So birth is unique. Talking about birth, at the same time, the next birth is the death.
Ven. K. Sri Dhammaratana
If humility is the defining trait of a monk, then it is without dispute that Venerable K. Sri Dhammaratana is very monkly. Venerable is the Chief Monk of the Buddhist Maha Vihara (BMV) in Brickfields, one of Malaysia’s largest temples, and founder of the Ti-Ratana Society, a highly active social outreach group whose work changes the lives of many.
Turning 63 this year, Venerable (fondly known as ‘Chief’ to his students) used his birthday to remind everyone that every year, death comes a little closer, and that our birthdays should be a wake-up call prompting us to think about what we have contributed to the world.
The reminder came as part of a speech given to over 70 sangha members and 300 laypeople, who gathered to celebrate Chief’s birthday as well as commemorate his late mother, who passed away one year ago on his birthday (24 July 2010). It was also an opportunity for laypeople to create merit, and offer dana to the sangha gathered.
At this event was His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche, who had been invited as the representative of the Vajrayana tradition in Malaysia to celebrate Chief’s 63rd birthday. Rinpoche sat at the head table, next to Chief as well as Venerable M. Punnaji, a highly respected scholar and one of the BMV’s resident teachers.
During the event, Rinpoche presented a 3-foot Shakyamuni statue to Chief, saying that it was an honour to make such an offering to a senior monk. Rinpoche said that according to the Vinaya, seniority is based on how long a person has kept their monk vows and thus, on the basis of Shakyamuni’s tradition, Rinpoche humbly said that Chief was senior to him, even if they were from different schools. Rinpoche said he celebrated Chief’s community work because it creates harmony amongst Malaysians, regardless of their religious backgrounds.
Rinpoche’s message about harmony was perfectly matched by Chief’s speech, which thanked everyone for attending, and spoke about the necessity for harmony between Buddhist traditions. Chief said that regardless of tradition, the basic teachings of all Buddhist schools are the same and that in Shakyamuni’s time, there were no traditions other than Shakyamuni’s tradition. He encouraged centres to work together, regardless of tradition, and to sit down and properly ascertain the best methods of propagating the Dharma in Malaysia.
Whether we came from China or India or USA or Sri Lanka…we are all Buddha’s children. We must be united. We cannot [have] ego, we cannot be selfish; we [should] all work together, be united. When we work as Buddha’s children, we will be a strength, and we will be able to contribute to society easily.
Ven. K. Sri Dhammaratana
The event was also a chance for Chief to commemorate his late mother, who passed away one year ago on his birthday (24 July 2010). Chief spoke about the kindness of his mother who, he said, had pulled him back when he was a young monk and thought of quitting. Chief said that it was she who encouraged him to dedicate his life for mankind. It was from her advice, and from the kindness of his teacher Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda (his uncle and the previous Chief Monk) that Chief stayed on as a monk.
To such an upholder of Buddha’s teachings, Kechara wishes Venerable a very happy 63rd birthday, and rejoices in his six decades spent in the service of other sentient beings. We pray for his long, healthy life and for the success in his works. May he and the Buddhist Maha Vihara, as well as all other Dharma centres in Malaysia and beyond, go on to grow, spread and propagate Buddha Shakyamuni’s tradition.