Reply to Reply ("Joss Sticks" Press Article)
Dear MH ,
Thank you for your email and for sharing your insights. I admire and respect your level-headedness and obvious respect for all religions.
There was another Buddhist reader like yourself, who wrote in lamenting how Buddhism and Taoism are losing their young followers in Singapore. Do you worry about this too?
-Xue Ying (Straits Times)
Dear Xue Ying,
Yes, I do worry about this issue. On one hand, I think it has to do with the trend of the Singaporen society becoming increasingly materialistic. In democratic countries like Singapore, freedom is very often defined as the freedom to desire and get. Our society believes that happiness can be achieved by satisfying our desires. The Buddha taught that true happiness can only come from the freedom from desire, for our desires are endless and the pleasures they bring are always fleeting. I believe the latter to be true (refer to Times Magazine, Feb 28th issue on "The Science of Happiness").
Reports have also shown that contrary to popular belief, the wealthiest countries are not the happiest (refer to http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=7,878,0,0,1,0 ). It is intriguing that the developed West, saturated but unsatisfied with the fruits of materialism, now statistically has Buddhism as its fastest growing religion (refer to http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=2,34,0,0,1,0 ), while the developing East seems to be getting more materialistic, and less spiritual. The native Buddhist countries in the East are thus forgetting their roots at the sad cost of forsaking a time-tested path to happiness. Will we have to come one big full circle to realise the value of Buddhism?
On the other hand, I think many local youths' turning away from Buddhism has to do with the lack of education on its teachings. Our Buddhist organisations are not doing enough to educate its followers. Most efforts and resources are spent on cultural, worshipping and ritual aspects of the religion. Thus, the perception of Buddhism as superstitious persists.
The Buddha was able to inspire countless people of His time from all walks of life as He was able to provide what the people truly needed - a practical path to attain true happiness. If Buddhism in Singapore is able to return to this root purpose of its reason for existing, I am sure it will remain a strong force in the spiritual psyche of Singapore society.
Having said so, I do not think Buddhism is a suitable religion for everybody. There will always be people who are not ready to receive the Buddha’s teachings. There will be those who find other religions more suited to their psychological needs. But with or without any religion, as long as they practise avoiding evil and doing good, I am sure the Buddha would approve, though from my personal understanding, He showed the clearest path to the true happiness that we all yearn for.