(Only to share personal true experiences, the following is not to show any disrespect.)
Life As A Christian
I came from a conservative Christian background, of more than 10 years. Some of what I had learnt… As God created mankind in his image, humans are free to lord over all other living beings. Central to the teachings is that I should trust God with all my heart, for he sent his precious son to die on my behalf, to cleanse all my sins. Therefore, the Bible (Word of God) is the final word and not to be questioned if I wish to attain eternal life. Because God knows what is best for me, and have plans all laid out, all I needed was to have faith.
Sounds beautiful? A beautiful path that is all laid out and ‘managed’? All I had to do was live out my life in auto-gear to attain the bonus after. I was a strong believer. I behaved well and was a ‘model Christian’. I was actively contributing to my church by volunteering to be a certified Sunday School teacher for children aged 10 to 12. After all, I just wanted to share the good news. I was happy as I could possibly be? All is well? So I thought…
Then came a day when one of my students asked me in the most innocent way – ‘Who created God?’ It was answered in the usual orthodox way to immediately quell any doubts. However, that pair of innocent eyes that looked as they asked struck me deep, and caused a little wavering of my faith, though I covered it up well. I brushed that incident aside and tried to laugh it off. I failed.
The same question haunted me weeks after. My faith wavered deeply time and again. All is indeed not well. To make matters worse, a teenager, not from my class asked me questions in church, to which I stammered to reply. He asked, ‘Why did God kill all who sinned? Why were only the Jews the so-called selected tribe or people?’ ‘Oh, it was holy anger’, I replied without giving much explanation. ‘It is okay to be angry if it is holy, as long as you follow what the Bible teaches against sinning.’
Holy anger? Really? What gives anyone the right to be angry and claim it to be holy? I felt contradicted and started questioning myself again, and this time deeper. I primarily questioned the cornerstone of my faith.
Weeks passed by and I started to be bold. I researched Buddhism and went where many from my ‘flock’ dared not. Because exploring any teachings outside of the Bible is classified as ‘satanic’ and is forbidden. I would be destroyed by God as it was written that he is a jealous God. During this period of struggle and research, I backslided in Christianity. I resigned from my position of Sunday School teacher because I just could not continue teaching what I do not quite believe anymore. My family members were concerned. Some close friends even distanced themselves from me. I was the black sheep.
I had discussions with my church on my thoughts. The answers I got did not address my doubts as much as when I researched on Buddhism. The church’s comments made it seem like I was not allowed to question the Christian faith, which further reinforced the truth that Christians are not allowed to think outside of Christianity for themselves. Why should one continue to believe in the doubtful? Why not seek the truth? Do Christians and anyone else not have the right to seek the truth? In Buddhism, we are all answerable for our own actions, which is what I really believe.
Life As A Buddhist (The Power Of Nianfo)
I became a Buddhist about 2 years ago. It was not a hasty decision. I studied the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha and intended to specialise in the Pure Land tradition, with focus on Nianfo practice (of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha – ‘Amituofo’) in my daily life. This is to attain swift rebirth in Amituofo’s Western Pure Land when it is time to depart.
Why? What’s the difference? How do I feel? Any regrets? Any fear of repercussions from straying away from Christianity? Well, the positive changes came fast. Although I am only at most a 2-year Buddhist with 1 year’s experience of Nianfo practice, I found peace with myself more than ever, and likewise towards other sentient beings. Through Nianfo, I began to realise the ‘Buddha-ness’ in me, discovering my Buddha-nature.
I began to understand bit by bit the meaning of compassion, that every life matters – both big and small, seen and unseen. We are all part of this Saha World (of Endurance of suffering). All of us do suffer, and experience pain. And indeed, I see no reason whatsoever, that humans should lord over one another (via wars) or over animals.
Holy anger? There is no such thing. I learnt very quickly that we all bear consequences of our very own actions due to the natural karmic law of cause and effect. Anger, if not managed well, will have major ramifications. Burst anger will return, to bite and inflict more pain than one could ever imagine.
Daily Nianfo practice trained me to look and probe matters beyond the surface calmly, without prejudice or predefined assumptions. It trained me to calmly review causes of situations with a clearer mind, without charging up emotions, which easily results in regretful actions.
What did I really gain after all my efforts? Is it quantifiable? My gain is indeed immeasurable. Benefits of birth in Amituofo’s Pure Land are immeasurable and as with his 48 great vows, it is created with his immeasurable and unsurpassable merits. When born there, there will be no more spiritual retrogression (backsliding), while offering the most expedient (skilful) path way to reach Buddhahood, thus breaking free from endless cycles of pain and suffering.
With the 3 Provisions of Faith, Vow and Practice, I am confident that as I progress, I will be reborn in Amituofo’s Pure Land when the time comes. I have made my decision and it is worth every effort. What about you?
Eddie (name changed for privacy)
Why There Is No Creator God
Can A ‘Creator God’ Be Created?
The Anger Of God
Why Be Compassionate To All Beings
Did Jesus Exist?
Did Jessus’ Apostles (Disciples) Exist?
Why Should A Father Send A Son To Die For Him?
Is There Eternal Hell Or Heaven?
How To Be Good Students And Teachers