SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Emanuele Davide Giglio “My Religion and Faith: on the way of being ‘also’”

In my life, I had chances to meet two great religions and, in detail, to accept four faiths. Here, I would like to explain the process of my acceptance of four faiths, and I would like to write my conclusion about my present “way of being”. 


I was born in Italy and had been studying Buddhism literatures in Japan for thirteen years.

I was very often asked “what is your religion?” or “what is your faith?” The answer isn’t so simple. Because I am not a person who has been lived in one culture or one world only. I had been interested in different spiritual cultures of different countries (Japan) and accepted a different religion and belief (Buddhism).


I was raised as Catholic, and I am a so-called “Born Christian”. Although my wife is not Buddhist, she is a very open-minded person towards all faiths. However, my first partner in Japan was Buddhist. Here I choose to not reveal her personal information, so I will limit myself to explain that in her Buddhism there are a “New Religious Organization” and a “Traditional Community”.  


Her family were believers of the “New Buddhist Organization”. I accepted her faith under the consent of my family and the church to where I belong. Then I joined her religious organization from Italy. The consent of the church to where I belong means that my church said : “if you do not deny Christianity and also if you do not get out of the Catholic Church, it is OK for you having had more than on one faith” and “when you go together with a person who believes in a different religion (for example, Buddhism), if you will have a child with her in the future, we only ask you to make all efforts to baptize your child”. I did talk to her many times about it as follow: “if we will have a baby in the future, let the child know about both Christianity and Buddhism and let decide by his/her own”.


As you see, it is not so easy for foreigners like me to get interested in a different spirituality from Christianity and get involved with a person who belongs to a different religion like Buddhism. Since I have no siblings, it was not so easy to live alone for more than ten years in another foreign country (Japan) to study and absorb a different culture and spirituality which my partner had. The Buddhist population in Italy is 0.5% only. Almost of them do not deny Christianity and are still affiliated to the Catholic Church. It is because they do not like to be problematic with the Catholic Church in the country.    


You can easily confirm the above content from the people who accepted other spiritualities than Christianity not only in Italy but also in the other Christian cultural areas. Just ask them as follow: “Where you baptized?” “Did you have the First Holy Communion, and did you receive the Confirmation?” “Did you send a letter to the Curial Office in your district to ask for the annulment of your Sacraments such as Baptism (if not, you are still belonging to the Catholic Church)?” “Did you ask your Priest ‘Is it OK to have more than one faith joining a different religious organization for family reasons? (I think your Priest would allow you from his kind understanding.)” Nevertheless, there are many people who joined different religious organizations without asking permission to their church. Of course, this is no good. And the possibility of becoming problematic in Italy or in other Christian countries is not zero.


For me, now, it’s more than twenty years ago. I got interested in Japanese spiritual culture since my young age because I had been accustomed to meditative practices in conjunction with Karate from five to twenty years old. Moreover, there are three reasons I have in common with other people in Italy who can share other spiritualities than Christianism: 1) A sense of impending crisis: The Western world was getting philosophically stuck, and people began to feel that Western Civilization could be regenerated only if they would import something different from outside. 2) Important values (such as the perception of close connections between mind and body or between human beings and their natural environment) remain properly alive in Oriental Spiritualities. 3) Many people in Western world were dissatisfied with authoritarianism of their historical religions. (Clergyman as the center of structure of the religious life or “a priori” stipulation about how human beings should be and should live their life.)    


When I came to Japan in 2008 as a research student of the Japanese Ministry of Education, all of my activities except my research (religious activities included) have been limited by the contract with the Ministry until recent years. Religious service which I did with her (whom I dated then), were limited in her house only. However, I have been trying to understand the history of Buddhism and absorb various development of its spirituality in University as my research.


Regret to say, it was not anyone from the “New Buddhist Organization” which she belonged but the “Traditional Buddhism Community” that educated me as a student and young researcher, giving me a lot which I had to do. I’m so much obliged to Professor M.K. (I write here only his initial) who was my supervisor and mentor, universities and persons who belonged to important temples of the “Traditional Buddhist Community”.


People who belonged to the “New Buddhist Organization” seemed to regard as follows: “Is he (myself) concealing or denying his affiliation to us in University or other places for being afraid to be considered as our fellow?” Or “Is he our fellow or not?” My communication and relations with them had been uncomfortable since more than ten years ago. I gave my family and partner anxiety for my relations with them as a young researcher. I think there were a lack of communication at first. In Japan, people do not confide or listen to their personal matters even among Japanese. There is a cultural aspect in the world of Japanese religionists that it is unnecessary to explain their basic positions repeatedly, because it all depends on their “affiliations” which are settled and unchangeable since they were born. However, I think it is inappropriate that Japanese try to understand foreigners’ situation basing on their own behaviors.


“New Buddhist Organization” and “Traditional Buddhist Community” were not able to have good relations historically. However, Professor M.K. and other people from the “Traditional Buddhist Community” accepted me basing on their kind understanding and because I clarified any detail of my situation at my department when I entered my University. People from the “Traditional Buddhist Community” still support my present research life. I understood and accepted also their (Professor M.K. and people from the “Traditional Buddhist Community”) faith and their views as a man who was able to accept a religion that differ from that of my family.    


So, I was asked very often “What is your religion?” or “What is your faith?” As you can understand now, my answer cannot be simple. I think I am both Christian and Buddhist. So, my answers are: I have more than one religion and I am accepting more than one faith. 1)My family’s faith (Catholic) 2) The faith of “New Buddhist Organization”, which my first partner in Japan believes. 3) The faith of “Traditional Buddhism” which my professor and mentor, Professor M.K. come from. 4) My wife’s faith. All the above are important part of my present spirituality because I understand and accept all their faith and values fully.   


For example, I’m ok with both the Catholic Rosary or Buddhist chanting which way I prayed in morning and evening with the people I knew. I experienced many times that I got feel better after both of these types of the worship. It is possible to rediscover same type of “vitality” many times even when we socialize with different communities. At the same time, I have no intention to mix them up. I speak Italian when speaking to Italians. I speak Japanese when speaking to Japanese people. I think with Italian culture when I am in Italy, and I think with Japanese culture when I’m in Japan.


When I speak to Christians, I think with Christian “language”. And when I speak to Buddhists, I think with Buddhist’s “language”. I can encourage Christians using Christian “language” and encourage Buddhists using Buddhist “language”. I often talk about points in common or similarities between Buddhism and Christianity. I also can advise Christians about the Buddhism viewpoints or advise Buddhists about Christian viewpoints. It is the same with people who get married with a person from a different religion, the multicultural identity of their children or the so-called “half” (people of mixed parentage, half Japanese and half foreigner, actually “double”, because they have more than one mother language, more than one culture and in some cases more than one spirituality).      


I sometimes answer that “When I accepted also a different faith, I transcended and jumped out settings like “my faith is only this one and not that one”. I have to say that the questions “What is your religion?” or “What is your faith?” cannot lead people to properly understand person like me.


I prefer the second answer. If I must answer following the categories from Catholic, which I belong since I was born, the “New Buddhist Organization” and from the “Traditional Buddhist Community”, maybe I should say that I come from Catholic Church, I am a person connected with the “Traditional Buddhist Community”, which Professor M.K. comes from, and that I’m also an “understander” of the “New Buddhist Organization”, which my first partner belongs.  But those categories are not always fit for person like me.  


At this point I often collide with group of people who works in one world only because they could not have the chance to know different cultures and sense of values. In detail, my “way of being” collides their “Position-ism” and their viewpoint about “How people should be”. For example, they often say to me: “Yes but, basically, you are just talking as a member of ‘X religion organization’ right? or “Yes but, after all, which group are you belonging to!?” or “You think too much!” or “You care too much!” So called “half” (people of mixed parentage) often receive the same treatment. Sorry to say, people like me inevitably stay beyond the sphere of “which world are you belonging to!?” I am very sorry.


If someone will eventually force me to select only one world at any cost, I will be left with two choices only. I would like to be open to any other open-minded person, no matter his/her faith or organization is. But, if forced to an exclusive choice, I must select (1) Catholic Church which at the beginning allow me to relate with other religions, or (2) the “Traditional Buddhism Community”, again with the consent of my family and the Catholic Church, because I ‘m so much obliged to person like Professor M.K. who were the only people who understand me, nurtured me, and gave me so much to do to grow as student and researcher. This is no more a matter of faith, but a matter of ethic. I have to choose the only open-minded side which understand my situation and utilize me effectively. In the case of (2) above, Catholic Church says that will give me the same forgiveness as twenty years ago by the reason “for the sake of my job” as a researcher.  


Anyway, I was born as a “bridge” between two worlds. A bridge is attached to more than one side. If someone cannot understand my situation or if someone do not have proper knowledge or experience about various circumstances of foreign people, I will say: please do not perceive as a crime of mine what simply is your lacking of understanding and knowledge.     


I believe that everyone was born as he/she was born because of his/her innate mission and reason of existence. Some people who have been lived only in their own world for their entire life may not understand it. But there is a way of “jumping out” even for them. I recommend them to study, for example, the historical development of our respective spiritualities and beliefs. If they can emancipate themselves from the present influence of their spiritual heritage, relativize that influence, and become creative toward it, they will also enjoy much deeper all the factors that makes them what they actually are.

That’s what I believe.


SGRA Kawaraban 691 in Japanese (Original)



Emanuele Davide Giglio / 2007 Graduated Student at the top of his class at the University of Turin, Italy, Dep. of Oriental Studies; Winner of the Optimus Prime (Industrial Union of Italy) as best graduated student for his Faculty (Foreign Languages); 2008-2014 Government Student for the Ministry of Education of Japan; 2012 Master degree from the University of Tokyo, Buddhist Studies; 2014 Scholarship Foreign Student for the Nichiren School, Head Office for the Propagation of Nichiren Buddhism, Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple, City of Ota, Tokyo; 2015 Raccoon; 2016 Scholarship Student for Society of Promotion of Buddhism; 2019 Doctoral degree from University of Tokyo, Buddhist studies; Special Foreign Researcher at the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science; Research fellow at the International Institute of Research on Nichirenology, University of Mt.Minobu.



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sabina Koilara