Paws for reflection: Animals blessed and rehomed as Buddhist temple marks Vesak Day

Michelle Ng Straits Times 19 May 19;

SINGAPORE - Singapore's only 24-hour Tibetan Buddhist temple marked Vesak Day on Sunday (May 19) by inviting pet owners to get their animals blessed and animal welfare charities to stage an adoption drive for strays.

Thekchen Choling described the event as a modern-day interpretation of the traditional Buddhist animal liberation practice.

For the first time, the temple on Beatty Lane in Jalan Besar collaborated with four animal welfare groups - the Animal Human Alliance, Cat Welfare Society, Purely Adoptions and Forget Me Not - to hold the cat and dog adoption drive with cats and raise awareness of animal welfare.

Traditionally, Buddhists release animals on Vesak Day to create merit but the temple's spiritual director Singha Rinpoche said the practice could be viewed in other ways in today's context.

He said: "Buying and releasing animals is actually not good for the environment so it's much better if we can feed and rehome strays. Rather than blind faith, we want to promote social and spiritual cohesion along with the teaching that all beings, both humans and animals, are equal."

Among the devotees who took along their pets for blessings was packaging company director Mr Collin Hu, 42.

"My family of four have been coming here to soak in the festivities for the past 10 years but the main purpose we're here today is to get blessings for our three-month-old toy poodle, the newest member of our family," he said.

Another highlight of the morning was the unveiling of a 13m by 9m handcrafted silk applique image of Shakyamuni Buddha, known as a thangka, after prayers and offerings.

More than 800 devotees attended this year's event with a carnival featuring more than 20 food and games stalls adding to the festive atmosphere.

Local illustrator Patrick Yee, who is behind children's book series Rosie Rabbit, launched his new book titled Buddha at the event.

The temple also handed out 45 bursaries worth more than $12,000 to primary, secondary and tertiary students from low-income families across various ethnic groups.

Housewife Madam Basanthi Selvam, 56, who has participated in the celebrations for many years with her family of nine, said: "Every year I come here to pay respects and to seek blessings for my whole family."