Develop support structures to study Ven. Dr K Sri Dhammananda's thoughts
Publisher -
Date : August 12 and 13, 2004
Batu Pahat, Johor (Malaysia) --  I refer to Kayel's article on “Great Missionary Neglect of our National Buddhist Treasure” and cannot agree more with his analysis. One of the great shortcomings of Malaysian Buddhist missionary is the lack of a systematic development of local exegesis and liturgy. I am not referring to the handful of “Dhamma Teachers” that we have (which we have either imported from abroad or those locals who have taken the trouble to master Dhamma know-how).
What I am referring to is the lack of a critical mass, where a significant group of dedicated Buddhist intellectuals and practitioners can hold their own turf and disseminate the Dhamma in quality that rivals the world's best spiritual teachers.

The one that we have, and who has shown us the way for more than 50 years, is sadly let down by the poor quality of “expert support” in the quest of Dhamma propagation. This wise one, known to all of us as Chief Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda have quietly, but successfully planted the basic seeds of Buddhist liturgy and Dhamma exegesis without many of us being aware of it.

Cheif Venerable's work on Buddhist liturgy, Dhamma exegesis and apologetics

His version of “The Dhammapada” for instance, is a masterpiece on Buddhist exegesis, especially on the part of the commentaries which accompany the stanzas. Not many people are aware that Chief Venerable's version simplified the commentarial to such an extent that it made the materials accessible to the general public. Earlier popular versions, such as by Eugene W. Burlingame, was rather constricted in terms of its literal translation.

Another key milestone was the Venerable's support for the democratization of Buddha puja. His monumental effort in the publication of “Daily Buddhist Devotion” actually merits a place in the annals of Buddhist liturgy. The publication of this small but evergreen collection of Buddha Puja, is a significant, pioneering effort to systematize puja according to localised situations. The fact that Pali chanting is generally accepted here (a language which is almost alien to many Malaysian Buddhists), testify to the efficacies of the venerable's unbounded dedication.

One important aspect of Chief Venerable's Dhammaduta work is his unassuming leadership in forging a trans-denominational understanding of the different Buddhist schools. The venerable is well known for his exposition that there is only one "Buddha-Dhamma", and have always cautioned dividing the sasana according to the traditional axis of Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana. True to his word, he even applied this staunchly non-sectarian posture into the Malaysian context of a multi-religious society, where he is a firm exponent for inter-religious dialogue. The venerable has demonstrated his commitment to this trans-denominational and inter-faith stance by being an integral part of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Sikhism (MCCBCHS).

These are but three areas which I can identify where the venerable has played a key role in the development of Malaysian Buddhism. Sadly, I don't see many “learned Buddhists” examining his role in these areas.

Which brings me to the intent of this letter: I would like to throw a challenge to those who profess to be the guardian of “Buddhist missionary” in this country – to be more creative and imaginative in developing support structures to further Dhamma propagation in all aspects. Relying on a few seasoned speakers, producing periodic magazines and organizing talks and seminars will not – in the long run – stimulate growth of new Dhamma expounders.

I would like to forward a few suggestions, many of which are inspired by Chief Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda himself.

Establish an institute to study Chief Venerable's thoughts

Instead of spending millions, like Kayel said, to build more temples and monuments, it would be wise for once to invest in the “software” of Dhamma propagation. This institute should be a full time endeavor dedicated to the compilation of the works of the Chief Venerable, the recordings of his numerous talks, speeches and Dhamma teachings. Most importantly, a long term interest of the institute would be the establishment of "Dhamma based interest groups" specializing in aspects of the Venerable's teachings. Some of these interest groups could spin-off to become specialized think-tanks, honed with skill to systematically analyze the Venerable's contribution in areas such as Buddhist exegesis, liturgy and inter-religious collaborations.

The value of such an institute should not be underestimated, for it could be a platform to spur grass-root discussion, thereby facilitating the growth of a critical mass of learned Buddhists so lacking in today's context.

Establish a virtual museum of Chief Venerable's work

Augmenting the institute outlined above, a virtual museum dedicated to the venerable's work would expand his outreach across the world. Ideally, the museum should be a professionally planned entity, with adequate funding so that a complete, systematize collection categorized according to key areas is established. We are not talking about some ad-hoc website development, but the aggregation of the best ICT brains in the country (which I am sure this country has in abundance) working in tandem with the institute to develop a platform where all his works, previously archived in books, journals, talks, websites, speeches etc., are made available to those interested in the venerable's exposition in specific areas of Buddhism.

Establish a permanent panel to promote trans-denominational and inter-faith dialogue

How many times have we seen ill equipped Buddhists representing the faith to attend inter-religious dialogs? The biggest glare in such situations is the inability of the representative to grasp basic tenets of his religious counterparts. Compared with his better prepared peer who can quote precisely from their scriptures, our representative is always caught with "...The Buddha says or teaches". It is time that we establish a permanent panel of inter-faith experts specializing in Buddhist apologetics. The panel should also be made up of learned Buddhists exposed to basic tenets of mainstream Buddhist schools as well as key scriptures such the Bible, Quran and the Vedas. This group should also be given the mandate to represent the Buddhists at the MCCBCHS and to supply representatives to inter-religious dialogs.


The greatest challenge in the long term, and the biggest compliment we can give to the Chief Venerable, I dare say, is for Malaysian Buddhists to establish a critical mass of local expertise in Buddhist exegesis, liturgy and apologetics. If we are honest enough to admit, these are three key “Dhamma centered intellection” still missing in our quest to establish a mature, self sustaining Malaysian Buddhist identity.

Building temples is the easy part. But to encourage the development of support systems for Dhamma propagation, of learning structures – the software stuff – is far more difficult. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Dare anyone (or any organization) to pick it up?

By Gopaka Nguen B. N


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- I have been in the Buddhist fraternity for 25 years, and I greatly appreciate the priceless contribution that Venerable Chief, Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda have selflessly dedicated to the Buddhist community, the present as well as future generations, in Malaysia. His essays and books have influence and impact countless people, both in Malaysia and the global community.

Going by the number of articles and letters appearing in the Buddhist News Network, it is indeed sad and a shame that our Venerable Chief, as one of the patriarch of Buddhism in Malaysia, have to bear so much suffering in silence. Wither our love and compassion?

I have met Venerable many times in his private office cum room and could not help noticing how he often duplicate his Dhamma talks in tapes for others. This makes me wonder why can't resources be dedicated to effectively assist Venerable in his quest to propagate the Dhamma. It is most unfortunate that his duty to 'go forth to preach the Dhamma in all directions' are not generously supported. Isn't the organization he represents a missionary body? Why can't a dhamma missionary assistant, who may double up as a kappiya, be dedicated to Venerable to assist him in his missionary duties. The missionary assistant could record, document, archive and duplicate the extensive talks that Venerable conducts during the course of a year. We have read many of his books but not many have listen to his talks. These resources are priceless. I believe the huge organization that Venerable is associated with could very well afford such support.

I have voiced this often, but unfortunately it have fallen on deaf ears. Those who have eyes could surely see, need individuals comment more, or do we choose to be blind. Such Buddhist apathy.

Many great teachers have dedicated missionary assistant doubling up as personal assistant including Ven Chin Kung, Ven Sheng Yen etc. And the resources collated is most astounding, and its impact most lofty. Why can't a missionary body discharge such functional, basic and humane needs?

Surely, this is not a time for blame but nevertheless as the Buddha says, 'we should blame those who are blameworthy, and praise those who are praise worthy'.

It surely is not too late to render such compassionate deeds, though we have already loss so very much, but I am afraid it will continue to fall on deaf ears and cold hearts. This is another typical case of misplaced priorities - most common in the Buddhist fraternity in Malaysia, who concerned themselves with bigger buildings and better facilities at the expense of essential education and human development.

May we all pray for Bhante's good health so that he may continue to carry on his noble duties. May we all pray that he may be continuously assisted in his noble duties.

By Kayel

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