Photo of Phra Nicholas, taken by: Richard Smith
Writing an essay on religions coming together I decided to set up meetings in my week off with people from various religions and the different schisms within Christianity, planning to visit them in their ‘natural environments’ e.g. the temple they worship in. Unfortunately the first synagogue (which I shall not name) I found wouldn’t let me in, whilst the second was too difficult to get to (as I am unable to drive at present). The Mosque I called was helpful but unfortunately too busy. But I managed to have a chat with a Muslim teacher from my college, and an ex-English teacher from my old high school who was Jewish. Both of them lovely ladies and fascinating to spend some time with in discussion.
But to stay with the buildings for a moment, contacting a Buddhist Centre proved to be much more successful. I’d panicked slightly when I looked at the website before calling and had found many Buddhist names that were all similar to Phrarajabhavanavisudh. I have no idea what I’d have done on the phone in that situation! But thankfully a Buddhist monk called Nicholas (phew) picked up and everything was fine. I went to Dhammakaya Buddhist Centre in Edgeley this afternoon and talked about various meditation/prayer methods, transcendental experiences, communicating with others, Theology, Thailand… and many other things. We sat in a large, empty room, and the atmosphere was incredibly stilling and calm. A lovely place to sit in, and I had a desperate urge to meditate almost as soon as I sat down. A great environment for it.
Now of course me and Nicholas had our differences, that’s expected. But our similarities and our shared desire for a better world, a more peaceful world, pulled us together. Nicholas said at one point, there are so many obstacles, speaking of the difficulty in communicating with other religions. But I find that what we really need to do is not give up. And knock down any obstacles and barriers that may exist in our own lives. If we are open, then others will come to be open too. So the synagogue turned me away. So a Roman Catholic priest had a go at for me for having Liberal views and for being a woman. So… not everyone sees equality. Not everyone sees unity as a possibility. But today I had a lovely chat with a Buddhist, a few days ago I sat with a Muslim, I sat with a Jew, I had coffee with a Methodist Christian and tea and cake with Baptist Christians. We all have our differences. But whatever we may passionately believe about God and an afterlife amongst other things, we are all a part of this common human group on earth. We all live in the same world. So instead of assuming that every member of a different ism or schism is either wrong or an irritation, lets find a bit of patience and the will to be open to one another. Imagine what the future of our fragile planet will be like if we don’t. Lets get the world joining together. Lets get ourselves breaking down the stereotypes and sharing communion, bringing to our chaotic planet that which we all dream about, and has many names. Jerusalem. Kingdom of God. Peace.