10 May 2010

Agree to Disagree

Passport to Happiness

In Singapore, on Orchard Road, there exists a sort of musical chair system of events. Currently, and a semi-permanent display row, for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games lines one side of the very wide side walk. May 9th and 10th the ever-changing tent venue held not only displays, booths and a day to evening series of entertainment that focused on the Buddhist religion.

Since the tent is a usual figure in front of this mall complex I guess they decided they need more to attract the attention of people. While certainly not life size, this very large Buddha certainly made you stop.
The square of tables next to the entrance to the tent, where music waifed out into the street, had a large selection of books. Free for the taking - yes Free, books that explained the basic concept of Buddhism; books that were for the advanced learner; books of guidance; books for enlightment; books for children; books for adults; and "Agree to Disagree" conversations on conversion.
For those who know me and for those even more fortunate individuals who have taken classes or workshops from me - you know that I am all about 'perspectives' and how there is definitely more than one and not necessarily a best or better perspective, just different perspectives.
Well I love this book. This 24 page little pamphlet.
The objective of this book is to support Buddhists who are facing proselytism in their workplace, school or even at home, so that they can maintain their stand with compassion and wisdom. The individuals who developed this book (Buddhists) was done to share with fellow Buddhists. "We have no desire or intent to cause any discomfort. We wish to state that the viewpoints in this materal are soley our own. Buddhists, who are just like everyone else, want happiness and do not want suffering. In Singapore, we are able to live well and practise our religions. Towards this end, may Singapore and Singaporeans continue to be safe, prosperous and enjoy a compassionate environment for one and all."
Wow!!! While it may be a guide for young members to the Buddhist religion, assistance for conversations you might find yourself in about your religion ('saying No respectfully') - it is really so much more. And while I am not on a conversion to Buddhism, the teachings are certainly something more of society could benefit to take note of.
The introduction got my attention and my brain immediately began churning about how this could become a promotion for tolerance of all:
"The founders of each religion has as their bsic aim the unity of mankind-to foster harmony, goodwill and understanding among all people of the world.
Like bees gathering honey from different flowers, the wisse one sees only the good in all religions and accepts the essence of the different teachings."
Mark and I were fortunate to have arrived last August in time to hear the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech. In his speech, which he actually gave 3 times (English, Mandarin Chinese and Malay) he raised his concern regarding the maintenance of religious harmony in Singapore (he was intelligent enough to keep it within the realm of his control, as I believe this is a concern the world community should have). He pointed out that the aggressive pushing of one's religion onto otehrs can prove detrimental to society; imporance of maintaining racial and religious harmony through tolerance and restraint, as well as preserving the common space that all share.
The educator in me (never stop learning) has had her learning button activated and with my newly stocked book shelf I look forward to reading about a religion I know very little about. In addition, I have a temple blocks from my flat with a treasure trove of Monks who are more than willing to discuss philosophy and principals with me. New perspectives.... love it!!!
"According to the Buddha, men are divided amongst themselves because of their strong sense of ego. When this is subdued by seeing the essential emptiness of a being, healthy human realationships will develop. The search for peace and a harmonious way of life therefore begins from within and not from the outside."

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