I joined the Nottingham Buddhist Society (NBS) during the clubs and societies fair that was held during the Fresher’s Week. The main reason was simple; as someone with no experience about Buddhism, I wanted to learn more about Buddhism.
I still remember the kind and warm feeling the NBS representative gave me when I approached the NBS booth. I told them that I was not a Buddhist but wanted to join the society. Some part of me expected them to reject my application, but to my delight, the representative smiled and said that everyone was welcomed to join.
I was asked a few questions about how I view the world–including questions about how I see non-human beings such as animals, plants and even spirit, and from that, I managed to deduce that Buddhists really do care about equality, not just for humans but for all living beings which in my opinion is something that is very noble.
As someone who believed in equality myself, their question was eye-opening for me because I have never really thought about treating animals and plants as my equal.
Entering an unknown territory
The very first event that I decided to join was the Induction Night which the society chooses to call ‘Welcome Everyone’ (W.E.) night. I expected to be out of place, but I was wrong as everyone was indeed very welcoming during that event. Attending that event, I was able to befriend a lot of amazing people who joined the Buddhist Society, be it that they are Buddhists themselves or not. After the event ended, there was only one thing on my mind: Buddhists really are peace-loving and kind people.
As someone who is mainly critical of religions, I would say that I did not expect myself to fall in love with Buddhism. Still, indeed, I did fall in love with it thanks to the kindness and the overall loving atmosphere that I experienced during the Induction Night. However, that event was not a religious-centric event. So, I really wanted to know how I would be treated if I attend a more religious-centric event which would also help me to learn more about Buddhist rituals.
No ‘Holier than thou’ attitude
The first religious-centric event that I decided to join was the weekly meditation. As someone with no experience or knowledge in meditation, I was worried because I was afraid I might not be able to follow through the meditation. However, yet again, I entered a very welcoming atmosphere where the leader of the meditation teaches the attendees the techniques of meditation step by step. During the weekly meditations, some members approached me, understandably because they were curious to know what was a non-Buddhist doing there.
I’ve realised that all of the members of NBS are not judgmental–those who have approached me gave me a sense of belonging and made me feel accepted among everyone else. They do not judge others simply because they know more about meditation or practice it more than others. Even though I was not a Buddhist, they treated me as their equal, for which, I will always be grateful. Some of the members also taught me a few meditation techniques and tips to be more focused during meditation.
Another event that I participated in was the Night Street Feeding Event. Joining that event opened my eyes about the situation of homelessness in Kuala Lumpur, which is much more severe than I initially thought it was. During that event, I could see that all of the NBS members were eager to do their part in helping the homeless individuals, which again reaffirmed my positive thoughts about Buddhism. In my opinion, the fact that the Buddhist society decided to carry out a charitable event really shows that they care about the well-being of everyone – and they are serious about it.
Experience in NBS compared to other societies
Besides the Buddhist society, I also joined the Islamic Society during my foundation years, and I could say that the experience is really different. Sometimes it feels like the Islamic Society is not welcoming, backwards in their thinking and filled with individuals of hateful ideologies. Although I am aware that the Islamic Society is not a representation of Muslims as a whole, it does, however, in my opinion, gives Muslims in this campus a lousy name.
Most of my non-muslim friends and acquaintances will always say that the Islamic Society sometimes go too far in their speeches in a way that it does not try to be inclusive. As someone with experience in the society, I could say that compared to the Buddhist Society, to me, it seems that the Islamic Society is more busy condemning people to hell than actually doing something that is meaningful for the students and the society as a whole.
It could also be said that compared to the Islamic Society, the Buddhist society does not try to promote their religion, rather they are living an honest life which is something to reflect upon. For example, the Islamic Society has ‘Discover Islam Week’ where they would teach others about their religion. But to some, they have said they are using it to try to convert people into Islam. In my opinion, the Buddhist Society, on the other hand, plans events that allow them to live a simple, kind and loving Buddhist life such as meditating and helping others which again, is something that is noble.
Written by Nasrul Haziq
Views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the position of UNMC IGNITE.