, by human nature, we protest vehemently when our rights are violated in any way. We do not like it when others take advantage of us. We do not like it when a foreigner told us not to cook curry in our own house. We do not like it when others encroach upon our space and freedom of speech and action. We do not like it when others force upon us their views and opinions about 1001 issues. Likewise, we do not like it when we are forced to accept another religion of our choice.

I have a relative who has for many years tried to convert her entire family to her religion. In recent years, she has finally managed to convince her aged mother to adopt her faith. So from then on, the mother stopped praying to her late husband as well as their ancestors too, because that involved holding incense. My parents, who were close to the late husband, took it upon themselves to pray and offer food to him on his every death anniversary. It was also because my mom has dreamt of the late man, telling her he was hungry. In this relative's home, because 2 of her siblings are Buddhists, they still have an altar. One day, this relative, who was at that time jobless, was at home in the afternoon. She went in front of the altar of the Buddha and suddenly started pointing, gesturing, scolding and criticising the Buddha vehemently. She even broke the incense bowl in rage. Just after she finished her "mission", as she was turning to walk away, the light bulb at the altar flickered and suddenly a plank of wood smashed down and hit the lady's head and nose. She bled badly but did not dared to let her family members know what had happened.

I have another elderly relative who had been a devout Buddhist. She was very motivated and has served and volunteered her entire life to help out in temples. She has also taken refuge. A few years ago, when one of her daughters met with a serious car accident, which left her in a coma, her siblings tried to convert their doting mom to their religion. Unable to contain her grief and helpless, the mom told them if her precious daughter's life could be saved and out of coma, she would adopt their faith. Her daughter eventually woke up but was not her normal self again. This elderly relative has given up her refuge commitment and has since converted to another faith.

I have an aunt who contracted cancer years ago. When news of her cancer spread, her sister and her friends of another faith, flocked to the hospital to see my aunt and to pray for her. Never mind that my aunt did not even know her sister's friends. My aunt is a free thinker. They tried to convince her that by adopting their faith, she would be saved from hell. My aunt only wanted to get rid of her cancer. I offered my own prayers to the Buddhas on her behalf and dedicated my merits to her. After that, I dreamt of my aunt asking me about prayer flags and we were hanging prayers flags together in the dream. It was a sign to me that my aunt would be ok. Her cancer has since went into remission. She has not seen any of her sister's friends since their few hospital visits.

I have another relative staying with her aged mother who was a Buddhist. This relative was very active in her faith and activities. Her friends all flocked to speak to her mom and finally convinced her to adopt the same faith. She let out her own condominium for weekly religious meetings and donated a large part of her savings to her religious organisation. When she contracted cancer and passed away at age 49, her house was donated to her religious organisation. Her own partner ran off with her insurance money without giving a cent to her mother. Her mother is now homeless and no one to bring her for weekly service.

I once consulted a Rinpoche. I was worried that my aged grandma who is a devout Buddhist, would be forced by a close relative to convert to another religion should she becomes sickly and not of sound mind. Rinpoche said that there is no need to worry for my grandma, for if she has been praying to the Buddhas all her life and has always lived her life with faith and devotion to the Buddhas, at the time of death, even if she has been converted to another faith, the Buddhas would be there to guide her to her next rebirth. There is no guarantee that even if she has converted to a new faith that she would definitely be going to heaven, but definitely the one bringing about this situation would be the one responsible for his/her own action (and not my grandma). The law of karma, cause and effect.

In understanding the teachings of the Buddha, we were taught to be tolerant and to appreciate all other religions. Most importantly, to respect each other as we co-exist in our society. We understand fully that each individual has a different karmic disposition and mental continuum. Due to the karma of our past lives, each individual or sentient being experiences and adopts different faiths. Some of us come into the path of the Dharma in this life because of the merits we have collected in the past. And some of us just prefer to adopt another faith. We have to be mindful of our speech and action, whether we are Buddhists or from another religion.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that the various faiths have the responsibility to train the minds of the people in order to create a better world. He further said that one should differentiate between devotion and respect when it comes to religion. “You should be devoted to your own religion while nurturing a deep respect for other religions. It is important to practice religious tolerance in order to create a more peaceful world."

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