I first wrote this story last year during Easter, but I think it is worth sharing how I share a connection with many faiths today. Enjoy, darlings!
As my faithful readers know, I am Jewish. However, I grew up in a small town, Kankakee by the Sea, where Christianity was the predominant religion. Therefore, my friends were Christian. At a young age, I was exposed to their religious beliefs. My friends invited me to their homes for Christmas and Easter dinners, Easter Egg hunts, and attending Easter midnight mass. I listened to lively family conversations around holiday dinner tables. Always, there were questions about my religion, Judaism, which I loved answering.
Though I did feel like an outsider at times because I was in a minority and we were not of the same religion, this was not the fault of my friends. Christianity is a religion; Judaism is a religion and in my opinion, a culture. Being open to and respectful of others’ ideas and faiths, will only be a positive in your life. Personally, I’m fascinated by faith and what drives the human spirit!
MY CONNECTION TO CHRISTIANITY
During my travels to Israel, I was able to relate to Christianity. In Tiberias, one of the four holy cities of Israel, our hotel, The Scots, was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
At that time, I recall thinking how special it would have been to share the experience. How nice it would be with a few of my close friends that I grew up with in Kankakee by the Sea, though we were not of the same faith.
In the old city of Jerusalem, I felt the same way when I visited the Christian Quarter. And the most holy site, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (Here is a wonderful YouTube video with a walking tour of Jerusalem, including a walk through the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). I had to visit Bethlehem and Nazareth because I wanted to see and learn about the history behind their religious beliefs. And I did!
During that time, I learned that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the spring. This is when there are equal periods of light and darkness. Most holidays share a connection with a season, not only in the Christian religion.
Celebrating Easter in spring means the coming back to life of flowers, plants, and trees. Not to mention, births in the animal world. So it is natural to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at this time of the year. Everything reverts back to nature.
I SHARE HISTORICAL CONNECTION WITH MANY FAITHS
In my studies, I learned why the holiday is named Easter. Did you know that goes back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre? She was celebrated at the beginning of Spring! This is referenced by a British monk, Bebe, who lived in the late seventh century. The monk was so influential that the name stuck.
There are fascinating similarities between Easter and Passover, though they are different religions. They both fall in the Spring of the year and their dates connect. The blood of the blemish-free lamb was marked on the doors of the Egyptian homes. So commanded by God to save the lives of the Hebrew children. The new testament teaches that Jesus, who was also blemish-free, shed his blood to save humankind. And his disciples compared Jesus to a lamb explaining he fulfilled the old testament prophecies. In my mind, their most profound connection is … connection.
I have friends of all faiths and different religions. My connections run deep outside of friendship. Because my friends have educated me about their religious beliefs and experiences.
MY CONNECTION TO BUDDHISM
First I will tell you of a friend’s connection to Buddhism. She happens to be Greek Orthodox and she told me this story. On a visit to Greece, she decided to take a hike up into the mountains to a monastery. The monastery had only four monks! It was in a beautiful and serene setting. The monks grew vegetables for the Athen markets and rarely spoke.
They were in touch with nature. One of the monks told my girlfriend his story.
He had been a restaurant owner in Athens. In his forties, his doctors told him that he would not live out the year…cancer. He sold his restaurants and moved up into the mountains to the monastery where he has lived cancer-free for years! Talk about learning to bloom where planted no matter what life throws at you!
Buddhists believe that the way to enlightenment or Nirvana lies in certain acts. Spiritual and physical labor and good behavior are among them. Ultimately, I am drawn to this way of thought.
MY TRAVELS EXPERIENCING DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS
Next came my personal connection with Buddhism. When I was in Japan I visited a temple. Ahead of the entrance sat a huge black pot. Out of the pot came the aroma of incense. Within the pot was sand that held sticks with paper wrapped around them. The monk told me to choose a stick, which I did. At the top of the paper, it says “Best Luck.” Everything on the paper, which I still have, has come true over the years.
In Bali, I spent a lot of time with a young Buddhist woman. She taught me that Buddhism is a philosophy of life. The word means enlightened one. In the 6th century B.C., Buddha lived and taught in Northern India. The Buddha was not a god and the philosophy of Buddhism does not entail any theistic worldview.
Wherever the Buddha traveled he won the hearts of the people. One way he achieved that, was that he dealt with their true feelings. Telling them not to accept his words on blind faith. But to decide for themselves whether his teachings were right or wrong, then follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for one another and develop their own virtue.
Within Buddhism, there is the law of Karma that says:
“For every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first. And this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according to whether its cause was skillful or unskilled.”
Dear reader, think about the restaurateur who had cancer. He made a skillful decision.
I am drawn to Buddhism because I do think one event leads to another. And that the decision we make after the first event is paramount to our well-being. I thought about my own life and where it stands today.
CONSIDERING THE EVENTS IN MY LIFE
When making my own connection, I talked to my Ultimate Concierge (communication is the key to a successful marriage!) We discussed how one happening turned into another and another. Everything that happened — the ins and outs of a lifetime of circumstances and decisions. Decisions that I’ve made and my Ultimate Concierge made. (When we did know one another.) Over a period of years that turned into a 33-year love affair.
In all truth, I cannot absolve myself from failure. I failed myself when I did not listen to my heart and decided after the first event occurred to take the high road. In this moment, I made an unskilled decision. I learned the hard way that taking the high road has consequences, not always the one you expected.
MY CONNECTION TO ISLAM
The next particular religion that I have been lucky enough to learn about is Islam. I have been fortunate to meet many Muslim men and women on my travels through the Middle East. And also through an International group to which my husband belongs. The membership is comprised of all religions.
I have traveled to Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, and Bahrain. And to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Abu Dhabi, and Jordan. In doing so, I have been enlightened by the teachings of Islam from my Muslim friends and several mosques.
Islam means, “submission to the will of God.” Muslims are monotheistic and worship one, all-knowing God, Allah. The followers of Islam aim to live a life of complete submission to Allah.
Christianity and Islam are the two largest religions in the world, and have similarities as well as different religious traditions. I feel blessed to share a connection to many faiths, including these!
THE INTERCONNECTING OF FAITH
Furthermore, we all know that Judaism and Christianity are religions founded in the Old and New Testaments. We know that the Koran houses the religion of Islam. Christians and Jews live by the teaching of The Ten Commandments.
The teachings of Buddha, who is not a god and does not entail a theistic worldview. They take thinking to a personal and deeper realm.
Personally, I think a mixture of Buddhism in all three religions would make for a kinder and happier world. Don’t you?
I have friends of all faiths and religious affiliations: Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish. And I am grateful I share a connection with many faiths. I am grateful for them!
What would you take from other faiths to incorporate with your own? Please share your results with me in the comments.