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the sad

I was feeling a bit under the weather the last couple days. Interestingly, the sudden fatigue and headaches coincided with my mom's arrival to the motherland (and a week of sleep of deprivation). My ancient body simply can’t handle sleeping only 5 hours a night anymore.

My mom and aunt flew back from the US to attend a Buddhist ritual for my late grandfather, who passed away in January at a ripe old age of 104. I had grieved for the loss of my grandpa already, so the reminder of his death didn’t upset me. What made me extremely frustrated and sad was the blatant idolatry and ancestor worship that took place. Since most of my extended family are not believers, there wasn’t much I can do about it – but even still, the whole thing was ridiculous.

1) They had to pay an insane amount of money to the temple to put my grandpa’s nameplate and photo in this room full of other people’s nameplates. The amount of your donation determines the placement of this nameplate. So you basically pay more to get better spots, though I’m not sure what it’ll do to your eternal destiny – maybe you can reach nirvana quicker, who knows.

2) To assist in the sendoff of the soul, a group of monks help the process with a full day’s worth of rituals. It includes chanting, bowing, kneeling, offering incense, offering food, worshipping the male Buddha, worshiping the female Buddha, more off-key chanting, burning of some fake paper money, more bowing and kneeling, more incense, more chanting (repeat x100).

3) The worst thing is that the people participating in the ritual, including my mom, had no idea what was going on. When the head monk told them to bow, they bowed, when he told them to sit, they sat, when he handed them the incense, they burned it … and during the endless chanting – half of them fell asleep because they didn’t understand what the monk were saying (the Buddhist scripture probably didn’t carry any meaning for them either). If they had thought through why they wanted to do the ritual and knew what each part symbolized, I would respect the whole thing a lot more. But their completely ignorance fueled my anger. My cousins even joked around saying that it was more like exercising (all the bowing and kneeling) than anything else.

I had refused to take part in any portion of the ritual, so I sat on the side to observe and pray (to Jesus, not the Buddha). When my cousins couldn’t take it anymore, they came over and we would chat – and thankfully we snuck out to get some ice-cream for an hour or so. If we hadn’t done that, I think I would’ve gone mad. The monks gave me some dirty looks when I kept refusing to take the incense. He definitely gave me the “what are you doing here-just take the incense and kneel down” look. Maybe that’s why I had the headaches and wanted to puke …

Do people just mindlessly worship idols? This is sad.

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