In conjunction with Wesak Day celebrations which falls today, (the 10th of May 2017), I would like to wish all my beloved followers of this blog, who are Buddhists, a very Happy Wesak Day. If I understand it correctly, Wesak Day is observed on a full moon day, that falls in the month of May. It is observed as the day that Gautama Buddha was born on, attained enlightenment and then passed away.
As to my non-Buddhist fellow Malaysians (and others who live in a country that observes Wesak Day as a Public Holiday), let us enjoy something that we Malaysians have in common, regardless of our race or religion. Let us all enjoy a well deserved Public Holiday. As it is, this happens to be the last Public Holiday to be observed nationwide in May, until we celebrate Hari Raya Puasa some time in June. So, have a good break with your loved ones on this holiday and return fresh as well as reinvigorated to work the next day.
Throughout my childhood and then adolescence, my faith and how I prayed to God started off as ritualistic routines. At home, I would diligently pray when I woke up in the morning and then again in the evening. I went to the temples regularly and prayed there, just as I was taught as a child. I sang the songs that I had learned, silently. I tried to learn new songs when I could. I would try to meditate at home and at the temple. Without fail, each time I went to the temples, I would wish for any number of things ranging from wanting to ace my exams to being able to live a very comfortable life.
As I continued with these practices throughout my teenage years and later as an adult, I begun to realise and learned some important facts about my faith. I gained some understanding on what I was doing faithfully. I, started to speak with God. Between the turbulent days of navigating life as a teenager and then beginning a new chapter in life as an adult, I found myself turning to God for help and support, sincerely. In battling with all the conflicting opinions of self, parents, friends and well-wishers, I found myself asking God for guidance. Whenever there was a doubt or confusion in my mind of which there were many, I found myself wanting to go to the temple, to speak with God.
So I would, go to the temple when I could and as often as I could manage. I would sit down and talk to God. Talk as I would speak with another person, silently. I would still ask for any number of things but more importantly, I actually spoke to God. Depending on what I spoke about, God played different roles, from that of a father, a Guru (a teacher), a friend, a mother and more.
At times, I spoke for what seemed like mere minutes but at times i spoke for what felt like hours. I poured out my feelings, emotions, problems and conflicts that were jostling in my mind. I spoke about the challenges that I was facing. I told God about how difficult life was, not realising that my life wasn’t really that difficult in comparison to what others were going through. The granite stone idol sitting in the temple was not just an idol or a mere representation of God to me. God’s presence was real. I felt as if I was speaking with someone who was physically sitting there.
God spoke back. At least, that is what I felt. After speaking with God, I begun to feel a sense of warmth and calmness settling on me. My mind and body seems to be awash in a beautiful white light. My worries did not disappear, immediately. My problems were not obliterated into oblivion, at once. My burdens were not reduced, instantly. My conflicts were not resolved, straightaway.
Yet, the feelings of helplessness, confusion and dismay were no longer shrouding my mind. The worries, problems, burdens and conflicts, slowly but surely dissipated. They did not go away entirely but they did evaporate slowly, just as surely as how dew forms daily, early in the morning only to evaporate later under the bright and glorious morning sun. Sense of hope, confidence and believe returned and took roots in my mind. I knew that I, was in control of my life, with guidance from God.
I now understood that all the rituals learned during my childhood and then practised diligently, were a just a beginning. The rituals alone would not be sufficient to carry me throughout my journey in life and inch closer to God. They were a way to help me calm and tune myself, condition my body and mind, allowing me to understand my faith better.
I know very well that there is much for me to learn about my faith as I continue in my journey through life but one fact is simply clear. God was, is and will always be there, guiding me in life, as long as I allow God to do so. This fact has carried me thus far in life and I faithfully believe, will carry me on further in life until I find my way back to God. So, continues the journey of life with God and I.
P.S.: The featured image of this post is sourced from Pexels.
When we are born, our religious affiliation is labelled according to that of our parents, at birth. If both parents are from the same religion, then on official papers, we would have been affiliated with our religion smoothly. If both parents are from different religions, then our fate on official papers with regards to our religious affiliation, would depend partly on the laws of the land. In short, our religious affiliation is set upon us at birth and we pretty much have no say on this matter. Simply said, we are born into our religion.
A Hindu, is what I was born as. Having parents who were religious themselves, ensured that I was exposed as much as it was possible to the religion, as a child. I attended religious classes at a temple on Sunday mornings, from as far as I can remember. These classes were held for a duration of between two to three hours. We were taught religious songs that were originally sung by saints who graced this world many centuries ago. We were told stories of the lives of these saints. We were regaled with the various tales that showcased God in all his glory. The teachers took great pain to simplify and explain what the songs and stories meant. At home, my parents would make sure that I prayed daily, singing the songs that I had learned during my classes. Between the religious classes and the guidance from my parents, the concept of God took roots in me.
As a child, I was also exposed to other religions. My old neighbours and family friends were devout Christians. On occasions, they would bring me along to join in their weekly prayer meetings. In fact, I can still remember parts of some of the hymns even today. They come back to me in bits and pieces when I attend services at the church during either a wedding or a funeral. Then there were the neighbours who were Buddhists. As a child, I would go with them, along with my parents, to the nearby Buddhist temple on Wesak Day. There, we would join in the long queues of devotees to offer our prayers to Lord Buddha.
Being a Malaysian, I was also exposed to Islam. In school, I was partly exposed to Islam during the recitation of the “doa” (prayers), during school assemblies. Then there was the exposure from the daily Azan (the Muslim call to prayer) as well as the chanting and prayers that were broadcasted via the speakers from nearby mosques. There were also the broadcasts on the television and radios during the different times of the day when Muslims would pray. Then there were the various programmes on the television and radios that talked about Islam. During my days in the university, I had the opportunity to follow my friends to the Sikh temple on some occasions. Of course, besides offering my prayers, this also came with the added benefit of a delicious and warm meal.
The sum of all this exposure was that the concept of God was reinforced in me. It gave me the advantage of awareness and understanding that, there were more than one concept of God and various paths about how we are to live faithfully, in this world. God has one and many names. God seemed to have taken forms and is formless. God was present everywhere yet nowhere to our naked eye. God spoke in many ways but could not be heard by our ears. God’s presence can be felt in everything and everywhere on Earth yet we struggle to feel the presence of God within us. God seemed to be an amazingly complex omnipresent contradiction or was it just the way I had understood God?