On Matter, Mind and Vision

First Reply to Lianhe Zaobao and The Straits Times on Saturday, 14 July 2007 at 11:00am

Published on Monday, 16 July 2007 on Lianhe Zaobao and advertised on Wednesday,
18 July 2007 on The Straits Times, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News

This note is in response to the several articles published in Lianhe Zaobao regarding the sacred Buddha Tooth. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (BTRTM) would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the concerns and anxieties caused to many Buddhists; and express our deepest gratitude to the numerous local and overseas Sangha, Buddhist scholars, Buddhist devotees, members of public for their emails, correspondences and telephone calls to share their support, views, advice and encouragement for BTRTM.


Other than the much revered Buddha Tooths in Kandy and Beijing, there have been discoveries of several Buddha Tooth and Relics in other countries and other parts of China, which are also extensively documented and more importantly, deeply venerated by Buddhist devotees of these countries.


These sacred Buddha Tooths and Relics have comparable characteristics, like size and shape (albeit for the respective teeth type); the location, manner, accompanying reliquary objects and the context these were discovered; and corresponds to several historical reference records, like Ven. Xuan Zang's Records of the Western Regions.


The main source of information regarding the Buddha's last moments are recorded in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra. There are various translations in various languages of the several versions of Maha Paranirvana Sutra, with significant differences in content.


The suggestion of DNA testing, whilst simplistic is a practical challenge to conduct. DNA testing is invasive and requires a benchmark. It is definitely unlikely that any Buddhist Temple and its devotees will agree to subject any sacred Buddha Tooth or Relic to such a test.


The Buddha Tooth is only meaningful as a sacred object for veneration to those of the Buddhist faith. For all others, it is only a historical and cultural artefact. Furthermore, for those who are advancing along the Buddhist Path, the sacred Buddha Tooth and Relics have quite a different meaning and purpose. Whatever your views, the relevance of the Buddha Tooth resides with each individual Buddhist Triple Gems follower. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are our guides along the Noble Path and Mind.


The BTRTM was specially built to facilitate the veneration of the sacred Buddha Tooth. More importantly, it was also designed to showcase and inform visitors of the myriad aspects of the various Buddhist Traditions from the various countries. Hence, it is more than a Temple per se. Our Mission is to promote and impart the Buddha's Dharma and our objective remains to be the best Buddhist complex in the region. Moreover, BTRTM shall also be a site of Buddhist education and discussions, supporting other voluntary welfare organizations regardless of race and religion, and offering welfare services to the sick, poor and needy.


We are fortunate and happy to be in South Bridge Road, a very important place in Singapore's history but also a place where we are located close to the historical Muslim Mosque, Hindu Temple and Christian Church. A very uniquely Singapore situation and a testimony to the special multi-racial, multi-religious harmony that exists here. We are honored to have received numerous visits by the various IRCCs and look forward to contributing to Singapore's religious harmony.


According to Chief Monk Ven. Shi Fa Zhao, "Regarding the Buddha Tooth and Relic, each of us have different views on what is 'real', as it depends on each individual's understanding of Buddhism. While we fully hear the opinions of others, we should stand firm on our own faith towards the sacred Relics, both the Buddha's Relics, as well as relics of all eminent Sangha. These represent the Buddhist followers' spiritual support and respect towards the Triple Gems. BTRTM is not the private property of any single person, but belongs to all Singaporeans collectively. It represents the spiritual wealth that belongs to all devotees. Every part of it invokes special sentiments in everyone's heart. As long as we remain bonded with BTRTM, in its historical Chinatown backdrop, leverage on culture and fulfill the furtherance of the Dharma, the splendour of Buddhism will shine in creating a new Chinatown for our multi-racial and multi-religious cosmopolis — one that carries a distinctively modern outlook that is at the same time Uniquely Singapore."


Once again, our special gratitude to the Guest of Honour President S R Nathan; the Chief Incumbent of Sri Hayagiri Assigiri (Sri Lanka's Temple of the Tooth, Kandy); the many eminent Sangha from Singapore, China, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Japan, etc; the Ambassadors of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Cambodia, Brazil; the representatives from various government agencies, the representatives from many grassroots and religious organizations; and overseas guests that came to support the historic Official Opening of BTRTM and Vesak Festival Parade on 30th May 2007.


We hope to complete the interior works for the remaining areas in BTRTM by end 2007 and will be having a Grand Consecration Ceremony in Immary January 2008. We would like to thank the many devotees, donors and supporters for your generous and unstinting support, without which the Temple would not have been possible.


Thank you!


With Metta and the Triple Gems Blessings,


Ee Tiang Hwee


Deputy Executive Director
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple Museum


物质意识各不同 靦学宗教两相异

2007年7月14日星期六上午11时第一次回复联合早报及海峡时报

2007年7月16日星期一刊登于联合早报
2007年7月18日星期三刊登于海峡时报、联合晚报及新明日报

首先,我们非常感谢最近在联合早报上发表关于佛牙舍利的几篇讨论文章,新加坡佛牙寺龙华院谨此向所有关心我们的国内外高僧、佛教文化学者、佛教信徒以及所有爱护我们的朋友们,对你们所给予的慰问、支持、 鼓励和提出建议的信件、电邮、电话等等表示衷心的感谢,与此同时,我们也对那些由于这些讨论内容而感到不安的佛教徒们深表歉意。


事实上,除了斯里兰卡和中国北京供奉的两颗佛牙之外,根据现存的资料和出土的实物,其他国家和地区也曾有发现佛牙舍利的纪录。这些佛牙舍利的性质相似,其大小、形状也都大同小异,而且这些佛牙的发现过程、地点、方式、陪葬物、来龙去脉等等都有相关的史书(例如,唐玄奘《大唐西域记•迦湿弥罗国》)所记载。至今,这些出土的佛牙舍利也都受到广大信众的普遍敬仰和造塔供奉。


根据佛教经典,有关佛陀涅槃的事迹在《大般涅槃经》中有记载,这些 佛经在世界上有多种不同语言的翻译,由于各种不同语言翻译的局限性所产生的偏差,它们之间的内容不尽一致。


关于脱氧核糖酸(DNA)检测的建议,表面上看起来这个想法是理直气壮,但是在缺乏佛陀原始DNA样本的大前提下,检测出来牙齿DNA的样本就无法确定。而且,DNA检测的过程中必须在佛牙舍利上取出部分组织进行检测,而这一举措势必对佛牙的完整性带来一定程度的“破坏”,我们深信所有的信徒都不可能会答应我们这样做的。


佛牙舍利在佛教徒心中是崇高的精神圣物;如果你是非佛教徒,佛牙舍利在你心中很可能只是一件具有文化价值的历史遗物而己。每个学习佛法的人在不同的修行阶段,都会对佛牙舍利会有不同的认识,随着对佛法认识的提升,每个人对佛牙舍利的认识也因此有所提升。由此可见,佛牙舍利只是对佛、法、僧三宝追随者才有真正的意义。


除了供养佛牙舍利之外,佛牙寺龙华院还是一个文化艺术的殿堂。正如法照大和尚所说:“我们依据当来下生弥勒尊佛的慈悲本愿,将新加坡佛牙寺发展成为本区域佛教文化中心。佛牙寺的使命就是促进和传授佛陀的教诲。其宗旨是发展成为新的佛教文化中心,促进唐人街牛车水和新加坡文化发展,继承和发扬佛教与华人的优良传统文化。同时,提供佛教教育与佛学论坛,支援其它自愿福利组织,不分种族或宗教信仰,为贫病和需要援助者提供福利服务。”


我们很庆幸可以在桥南路建造佛牙寺龙华院这座殿堂,供奉神圣的佛牙舍利。牛车水不但是新加坡的华人聚集地,而且融合了历史悠久的回教堂、印度庙和天主教堂,呈现出新加坡作为一个多元种族、多元文化、多元宗教的社会。到目前为止,我们己经很荣幸招待了好些宗教和谐圈(IRCC)的委员,和不同种族的同胞前来佛牙寺参观。我们深信,佛牙寺 必将为新加坡的宗教与种族和谐贡献一份力量。


对于佛牙舍利的看法,每个人心中都会有自己的一个“真”,这个“真”必须靠你自己来认定,别人无权作最后的裁决。不过,法照法师强调一点:“我们尊重每一个人的看法,但同时,我们也坚定自己对佛教圣物的信心,这包括佛陀舍利及所有大德法师在内的一切舍利和遗物都是我们敬仰和礼拜的圣物。这表示佛弟子扶持三宝功德的精神。佛牙寺不是任何一个人的私有财产,而是属于所有新加坡人、属于所有信众的精神财富。一砖一瓦一片情,一沙一石一颗心,大家只要心系牛车水,情结佛牙寺,文化为契机,弘法为本怀,就必将使佛光普照牛车水,牛车水将更加吉庆祥和,充满活力,成为国人和世界游客竞相造访的净化心灵的胜地。”


在此,我们特别要感谢大会贵宾纳丹总统、斯里兰卡坎提佛牙寺僧王乌度喝玛长老(Most Venerable Udugama Sri Buddharakkhitha Mahanayaka Thera),以及新加坡、中国、斯里兰卡、台湾、缅甸、泰国、尼泊尔、日本等国的诸山长老莅临佛牙寺的开幕庆典。同时我们也要感谢斯里兰卡、巴基斯坦、柬埔寨、巴西等国的高级专员以及各政府部门的代表,各基层领袖代表和国内外贵宾一起到来见证这个历史性的开幕大典以及隆重的花车游行。


我们希望在2007年底可以完成佛牙寺第二期的内部装修,并预计在2008年为本寺举行诸佛菩萨开光大典。我也谨代表佛牙寺管委会主席法照大和尚再次感谢公众的大力支持,祝福诸位仁者福慧增长、法喜充满!


余添辉


(作者为新加坡佛牙寺龙华院副执行董事)