Something that has bugged me for a very long time

Quotation from an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh:

I would like to tell you a story.

Thirty five years ago I had a student who fell in love with a young man who was Catholic, and the family of that young man required that the young lady abandon the practice of Buddhism in order to be baptized as a Catholic. That was the basic condition for the marriage, and she suffered very much. Her family was also opposed to that. She cried and cried, and one day she came to me.

I said that Buddhism is not there to make you unhappy. Buddhism is not an obstacle, so I think in the name of the Buddha I can tell you that you can become a Catholic and marry him, but I would like to make a recommendation. You have received The Five Mindfulness Trainings; you should continue to look on them as the guidelines of your life. You don’t have to be called a Buddhist; you only have to be a true Buddhist within yourself. Live accordingly and practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings, and that would make me happy enough. She was so joyful that she was allowed to marry the person she loved.

But she did not sleep during that night, and the next morning she came very early, and she said, "Thay, a tradition that is so embracing, so tolerant, so open, if I abandon it and turn my back to it, I am not a person of value. A tradition that is so strict, that has no tolerance, that is not able to understand, how could I formally identify myself with it?" So she just refused to get married to that person. I thought that I would help her get married to that young man, but I caused the opposite to happen.

Today, thirty five years later, she is here somewhere in this Sangha.

When I was in Korea a few years ago, I participated in the first dialogue between Buddhists and Christians, and I said that many young people have suffered due to being caught in that kind of situation. So I proposed that we should be able to allow Buddhists and Christians to marry each other, with the condition that the young man would learn and also practice the tradition of the young woman, and the young woman would also learn and practice the tradition of the young man. Instead of having one root, you have two roots. Why not?

If you love mangoes, you are free to continue to eat mangoes, but no one forbids you to eat pineapples or oranges. Your favorite fruit is the mango, yes, but you don’t betray your mango when you eat pineapple. I think it’s too narrow-minded, even stupid, to enjoy only mango, when there are so many different fruits around in the world. Spiritual traditions are like spiritual fruits, and you have the right to enjoy them. It is possible to enjoy two traditions, to take the best of two traditions and live with that. If you like to eat Italian food, you can still enjoy French and Chinese cooking. You cannot say, "I have to be faithful to my Italian cooking", that’s too funny.

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