The date November 19th 2017 marked a historical milestone in the revival and spread of Buddhism in Southern India where a Buddhist Centre, Bouddha Dharamapithamu at Undrajavaram, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh was completed after three and the half years of laborious work in its construction.
The construction of the Bouddha Dharamapithamu kick started with the foundation stone-laying ceremony on May 24th 2015 witnessed by many local and foreign monks, nuns, dignitaries and guests on this noble and auspicious event.
In order to maximise optimal usage of the Bouddha Dharamapithamu a soft opening ceremony was held on January 16th 2016 when the building was partially completed with two stories ready for occupancy. Six samanaras were adopted to provide linage to keep Buddhism alive in the Southern India vide this Centre. Today it has a total of thirteen samanaras.
The cumulation of the preceding events climaxed with the grand opening of the Bouddha Dharamapithamu, which incidentally is also the tallest building in the vicinity, serves as a beacon in the propagation of Buddhism in this region of the country.
It also serves as a resource centre for research and academic pursuits for scholars. Ironically, Buddhism originated in India some 2500 years ago had somewhat evaporated for the country of birth but flourished in many nations overseas. It is indeed a noble cause that could not come at a more opportune time for the establishment of the Centre for the revival of Buddhism.
The main group from Singapore departed on November 17th 2017 comprised of nineteen personal viz: four sangha members and fifteen devotees and well-wishers graced the occasion. Ajahn Keng, Bhante Cakkapala, Bhante Dhammajothy and Bhikkku Lee were among the entourage by invitation.
The complete group of devotees and well-wishers from Singapore were Catherine Wong, Chin Kee Thou, Christine Chew, Cynthia Tan, Doris Yip, Fiona Liu, Goh Swee Pheng, Hing Seng Huat, Lim Hock Kee, Lim Soo Huang, Maggie Tai, Raymond Yow, Sue Simon, Susan Yap, Susie Lee, Tham Chee Keong, Upekkha Chin, Yong Wee Siong and Zhang Yuxian.
The list of the sangha who spells who and who were:
Ajahn Keng from Singapore; Bhante Cakkapala from Myanmar; Bhante Dhammajoti from Sri Lanka; Bhante Khemacara from India; Bhante Kusalananda from Sri Lanka; Bhante Rathanajoti from Sri Lanka; Bhante Saddhananda from Sir Lanka; Bhikkhu Lee from Malaysia; Bhikkhuni Dhammacarini and Bhikkhuni Thitacarini from Indonesia; Bhikkhuni Nguyen Thi Truc Ly from Vietnam and Venerable Hsueh Men from Singapore; with about 100 Sangha studying at Nagasena University attended event.
Brothers Raymond Yow, Hing Sing Huat, Goh Swee Pheng and I arrived on November 16th assisted and oversaw the preparation for this grandiose event working in collaboration with the working committee under the charge of Bhante Analayo. Brother Raymond the team leader with a game plan conferred with him on the ritual and ceremonial aspects like sitting position of the sangha on stage for the sanghika dana, procedure for offerings to the Buddha like water, light and fruits by selected lady devotees and selection of monks for delivering of speech. A rehearsal was held to ensure proper and timely execution of the tasks.
A large turnout
An estimated turnout of about 5000 well-wishers and visitors was envisaged, called for set up of a large tentage and marquee pitched on the vacant land adjacent to the Centre to accommodate the congregation together with a stage for sanghika dana for 47 monks and nuns.
The preceding two days to the grandiose event were campaign trails by monks, nuns and samanaras, led by a bajaj (Indian three wheel tricycle) decorated with banner on each side pitched with two loudhailers on its roof, blasted away and broadcasted the event as they meandered through selected route of roads, allays and lanes to the villagers and residents within the vicinity of the Centre which is about five kilometres in radius.
The processions with flag bearing supporters distributed flyers to passers-by, cyclists, motorcyclists, shopkeepers, stallholders and even delivered to their homes. The campaign trial listed for about three hours per trip on each day.
On the eve of the auspicious day the press called upon the host and selected representatives for an interview and the news items were reported in the vernacular press.
Pindapata or Alms round
The grandiose event started at six o’clock in the morning with a procession of sangha order comprised of monks, nuns and samanaras in a single file formation, led by the most senior monk in term of the number of vasa, went for alms round or pindapata, flanked on both sides by devotees and flag bearers dressed in all white travelled along the rehearsed route.
Two set up distribution points
There were two setup distribution points where devotees and well-wishers offered alms or dana to the sangha as they passed by, mindfully dropped them in the alms bowl of each sangha member and samanara. “In giving food, one gives five things. What five? One gives life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence. And in giving these things, one partakes in the qualities of life, beauty, happiness, strength intelligence, both here and hereafter.” (A.III,42).
The alms-gathers on their way back were welcome by devotees and well-wishers who lined the walkway of the Centre and sprinkled corollas at the feet as they walked pass and then headed to the washing point had their feet washed and dried before headed for the stage set up for the sanghika dana.
Grand Opening and Consecration ceremonies
The opening ceremony was initiated by Madam Chitturi Usha Rani of the Hotel Chitturi Heritage symbolically cut the blue ribbon attached across the main gate and declared open the Centre while the crowd watched enthusiastically.
Simultaneously on the fourth-storey the Dhamma Hall with the newly installed five-foot marble image of the Buddha from Mandalay was consecrated by the lighting the oil lamp performed by Ajahn Keng, Bhante Dhammajoti, Bhante Khemacaea and Bhante Rathanajoti.
The consecration of the Dhamma Hall attended by selected local congregators. The entourage from Singapore in full attendance was among them to witness the occasion.
Commendable speeches were eloquently delivered by the monks in commemoration of the event which was telecasted live on a gigantic led screen to the congregators under the tentage.
Conducted tour of the Centre
A conducted tour of the Centre was conducted on November 20th for the entourage of the completed building consists of four storeys and a roof garden. The first storey or ground floor (colonial inheritance) is the kitchen, dining hall cum visitor lounge and administrative office.
On the second storey is a small theatre with a wall mount television console, the library and a shrine hall. As the Centre is designated to be a centre of learning and research the collection of books will stage to grow with time to be as comprehensive as possible.
On the third storey are the guest rooms and dormitory for the samanaras, is a restricted area with a gate which is out of bounds to visitors
The fourth storey is the Dhamma Hall and gallery cum museum.
What a splendid gift!
The funds for the Centre were contributed by donors from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia; and Singapore – the main benefactor. It is indeed a noble deed of the incumbents to emulate the great deed of Anăthapindika who purchased Jetavana Grove from Prince Jeta with a handsome price of the number of gold coins that covered the park. A monastery was built upon the land as a gift to Lord Buddha who spent twenty four raining seasons at the Jetavana Monastery. Although the benefactors’ infinitesimal deed paled in comparison to the gift of Anăthapindika, it is still a meritorious deed and even more magnanimous vis-a-vis in wealth.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: December 4th 2017
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