Buddhism in Singapore

Buddhism in Singapore

As of 2000, 42.5% of the Singaporeans register themselves as Buddhist by religion. Adherents of Buddhism are mostly by the Chinese majority ethnic group, although small minorities of Sinhalese and Thai Buddhists do exist as well.

Chinese Mahayana Buddhism is the most prevalent form of Buddhism in Singapore. Sizeable communities following other traditions include Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism. The representative organization of Buddhism in Singapore is the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

Youths in Singapore who want to learn Buddhism and lead Buddhist lifestyles can join youth groups such as the Youth Ministry of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, Singapore Buddhist Mission Youth, WAY (Wat Ananda Youth), The Buddhist Fellowship, NUS Buddhist Society, NTU Buddhist Society, Singapore Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Nanyang Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Buddhist Society, Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Firefly Mission, YBC (Young Buddhist Chapter), 3GEMS (Buddhist guided tours) and many more youth groups.


The presence of Buddhism in Singapore was evident during the Srivijayan times. Buddhism remains the main religion in Singapore with more than three-fifth of its population declared to be adherents of the faith. In line with ancestorial practices, many of the Chinese inhabitants also mix in Taoism and Confucianism to Buddhism. By virtue thereof, there is a strong trend blending towards Thai Buddhism, especially amongst the younger generation Singaporeans, which is seen to bear cultural similarities for its ability in encompassing Chinese culture and practices as represented in Taoism. Buddhism as represented by Theravada Buddhism, the oldest Buddhist school of thought, is seeing a potent growth in Singapore in the past decade.

The Singapore census includes detailed data on religion and ethnicity. Figures on Buddhism in 1980 shown that 27% of Singaporeans are Buddhists, up to 31.2% in 1990 and 42.5% in 2000. It is also noted that there is a significant increase of interest in the Buddhist teachings (Dharma), practices, and customs(i.e chanting, meditation, and offering formality). With a younger and more informed population, Buddhism is seen as the most viable religion in Singapore.

Traditions and ceremonies

There has been an effort to distinguish certain customs and practices in both Buddhism and Taoism as folks traditions and practices by a minority group of people. The sentiment of the majority of adherents of these faiths, however, outrightly rejected any such interference. This is to be seen in the vagueness of identification distinction amongst the followers of the faiths. Buddhism in Singapore takes on a far wider meaning than in its country of origin. It encompasses the various Buddhist thoughts and practices as well as Chinese customs, traditions, and practices that are in the past represented by the Chinese indigenous religion, Taoism. Such developments are a positive reflection of religious and cultural harmony in a nation made up from diverse enthnicity. Similar trends are also witnessed in countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Singapore Buddhism is inherent of Chinese Buddhism, which comprises a strong flavor of the Chinese indigenous religion, Taoism as early as in the 11th century. Such Buddhist-Taoist syncretism has provided China with religious harmony and prosperity of which the Chinese emigrants brought with them to Singapore. It has since gain roots and became a unique culture for the Singapore Chinese. Buddhist monks, nuns, and devotees are able to understand and respect the wider societal needs, which in turn created Buddhist joy and peace in line with Buddhist mission.


The Mahayana school, Theravada school, and Tibetan Buddhism have acquired sizable followings. Monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand and other South-eastern countries have come to teach their form of the Dharma to the Chinese in Singapore. As a result, a number of Theravada and other Buddhist temples like the Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple have sprung up in recent years.

Buddhism in modern Singapore

In recent years, due to the increasing publication of Buddhist books, the appearance of internet sites in English, the availability of modern Buddhist music as well as courses conducted in English, more and more English-speaking Chinese, especially the younger Singaporeans, are joining Buddhist circles. As a nation of immigrants, majority from mainland China, Buddhism in Singapore inevitably took the form of Chinese Mahayana perspection. Therefore practitioners of Chinese Mahayana remain the majority of the Buddhist populations in Singapore. However, the rise of Thai Buddhism in Asia, which denomination rests on the oldest school of thought of Theravada Buddhism, there is a strong proliferating trend of averting to this intrinsic form of Buddhism. The Japanese Buddhist organization, the Soka Gakkai International, has many members, in Singapore. The Singapore members of the Soka Gakkai are mostly those of Chinese descent. Another sect of Buddhism that is seen making slow inroad into Singapore is Tibetan Buddhism that seems to benefit from the writings of western monks and writers (e.g., the Dalai Lama, Thubten Chodron, Tenzin Palmo).

Singapore's Buddhist temples and religious circles are highly organized and very often have a connection with foreign religious organizations, especially in China, Taiwan, Thailand, the USA, the UK, Sri Lanka, etc. Many foreign Buddhist associations and temples have also established branches in Singapore to propagate Buddhist teachings and activities. Buddhist temples and associations are spread all over Singapore, ranging from small to large.

The largest Chinese Mahayana Buddhist temple in Singapore is Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, whilst Thai Theravada Buddhism is represented by an equally prominent temple, the Wat Ananda Metyarama Temple. These temples hold many Buddhist activities such as chanting, meditation, retreats, and dharma talks, as well as offering Buddhist courses on dharma and meditation, very often attended by thousands of devotees and adherents of the respective lineage.

Religious liberty in Singapore has also provided a conducive environment for the development of varying Buddhist practices. Furthermore, as with Taoism, Buddhism is taking a turn into a new vista with the elevation of educational levels amongst followers and devotees, where more are seen to indulge in spiritual practices and self-enhancement such as meditation, practicing mindfulness, studies and understanding of religious history and etc. with proper altar set up at home for paying homage to Lord Buddha.

Several Buddhist youth groups organise activities such as camps, Dharma lessons, meditation classes, fellowship and community services for the young. They include kmsYM, the Youth Ministry of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple, WAY, Wat Ananda Youth, Buddhist Fellowship, 3GEMS, a group of youths offering guided Buddhist tours around major temples in Singapore and Dharma In Action set up by a group of Buddhist enthusiasts to promote the learning, understanding and practice of life-style Buddhism in modern societies.

Buddhist monasteries and temples

*Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple
*kmsYM youth programmes for Buddhist youths
*Wat Anada Metyarama Temple
*Siong Lim Temple
*Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
* [http://www.buddhistfellowship.org/ Buddhist Fellowship]
* [http://www.bbt.org.sg Burmese Buddhist Temple]
* [http://www.palelai.com Palelai Temple]
* [http://www.thekchencholing.org Thekchen Choling Tibetan Buddhist Temple]
*Singapore Buddhist Lodge

Dharma Centres

* [http://vmc128.8m.com Vipassana Meditation Centre]
* [http://www.fireflymission.org Firefly Mission]
* [http://dharmafarer.googlepages.com The Dharmafarers: Sutta Translation project]
* [http://www.way.org.sg Wat Ananda Youth]
* [http://www.kmspks.org kmsYM - programmes for Buddhist youths]

External links

* [http://www.buddhist.org.sg/ Singapore Buddhist Federation]
* [http://www.kmspks.org/ Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery]
* [http://www.singapore-dharmanet.per.sg/ Singapore-Dharmanet]
* [http://www.singstat.gov.sg/keystats/c2000/wallchart.html Statistics Singapore]
* [http://www.buddhanet.net/wbd/country.php?country_id=50 Singapore's Buddhist directory]
* [http://buddhactivity.org/action.htm?-Response=buddhacountry.htm&ccountry=Singapore Buddhactivity Dharma Centres database]


*Kuah, Khun Eng. "State, Society and Religious Engineering: Towards a Reformist Buddhism in Singapore". Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003.
*Ong, Y.D. "Buddhism in Singapore: A Short Narrative History". Singapore: Skylark Publications, 2005.
*Shi Chuanfa 释传发. "Xinjiapo Fojiao Fazhan Shi" 新加坡佛教发展史 [A History of the Development of Buddhism in Singapore] . Singapore: Xinjiapo fojiao jushilin, 1997.
*Wee, Vivienne. “Buddhism in Singapore.” In "Understanding Singapore Society", eds. Ong Jin Hui, Tong Chee Kiong and Tan Ern Ser, pp. 130-162. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1997.

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