The ultimate guide to Vesak Day 2022 in Singapore: 10 things to do this long weekend!

The ultimate guide to Vesak Day 2022 in Singapore: 10 things to do this long weekend!

Vesak Day, also known as Buddha Day, is a sacred day to millions of Buddhists worldwide. It commemorates the day that Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and passed away. It gives us an opportunity for quiet reflection on Buddha’s teachings and the values of compassion, wisdom, and kindness.

It has evolved over time and brings different meanings to different people!

After 2 years of muted celebrations due to the pandemic, this year’s May 15 will see practitioners gathering and celebrating it in different ways. If you are trying to plan out your Vesak Day weekend to bask in the spirit of Vesak, check out these 10 things you can do!

1. Plan your calendar for your temple-hopping!

Torii Gate, Japan

Find an excuse to head out for the long weekend by visiting the many temples that are open. Use our directory to navigate the many online and offline activities. Who knows?

You might find yourself in the middle of a concert or peaceful chanting session.

Your directory is right here!

2. Three steps, One bow

Vesak 3-steps-1-bow Practice 31 May 2015 – Ramblings of a Monk
Photo Credit: KMSPKS

The three-step, one-bow ceremony is an expression of devotion and serves to lessen mental defilements or build virtue as one goes through the activity. This practice, which symbolically reminds us of the difficult but rewarding journey to enlightenment, has been passed down and has evolved into the 3-Step, 1-Bow we know today.

Book your free tickets here

3. Bless your pet!

Are you a paw-rent? This might just be for you! Following the Buddha’s Universal Love for all beings including animals, Thekchen Choling is organising their first animal blessing night event on the eve of Vesak Day! Happening on 14th May from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, there will be many fun-filled and interactive activities for you and your pet to enjoy!

Check it out here!

4. Check out some Food carnivals!

brown bread on black table
Unsplash

While tuning in to some peaceful Buddhist teaching (food for the heart), why not check out food for the body?

Check out food fairs organised by Buddhist Fellowship near newton or spicy tteokbokki and takoyaki at KMSPKS’s Vesak Carnival

5. Help fill the stomachs of the needy

person slicing on the wooden board
Unsplash

In the spirit of Buddha’s compassion shown to many beings, why not give back by volunteering at a Soup kitchen? There are multiple time slots and different tasks you can choose to volunteer with Willing Hearts. 

Hone your chopping and cooking skills here!

6. Find a quiet space to experience peace

Marina Barrage - Visit Singapore Official Site
Credits: Visit Singapore Website

Visit nature places with your insect repellant to reconnect with nature by taking in the good vibes. Plug into the sound of nature to meditate or try one of the meditation audio guides!

We highly recommend botanic gardens, marina barrage, or a nearby park!

7. Be a Buddy to seniors

Supporting seniors in going digital for life - Infocomm Media Development  Authority
Credit: IMDA

We often think that giving means the gift of money. This Vesak, we invite you to rethink the idea of generosity! Volunteer with YouthCorp SG & Healthhub to strengthen the digital literacy of our seniors by empowering them and reducing the waiting time at the polyclinics. 

Giving starts here!

8. Go vegetarian!

vegetable salad
Green Yum! Cred: Unsplash

In the spirit of non-harming, why not go vegetarian? The possibilities are endless with vegetarian food. Check out this sleek guide to vegetarian food places in Singapore!

FYI! Circuit Road Hawker Centre has one of the highest concentrations of vegetarian hawkers.

9. Watch a movie related to Buddhism

Buddha Netflix show - OnNetflix.ca
Netflix: Buddha (2013)

Netflix lover? Watch this live-action TV series about the Buddha. I was personally hooked on it!

Alternatively, watch a short < 30 mins documentary about the late famous zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Be inspired on Vesak!

10. Kick start your meditation habit

woman sitting on cliff overlooking mountains during daytime
Unsplash

Always trying to start the ‘meditation habit’ that every productive/mental health guru has been talking about? 

Why not join HOL’s free meditation challenge for 30 days? Who knows you might just start a new meditation habit that last!

#WW🥰: Dhamma advice for hopeless romantics…a nun shares more

#WW🥰: Dhamma advice for hopeless romantics…a nun shares more

Wholesome Wednesdays (WW): Bringing you curated positive content on Wednesdays to uplift your hump day.

As more peers get married, there is sometimes a creeping sense of urgency to find a partner. How should we react to the idea of love? For those in love, how do we maintain our relationship through the tough and easy times?

1. Waiting for someone to ‘supply’ you love? Think again

2. Curiousity may kill the cat…but not your relationship

Waiting for someone to ‘supply’ you love? Think again

woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike
Unsplash

What’s going on here

Venerable Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun, shares why and how we should rethink the way we approach love. Most people fall in love with the idea of love and not the person. She explains, in under 4 mins, why that is a tricky approach to understanding love.

Why we like it

As we grow through the stages of life and see more friends get married…we may feel the rush to settle down. But Tenzin Palmo reminds us to chill and first understand ourselves. We have to first be fulfilled before ‘chasing’ love.

“They think that the more they hold on to someone, the more that it shows that they care about that. But it is not, they are trying to grasp at something because they are afraid that they themselves might be hurt.”

“Attachment says ‘I love you therefore i want you to make me happy’. Genuine love says ‘I love you and I want you to be happy.’ “

Wise Steps

Reflect on our idea of love. Is it attachment or real love? The more we grasp, the more afraid we are to lose.

Watch the video here!

See what we wrote on expectations and finding love

Curiousity may kill the cat…but not your relationship

black and white cat lying on brown bamboo chair inside room
Unsplash: The cat

What’s going on here

@alifecoloredamber, a therapist, shares how we can reshape the way we ask questions in our relationship to build deeper bonds.

Why we like it

This short post reminds us of actionable ways we can interact with our partners. When tough times strike us, we often resort to destructive ways of communication. Amber, the therapist, gives us ways to rewire our communication style.

“Remember, you both come to life with your own subjective experiences, and making assumptions is often damaging.”

Wise Steps

Follow her tips for a happier and more curious relationship!


Being In Love with Love vs Being In Love with a Person

Being In Love with Love vs Being In Love with a Person

TLDR: Being in love with love is different from being in love with a person. Being in love with another brings sadness, excitement and passion. Being in love with love brings peace, joy and rapture.

This is a reflection piece as contemplated by the author based on the Buddha’s teachings. As such, it may not contain the truths as taught by the Buddha. The author hopes the reader takes away useful bits that may resonate and discard whatever parts (or the whole article) that make no sense without any aversion. 

I have not listened to popular music for quite a long time. I wouldn’t know what are the most popular songs of the last decade. I also have not had that intense rush of passion or interest in another person for that same amount of time. Recently I decided to listen to songs of my youth. I don’t know if it is the right choice because these songs brought up particular memories for me. 

It is interesting how most of my strongest memories have to do with my youth. I am guessing raging hormones of youth brought about stronger emotions that led to deeper impressions made on the mind. According to Buddhist cosmology, we have been reborn countless times–however, as the music carried my mind to the past, experiences of my youth still seem so fresh in my mind as if I’ve lived them for the first time.

What is love?

Love is too big a word for anyone to express. In Western movies, characters who express love toward one another make it seem like a big deal. But still, that is not love.

The word, “love”, is used too frivolously in our society. 

We romanticise feelings for another person just as we romanticise love itself. Love in its true meaning is unconditional. Unconditional love is hard to find on earth.

The closest would be that of a mother’s love towards her child. Therefore love would have the elements of sacrifice, forgiveness, compassion, perseverance and faith.

The mother is also able to let the child go because of love. But she is readily available when the child needs help.

Attachment not love

If you are unable to wish your other half happiness and goodwill if s/he leaves you, what you have is not love but attachment.

Also, if you are unable to accept and forgive your partner’s bad habits with patience and compassion, that is not love. What we have is attachment and a sense of responsibility towards our partners.

I found that in all of my relationships, I have never really loved anyone. I would do things to make myself feel better and make others feel bad in the name of love. There is an egoic possessiveness towards all of them. Looking back now, I can only feel compassion for my own ignorance and for the ones who had to suffer me.

Our obsession with love

The human race is always looking for love. This is evident from the many popular romantic and breakup songs in pop culture.

We seek happy endings in love. Many years ago, a friend’s father passed away. The only wish he had not fulfilled was finding true love. This is even after being married, begetting children and divorcing. That is because I was judging my friend’s father from my perspective. I would not marry unless I love the other. Therefore I was surprised he was still seeking true love on his deathbed.

I have not consciously looked for love with another person for the longest time. Although that thought did pop up every now and then. Listening to songs of my youth reminded me of my first love and despite it being such a long time ago, I still cherished that relationship and have goodwill towards my first love. The relationship brought up bittersweet memories. But the relationship is not something I would like to experience again.

Recently, I witnessed a friend’s misery and happiness from her attachment to her partner and it reminded me of the pitfalls of romance. 

Romance brings about happiness only when the other meets our conditions and vice versa.

Being in love with love

There is a way to be in love and be happy without involving another person. That is to be in love with love itself. In all religions, from Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism to Sikhism, there are practices on the contemplation of love. Love is universal as taught by all religions, and we seem to have misunderstood love by trying to find it in another person.

Jesus and the Buddha (two of whom I am most familiar with), both taught and possessed unconditional love. These two great teachers were themselves unconditional love and so they did not need to seek it from elsewhere.

It makes sense why they need not seek love from others. If we feel that we are enough and full of love within, we will have lots of love to share and there will be no need to get it from others.

In Buddhist practice, the Buddha taught us to cultivate love in our hearts and to share it with all beings. I think the difficulty lies in cultivating love in our own hearts because we are so used to romantic love which is dependent on the sight of another. Though love itself and our ‘love’ for another differs in quality. Our “love” for another is narrow because we only can love the object of our affection and depend on this object to further grow this love in our hearts. Love, in reality, is wide and does not depend on others to do certain things or be a certain way for us to have love in our hearts.

How to cultivate love in our hearts?

Buddhist meditation teaches us various ways to develop love in our hearts. One way is to think of a person we love and respect and to pay attention to the love that arises in our hearts.

We then radiate it throughout our bodies and spread it out in all directions.

You can also spread the love by thinking of various people, animals, the earth and the universe. It helps to smile when doing this meditation because smiling relaxes oneself and helps to develop love and kindness.

Similarities between being in love with love and with another

When we are in love with another person, we can’t help but think of that person. We feel drawn to that person, we yearn to understand them and to know their secrets. We want to be united with that person, to be intimate and to relate to him or her. We also hope to be able to please our partner.

When I was doing a home retreat on loving-kindness, that was how I felt. I enjoyed thinking about love. That love in my heart contained elements of joy and lightness. I wanted to draw close to it and was not interested in others. However, I did not go deep enough to become intimate in that love or to know its secrets. 

Thinking of the Buddha to cultivate love

For those who need the image of another to bring up love, you can always think of the Buddha or other religious teachers.

I thought of the Buddha’s immense love and compassion for all those around him. This exercise managed to cultivate those qualities in my mind during meditation.

However, I am not spending enough time thinking about the Buddha’s qualities of love and compassion in daily life. I wish it would occupy at least two-thirds of my mind at all times. 

Being in love with love is indeed different from being in love with a person. Love that depends on a person includes elements of sadness, longing, discontentment and excitement.

One could even get depressed when ignored or rejected by the object of attraction.

But love itself is different. There is no rejection, no longing, no sadness or excitement. Love includes feelings of joy, peace and rapture. 

Since it is virtually impossible to find love from another person, perhaps we can only love another when we ourselves become love by being in love with love.


Wise Steps:

  • Love begins from the self. To be able to love others, we have to love ourselves. Love is like a fire on a candle that lights up the room. Start to love yourself by first forgiving yourself.
  • Bring to your mind a living spiritual friend whom you admire and think of his or her qualities of love.
  • Contemplate the loving kindness, compassion and equanimity of the Buddha. Thinking of these qualities can also help to bring up these feelings within yourself.
Ticking Boxes to Find your Life Partner? Here is what I Realised

Ticking Boxes to Find your Life Partner? Here is what I Realised

TLDR: It is not uncommon to start any connections/interactions with exchanging expectations, the transactional nature in mind. Have we stopped and asked ourselves, is that helpful in living fulfilling enriching relationships?

“You have changed” – this ran through my mind when my then-boyfriend told me he preferred to spend the weekend apart from each other after long busy weeks at work when we had plans to meet. Little did I know that it marks the beginning of my conscious contemplation of what a ‘life partnership’ constitutes.

Long story short, we spent the final moments of our ‘relationship’ trying to point fingers at each other and wanting to change the other person into the ideal image in our mind.

I was exhausted and felt I have turned into this ugly person (not figuratively, of course 😊) and called it off. 

Having been immersed in personal development themes for some time now, I took the subsequent weeks and months to reflect and review. “What was that experience trying to teach me?”, “What have I learnt from it and how will I respond in a more helpful way for the relationship in future?” – these questions were coming up, nudging me to honestly find answers within. 

Life Keeps Sending You Messages…Are You Receiving Them?

It is true, life will keep sending the same lessons in one form or another if we did not fully understand the whole message the first time around. Deeper reflection surfaced to me that I was holding onto certain expectations strongly. 

The idea that my boyfriend should be caring, consistent with his words and actions, generous – written in ‘the list’ (no joke, I did have a list of 10 qualities of a life partner!). 

On the surface, it might seem reasonable to have expectations for someone I consider spending the rest of my life with (or however long it turns out to be). Many relationship experts even encourage both parties to clarify expectations early and regularly to avoid future misalignment or disappointment.

While I am not speaking against these experts, I have now taken another angle to this topic. 

Reviewing my experience to date, I realise I have adopted my parents and society’s view that I need to have the career, the spouse and the child(ren) to be considered successful in life (whatnot with my mom’s regular comment of “You are my only worry now, that your brothers have their own families”). 

There were rebel days when I challenged my mom with “Is my life purpose only to get married and have children then?” which she had no ready and convincing answer to. 

Ticking The Boxes Of Society

Sure, many are happy with ticking these boxes and it is not the intention to reduce those ‘accomplishments’ and make them any less. I too would find joy in simple family life, at the same time I have the inkling there is more to life than just ticking the boxes. 

I restarted contemplation practice in silence, coinciding with the Circuit Breaker period which gave much-needed space for such retrospection.

Various thoughts and feelings arose; from questioning my worth as an individual, to swinging moods of wanting to take back my decision – all are valid experiences, though might not be the truth. 

I dutifully journal the thoughts that arise during those sessions and find myself acquainted with a friend who nudges me to review my beliefs and expectations on everything. This included the impermanent nature of life, personal relationship expectations.

And the journey begins.. more questions surface “Who’s to say life has to be lived only this way?”, “How can I be sure that my expectations are reasonable?”, “Where have I picked up these beliefs, do I truly believe them?”. With more contemplation, the questions get deeper and more challenging. And I face them one after another as there isn’t much to lose. 

Monologues And Realisations

The first realisation arises: this person is not my boyfriend, he is a person of his own – with his habits, preferences and nature of mind. I cannot dictate how he should behave to my liking and not to my disliking. 

It was my strong grasping of an image of how he should be that contributed to the arguments and blames. It was almost like I had these monologues in my mind during our interactions – “You do this, that’s why I love you”, “You are like that, and I dislike that part of you”. Although it is part of human experience to have preferences, it does not mean these preferences are the be-all and end-all. 

It is okay to have them, it is even more important to be aware of them as they are, preferences – which is also changeable.

The outside world serves as a mirror to me, reflecting the part that I value and dislike of myself. Being clear on my values serves as the lighthouse for life’s journey, though it is not my position to demand that others align to them

In the case they do have similar values, we might have a great time together! Otherwise, it is an opportunity for me to expand my worldview or even practice being kind to others who are different from me. At the end of the day, there is no need to see me and others as opponents in a battle.

Wanting to be with someone with qualities in the list is probably not as within my control as being someone with those qualities. 

And if I need to ask for someone to be a decent human being (there might be judgment here too), he/she is probably not someone whom I want to associate with, at least not for long. 

Even more, wanting someone to be a certain way so that I feel pleasure or ‘happy’ is fleeting – like trying to draw on the sandy beach, it will be wiped out by each splash of waves. 

That pleasure and happiness will change when (not if) the person changes for whatever reason. As we learn, the nature of life is ever-changing – the impermanence lesson which we are trying to truly understand.

Of course, I have not decoded the mystery of relationships and dare not claim to know even a tiny bit of it. This is my learning so far, and I have felt more peace today with what is than ever before. Who knows, life might consider me receiving the message now and send me another lesson to learn 😊


Wise steps:

  • Understand the difference between grasping on expectations and practising our life values

  • Embodying values within ourselves, rather than demanding the qualities from others, will bring about a more peaceful state of mind

  • Whenever there is an inclination to place a source of pleasure on something or someone, pause and ask “is this right action based on right view?”
What makes a “Happy New Year”?

What makes a “Happy New Year”?

TLDR: A “Happy New Year” comes not from external conditions, but from appreciating the little blessings in life. The key is to adopt “gratitude as our attitude”.

During this festive season, we often wish our relatives and friends “Happy Chinese New Year”, or “恭喜发财“. In recent years, I started questioning – where does happiness (喜) in a new year come from?

For the young me, this was easily answered. Happiness came from playing with firecrackers, enjoying sumptuous dinners and sinful goodies, meeting my cousins to sing KTV/play cards, and watching TV shows till late.

As I grew up, my views changed. More than seeking pleasures derived from “consumption”, I saw the potential of seeking happiness through “appreciation”. In other words, gratitude.  

Gratitude to Parents (父母恩)

In Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, there are 4 objects worthy of great gratitude (四重恩). The first object is none other than our parents.

Leading up to each Chinese New Year, my dad would busy himself around the house. Cleaning the fan, wiping the windows, changing cushion covers, hanging up decorations – the work seemed never-ending.

Typical Chinese New Year decorations at my house – spot the “福禄寿” bears?

I didn’t always appreciate these. The loud vacuum noises and the buckets laying around were a nuisance to me who was trying to study at home.

Mum was also busy during the Chinese New Year when my sister and I were young. She would pack our bags for our 3-day stay in Malaysia (our Grandmother’s house), tend to our daily needs away from home, and deal with any contingencies. I recall once when I fell ill with a stomachache – Mum’s Chinese New Year was spent with me visiting the doctor instead of relatives.

As I grew up, I had to take over some spring-cleaning tasks from my dad. With baby nieces and nephews around, I had to babysit them as well. These made me realise how much I have overlooked the contributions of my parents in giving me a “normal” Chinese New Year to enjoy.

I realised that the “normalcy” I enjoyed during Chinese New Year when I was young was built on their sacrifice.

Gratitude to Country (国土恩)

It was a challenge going into Malaysia each year with traffic jams at the immigration customs lasting up to 3 hours. There were even times when my family was delayed and had to have reunion “suppers” instead!

As a youth, I was often frustrated at the other cars. “Why do all of you have to leave at the same time?”, I would wonder. Also, couldn’t the customs officers work faster?  

One year, I realised, “I was not stuck in traffic. I WAS the traffic”. I realised that the customs officers were part of the solution, while I was part of the problem.

Traffic jams at the customs during Chinese New Years can last up to 3 hours
Source: The Straits Times 

Frustration gave way to appreciation to the customs officers. Thanks to them, our immigration system is working smoothly and our national borders are kept safe.

Thus, the second object of gratitude is to our country (e.g. public service; national infrastructure; healthcare/immigration/security system). These blessings are not always visible, but they provide the foundation for us to lead our normal lives.

Gratitude to All Beings (众生恩)

Many beings bring convenience to our lives. We may not know most of their names and faces, but we have benefited from their contributions. They form the third object for gratitude.   

Chinese New Year offers many opportunities for us to observe how people have helped us.

In recent years, I started noticing the waiters who serve our food at reunion dinners, the chefs who prepare the food, the entertainers who perform in celebratory “countdown” shows for us, the cleaners who clean up the mess made after New Year events, and many more.

I realised that things are easy and pleasant only because people help one another. We influence one another, living in a community and society, and our lives are deeply interwoven.

Recollecting the debt of gratitude we have for fellow sentient beings, I feel connected to others around me. This brings much comfort and warmth.

Gratitude to the Triple Gem (三宝恩)

The final object for recollection is to the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha) – our safe and secure refuge.

Reflecting on my life, I discovered that I was constantly seeking things to invest my faith/time/effort in return for some happiness. This can take the form of relationships, wealth, fame, job, or even rituals.

We are all seeking a “refuge” to seek comfort from. For example, a popular “tradition” in Singapore is to pray at a temple upon the turn of the Lunar New Year. Some even make efforts to be the first person to offer prayers (插头香) in the belief that it is an auspicious act.

Typical scene of temple-goers rushing offer incense (插头香) during Lunar New Year
Source: The Straits Times 

 Lunar New Year can help us to consider what we choose to invest our faith in. For me, the New Year encourages me to reaffirm my faith in the Triple Gem.

This reminds me that true happiness is a function of my efforts, and not from external conditions. For that, I am grateful.

What makes a “Happy New Year”?

A “Happy New Year” need not just be a cursory greeting we repeat during the 15 days of New Year festivals during house visits. It can also be a sincere aim to strive towards for the entire year.

Things will never be totally smooth in life. If we depend on favourable external conditions to bring us happiness, we will never be able to find much stability.  

However, with gratitude as our attitude, we can learn to observe the little blessings around us. Through patient and consistent effort, we can gradually learn to see challenges as opportunities for growth and to find the silver lining in dire situations.

This would be the true cause for happiness in our lives, and allow us to enjoy a “Happy New Year”. 


Wise Steps

  • Keep a gratitude journal. This can be a physical notebook, a virtual word document, or even a private instagram page. Be disciplined in writing down something everyday. 
  • When idle, play a game with yourself – note down 10 things around you to be grateful for. Challenge yourself to identify blessings you have taken for granted. 
  • Train your mind to see problems as challenges, and as opportunities for growth. Be grateful for the tough times in life, and be worthy of your sufferings.