With so many faiths having special holidays around this time of year, I thought this video by the BBC was really nice (sorry I can’t embed it, but please click on the link): https://www.bbc.co.uk/ideas/videos/prayer-is-the-greatest-freedom-of-all/p07b8dq5
Father Giles is a Benedictine monk for nearly 50 years and he reflects on how his life of devotion and religion has really helped him find a kind of freedom even as he learns to let go of so much, even his own life. A Buddhist watching this video would almost certain find much affinity here. The Buddhist monk, more specifically monks and nuns, devotes themselves to the Dharma full time and in so doing learn to shed conceit and what the Buddha called “I-making“.
At the same time, it may seem odd to appreciate something like this in someone else’s religion, but in reality it isn’t.
Buddhism is founded on the Dharma, that is to say, founded on the principles reality and how things work. One doesn’t believe in the Dharma, they discover it, apply it, etc. Similarly, the gravity doesn’t care whether you believe it or not, it’s just there, and only by understanding it can you make sense of the world. What makes a Buddha a Buddha (lit. “an awakened one”) is being who perceives the Dharma fully, such that they thoroughly grasp it and have the capacity to teach others (lit. “turning the wheel of the Dharma” in Buddhist parlance). While Buddhas are said to appear very rarely because the Dharma is so subtle and hard to grasp in full, nevertheless, Buddhism doesn’t hinge on faith in a Buddha, it hinges on understanding the Dharma that’s already there.
Thus, a Buddhist has no issue with seeing others applying the Dharma in their own lives, whether they do it as a Buddhist or as someone of another faith. If it accords with the Dharma, it doesn’t really matter.
Similarly, this practical approach is nicely encapsulated in this old TED Talk by a Japanese-Buddhist priest (subtitles are available through Youtube):
This priest talks about the practical aspect of Japanese religion, and how its various religions, Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity and so on co-exist because people focus on mutual respect, and the practical aspects of religion, rather than dogma. He compares Indian curry which is very hot, but suitable for hot, dry climates, with Japanese curry which is mild and sweet, but more suitable to sticky, humid summers in Japan. Both curries are good, but suited to their surroundings and to suit people’s needs.
In the same way, with so many people of diverse backgrounds, not every religious solution will fit every person, but if people find something that makes them a better person and provides some practical benefits, then it’s a good place to start. But it’s also important not to follow a belief because it’s “fun” or makes you feel good, but rather it is an important decision to undertake and one that will challenge you and help you grow:
And that’s where religion becomes useful. 😄
Namu Amida Butsu