Two weeks ago we had lunch with Khun Praseut or ‘Deeng’ -his nick-name. Deeng is from Thailand and he coordinates the Interfaith Network of Thailand. We explored with him why he became a Christian growing up in a Buddhist country. I listened attentively because I made a similar journey, growing up as a Christian but practicing Buddhism in my daily life.
Deeng started: “Actually, my father is a Buddhist and my mother is a Christian, so I was brought up with both religions. For me all religions are meant to make us better human beings. So, it doesn’t matter which religion you choose as long as you can live it and integrate it into your own life.
I feel that God is always with me, wherever I go, whatever I do. I am never alone. When I thought I was going to die, God was with me and that gave me a lot of strength. What Buddhism teaches is to stand on your own feet, to take care of yourself. When I faced this tough situation I realized that there are moments where you may not be able to take care of yourself. In these moments people need support.
As a Christian I also feel that I have value even after I die. Some of my friends with HIV committed suicide because they didn’t feel of any value for society and did not value life.
When God is with me I think, speak and act with him in mind. That inspires me to do good for others.
For me SALT is the same. You can integrate this way-of-thinking and working into your own life. It helps you to be a better person. I am currently coordinating the Interfaith Network of Thailand. Buddhist, Christian and Muslim friends who are part of the network explore how SALT is related to the different scriptures and teachings. SALT is common to all religions. I want to write a book about how SALT helps us to build a bridge between religions.”
I listened for commonalities between Deeng’s words and my own experience. I feel that some questions or issues are common to all of us. The following is my own interpretation and what I learned:
1. Inter-being and the sense of COMMUNITY
I heard Jill Bolte Taylor
say in one of her speeches: “There is an area in our brain, the size of a peanut, that tells us that we are separate from the rest of the world, a separate entity.” In reality we are not. But because of that peanut, we do not realize that we are all connected to each other. Because of that peanut, we feel lonely and disconnected.
The presence of God can help us to feel connected to a bigger entity. In Buddhism, we call this ‘inter-being’ or ‘non-self’. When we look deeply at a flower, we see it exists because of all the non-flower elements: the sun, the rain, the gardener, etc. In the same way, I am because you are.
Both spiritual paths lead us to bigger sense of community where we reconnect to our common humanity.
2. The fear of death transformed into HOPE
Most of us experience fear of death at some point in time in our life.*
When you believe in God, you believe that you will have value after you die and this gives you hope. Thich Nhat Hahn ** also says: “Some people believe that when we are born we go from nothing to something and that when we die we go from something to nothing. This is absurd.” When we die we change manifestation or form but we do not disappear. We continue to live through our thoughts, words, speech carried by our children and beloved ones. This gives us hope as well and inspires us to do good.
3. The energy of mindfullness leads to LOVE IN ACTION
When God is with us, it inspires us to do good. We are moved by the energy of love and compassion. The energy of mindfulness produces the same effect. We are mindful of ourselves and others and know how to bring happiness with our words and actions. For me, this is LOVE in action, as Ian Campbell mentioned in June at the Board meeting.
I chose the title 'Living Buddha, Living Christ... through SALT' because I see that SALT is a practical way to awaken or keep alive the Buddha, the Christ or the Prophet within us.
* Research actually shows this is the number one fear of people. Number two is speaking in public :-)
* Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hahn, Riverhead books, The Berkley Publishing Group, Sept 1995