This article is a preliminary observation of the recently established Buddhist College of Singapore (BCS). It seeks to propose, building on Kuah Khun Eng’s notion of “Reformist Buddhism”, that the college can be seen as a product of the Reformist Buddhist movement in Singapore. By positioning the BCS within this larger context of Reformist Buddhist movement, this article argues that Reformist Buddhism has legitimized the process of rationalization and bureaucratization of the Buddhist institutions in the country. This has, to a large extent, contributed to the organizational and educational structure of the BCS.
Keywords: Buddhist College of Singapore, Reformist Buddhism, religious education, seminary, Singapore
Venerable Hong Choon (1907–90) made eight visits to China between 1982 and 1990. During these visits, the Venerable met national and religious leaders, made pilgrimages to sacred Buddhist sites, helped to restore the monasteries associated with his master Venerable Hui Quan, and officiated at religious ceremonies. This study aims to examine the diplomatic significance of Venerable Hong Choon’s visits to China. It positions these religious exchanges within the broader context of Singapore–China relations since the reopening of China in the late 1970s, and argues that Buddhism played a role in fostering international relations between the two countries in the period prior to the official establishment of diplomatic ties. In the absence of formal diplomatic channels between Singapore and China, Venerable Hong Choon’s religious visits could thus be seen as a form of informal diplomacy with the aim of confidence building.
This paper examines the rise of Reformist Buddhism in Singapore and its quest to rebrand the faith in the island-state through the advocation of “Buddhist ideology” as the key emphasis by its practitioners. It argues that instead of “habitually” enacting religious rituals, Reformist Buddhists are concerned with the active reflexive engagement of how the hitherto established dramatization of piety and acquiescence to the elemental tenets of the religion is institutionalized. Drawing on the data from semi-structured interviews conducted with lay Buddhists in Singapore, this study seeks to uncover the principles and practices of Reformist Buddhism and the general opinions on these believers in contemporary Singapore.
Keywords: Buddhism, Piety, Reformist Buddhism, Religion, Singapore