I grew up with the parents of my dad, literally. My parents both had to work full time, and my dad was on business trips 300 days out of the 365 per year. I don’t have consistent memory of me playing with my parents, but my head and heart are still filled with the precious moments shared between me and my grandparents, and one of them is their appreciation of spirituality.
Most of you had to go to church with your family, my grandparents took me to temples. Buddhist temples.
It was one of our rituals every weekend, to pack lunch and cushions, then hike through the mountain in the little town in southwest China where we lived, and enter all the temples among those thousand-year-old trees to pray to the Buddha and gods statues inside. Sometimes we met up with their friends after the prays to have a picnic and chat. I would run through the simple but enchanting temple courtyards, feeling the peeling scarlet paint on the pillars with my fingertips and staring at the fading facades, while imagining myself as a fairy with superpowers to heal the sick and punish the evil.
For a five year-old, the mountain climbing and food stands were far more enjoyable, taking for granted the ever warm and sunny days with mountainous bliss. Yet one cannot deny the sense of peace and contentment the whole setting brings to the soul, back then I just simply was not able to explore nor express, and I took that as a very normal should-be part of life.
My grandparents were not religious in the sense that they didn’t see praying as a form of fear for a certain religious group leader or member, as ‘you sin more if you don’t obey’. It was a very natural part of their everyday life, just like going to the market or taking care of the plants. My grandma never had the opportunity to learn how to read or write, but she told me folk tales on karma and kindness, which are the very central beliefs in Buddhism, descending from the ultimate topic of unconditional love. My grandparents’ love and protection have surrounded me infinitely.
My mother’s father is born Muslim and has always been. Imagine how ultimately difficult it was to search for Hallah food in the 70s, 80s, 90s and is even today in a non-Muslim town of China. He did it. Never remarried after he lost my grandma 30 years ago, he lived simply but mindfully. My grandma is non-Muslim and he always said she was the love of his life, because of who she was but not because of her choice of belief; he said he would stay loyal to his religion because someone in the family shall stay spiritual and pray for all; he also said all his family shall have the free will to choose how to live, because that is the true essence of life, and life is meant to be enjoyed – so why not drink from time to time himself too. As a teenager I asked him the big questions, he simply said ‘anyone who practices without love and compassion is asleep’.
It is not until later I have realized myself that spirituality comes from the within, it is the free appreciation of all beautiful beings and a way to focus on our life tasks, not a chore or fearful obligation. Unfortunately most people and the later generations from where I am, or even the whole world are less spiritual now. Spirituality, meaning the openness to others and the willingness to listen to oneself but not superstition, which used to be more or less imprinted in our daily life was replaced by fear. Fear of owning materially less, fear of losing control, fear of abandonment, and fear of not obtaining measurable success. So we shop, work, lie, cheat, stuff our faces, stop moving, play the blame game, and desperately search for more control, getting yet another dosage of soma, all to feed the ego. We are stuck in an energy ground with lots of darkness, because these negativities have not been taken care of by the spirituality we all used to have and acknowledge. So I can only assume, when the big D comes, fear only throws us deeper, and at least for me, there’s no way up until I look inside myself, thank my being and be humble.
How does it feel? It feels like, I grieve for the could’ves and run through the what ifs, I let the tears flow and then close my eyes to meditate. The inner elements of me soften and start to dance as a swirl of colors like nobody is looking, as I don’t give a damn about anything else. To describe it as a picture, I’ll quote James van Praagh:
This is the imprint of your soul, and each diamond is one lifetime that brings color to your being.
I am forever grateful for the spiritual legacy of my grandparents. They are among some of the angels who have touched me. I am grateful to Vincent, he is a very wise soul.