SINGAPORE – Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who was born 500 years before Christ, some 150 Catholics learned at a talk titled, "Love of God, Love of My Buddhist Neighbour" by Brother Michael Broughton.

Brother Michael drew similarities and differences between
Buddhism and Catholicism during the talk. Buddhists believe in impermanence, he said. Unlike Catholicism that teaches that each person has an eternal soul, Buddhists do not believe that people have souls that last forever.

He related a story to show that Buddhists are not concerned with the afterlife but more interested in the here and now, and explained that while Catholics believe in heaven, Buddhists believe in rebirth.

The Buddhist term "metta", which can be translated as compassion that is proactive, is close to what Christian love is like, he said. Buddhists practise compassion as a way to neutralize karma which results from doing wrong.

Buddhism is atheistic, and does not state whether a god exists, he added.

"Buddhists in Singapore practise a syncretic form of Buddhism and Taoism," Brother Michael said. "Singaporeans who claim to be Buddhists often participate in Taoist rites."

The audience asked questions about interacting with Buddhists: Can Catholics hold joss sticks? Can we eat vegetarian food from Buddhist restaurants? How can I be sensitve to my Buddhist neighbour?

"If your heart is pure, you don’t have to worry about holding joss sticks out of respect," said Brother Michael. "The Bishop of Taipei holds joss sticks to honour the dead every year during Qing Ming." The Qing Ming Festival is an annual Chinese festival to honour one’s ancestors.

He said that knowing about Buddhism will help Catholics to be more understanding towards Buddhist practices, and thus be sensitive to their Buddhist neighbours. By Regina Xie

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