I had an interesting experience this morning when a duo of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up at our door to talk about God.
They handed me a flyer, titled “Would You Like to Know the Truth,” and proceeded to discuss with me all of the chaos in the world and their view on how one can do away with it. They inquired as to my own spirituality and I of course answered honestly, to which they seemed surprised and perhaps a little confused.
When they asked me about how Buddhism responds to the problems of the world, I had to stop for a moment and really think about it for a moment. I came up with two major teachings that I could quickly reply with, the first being the basic idea of karma and the rebirth of beings based on their volitional actions, and the second being how we can only really save ourselves (which ties in pretty well I suppose with what I said about karma). Saving the entire world relies on others to do their part too, but we can lead by example.
I’m always really bad about responding on-the-spot to questions, especially when I know that the person I’m speaking with is going to try to pick what I say apart and find fault with it. It isn’t so bad if the person seems honestly interested in my side of the conversation, but I just don’t get the vibe that door to door salesmen of religion are particularly interested in anyone’s sales pitch but their own.
In any event, I was cordial and actually enjoyed the conversation. It was of particular interest to me how they would respond to me when I answered their questions — for instance, they asked whether I believe human suffering would ever end, to which I replied that the Buddha was fairly clear (at least by my understanding) that suffering exists in all of the sensual realms of existence, and this resonates more with me than the idea of an everlasting place where you experience nothing but pleasant feeling. So, in effect, no, human suffering will never end. Even though I can’t independently verify it, it seems more accurate to me because I see how even the most pleasant feeling goes away eventually, and ultimately, if it comes down to he-said-she-said, I’ll go with what lines up most closely with my own experience in daily life.
This is where faith comes in — until insight, wisdom, and direct knowledge of the truth can be attained, teachings on which I try to practice daily so that I may not always have to take things on faith.
I did take their flyer and I think I’ll browse through it just because I can, and because I do happen to have a Bible handy (my wife’s) which I can use to cross-check their references in context. I don’t really know a lot about Jehovah’s Witnesses (Watchtower Society), but I remember lots of little things that I’ve been told or read online over the years. How much of those things were accurate, I really cannot say. I am fairly sure, however, that the people going door to door like this are, as odd as it sounds, trying to help people… whether they really know how or not…
How do you respond when people come to your door with your religious conversion on their agenda?
Ultimately, if they come back, I may have to point out that the intent to convert others has on many occasions been the cause of immense suffering in the world, and in spite of their best intentions, it does not speak of “tolerance” when one has the intent to change others’ views.
Practice compassion always. Examine your motives and practice true tolerance because others and self are nothing but unsubstantial distinctions made in our worldly minds. Be well, my friends.