Buddhism fastest-growing religion in Singapore

Singapore - Buddhism is the fastest-growing religion in Singapore, particularly among the young and educated, census figures released Monday showed. The number of people aged 15 and over who are Buddhists jumped from 31 per cent of the population in 1990 to 43 per cent, or 1.1 million people, 10 years later. Buddhism is the main religion in the city-state.

Devotees congregated at temples on Vesak Day Monday, marking the birth, enlightenment and nirvana of the Buddha.

The census figures published in The Straits Times showed a fourfold jump in Buddhists who were graduates between 1990 and 2000. Membership numbers of Buddhist youth groups have soared.

Converts told the newspaper that the religion offered comfort in the face of uncertainties and disasters and a constant reminder to look beyond materialism to attain calmness and happiness through meditation and reflection.

"Through Buddhism, I can be a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend and a better colleague," Hindu-born Tara Melwani, the 43-year-old director of a retailing group, was quoted as saying.

Actress Nadya Hutagalung, 34, born into a Christian family, said she was attracted by the philosophy of Buddhism.

The religion has even attracted those who say they are fundamentally practicing other faiths, such as Christianity.

"Buddhism is a very embracing and non-exclusive religion," said Singapore Exchange chief Hsieg Foo Hua, 57. "Buddhist thinking has helped me in the uplifting of the mind and spirit."