photos taken in May, 2015 on my second trip to Singapore, copyright Jo Ann Brown-Scott
It matters to me not what your personal religious beliefs and proclivities might me – there are places on earth made for the enjoyment of all people anywhere and any time. If you are unable to gain even some small satisfaction or comfort and appreciation from them, then read no further. But if you keep and open mind and heart, then read about this place that warms my soul.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Museum and Temple holds a special place in my heart, for reasons I may never fully understand. My second visit there happened this month and was more moving than the first. Part of the reason is that I am a person who values deep connections with people, places and things. Familiarity is of great value to me; I build upon my visual memories, smells and tactile experiences by getting to know things better and better.
When a great Buddha dies he is cremated, leaving bone and teeth remnants (and perhaps other remains) that are considered sacred and holy. But even during his lifetime, fragments of hair, for instance, are bestowed upon people who deserve to have that remembrance of a great Buddha with the possibility that it could make a difference when needed the most. Thus there are various temples around the world which house Buddha fragments of some type or another. This relatively humble 4 story temple in Singapore’s Chinatown houses a tooth fragment, displayed in a two meter tall, solid gold stupa which is a draw for many people. The temple is always crowded with visitors and there always seems to be some fascinating ceremony or mass reading going on which adds to its energy and colorful nature. Monks in saffron robes chant, incense burns and offerings of only the most fresh and perfectly beautiful fruit line the alter.
The roof garden pagoda on the top level affords a near silent respite from the action below – and you enter its enclosed peacefulness through a door that shelters a giant red prayer wheel, one of the most beautiful I have seen, and immediately you are invited to spin it as you walk around it murmuring your most fervent hopes, thanks and wishes to the universe. A red columned hallway surrounds the inside garden where gurgling water is the only sound, flowing amid lush, multi-colored foliage and flowers. This is a place of privacy and hope. A place to bring friends who you care the most about.
Buddhism, as you probably know, is not a true religion but a way of life that, among other things, places value on every living thing no matter how humble or even how grand. No matter what you believe personally, if you can embrace just that one thought, you must be on the right path. Wars could be a thing of the past….if only….we all believed that one thing.