Long drives back from Pioneer Road North to Upper Serangoon have always been therapeutic, one reason why I will miss NTU.
2009 is coming to an end and while I took my Buddhist refuge when I was 11 years old, my actual spiritual awakening comes when I was 14 years old, exactly ten years ago, when in an all-boys mission school, was more formally introduced to various religions.
"Buddhism has had a major effect on who I am and how I think about the world." - Uma Thurman
When I first saw the above quote, it resonates strongly with me. I am fortunate for the Buddha's teachings, for they have guided me in my daily life and my attitude towards the world and my own internal emotions. It is hard not to let this monkey mind be swayed by praise and blame, gain and loss. But I strongly believe everything originates from the mind. One you have the right mindset, half the battle is won anyway. Much as all nature is empty inherently, the false self I identify with myself is very much shaped and molded by the Buddhist philosophies that I hold closely to.
In the absence of an Almighty Creator God, "religion" will still be a convenient term for Buddhism. "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism." - Albert Einstein
One of the very strong reasons why I eventually chose to embrace Buddhism was its relevance to modern Western science and its ability to fill in the gaps yet to be discovered. Buddhism's main emphasis on our mind and self-reliance, instead of supernatural and unseen powers was more relevant to me. Of course this is not to discount the latter, just a personal preference.
Yet at the same time, we have to be mindful of the various teachings and philosophies this world has to offer, each is unique and beautiful in its own way. Human beings are all different, we all have different tastes, different views, different needs and wants. We see the world in a different way and as such, it is impossible to enforce upon a dominant spiritual idea upon everyone. Rather, the diverse forms of religions and philosophies are in their own different way, serving mankind. As His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has said, "a biased mind cannot grasp reality", likewise should we constantly open our mind and our hearts to the different views and teachings across the different faiths and that way, we can all grow to become a wiser member of this human race.
I think the Buddha has said it very well, "If you follow a teacher and you find his teaching is conducive to your peace and happiness, follow him."
And to add on,
"One should not only honour one's religion and condemn the religion of others,
but one should honour others' religion for this or that reason." - The Buddha