Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Singapore, Ghost Month, & Destroying Gaia

I thought Singapore is pushing for environmental conservation. Despite the often publicized "Saving Gaia" campaign by Channel News Asia, I witnessed the most horrible environmental onslaught last Friday.

It was the day when some brainless yellow creatures think that the gate of hell is opened. Hence these creatures burn innumerable special sort of cheap papers to ... er ... actually I also don't know for what! I bet they don't even know it! Probably some would say it's for the ghosts that wander out from hell. The burning of these papers help keep the ghosts from disturbing humans.

There is a weirder thing I observed on that day. When I walked pass a group of young executives who were in long sleeves and pants along the Lavender-Bugis area, I found them not only burning those papers but also throwing the paper around while shouting, "Huat Ar!"

"Huat ar" could mean several things in Hokkien. Probably they meant it something like, "Get rich ar!". Can you fathom the connection between these sights?

1) A group of well-dressed male and female young executives in their 20s and 30s,

2) Burning and throwing papers by the road side,

3) Shouting, "Huat ar, huat ar!" ritualistically as if they are praying;

4) And all these happened in Singapore, a 1st-world country that has the best science, education, and medical facilities in the region. And also a country that encourages its citizen to go "green" with all the advertisement in cinemas, MRTs, buses, TV, radio etc.


Do we really have to put up with these environmental terrorizing practices every year?

BTW, when I first saw Channel News Asia's Saving Gaia, I puzzle at the dubious noun it uses to represent earth... Gaia... A term popularized by Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. I always thought that a news channel should be pertinent and mature. My mistake, perhaps.

At anytime, "Creation" is much more articulate and unambiguous than Gaia.


Steven Sim said...

really ghost month..the first photo with the gal wearing yellow beside a lamp post looked you've captured a ghost.

And the photo of the big tong below that picture is eerie as well with it's orangie effect against the dark night.

Becareful what you do in Ghost Month especially Singapore. I mean even the clean-freak Sg government can suspend its law for the ghosts...scary eh.

Btw, on the young exec doing "huat ar"'s a irony of our times. Young ppl whether they believed it or not probably would not take any chances if it means getting rich. Paradox...look at our friend with amulets. He's a scientist working in a lab lah.

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

The Singaporean government suspends the law for the 'huat ar' more likely.

It's so weird with these young ppl. I think it's a generational curse. Being passed down from generation to generation. So our friend stuck with it.

Btw, I dont remember there was a girl there when I took the picture....*gulp*

keropok lekor said...

probably the young execs are applying pascal's wager on the possibility of divine blessings!

J [i] M M y said...

You have the rights to talk about people destroying the environment but it is very harsh for you to talk from a religion point of view like u call the Chinese as yellow creatures.. fyi, although you are a Christian follower but u are still a Chinese..
You don't hear us saying harsh names to Christians..

And also you have your own opinion and you believe on your very own religion.. SO DO US THE BUDDHIST!!!
You believe in demons and Satan, we believe in ghost and the gate of hell..So what? It doesn't go against your religion or any others..

Perhaps you can just suggest a better ways for them to burn the papers in a special place or what instead of COMPLAINING AND DISCRIMINATING.. You are just so childish and uneducated to do that..

Of all the Christians i've seen you are the one that has so strong prejudice on other religion..

Remember we live on the same matter what religion you are!!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Jimmy,

Thank you for your comment. I believe there are certain amount of misunderstandings from your comment regarding my post and my stand.

First of all, my comment is not written from a Christian point of view. If you notice, in my first paragraph, I made allusion to Saving Gaia movement, which is NOT a Christian movement.

Secondly, my comments are not targeted at Buddhist, but to some ridiculous actions done by some people (not all Chinese do that) even thinking about the negative consequences their actions have on the environment.

Thirdly, Buddhism - be it Mahayana or Theravada - does not teach about burning papers to creatures from hell or to ghost. This practice is from folk Chinese tradition, NOT Buddhism.

Fourthly, I can appreciate your comments but it'd be better if you do it without ad hominem. That would not help in any conversation.

Fifthly, you do not know what is my thoughts on hell and after-life are. So don't assume you know what I think. Certainly I am doubtful over the existence of ghost and hell. Will appreciate it if you don't build your strawman and claim that it's me. This is basic in any discussion.

Sixthly, again I want to emphasize that my comment is not from a Christian point of view. Please read the post carefully before launching your ad hominem assault which is counter-constructive and time-wasting.

So overall, I sensed that you don't know much about Saving Gaia movement, Buddhism, Christianity, and the way of engagement in discussion are done.

But anyway, I appreciate your comments.

Sze Zeng said...

A correction in my comment:

Secondly, my comments are not targeted at Buddhist, but to some ridiculous actions done by some people (not all Chinese do that) WITHOUT even thinking about the negative consequences their actions have on the environment.

Steven Sim said...

With due respect, I think young ppl our generation should really think before we talk. Talk is really really, cheap.

Perhaps we are used to the verbosity of an MTV VJ and not thorough-thinkingness; and will not think twice of blurting out a comment, even at the risk of looking stupid. And perhaps that is the new value of the old virtue of eloquence.

Steven Sim

Steven Sim said...

If i may add to your comment on our so called buddhist fren Jimmy, the mahayana buddhist believe that burning joss papers is contrary to buddhism, and there in fact is a legend which says the inventor of the joss paper will be punished in hell until everyone stops burning them. If this legend is to be accepted, burning more papers not only harm Gaia but brings bad karma.

Theravada buddhist believes you get reincarnate almost immediately after you die and loose conscioussness of past rebirth unless you have achieve one of the three supernormal knowledge of past lives recollection.

And Jimmy, it'll be good to heed some of the points Josh point out and pursue further learnings. Josh is certainly someone who is respectful of Buddhist, his family members are fulltime vegetarian, and he was a novice monk himself before.

Steven Sim

reasonable said...

I think the Taoist Federation of Singapore should think of some better alternative ritual to replace the burning of papers and devise some strategies to slowly condition more and more believers of Chinese folk religion to adopt an alternative ritual which is earth-friendly while at the same time serving the goal of paper-burning.

Since many Chinese folk religionists have high respect for Buddhist monks/nuns, the Buddhist clergy can also be more proactive in suggesting better alternative rituals (even though these folk religionists are not really Buddhists).

Such burning of paper in such a large scale is clearly bringing harm to the living (and perhaps even to the dead).