Religion has always been a sacred yet controversial and intricate part of our society. It has existed since the creation of civilisation and continued developing throughout humans’ history even until today. Religion can be defined as the beliefs in the creation of superhuman controlling power, typically a personal God or Gods. It customarily contains moral codes that govern our daily lives. Nowadays, the evil sides of the world’s religions, especially among Western faiths, have been discernable. It is now known as a mean to promote intolerance and fundamentalism to its followers; it is also used as an excuse to trigger wars around the world. However, despite all the differences and conflicts among the world’s religions or sometimes within its region, they consist of many similar sets of standards which lead the lost to a meaningful life with morals. Religion in its pure stage brings many benefits to humanities.
Before getting into many goodness and benefits that one religion might change one’s life or lead oneself to the stage of awakening, let me talk about the situation that we, or at least I, are facing today. Along with the evolution of human civilisation, the diversity in term of religions leaves us many different beliefs to decide who or what we humans should follow. The inconsistency risen when different faiths and beliefs emerged has created a vast amount of opinions about faiths. Some religions believe in one personal God, while others claim that there are multiple impersonal Gods here on earth; some people believe in moral codes when others care more about the religious life. Even though religions often provide some spiritual awakening, it also puts on the table many conflicts, debates and controversies. There have been numerous wars which are sadly taking away many innocent lives. People, just like me, have become so confused and lost since what we are supposed to believe that is right now put us in a question mark about its identity. When I look at the society, I think there are three stances that one can identify themselves in religions. The first group tends to believe that there is the existence of God and assume all religions are valid and accurate (theism).
The second group including myself views religions in a way that some are right and some could be wrong (exclusivism) because I think nothing in this world can guarantee the highest standard of perfectionism. The last group tends to give up on everything; they do not believe in the existence of God, and they consider all religions as false (atheism). Let me analyse the third group first to prove that it is tough to separate ourselves and not to have any faiths or beliefs in religions. When people refuse the existence of God and claim that all religious teachings are false, I assume they reject all of the doctrines that had been preserved and passed down from generations to generations throughout the history of humankind. Atheists say that people give the religious symbols too much importance, then we have fallen into mere idolatry. However, isn’t it what we want from the beginning? We do not want people mistaken a Buddhist with a Christian or a Muslim with a Taoist. We want a clear symbol so that everyone can recognise who we are. Simple! This whole concept of godlessness also leads me to the crazy idea that atheism could be theism because of its infinite matter. The puzzling “God behind God” symbols mediate our relationship with God. God is beyond existence and non-existence. Theism, on the other hand, consider all religions share the same ultimate purpose. I found it also impossible for religions to be at its best image of the common reality because they cannot be all correct without being violated by the law of non-contradiction. For example, in order to explain my personal God from my religion’s perspective is not the same as a personal God from another religion’s perspective without violating the law of non-contradiction, I have no other ways than to claim that God is not eventually personal, which entirely goes against the core concept of theism: give all religions a fair view of God.
The conclusion has refused my justification for believing in the specific theories of God. And lastly, one can choose the path of an Exclusivist who concludes that some aspects of a religion are right and some are false; others also believe that their religion is right and all the others are inaccurate. Nonetheless, in reality, we cannot figure out which religion is the true religion to follow? After reading Huston Smith’s book, I found myself fall into the second category: being an Exclusivist but in a more positive way. I admit that all religions consist of many valuable teachings that can lead followers to the awakening and many truths that had been twisted, but human beings naturally have the ability to absorb whatever makes sense for us and discard all of the negativities that religion might cause.
It does not matter who we are, whether an atheist, a faithful follower, an agnostic or anywhere in between, we will find many universally relevant teachings from the sacred texts that we can benefit from learning. The world’s religions can be divided into two practical regions: Eastern religions and Western religions. The Eastern religions consist of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism while Western religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
I would personally choose to practice Buddhism if I happened to pick one because of its promotion of our self-awareness and self-reflection. I always consider Buddhism as a religion that leans more toward spiritualism rather than religious beliefs. According to Buddha, meditation and ethical living can help people achieve their spiritual awakening (Nirvana). In my opinion, the practice of Buddhism puts me in the situation of a “scientist” who is trying multiple experiments in my mind to what really works for me. I have been practising yoga and meditation for over six months now, and I recognised the significant changes in my body as well as my mental health. Mediation and yoga have improved my mental focus and my feeling of emotional upliftment because of the profound realisation. I used to be a young girl who always went home and wholly sobbed over just small things that I overheard people telling about me. I spent so much time caring about what others were thinking about me, whereas I should have focused on what was supposed to be essential for me. During meditation practices, I found myself focusing more on the positive aspects of my life such as the memories that I had with family, my friends or all those valuable experience that I had when I travelled. Yoga and meditation have lifted me up to a different stage of thinking which according to Buddha, is the way to free myself from the suffering in my life.
Another reason why I would choose Buddism as my religious practice is since the path Buddhism set for its followers to reach Nirvana entirely depends on individuality. In Buddhism, there is no saviour. No one is going to help me or anyone else, no place I can hide out for safety. It forces me to face reality squarely, and I have to do it alone. Oh well! It is good news and bad news for me as well. The bad news is that I have to do it alone, but the good news is that I know I can overcome things no matter what it takes. As a human being, I am so lucky to get a good education so that I can rouse my confidence and renounce my depression and resentment. Also, while no one can do it for me, help and guidance are available to help me overcome the challenges. Buddha invented an Eightfold path of ethical conduct (speech, actions and livelihood), concentration (mindfulness, effort) and wisdom (intention, knowledge and liberation) to put me in the right mind and help me choose the right actions and conducts. Buddhism has encouraged me to use the awareness developed during meditation to have a full understanding of myself, other people and of life itself. The warm welcoming to Buddhism is also the reason why I choose to practice this religion. Buddha did not force people to adopt his religion, in contrast, he made his teachings available to anyone who is interested in. His openness gives people the freedom to follow his teachings without feeling any responsibilities on their shoulders.