SBF Press Statement on Pastor Rony Tan’s remarks

SBF Press Statement on Pastor Rony Tan’s remarks

9th February 2010 – Below is the official press statement issued by Singapore Buddhist Federation on the recent Pastor Rony Tan’s remarks.  Attached is the pdf file for reference.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation applauds the timely involvement and advice by the relevant authorities in stopping the potential damage being done to both Buddhist and Taoist communities by inappropriate and insensitive remarks made by Rev Pastor Rony Tan.

Lord Buddha taught us to be compassionate and forgiving, but repentance must be sincere and follow up with deeds lest this untoward event be forgotten and repeated.Genuine and continual inter-faith consultation is preferred instead of open instigation.

In this regard, the Singapore Buddhist Federation welcomes all initiatives from all quarters to facilitate maintenance of religious harmony in Singapore.

Issued by Singapore Buddhist Federation
9th February 2010


What the Teaching Is Not

In Digha Nikaya 1 Brahmajala Sutta – The Brahma Net Sutta (What the Teaching Is Not), the Buddha advised the monks on what they should and should not do when others speak in disparagement of the Buddha, Dharma or the Sangha.

An excerpt:

“… 5. Bhikkhus! If others should malign the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, you must not feel resentment, nor displeasure, nor anger on that account.

Bhikkhus! If you feel angry or displeased when others malign the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, it will only be harmful to you (because then you will not be able to practise the dhamma).

Bhikkhus! If you feel angry or displeased when others malign the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, will you be able to discriminatc their good speech from bad?

“No, indeed, Venerable Sir!” said the bhikkhus.


If others malign me or the Dhamma, or the Sangha, you should explain (to them what is false as false, saying ‘It is not so. It is not true. It is, indeed, not thus with us. Such fault is not to be found among us.’ “

In light of the recent debacle of a Christian pastor making wrongful comments on Buddhism and Taoism, it is good to remember the Buddha’s advice above.  For as long as I can remember, Buddhists in Singapore  has mostly been of a rather docile and meek manner even in the face of an attack on Buddhism.  I suspect that such behaviour is not necessarily due to the Buddha’s teachings as above, but because of our cultural influence.  The Singaporean (or Singapore Chinese?) attitude of “Kiasu” and “Kiasi”.

“Kiasu” is a close romanisation of the Hokkien pronounciation of 怕输 ‘afraid of loosing (out)’ while “Kiasi” means 怕死 ‘afraid to die’.  Kiasu can be a form of competitiveness but it can become a form of self-preservation mechanism that morphs into Kiasi.  Kiasi is a pronounced form of self-preservation fringing on cowardice.  It can also be seen as a developed application of ‘Mind your own business’.

In the past ten twenty years, Buddhists have gradually matured and outgrown this culture.  Whether on the press or on the net, Buddhists are remaining firm on what they stand for.  Without going to the extreme end of becoming religious zealouts, Buddhists are firmly saying “Enough.  This is not what the Buddha taught.  Stop spreading falsehood”.  This is encouraging and heartening to see both online and offline.

Let those Buddhists (monastics and lay alike) who are well-grounded in the Dharma stand up and establish what is falsely said, and declare what the Tathagata1 has taught.  Let those who are not well-grounded put in more effort to learn and practise so that they may be well established, for it is for their and others’ welfare and benefit.

Should a written apology be written by the pastor in his capacity as leader of his congregation?  Share your views either here or on my facebook wall.


1 Tathagata 如来 The One who has thus gone and/or the One who has thus come.  One of the epithets referring to the Buddha.


Digha Nikaya 1 Brahmajala Sutta – The Brahma Net Sutta (What the Teaching Is Not)

Different Ways, Different Destinations

Back in 2007, I was in conducting a four-session workshop on The Heart Sutra.  In the last session, one student from a western country commented on an interesting sight he has so far only witnessed in Singapore.  He was very amazed at how there are numerous locations where he found a mosque, a temple and a church next to each other.  This was something that he said cannot happen where he was from or perhaps in many other countries as well.

In a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious society such as Singapore, religious harmony is especially important.  Religious harmony is especially important and religious leaders participate actively in the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) which resolves to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect and understanding.

In participating in the IRO events, I’ve noticed that there are many who are geniunely trying to promote understanding between people of different faiths.  This is heartening and is definitely the way forward in the increasingly globalised world.  Some have also adopted a Homogeneous stance suggesting that all the religions are teaching the same truths.  Same final goal, just through different roads as some would put it.  This may seem viable initially, but can be hard to reconcile when one goes into the crux of various religions.

The way I see it, the different religions are like different vehicles on the highways.  Each different from each other, yet common in some ways.  The different vehicles are common in the sense that they are all means of transport and can take us to where we may want to go.  Due to different spiritual maturity, each may adopt different vehicles and seek different destinations.  Everyday when we go to work or back home, we may go by bus, taxi, car, train or a combination.  While on the road, would we stop others from going to their destinations just because it is different from ours?  Would we ask everyone to get on same bus or get off the same station?  The world would be in chaos if people start doing that.  Would we ask everyone to go to the same office with us or return home with us just because our home is warm and pleasant to us?

In a similar way, we need to recognise that religions have common grounds but also have their differences.  Religions, at a base level, advocates values such as giving, harmlessness, humility, kindness, love etc while at a deeper level, we may differ in terms of our core beliefs and ways of seeing the world.

Recognising that religions bring people to their respective spiritual goals is crucial.  This knowledge does not need to assume a common goal, but sees the common
function of religions, i.e. bring about spiritual maturity towards their own goals.  We need to recognise that just because the goals are different does not mean that they are wrong or evil per se.  To say that different goals are wrong is like saying that people going their way to their offices and homes are going the wrong way.

I say, let’s work on common values while recognising the very human need for different “happiness”.  One day when we are spiritually matured enough, then perhaps we can sit down and discuss the differences without getting at each other’s throat.