One a very hot and sunny day I had the joy of listening to two ladies go on about their Lord, even though I kept telling them I didn’t believe in god and that I simply wasn’t interested. They didn’t seem to get the hint when I kept smirking and raising an eyebrow each time they started on a new topic. Not even the beads of sweat that kept dripping down my face seemed to bother them. Of course they were well armed with umbrellas!
After around fifteen minutes of standing and running the risk of serious sun burn, I was released, promised another visit and given two pamphlets about how I can be saved. I never saw the two ladies again. Maybe they had already decided that I can’t be saved.
Now I’m not making fun of these ladies even though I hate them and their kind as much as I hate those door-to-door salesmen. Not that they don’t have a whole lot in common! However, I don’t think they should try to convert me even when I have made my religious beliefs quite clear. Just as I respect them enough to not hurl swear words at them, they should respect me and let me live with my beliefs.
So we talk at great lengths about respecting the beliefs of other people. Yet, are we really ready to accept that people believe in things that we don’t? Or that they don’t believe in things we do?
Recently, I was surprised to see the shock on a certain individual’s face as he was told another was an atheist. So even though we may not try to crucify those who don’t have the same beliefs as us, we still take some time to grasp it. To really understand their beliefs.
When talking about beliefs, they go beyond religious beliefs. I mean, religions aren’t exactly as complicated as they are made out to be. You either have a god or many gods or none at all. When you die, you either go to heaven, hell, are born a human or animal or if it’s the end of Sansara, well, good for you!
But there are other things that build walls around people. Humans around the globe are still trying to understand homosexuality
. Our opinions and knowledge and acceptance of things either make us more friends or more enemies.
However, there is a difference between tolerating a homosexual, an atheist or a murderer and understanding or rather accepting why they are so. I may not understand certain things about various cultures and I may not agree with them, but I accept them. I would never even consider covering my head with a scarf or wearing a pottu. Yet, I wouldn’t tell someone not to wear a scarf or pottu in my home.
There are certain principals I have, and certain things I live by. My grandmother called me an ideologist recently, telling me that I don’t seem to give people room in my life if their ideologies don’t match mine. However, my ideologies deal with the basics about life. They have nothing to do with one’s religion, race or culture.
This is why I guess, I didn’t lash out at the two ladies marketing their religious sect. This is why I patiently listened to them, even though I wouldn’t expect them to listen to me talking about my beliefs. You need to accept that people have different beliefs. Maybe you don’t understand them. Maybe you don’t agree with them. But you need to accept them.
And it is with acceptance that you understand. I’ve rarely felt like an outcast in my own country because I belong to the ‘majority.’ A Sinhala Buddhist in a Sinhala Buddhist nation. My father is a Christian, working in Thailand, a Buddhist nation. He recently arranged an alms giving for the Sri Lankan Airlines anniversary and he said, “I’m a Christian working in a Buddhist country.” He added that he had to respect the country’s traditions and beliefs.
Sometimes we are in that minority. And when the majority-minority issue is more than just numbers, it becomes difficult to be proud of being the beliefs that makes us the minority. But we need to respect each other. And if a certain set of people seem to think they deserve respect, show them that respect. It wouldn’t hurt anyone. Yet, don’t respect that majority because you are the minority, but because you think they deserve it.
My father’s uncle recently told me the last words of his grandmother. A rough translation of them would be, “suffer small loss, and maintain peace.” Sometimes in life, we have to accept that we aren’t the most powerful. But by doing so, we are being the better person. In the end no Sena or All Ceylon organization will judge us and our actions. Some people believe God will do the judging. I think our karma will do the talking. But no matter what, our actions say a lot about us. So don’t try to get the last word, don’t try to win the battle. Respect and accept. Be the better man.