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Columbarium and Ling San Si

Luo Tang is a resting place for the departed soul and also a place for constant soul veneration. Columbarium, as a translation, is an inadequate term as it brings to mind Roman columbarium which was a hole-in-the-wall above ground room for storage of cinerary urns. The Chinese Luo Tang has graves into the niches. The design and status of the Luo Tang may vary depending on the culture and economic status of the people. The very devout modern traditional Buddhists in China have recreated the Tang Dynasty stone graves in cave-like places. At the apex of its prosperity during the Southern Sung dynasty, Buddhism in China had a Luo Tang with a Pagoda. The Pagoda was built in reverence to the soul of the departed enlightenment to help purgatory. During the early stages of a Luo Tang, the poorer communities may only afford to have niches built into a temple wall or an ancestral temple. The better off may build a room or even a part of a room to serve as a Luo Tang. Today, urbanization has forever led to the banning of burials as it takes up precious land. Niche into public or private columbarium is now the only form of grave. The future generations down the line may not have the chance to properly carry out traditional soul veneration.

Overview of Columbarium

It is clear the columbarium has set a benchmark, providing the best possible care from the living to the deceased and to the surviving family members. It is thus far the most comprehensive and continuing care for the spiritual needs of the departed in a non-commercialized nature.

The columbarium is fully air-conditioned with comfortable dim lights to provide an ambiance of sanctuary, with spacious walkways to avoid congestion and noise that could disrupt the peace and serenity, allowing devotees to reflect on their loved ones in a harmonious environment. A dedicated team of staff works round the clock, ensuring the premises are kept clean with sufficient seating space. Visits to the departed loved ones can be an emotional experience, so we have provided a counseling room to comfort those who find the departure of their loved ones a traumatic experience. Landscaped gardens and rooftop landscapes filled with greenery and a man-made brook have been designed to provide scenic comfort and for meditational purposes for visitors. Public facilities such as the convenience shop and a nursing room can be a great convenience to those who render their respects. Aided with modern technology, the Columbarium has a computerized memorial database kiosk to assist visitors in finding the niche information of their loved ones, as a smart search tool has been incorporated within the homepage of the SBF website. Finally, the Chinese geomancy master has given the assurance of good energy flow, thus allowing the Singapore Buddhist Foundation to offer a peace of mind package for perpetual.

Columbarium is a unique Chinese architectural structure that evolves from prehistorical underground burial to ancient grave and postmodern cremation. Upon the termination of the two-decade project in 2005, the state-of-the-art, six-storey Singapore Buddhist Columbarium located in Singapore’s eastern Tampines area has the capacity to house 100,000 niches and 500,000 cinerary urns. It is one of the largest in the world and the only one of its kind in Singapore. With the highest standards of Chinese art thus far, the Columbarium Institute in the Singapore Buddhist Foundation’s idea to provide comprehensive and continuing care for the spiritual needs of the deceased and their family members in a serene and tranquil environment.

Ling San Si Temple

The temple can be located quite near to the border of the Tampines and Pasir Ris housing estate at the end of Sungei Tampines Road. It was built by Mr. Lee Chee, a social worker active in community work, in memory of his parents. The temple sits on a hill surrounded by greenery and offers some tranquility away from the bustle of urbanization. Upon reaching the 1st level, you will see the twin deity, Da Bo Gong and his wife, Fu Ren, standing in its sheltered shrine. At the 2nd level is the ancestral hall which is now used by various clan associations for meetings and offering prayers to their ancestors. At the 3rd and highest level is the main hall which is dedicated to Pay Huang San Emperor. In position, it is currently planning to move the temple to the Tampines North area off the Tampines Expressway to make way for the development projects of the Tampines and Pasir Ris housing estate. The final decision has yet to be reached. Overall, Ling San Si Temple is a place rich in history and has marked a period of Tampines’ culture. It is a peculiar one as it is one of the more traditional structures that stands in comparison to the new buildings that are rapidly filling up spaces in the urban Tampines. This creates a contrast and curiosity to those unaware of the temple’s background and purpose why it still exists at its current location.

Services Offered

The right to use a niche may be transferred to the University by the estate of the original holder or his/her designee upon approval of the office of the Columbarium Director. A person attaining this privilege must exchange the Certificate of Right of Use for the urn niche and complete a Gift Transmittal Form. Regular Niches shall be used only for the interment of the cremated remains of a single deceased person. No niche shall be used for the interment of more than one person. Alcove niches are designed to hold the cremated remains of a single deceased person in an urn. An Alcove Niche shall not be used for the interment of the cremated remains of more than one person. An Upright Niche is a large niche designed for the interment of two to four sets of cremated remains and is intended for use by family members. Upright niches are assigned in blocks of 2 or 4 niches, which must be used for the interment of two to four deceased persons from the same family.

The Columbarium is a permanent place for cremated remains to be housed and memorialized. Niches in the Columbarium are available in a variety of styles and sizes. Personal possessions or identification placed in or on niches must be approved by Columbarium staff. Only the cremated remains of a deceased person may be placed in a niche and they must be in an urn conforming to the size and shape of the niche. No niche may be used for the interment of more than one person.

Columbarium Niches

The Management of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery has taken several measures in preserving a more conducive environment for the Columbarium. The layout of the Columbarium is architecturally designed in the form of a circular mandala. This repetitive geometrical pattern is ideally aimed at assisting visitors to harmonize and calm their emotions while searching for relatives or venerating the departed. Drainage holes were installed in the niches to prevent water retention. Compiled records of niches with photographs are stored in the computer system, reducing the need to keep searching physically. Measures have also been taken in keeping a firm control over the cleanliness and maintenance of the Columbarium and its immediate surroundings. The Monastery has set up a Bin Centre equipped with industrial UPS and incinerator to reduce the inconvenience caused by the removal of debris and to maintain a cleaner environment at an economical cost.

The Columbarium at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery was officially opened in February 2004 with the installation of Devanapala, which means Dharma-protector. It is widely recognized by the general public and the Buddhist communities, locally and internationally, as an eminent place for the storage of funerary urns, preserving the ashes of the deceased. This modern facility within the serene surroundings of the Monastery is ideal for Buddhists who wish to express gratitude and appreciation to their departed loved ones or to provide a place for future generations to cultivate their distinguished kinship with their ancestors. As this is a non-profit making Columbarium, any surplus generated will contribute towards the long-term running of the Monastery and its various charity projects. At the present moment, the Columbarium has 4 storeys comprising 9112 niches in various sizes and 1 storey of facilities aimed at providing after-life services for the deceased and their family.

Funeral Services

On the day of cremation, the casket bearing the deceased will be transported to the Mandai Crematorium by the hearse. A simple service may be conducted at the cremation hall before the casket is taken into the furnace. There are no fixed rules. Pricing for casket, hearse, and transportation to Mandai is not inclusive in the funeral packages. A separate encoffinment and/or religious rites ceremony (Buddhist, Taoist, or Catholic) are also optional items and may require additional coordination and payment by the next-of-kin. Ling San Temple will organize blessings and conduct religious rites for the deceased if the next-of-kin would like to engage our services. At the end of the ceremony, family and guests are given the options of taking a vegetarian meal at the Kong Meng San Monastery or Kong Meng San Columbarium Multi-purpose Hall. Ling San can also arrange for meal catering and transportation services at various temples.

On the first day of the wake, a monk from the Ling San Temple will be invited to conduct a simple prayer session to comfort the bereaved family. A Taoist or Buddhist prayer session will also usually be held on the night before the day of cremation. Family members may also choose to conduct their own prayer sessions.

Traditional funeral services. Depending on families’ preferences and needs, the traditional Chinese funeral includes a 2 to 3 day wake period (day of death to day of cremation) where family and friends will gather at the wake location to pay their last respects. The wake period includes the dressing and make-up of the deceased, provision of a photo enlargement of the deceased, 2 wreath flower arrangements, and a decorative photo album.

Memorial Services

On a regular basis, the Buddhist community and Ling San Si organize joint memorial services for Buddhist followers who have passed away and are committed to maintaining a peaceful environment for loved ones to remember their deceased relatives and be involved in meditation and prayer. Prayers are offered and a guided meditation session is conducted to comfort and ease the minds of participants. The services inspire participants to take a realistic view on life and death, and confront the inevitable with courage, confidence, and peace of mind. By accepting the truth that death is inevitable, the deceased’s relatives will be better able to handle their situation. This does not mean that they are encouraged to be resigned to the “fate” of death but rather to understand and acknowledge that life is impermanent and that death is a natural end to life. In understanding that death is a natural part of life, it is then possible to meet this reality with a calm and peaceful mind. This is not only beneficial for the one who is dying but for those who will survive them. Offering the services at the columbarium provides a suitable environment in which participants can meditate on the truth of life and death and fully appreciate the serenity of the surroundings. The tranquil surrounding is dual-purposed as it not only provides a conducive environment for meditation and prayers but also serves as a learning experience for visitors to understand the concepts of life and death. In attending the services, participants are able to reflect on their past and present lives and dedicate the merit from this act to their departed relatives, with the aspiration that they be free from suffering and be at peace.

Facilities and Amenities

3.1 Meditation Halls The Meditation Halls provide a quiet environment for prayer and meditation. They are carpeted, air-conditioned, and furnished with benches and chairs. The halls are suitable for various religious activities and meditation exercises and are used for funeral services at 10-minute intervals. Audio systems are available for the playing of hymns or other religious music. All meditation halls are wheelchair accessible.

First Columbarium has a number of facilities and amenities to enhance the lives of the living and the memory of their loved ones. At First Columbarium, we believe that the road to wellness is best achieved through care of the body and the soul and provide an environment designed to foster a sense of tranquility and spirituality. Our facilities are designed to cater to a multitude of religious beliefs and cultures in a tasteful and sensitive manner and promote good health and well-being in the community.

Meditation Halls

Meditation halls are spaces specifically for meditation, and in Buddhist culture, it is common to have such spaces within the temple. The practice of meditating has a strong emphasis on importance in many Buddhist sects, so it is often given a space to grow and develop through meditation. Most meditation halls are extremely minimal in design; this is to avoid any distractions while deep in meditation. Often, the only furnishing is cushions for sitting. In the earlier days, monks would sit facing a wall for countless hours of meditation, so it was tradition to place an image of the Buddha on the wall to face in reverence. Walking meditation, in which a person is constantly aware, is also practiced in these halls. The practice of meditating is a long-standing tradition in Buddhism, and the meditation hall holds great importance as it is the center of this practice. It is common to offer classes in the art of meditation to laypeople in these meditation halls. Today, many of these classes have become popular secularly as well and are held at colleges and community centers. Adaptive versions of the meditation hall have developed to suit these classes also. So, in essence, the meditation hall has proven to be a strong fixture in Buddhist culture, transcending through the ages and into many cultures and societies.

Prayer Rooms

There are currently two prayer rooms that are situated along the corridor of the Block B building where a total of 24 niches are available. The prayer room at level 1 is designated to serve those who are bearing Christian faith and the other at level 3 for the Buddhists. Furnishing of both prayer rooms is simply done to provide a conducive environment for prayers. At level 1, the Christian prayer room is equipped with a simple display cabinet and a foldable table. At level 3, the Buddhists prayer room is furnished with a simple altar built by the temple volunteers. This room also serves the purpose of a multi-faith room too given the small number of niches for the Buddhist denomination at this juncture. These prayer rooms provide an alternative venue for holding religious rites other than the niches. This way it does not inconvenience those who are using the niches at the same time and will go as far as not causing conflicts with the different faiths.

Gardens and Scenic Areas

At the Ling San Si campus, there are a number of gardens and scenic areas that give families a peaceful environment to contemplate and grieve. These gardens are designed to blend harmoniously with the surroundings of our Memorial Park and provide an ideal place for meditation. Each garden has its own unique character and significance, complete with appropriate landscaping and horticulture. Our newest Garden of Serenity project is now completed. This will become the new standard for future development. With these gardens, we hope to offer a sanctuary and peaceful setting for families with cremated remains interred at our niches and for those who attend service at our Columbarium. Development of specific gardens may be discussed with our consultants, and arrangements may be made to provide personalized horticulture by request.

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