Religion has always been something of an interest to me. I grew up Catholic and even feared that God at one point was eyeballing me and judging when I'd sneak away to watch dial-up internet porn as a teen. Now I am a believer of aliens, or "higher beings" really, and I can't even acknowledge the Catholic community without thinking of all the terrible shit they have tried to get away with. Lets also be honest about aliens though, there is no way someone can stroll through Times Square at 3am and NOT believe that aliens exist...but I digress.
In my first step towards exploring my purpose, I decided to take a look at religion, specifically Buddhism. Buddhism like other religions have a plethora of denominations. I took the time this week to explore and experience two: a monastery of Engaged Buddhist that originated in Vietnam and a Queens, NY house filled with a group of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) buddhists, a community which happened to originate in Japan.
The monastery gave me the gist of Buddhism immediately and this is my ultimate interpretation; be kind, aspire for things, surround yourself with positive people who have similar positive energies and don't eat meat. Not making that last one up. One lecture was literally about edible foods. I picked up what they were putting down though. We are all connected on this planet in some way. Why wouldn't the universe work in a more positive way if more people were on the same page? They then utilized meditation to bring the mind back into the present. They informed me that you can meditate anywhere. Sitting down, on a walk, or even while you eat. Their practice seriously called for complete contemplation and meditation for 20 minutes while you ate in silence. While I was more than capable of being silent and reeling my mind in at times, they unfortunately lost my attention when one of the monks that I was having a conversation with tried to sell me on going to the gift shop to buy materials. To note, I previously provided money for a donation because I felt like THAT already was burning a hole(y) in my pocket. Seeing a spiritual leader however go from that to a legit salesmen of merchandise in just a few sentences is something I believe we see all too often in religion.
My experience with SGI was pleasantly different. Upon entering the Queens, NY house, I was immediately greeted with the sound of chanting. Unlike the silent meditation they used at the monastery, this group of practicing Buddhists utilize a chant to center and reel in the mind and body. As a collective, when an entire group is chanting, its quite soothing and inviting. It was very laid back and filled with open discussions. It felt more like a community of one heart and soul. I believe I felt that what I didn't get from my previous Buddhist experience, I found here among a group of 15 people gathered in a member's house.
I want to say that I am an Omnist and believe in all religions. But if this would be the route to go, are Buddhists really the only ones that are right? If not Buddha, then who is God? Other religions who believe they are right come with genital mutilation, justified killing because someone made fun of a prophet, or complete disconnection from family and friends because of who someone may love. Why would God allow this. Why isn't God on a smite session with all of the Catholic priests that sexually molest children? Why does God care about your NBA career and not the homeless? I believe there is a higher power. I believe that we are not the greatest of inventions that popped up on this giant floating space rock. I also believe that we NEED to believe in something. As fallible as humans are allowed to say they are, why can we NOT agree that these 'God(s)' should be more than accountable for some of the bad shit? These questions burden me.
Is there a Heaven? Is my sister there? Is she just waiting around watching over us? I want my nephews to know that they will see her again but I don't want them to be filled with a religion that people blindly wield and hide behind.
Is it as simple as - "Be A Good Person. Don't Kill. Don't Rape. Don't Steal."
Or is there something more to it? Maybe all the religions are ultimately right and have just separated due to a terrible game of telephone? But I also don't want to believe that there is some predetermined path that a God has for us and that this is his plan. I don't want my sister's death to be "God's Plan".
In the end, I am able to understand and respect what Buddhism has provided for the monks and the people practicing. I can also see the purpose that Buddha has given them, but its not mine yet. I admit there are so many more questions I have for religion that I have yet to understand. The journey continues...