October 18

I spent the entire day with over 400 students on a World Religions field trip. It was interesting on many fronts, not the least was the inter-workings of organizing such a large group riding eight tour buses and traveling between cities. It was a twelve hour day by the time we got back home, and I was exhausted. However, it was worth it. We started at the Lao Phothikaran Buddhist Temple in our own city and then traveled to Chicago for stops at the Sikh Gurudwara Temple, Temple Sholom, and the Baha’i Temple. I’ve not studied any of these religions, although I have some familiarity with Buddhist and Jewish practices, nor have I ever visited any of these places before. At each location, we were able to speak with the religious leaders and witness some of their practices, such as chanting and singing, and hear some of the history of the religion, including the main beliefs and practices. They were all beautiful in their own way. And at each place, the adornments of the altars or the uniqueness of the architecture was an important feature, much the way it is in most Christian churches I’ve been in. It seems the desire to build a beautiful place of worship as a mark of respect and glorification transcends all religions. And that wasn’t the only commonality I noted today. I was struck with how different the practices may be, but how similar the intent behind them really are. In each temple, the basic principles seemed to center around acceptance or respect of others and achieving spiritual connectedness with God or peace within oneself. I found myself pulling out ideas that I could adopt in my own lifestyle, if not my “religion.” The Buddhist’s mindfulness, the Sikh’s inclusiveness, the Jewish focus on action and relationships, and the Baha’i view of unity are all principles that can be adopted, regardless of one’s personal religion. I think it’s too bad that so many people fear the religions of others and thus dismiss it as a whole. Learning about differences in practices and beliefs doesn’t have to be threatening if it’s done with the idea of finding the commonality. Today that common ground seemed to be a belief that our spiritual responsibility is a working towards becoming better versions of ourselves. Regardless of the path toward that goal. I’m thankful I took the journey today.

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