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LETTER | Let's build a culture of encounter

LETTER | One of the agreed aspects of religion and spirituality from a mystical point of view is that we live in a complex but unified universe, and men and women should seek unity in whatever endeavours they are in.

The complexity of the world and the universe is a reality and in a spiritual sense, God’s presence could be found in this complexity, the beauty of nature, and the good intentions of people irrespective of their faith and beliefs.

For example, when one researches the contemplative prayer practices of mystics in all major religions of the world, one would notice the unifying elements that resist a dualistic and simplistic mode of thinking that separates human beings into the pure and impure.

While the reality of evaluating life requires an examination of good and bad conscience, what is important is to discover the essence of goodness and intentions that are seen in all human beings irrespective of race, religion and beliefs.

The foundation of peace is built on the basis of seeing the goodness of the other by looking at the whole person instead of the parts.

Lately, there had been controversy over the Bon Odori festival, which will be celebrated in Malaysia on July 16, an event that has evolved in Japan over the past 500 years from being a religious rite to an occasion for reuniting families and friends.

There are arguments that religious faith could be compromised if one attends such gatherings since there are religious roots in the rituals, while there are counterarguments by proponents who favour attending the festival, by reasoning that one has to separate religion and cultural practices since Bon Odori has evolved from a religious rite to an occasion for reuniting families and friends.

What’s worse, there was a prominent religious personality who suggested for the festival’s name be changed. It is a typical example of not seeing reality as it is, but interpreting reality from religious-ideological contention.

The fact is that many cultural practices had evolved from religion and one cannot totally separate religion from them. For example, Western culture today is a combination of Greek, Roman Law, and Christianity.

In another example, Christmas is celebrated by a substantial number of non-Christians in Europe and the US, who join the celebration due to its inclusive nature of universal love, peace and solidarity symbolised by nativity decorations and Christmas trees.

I don’t think non-Christians who join Christmas celebrations have had their faith and religious beliefs shaken just because Christmas has its roots in Christianity and is part and parcel of Western culture.

Japan has its own Buddhist roots and one cannot separate it totally into mere cultural celebrations. It is by accepting this reality and forging a close relationship with our Japanese brothers and sisters through the culture of encounter that one’s spiritual and religious life is enhanced.

Seeking unity and goodness through encountering the different cultures of the world irrespective of rituals should be encouraged and nurtured for Malaysia to be a mature and progressive religious country.

Therefore, let’s build a unity mindset that does not evaluate reality from a narrow ideological religious view.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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