Cultural diversity in China, where I grew up, meant nothing to me but a staged show. The so-called minority regions in some remote areas of China thrived by showcasing their unique and colourful visual culture to tourists like me. Years later, after I was acquainted with Canadian culture, I began to understand cultural diversity in a more meaningful way. First, I acknowledged the apparent cultural differences on the street. Then, I sensed that cultural diversity did not mean anything otherworldly out there; it was at my doorstep. Unlike what happened in the homogeneous demographic in most parts of China, cultural differences in Canada are the basic elements of the social fabric. To speak of cultural diversity in the Canadian context is to embrace the value of tolerance for differences and to celebrate the differences to the extent that you embody them.
On this note, I would like to recount the journey of my religious belief that has developed through my interaction with different cultures in Canada. I have a diverse belief system, which I quantify as follows: I am 55% Buddhist, 25% Christian, 10% Hindu, and 10% other. The percentage fluctuates a little on occasions. I have to mention that I calculate this with sincerity. Although I have never been baptized or gone through an official ceremony to take precepts, I was committed to the routine religious rituals; I intensively read their holy books; and I firmly believed in some aspects of these religions.
It was purely an accident that I encountered the group who call themselves practitioners of Bhakti Yoga. Their drum beats and exotic music captured my curiosity. Sitting with the group chanting the verse they called the Maha Mantra, I was not sincere at the beginning. I just wanted to entertain myself and fool around. I grew up in communist China and the Marxist atheism was deeply ingrained in my soul. I felt it hard to be convinced that a God exists, and it was hard to debunk the notion that religion was nothing but a tool for the ruling class to fool the subjugated people of the lower classes. However, as I chanted along, something magical happened. I found myself spellbound by the repetitive and meditative words. That night, I had the best sleep of my life. I woke up the next morning feeling spiritually enlightened.
I became a regular visitor to their meetings and later frequented their temple. Very often I was the only East Asian-looking guy among the sea of South Asian singing and dancing bodies, but that did not bother me. I enjoyed their vegetarian food; I acquired a spiritual name; I chanted with them as if we could do it together in eternity; I danced with them as if they were the best buddies I grew up with in the timeless universe. I came to realize that cultural differences are just skin deep. The large bulk of us are absolutely the same. Humanities will triumph over political conflicts. I have never been so hopeful in world peace. I have never felt so free than the moment of breaking down the boundary of differences.
Once I opened up myself, I wanted to inhale more spirituality. I joined in different religious groups, including several different branches of Buddhism and Christianity. Engaging in multiple religions gave a positive spin on my atheist past. Not having been born with a God in mind allowed me to freely choose and configure my belief system for the sake of my well-being.