Indonesia is a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and yet there is general tolerance of other faiths and religions and they co-exist in peace and harmony sans bigotry. In fact there are more Buddhist monasteries, centres, temples and viharas than available monks in Medan. Many of these establishments are without monks and in dire need of them. Very often, they extend invitations to foreign monks to provide services like delivering of Dhamma talks.
The propagation of the Dhamma knows no boundary and is indeed an honour to be invited to perform such services. Our cordial relation with Indonesia is through the connection and good effort of Sister Suriaty “Sue” Simon, a former resident of Medan and now a Singapore citizen.
The entourage for the Medan trip from December 8th to 12th comprised of Brothers Chin Kee Thou, Hing Seng Huat, Raymond Yow and Yong; and Sisters Chan from Malaysia, Clara Tan and of course Sue, accompanied Ajahn Keng from Singapore and Bhikkhu Lee from Malaysia.
Brother Om Zacks, Sisters Anna Yap and Julita Ling extended their gracious hospitality and played host during our stay, all for the noble cause of spreading the Dhamma. “The gift of the Dhamma excels all other gifts.” (Dhammapada 354).
The events lined up during the visit were Dhamma talks, home blessings, chanting for the sick, a visit to old folks’ home, Dhamma sharing sessions and last but not least seeking for a meditation centre.
Ajahn Keng and Bhikkhu Lee and the male devotees were lodged at Anathapindika House while the Bhikkhuni and the lady devotees at the adjacent building – the Visakha House. Incidentally, Sayadaw Osada and Sayaday Wajira also stayed at these abodes respectively.
Going on alms round or pindapata
Going on alms round or pindapata is the tradition of all Buddhas “in successive order of the Buddhavamsa from Dipankara, Kondanna, Mangala down to Kassapa. Beginning with Dipankara and ending with Kassapa, my preceding elder brethren Buddhas, twenty-four in number, and with all the thousands of Buddhas as many as sands of the Ganges, had always gone to each successive house to receive alms. This very practice of receiving alms from one door to the next had always been our means of livelihood.” (Mahabuddhavamsa, The Great Chronicle of Buddhas).
Alms gathering or going on alms round started at 6:30 am throughout our stay. Monks and nun walked in single file with the senior monk (in term of number of vasa) led the way.
Alms givers lined the route and mindfully placed the food in the alms bowl of each alms-gather as they walk passed. “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 and intelligence.” (A.III,42).
The alms gathers also visited house holders for food upholding the practice as extolled by the Buddha, “This very practice of receiving alms from one door to the next had always been our means of livelihood.” (Mahabuddhavamsa).
Upon returning to the centre the alms gathers had their feet washed and then settled for breakfast while the devotees and alms givers prepared the spread of food and made offering to them. After the blessing when monks dined on the food, the devotees and alms-givers began their breakfast as “both devas and human beings always take delight in food. So what sort of spirit could it be that does not take delight in food?” (SN 1:43), but were mindful to “consume food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of the body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life.” (AN 4:159).
Invitation for Dhamma talks was the most popular request from these Buddhist establishments. Two Dhamma talks were delivered by Ajahn Keng: one at a Theravada institution and the other at a Mahayana temple followed by blessing of the congregation. As the majority of the Chinese population in Medan speak and understand pidgin Hokkien laced with Bahasa Indonesia had no difficulty in listening to the talks delivered in Singapore style Hokkien by Ajahn Keng who is quite eloquent in it.
We attended to home blessing for three families who requested for such service to enable them to live in peace and harmony.
Scouting for a meditation centre
While we were in Medan we took the opportunity to scout for a suitable meditation centre for retreat that is essential in our practice. We visited a centre is still in its various stage of construction and envisaged to be completed in the near future.
We were on a “look-see-look-see” mission in its exploratory stage and toured the compound and it seemed to be a suitable place but with no final decision or conclusion made as we are still evaluating it with an open option.
Chanting for the sick
As with our previous visit to Medan, the request for chanting for a patient at the hospital in the ICU was attended by Ajhan Keng and Bhikku Lee to the needs of the family. The noble deed was a reminder of the Buddha who attended to Venerable Tissa. “His companion has given him up just because they could no longer cope. I am a physician capable of curing spiritual blemishes. But, I am also a physician capable of attending to bodily disease. Therefore, he has no help than mine. I cannot treat his mind without treating this body. As there was no one else to do it, at least I should do it.” (Saddharmaratna vali).
Visit to old folks’ home – Taman Bodhi Asri (TABA)
The visit to old folks’ home known as TABA or Taman Bodhi Asri was a reminiscence for few of them who made a debut visit in 2012 when it was partially completed and witnessed the consecration of the Shrine Hall.
We were welcomed and greeted by Pak Bibi and with a welcome performance by the inmates on wheel chairs, waved their arms in syncopation with the rhythm and tempo of the song and music and with some more able-bodied ones swayed and danced to the tempo.
Bhikkhu Lee obliged and delivered a Dhamma talk that gave encouragement to the inmates and other listeners on the reality of life.
We brought joy and cheers to about two hundred inmates with goodie bags and entertained them with songs and dances. We also brought along our very own entertainers, a veteran crooner well known in his heyday as “RY” in the show business world, serenaded them with pop hits and; a dance king known as “Cha-Cha-King” Hing showcased his deft foot work on the dance floor with his cha-cha dance steps to the merriment of the folks. A veteran crooner from TABA reciprocated and sang a hit song to the delight of the visitors.
It was a joyous and eventful occasion that gladdened our hearts seeing the glow and smile on their faces.
We departed for home on December 12th not without visiting the market place at Berastagi that stocked with abundance of local farm produce, handicraft, textile and wearing apparels. The most popular purchases were passion fruit and salak (snake fruit).
We landed safely at Changi Airport at 10:35 pm and headed for home.
It was indeed a fruitful trip and enlightening for me to learn that true Buddhism in Medan is striving well among the different traditions co-exists in harmony without any discernment. Ajahn Keng, a Theravada monk trained in Thai tradition was invited to deliver Dhamma talk in a Mahayana temple, is empirical evidenced.
“True Buddhism needs all three: Buddhas, arahants, and bodhisattvas. It needs Buddhas to discover and teach the path to liberation; it needs arahants to follow the path and confirm that the Dhamma does indeed lead to liberation, adoring the teaching with examples of those who lead the purest holy life; it needs bodhisattvas to bring forth the resolve to perfect those qualities that will enable them at some point in the future, near or distant, to become Buddhas themselves and once again turn the unsurpassed Wheel of the Dharma.” (“Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas”, by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi).
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: December 17th 2017
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