The Buddha Sakyamumi, or the Awakened One, was the founder of Buddhism. After bearing witness to human suffering and hardship, The Buddha, a prince by birth, went into self-exile to search for the way for human beings to attain true happiness. Vesak Day, which is commemorated by Buddhists worldwide, was the day on which Buddha attained Enlightenment after meditation under the sacred Bodhi tree. This enabled Him to understand and realise the true nature of the universe and life. Buddha’s teachings are referred to as the Tripitaka, and it consists of three sections; sutras or discourses on how to lead a noble life, vinaya or the framework on conduct for the monastic community, and abhidharma or the philosophy behind the nature of the human mind. 2019 is the 70th year since founding of Singapore Buddhist Federation and it is a highly-established and respected institution headed by Venerable Seck Kwang Phing.

The Temple

In a Buddhist temple or monastery, shoes are normally removed before entering its premises. However, this depends on the house rules that each temple or monastery lays and some may not even require one to remove the shoes. Avoid extending your feet towards other people, in particular the bottom or soles of your feet or shoes. Women should wear clothing with sleeves. Their dresses should extend below the knees.


Buddhism emphasizes on cultivating an enlightened way of living through the practice of right conduct, mental development and perfection of our wisdom. Shrines with statues of the Buddha, stupas and Bodhi trees are places where the Buddhists offer fresh flowers, lights, lamps, and burn fragrant incense as acts of paying homage to Buddha, recollecting his supreme qualities of wisdom and compassion. There is chanting of the teachings known as Tri-pitaka in Pali. The discourses of the Buddha and other prayers are also recited in Chinese, Tibetan and English.


Vesak Day is a major Buddhist festival, as it celebrates the Birth, Enlightenment and Para nirvana (passing away) of the Buddha on the day of the first full moon in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June.

Kathina or Robe Offering Ceremony is the time of the year when the laity offers new robes and other requisites to the monks. Buddhist laypersons often give gifts to Buddhist monks but giving is also encouraged more generally, to one another and to good causes. Monks have a responsibility to share these with lay Buddhists through their examples and teachings. Giving of alms to monks is thought to benefit laypeople and to win them merits.

Kuan Yin’s (or Avalokitesvara) Birthday is a festival that celebrates the Bodhisattva ideal in the perfection of compassion in the Mahayana traditions of Tibet and China. It occurs on the 19th day of the 2nd, 6th and 9th month of the lunar calendar. Also, the Ullambana Offering held on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month is an important festival during which Buddhists practice filial piety to repay for the kindness of their parents.


A vegetarian diet is promoted especially on the 1st and 15th days of the lunar month for Buddhists. Monks and nuns as well as lay people who have taken the Five Precepts abstain from intoxicants. Monks and nuns in the Chinese Mahayana traditions are vegetarians and the diet is free from garlic, onion, spring onions, leeks, shallots and eggs.