*This post is pulled from one of my several blogs scattering around the Internet.*
My mom casually pointed out that I was not a Buddhist when overhearing my conversation on the phone. Although I wished she had done that earlier (so I didn’t spend the first 15 years of my life spreading not-so-true fact about my religion), I learned that being a Buddhist took more commitment than just tagging along with my parents to the pagoda during Tết (lunar new year).
That shocking fact didn’t really crumble my little world. After all, I was born in a country where freedom of speech or freedom of religion was never encouraged.
Instead, we worship our ancestors who have passed away with a firm belief that they will watch over us every step of the way. Like how my family always keeps my grandpa’s altar warm to remember him.
My grandmother is a longtime Buddhist. Her stories of climbing mountains, donating bronze bells, and visiting temples in remote areas are the things that connect me with her mysterious world. Buddhism is always more of a lifestyle than an actual religion. And to my grandmother, being a buddhist is her sanctuary. She and my mother taught me a simple rule to live by: Be nice and be kind.
With that said, I never understand all the heated debates about religions in the U.S. until I read Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness and moved to NYC. Botton wrote that “beautiful buildings had the power to improve us morally and spiritually,” and “we might even come better to understand God through beauty.” In short, that belief of early theologians helped create the enormous beautiful churches and cathedrals in Europe. Hundreds of years had spent building and perfecting even the minor details in the house of God. And the feeling of being in such perfect and holy place made people feel powerless. After reading that, I decided to drag Schmoo on a (unplanned) mini tour of churches, temples, and synagogues. Just for fun (and to see how accurate was Botton).
One night, we walked in a church while wandering in SoHo. I was desperate after quitting my lame unpaid internship at an ad agency, going through bunch of interviews, applying for tons of jobs, and feeling like a failure like a typical millennial. My bank account hadn’t reached over $30 for almost two months. Surviving in NYC was a struggle. To sum up, it was bad.
For the first time in my life, I decided to just kneel down and pray in the house of God. Schmoo said it would be fine even if I wasn’t religious. He taught me how to pray (Schmoo went to a Catholic high school/ his mom is a Catholic). And I started my prayer in the undisturbed silence and church music. To my surprise, the first prayer was emotional and overwhelming. So overwhelming that I almost cried (it was not everyday that I poured my heart out to God). Turns out Botton was right.
Though I haven’t had my second prayer since then, I respect that people strongly hold their religious belief. If people fight so hard for their freedom, it wouldn’t hurt to think about the others’ life and be a little more generous.
In case you wonder how I’ve been doing, things get better. Schmoo and I will officially get our mattress tomorrow. Hooray to no more sleeping on the hardwood floor.