Thursday, August 18, 2005

Divisive Religion or Religious Division? (2)

Continuing from Divisive Religion or Religious Division? (1).

Subsequently I discovered that it's not only the Malaysian Muslims who indulge in or perhaps fantasize with exclusive greetings, arcane societies and secret handshakes.

Hey, I am an expert on secret handshakes. Beside being a former scout (left hand straight to-from the heart), I fraternised with people in the Boys’ Brigade (little pinkie being naughty – as you can see, those Boys Brigade were really sissies).

I am familiar too with the African American 15 slap-knuckle-point-pound-grip secret Kunta Kinte bruther-shake.

OK, here’s where I realised that the greater religious consciousness has permeated into Chinese society as well.

My neighbour, a sweet Chinese lady (let's call her Angel-eyes - there's more of her in Part 3) would greet her friends with a Namo Ami Tua Fo, a greeting calling upon the Amitabha Buddha. This mantra is used as a greeting by monks of the Chinese Pure Land Sect of Buddhism, and also chanted by lay disciples as part of their daily prayers.

In the past, lay Buddhists hadn’t or rarely used it among themselves, though they respectfully did when they greeted a monk. Believe me, my mum is a devotee of this sect since she was a small girl, but she doesn't go around sprouting Namo Ami Tua Fo except during prayers.

Chinese traditionally greet each other with the usual “Are you doing well" and "Have you eaten?”, the latter perhaps indicating their origin from a difficult and sometimes famine-stricken land.

Has this Namo Ami Tua Fo stuff then been a response to the Muslim Assalamu alaikum? Perhaps it’s one of those anything you can do, I can do better? Or, could it be a sense to belong, demonstrated by secret callsigns and exclusive greetings among fellow members?

My best friend used to lift his eyebrows in a special way when he wanted me to talk his wife into allowing him out with me, to the pub of course, but without revealing our intended destination - bastard virtually made a liar out of me. Dear Irene broke our Da Vinci code rather easily, with a threat of bodily harm to her husband and a non-welcome to me if we persisted in secret signs.

Being rebellious but timid, we quietly changed our covert signalling to head and ears and nose scratching - she's still suspicious till today.

To be continued with Part 3 .........

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