Buddhist mum worries about funeral rites
FIVE years ago, when Madam Tan, a devout Buddhist, first heard that her eldest daughter Cindy Ng, then 23, was planning to be baptised, she had one concern - that the young woman would not be able to perform the funeral rites at her death.
The 53-year-old, who declined to reveal her full name, said: 'I don't like the idea that they cannot hold joss sticks or kneel when I'm dead. I gave them life. It's a form of respect. It is why I asked them not to be baptised until I die.'
Visits to places of worship
A book last year by sociologist Tong Chee Kiong on religious conversion here notes that many traditional Chinese equate baptism with becoming the foster child of the Christian God. It is like losing that child to another culture, as it were.
It is why a high percentage of Christians here are not baptised, he wrote.
Unfortunately for Madam Tan, who is self-employed, Cindy went ahead with her plans, followed not long after by her sister.
As baptised Christians, they see taking part in Buddhist funeral rites as going against their beliefs.
Madam Tan stressed that her daughters' conversions to another religion did not upset her as much as their refusal to go through certain rites, like those at their grandmother's funeral.
She said, distressed: 'They did not kneel. I asked why they didn't pay their respects to their grandmother, and they said their religion does not allow them to do so. But I think whatever it is, they should show respect.'
Her point is that parents and ancestors are accorded pole position in Chinese religions; though she herself was born into Taoism and later became a Buddhist, it has not stopped her from practising other Chinese rites and customs.
'In my religion, parents are the biggest. In their religion, Jesus is biggest. To me, there is nothing wrong with kneeling before them.'
She sees it as a form of betrayal that two of her three girls do not share the same spiritual beliefs, especially after accompanying her to visit temples during their childhood. It is also hard trying to get them to accept concepts she holds close to her heart, like karma - that everything comes full circle - or reincarnation.
'I tell them about it, but they don't believe me,' she said.
She has come to accept that she has little control over her grown-up children's decisions, and has given way to them when they refuse to include Chinese rites during events such as weddings.
'I just let them do whatever they want to do... You can't change their minds. I just want them to be happy.'
She is holding out hope that her youngest daughter, now 21, will not convert as well: 'I tell her, if she can, to remain Buddhist. Of course, I would like a traditional Buddhist funeral when I go, and she will pay me those last respects.'