I remember that first time when I bowed to the Buddha, as the children were doing their chants. Such a simple act… and yet perhaps one of the most defiant and difficult things I have ever done in my life. I have certainly not lived the life of a Saint and, in fact, have been a rebel from as far back as I can remember. Fired from every job I have ever held, court marshaled in the military, kicked off the mission field not once but twice, and branded a heretic by those who once called me a brother. Rebellion yes… but those acts of defiance were done against men and I had no problem justifying them. To bow to the Buddha however was, for me, an act of defiance against the God I had known and worshiped all my life… an unpardonable sin that I would have to live with for the rest of Eternity, but I was desperate… desperate to know a Truth that needed no apologies and required no Faith.
My body resisted, as I began to go forward as if preparing itself for a bolt of lightning to come through the ceiling of the temple and strike it dead… but nothing happened. I bowed a second and third time, and as I came back to a sitting position, I was overcome by a peacefulness I had never known before. The chains of religion, that had held me bondage for so long, fell away and its threats of hell and damnation no longer intimidated me. I was free and I felt alive… alive and One with all that was around me.
Today, I am considered by many to be an atheist, because I no longer believe in a Creator God. That, however, does not mean that I do not believe in anything at all… for I still believe in Life and all that I can see, hear, or touch… and I believe that there is much I do not yet understand about Life, and perhaps never will… but my mind is now free to wander and to wonder and to be continuously amazed at how the complexities of Life can so easily be simplified by a single act of Compassion.
Wayne Dale Matthysse