By: Theresa Doan, Simon Fraser University, winner of the spring 2020 BC Study Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Singapore
Religion has never been a large part of who I am, but in recent years, I have made more of an effort to understand the religion my mother used to heavily practice. My mom, being the only person in my family who is religious, taught us some of the larger Buddhist practices growing up. Throughout the years, we practiced less and less, and my little connection to the culture and religion was diminishing. The past three years, on Lunar New Year, I have gone to the temple my family and I used to go to growing up, and have prayed for success and happiness for my family for the new year. I would go by myself to reflect, pray, and get some amazing food; it had become a ritual that I do for and by myself as a way to reconnect with the Buddhist culture. It’s a small step in learning the religion, but it is something I plan on keeping up.
This past year, I was fortunate enough to be in Asia during Lunar New Year. My friends and I went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and went to the beautiful Thean Hou Temple where I was able to pray to the gods for success and good health for my family, like I have been for the past few years in Vancouver.
I didn’t realize the impact the experience would have on me. Being surrounded by families who came to the temple to pray and celebrate the new year was such an incredible environment to be around. Sharing the experience with my new exchange friends and lining up to pray and read our New Year’s fortunes was such a meaningful experience for me, it was unlike any other. I really got to see how important Lunar New Year is for Buddhists and it made me reflect on how I view Buddhism and made me want to practice more than just going to temple once a year to pray. It made me feel closer to my heritage and family and has given me a new outlook on life and Buddhism as a whole. A feeling of pride washed over me as I was showing my new friends the different Buddhist practices I knew, and I can only imagine the pride I would feel fully understanding the beliefs and practices of Buddhism when I learn them all. Everyone who practices religion has a different relationship with it and I hope to grow mine and create my own meaning for why I practice what I practice. I’m excited to do some self-discovery and spiritual digging in the process of learning about Buddhism.