Sunday, April 19, 2009

Striking a Chord With Buddhism

Visiting a Buddhist temple was hardly on the cards for my Singapore trip. For one, the thought didn't occur even once when I tried to make a list of things I would like to do here. But as it would turn out, I found my self visiting a couple of Buddhist temples, and almost made it to a third.

The courtyard at the entrance of the Tooth relic temple - yes, it was raining again!

Talking about the Buddha tooth relic temple is almost straight from the tourist guide. To be honest, that's how I landed upon it in the first place - I was looking up China Town, and this temple is round the corner, just off Pagoda street and therefore fell into both mine and Uniquely Singapore's China Town 'itinerary'. Having said that, the temple is simply one of the magnificent of Buddhist temples I have seen - in a rich and grand way. It's simple exterior gives no clue of the rich, impressive hall or the eye-dazzling Maitreya inside. I was in awe.

A lady lighting an incense stick in offering

Ironically, I also witnessed one of the most beautiful Buddhist services with people were singing in a choir like fashion here. Despite what seems like a lifetime of monasteries in Sikkim and Ladakh, this is the first time I saw or heard anything like it. The song was lyric-less. And the whole of it sung with the one syllable 'ah'. For once, I wish I could sing right now instead of using these words so you can also see how beautiful it was. (Although, you are probably better off not hearing me sing!). It was one the most moving prayers I have heard. I stood there for almost an hour -just like that, just listening.

People singing together

And the last thing I liked about this temple (yes, one more reason) - they have a nice museum on the second or third floor. In the Ladakh trip, I finally picked up a guide which ran through some of the basics of Buddhism. My knowledge before being limited to only Gautama Buddha, but the religion itself has a begining much older than that. The museum tracing the life of Gautama Buddha was a nice stop, adding a few more grains of information.

The Maitreya in all his glory