Discovering who I wanted to interview was difficult for me. Religion has always fascinated me and I found it complicated to decide what religion I wanted to learn more about. Born and raised in to Christianity I have never really had the opportunity to explore different religions and their belief systems.
After debating between Muslim and Buddhism, I finally realized that I my interest lied with Buddhism. On October 7, 2007 I interviewed a close friend of mine that I have known for years. His name is Viet Pham. Although we went to high school together and were good friends I was surprised to discover how little I knew about his religious beliefs. It never seemed to be present in our discussions. Viet is a practicing Buddhist and he is very proud of his religion and was more than willing to tell me about it.
I always remember him wearing a tiny gold chain with a small green Buddha attached to it. I found my interview with him exciting because I was able to understand the many differences between Buddhism and Christianity. Viet was born in Vietnam in 1985. His family immigrated to the United States when he was only five years old. He is currently a senior in photography at Wichita State University and will graduate this spring.
I began my interview by asking him if he remembered much of Vietnam and he said that he remembered how quiet it was when he was little. He said that he grew up on a farm in southern Vietnam and it was a severe culture shock to him when they had to move to the United States. However, speaking with him now you would never know that he was not born and raised in the United States. His love of fast cars, the smell of leather seats and infatuation with city life and designer clothing make it hard to believe that he was once a farm boy. He has adjusted to our culture very well and has lost almost his entire accent, even though he remains fluent in his native tongue. Although he doesnt remember much of Vietnam, his family held on to many of the religious traditions of Buddhism.
When I asked Viet what some concepts and practices of Buddhism were, he said Buddhism has many different traditions and different Buddhists practice different aspects of Buddhism. My family practices Theravada Buddhism (a. k. a. Southern Buddhism).
Several of our practices include Dana, which is ceremonial giving, Sila, which is the acceptance of Buddhist teachings and following all of its practices, Karma (the balance of sin and merit), and we participate in many Festivals, which celebrate different days during the lunar cycle. I asked Viet about the differences between practicing Buddhists here in the United States versus the Buddhists of Vietnam. His response implied that there wasnt much difference at the temple that he attended. He also implied that his family practices the same as they would if they were home in Vietnam.
The only downside, he stated is that while in Vietnam most people are Buddhist, most people in the United States are Christian, so it is hard to find a close group of people that practice the same way as you do. I had to know what some of the major differences between Buddhism and Christianity were, so I asked Viet if he could explain to me some of these differences. Buddhists do not believe most of the core beliefs of Christianity. For example we dont believe in the Garden of Eden or the fall of mankind. We dont believe that humans originate in sin because of Adam and Eve. We dont believe in the idea of a savior who was born of a virgin, executed, resurrected, and then rose to heaven, he said with a shrug.
I replied with curiosity about his religion and asked him if Buddhists and Christians shared any similar beliefs. He smiled at me and said Well, not very many. However, we believe in the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated. We also both believe in a higher power. We believe in Buddha and you in God. Also, I was raised .