There are times when you made a decision to go somewhere or do something because you believe in the cause, and despite your rather limited funding, you don’t regret doing it. In fact, had you missed it, you would truly regret it, knowing how beautiful it could have been for you.
It was the feeling I had when I visited Mother India January this year. It was also the feeling I had (still have) as my cheapie Jetstar took off from Melbourne to Townsville yesterday (7 Dec09) after attending the 2009 Parliament of World’s Religions. I had to go back early (the conference finishes tomorrow, 9 Dec with the speeches from His Holiness Dalai Lama and Uncle Bob Randall) because of some time and financial constrains, but I did not regret going. At all. Well, now I have to keep a very good eye on what I buy etc until my next payment, but again, I am very grateful that I did go to Melbourne.
For all five senses of mine (and my sixth sense as well) were ‘assaulted’ with beauty. Vibrant colours, sounds and voices from many cultures and traditions of the world welcomed me. There at the south bank of Yarra River in Melbourne, I met lots and lots of beautiful souls from every religion, tradition and culture on Earth. It was a privilege for me to meet them, for I didn’t even know until then that a Sikh woman would dress up with a white kurta pyjama or salwar kameez and white turban. Or that a Tibetan monk actually wears his saffron and burgundy robe differently from a Chinese monk, despite the similar colour scheme.
And I identify with them. I identify myself with the Tibetan monks or the beautiful Odissi dancers who danced for Lord Krishna, Lady Durga and Lord Shiva. I understand the pains of my innocent Moslem and Sikh brothers and sisters who were hunted down in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy in the U.S., just because they looked like terrorists. I in turn narrated the plight of ‘the minorities’ (like myself) and the moderates in Indonesia, who hope to maintain Indonesia’s cultural and religious diversities under Pancasila (The Five Pillars) and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) despite voices from the radicals. And – just as I was moved to tears in learning during the Divine Feminine session how our Divine Mother finally returned to us after her long millennia sabbatical leave – I also hope that Indonesia will soon become a feminine country again; a loving and embracing country that nurtures and protects all her citizens despite their cultures, religions, and other backgrounds, the way a Mother would.
I also met those who do not claim to be part of any religion at all, but still showing love and compassion to Life. To God. To the Grand Force I perceive as the Grand Creator or Creatress. They are no less compassionate than those who belong to a particular religion. Instead, they are very full of love and understanding. Sometimes I identify myself better with them because I often have to struggle to answer the simple question of ‘What is your religion?’
I suppose… I also don’t identify myself with a certain religion. I mean, I do lots of Vedic chanting and prayers, and also conduct daily yoga in the morning. But I don’t see myself as a Hindu per se. I also do Buddhist meditations, and I love doing Sufi whirling. I am crazy about Celtic Pagan tradition, particularly when talking about the Goddess, akin to the way the Shakta would love the Great Mother Durga. I do have my roots and faith. But I don’t identify myself with only one tradition or religion. All are beautiful to me. And despite my years of struggle to accept that weird part of me, now I am in peace with myself. I accept that I do not belong to a particular box of religion. I respect all boxes. I practice the teachings of some boxes, and they have been nourishing me… but I am more of a soul that is happy to be out of the box, happy to just be in Love.
Hence, when it comes to the discourse between box and non-box, between those who believe that one must have a particular religion for one’s own good and those who believe that one can appreciate the beauty of all religions and traditions and yet still earns the right to be free out of the box, I have to take side with the non-box one. Bearing in mind not to create a new non-box box. If you know what I mean.
See, I believe that it is good to teach the children the beauty of all traditions in the world, and then when they are old enough to consciously choose they should be encouraged to either choose a tradition/religion/belief they feel suit them or choose to be a free spirit who lives outside the box yet still be loving and kind.There is also nothing wrong to hold on to your religion/tradition – that proves to add colours, sounds and voices during the Parliament. But, as I respect those who chooses to still be rooted in their religion of choice, please also be respectful of those who decide that they have outgrown the boxes. And although I understand the need to identify oneself with a religion/tradition, eventually we have to outgrow it and become humankind. It’s okay to say that ‘I’m a Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Sikh, a non-faith but loving person’ – those are our personal paths we chose to walk on. We need that at personal levels. But eventually at non personal levels, with all due respect, I think we must drop the labels and be human beings. Just humans who embody love and peace within.I understand that this ‘out of the box’ thing is still difficult to address, even at the Parliament. I do not have the exact quote, but the slogan I heard during the international plenary was something like ‘You come with your belief intact. You don’t leave it at the door. You bring it with you, but with utter and beautiful respect.’ Now that’s a very different thing from the school of thought I believe in now thanks to Swami Anand Krishna, who taught me that we should actually drop our ‘clothes’, jump out of our boxes, and come as human beings.
But I think, feel, that I should respect people who still want to be in boxes. It’s already hard enough to conduct dialogues with people of different faith and refraining from saying ‘my religion this’ or ‘my religion that’. I feel that I should respect those who come in the spirit of true dialog and willingness to listen and understand. Though of course, I can dream of the day where people would say that ‘Hey, that’s so true! For not only Jesus said that, Muhammad, Krishna and Guru Nanak also confirmed it. And I know that the Great Goddess also agrees!’ or something like that.
And dare I dream that the day would eventually come, sooner than later? The day where we celebrate our vibrant diversities without even having to refrain from saying that ‘despite everything, my tradition is still the superior tradition’? For there is no need from refraining; for we know and realise that this is not about superiority or supremacy. Down to its very root, it is about personal path, and it is very uniquely catered to each individual’s personal growth.
Dare I hope? I so dare hope.
And what of people of another box? The atheist or non-believers? See, there is another discourse in the Parliament about it. There are people who believe that those atheists better learn from the believers because religion is the only way to salvation. That these non-believers will basically be condemned to hell for all eternity. I of course respectfully disagree. Thank Gods and Goddesses, there are also leaders in the Parliament who agreed that the non-believers also have the right to choose not to believe. It is their birthright to do so.
I agree. Suppose you are a non-believer… it matters not to me. Because what matters to me eventually is not whether you are a believer of a particular religion or not, but your own personal integrity. My own personal integrity. Your love. My love. Our vibrant need to explore and understand Life with giddy excitement and respect.
For eventually we are one big family of humankind and that we only have one Mother Earth to live in. And – just the enlightened Pagan gentlemen during the ‘Men who Love the Goddess’ stated – if we see Earth as our Great Mother instead of a ‘cash cow’, we would treat her differently. We would treat her with respect. With Love, with capital ‘L’.
PS: The Sacred Music Concert was amazing. I might have to make another post just to tell you about that vibrant night where I was indulged with beautiful sounds and musics from many traditions. God is indeed great...Allahu Aqbar...
Pic 1. Sufi whirling during the Sacred Music Concert
Pic 2. Sand mandala by Gyuto Monks
Pic 3. Waning moon by the bank of Yarra River
All pictures are taken by myself