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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Faith

Editor’s note: Faith can be an opener, no matter the form it takes


My grandmother is a bhiksuni, or Buddhist nun, who can always bring serenity into every conversation. She will be 93 soon. This issue is dedicated to her. | Courtesy of Nguyen Le

My grandmother is a bhiksuni, or Buddhist nun, who can always bring serenity into every conversation. She will be 93 soon. This issue is dedicated to her. | Courtesy of Nguyen Le

Point upward, and we will all say it’s the sky. Ask who governs that space, and get ready for conflicting answers.

Depending on the person you talk to, the figure that looks after and over us assumes different names and is described in different ways. For me, it’s the Buddha.

Back in Vietnam, whenever Tet comes around, my family goes to a monastery about 30 miles from the city where my elders and theirs are residing. It is here that I can express my gratitude toward the Buddha, whom my parents said has been looking after everyone in the household since my first breath and will continue to do so for the next in my bloodline.

You give thanks to the Buddha by lighting an incense (or a bunch on special occasions), clasping them with your palms, raising them to your forehead and gently whispering your prayers. With complete focus and all my heart, my parents assert that whatever goodness I yearn for will be realized: be it safe travels, freedom from ailments, a passing grade or being able to support my family now — and my families later.

Of course, how I make contact with the higher power is different from someone else’s method. A few might use their access to the omnipresent figure to get “permission” to do harm. There are also those who deem there’s little proof to comprehend the person upstairs, or simply that there’s no one there at all.

Vietnam, like the U.S., has a couple of lines in the constitution stating how all faiths in the universe can have a place in everyday life. In reality, the differences in who and how you worship is an agent to raise scorn or draw a rift in the community.

There has been plenty of the latter here in this nation — something to which recent headlines and the comment section underneath them can attest. It has reached a point where the world seems to have only two religions to name, and “with prejudice” is the only appropriate way for one to show awareness of the other.

This is where the Faith Issue comes in. In the pages that follow, I hope you will find a snippet of your faith among others, and how each is good and perceived. “Snippet” is the key word here: only a peek, only a piece, only a patch in the whole canvas that make up your creed.

But sometimes people forge a definition out of this particular patch. Like all definitions, it is a simplification of a grander thing. Rather than be contented, the tree you see should encourage you to inspect the whole forest.

Stay open-minded as you read on. Use an element of a faith that you will read through here as new knowledge, known information to share and a topic for civilized discussions. Too often religion, when brought up, is handled with silence, aversion or hostility when it is one of the most crucial topics to know about.

Yes, faith can be heady, weighty and, at times, ugly. It also has everything that is otherwise, too.

As with all published materials from The Cougar, the articles in the Faith Issue will personally enlighten you and continue the global exchange of ideas — in particular those about the force overlooking all lives and the guidelines from said force that we have chosen to upheld.

I have faith that what I wish for can happen.

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