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Buddhism is a religion whose believers practice the teachings given by Siddhartha Gautama. It is mostly popular in Asia, and it has a population of about 450 million believers (Keown, 2009). This religion is not that familiar to most people, and this leads to people developing misconceptions about it. I decided to visit a Buddhism religious education center in New York. When I arrived at this center, I had an interview with one of the firm believers of this religion named Dhamma. Although he was young, he gave me a lot of information about this religion, and you would think that he was there during its formation. After this interview, my prior understanding of this religion was greatly altered.
I had an interview with Dhamma, a Buddhist believer in a religious education center in New York. I asked him questions on what Buddhism was all about, its history, as well as their beliefs. I was surprised to know how many misconceptions Christians and other religious groups have about the Buddhism. Most people have a misconception that Buddhism is a pagan religion. Furthermore, people believe that this religion involves idol worshiping (Woo, 2008). After the interview, I discovered this was not true, since Buddhists concern themselves with Dharma who is not an idol. I also had a misconception that Buddhists value suffering. I thought that a true Buddhist should be poor and undergo suffering all the time. After an interview with Dhamma, I discovered that this was not true. I learnt that Buddhists look at suffering as an opportunity to learn something from it and grow. Furthermore, I had a misconception that it was mandatory for all Buddhist to wear robes. After conducting an interview with this believer, I came to learn that the practice of wearing robes among the Buddhist might have arisen during the era of Hare Krishna. The only people who are required by this religion to wear robes are monks or priests (Keown, 2009). I came to know that the other members wear casual clothes during the service, while the Shin Buddhist minister wears official robes. I also had a misconception that when the Buddhist gassho, it is certain that they are praying for good fortune. Dhamma told me that those were not the only misconcepions Christians hold about Buddhists. He corrected me that the act of gassho was an expression of humility and gratitude. I also had a misconception that it is only Japanese or Japanese Americans who should practice Buddhism in America. After this interview, I learnt that every believer is welcome to join Buddhism, as long as he/she reads the teachings of Buddha, Shonin and Shiran and is ready to practice what they teach (Woo, 2008). I also had a misconception that Buddhists were not allowed to participate in sports or achieve anything in life that is fun. After this interview, I came to learn that many Buddhists have succeeded in sporting activities, such as Phil Jackson.
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My prior understanding about this religion was altered. I came to know that Buddhists were not idol worshippers, and thus I could freely join this religion and serve my God. I also came to learn that you did not have to be poor to join this religion (Keown, 2009). I was motivated by the fact that people in this religion value suffering, since it teaches them to be careful to avoid it in future. My prior understanding that Buddhist believers had to wear robes was also altered. I came to learn that if I accepted this religion, I would have the freedom to wear clothes that I like during their masses (Ebaugh, 2005). My prior understanding that you had to be bald in order to join this religion was also altered. I came to learn that the reason that most Buddhists shave was to feel comfortable and fashionable. After this encounter, my understanding that Buddhist believers would not allow me to join this religion changed. I wanted to join this religion, since the believer told me the only teachings I had to follow were the teachings of Buddha.
I believe that misconceptions about other people’s religion are common. This is because most people are satisfied with their faith and they do not see the need of learning about other religions (Ebaugh, 2005). They do not take into consideration the faith, what other religions value, their practices and the ceremonies they celebrate. By not knowing the other religions well, they will have misconceptions about these religions. Another reason that causes misconceptions on various religious groups is their lack of unity. Some religions do not support each otheer and they sometimes engage in holy wars. Due to this rivalry, they spread incorrect information about the religious group that they are in conflict (Ebaugh, 2005). This leads to misconceptions about other people’s religion. Another reason that causes misconceptions about other religions is wrong teachings spread by the ministers to their congregation. Since some ministers want more followers in their place of worship, they end up spreading wrong information about other religions in order to discourage their believers from switching religions. This leads to misconceptions about other religions. Furthermore, misconceptions are common because some religions are strict, and they do not encourage people to join them (Ebaugh, 2005). Due to the strict rules, people end up having misconceptions about these religions.
There are several steps that I recommend people should take to minimize misconceptions about other religions. First, every believer should make an effort to learn more about other religions. They should be keen on learning their beliefs, values and practices (Ebaugh, 2005). Furthermore, there should be unity among various religious groups. The ministers should avoid spreading wrong messages about other religions. This will help eliminate the misconceptions about other religions among the congregation. Lastly, religious groups should not put strict measures on their practices to motivate non-believers to accept their religion.
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After having an interview with a Buddhist believer, I came to know that I had many misconceptions about this religion. I previously thought that it was a pagan religion but I later learnt that they believed in God. Furthermore, I learnt that it was not necessary for a Buddhist to wear a robe all the times. My prior understanding of this religion was altered since I came to know that they welcome everybody to join their religion, so long as you follow the teachings given by Buddha. The reason why people have misconceptions about other religions is because they are satisfied with their faith, and thus they are not interested in other religions. I recommend that people should take the step of learning the beliefs of other religions to minimize their misconceptions.
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