No Birthday for you!

birthday

My youngest Daughter has been inviting friends to her upcoming Birthday party for the past several weeks. But one of her dearest friends recently told her that she cannot attend because it is against her religion. And I must admit, when I first heard this, I immediately started making stories in my mind. The first thought being that it was a complete lie, and just an excuse not to attend. Then I went on to think that it was due to this girls Family knowing we are Buddhist and having some fear about that. My mind really went into overdrive as I spun this story into something that was totally made up and unfounded on any level. I watched as my emotions followed suit with all of these mental formations. But it wasn’t until today that I even became aware of this unskilful behavior on my part.

This morning I decided that, instead of feeding my disturbing emotions on this matter, I would do some research about Birthdays to see if there were any that forbid such a celebration. Sure enough, it appears there are two of them! One of which is Jehovah’s Witness, and the other is Muslim. Since I have met the parents before, I made an educated guess that they are perhaps Muslim. So I proceeded to research the Islamic religion to find the source of this teaching and what purpose was behind it. At this point, I am feeling rather good about myself. Seeing that I care enough, and am being mindful enough, to catch my judgements and delusions and then also do the research to gain a better understanding.
Doesn’t this sound like I am being a good Buddhist? But like they say in the infomercials, “but wait, there’s more!”.

Off I went, Googling my way across the internet to research Islam and Birthday celebrations. And what I found was way more than I bargained for. Again my expectations got in my way, and I expected to find a simple answer that would suffice. But instead I found so much about the teachings that tied-in to this, and most of it was very disturbing to me. Oh no, I am right back where I started!
As I read on about the teachings, I read about the final Jihad and the fight to promote the will of Allah. This is some scary stuff, I thought to myself. But then it occurred to me, I am just making more judgements and developing new aversions. And what makes that religion different from Christianity or any other religion? What makes it any different from Buddhism!

Being attached to my practice and having aversions or objections with any other belief system is truly a breakdown on my part. The problem never lies with what another person thinks or believes, but with my own mind. Once again, for the millionth time, I return to the encouraging words of Bhante Sujatha… accept, be mindful, and cultivate loving-kindness. This is really the foundation of the Buddha’s teachings. Never did he teach to be judgmental, dogmatic or separate in any way. And all that any of us need to do is to break it down to the fundamental truths of this life that we all share in common. We all want to enjoy this life, be free of suffering and we will each also experience aging, decay and death. And with clear understanding of this, each moment is a chance for all of us to love our neighbor. Accepting them without judgement, criticism or separation.

As far as this country and this World have come in terms of equality, I think most would agree that we still have a long way to go. But each of us has the power of one to encourage this transformation with every thought, word and action.
I am so grateful for the potent lesson that my Daughters friend has taught me, and I hope it may give you a moment of pause as well. The change in this World must begin at home. More pointedly, it must begin with me.

Addendum
My Daughter came home from school today and informed me that the Family is actually Jehovah’s Witness. Which just goes to prove that I should never make stories or assumptions!

  • Jennifer Whiteley-Anderson

    Great story! and hats off to you for questioning and then intervening on making a rash judgement! We all have experiences with people, societies, religions, and cultures that we may tend to first judge, but once we educate ourselves and thus understand, we become less apt to formulating potentially, dangerous judgements. Everyday is a learning experience and brings with it a potential for increased mindfulness. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • http://www.wellhappypeaceful.com/ David Schmidt

      Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comments Jennifer!