Updated: Dec 4, 2018
I feel that I would like to describe a little bit about what I consider my religion.
I am not religious to any specific world religions, and I do not follow any religious rituals or belief. But I do respect and appreciate all religions as I feel that they all ultimately aim to help people become a better version of themselves and less sufferings by outlining different pathways and providing different guidances.
I grew up in a non-religious family background as most of other Vietnamese people. Even though Buddhism has been increasingly popular and there are more and more people becoming Buddhist in my country, it isn’t and there isn’t a state religion in Vietnam.
Though, all of the people in my country follow ancestor worship tradition and that is the main spiritual ritual, so it might be more likely to be considered our state religion.
We (even with the skepticists) follow the tradition of worshipping the dead including:
. the good spirits (Buddha, saints, and our own ancestors) who are believed to be able to bless, help and protect us; and
. the bad spirits (demon and hungry ghosts) who are believed to be able to harm, kill, and destroy us.
We do monthly offerings to our ancestors to express our remembrance, and also to the good spirits, mainly to ask for protection for safety, good health, blessing, and quite often to ask for luck or wealth in exchange of offerings. We also occasionally do offering ceremonies to dispel the bad spirits, especially when bad things happen to us or when we are worried about something bad would happen.
With this tradition, we grow up not only with a convincing belief in an external world of objects as of other people in this world, but also with a firm belief in external factors/ powers/ entities that exist outside us that would help us/ save us/ give us the things that we want/ or even help us to manipulate the consequences of what we have done.
Not everyone but more than the majority of us perform offering rituals towards these external factors/ powers/ entities, and nowadays perform offering ritual towards charities also, in exchange of something better for ourselves or our families.
Since I left my home country for studying, working and living abroad, I have not participated in these rituals of offerings and doing charity in the same ways that my community does back home. I had been judged by friends and relatives… At the times I was a bit upset.
Although I trust that I did not shed any of the respect and appreciation towards my ancestors and my country traditions, I must say that the way I performed and expressed my respect and appreciation had actually changed.
I now do not perform offering ritual towards the ancestor and good/ bad spirits by offering money, fruits, food, paper clothes/ goods, … anymore. I only offer them my inner respect and my dedication in wishing them and all other beings free of sufferings, free of attachments as well as tied responsibilities in this worldly world to just to Be in their freedom and joy. I now only offer that wish silently in my heart, including when I come back home and burn an incense, and bow in front of the ancestor altar or in a temple.
I now do not do much of charity activities in the ways I used to do such as contributing a sum of money or donate things for charities or paying too much pity on people who are in short of material comfort… in search of the feeling that I was helpful, I was generous, and that I did something good, and that good things would come to me as I did something good…
I now only offer my deep empathy and heartedly pray for people/ animals who are sufferings that I come across in my daily life… I now only contribute unbounded time and an open heart to share with whoever in need that I by chance come in contact with, even that is someone I know, I love, or someone I didn’t know.
I now do not look for charity activities to join in or to contribute somewhere else. I only keep my eyes and my heart open to never ignore anyone that I come across, as I feel that sharing warm smiles, making direct eye contact, a hug, a bit of time spending together, feeling empathy or sharing some moments... are enormous helps for both myself and the other(s) to feel soothed, comfortable, trusted, accepted, understood, appreciated,... and generally less suffering in that moment… They could be my families, friends, neighbors, clients, work mates, people on the streets and everywhere by chances come into my experience at some point in my daily life.
Mentioning about religion, I would say that My religion is Warm-Heartedness, what I worship is Love, and Appreciation toward All in Life!
After finishing this article, I saw a quote of the Dalai Lama XIV using the same phrase "Warm-Heartness" so I'd like to add it here to this post as it just resonates in me!!