I don’t usually bring up my religious views, but like many folks, I was raised in a Christian home with Christian values. I accepted what I’d been taught on face value. When I was in my teens, my family found a church that was closer to home. We found a marvelous minister, one that encouraged his congregation to “think,” and “read,” and “question” their beliefs. He encouraged his congregation to study not only the bible, but more than one translation of the bible, and to read other books as well. “Why do you believe what you believe?” he’d ask. If the answer was along the lines of, “that’s what I was taught,” or something similar, he would encourage you to seek out the answers for yourself. Some people might be offended by that. I’ve talked to people who think it’s a “sin” to question their beliefs. I think this is nonsense. In my limited experience, if your faith is on such shaky ground that you’re afraid to look too closely at it, you might have a problem! On the other hand, if your faith is grounded in truths, examining it will only make your faith stronger.
Many years later, I’m still examining my faith and my beliefs. My perspective has changed over the years. My views have changed as well. Thanks to technology and the Internet, our world has become smaller. We have access to information in a way we never have had before. This is a wonderful thing!
I work in a diverse area. When I was researching my book, I knew my characters came many from different religious backgrounds, and I wanted to be able to properly reflect that. It would have been much easier to keep God out of my story. This is not a Christian book or a religious book. It’s a vampire story, and yet…I know that some of my characters come from a Christian background, I have one that’s Jewish, and I have one who’s Pagan, and proud of it. He’s NOT Wiccan, that’s something else entirely. Some of his beliefs have Buddhist’s leanings.
Has my research affected my own belief system? Undoubtedly, YES! Truth is truth. I’ve learned many things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything I’ve read, and that’s OK. I’ve especially enjoyed reading about Buddhist philosophy. I don’t agree with all of their teachings, but they have approximately 500 million followers for a reason. I can’t exactly ignore that, though many do.
Last night, I watched a live broadcast of the Dalai Lama speaking at Delhi University in Delhi, India. It’s probably irreverent to say this, especially for someone bearing the title “His Holiness,” but I think the Dalai Lama is flipping adorable! He’s funny, and knowledgeable, and extremely humble. At one point, he forgot the name of the man sitting next to him. He made a joke of it, something along the lines of “I may not remember your name, but I cannot forget your face,” then he tweaked the guy’s nose. Too cute! He has a thick accent, so you really have to Listen to him.
Sadly, I have a feeling that many of the scientist and professors the Dalai Lama was addressing had a difficult time understanding him. He made a joke about being called “Honorary Professor” at Delhi University. He said that he’d never had a formal education. “I call myself Hopeless Professor,” he said with a hearty laugh. No one in the room laughed with him, no smiles, nothing but crickets. Hey! If it means anything, I thought he was funny. 😉 He has a quirky sense of humor that I can respect. He spoke about hypocrisy and secular ethics (ethics without religion.) These are tough subjects no matter who you are. But because of his sense of humor, he was able to keep a positive spin on things. I noticed he likes to tell stories, almost parables, about his life. I love that.
The Dalai Lama spoke of looking inside ourselves, how we need to spend as much time taking care of our minds as we do our bodies with hygiene. Interesting stuff! He challenged the scientists and professors seated around him to research the affects of hypocrisy and how it adversely affects our health and well-being. He talked about how self-centeredness adversely affects our health. Yet through it all, he maintained his humor.
I think my favorite moment was when the Dalai Lama spoke of prayer and secular ethics. He said that he is a monk first and foremost. He prays everyday. He spoke of ALL the other religions of the world, of people praying to a “Higher Being” for thousands of years, around the world, EVERYDAY. Praying. Praying. Praying. He said, “With all due respect, if all of our problems could be handled with prayer alone, they’d be solved by now.” He let out an infections chuckle, “With all due respect, let Higher Being rest!” He then went on to explain, “Perhaps we should take responsibility for our actions.” He told a story about his last visit with his physician. His doctor feels that the Dalai Lama needs to lose weight. He asked the rhetorically question “Who is responsible for my weight?” He is, of course. He said that he’s enjoyed lots of good food in his travels, food from all over the world. Sure, he can pray about it, but ultimately, it is his responsibility to monitor what he consumes, not “Higher Being.” He explained that he needs to take care of his weight because that will ultimately bring him happiness, while too much good food only brings happiness short-term. 😉
Anyways, the broadcast was over three hours long, so there was a lot more said. Unfortunately I can’t read all of my wonky notes, especially the ones I wrote after midnight. There are 13½ hours difference between India and Michigan. So while it was still January 13th over here, it was already the 14th in India. Yeah…that boggles my mind!
Have a great day!