Een is a village in the Netherlands. It is part of the Noordenveld
municipality in Drenthe. Een has an altitude of 6 meters (22 feet).
Seck Kia Eenh temple in Malacca, Malaysia
Theravada Buddhism had existed in Malaysia for centuries among the Thai
ethnic community that lived along the peninsula's northern border with Thailand.
A vigorous community, the Thai bhikkhu sangha had a benevolent influence on the
other races especially the ethnic Chinese in the northern states. However, due
to language and cultural differences, few Chinese ordained into the Thai bhikkhu
sangha. Theravada Buddhism only began to have a significant impact on the
Chinese Malaysian community early this century as a result of a curious
combination of causes.
The Sri Lankans
The first Theravada society in Malaysia was the Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana
Society ("SAWS") which was registered at the end of the nineteenth century.
Although serving the immigrant Sri Lankans, it was to play a remarkable role
about fifty years later. Up till this time, the Sri Lankan bhikkhus it hosted,
like the numerous Thai temples then existing, ministered to their particular
However, this was to change when a remarkable 32 year old bhikkhu by the name of
Ven K. Sri Dhammananda, upon the invitation of the SAWS, stepped onto the shores
of Malaysia in the last days of December 1951. Ordained as a samanera at age 12,
and a bhikkhu at age 21, he had excelled as a scholar. In 1945, he entered the
Benares Hindu University in India for further tertiary education. Among his
contemporaries in the university were Ven. Saddhatissa and Ven Amritananda who
later were to play important dhammaduta roles in England and Nepal respectively.
In the year following his arrival in Malaysia, Ven Dhammananda met the highest
authority of the British colonial government, Sir Gerald Templar. At that
meeting, he convinced Sir Templar that an effective means to counter the ongoing
communist insurgency was to allow him to preach to the ethnic Chinese in the
villages who were the main supporters of the insurgents. In 1962, to further
enhance his missionary efforts, he formed the Buddhist Missionary Society
("BMS"). This society printed the Ven.'s numerous booklets on the Dhamma and
freely distributed them by the hundreds of thousands throughout the country.
These books were the first introduction to Buddhism for many. The Ven. also
started a vigorous program of regular sermons at the Buddhist Maha Vihara,
Brickfields in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and at various societies
scattered throughout the country. As a result, Theravada Buddhism captured the
hearts of a large section of the English-speaking public. The Ven. was also ably
assisted by several other Sri Lankan monks. Among the more notable were:
* Ven. Gunaratana who after 10 years ( 1958 - 1968 ) in Malaysia, left for USA
where he established the Bhavana Society in West Virginia.
* Ven. Wimalajothi (1976 - 1987) who after returning to Sri Lanka set up the
Buddhist Cultural Center emulating the techniques he had learnt.
* Ven. K Sri Dhammaratana the current Chief High Priest of Malaysia, who
excelled in social work and set up the Ti-Ratana Welfare Society, Ti-Ratana
Orphanage and Ti-Ratana Community Centres in Kuala Lumpur.
In December 1976, Ven. Dhammananda initiated a program enabling Buddhists
interested in experiencing the life of a monk to ordain as samaneras for a short
period of time. Since then, this novitiate program has been an annual affair and
has resulted in several young men taking up the robe as a life commitment. Some
of these bhikkhu disciples are pursuing studies in Sri Lanka or residing at the
Elsewhere, other temples set up by Sri Lankan monks also gained popularity. One
such was the Mahindarama Vihara on the island of Penang under Ven. Pemaratana
who resided there since1957 till his death in 1997. Others are the Sri Lanka
Buddhist Temple in the northern part of Kuala Lumpur under the abbot Ven.
Saranankara and the Seck Kia Eenh temple in Melaka which although set up by
locals have maintained a tradition of inviting Sri Lankan monks as residents.
The odd American
The early years of dhammaduta work in Malaysia also came in the most unlikely
person of Ven. Sumangalo. He was born in Alabama, USA as Robert Clifton, the
eldest son to a Christian family that for 300 years had a tradition of giving
its first son to be a Christian minister. However in his teens he decided to
become a Buddhist and for a brief period led a Buddhist group in California.
Coming to Malaysia in 1957 he was instrumental in setting up numerous youth
groups in the major towns and centers of learning. Though few, if any, of these
groups remain in their original form, their members became the pioneers of the
lay Buddhist movement.
In Penang, the Burmese temple and some of the Thai temples had a significant
effect on the Malaysians. The Burmese Dhammikarama temple in particular was very
popular after Ven.Pannavamsa arrived to take up residency in 1961. His Dhamma
classes were very popular and introduced many to the Dhamma. In 1979 he left for
Los Angeles, USA to assist Ven.Silananda.
One of the several Thai temples in Penang, Wat Ping Ban Onn set up the Malaysian
Buddhist Meditation Center with a resident Thai bhikkhu to teach the technique
of meditation popularized by the Burmese monk Mahasi Sayadaw. This center is
closely associated with many Chinese Malaysian monks particularly those that
pursue the path of meditative practice.
One of the earliest of such monks is the Ven. Sujivo. He ordained as a samanera
shortly after his graduation from the prestigious University of Malaya in 1975.
During his monastic training he practised under several masters including
Sayadaw U Pandita in Sasana Yeiktha in Yangon, Myanmar. Ven. Sujivo, more than
any other person, is responsible for developing a keen interest in vipassana
meditation among a large section of the Theravada community through his
teachings, retreats and books. He set up Santisukharama, a meditation center in
a rubber tree plantation in Kota Tinggi on the southern tip of peninsular
Malaysia. Since then he has inspired numerous meditation centers to be set up by
various groups throughout the country and has also extended his teaching tours
to East Malaysia and Australia.
Ven. Mahinda teaching samaneras, Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields.
Others include the Ven. Suvanno who ordained late in life after retiring from
his job as a hospital attendant. The Ven. Suvanno is a charismatic speaker who
is fluent in English as well as the vernacular Hokkien dialect. His talks draw
large crowds and he is equally at ease speaking on the deeper suttas to the
intellectuals or teaching the basic tenets to those new to the religion. He
established the Buddhist Hermitage in the northern village of Lunas, one of the
first monasteries to be set up by Malaysian bhikkhus. Another popular teacher
was the Ven. Visuddhacara an ex-journalist with a major newspaper. At one time,
he lived in the forest and authored books from time to time, but now he has
reverted back to lay life although still active in Dhamma work. The Ven.
Aggacitta is lesser known but among the bhikkhus is respected for his knowledge
of Vinaya and the Buddhist scriptures. In Myanmar he trained in both the
scholarly and meditative practices. Ven. Aggacitta is the translator of U
Pandita's book "In This Very Life" published by the Buddhist Publication
Society, Sri Lanka. In early 2000, he initiated a promising and ambitious
project. Called the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary, it comprises the
establishment of a forest monastery specially for the proper training of
Malaysian bhikkhus. Its primary objective is to train monks in learning, morals
and meditative wisdom and to evolve a Malaysian Theravada identity guided by the
Another Chinese Malaysian bhikkhu is the Ven. Mahinda. While a layman, he was
pursuing his tertiary studies in New Zealand when he met an itinerant Buddhist
lay-preacher. He decided to quit his final year university studies to follow the
preacher on his world tours. He later returned to Malaysia and was ordained
under the Ven. K Sri Dhammananda. Although he is presently based in Aloka
Meditation Center near Sydney, Australia, he makes annual trips to Malaysia to
conduct the novitiate program at the Buddhist Maha Vihara, Brickfields. The Ven.
Katapunna who established Solitude Grove, a small forest hermitage in Penang is
also a popular teacher. Before returning to Malaysia he spent several years in
Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
At present, it is estimated that there are as many as 80 Malaysian bhikkhus,
excluding those of ethnic Thai descent. An encouraging observation is that many
of the recent ordinations were of young men, several of whom have had tertiary
education. However, as the country has no facilities whatsoever for the training
of bhikkhus, many of them travel to Thailand or Myanmar to ordain and practise
under various teachers. A smaller number who pursue scholarly study are training
in the bhikkhu schools of Sri Lanka while the rest reside in various small
temples and hermitages mostly in and around Penang island. Till today, there has
been no strong initiative to organise themselves or unite into an indigenous
bhikkhu sangha. Thus, with the passing of the era of the Sri Lankan dhammaduta
monks, the future of the Malaysian bhikkhu sangha may very well rest on the
success of the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary project.