There’s a lesson to be learned from this story.
As you may know, Buddhists worship no gods or goddesses. They teach that to rid yourself of suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path. The basic rules of conduct for lay Buddhists are set out in the Five Precepts. These are, simply put:
Don’t kill – man or beast
Don’t cheat on your loved one, and
Don’t take drugs or drink alcohol.
Buddhists don’t necessarily proselytize but they make it publicly known that those who want to follow the Eightfold Path are welcome to join them.
The old Viking religion (asatro) has strikingly different practices and beliefs, which are still pursued by some people today, according to the National Museum of Denmark . Modern adherents honour the gods by drinking toasts to them with ale and mead and by feasting with beef and venison. The toasts may, for example, be to the fertility gods Njörd and Freyja to wish for prosperity and a good harvest. After feasting together the modern believers make a personal toast. For example, young women can praise Freyja in order to become pregnant or find eternal love. If a challenge is faced, then Thor can be praised in order to gain strength or Odin can be invoked for wisdom.
A modern practitioner of the old Viking religion heard about a Buddhist community and decided he wanted to join them. Who can know why? Perhaps he was merely interested in learning about the great and ancient architectural and other cultural arts in which the Buddhists trained their community members. He might have been interested in pursuing the martial arts classes or meditation classes offered to members of the Buddhist community to aid in their pursuit of the Eightfold Path. Perhaps he merely wanted to make mischief among them.
The Venerables who led the Buddhist community thought they were being reasonable in telling the Viking that while he was among the Buddhists he would have to respect their required Five Precepts, just as any other member of their community.
To do so would, of course, have meant that the Viking would have to give up or at least suspend his own religious practices of drinking toasts to the gods with ale or mead, of feasting with meat, of praying to the fertility god, and so forth. He would have to seriously pursue the Eightfold Path. He refused to do that. He told them he didn’t accept their beliefs and, in fact, he insisted on bringing upon bringing his meat and ale to the cafeteria and to community meals at the Buddhist temple.
Because of the Viking’s unwillingness to adhere to the Five Precepts, the Buddhist Venerables refused to let him join their temple community. He would not be able to achieve the Eightfold Path for which they strove, in any event.
The Viking had friends at City Hall. He convinced them to withhold all public licences from the Buddhist community on the basis that they had violated his “equality rights” by discriminating against him. City Hall demanded that the Venerables allow Vikings to join the Buddhist community even though Vikings don’t share Buddhist religious beliefs, or else the Buddhist community would no longer be granted licences to perform marriages, to build on their properties, to sell crafts at the market, and so forth. If allowing Vikings to join their temple community meant the Buddhist community had to drop their belief that adherence to the Five Precepts was necessary to achieve the Eightfold Path, then they had better just drop that belief since the Five Precepts discriminated against Vikings.
The Buddhists pleaded that their freedom to join together to practice their beliefs in community was just as important as the Vikings’ freedom to insist on practicing their beliefs. They advocated that everyone should be free to practice their beliefs in their own private communities and that all could live in harmony without forcing anyone else to abandon their beliefs and practices. It seemed unreasonable to them that a Viking could demand to join their community while at the same time rejecting that which they held to be indispensable to their community.
The Buddhist community challenged, in the courts, City Hall’s refusal to issue permits to them. The Buddhists community’s fight for their freedom and equality in this story is just the same as the fight for freedom and equality by the Trinity Western church community.
Based on the principles confirmed in the recent appeal decisions in the Trinity Western University and Law Society cases, the Buddhists will keep their freedom in British Columbia but become subordinated to the Vikings in Ontario. As of the date of writing, we’ll have to wait and see whether Buddhists and Vikings will be accorded equality, or whether the Vikings will be treated as “more equal” than the Buddhists, by the Supreme Court of Canada.
N.B. For those who haven’t yet realized it, this story is fictional, intended to illuminate the war being waged by some public authorities against basic democratic freedoms in Canada today.