I was raised by my Buddhist dad. Very devout Buddhist, but kinda twisted in the sense that he threatened disowning me if I ever turned my back on the Buddhist faith and followed another religion. I remember when I was about 13, he caught me reading a Bible out of curiosity, and he was very angry. He said to me he will disown me if I ever became a Christian. When I was about 18 my parents became aware that I was agnostic and had an atheist bent, and somehow my father was a lot less angry. In his eyes, being agnostic or atheist is still better than turning Christian. All he said to me was, “We all need to believe in God to cope with life. If you don’t believe in God, then you won’t have strength.”
All traditionally Asian Buddhists, in Asia, believe in God. They believe in Buddha, but they kind of look at Buddha as a God. They pray to Buddha and engage in all sorts of superstitious, cultural practices when they wish Buddha to grant them money, luck, happiness, etc.
It’s very different from the Western concept of Buddhism as described by Buddhists in the West who converted to Buddhism after learning about their version of Buddhism from other Western Buddhist teachers. The Western concept of Buddhism, to me, seems almost atheistic in nature. Which is far from the kind of Buddhism I’ve seen and have been brought up with after growing up in Asia and attending local Asian schools (not International schools), mixing with locals and finding out about their beliefs. I’ve travelled around Asia as well and generally speaking, the God aspect cannot be ignored in the way Buddhist Asians practise their religion.
Buddhism has always been touted as a non-violent and non-coercive religion. Well I think recent events such as the Burmese/Rohingya conflicts in which several Muslims were killed by Buddhists reflects a different side of Buddhism.
Another example is the longstanding and bloody conflict between the Sinha Buddhists and the Hindus in Sri Lanka. To this day, many Sri Lankans are divided on this issue. I made a friend with a Sri Lankan Buddhist mum at my daughter’s school many years ago and they are a lovely family. Very hardworking and kind. However whenever she spoke of the Hindus in Sri Lanka, her tone changed and she had a look of disgust and anger in her eyes. She only told me briefly about the conflict and the power struggles the Buddhists and Tamils have in Sri Lanka historically, which resulted in a lot of bloodshed – and hence that was the reason why her family decided to migrate to England for a safer life.
On another point, we all know how popular and well-loved the Dalai Lama is worldwide, especially in Westernizes countries. He comes from Tibet, which is strongly Buddhist and has resisted the influence of Christian missionaries, who have stationed themselves in Tibet since the 17th century. To this day, 99% of the Tibetan population are Buddhist. It makes us wonder if it is as easy or free for Tibetans in Tibet to pursue knowledge about another religion, or even convert and practice it. From what I’ve found out so far, it seems not. Here’s just one article online which shows the extent of how the population exerts a form of social control over the people’s freedom to practice another religion. http://www.sim.org/index.php/content/tibetan
Yes it’s written by a Christian missionary organisation on the difficulties of infiltrating Tibetan society with their brand of God. I’m not endorsing Christianity or any religion here by the way. An excerpt from the article wrote :
” The first recorded Nghari Tibetan church was built by Jesuit missionaries in Lhasa in 1726. Twenty-seven baptized converts and 60 inquirers attended the church. “At the end of April, 1742, a new convert named Pu Tsering publicly refused to bow before the Dalai Lama. This threw the town into an uproar…. Twelve of the Christians were flogged with 20 lashes each. The missionaries fled to Nepal, but their church was attacked by a mob who destroyed everything except the church bell… . Today there are no known Christians among the Nghari Tibetans, and only 1% [have heard the gospel.]”
Not sure if it’s the truth or just lies… but I find it an entirely believable account, knowing what I know.
In Thailand recently, there were a spate of news articles like this http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/thailand/130619/youtube-video-thai-buddhist-monks-private-jet about Thai Buddhist monks visiting prostitutes, using Meth, owning private jets and luxury cars from all the alms they receive from the general public. In other words, they have become total hypocrites, living the kind of lifestyle they preach against.
Now although there is a lot I love about the Buddhist religion (I have been agnostic with a Buddhist slant for the past 15 odd years) my experiences in life in Asia so far has only taught me that there is no perfect religion (or a religion where all of it’s followers are kind and accommodating to all other religions). I know Asian Buddhist friends who still use corporal punishment on their kids, treat their kids with less kindness and tolerance than even I would, even though they are very devout Buddhists. Many gangsters and criminals in Asia are Buddhists and pray every day.. In fact, I will be honest here and say that I find it much easier to stay the way I am rather than follow a different religion. On the other hand though, I have not yet found any other religion which does more for me than Buddhism has already. I like reading religious text (of various religions), have considered taking up Theology in University, but it doesn’t matter to me which religion I belong to. When people ask me what my faith is, I say I’m not really a religious sort of person and end it there. I don’t really want to broach the subject of what religion I consider myself to belong to. Just take me for who I am, not what label I want to attach to myself.
To me, it’s what you do, not what religion you believe in, that matters.