Buddhism is practiced by several people around the world. Being a popular religion in some parts of the world like India, there are various misconceptions about it which I have consequently held for so long. This field trip to the Buddha place of worship gave me the best opportunity to at least try and understand the Buddhism religion while at the same time try and get answers to the conceptions regarding the religion. People who practice other religions like me have always held prejudices against Buddhism subsequently leading to religious discrimination. In this respect, the field trip had positively impacted on my beliefs since the interactions I had with the hosts gave me the vital opportunity of getting to understand the underlying foundations of this religion.
Subsequently, the discussions we had as a class helped me in understanding better the functions of the Buddha shrine; this changed some of the false impressions and misconceptions I had regarding the shrine. The host had emphasized to us that, just like the church, the shrine had represented a holy place of worship of God Himself.
The visit to the Hindu house of worship also helped me in understanding the symbols used in the worship, the valued sacred books and the basic foundation of this religion. The host here had tried to focus on some of the teachings of Hinduism about love, good conduct, and morality as emphasized in the dharma. These are features responsible for better living which he confirmed to us is still taught in the other religions just they do.
This visit to the Hindu house of worship as well had a positive impact on my long-time beliefs by disapproving of some of the beliefs I have always had regarding the deities worshiped by the Hindus.
Religion and experiences at the Hindu house of worship
On arrival at the Hindu temple, a pujari welcomed us; he introduced himself as Tamil Chennai followed by a brief introduction into the roles he plays at the temple. He said he was responsible for performing all the temple rituals. He went on to state that Hindu is considered the oldest religion after Islam and Christianity. Against my old personal belief regarding the traditions and worship of this religion, he explained to us that Hinduism is not purely based on a single tradition but rather lies on several other traditions to form its foundation.
According to his explanations, I was able to derive that Hinduism encompasses several other religions by embracing their religious ideas, this disapproved by first belief about the region since all along I have always believed that Hinduism is a single organized religion.
He went ahead to expound on this point stating that there are two groups of believers; the first group believe in the worship of a single god whom they refer to as Brahman while the second group believe in Brahman together with the existence of other gods such as the god of war, god of happiness among others.
Touching on beliefs and doctrines held by believers, I realized that they almost the same belief as Christians concerning life after death; Christians have held the belief of resurrecting after death to live a second life, just like them, I realized believers here have been made to believe in reincarnation after death. With this, I was able to realize that though the religion had recognized death and the subsequent life after, the whole idea was slightly different from what was held by Christians.
It was interesting to find out that the fundamental belief of this religion was based on the idea that people’s actions and thoughts had a direct influence on their current and future lives, this according to me sounded so unique owing to my Christian background that is based on God’s actions upon one’s life. True to my earlier belief regarding the worship of animals, he confirmed that the believers consider the cow as a sacred animal that represents their god, for this reason, most of the believers here do not eat beef.
My experience at the Hindu house of worship could be considered somehow bad, I had never tasted Prsadam before and according to Hindu customs, being their visitors at the temple we were offered large quantities of prasad which I had a difficult time-consuming. All in all the experience here was nice as I was able to learn a few things which previously I didn’t know.
Religion and experience at the Buddha temples
The master at one of the temples introduced himself as Salman Alas; he was in charge of this Buddha temple named Badrinath Temple. In this report, I will not have to include the details from the other temple because almost everything had seemed to be similar. He explained to us that Buddhism as a religion was founded by Siddartha Gautama popularly known as the Buddha. From his explanations, I came to realize that some of the Buddhists’ ideas and beliefs overlapped those of other religions. Some beliefs such as life after death came out to be a universal idea across many religions including Hinduism.
The realization that worshippers here do not acknowledge any god as it is in other religions was rather unique to me, worshippers here were rather concerned with achieving inner peace and wisdom, a state which the master stated as having achieved nirvana.
We were made aware that the religion had a strong foundation and is based on the Four Noble truths derived from Buddha’s teachings; this was opposed to the other religions like Islam which highly depend on the Quran to teach and enlighten their followers on the ways of Allah. The dharma provided the basic ideas that bound the believers here; these ideas included kindness, generosity, wisdom, and compassion. Unlike Christianity, Alas explained to us that monks here followed a strict code of conduct which includes living a celibate life.
Throughout the temple, I wasn’t able to locate any sign, this prompted me to ask a question to this regard, I was informed that there is no Buddhist symbol but there are however several signs which represent their beliefs.
Before this field trip, I knew very little concerning Hinduism and Buddhism, my mind had been clouded by several misconceptions probably due to lack of information. Much of the information I had was basically from the internet sources which at times were not accurate, however, this field trip had enabled me to gain much-needed information about these two religions. For example, I have always had the belief that Buddhists considered and worshipped Buddha however after this trip; I have come to realize that Buddha is only considered as an extraordinary man but not as a god.
Concerning the Hindu religion, I had always held the belief that their believers were idol and cow worshipers, however, this turned out not to be true as I came to understand that the cow only represents their god and is considered as a sacred animal. From the trip, I was able to learn about the similarities between the two religions concerning karma, dharma, and reincarnation.
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