“ALL that glitters is not gold. All that is white is not milk. All those who wear saffron clothes are not necessarily sanyasi (a sanyasi is a Hindu monk who guides his followers to the right path).”
This ancient Indian saying came to mind when a friend said in anger, “I am so sick of these ultra-religious people!” She had been reading news about religious teachers raping girls and molesting boys in the name of religion.
I am reminded of the movie And Never Let Her Go, based on a true story. The protagonist is a rich, prominent lawyer, who is married with four kids. He is religious, confident and arrogant. He manipulates women who love him by getting them to do what he wants, including buying a gun for him, and lying about his whereabouts. He uses everyone, including the governor.
He stalks his lover, Alice, when she wanted to break up with him. When his wife is murdered, Alice becomes the prime suspect because of the physical evidence he plants on her. The plot thickens when the murderer (the protagonist) taunts the police to catch him. Since he knows all the politicians, he thinks he is beyond the reach of the law.
When he uses the name of religion to get what he wants, it gives me the shivers.
I have seen and heard people like him! I once believed that anyone who is religious can be trusted completely. I have since learnt a lesson about trust and religion. I have seen people swearing in front of a picture of their God and proclaiming their innocence even though I know they have severely wronged someone. Aren’t they afraid of their God who can see and hear them?
I am exposed to religious people like these. I have seen how religious business people donate money to projects for the poor organised by their places of worship but they exploit their staff, use disadvantaged people for free publicity in the name of corporate social responsibility, back stab and manipulate people or small businesses with no patronage so that they can get business contracts from certain parties.
I have seen religious people refusing to touch disabled persons or screaming at the top of their lungs when a Down syndrome person accidentally sits on their chair or uses their cups. I have heard religious people talking bad about other religions for hours, and comparing their God with others’.
And these are the very people who try to convert me. They believe that converting more people will earn them points to get to the after-life places they covet. If I say “no” to the invitations, some will get angry and lecture me even more.
When I am caught in the eye of the storm, witnessing what their God manifests through them, many questions come to mind. How do they tell their God what they have done? Do they say things like: “I have taken this thing from this person but I know you still love me because I am your follower and I can do no wrong.”
Nowadays, I have stopped asking questions and seeking answers. I have stayed away from places of worship no matter how many people try to convince me that their places of worship are the best and that others misrepresent their God.
I haven’t told them that I have discovered the truth on my own – that God lives within me, and God alone will judge me.
There is much to be thankful for if we care to count our blessings.
AT THE risk of being labelled an eternal optimist, I believe that we are living in the best of times. I don’t harbour any illusion that this is a perfect world, seeing the many heinous things happening around us, and the many ways people destroy this beautiful planet of ours. Still, being an incorrigible optimist, I am convinced that we are fortunate enough to live in a great time in history.
The world is comparatively more peaceful and prosperous, despite regional skirmishes and pockets of poverty. More importantly, we live with abundant blessings, thanks to modern science and technology.
It was at the breakfast table that I started counting these so-called feel-good factors. I just needed to look around to realise that I am living a life beyond the wildest dreams of perhaps even the most powerful emperor in history. This is a little truism that can easily escape our consciousness, given our busy lives.
Just think, I was drinking coffee that came all the way from Colombia in South America, served in a tea-set from England, with low-calorie sweetener from America. And I was reading my morning newspaper that was filled with interesting news and useful information sourced from all over the world, printed by a German printing press on newsprint that is probably imported from Finland.
My room was cooled to a refreshing 22°C by an air-conditioner made in Malaysia, employing Japanese technology. My celery, pear, apricot and other fruits from China were being kept fresh in a refrigerator made in Japan. Next to it sat a microwave oven, also from Japan, which could microwave anything in a jiffy, and a toaster to make instant roti bakar.
In the hall, my 29-inch TV set from Japan was tuned in to London-based BBC, which kept me updated on world news while on the car porch, an MPV from Korea was ready to take me anywhere I wanted to go, in comfort.
Want to go somewhere far away? Just log in to the Internet, go to the correct website, book an air ticket online, and pay for it by using a plastic card. In a matter of minutes, I would be quite ready to fly to any part of the world. I just cannot imagine how any of those mighty kings or emperors in the past could have enjoyed this kind of convenience even though they had the power to raise armies, and conquer and plunder weaker nations.
People who have the privilege of peeping through dusty glass windows to look at chunky pieces of furniture and utensils used by the Chinese emperors at the Forbidden City would readily agree that they did not have an easy life compared with ours, despite their power and authority.
Most of us would not want to swap our air-conditioned bungalows, equipped with all kinds of gadgets, for some stuffy palace.
A Qing emperor would have had to endure several weeks riding bumpily on horseback or the sedan chair, along mountain roads from Beijing to his palace in Chengde, just to escape the summer heat. The same journey can be covered today in less than two hours, in the air-conditioned comfort of a car, on an expressway. Likewise, when an emperor or his consorts craved for the best lychees from Guangdong, a relay of horseback couriers had to be organised to rush the fruits to Beijing. The journey could take weeks and there were reports of people and horses collapsing and dying along the way due to exhaustion. Now lychees are plucked, sorted and air-flown to anywhere in the world, to be sold in the market, in a matter of days, still fresh and juicy.
It is amazing that in a globalised economy, millions of people, ranging from farmers to factory workers, traders and drivers, from every corner of the world, are actually working hard to contribute to our comfort.
But lest I lapse into euphoria, I must also remind myself of the ugly things still happening around us, as a result of the folly of man. The ironies of life seem to exist in tandem with progress and modernisation.
It is not easy to convince people caught in the rat race that they are living in a blessed time. One can be easily stressed out and sink into depression in the face of temporary setbacks. Take a breather and start counting your blessings. It may give all of us a better perspective on life.
I like this article "A Blessed Life"..how many of us reflect and count our blessings. Most of the time, we count our problems rather than thank God for giving us the opportunity to live in this world.