by Igor Bosilkovski
“The essence of all religions is one. Only their approaches are different.”
Though Chapman was founded in 1861 with ties to the Disciples of Christ, it has always been open to admitting students of all colors and religious backgrounds. Today, 153 years later, the University is a colorful mosaic that encompasses pieces of followers of various sorts of theistic beliefs.
Here is a look at three diverse students who each belong to a unique religion. They speak about how they were introduced to their religion, the traditional customs and the ways their set of beliefs has shaped their characters.
Native American religion
Frankie Brown is a junior IES major from San Diego. Well, he’s not exactly from the city, but from an inland reservation in San Diego County called Viejas where he and other Native Americans from the Kumeyaay tribe live.
“Kumeyaay in literal translation means people of the cliffs,” said Brown.
His mother and father grew up Christian, but when they started having children, they wanted to stick to their traditional roots.
“We believe in Mother Nature, whom we call Tunkashila. We honor, love and respect nature, from the biggest animals to the smallest plant, we believe that we are all one,” Brown said.
Brown added that in his religion every time they eat they say a little prayer to thank Tunkashila for the food on the table.
One of his favorite rituals in the Native American religion, and something his father has been trying to teach him, is bird singing. Bird singers often sing farewell songs when someone passes away.
“They stay awake and keep singing throughout the whole night they give condolences to the family who lost their beloved,” Brown said.
Another custom of the Kumeyaay people is praying in a sweat lodge, which is a little hut with a hole in the middle in which two firemen put stones to fire. The ritual has four rounds, at the end of each more stones are added making the hut hotter.
“In the opening songs, the lodge gets heated up and we invite all the spirits to come join the ritual. In the second round we pray for healing the pain of the body, in the third for happiness and merry life, and in the fourth and final one, we thank the spirits for coming. The feeling at the end when you sweat it all out is magical and relieving.”
Brown said his religion has influenced his life in a way that made him more respectful and more loyal.
“Respect is very big in Native American tradition, especially toward the elders, without whom we wouldn’t be here, know our tradition nor language," Brown said. "Respect is something we give it and expect back.”
Tony Vallejo is a freshman psychology student. He is an international coming from Honduras and one of the rare people from Honduras who are Buddhists. The vast majority are Catholic.
“My mom was originally a Catholic until she went through a terrible accident where she lost her husband and daughter,” said Vallejo. “She felt lost and couldn’t find answer in her prayers until a friend who was Buddhist invited her to give this religion a chance.”
His mother found a shelter and happiness later in life, remarrying and having her son Tony, who is now also a practicing Buddhist.
Vallejo said Buddhism is still something that’s not very widely accepted in Honduras, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his beliefs.
“My mother didn’t pressure me into pursuing into this religion at all, it came naturally to me because it resonated with my personality,” Vallejo said.
He says that the idea of Buddhism is that all people have the potential within them to become enlightened.
“We practice by chanting nam myoho renge kyo, which is devoting yourself to the mystic law which is the universe. We should really feel like a part of it because we’re all together in it and we are all related in some way or another,” Vallejo said.
Vallejo added that Buddhism is something that has given him more confidence.
“I’ve struggled with being a shy person," Vallejo said. "But with Buddhism, I am less afraid and much more sure about myself.”
Anupreet Singh is a sophomore double majoring in business administration and accounting. Anupreet is a native from Orange, however her background is a little more exotic.
“My parents are first generation immigrants from Punjab, India,” said Anupreet. “They are both following the Sikh religion, but at the same time are very liberal minded ad have given me the best of the Indian and American lifestyle.”
An interesting tradition in the Sikh culture is wearing the five symbols, or five Ks, at all times. One of those symbols is having a long hair, which Sikhs never cut as a symbol of respect to their Creator whom they call Waheguru.
Anupreet said Sikhism is a very social religion and they meet in a temple called gurdwara.
“The gurdwara I go to is by South Coast Plaza where me and other Sikhs pray and also very important, eat tasty food,” Anupreet said.
Anupreet said a very important concept in Sikh religion is langar.
“Langar is an open kitchen that we serve in the temple with food sponsored by families,” Anupreet said.
Sigh said in India these langars are opened 24/7 and everyone is welcome to sit on the floor.
“There is no any hierarchy when it comes to religion," Anupreet said. "Everyone sits next to each other.”
Anupreet has been influenced by her religion in a way that she realizes how important charity is.
“It’s not only money," Anupreet said. "It’s also time and willingness to commit yourself to the point where you better other people’s lives.”