A trip to a temple

Since my conversion to Christianity, I had tried escaping from anything related to my previous faith. Usually it is to avoid my relatives. I never know what they will be thinking. If I pick up the joss-sticks, they may think I am a half-half. If I don’t then, they will probably say, “cheh, what for come?”

For e.g., no matter how many times I had told my sister that Christians do pray for their deceased families members, she would inevitably come and ask me the same question again and again. ‘What do they eat if you don’t pray and offer food?’ I told her that we pray every day or at least, weekly in our mass. I assured her that we believe and have faith that God will provide everything, including food, clothings and lodgings, like Club Med.

But this same question will crop up whenever I meet up with her. Her son is marrying a Christian girl and she had asked me what will happened to all the prayers, offerings of food and other stuffs that she is carrying out. Being 14 years younger than her and being me, I would give a loud laugh and told her to stop worrying! No one is going to starve. But trying telling her. She will probably think in the same line again – no one will offer the mandatory tong yuen, bak chang, etc to her in-laws, my parents etc.

Because of this, I usually do not join my siblings whenever they go to the temple to pray my parents. In fact, I had never openly participate in any prayers for my parents or in-laws after Vincent’s death.

All of us bereaved parents went through this some part of our life. It is like the feeling of getting a nick on your finger and then, getting a bigger cut. Hence, you can’t feel the pain of the nick temporarily.

Today is my mom’s 9th year death anniversary. My kids dragged me out of bed at 9 am to go the park. After that, I decided to make a de-tour to the Phor Tay Temple where my parent’s tablet is placed.


I went in, grabbed a bunch of joss-sticks. Burn it, go to the urn outside the temple. Held the joss-sticks high up, close my eyes and heck, for a few seconds, I don’t know whom to address! As a Buddhist, I used to call on Thnee Kong. (heavenly god) I keep my eyes shut (for better concentration or else I will be looking at birds in the sky or cars passing by) under the hot sun for a while. And something dawned on me. I call on Jesus to bless all my deceased love ones souls and give them a place in His Heavenly Kingdom. It was a big burden lifted off me. I put all the joss-sticks into the urn (usually it is to put three only and keep the rests for the deities and deceased souls in the temple) and know deep in my heart that I am a Catholic.

After that, my kids and I said a short prayer for grandma in front of the ancestors tablet and finished with a loud Amen!

(milk bottle between the banana and pineapple)

Every Hungry Ghost Festival, the temple will hold a ‘buffet’ for the deceased souls. I used to pay RM45 per year (prayer for 2 weeks) where they will write the names of my parents and place the name on this special table laden with foods and fruits. It is really like a buffet. Only thing is – I notice they even put little bottles of milk with teats as offerings apart from the Chinese wine and tea. That – I find it hard to swallow. I don’t want to believe that helpless small babies died and go to Heaven and remain as small helpless babies. I believe through and through that everyone of us died, regardless of age and go to Heaven as a complete, healthy, youthful, vibrant person. There is no age. Just young and youthful. We will be of the same age.

All comments welcome but don’t anyone try to question my faith or accuse me of anything. Comments are moderated.

18 thoughts on “A trip to a temple

  1. i totally don understand. I have a very close friend from Ireland and they are true blue catholics, but they have no qualms about these things. He and his wife would follow us to the temple and lit up joss sticks, kneel and pray like we do. During Chinese New year, they would join us to Pai Thee Kong. They don’t seem to feel that it is against their religion at all. They do attend church religiously ,every Sunday morning without a miss.

    However, I have relatives here who were converted halfway, and they make a fuss if they were asked to pray to their ancestors on Chin Beng day. Are they more “christians” than the couple from Ireland?

    Pray do enlighten.

  2. Ah Pek – The diffence? The Irish have no previous faith practices like we do here. So, they just pray straight to God. Whereas, for people like me, I had been praying to thnee kong, kuan kong, guan yin and every Chinese gods for the last 38 years of my life. So, it is hard for me to make that transition. It is a little bit like feeling like a traitor, a defactor. So, I take a while to get used to it. It takes me 2+ years from the time I was baptised as a Catholic. As for others, only Catholics pick up the joss-sticks because we do have all the incenses and candles that we use to HONOUR God. It is just an action, not an offerings. But other Christians don’t go near joss-sticks because their views are different. So, I can’t comment much about others. It takes a very firm belief in my own standing, of my own understanding to be able to openly take up the joss-sticks and think of God when all the people around me think of praying to their ancestors.

  3. ZOMG!
    You were a buddhist?

    Wow. This is the first time I heard of buddhists calling to Theen Kong.

    Theen Kong does not translate to Heavenly God. It translates to Sky. Or Sky Kingdom. Or Ayah Pin. Or Pin Daddy. Whatever.

    Well, at least you finished your prayer with an Amen, and not Ramen 😀

  4. My mom would go to the graves of my grandparents yearly and offer food as wel, along with the rest of her siblings. Most of her younger siblings are Catholic like her, but the rest are still “pai shen”. I’ve always wondered how this could be in line with being a Christian, until one year, my mother deemed that I was old enough to folow her to the graves. (Again, there’s the superstition of going to graveyards blah blah), and there I followed her and my relatives praying Catholic prayers for my deceased grandparents. I agree with you that as long as Jesus is the one in your heart, it’s alright to pray there. I guess sometimes we can’t turn away from pagan places like these, but we can bring God there instead.

  5. Hi Lilian,

    I think we ought to have our own perceptions and beliefs.

    I am a Taoist and am religious and I have absolute faith in my religion. All religions are the same because in the end what we have to do is to have faith in God and honour Him.

    I have close knit friends from England they follow us to temple too and they pray as well. Just like Ah Pek’s friends.

    I will never convert into other religions because I have been brought up as a Taoist and I will follow my parents footsteps as well as my ancestors.

    Catholics and Christians have really different views and I agree with you Lilian because a few of my relatives converted and to ask them to pray to my Grandpa and ancestors, they will show us how reluctant they are and one thing that I digress is my Grandma is still alive. Where did their respect to her go? And yes, I know they have their own beliefs but still.. I don’t know what to say. I guess they have to think like you – to be able to openly take up the joss-sticks and pray…

    I guess it’s up to us to be able to think openly right?


  6. I have ever once been to my grandparent’s tombs. I don’t know why but my dad never ask me to join in and I never ask to be included.
    I am a Buddhist, sort of anyway but we never pray at home. I think by the time it reaches my generation, we would have forgotten all the ‘custom’.

  7. I think sometimes people cannot differentiate between believe & respect. My hubby oso Catholic, but he goes to temple with me, not because he believe, but he respect my religion and me. Sometimes I go to his church too. Not because I am into Christianity, but I respect his religion and him.

  8. Been reading your blog for quite sometime oledi, i think as mum we share the common interest, that’s why i am drawn to your well-written & well expressed blog. I am in quite the same situation like u, a baptised catholic and my 2 sons are also baptised too except for my husband and his family. But all the same we always go with his family to the temple during the chinese festivals and death anniversaries of my husband parents and grandparents. Me and my 2 sons worship with the joss sticks too but every time i hold the joss sticks , i prayed to Jesus for their souls in purgatory. Moreover sometimes i even cook the vegeterian meal to bring to the temple. For me it is a sign of respect, not worship and the time to pray for their departed souls. So i think and i believe that it is prefectly alright between me, my God and my departed in-laws. Why worry what other ppl say, rite? Keep on blogging and hope you will have an enjoyable and relaxing trip to Redang tomoro.

  9. Hi 2xmum – Thanks for your encouraging words. Glad you understand the dilemma I am sometimes in.

    Annie – Very wise words from you.

    Inevitable – I no one forget the customs for convenience sake! ‘Cos most faiths have days to remember their deceased love ones. The Catholics have the All Souls Day which falls on Nov. 2nd, just like Ching Ming.

    Kyels – The word Catholic means Universal. As far as I know, we try to built in the customs and traditions in our worshipping of God.

    Charmaine – That’s what I hope to do. To bring an example rather than to stick out like a sore thumb.

    ah pek – Never mind, go ogle leng luis and hope you are enlightened. :O)

    Chewyx – Riiiight, that’s how blur I was. My birthcert and old IC said I was a Buddhist, so a Buddhist I was. But I USED to practise Taoist rites. Then again, nowadays there are Taiwan Buddhist, Japan Buddhist, Thai Buddhist and don’t know what else.

  10. I think what’s more important over here is being open to a different religion and faith altogether. I’m a strong catholic believer but I respect all faiths and religion… so even though while piercing one’s body during thaipusam maybe considered a barbaric act to some, or praying to dead ancestors for a whole month may not make sense, irregardless that’s just customs and religious practices that one should respect. I know some people who critize other religious acts because it doesn’t make sense to them and I think that’s completely unfair.

    At the same time though I applaud what 2X mom does; praying to Jesus even though she’s in a temple. I think that’s a fair and good thing to do. God is everywhere, and Jesus didn’t say “pray to me only in a church or a chapel”. yeah you’re so right about saying why should we worry about what others think? But one think I notice in Malaysia, it’s DIFFICULT to not worry what others think….I notice it’s so much easier to be stigamtized by people back at home rather than over here. Over here, people are more generally willing to accept a person’s different beliefs and differences in religion. Whereas in malaysia, people are generally willing to gossip behind your back and start crticising you just cuz you’re of a different faith….sigh

    good write up lilian 🙂

  11. Err… I also see people in blue films hor, they shout “OMFG! OMFG!” wan…

    What? They were not praying ar? Paiseh paiseh… Silap konsep. 😛

    *run away*

  12. doc – I know you got Man and gang, so no need to run away. Won’t dare to touch a single hair of yours. LOL!

    Centerpide – You are right. And sometimes, the worst opponents are one of ours.

  13. I am catholic, my father was baptized when I was about 12 or so. My whole family goes to church, go to “ching ming”, burn sticks and make offering on the days of our ancestor’s death, give and take ang pau, stay home on July ghost day, not to mention mahjong and stuff etc.

    I think is the heart that counts no matter what religion we are. As long as we don’t go about killing people and stuff, we will be OK!

  14. AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Firstly, I would like to stress that praying for the deceased, burning jossticks, preparing food for offering and all are NOT part of true Buddhism or Buddha’s teachings. It is what humans created to ease their fears over the centuries. Oh I feel like crying about this.

    Argh… those who twists and turn the story, and scare innocent disciples out of their wits, that if they don’t give offerings blablahblah.. are being VERY irresponsible. (not anyone here though)

    I believe that a true Buddhist is in the heart. Just like disobedient christians will still have to face judgement.

    Opps.. sorry a little out of topic right. hehe… but Lilian I agree that being christians doesn’t mean we can’t touch jossticks. it’s just a stick that burns after all. we can even manufacture our own!

  15. Good writeup. Thank God there are Christians who pray for their deceased parents who are not Christians. I do not understand why some Christians cannot beseech Jesus for His blessing for everybody whether Christians or non-Christian and wherever they are, whether in Heaven,in Hell or on earth. How about praying for the thousands of innocent people who are killed in Iraq, millions dying from starvation and AIDS in Africa. Most of them may not be Christians but the Good Lord loves them too.

  16. Old issue, but want to address something bout what Yvonne wrote.
    “Firstly, I would like to stress that praying for the deceased, burning jossticks, preparing food for offering and all are NOT part of true Buddhism or Buddha’s teachings.”

    I think you got mixed up between buddhism and taoism.

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