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Religions as life philosophy

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Ophelia Wu

Here's the thing about religion: it's deeply personal and as unique as the people who follow it. In my own life, I've come to see religion as more of a moral compass—pointing toward a life filled with kindness, tenderness, and a break from the never-ending carousel of woes.

I grew up with a mix of Buddhism at home and a side of Catholic schooling, complete with all the trimmings—masses and commandments galore. Honestly, it felt pretty irrelevant to me back then. It wasn't until I hit a rough patch that I truly dived into Buddhism's ocean of wisdom. Initially, I was stressed about getting everything right and not messing up the religious "rules". But the more I learned, the more I realised religion is about being a good human being and being kind to others—not about getting lost in the details.

The good, the bad and the choices

Buddhism talks a lot about how our attachment to outcomes and emotions are often sources of our problems and sufferings. It emphasises letting go of the stuff that drags us down—like our reactions to the little daily annoyances. It teaches us that our sorrows often come from clinging too tightly to things that were never meant to last. The whole point is to reach a state where you're complete, even when you're embracing the big emptiness of it all. Embracing the impermanence and illusory nature of life, we learn to ascribe meaning selectively. The Buddha, "the Enlightened One," personifies this awakening, with Nirvana representing an ultimate state of emptiness and completeness. Central to Buddhist belief is the concept of reincarnation, involving six realms of existence informed by one's actions and karma—be they virtuous or otherwise. The cycle's culmination is escaping these realms and achieving freedom from suffering.

Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy" echoes these ideas, depicting the soul's post-mortem fate and a just divine retribution or reward system. His journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise mirrors Buddhist thought, where every person battles temptation and sin but has the agency to change, avoid divine penalty, and seek Paradise's eternal bliss. Similarly, Christianity's narrative of Adam and Eve points to innate sin, a universal human inheritance, and the susceptibility to falter under trial and temptation; you find these duplicate threads: good and bad actions leading to different fates and the chance to change your path. The real win is to break out of this cycle altogether and how to make every action and decision count through fostering kindness, compassion, and a life purpose.

"Religion is more than an ideology or a set of rituals; it's the art of living with purpose, compassion, and a heart open to the infinite possibilities of the soul." - Chris Anderson - Head of TED

Let go to have it all

When you live and lead with an open heart, you open up to infinite possibilities that nourish your life and soul. Every soul is here to experience life, and we only get this chance once - why not make good use of it and do good?

At the end of the day, all these religions come down to one thing: being good to each other. If we live like that, all the little bothers—like getting ticked off when someone skips the queue, failing the maths test, unrequited love, loss in investment, etc. —start to fade away. We stay cool, make smarter choices, and hold onto fewer bad feelings. It's all about aiming for a kinder life, not just for ourselves but for everyone. That's the heart of it, whether you're wearing robes, a cross, or just trying to be a little better every day.

While I believe the destination is as important as the journey if we apply or use religion wisely as a life philosophy to master the art of compassion, every experience will be enriched with love and joy - imagine the collective impact that can make.

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