Yet by the end of my tryst with this renowned place of worship, I discovered that at its heart, it was still the silent, spiritual Buddhism I knew.
The multi-storeyed Buddha Tooth Relic Temple dominates the colourful streets of Singapore's Chinatown with what I can only call an otherworldly magnetism. From the outside, it impresses with its curved Tang-style architecture, typical of pretty Chinese houses and wafting fragrance of incense sticks, a classic fixture in Chinese worship.
And from the inside, the ornate vat holding ceremonial ash, the giant mound of rice and the life-size deities presiding over a sea of bowing monks in sombre black robes inspire real awe. Visitors are not allowed to enter the main hall where the monks pay homage to the Buddha with their hypnotic incantations. They may, however observe and pray from the upper storey designed like a balcony that offers a 360 degree view of the proceedings below. The Sacred Tooth Relic may also be viewed from afar, on the Sacred Light Hall on the fourth floor.