While 2019’s Celebration of World Faiths focused on the importance of taking care of the Earth in various different religions, many speakers conveyed another valuable lesson: the importance of getting in touch with one’s spiritual side, regardless of religious affiliation.
The event featured the Assisi Declarations on Nature, formed when leaders from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism gathered to discuss how their faiths could help protect and save an ailing Earth.
Not everyone has to identify with the same religion:
Because she does not believe in the superiority in any one religion or faith, first-year graduate art therapy counseling student Daisy Yen said she finds it important to partake in events such as the Celebration of World Faiths.
Yen read the Buddhist Declaration in accordance with her personal beliefs at the event Saturday night. However, Yen said she did not do this in the hopes of converting anybody to Buddhism.
“I personally don’t feel like any religion is superior, or better, than any others, but I think it’s important that you have a belief — it’s kind of the anchor for your soul,” Yen said. “So, I don’t mean to promote Buddhism, it depends on what you feel you have a connection to. That’s why I came to this ceremony — it’s not only for Buddhism, it’s not only for Christians, it’s for every religion, and I have respect for all of them.”
On a personal level, Yen said she identifies with the Zen school of Buddhism, which heavily relies on meditation.
“For meditation you basically try to have a clear mind,” Yen said. “One of the sayings is ‘everyone is like a mirror.’ When the mirror is clean, it’s supposed to be able to reflect everything clearly. You can make a good decision if you have a very clear mind. However, when there’s dust on the mirror, then it’s hard for you to see things clearly and you may not be able to make good decisions. So it’s very important that you polish, you clean, your mirror, which stands for your mind.”
Yen said being mindful of both one’s thoughts and actions is the core of her faith, and this stems from the belief in reincarnation.
“For Buddhism, we believe that you have a past life. You have a past life and you have your future life, so whatever you are doing today, whatever happens to you today is a result from your past life, and all the good or bad things you’re doing will contribute to your next life,” Yen said. “So, you’re encouraged to be very aware of what you’re doing right now. I think it’s very good to be mindful, and I think mindfulness would be the core.”
No one faith is better than others:
Similar to the sentiments of Yen, Yolande Scholler said she also feels no one faith is more important than others.
“I believe that we’re all spiritual beings, and I think on that level of being a spiritual being, there’s no such thing as distinctions between different religions, so it’s all boiling down to the same essence basically, in my opinion,” Scholler said.
This very belief inspired Scholler, a second-year social work graduate student from the Netherlands, to start Mantra, a meditation-focused group for those of all different faith backgrounds, even though she individually practices Hinduism.
“It’s a way to deepen your spirituality,” Scholler said. “So, you can follow a specific path and you don’t have to change it, you can just stick to that, or you can have no path at all — it would still be beneficial.”
Mantra is currently studying the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu text from which Scholler read at the Celebration of World Faiths event.
Red Cedar Circle welcomes all:
At the beginning of the event, the Red Cedar Circle performed “Grandmother Song,” a tribute to Grandmother Earth, and “Tall Cedar Tree,” a prayer for the plants. According to the program, these praises originate from the Pacific Northwest Coast Salish Lummi Tribe.
The Red Cedar Circle meets at the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability at noon on the first Saturday of every even month. Member Kathy Matthews said the SiSiWis tradition-based group welcomes anybody to attend their gatherings.
“We welcome one and all,” Matthews said. “We welcome all faiths. As long as you are of a peaceful mind, then you are more than welcome to join us and share your own stories and beliefs. We are open.”
According to Matthews, SiSiWis means “sacred breath,” and the tradition originated as a means to bring different groups together.
“Red Cedar Circle comes from the SiSiWis medicine tradition of the Pacific Northwest,” Matthews said. “That tradition comes from some of the core [families] in that area from way back. It was actually a tradition that came into being as a way to bring all those tribes in that area together.”
Matthews said because of this, peace is at the very core of the tradition.
“That’s how the tradition was put together, to bring peace to all those peoples up there, and so I believe that is the one base purpose for it being brought out into the world: peace, respect, love,” Matthews said.
For more information on events at The Center for Spirituality and Sustainability, visit their calendar of events on their website.