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As of 2000, 42.5% of the Singaporeans register themselves as Buddhist by religion. Adherents of Buddhism are mostly of the Chinese majority ethnic group, although small minorities of Sinhalese and Thai Buddhists do exist as well.

Mahayana Buddhism is the most prevalent form of Buddhism in Singapore. Sizeable communities following other traditions include Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. The representative organization of Buddhism in Singapore is the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

Youths in Singapore who want to learn Buddhism and lead Buddhist lifestyles can join youth groups such as the Youth Ministry of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, Singapore Buddhist Mission Youth, WAY (Wat Ananda Youth), The Buddhist Fellowship, NUS Buddhist Society, NTU Buddhist Society, Singapore Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Nanyang Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Firefly Mission, YBC (Young Buddhist Chapter), 3GEMS (Buddhist guided tours) and many more youth groups.

Contents

History

The presence of Buddhism in Singapore was evident during the Srivijayan times. In line with ancestorial practices, many of the Chinese inhabitants also mix in Taoism and Confucianism to Buddhism. By virtue thereof, there is a strong trend blending towards Thai Buddhism, especially amongst the younger generation Singaporeans, which is seen to bear cultural similarities for its ability in encompassing Chinese culture and practices as represented in Taoism. Buddhism as represented by Theravada Buddhism, the oldest Buddhist school of thought, is seeing a potent growth in Singapore in the past decade.

The Singapore census includes detailed data on religion and ethnicity. Figures on Buddhism in 1980 shown that 27% of Singaporeans are Buddhists, up to 31.2% in 1990 and 42.5% in 2000. It is also noted that there is a significant increase of interest in the Buddhist teachings (Dharma), practices, and customs (i.e chanting, meditation, and offering formality). With a younger and more informed population, Buddhism is seen as the most viable religion in Singapore.

Traditions and ceremonies

There has been an effort to distinguish certain customs and practices in both Buddhism and Taoism as folks traditions and practices by a minority group of people. The majority of adherents of these faiths, however, are unaware of such distinctions. This is to be seen in the vagueness of identification distinction amongst the followers of the faiths. As such, many so called "Buddhists" are actually adherents of Chinese folk traditions who visits temples of Chinese folk traditions for worship rather than learning the Dharma from Buddhist monasteries. Similar trends are also witnessed in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Traditions

The Mahayana school, Theravada school, and Tibetan Buddhism have acquired sizable followings. Monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand and other South-eastern countries have come to teach their form of the Dharma to the Chinese in Singapore. As a result, a number of Theravada and other Buddhist temples like the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple have sprung up in recent years.

Buddhism in modern Singapore

The Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple on Race Course Road is often referred to as the Temple of 1,000 Lights.

In recent years, due to the increasing publication of Buddhist books, the appearance of internet sites in English, the availability of modern Buddhist music as well as courses conducted in English, more and more English-speaking Chinese, especially the younger Singaporeans, are joining Buddhist circles. As a nation of immigrants, majority from mainland China, Buddhism in Singapore inevitably took the form of Chinese Mahayana perspection. Therefore practitioners of Chinese Mahayana remain the majority of the Buddhist populations in Singapore. However, the rise of Thai Buddhism in Asia, which denomination rests on the oldest school of thought of Theravada Buddhism, there is a strong proliferating trend of averting to this intrinsic form of Buddhism. The Japanese Buddhist organization, the Soka Gakkai International, has many members, in Singapore. It is registered as the Singapore Soka Association. It has taken part in National Day Parade, Chingay Parade, inter religion dialogue, cultural, art and educational seminars, and humanitarian relief, such as during and after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The Singapore members of the Soka Gakkai are mostly those of Chinese descent. Another sect of Buddhism that is seen making slow inroad into Singapore is Tibetan Buddhism that seems to benefit from the writings of western monks and writers (e.g., the Dalai Lama, Thubten Chodron, Tenzin Palmo).

Singapore's Buddhist temples and religious circles are highly organized and very often have a connection with foreign religious organizations, especially in China, Taiwan, Thailand, the USA, the UK, Sri Lanka, etc. Many foreign Buddhist associations and temples have also established branches in Singapore to propagate Buddhist teachings and activities. Buddhist temples and associations are spread all over Singapore, ranging from small to large.

The largest Chinese Mahayana Buddhist temple in Singapore is Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, whilst Thai Theravada Buddhism is represented by an equally prominent temple, the Wat Ananda Metyarama Temple. These temples hold many Buddhist activities such as chanting, meditation, retreats, and Dharma talks, as well as offering Buddhist courses on Dharma and meditation, very often attended by thousands of devotees and adherents of the respective lineage.

Religious liberty in Singapore has also provided a conducive environment for the development of varying Buddhist practices. Furthermore, as with Taoism, Buddhism is taking a turn into a new vista with the elevation of educational levels amongst followers and devotees, where more are seen to indulge in spiritual practices and self-enhancement such as meditation, practicing mindfulness, studies and understanding of religious history and etc. with proper altar set up at home for paying homage to Lord Buddha.

Several Buddhist youth groups organise activities such as camps, Dharma lessons, meditation classes, fellowship and community services for the young. They include kmsYM, the Youth Ministry of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, the Youth Group of Singapore Buddhist Mission, WAY (Wat Ananda Youth), Buddhist Fellowship, 3GEMS, a group of youths offering guided Buddhist tours around major temples in Singapore and Dharma In Action set up by a group of Buddhist enthusiasts to promote the learning, understanding and practice of life-style Buddhism in modern societies.

Buddhist monasteries and temples

Dharma Centres

Tertiary Youth Groups

  • National University of Singapore Buddhist Society
  • National Technology University Buddhist Society
  • Singapore Polytechnic Buddhist Society
  • Nanyang Polytechnic Buddhist Society
  • Ngee Ann Polytechnic Buddhist Society

External links

References

  • Chia, Jack Meng Tat. "Buddhism in Singapore: A State of the Field Review." Asian Culture 33 (June 2009): 81-93.
  • Kuah, Khun Eng. State, Society and Religious Engineering: Towards a Reformist Buddhism in Singapore. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003.
  • Ong, Y.D. Buddhism in Singapore: A Short Narrative History. Singapore: Skylark Publications, 2005.
  • Shi Chuanfa 释传发. Xinjiapo Fojiao Fazhan Shi 新加坡佛教发展史 [A History of the Development of Buddhism in Singapore]. Singapore: Xinjiapo fojiao jushilin, 1997.
  • Wee, Vivienne. “Buddhism in Singapore.” In Understanding Singapore Society, eds. Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong and Tan Ern Ser, pp. 130-162. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997.
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