As we are in the month of Ramadan and I am being asked many curious questions from my social circle, this post has been long overdue… You may call it a coincidence but I am currently attending a religious studies summer course, and being in an environment of diverse ethnicity within a Christian school, I have been reflecting on religion.
Today is the second day of fasting for me. People have been asking me “How do you do it? Why do you do it?”. Just to quickly fill you in, fasting for us starts from sundown to sunset, about 18 hours a day for this year to be exact. My answer to the many questions took me (too!) by surprise. If you asked me why I fasted before, I would say “Well, my religion requires fasting so I do it”. Coming to terms of learning about other religions and attending their ceremonies, I look at things differently now. I started doing what I do for me. I fast because I feel at peace. My mind is clear and I have no worries about what is going to happen next. I stop worrying about doing things. I sit down. I focus. I feel like I have all the time in the world. I feel, that I am close to God.
The first day attending my religious studies course, we touched the topic of the origins of religion. It has been a few weeks since then, but these words have been echoing in my mind: “Some theorists suggest, religion is simply created because of fear. Religions are based on fears of humanity”. After saying these words my professor simply moved on without a care. Me? I was shook.
I’ll fly you away to another memory. My grandmother on skype yesterday as I was telling her about my visits to the Sikh and Buddhist Temples. I was amazed by how the Sikh cultural practices within the temple were so similar to Muslims. They take off their shoes, wash their hands and cover their heads before entering the prayer hall. They give 1/10 of their income to the poor. Buddhists hold their hands together and kneel in front of their religious figures to pray for help or show gratitude. My grandmother heard all of this for the first time from me. She simply said: “They are also the religions sent by God, you know”, she had a content smile on her face. Then she moved on to talk about her first day of fasting. Again—Grandma, why were you not questioning anything after all that I told you?
Even though Buddhists do not have a God, they have guiders. Within Buddhism, what surprised me is that they are praying to the teachers who have reached Nirvana. Therefore, worshippers technically cannot be heard. So, why were they praying? They cannot hold on to the Buddhas and they do not have someone to hold on to during hard times. They make it through. In essence of Buddhism, I feel, there lies the reality that you only get through hard times when you find the strength within yourself. And there comes the saying, God only gives you what you can handle…
Upon my reflections, questions to myself, questions coming from others, visiting temples and admiring their way of showing love to God… I came to a conclusion, I am so grateful to have someone to lean on to. There is one God that is a roof to all of us. He is loving. He is in the air that we breathe and everything we do. But also, I do what I do not because my religion tells me to do so. Obeying is a significant part of all religions. Each religion has different rules but one loving God. And, I do what I do—Because, it gives me peace.
Note: Photos are taken at the Sikh Gurdwara Sahib Damesh Darbar in Surrey AND International Buddhist Society Pure Land Temple in Richmond, Vancouver.