Participants viewing a statue of Buddha at the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery on Oct 28.
By Jared Ng
Eye-opening, humbling and informative. This was how participants described their visit to the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery on Oct 28.
Twelve participants visited the monastery, also the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore, located at Bright Hill Rd.
It was organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) and aimed to help Catholics better appreciate interreligious dialogue as well as promote mutual respect and friendship with people of other faiths.
“It was eye-oepning for me to know that Buddhism has some similarities with the Catholic faith, such as their five contemplations before meals which is like our grace before meals,” said Ms Joycelyn Chue from the Church of Divine Mercy.
Another participant said the influence of culture in Buddhism also shares similarities with Catholicism.
“The way Buddha is portrayed in different countries reminds me of how Mother Mary is also portrayed in different parts of the world,” he said, adding that “the visit was an enjoyable and informative experience.”
Venerable Chuanqing and Venerable Changqing, both assistant professors at the Buddhist College of Singapore, spoke on various topics including the history of Buddhism and the different traditions of Buddhism such as Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana.
Participants touring a museum located within the monastery.
According to the monks, most Buddhists belong to the Mahayana tradition in Singapore.
Venerable Chuanqing explained that all Buddhists strive to reach the state of Nirvana, which is the ultimate salvation and extinguishing of all desires.
The monks also highlighted the significance of the “Triple Gem” in Buddhism which refer to the founder, Buddha; the Dharma which is the teachings expounded by Buddha; and the Sangha, which refers to the community of monks and nuns who practise the Dharma.
During the question-and-answer segment, one participant asked why Buddhists chant.
The monks said that chanting is not necessarily a prayer but more of a way to prepare the mind for meditation.
Another question posed was how many monks live in the monastery.
“About 100,” replied Venerable Changqing.
One of the highlights of the tour was viewing the largest Buddha statue in South East Asia.
Participants visited a museum containing the relics of Venerable Seck Hong Choon, who was conferred the title of “Supreme Chinese Monk” by the King of Thailand in 1987.
They also visited some of the prayer halls within the monastery including one which houses the largest Buddha statue in South East Asia with a height of 13.8 m.