Each day will be a bit difficult for me to write about as I am trying to write all of these from memory with a bit of research in case I am missing anything. (Writing these on February 28th)
Today (February 26) we had our Temple Crawl and boy was it a crawl for ya girl. We went to a total of EIGHT temples/churches today, and they were not even in a circle! I was sooooo tired after today. However, I really learned a lot during this day and was questioning the perceptions that people have on these faiths/religions that I witnessed and learned about first hand. We began at Silat Road Sikh Temple where the denomination is obviously, Sikhism. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in Punjab in the 15th century by Guru Nanak. “Sikh” in the Punjabi language means “disciple” when translated. In this religion, sikhs are disciples of God who are to strictly follow the writings and teachings of the Ten Sikh Gurus. Some key philosophies and beliefs in sikhism are that there is only one God (the same God for all people of all regions), the soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form, in order to reach salvation and merge with God one must live an honest life and avoid sins and temptations, it condemns blind rituals, and preaches equality of all people of all backgrounds in the eyes of God. The members of this temple and practitioners of this faith were so sincere and kind. They were so welcoming toward us and really wanted us to feel at home and invited us to return if we ever wanted to. We were brought to the kitchen and dining area and they let us help make a flat rounded bread (I forget the name but I will add it later!) for a bit with a few other women where they were then put on the stove/griddle and toasted. After trying some of the food, we then attended a prayer service upstairs for about 20 minutes. It was very peaceful, the songs/chants were repetitive but you could follow along with them because they provided an English translation for newcomers. We had to cover our heads and legs because of the religion’s conservativeness and also our heads was because hair is considered sacred by sikhs, a blessing that should not be cut. I definitely found this first temple to be fascinating, not just because of how peaceful it was but because of some of the similarities it had with my own faith. The next temple was Wat Ananda Metyarama where the denomination was Theravada Buddhist. What a beautiful temple, no wonder it had been nominated for the World Architecture Award! Theravada Buddhism is generally found more in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka; it is also called the Southern School of Buddhism. It is focused on the oldest Buddhist scriptures; therefore it is strongly founded in the Way of the Elders. The focus of the monasteries, or the types of monasteries however, vary. Some have monasteries that serve as a place for ceremony, prayer, cultural activity, education and medicine while others focus on chanting and ceremonies or intellectual pursuits or healing. The Buddha was born in the forest, so much of his knowledge has been cultivated by the forest and passed away in the forest. The forest was significant as it was an arena to overcome one’s fears and train oneself spiritually because the wilderness was simple, serene and naturally beautiful, causing peaceful meditation and appreciation for deeper concentration. The temple was abundant in figures and jossticks burning from prayers from its believers. I was overcome with a feeling of peace once I entered the temple. It is such an meditative environment. Our next two destinations were St. Andrews’ Cathedral which was Anglican and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple which was Buddhist. St. Andrews’ unfortunately was closed off due to the current ceremony going on but we were able to speak to one of the ushers or representatives who provided us with some information on the church. The Anglican faith combines catholic and apostolic faith and believes that all is revealed in Holy Scripture and the Catholic creeds and interpret these in light of the Christian tradition of the historic church, scholarship, reason and experience. It is a bit strict but growing up in a Catholic school, it was nothing new to me haha. The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, we did not go into because they were celebrating the first day of the month for the Chinese New Year of the Rooster. It is a traditional Chinese temple, and it began as a temple dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Guan Yin. It was rebuilt in 1982 however, and declared a historic site by the National Heritage Board. Flower shops and various jossticks stands surround the front of the temple as people file in and out after conducting their series of prayers. It was a beautiful temple. After eating at another Hawks Center, we headed to our final centers for religious services. The first one, was the Sultan Mosque, of the Islamic denomination. This was the one that raised the most questions for me and made me more aware of the current state of our world views on religion. The Islamic religion is not one that is violent, nor is it one that is destructive. It is actually very peaceful and empowering as it stresses the importance of chances in the three stages of life that you are given. The religion may have a stricter praying schedule and conservative clothing, but after discussing the background and basic principles of the beliefs of the Muslim community (those who are traditional and follow the foundations) they deserve more respect than what they are given or not given in the current situation of the U.S. They. Are. NOT. Terrorists. Their religion is actually somewhat similar to Christianity. They believe in the creation story with Adam and Eve, they value the environment, they have conservative views, they request you attend regular prayer, but the prophets are different in who they are. In the Islamic religion, the most respected prophet is Muhammad who was given the Quran, a holy book of God. Also in the religion, they believe in the importance of equality and empowerment of their women. This is fundamental in my opinion. Women deserve this kind of empowerment daily. After reading about their equal respect and lead in the household, I was able to think of strong, passionate and powerful young women who I know are Muslim but have this inner drive, this determination to be independent, intelligent, and successful. How amazing is that? Learning about these religions during the Temple Crawl which was created by Eudora and Stephanie (shoutout to them), was actually very fulfilling and created a deeper appreciation within me for the diversity of cultures within the world and the various faiths that exist within them. I developed a greater respect for people with these faiths because even though they differed from my own, the way they helped develop the individuals that I met was truly admirable. The insights from each religion brought light to my beliefs in my own, and I would like to say that do not let the bug of rational ignorance bite you and infect you. Learn about the world and the cultures and their foundational religions that they offer, because not only do you develop a deeper appreciation for theirs but you are able to better understand the fundamentals of your own.
*Our final two stops were at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (Hinduism) and Leong San See Temple (Taoism) but one was closed, and the other, Leong San See, was open but quiet so we were unable to meet or talk to anyone to discuss the religion. I have included a link below that I have found about Taoism and Hinduism if you would like to learn more about them!