One of the aims of the Event Committee of MV Dhamma Fellowship is to organise educational excursions to places of worship of the various faiths in Singapore. It kickstarted the activity with a trip on Sunday, September 14th 2014 with a bus load of 40 participants departed Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) at 1 pm, to visit the two selected Theravada temples, namely Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St. Michael Road and Burmese Buddhist Temple at Tai Gin Road off Balestier Road. It was also a debut trip for our new religious advisor, Bhante Cakkapala who accompanied the group.
Incidentally the two temples that we visited have had historical ties with Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) that many of them are not aware. So it is my pleasure to share with the readers the little known facts.
Historical ties with Sri Lankaramaya Temple . . .
Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St Michael’s Road is a peaceful sanctuary situated in the middle of major roads. Built in 1952, this is the oldest Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist Temple in Singapore. It is managed by Singapore Sinhala Buddhist Association.
With a Stupa, a Bodhi Tree from the sapling taken from the mother tree in Anuradhapura, Buddha images and a Sima Hall. The temple is considered as a complete monastery under the Theravada tradition. Other key features of the temple include a 45-feet reclining Buddha statue and a life-like effigy of the King Devanampiyatissa showing his reverence to Arahat Mahinda depicting how Buddhism arrived in Sri Lanka.
The founding monk of Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple), the late Venerable M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero who hailed from Sri Lankaramaya Temple left in 1960 to become our resident monk. The Bodhi Tree at Mangala Viahra (Buddhist Temple) is a sister sapling of Sri Lankaramaya Temple taken from the same mother tree in Anuradhapura planted by Venerable M Mahaweere, as he was then known.
To read more about the historical achievements of our late M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero and his milestones at Sri Lankaramaya Temple please refer to Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) 50th Anniversary Book, a copy of which is available at the soon to be ready Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) Library managed by MV Dhamma Fellowship.
and Burmese Buddhist Temple . . .
It all began with the late Mr Fong Pek Kew, a founding member and Chairman of the first Executive Committee of Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) who served from the terms 1960 to 1979 and passed away in 1994 at the age of 91. His first encounter with Burmese Buddhist Temple dated back to 1925 when he was introduced by a friend living near Kinta Road to U Kyaw Gaung alias Mr Khoo Teogou, where he sought treatment for a cousin who was afflicted with a serious aliment and was successfully treated.
Mr Khoo Teogou was a Burmese druggist and also a trustee member of the Burmese Buddhist Temple at 17 Kinta Road where the huge eleven feet image of the Buddha was enshrined. It was sculptured out of a marble block weighing more than 10 tons from Sagyin Hill, thirty miles north of Mandalay, Burma, purchased in 1926 at the cost of Rs1,200.
Mr Fong was grateful to Mr Khoo Teogou and rendered many services till his second generation, from 1925 to 1990, for about 65 years.
In 1981 the Singapore Department of Resettlement served an eviction notice on the Burmese Buddhist Temple at 17 Kinta Road to be vacated for urban renewal. In 1982 the trustee requested for a replacement land to accommodate the marble Buddha image was rejected. The trustees applied for the first time to the Registrar of Societies for registration of the Burmese Buddhist Temple as a place of worship was also unsuccessful.
Mr Fong with his families and relatives including Mr Goh Teng Seng and his siblings, having learnt chanting from Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple), then started Pail chanting sessions regularly at 17 Kinta Road that aroused the curiosity of the residents in the neighbourhood and many were attracted by the intonation of Pali chanting. Soon they became devotees and followers and a recruitment drive to garner support for memberships of thirty five members was an overwhelming success.
A Burmese Buddhist Temple Pro-team Committee was formed with Mr Fong in the committee from 1984 – 85. With the list of memberships, the second application submitted in 1984 to the Registrar of Societies was approved. It was published in the Government Gazette dated April 12, 1985 and date of registration of Burmese Temple at 17 Kinta Road as 2nd April 1985.
In 1986 the resettlement department of Housing and Development Board offered a new site at Tai Gin Road with an area of 2,414.2 square meters. The Ground Breaking and Piling Ceremony was held on July 9th 1989 and more than twenty monks were invited to grace the occasion led by prominent monks and the late Venerable M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero of Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) was among them.
The Burmese Buddhist Temple at Tai Gin Road was completed in 1991 and the cost of S$1.910 million. The Bodhi Tree, a progeny of the ancestral Bodhi Tree from Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple), was planted in the ground in the same year. Mr Goh Teng Seng was member of the Management Committee and Building Sub-Committee of Burmese Buddhist Temple from 1991-92. He is also a current member of Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple).
Yet another prominent person from Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) who has historical tie with Burmese Buddhist Temple is Mr Tan Geok Koon, the pioneer editor of Echo of Dhamma, who left in 2007 to become the head of the editorial team of Burmese Buddhist Temple newsletter, a position he still currently helms.
This episode was narrated by an octogenarian Mr Goh Teng Seng, the maternal nephew of the late Mr Fong Pek Kew. Other facts and information were culled from the souvenir magazine “In Commemoration of the Grand Opening of Burmese Buddhist Temple on December 29th 1991”.
and beyond the shores of Singapore
Samadhi Centre, Pontian, Johor
Incidentally, Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) historical ties do not confine to temples on the island state, but stretched beyond the shores of Singapore across the causeway to Pontian, Johor where in 1995 our late Venerable M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero, planted a Bodhi Tree with a sapling taken from Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) in the ground of the Samadhi Centre.
The Samadhi Centre is a place conducive for meditation retreat and bonding session, which is away from the hustle and bustle hectic city lives of Singapore. To catch a glimpse of what it is like at Samadhi Centre click on the links: Buddhism in daily life cum bonding session at Samadhi Centre, Pontian Buddhism and Daily Living and Bonding retreat at Samadhi Centre, Pontian – eDhamma.net for further reading.
The other temples that have ties with Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) include Mangala Vhiara in Kuala Lumpur and Seck Kiah Eehn Buddhist Temple in Malacca.
Going forward there are plans for excursions to visit churches, Chinese, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Taoist temples, monasteries, mosques and synagogue.
A visit to places of worship of other faiths will help us to understand the similarity and contrast in their practices and to appreciate their religious rites and rituals that will help us to practise the virtues of patience and tolerance.
So look forward and do keep a date with MV Dhamma Fellowship’s future excursions to more places of worship of other faiths.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Evening English Buddhism Class
September 14th 2014