With all due respect
I hold a personal view that all religions have something to teach us about what it means to be human. That’s partly because the concept that ‘this way is the only way’ makes little sense to me. The older I become, the more I see there’s almost an infinite number of ways to explain the same thing.
Vaticano and then some
Growing up, I was taught the Catholic doctrine as a virtual point of fact. I would always be forgiven my sins, and there was a list of what they were so I would know when to seek forgiveness. Later in life, I found myself working on Sundays and preferring to have Saturdays off. Perhaps I was really Jewish, maybe just an ancestor or two?
Ten years ago, I spent a weekend at Nan Tien Temple, not speaking from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon; engaged in meditation and mindful chewing with strangers I never met through words. This was all while letting go of the tumult of the mind, wearing uniformed clothing and assimilating the inner peace of the universe.
When it came to sharing an apartment with someone observing Ramadan, well of course I was going to see what that was all about. A month of fasting between dawn and sunset. What was the lesson? Would my waistline change?
Pre-dawn porridge and handfuls of nuts right after sunset will be a persistent memory. The neighbours must still be having nightmares about the coffee grinder at five in the morning. I lasted a week. Accepting lunch for a business meeting brought it all to an end. The excuse had been valid, but the challenge was broken.
While much less than the month that millions observe each year worldwide, I still found my eating habits had changed. I regained an appreciation for food, was reminded of the discomfort of not being able to eat and to have compassion for those unable to purchase and eat food at will.
These lessons – albeit from a mere few religions – remind us there are many beliefs and values in the world that have passed down through generations, that our way is not the only way. Substitute meditation for medicine, mindfulness for madness and check out the mantras of many others.
In Australia, Ramadan begins on 15 May this year and continues for 30 days, culminating with the feast of Eid-al-Fitr on 15 June. Without the fast, there can be no feast. Maybe this year, for me…