Singapore's only 24-hour Tibetan Buddhist temple yesterday marked Vesak Day by inviting pet owners to get their animals blessed and animal welfare charities to stage an adoption drive for strays.
Thekchen Choling described the event as a modern-day interpretation of the traditional Buddhist animal liberation practice.
For the first time, the temple in Beatty Lane in Jalan Besar collaborated with four animal welfare groups - Animal Human Alliance, Cat Welfare Society, Purely Adoptions and Forget Me Not - to hold the cat and dog adoption drive.
Traditionally, Buddhists release animals on Vesak Day to gain merit, but the temple's spiritual director Singha Rinpoche said the practice could be viewed in other ways in today's context.
He said: "Buying and releasing animals is actually not good for the environment, so it's much better if we can feed and rehome strays.
"Rather than blind faith, we want to promote social and spiritual cohesion along with the teaching that all beings, both humans and animals, are equal."
Among the devotees who took along their pets for blessings was packaging company director Collin Hu, 42.
"My family of four has been coming here to soak in the festivities for the past 10 years, but the main purpose we are here today is to get blessings for our three-month-old toy poodle, the newest member of our family," he said.
Another highlight of the morning was the unveiling of a 13m by 9m thangka, a handcrafted silk applique image of Shakyamuni Buddha, after prayers and offerings.
More than 800 devotees attended this year's event, which featured a carnival with more than 20 food and game stalls.
Local illustrator Patrick Yee, who is behind children's book series Rosie Rabbit, launched his new book, titled Buddha, at the event.
The temple also handed out 45 bursaries worth more than $12,000 to primary, secondary and tertiary students from low-income families from different ethnic groups.
Housewife Basanthi Selvam, 56, who has participated in the celebrations for many years with her family of nine, said: "Every year, I come here to pay respects and to seek blessings for my whole family."