Jiddu Krishnamurti once asked, “Why do you call yourself a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or why do you belong to one of the innumerable sects?” Elsewhere, he even said that such identification is an act of violence.
Good question! Personally, I don’t identify myself with any particular religion. My own religious belief is very difficult to pigeonhole. Ever since my teenage years, I have studied the world religions. I started with Huston Smith’s book, The World’s Religions. It has been a long and colorful journey since then.
I don’t think identifying oneself with a particular religion is a problem in itself. Rather, it is the dismissal of other people’s religions that is the problem. It is the same with identifying with one particular culture or ethnicity. I identify myself as a Chinese. I also identify myself as a Taoist and a Buddhist teacher. None of these are problems. But if your identification with any particular group prevents you from appreciating other people’s culture or religion, generates sentiments of prejudice or animosity, then it is a huge problem. Your identification with one particular group is not an excuse for being biased or ignorant. It is certainly not an excuse for being unfair or uneducated about the rest of the world.
Let’s face it, a society with a monolithic culture or religion is boring. It is also tyrannical. It does put a damper on one’s creativity and freedom of thought. I’d say go ahead and identify yourself with any particular culture or religion that your heart feels affinity to. But let us also celebrate other people’s cultures and religions and learn from them. This is what I have been doing for over six decades. The rewards are great.
In Buddhism, there is a saying, “Follow the Dharma, not the speaker.” Dharma has no national, cultural or religious boundaries. Dharma is just Dharma. A rose called by any other name is still a rose. Let us remember that.
The Dharma is not Buddhist and the Tao is not Chinese. I have seen the proximity of Taoism to the other earth-based religions and Native American spirituality. It is high time for us to see the commonalities and transcend artificial boundaries.