The death of Singaporean Buddhist youth

It hit me again.
This is not the first time that I’m aware of this issue. In fact, this was what made me curious to find out more about Buddhism in my teenage years. And this was what drove me to join BS, where even while I was in NS I was already nursing the thought:
Stop the death of Buddhism in Singapore youths.
Later when I joined NUS BS, I learnt a stunning thing:
Buddhist youth is not dead in Singapore… in fact, it was reviving.
But it was foolish of me to have been too elated. The revival of Buddhist youth was too slow, far too slow… the damage was already done. There was a vacuum of Buddhism for those born between 1979-1989. A ten year vacuum that could change the landscape of Buddhism in Singapore irreversibly.
Already in NUS BS you can see the impact. Of a membership of 165, 20+ are Singaporeans. Less than 10%, in a local university where the intake is at least 60% Singaporeans. The absence of my countrymen is painfully obvious. I can only name 3 local freshmen that have turned up for our activities so far, our of the 80 or so that come now and then. The Society is successful; Singaporeans are a failure.
Singaporeans! Where are you? Worrying about what you’re going to wear tomorrow? Striving for that well-paid job with least work to do? Wanting to get into top echelons of society so that you can have what you want and socialise with the rich and famous? Or simply stuck with trying to get to know the next chio bu or yan dao? Learning what’s hip and cool, dissing what’s uncool and out-of-fad?
Cool? What cool? When you’re dead, your body turns cool. Then you’ll be cool forever!
Disgusted. Is that lab report, that mini-project, that assignment, that 60% exam, that part-time job, really that important? Do you look beyond your nosebridge to see old age, sickness, death, parting with loved ones, unstoppable craving, and uncontrollable hatred staring you right in your face? Or has your view been blocked by your lecture notes?
Next year, the President of NUS BS will not be a Singaporean.
For the first 25 years of NUS BS, its function was to develop leaders for the Buddhism community. Today we see them active all over the associations and temples in Singapore.
For the last 2 years, we have struggled to do the same.
Next year onwards, this role will probably change. The tone is different when NUS BS’s position in Singapore is not to cater to Singaporeans. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is just a fact that the colour of the society, its functions, its positions in the big picture, all change when the helm of the society is of a different make-up.
Why have things come to this pretty pass?
1) MOE scrapped the religious education syllabus in 1993. From then on was the dearth of a steady stream of Buddhism seniors to come into NUS and fulfil the BS role of being a good start-off point in the Dharma. Trickling out was the supporting interest for Buddhism in university students.
2) The examinations system changed to the american way of semestral examinations compared to yearly examinations. This impacted all CCAs. Everyone now has less time to spend on extra-curricular stuff, except foreign students who are forced to participate in order to stay in residences. For locals, why bother? I have a home.
3) The local Buddhism community was slow to react to engage youths. Period. You’re already 10 years late.
4) Foreign talent policy. Sometimes I wonder if I am studying in Singapore or not. Hey, it’s fine to have so many foreign friends. But can I ask: do their loyalties lie in their home country, or does their gratitude lie in your tuition grant? Is Singapore just a stepping stone to a better life? If it is, then can I hope that they will want to contribute to the local community? Or is their first priority to go back home and improve conditions there? If you ask me, it’s only right that their loyalty, their gratitude, their contribution and their prioities are in their land of birth. It’s called Loyalty to Country. If in that case, the Singapore government has played its cards wrong.
5) Urban environment. Developed city-state. Death of the need for spirituality. We have too many material comforts around us, and we are striving for more. If they do not feel the suffering of this world, why would they bother to learn the way out of it? And eventually when they are in trouble, then they turn to look for a quick fix formula. Sadly, it doesn’t exist. Sadly, it means they would not be youths by then.
"And?" You might say. "So WHAT?"
And so,
this is the death of Singaporean Buddhist youth.
Will they be reborn again? When the new batch of Sunday-schooled kids finally filter into the Univesities?
will BS still be able to be their home by then?
And so,
I was unable to achieve what I set out to do, in the July of 2004:
To stop the death of Singaporean Buddhist youth.

1 Comment

  1. Irwin said,

    9 October 2006 at 12:52

    haloz… haiz dunno abt buddhism and youths in spore but it is true that when it comes to university pursuits, locals are more laidback and passive. tink foreigners are over-represented in almost every student club. good or bad remains to be seen.

    "Cool? What cool? When you\’re dead, your body turns cool. Then you\’ll be cool forever!"
    ~ i love this quote! it is so… ermz… cool… whahahahaha

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