5 May 2022 - 3 Jun 2022

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This May, LET’S LEARN ABOUT…Buddhism!

 

What is Buddhism?

Buddhism began around 2,500 years ago in India and is now one of the world’s largest religions. It is based on the teachings of the Buddha. Born a prince, Siddartha gave up his riches and made it his mission in life to search for a way for humans to be free from suffering and to achieve true happiness. After he succeeded in his quest and became the Buddha, he taught his followers how to achieve this too.

 

Where do Buddhists worship?

Buddhists worship at temples or monasteries, where they meditate and pray. Some also set up shrines at home to worship privately. Buddhists offer fresh flowers, lights, and lamps, or burn fragrant incense at shrines with images of the Buddha. These acts pay respect to the Buddha and make merit for the devotee.

 

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, at South Bridge Rd

 

Vesak Day – The day the Buddha achieved enlightenment 

Vesak Day is an important Buddhist festival commemorated by Buddhists worldwide. This year, it falls on 15 May in Singapore. While it is often referred to as the “Buddha’s Birthday”, its actual significance is to mark the birth, enlightenment, and passing of the Buddha.

In Singapore, the festival is celebrated by the major sects, including Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhists. They will do good deeds, meditate, and gather to share food with people on this special day. Some Buddhist temples organise large-scale prayer ceremonies. Other customs include bathing of Buddha images and hosting public talks and learning sessions for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

 

Other practices

Some Buddhists follow vegetarian diets, especially on the 1st and 15th days of the lunar month, to purify themselves and gain good merit. In Singapore, the Singapore Buddhist Federation is a highly respected group led by the Venerable Seck Kwang Phing. 

 

singapore buddhist federation building  

Singapore Buddhist Federation, along Guillemard Road

 

 

WATCH AND LISTEN

Watch and listen to a short video clip on A Story about the Buddha here.

 

  • Drop down for transcript

    A Story about the Buddha

    Here is a story about the Buddha.

     

    A long, long time ago in Nepal, a baby boy was born a prince in a royal palace. His name was Siddhartha. At the time of his birth, a prophet told the king that his son would grow up to become either a great king or a wise teacher. He would become a teacher if he saw these four signs: an old man, a sick person, a dead body, and a monk.

     

    The king wanted his son to become a great king like him. Therefore, he didn’t allow Siddhartha to leave the palace, so that he would not have the chance to see the four signs.

     

    For many years, young Siddhartha stayed in the palace, always with good food to eat, fine clothes to wear, and servants to wait on him. You might say the prince had everything!

    Soon, Siddhartha grew into a young man. But he became restless with the palace life. One day, he decided to go for a ride outside the palace with Channa, his servant.

     

    On the way, Siddhartha came across a man bent over with age. He had never seen an old man before.

     

    “Who is that, Channa?” he asked his servant.

    “He is an old man”, replied Channa. “We will all grow old one day, prince!”

    Siddhartha was troubled as they made their way back to the palace.

     

    A few days passed, and Siddhartha went out again. This time, he encountered a man looking weak and crying out loud.

    He asked Channa, “Why is that man wailing?”

    “That man is sick and is crying in pain”. Once again, Siddhartha was troubled as they went back to the palace.

     

    The next time he was out, Siddhartha saw a group of people carrying a dead body. Channa explained, “One day, we will all die”.

    Siddhartha began to realise that his father had kept him inside the palace to protect him from the troubles of the world. He grew sad thinking of all the pain and suffering that people faced.

     

    The fourth time Siddhartha was outside the palace, he saw something different. This time, he saw a man with a shaven head, dressed in a simple robe, and carrying a bowl in his hand. The man had a calm and peaceful look on his face.

    “Who’s that man?”, he asked Channa.

    “Oh, that’s a monk. He left everything behind from his former life in order to meditate and find happiness”, Channa replied.

     

    Siddhartha thought about all he had seen. He, too, wanted to be able to find happiness in a world filled with pain and suffering. So he secretly left the palace one night to live like the monk, leaving his comfortable life behind.

     

    Years passed, and one day, while meditating under a bodhi tree, Siddhartha opened his eyes and finally understood what it means to be free from suffering. In that moment, he became a buddha (which means “enlightened one”). And he spent the rest of his life as a wise teacher, guiding others in what he had learned. 

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    OBJECTS FROM OUR COLLECTION

    Check out these objects related to Buddhism from our Ancient Religions Gallery on Level 2 (part of the Ancient Religion Gallery is currently closed under rotation works, and will be closed till end-May 2022)

    Buddha teaching

    Buddha teaching

    Gandhara, 3rd or 4th century

    Schist

    2015-00472

     

    Look at the Buddha’s hands in this sculpture. They are held together in what is called the “turning of the wheel" (of Buddhist law) position. This hand gesture (called a "mudra") shows that the Buddha is teaching his followers (devotees). Can you spot two small figures below him? They are devotees looking up and admiring the Buddha.

     

    Let’s look at the Buddha’s face and body. His facial features and the draping of his robe over the strong, muscular body are similar to sculptures made in ancient Greece and Rome. Gandara, the region where this sculpture was made, was a major crossroads, and the art made there was influenced by different civilisations.

     

    Looking at his posture, the cross-legged pose, eyes looking down, and the circular halo behind his head (now damaged) all signal to viewers that the Buddha is deep in his spiritual practice.

     

     

    Alms bowl

    Alms bowl

    Cambodia, 20th century

    Rattan, lacquer, twine

    1995-01628 


    What do you think this large, covered bowl was used for? Bowls like this are used by monks to collect their daily alms (donations of clothing, money, or food). This bowl, made of rattan (plant fibres) is a modest example, perhaps from a village temple in Cambodia. It's about 90 years old. It's 38 cm wide, and about 18 cm tall when the cover is on.

     

    Buddhists gain merit by making offerings to monks during their alms rounds. Another way of gaining merit is through doing good deeds. Buddhists believe that merit can help to ensure a good position in one's next life.

     

     

    EXPLORE

     

    Head to NHB’s one-stop heritage portal Roots.sg to read more about Buddhism:

     

    Buddha teaching

    Alms Bowl

    Walking Buddha

    Vesak Day

     

    Want more of these resources? Come back to learn new things every month.

    Missed a monthly post? Not to worry, we keep past topics here for you.

    What else would you like to learn about? Tell us here.

     

    There’s more!

    Check out other videos and download e-resources inspired by the objects in ACM’s collection.