I had a relative who was a devotee of Guanyin since young. To her Guanyin is like a divine mother whom she takes spiritual refuge in. She did not have a Buddhist education but her faith is strong. Throughout her life, she prayed to Guanyin. In times of happiness she gave thanks and in time of difficulties she prayed for help.
Her proudest moment in life was witnessing her son’s wedding and seeing the birth of her granddaughters, watching them grow up.
Like some mothers in Singapore, she chose to live with her son. When her son and daughter-in-law went to work, she would stay home to housekeep, babysit her precious granddaughters and prepare meals. That was a full time job for her.
One day, she told my mom that she decided to join her son’s religion and stop praying to Guanyin. When I heard that I felt happy for her. I thought maybe she was inspired by her son’s family to make such a decision.
Recently, my mom relate the following incident to me and it tugged at my heartstring.
My relative had confided tearfully before passing away that she decided to join her son’s religion because she felt left out by her family. They would go to their religious gathering on weekend, followed by family outing and dinner.
Whereas , she would have to stay home on those occasion, being excluded from the family weekend fun; Simply because she belongs to another faith and does not attend their religious sermons. In her desperate attempt to join the weekend family activities, she decided to convert religion so that she could have more family time with her son and granddaughters.
It occurred to me that she must have suffered a tremendous amount of guilt for surrendering her faith in exchange for family bonding time.
In Buddhism, Buddha never taught us to pressure people into changing faith. He is more concern that we live life in an enlightened manner. According to Buddha, as long as we live in accordance to the noble eightfold path, happiness can be attained.
Noble Eightfold path
- Right Understanding (Samma ditthi)
- Right Thought (Samma sankappa)
- Right Speech (Samma vaca)
- Right Action (Samma kammanta)
- Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva)
- Right Effort (Samma vayama)
- Right Mindfulness (Samma sati)
- Right Concentration (Samma samadhi)
I think it is cruel to exclude family members from family activities and fun simply because their religion is different.
As a Buddhist we need to have compassion and understanding. Even amongst buddhist, there are different level of devotion.
While we may enjoy chanting or meditating for more than 1 hour, it doesn’t mean our children or parents enjoy doing that.
We should be mindful that Buddha also taught people according to their level of spiritual maturity. To some he preached the direct way towards enlightenment, to others he may simply advise filial piety.
We have to be mindful of how we interact with our family and not cause distress to them simply because
- they belong to another religion or faith or
- their level of religious enthusiasm is different from ours.
I think that is a kind of compassion too.