Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa
Venerable Mahatheras and other members of the Sangha, SBS supporters and Dhamma friends. Welcome again to Sasasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary.
First and foremost, I must express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the venerable members of the Sangha who have taken the trouble to come and participate in this BOC when the vassa has just commenced. Most of them are from Penang, Selangor and Johor. Sadhu, venerable ones.
Some of you who have not been here for quite some time will notice that we have more facilities available now – particularly, proper toilets and shaded places to sit under. Of course all this could not have materialised without your continual support – moral support, spiritual support, volunteer support and financial support. So for making all this possible, all of you here and elsewhere also deserve a big sadhu.
I am also very touched and inspired by your tremendous response today. Although many of you would be familiar with samanera ordination through the many novitiate programmes offered annually throughout the country, bhikkhu ordination may be something quite new.
Moreover, there are certain elements of novelty in this historic 1st Bhikkhu Ordination Ceremony at SBS that will, I’m sure, make your trip to this hidden valley among the evergreen hills of Taiping a memorable one. What are these elements of novelty?
- Educational in a graphic way
- A Malaysian affair
- International participation
Let me explain.
Educational in a graphic way
Most bhikkhu ordinations are exclusively a monks-only affair where the laity just look on without really understanding what is going on. Here we try to explain the whole procedure to you so that you can better appreciate the actual process of higher ordination as well as the implications of bhikkhuhood.
A Malaysian affair
This first BOC in SBS can be considered a Malaysian affair because a Malaysian has been ordained in Malaysia by a majority of Malaysian monks. So what is so novel about that? Let me explain.
A total of 23 bhikkhus participated in the BOC. Of these, 16 are Malaysian monks, 3 are Myanmar, 2 are Thais and 2 are Sri Lankans. Most, if not all of the 16 Malaysians, received their Higher Ordination under foreign bhikkhus, with foreign upajjhayas (Preceptors). Most were ordained abroad, while 2 or 3 received their ordinations locally.
It would have been more nationalistic to make this ceremony an exclusively Malaysian affair, so that we can proudly say, “A Malaysian monastic trained in Malaysia has been ordained in Malaysia by Malaysian monks.” However, considering that all the Malaysian monks here have foreign ordination roots, I felt that we should express our immense gratitude to foreign monks for so graciously imparting the legacy of bhikkhuhood to us.
But of course, they have given us much, much more than just bhikkhu ordination. I myself received my initial Buddhist education by reading the English Dhamma books published by Sri Lankan monks, and pursued further education and training under Thai and Myanmar monks. I am sure every Malaysian Theravada Buddhist would appreciate the great works of foreign missionary monks, including meditation teachers. Let us give them 3 great sadhus.
So as an expression of our immense gratitude to foreign monks, we have invited a few to witness as well as participate in this historic event where a Malaysian trained in Malaysia under a Malaysian Preceptor is ordained in Malaysia by a majority of Malaysian monks.
However, this Malaysian affair has also an international flavour to it. The ordination text (kammavaca) was read in 3 groups. In each group, 3 monks recited the kammavaca. Of the 3 monks, 2 are Malaysians and 1 is a Myanmar, Sri Lankan or Thai. This arrangement is also novel, because in the ordination ceremony that we Malaysian monks received, the monks who recited the kammavaca belonged to a common nationality.
In other words, the reciters of the kammavaca for those of us who ordained in the Myanmar tradition were all Myanmar monks. The reciters of the kammavaca for those of us who ordained in the Thai tradition were all Thai monks. The reciters of the kammavaca for those of us who ordained in the Sri Lankan tradition were all Sri Lankan monks.
Why was this so? The reason is that we were ordained under a specific national tradition where monks recited the kammavaca according to their own national pronunciation that is different from that of other national traditions. This made it almost impossible for monks from different nationalities to recite the kammavaca together in unison.
Nevertheless, we did it this morning, using the international Pali pronunciation rather than that of any particular nationality. We would like to give our thanks to the open-mindedness of the foreign missionary monks nowadays.
To sum up, today’s BOC is something special because it is educational in a graphic way, a Malaysian affair, yet with an international flavour to it. Today we have the national pride of participating in and witnessing a Malaysian, trained in Malaysia, being ordained by Malaysians in Malaysia. Yet we are humbled by the presence of foreign monks who remind us of our immense gratitude for their compassionate and effective propagation – without which we would not have come of age today.
When a university student completes his basic degree, he has to attend a ceremony to receive his academic certificate. Here in Malaysia we call it the “Graduation Ceremony”. Graduation means completion, having completed a course of study. In the US however, they call it “Commencement”, meaning “The Beginning”.
For Venerable Balacitta, it is the Beginning to deepen his study and practice of the DhammaVinaya.
It is the Beginning for Malaysian Buddhist parents to be more willing to allow their sons to renounce.
It is the Beginning for Malaysian Buddhist youths to be brave enough to explore the possibilities of an alternative lifestyle that can benefit oneself and others. Here I would like to remind you of the forthcoming IMP3 scheduled for Nov-Dec 2004.
Many years ago, when Rev. Mahinda, the son of King Asoka, came to Sri Lanka from India to establish the Sasana, he managed to convert King Devanampiyatissa, who became a staunch Buddhist and supported the Sangha abundantly, built temples as well as encouraged many members of the royalty to become monks and nuns. Even then, when he asked the Sanghathera whether the Sasana had been established in Sri Lanka, he was told that this will not be so until a local renounces, studies the Vinaya and teaches it in Sri Lanka.
So, today, in our first BOC, we have actually sown the seed as only a monk who is ordained locally and then studies and finally teaches the Vinaya in Malaysia can be said to have established the Sasana in Malaysia.
In conclusion, it is my hope that everyone here benefits from today’s ordination ceremony. I would like to thank Ven. Dhammavuddho for acting as my Hokkien translator.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!