It’s been quite a while since I updated my blog. Now that my exams are over I’ll be updating it much more often.
Recently, I observed something about myself. I observed that I have always been prejudiced towards certain religions. My views towards them were predominantly negative and I was very intolerant. I reflected on this intolerance recently and it occurred to me that I was simply being absurd. I was freely judging these religions but I had never visited their places of worship or experienced their practices. I was being untruthful to myself. I was boosting my own ego behind a curtain of ignorance. I was claiming superiority of knowledge and wisdom over these religions. I was like a blind man claiming he can see. But I realised that this was not the wise or true way to deal with any situation. It was a naive approach that only limited my own capacity.
This reflection led me to an idea. I decided that I should visit different places of worship to get a glimpse of what goes on in there. This would expand my perception of the religions and would allow me to experience the truth behind them instead of creating some pseudo-truth that has no meaning or value.
I wanted to start off by experiencing Christianity. I contacted a very close friend of mine, who is a Christian, and arranged to visit his church on a Sunday afternoon. I told myself that I would not go there with a closed mind. I told myself that I would go with an open mind and I would not judge the practices of Christianity. I would only appreciate them and grow in a spiritual sense.
When I met up with this friend, he gave me a brief and interesting history of Christianity. He told me about the Christian perception of life and its intricacies. He even told me about Jesus and God. I had a very poor prior knowledge of these topics and I was quite intrigued by the description he gave. I also asked him several questions to which I received mind-opening answers.
As we walked up to a hall, I started hearing beautiful singing. I never knew that it was a common practice in Christianity to sing and to honour God through the songs. I sang along with the people in the hall and listened attentively to the sermon afterwards. It was a solemn and sublime experience for me.
My perception of Christianity was definitely changed after the experience. I regarded the religion with much higher value because it was helping the people in that hall. It helped them appreciate their lives and it was providing them with a deep spiritual experience, which I believe is necessary for living a fulfilling life. I definitely did not understand Christianity completely after the experience, but at least I got a glimpse of its practices and understood its value to the Singaporean society.
After the entire session, my friend and I were looking for a place to grab lunch. While we were scouting, I asked him several more questions about his religion. I accepted his answers and tried to comprehend them, but it was really beyond me. It was at that point that he, for the first time, asked me about Buddhism. I told him about the origins or Buddhism and some of the basic principles of Mahayana Buddhism, such as the law of cause and effect.
While I was talking about Buddhism, I noticed the expressions on his face. He was not uncomfortable or unhappy. He was not angry or bored. He seemed to be at peace and accepted what I was saying. He even seemed to comprehend what I was saying. In any ordinary circumstance, such a conversation would have sparked anger and intolerance in the communicating parties. I mean who would want to hear somebody else preach about his or her religion right? But we ended up having an amazing conversation about our own religions. Mystically, the barriers between us were dissolved. We connected as human beings and there was a free flow of beautiful information between us. This connection somehow transcended all the religious, ethnic and societal boundaries that distinguished the both of us. In that conversation, I didn’t perceive my friend as a Chinese or a Christian or a student or whatsoever. I didn’t care about his skin colour or his looks. I only perceived him as a fellow brother and human being. Despite his intrinsic flaws, I saw only the light in him. That experience moved me. I believe that experience formed a much stronger bond between us. It formed, if I may, a Human Bond; a human connection beyond just physical attainment or any other distinguishing borders.
This experience with my friend taught me that if one puts in hard work towards listening to and understanding somebody else, true friendship and strong bonds can be formed between the people. These bonds transcend man-made boundaries and connect people together as fellow human beings. This experience has also motivated me to visit and learn about more places of worship in Singapore.
Lastly and most importantly, I want to share about the application of my experience. I live in Singapore, which is a multi-religious society. There are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many others. One of the hot topics of discussion is how we can achieve a long-lasting harmony between various religious groups. Well, from my experience, I think we must break the locks of our conservative cultures and we must start independently visiting different places of worship. Of course, we must visit them with an open mind and we must be polite. The key point is to learn and understand something about all the religions. Another key point is to connect with the people from various religious groups, as I did with my friend, and to share relevant experiences, if possible. Human Bonds must be formed, or attempts need to be made for its formation. This would reduce uncertainty and suspicion among religious groups in times of trial. It would forge social cohesion.
I imagine every person in Singapore forming Human Bonds with others from various religious groups. I imagine an amazing Singaporean society which is strongly interconnected and adopts non-violent approaches towards solving problems. In such a society, humanism would only flourish and the positive fruits attained would spread like wildfire to the rest of the world, inspiring similar peace movements. What a world that would be!