In complete contrast to the 1842 temple featured in my last post is the Buddha Tooth Relic (BTR) temple, built in 2007. In 2002 when Singapore was gifted the sacred Buddha Tooth relic they put it on display in Suntec city and the queues of people snaked all the way down the building and out into the car park. This set in motion the idea of a large Singapore Buddhist temple that could accommodate the popularity of this extremely important relic. The chief monk did a lot of research into the new temple design. Everything contained within needed to be authentic and he focused his design around the peak of Buddhism in China, the Tang dynasty (7th-9th century).
If you enter the BTR, stand on the inside of the central gate and look inwards you will see that the golden Buddha inside fits perfectly in the space that you can see. This is by traditional design, so when the Emperor entered the temple through the central gate he would see the Buddha. Due to the limitation of the land available this temple has been built upwards rather than as nested levels as would have been traditionally used.
On the ground floor you can take in the beautiful surrounds of the Hundred Dragons Hall with the fifteen foot gold Buddha as the central attraction. Here you can watch quietly as the monks carry out their ritual chanting and prayers, these are known as mantras. At both sides of the hall the walls are filled with statues of one hundred Buddhas. Each Buddha holds their hands in a unique gesture, known as a mudra and holds a different Buddhist symbol. They represent virtue and power. Each of the larger Buddhas was made at a cost of $100,000. The Buddhas and visitors are protected from above by one hundred dancing Dragons, hence the name of the hall.
A beautiful gold tapestry hangs behind the central Buddha, this shows 5 dragons, 5 bats and 5 golden carp. This represents a classic Chinese fable where the carp have to overcome danger and leap through the dragon gate in order to be transformed into a dragon. This is symbolic of the need to overcome hurdles to achieve success. It is made from gold and silver silk threads and took a team of 38 talented women to complete, the youngest of which was 65 years old!
After leaving the Hundred Dragon Hall you will enter the Universal Wisdom hall. Here you can have some fun finding your Chinese zodiac protector, as defined by your year of birth. In the centre is a Buddhist diety of compassion. She has many arms so that she can help everyone and she holds symbols of Buddhism in each hand. One very popular symbol you will see is that of the lotus flower. This represents mental and spiritual purity, a beautiful flower born from muddy waters. She is another representation of Guan Yin that we saw at the Thian Hock Keng Temple.
On the second floor is a reference library, BTR history gallery, culture shop and a worship chamber for those devotees seeking wisdom. On the third floor you can look round the museum to see some Buddhist symbols and art.
The fourth floor is where you will find the sacred tooth. You will be expected to remove your shoes, refrain from taking photographs and you should remain quiet out of respect for the worshippers. The outer chamber is lit by many gilt lanterns and worshipers may be using the surrounding meditation platforms. The inner chamber houses the sacred Buddha tooth relic. The floor of the inner chamber is lined with gold tiles and twenty guardians line the walls watching over the relic. A large gold stupa is the centre of attention, housing the sacred relic. A stupa in an ancient Indian burial mount which typically contains Buddhist relics, these are places of worship and meditation.
Finally up on the temple roof is the Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda. In the centre is the prayer wheel, each full turn of the wheel will ring a bell. Turning the wheel would be done whilst repeating a mantra and all other thoughts should be cleared from the mind. It is believed that doing so will earn the worshipper merit, considered a good deed.
If you stand just outside the prayer wheel door and look to the temple roof spires you will see a little glass ball surrounded by spikes. Within this ball is an image of Singapore’s Central Business District turned upside down. This is an example of the incredible level of detail that has gone into building this temple.
Lining the walls of the roof terrace are 12,300 small Buddhas representing the Buddha of Infinite Life. You can actually choose to sponsor one of these Buddhas on an annual basis and your name will be added to the small plaque below. Again this is an act of merit and on the first day of each lunar month the monks will hold a ceremony to offer prosperity and longevity to the people who sponsor the Buddhas.
This amazing temple was built at the cost of 75 million Singapore dollars and all of this was from donations.