Lesson in unlikely places

They say when one is ready, the teacher will appear.

One of my lesson was received on a tour bus somewhere in Eastern Europe from a tour guide who cross dresses as a hobby. It’s practicing performing art according to him.

We just came out of a magnificent cathedral and was on our way to the next tourist magnet.

“You know, I hate those pesky evangelist who keeps telling you about God. I don’t hate Christians. I have Christian friends. Just cannot stand those persistent Christians that wants to convert you” Balancing himself on the bus, with a mike in hand he said that with a lot of gestures.

I caught sight of some nervous polite smile. Johnny had made our trip fun with his jokes and cross dress performance so far.

Johnny looked at everyone and proceed to recount an encounter he had with an evangelist. According to him, the evangelist was trying to convince his granny about Christianity, telling her that there is only one God and she needs to believe in that God to go to heaven. They were telling her that her “Gods” are demons.

Johnny was clearly getting emotional and his voice climbed a few pitch.

“Why must she believe in your English God and go to your English heaven? We have our own heaven call Western Paradise (Pureland Buddhism) and she will join our ancestors there. A place where they speak TeoChew (a china dialect) Who says your heaven is better than mine? What gives you the right to insult our religion? ”

“You know, I shut that evangelist up!” he recounted with pride.

The bus was dead silent. I think he got it and switched to another topic with his usual high pitch giggle and wild gestures.


I was tempted to tell him that the Western Paradise thingy was imported from India to China too, but decided that is not the point.

What Johnny said, kept me thinking. There is wisdom in it. Each culture and religion has their own heavens and theory of the after life. Each one of them advised their followers to be a better person while alive.

Therefore on what ground is it justifiable to persecute, scorn, terrorise or insult another person’s religion, belief, faith that promotes good actions amongst mankind?

In trying to spread or share one’s faith, do we need to discredit another good religion that promote good deeds amongst humanity? If so, for what purpose? Just an increase in headcount to our religion?



During the Buddha’s time, he travelled across India and convinced many people to change their attitude in life, to believe in non violence, equality, responsible living, clarity of mind, non superstitious belief etc. He did not ask people to build him big temples and monastery or give him money. He did not tell people that he is the new god or a messenger of any god.

He begged for a bowl of food once a day and devoted his entire day teaching and educating people how to live in an enlightened harmonious manner.

That is the Buddhism that is dynamic. It is because the message is so wonderful, simple and practical that people started copying his teachings, adopting or integrating his message into their own culture and beliefs.


Examining the way Buddhism is shared today, I wonder if the fearless confidence of past masters will still work today?

Even amongst fellow Buddhists from different traditions and sects , I have seen and heard things that run along the line of  “mine is superior than yours”. My emptiness is emptier than yours (lol).  I am guilty of that too.

But if you examine it carefully, we are not spreading wisdom. We are just interested in gaining superficial headcount and getting more membership to our “clan”

Fortunately, there are still wise Dharma teachers today who are more interested in spreading wisdom than gaining headcount. They skilfully teach the Buddha’s message, always encouraging people to be less egocentric, they promote harmony amongst humanity. They patiently guide their audience towards enlightenment.

I think those are the teachers that we should value in this chaotic time. Hopefully, Buddha’s simple message will stay long and “Buddhist” will not be the one corrupting Buddhism.




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