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The 5Cs of Buddhism

by Evelyn on November 9, 2010

The 5Cs is a well known acronym in Singapore. It typically refers to the Singapore Dream. It was coined in the 90s due to a local observation of the materialistic obsession of Singaporeans. The 5Cs are Cash, Condo, Car, Country Club Membership and Credit Card. When I started my banking career upon graduation years ago, I had the same dream.

Pretty Ducks
(Photo taken in Singapore Botanic Gardens from where I practice Taichi also known as a form of meditation in motion.)

Even today, many young adult Singaporeans can attest to the chasing after the same dream of 5Cs. The problem is that the 5Cs is all about material goods. So social or community values have largely been ignored.

My kindly friend, Yap Kheng Guan, shared with me his acronym some time ago. Brother Yap, as he is called in Buddhist circles, centered his 5Cs on Buddhist values. Being a dharma teacher, he has graciously allowed me to publish it so that it can benefit readers. The 5 Cs are Commitment, Contentment, Compassion, Calmness and Contemplation. Here is what he wrote in an email response to me….

The 5Cs of Buddhism

Commitment is necessary for any endeavor to succeed. We need it to cultivate goodness. It gives zest to life and ensures we go about our effort with diligence. Buddha spent 6 years searching for the Truth and after his Enlightenment, 45 years teaching. His commitment to what he set out to do was never in doubt.  In everyday life, especially at work, one who is not committed suffers.   The slackers in the office not only cheat on company time but spent useless energy trying not to do any work!   Happiness at work and other areas of life are usually found when one is committed to what one is doing.

I often compare Singaporeans who are well off materially with the not so well endowed people around us.  Are we happier ?  Sadly we are not because contentment is not one of our traits.   The cyclone-hit villagers in Myanmar showed what contentment means.  They do not have much and the cyclone took away loved ones and left them with very little physical comfort.  Yet because of contentment they are happy.  It gives them the strength to move on with life.  With contentment one is grateful.  One cherishes every moment and everything, good or bad, that life offers becomes a blessing.
Compassion is regarded in Buddhism as one of the four Brahma-viharas or sublime states of mind. The other three are loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity. With compassion, one sees and feels for the suffering of others.  One understands that suffering is our common bond not just among humans but all beings.  This understanding should soften us and prevent us from further afflicting suffering onto others.   One would be able to see the merit of creating happiness for oneself and others instead of causing harm.   Through compassion one can cultivate an unbounded and a spacious love of life and living.

Calmness is much needed these days.  Not much good can come from joining the fray in a turbulent meeting or a heated argument.  Calmness gives us clarity and helps to relieve stress.   Many people can prevent themselves from getting into conflicts, worries, depressions or even suicides if they are able to cultivate calmness as a way of life.   With calmness, you are a blessing to yourself and others.  Be a calm in every storm and in this way help to make the world a happier place.

Contemplation covers a wide spectrum of things that we should do regularly to purify our minds.  Meditation is one.  So is being mindful.  Many of us lead busy lives and spend a great deal of time and resources taking care of physical things – body, cars, houses, chasing the 5Cs and seeking out sensual pleasures.   We tend to neglect the most important part of our being – our mind.   Contemplation is a call to action to train and cultivate our minds so that we can live meaningful lives.   Contemplation distinguishes us from lower forms of beings; humans can reflect, think and contemplate, and make choices for a happy existence.  We should not waste this precious human gift.

C is For Cookie?

The emphasis on materialism did not go unnoticed by the government. In August (around the time of our Nation’s Birthday) this year, Singaporeans have been called to examine the 5Cs dream again. The proposal is for the 5Cs to represent career, comfort, children, consideration and charity. These would help support the values of multi-racial harmony, community service and family as well as promote a hardworking culture.

I guess whatever the 5Cs represents depends from which angle you are coming from. To the cookie monster in Sesame Street, “C is for Cookie”!

I would like to highlight my favorite C, though. It is a very important one, I believe. And it is Consciousness or Conscious awareness. Spiritual teachers often say that many of us have been asleep to our true nature. This being true, what we need is an awakening, the increase in consciousness. Consciousness means that we become aware that we are more than our personality or ego selves. In my opinion, it’s what’s needed if we want to create the best life possible for ourselves. It happens when we take responsibility rather than let other events, other people or material good dictate the level of our happiness.

What’s Coming?

Interested to know more about consciousness and in particular, abundance consciousness? What’s coming is a book that I have been writing for the last six months. It started as an idea one year ago. It is a book that outlines the story structure of my journey, from the time I first had the Singapore dream of the 5Cs. I haven’t quite finished with it yet. However, I hope to give you updates along the way. Do keep a lookout for them :-)

Your Thoughts of the 5Cs?

As always, I would be pleased to hear your thoughts. What is your favorite C?

In loving abundance,

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Elmer Zabala November 9, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hi Evelyn,

Just like to say your site is very inspiring, I’m always looking forward for your new article.

Continue inspiring lives!

The Vizier November 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

Hi Evelyn,

This is an interesting take on the 5Cs haha! Being Singaporean myself, I am all too familiar with what you mean. Even so, the 5Cs never really appealed to me.

I am more impressed with the 5Cs of Buddhism which you have shared with us through your friend.


Any goal which we set out to achieve requires time and effort. If we cannot remain committed to it, we will give up at the first sign of trouble. I agree that happiness is found when one is committed to what is doing. I would add that to have that level of commitment to something, it has to tie in with your meaning and purpose in life. When you know why you are doing something and it resonates with your core purpose in life, you are likelier to get it done.


I do not believe that having lots of material ones will make us content. As you have pointed out, it is the people who know how to make do with less that have that contentment and serenity that many people who are better off lack. It could be that having the means to acquire all the things we want lessens their value in our eyes as they can always be replaced by something we crave even more.


Compassion is an important virtue to have. If you live only to fulfill your own desires, it’s not much of living. But if you can feel and help to ease the pain of those around you, it helps to make you life more meaningful. In a fast paced, goal oriented society like Singapore, it is even more important to have compassion since it is easy to overlook the suffering of others as we are hell bent on pursuing our goals.


This is a critical C. If we do not reflect daily on our lives and cultivate ourselves and our minds, it is very easy for us to forget what is important like our family and friends. Regular contemplation helps us to remain centered so that we can make choices that are in harmony with the times and circumstances.


I agree with you that Consciousness is vital to creating the best life possible. If we are not aware, it is so easy for us to focus on chasing the material to fill the deep void we have inside of us. This is probably my favourite C, because for me, I would not be able to have the other Cs without this.

I think your new book is a lovely idea and I look forward to it! :)

Thank you for sharing this insightful post!

Joy H November 10, 2010 at 5:56 am

Hi Evelyn,
Thank you for sharing..I very much look forward to your book! Especially since it’s a story within a story within a story..intriguing!
The 5 C’s are the foundation of my daily living..yet as I read I realize the one that is ‘missing” from my life is commitment..much as I like to let the wind velocity and direction guide my path when I sail..I allow for natural unfolding in life..I manifest in general, but never specifically..I see I am lacking commitment..I loosely follow routine..add meditation, inspiration, reflection, time in nature to each day…but sometimes I lack commitment to follow through, especially when I am less than passionate about it..I shall process this..thank you for the insight!

Zengirl @ Heart and Mind November 10, 2010 at 10:10 am


I love the Buddha’s teaching and I love the 5Cs. I often write about feeling contentedness and happiness through what we already have rather than materialistic possessions. For long lasting peace, 5Cs are important.

Looking forward to your book, can you tell more, is it ebook or printed?

Chris Edgar November 10, 2010 at 11:39 am

Hi Evelyn — looking forward to seeing your book! I can totally get what you say about consciousness being one of the most important “C”s — I often tell a story about how just becoming conscious of a habit I’m doing that’s not serving me can cause it to fall away. I used to clench my jaw and grind my teeth, until someone pointed out to me how tight my jaw seemed, and then, weirdly enough, it spontaneously relaxed.

Sara November 11, 2010 at 12:02 am


I haven’t visited much lately and regret it as I read this excellent post. My favorite C is compassion. I agree with Brother Yap that compassion helps us understand our connections to each other and this is something I value very much.

I just wanted you to know that I recently re-read the Akashic Secret reading you did for me some time ago. It was very illuminating AGAIN and helped me see my direction more clearly. So, thanks again:~)

Suzie Cheel November 11, 2010 at 10:22 am

I relate to the 5cs of Buddhism. I do like that the Singaporean Govt is moving their 5 Cs to ones that are more in alignment with the shifting world focus.
yes consciousness is so important and how we be conscious and are we awake to our own dreams, that which is inside everyone of us.

I am excited to read about your book, I like the sounds of it.

Patricia November 12, 2010 at 5:12 am

This is a lovely post and I am so happy you shared the Cs…

I think in the US the letter C is connected to being average and not understanding…

I like this list much better and your kind words of description – Thank you for your generous gift of understanding. I look forward to a whole book.

Manifesting abundance November 13, 2010 at 12:55 am

Hey I’m Singaporean too! =)

Glad to see another Singaporean spreading and sharing this knowledge with everybody else, it is certainly very helpful in achieving our dreams and goals!


Alien Ghost November 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

Hi Evelyn,

My favorite C is for Cookie! (Just kidding)

The 5Cs of Buddhism are a wisdom that should be worldwide knowledge; unfortunately there are different approaches to life practiced in different places.

It is outstanding though that the government has taken steps to redirect people away from the C of Consumer…something not common in other parts of the world, where the 5Cs of materialism are encouraged as a way of economy growth.

I’ll be waiting for your book to be published, as it seems to have lots of wisdom.


P.S. I still like cookies…sorry!

Hilary November 14, 2010 at 3:18 am

Hi Evelyn .. I’ve been ‘waiting’ to do this post justice and at least read it – I have the semblance in my head .. and everything you say is so true .. the C that springs to mind .. is C for Capturing the essence …

I will be back at some stage to re-read this post – it is brilliant .. and the thought of your book is enticing ..

Thanks so much – thoroughly enjoyed it .. Hilary

Farouk November 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

C for cookie hahahaah, that made me laugh :)
nice one Evelyn, thank you :)

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