Today was amazing. A good friend and I had the opportunity to sit and chat with a Buddhist Priest at his temple. Kimberly met him the week before during a session of Zazen Meditation for foreigners in Japan, which he helps facilitate at another nearby temple. He told Kimberly that he would love to chat with her any time to answer questions about Zazen or Buddhism. When she asked if I wanted to tag along my heart skipped a beat with excitement.
(If you are interested in learning more about Zazen, Kimberly wrote a great post about her experience! Read it!)
Let me start by saying, I was a little intimidated by this meeting. I was nervous I would ask a silly question or seem foolish. That the image I had of Buddhism from the movies and the books I have read was all wrong. But I was immediately put at ease the moment I met this kind man. An inviting smile and an easy exchange of greetings and I knew we were in for a treat.
I am still mulling over everything we talked about. Kimberly and I asked a ton of questions, all of which he answered thoughtfully (in perfect English!). But one topic and one of his responses is still resonating with me...
A topic that has always weighed heavy on me when it comes to religion is the tendency for one person or group to insist that they are right, and that others need to believe the way that they do. And while, for many, this desire to see the world believe the same as they do comes from a pure and loving place, I often feel like it comes from a place of judgment and anger. I am right and you are wrong. You must believe like I believe. I feel like these assertions come from a place of almost hatred and intolerance; not acceptance and love.
We asked the priest about this in regards to Buddhism. And the question seemed to confuse him for a moment, but he quickly said that in Buddhism they accept everyone. A group of Muslims had come to his temple and were welcome to pray the way they pray in the Buddha room. Sometimes people are different. And it is OK.
'This tea cup is a tea cup. And this saucer is a saucer. This... this is OK.'
The belief that we are all one, that we are all connected. It is a beautiful thing. To unquestionably love and accept your neighbor, regardless of their beliefs. Without wanting to change them. How beautiful.
I often find myself in awe of those who are authentically kind. I strive to have unwavering kindness and tolerance; from dealing with a preschooler in the thralls of a tantrum to existing with those who do hurtful things or have beliefs that I do not agree with. Needless to say... I have a lot of work to do!
I am so thankful to have friends like the gal pictured above. And I am so thankful to have the opportunity to learn more about such a loving and accepting religion. We have been invited back any time, and I certainly plan on taking him up on this offer; I still have so many questions! Our next trip will include a session of Zazen and I am so excited.
Now... off to read some Sutras:-)