First and foremost, being Buddhist can mean a lot of things in today’s society. Therefore, I would prefer to think of Buddhism as a philosophy, as a teaching to the ways of living. I was brought up in a Buddhist family, but my parents were very liberal with my religious views. This has shaped my experience of studying in ACS for the last 11 years.
I believe in the practice of finding peace within, and reserving judgments unless it adds value to the world. Therefore, I think that your experience in AC will ultimately boil down to who you are- whether you can find peace within. There were many points in year 5 that I asked myself, “why the heck am I doing this”, and “if there was a higher power to pull me out of my circumstances”. Almost every time the answer came from “within”.
I recall a period around Term 3 when IA submissions, exams and CCA related events were all simultaneously approaching, discussions about faith and god started creeping into school life; the usual trigger for people to start questioning faith and religion. As I was a more conservative Buddhist, I naturally wasn’t a huge part of the discussion about faith. However, if you are a Buddhist, it’s good because you get to add diversity to the school culture in your own subtle way! While ACS is a Methodist mission school, I think it’s nice getting exposure to content shared during chapel and morning devotions because the focus is on universal values of forgiveness, kindness, empathy, etc. In fact, I am very happy that my cohort mates were all enthusiastic and unabashed about wanting to help, even if it was just doing menial labour during WOW.
If you’re not well acquainted with the AC culture, we tend to get quite loud and can sometimes inevitably exclude people in the process. There may come a time where being the odd one is kinda lonely because you don’t really know anyone very well, and you hear that your friends have such great social circles from church, cell, etc. It was in those times that I realised IB wouldn’t be the same as in secondary school. I was in the real world now. Stuff like religion started to creep into friendship so much more frequently. Personally speaking, I was given many opportunities to live and learn through the Student Council and I can truly say that the times of trepidation with IB and life were the ones that taught me how to live- to recognise suffering, recognise emotions, and to recognise mindfulness. Once that is achieved, you’ll know that the best you can do is to simply give off your best, and to do your best no matter the circumstances.
To keep things short, I think that if you’re a Buddhist and you’re in the IB Programme, it’s an excellent combination for you because it teaches you to think, and if you think about it, the greatest thing that we can do now is to learn how to think. I remember words of wisdom said during a TOK discussion in year 5, that while “it’s easy to claim yourself a devotee, but what’s difficult is living that religion”. These 2 years will definitely get you thinking. From what I’ve experienced, the issue isn’t so much of claiming Buddhist than it is of living Buddhist.
Show it. Don’t talk it.
Chua Yun Da (6.09) is from the graduating batch of 2015.