Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and Taoist representatives offer perspectives from their own traditions
Ms Vasandy S. N., Master Chung Kwang Tong, Phra Goh Chun Kiang, Ustaz Goh Muhammad Redhuan and Msgr
Five representatives from the Hindu, Muslim, Taoist, Buddhist and Catholic communities came together recently to share about the topic of “birth”.
The event was organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD) on Aug 5 at CANA.
The 52 people who attended included ACCIRD members, Catholics from various parishes and archdiocesan organisations, guests from other Christian communities as well Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Taoist friends.
It was intended to be a simple but rich evening of learning and exchange to promote greater interreligious understanding, respect and harmony.
Ms Vasandy S. N., a member of the teaching faculty of the Philosophy Department in the Hindu Hub, told the gathering that for Hindus, just as with many other religions, birth is a very auspicious affair. It is a sign of how the family lineage can carry
At a deeper level, each and every Hindu has three debts to repay: towards ancestors, the rishis (the saints) who have guarded knowledge and passed it down, and also to God. Hindus talk about multiple births until one realises oneself to be with God.
Master Chung Kwang Tong, Administrator of the Taoist Federation (Singapore), explained that Taoists believe that the many different types of birth can generally be classified into four main types: from the womb (humans, mammals), eggs (birds, fish, reptiles), moisture (insects) and manifestation (deities, spirits).
They believe that there is a guardian spirit (“Tai Shen”) that looks after the foetus throughout pregnancy, that dislikes noise or any form of disturbance. Taoists also believe that the body is formed by the spiritual and physical self. The Tai Shen, regarded as the spiritual side, will join with the body once the baby is
Phra Goh Chun Kiang, a Theravada monk from the Palelai Buddhist Temple, said that Buddhists talk about rebirth (like Hindus) and six realms of existence of which the human realm is one. The chances of human birth are slim compared to the birth of other beings.
With regard to becoming a Buddhist, there is a ritual. A person has to take refuge in the triple gems (the Buddha, Sangha and the Dharma). The process is short and some chanting is done. There is also the taking of the five precepts in the Theravada tradition unlike the Mahayana tradition.
Ustaz Goh Muhammad Redhuan, an officer at the Harmony Centre (MUIS), shared that the Qur’an speaks about different stages of birth. When a child is born, the first thing the father does is to whisper the call to prayer (“azan”) to the right ear that Allah is most great so that the child may be born on earth listening to the words of God and be faithful to the path.
The parents will then chew a sweet date and place a little bit in the mouth or palate of the baby as a good sign. On the seventh day, a ceremony called the “Aqiqah” (“to cut”, here it means to slaughter an animal for Allah’s sake) is held to announce the birth and to invite friends and family to join in the joyous occasion.
Msgr Philip Heng, Vicar General for Interreligious Relations, shared that Catholic-Christians believe that as far as birth or the coming into existence in this world of the human person is concerned, people have been created in God’s image and likeness with the innate desire to love.
The “first parents” however rejected God’s love and people inherited original sin. As birth comes from God and because that relationship is broken, the restoration of that relationship made possible by Jesus Christ is in the Sacrament of Baptism. The ordinary form of baptism by pouring or immersion with water, has the essential words, “I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
He also spoke about baptism of blood and by desire.