Interview: Buddhism & Young Singaporeans


Could you describe your involvement in Buddhism?

Joined NUS Buddhist Society in Freshman Year, was my first formal involvement in a Buddhist Organisation. Was involved in its Orientation Camp Committee, and later on went on to run for a Management Committee post in second year. I am now the President of the 28th Management Committee.

Characteristics of Interviewee

Could you share with me some of your primary life values?

To cherish our experiences and to value the lives of others.

3. How would you describe your character?

Easy going yet critical, thinker, sentimental.

4. What are the types of activities you engage in leisurely?

Reading, watching anime, watching taiwanese variety shows, wushu, jogging.

5. Reasons for Conversion/Keeping the Faith

What attracted you to Buddhism? (Possible probes: beliefs and logic of Buddhism; how the religion is carried out; people; friends; family; follow-through)

Buddhism is not based on other-worldly powers, such as gods, but it is based on the truth of our experiences. Mainly, through meditation, the central practice of Buddhism, we get to investigate the workings of the mind, the thought processes, our emotions, our reactions that are conditioned by our past experiences. I get to realise how subtle and very profound Buddhism is when it talks about our original nature. Neither over-simplifying, yet the truth being very simple, Buddhism changes the way we can look at things. Time seems to slow down for us to enjoy everything around us, and time also slows down and lets us realise when we are doing things that are harmful to ourselves or others. With Buddhism, we can counsel ourselves when we are feeling down, we can counsel others when they are having difficult times. With Buddhism, we can improve our relationships with others.

6. What were the issues you considered in deciding on Buddhism rather than other religions? (Possible probes: compare with Taoism, Christianity; and the option of having no religion, difficulties of each religion)

Judeo-Islamic-Christian faiths are based on the omniscient, omnipotent, creator god that is good in nature. The presence of evil refutes the existence of such a god. The threat of hell for non-believers, despite their deeds in life, and the selfishness of the love of a god that only redeems those who worship him also turned me off, and made me determined to find out more about all other religions to make a comparison. In the process, I found that Taoism and Buddhism were very valuable thought-systems that could do all the good that Christianity can do, and beyond that, are very embracing and tolerant. Since as Indians and Chinese, we already have such valuable cultures and philosophies that can help ourselves and society, why must we turn to other religions when these foreign religions by nature are very chauvanistic and tend to object to traditional and original practices by calling them paganistic, and wish to wipe out other cultures?

Having no religion, however, just sends us off on the path of living a life that does not contemplate deeply life’s greatest question: what is the meaning of all of this when death wipes out everything? To me, such a path is empty. Living such a life seems devoid of meaning, since everything we do will be wiped clean upon death. So why do we do the things we do, if everything is zero at the end? I cannot live a material life without having this question answered… it would be living for the sake of living.

Buddhism, with its applications to the mind by its methods of meditation and contemplation, offers me answers to existence and life without having to compromise resort to blind faith, without having to resort to threats, without wiping out cultures and traditions, and most importantly, the more I find out, the more I am happier with Buddhism.

Process of Conversion & Belief

7. Could you describe how Buddhism has affected your behaviour and lifestyle? (Possible probes: worldview, how death is viewed)

I used to be very afraid of death. Now, the idea of death no longer frightens me.

More importantly, Buddhism, with its self-counselling powers, enables me to deal with upsets, terrors, anger and stress. Because we get a glimpse of things as they really are as we study and contemplate more and more about Buddhism, we see beyong the illusions, halucinations and superficial surface of events and people and concepts that lead to all the negative ways that we are conditions to react in. There is a ‘gap’ in my thoughts-time dimension that enables me to identify both positive and negative emotions as they arise, and helps me do less stupid things and help more people around me.
All in all, I was an easy-going person, and now I am still easy-going, but alot happier, because I get to truly enjoy life.
8. Could you describe the activities you engage in with your fellow Buddhists? (Possible probes: organisations you’re involved in; frequency; type of people; relationships with them)
In NUS Buddhist Society, we organise activities to reach out to those who are interested in Buddhism. Aside from these, we just do what normal people do: we eat together, chat together, joke and laugh together. The only subtle difference is that with fellow Buddhists, there is less negative undercurrents around, with more understanding and readiness to forgive. Friendship is more innocent. Furthermore, there is the common goal and common profound teachings to share that we never get bored of. Friendship is more spiritual than material.

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