Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and Taoist representatives speak on the topic

x-hindu x-buddhist x-taoist x-muslim x-catholic 
Speakers (from left): Mr Anand Chandrasekar, Venerable You Guang, Master Chung Kwang Tong, Ustaz Zulhilmi Mohamed and Jesuit Msgr Philip Heng.

By Christopher Khoo

How do some of the major religions view death? This was what an interfaith sharing session aimed to find out.

Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and Taoist representatives gathered at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on Oct 24 to share their religion’s understanding of “death” with participants of various faiths.

The session, organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD), was the third in a series of sessions on life’s milestones. The previous two focused on birth and marriage.

Mr Anand Chandrasekar, who conducts Hinduism classes, shared that in his religion, liberation from samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, is considered the ultimate goal of earthly existence. This is known as moksha, mahasamadhi or Nirvana in Hinduism.

He shared that Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. Hindus believe that the soul reincarnates, evolving through many births until all karmas have been resolved and moksha is attained.

Venerable You Guang, president/abbot of the Samantabhadra Vihara Buddhist monastery, said that in Buddhism, life and death are seen as a whole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life.

After death, humans are reborn into one of six states and 31 planes of existence, and the quality of their new life is influenced by past actions.

The release from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth is possible by following the practices of the Noble Eight Fold Path that Buddhism teaches, he shared.

Master Chung Kwang Tong, a 34th-generation Taoist priest of the lineage of the Quan Zhen Longmen (Dragon Gate) Tradition, said that Taoists believe there is a formless “soul” that merges with the physical body at birth, and which generates energy in the body.

Taoists believe that it is people’s responsibility to care for their bodies, and that suicide is regarded as a sin.

Ustaz Zulhilmi Mohamed, mosque manager of An-Nahdhah Mosque in Bishan, shared that Islam views death not as the termination of life but rather the continuation of life in another form and place. Death is regarded as the beginning of eternal life, he said.

God will resurrect and judge everyone, granting each person reward or punishment according to his or her deeds, he added.

Jesuit Msgr Philip Heng, rector of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and Singapore archdiocese’s Vicar General for Interreligious Relations, shared that the essence of the Christian faith is about eternal life with
God.

He said that all who live a good life, not just Christians, can gain eternal life.

The session also saw speakers answering participants’ questions and taking part in a panel discussion. 

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