I Am (Not) a Convert

I was born in a Catholic family. Actually, my father had no religion back then, at least not until he got cancer and be baptized as a Christian. As for my mother, she was a devout Catholic. My big family is Christian. Protestant, that is. And only mine and another family are Catholics. Then, I got baptized as a Catholic in 6 September 1986 when I was 1 year 2 days old. I got a saint name: Marselus.

Years gone by. I got my first communion in 12 years old, as far as I remember. 2 years later, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, which is a sacrament received to toughen my faith in Catholic. I was a lazy Catholic. My mother used to shout at my ears to wake me up for church. Sometimes, she even sprinkled water to my face so I got up easily. Not until college I knew the teachings of other religions.

It was 2006, as I reach the age of 21, when I lost my faith to Catholic. By then, it was the year after Pope John Paul II’s death. He was my religious model and I considered him as the pope of every religion. The death shook my faith. Other than that, I received lots of intellectual knowledge which was contradictory from the doctrine. Sometime in 2006, I forgot exactly when, I proclaimed to myself and people that I was no longer a Catholic. I was an agnostic.

For around two months, I considered myself as a free person. I love being free, especially from the clash between Christian (any denomination) and Islam. Anywhere I go, when I got into a discussion of any religion, I said to them that I was agnostic.

In those two months of ignorance and arrogance, I was reading Musashi, a novel by Eiji Yoshikawa. The novel had me in touch to another teaching: Zen. Reading it aroused my curiosity about Zen. It was very interesting, I thought, so engaging in my brain. I was so excited to find out more about this particular teaching. What I knew about Zen was that it’s a branch of Buddhism. So, knowing this, I had a discussion to a friend’s parents. They said that it’s a branch of Buddhism, indeed. They lend me books about Buddhism, which sharpened my interest towards Zen Buddhism.

What made me more interested was that I was declined by them when I said that I wanted to be a Buddhist. They told me to read the teaching, learn the Dhamma, and find out who is Siddhattha Gotama (Pali; Sanskrit: Siddhartha Gautama). They warned me not to jump into an impulsive decision for THREE times. Oh, yes, 3 TIMES. These incidents wowed me. I never thought that there’s a religion where people were asked to read about the teaching first before they entered it, unlike any other religion I knew (especially Abrahamic religions) which prefer people to enter the religion first then to know about the teaching later. But yes, after 3 times I was told not to become a Buddhist impulsively (and between those 3 times and after that, I read about Buddhism), they took me to a seminar in a temple. The seminar mesmerized me. By then, I considered myself as a Buddhist.

For another year, I still considered Buddhism as my religion. This consideration was in fact a false view, in my humblest opinion. Because after a year, my eyes were opened: Buddhism is not a religion. Yes, it IS NOT a religion. But wait. How come?

“Religion is the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or a set of beliefs concerning the origin and purpose of the universe.It is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories associated with their deity or deities, that are intended to give meaning to life. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.” (Wikipedia)

But religion is not just a ‘belief system’ or ‘faith on god or gods’ or ‘ways to relate with god.’ For me, religion can be divided into three major types. The first one is religion as a belief system with certain rituals. Second, religion as a social group of people with a same belief system. Third, as a way of life. Now, why do I write the third meaning of religion in bold? Because that’s the one description of religion I agree upon.

So if you ask me if I was a Buddhist from the first point of view, I said NO. I DO NOT believe in any personified/anthropomorphic god and DO NOT do any of the rituals a Buddhist usually conduct as such. So, I don’t have a religion.

If you ask me from the second point of view, my answer is also NO, because I neither go to any vihara (Buddhist temple) nor active in any Buddhist organization just because of the same belief in Buddhism. No, I have no religion from the 2nd point of view.

But now, if you ask me is Buddhism my way of life, I’ll definitely say YES. No superstitiousness. No mysticism. No personified god. No unnecessary rituals. No only-based-on-faith foolishness. No irrational myths. No holy scriptures to defend.

Therefore, I came up with this statement:

“Buddhism is NOT a religion (of 1st and 2nd definition, that is); it is a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of acting, a way of behaving, a teaching on how to live and anticipate death. The path to true enlightenment. It is the universal Dhamma.”

So, after formulating the idea, I will no longer mention the Buddha’s teaching as neither “Buddhism” nor “Buddha Dhamma,” but as simple as “Dhamma” to myself, although I will use it occasionally, that is when I speak with people with different views. The universal law of universe. As S.N. Goenka, a meditation teacher said:

“Buddha never preached Buddhism. We have compiled 140 volumes of Buddha’s existing talks into a CD-ROM and found that the word Bauddha or Buddhism is not mentioned even once. Buddha talks of Dhamma (Pali for Dharma), not Bauddha Dharma. Buddha was against organized religion. It was his followers who later created a religion out of his talks. A person who identifies with a religious community can never attain Dhamma.

Dharma is nothing but a pure science, a super-science of mind and matter: the interaction of mind and matter, the cross-currents and the under-currents happening deep inside every moment. Things are happening inside every moment, but we remain extroverted, giving importance to things outside.”

Well, I guess that concludes this entry: the way I found a universal teaching for all beings which is unsegmented and undeniable. Nice to share a story of my journey here. For that, I thank the Buddha – the Teacher, The Enlightened, the Awakened One.

May all beings be happy. Anywhere. Anytime. Anyhow. 🙂




Tuesday, 12 October 2010



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