Prospectus Bhikkhu Training 2001 Introduction



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Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary
http://sasanarakkha.cjb.net


Prospectus
Bhikkhu Training 2001

Introduction


The time has come for us to do something or there will be no future for Buddhism in Malaysia.
Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda, a.k.a. “Chief Reverend”, Religious Patron of Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (in his speech during the launching of the SBS fund raising project in May 2000)

Sasanarakkha# Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS) is a training centre (in the making) for Malaysian Theravada Buddhist monks to learn how to live in accordance with the Dhammavinaya — the name the Buddha gave his “religion” — as enshrined in the original scriptures.

The Sanctuary dedicates its resources to groom eligible Malaysian monks to become conscientious in the study and practice of the Dhammavinaya, and thereby help to perpetuate our Sasana and protect it from decline in learning, morals and meditative wisdom. In doing so, it hopes to answer the urgent calls of the Malaysian Buddhist community to overcome the acute shortage of suitably trained local monks.

We hope that SBS will also lay the groundwork for evolving a truly Malaysian Theravada Buddhist identity that accords with the scriptural tradition in the spirit and the letter.

Location of the Sanctuary


The Sanctuary is set in more than ten acres of undulating land nestled among secluded hills in the outskirts of Taiping. Removed from the busy, worldly society, it provides an excellent environment for a monastic life that conduces to the lofty aims of SBS.

It is accessible by road via a cemetery and plantations. As certain parts of the road are somewhat steep, you have to go up either on foot, by a 4T motorcycle or by a 4WD vehicle.


A typical day in the Sanctuary


The monastics (monks and postulants) start their mornings with private meditation and paritta recitation. They then assemble before going downhill barefooted for their daily pindapata (alms gathering). After returning from pindapata, which takes about two hours, they may do some studies and attend to chores such as cleaning their kutis, washing their robes, and maintaining the monastic facilities. They then have their only meal of the day before noon.

In the afternoon, they may take a rest and meditate before the daily lessons begin. When not having formal lessons during the day, they may attend to things like self-study, discussion, etc. Whenever necessary, they may also do other things: making robes, preparing dye, baking bowls, etc. As the night approaches, the monastics return to their kutis to meditate and recite some parittas. Later, they end the day by gathering at the sima pavilion to do a group metta meditation, spreading loving kindness in all directions.


Facilities and utilities


The Sanctuary is reasonably equipped with suitable modern facilities and utilities. For the use of resident monastics, the Sanctuary shall have among other things:

  • a sima pavilion, which also functions as an assembly and meditation hall,

  • a facility centre, which has a pantry, a storeroom, sewing room, area for baking alms bowls and dyeing robes, and common toilets,

  • an air-conditioned library with a discussion room,

  • a publication room

  • a classroom, and

  • a health lodge.

Each monastic will be provided with a comfortable kuti (hut). Most kutis are situated within the “monastics only” area, each of them strategically located to provide adequate seclusion.

A TNB power cable is connected to the Sanctuary. Electrical power is supplied to most of the Sanctuary buildings, like the office, publication room, library, multipurpose hall, health lodge, dhamma worker quarters, kitchen, etc. The kutis however are deliberately excluded to create conditions conducive to meditation at night and in the early morning. For water supply, we rely on springs from the forest as our primary source.

The office is equipped with telephone and facsimile through a RIL transmitter. It also shares computers, printers and a photocopy machine with the publication room. Internet access is available for administrative and official use only.

What is taught here


The curriculum of training broadly consists of five components: Vinaya [monastic law and discipline], Dhutanga [ascetic practices], Meditation, Pali, and Propagation. As a monk, you are expected to follow all of them. Nonetheless, there may be certain exceptions according to individual cases.

Vinaya


This component deals with practical understanding and actual practice of the Vinaya, especially the Patimokkha, in accordance with the scriptural tradition.

A study of the Sasana shows that a major cause of its decline is the Sangha’s lack of Vinaya learning and practice. As the Vinaya Commentary puts it, “The Vinaya is the life of the Sasana: if the Vinaya endures, the Sasana will endure; if the Vinaya disappears, the Sasana will disappear.”

Learning and practice of the Vinaya leads to harmony, unity, progress and happiness of the Sangha and protects the individual monks. Besides that, it also fosters faith among the laity, on whom the bhikkhus depend for their support.

Dhutanga


This component deals with practical understanding and actual practice of the dhutangas.

Sometimes the mere observance of the Vinaya rules may be insufficient to counteract or resist mundane temptations to indulge in material luxuries that are not prohibited by the Vinaya. A commitment to practise the dhutangas, appropriate to one’s capability, is more effective in cultivating contentment and reducing defilements.


Meditation


This component deals with practical understanding and actual daily practice of meditation in which lies the essence of the Buddha’s teaching.

If one’s mind is refined through the practice of meditation, the chances of being overwhelmed by gross defilements resulting in Vinaya transgressions and sensual indulgence are reduced. For this reason, all resident monastics are expected to acquire basic principles of meditation so that they can practise on their own daily and regularly.

Principles of samatha and vipassana meditations will be taught here. In keeping with the spirit of liberality during the Buddha’s time, there will be no insistence on any particular method. Residents may practise whichever method they prefer according to individual capability and aptitude, so long as it accords with the Dhammavinaya.

Resident monks who have sufficiently mastered the Vinaya and fulfilled other prerequisites for independence will be encouraged to pursue more intensive, full-time, personal meditation retreats with proper guidance.


Pali


This component deals with Pali, the original language in which the Theravada Buddhist scriptures are preserved.

Knowledge of Pali language empowers one with direct access to the Pali Canon and its commentaries and sub-commentaries. It enables one to cut through the weeds and undergrowth surrounding Theravada Buddhism, which have proliferated after more than two millennia of transformation since the Dhammavinaya was first inscribed on palm leaves.


Propagation


This component deals with courses on the application of contemporary propagation skills in a Malaysian Theravada Buddhist context.

While there is an increase of Malaysian Buddhists who are thirsting for the Dhamma, there are not enough suitably trained monks to teach and advise them. It is among the lofty aims of SBS to contribute towards the alleviation of this problem.

Resident monks who have satisfactorily established themselves in the theory and practice of moral discipline, tranquillity, and meditative wisdom will be encouraged to equip themselves with contemporary propagation skills suitable to the Malaysian Theravada Buddhist community.

Duration of course


As individuals differ in capability and aptitude, the actual duration to complete the course varies accordingly. Nonetheless, it should be noted that a monk has to continue being under the tutelage (nissaya) of a mentor until he has reached at least five vassas (years standing) and has fulfilled all other prerequisites for independence.

About the Abbot


Venerable Aggacitta Bhikkhu is a Malaysian Theravada Buddhist monk of 21 vassas (end year 2000).

He was ordained as a samanera (novice monk) in Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre (MBMC) on Wesak Day 1978. In 1979, he went to Mahasi Meditation Centre, Rangoon, Burma, where he received upasampada (higher ordination) on 22 December 1979, with Mahasi Sayadaw U Sobhana as his upajjhaya (preceptor). He stayed there for almost 3 years, practising meditation, studying Burmese and elementary Pali, and helping to translate for Burmese Sayadaws and foreign yogis.

In 1980, he stayed for a few months in the forest monastery of Taungpulu Sayadaw (a contemporary of Mahasi Sayadaw) who stressed more on the dhutangas (ascetic practices).

To study advanced Pali, he went to the Pali college at Wat Tamaoh, Lampang, Thailand, in 1983. There he learned Pali grammar, poetry, composition, and translation in Thai and Burmese under Sayadaw U Dhammananda. He also studied the Pali Tipitaka, together with its commentaries and sub-commentaries, especially pertaining to the Vinaya (Buddhist Monastic Law and Discipline) in detail.

While at the wat, he was invited by the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) of USA to accompany Sayadaw U Pandita to Barre, Massachusetts, USA, and assist as a translator in an intensive meditation retreat at their Centre for 3 months. After that, he returned to Thailand for Vassa 1984 and to continue his Pali studies.

At the end of 1984, he went to Burma again and stayed there, mostly in forest monasteries and hermitages, until the end of 1994. He furthered his studies in the Tipitaka, especially the Vinaya Pitaka, in Pali and Burmese extensively, while trying to put the theoretical knowledge of the Vinaya, dhutangas and meditation into actual practice. Among the more notable teachers he stayed with and monasteries or hermitages he stayed in during that period were:



  • With Sayadaw U Tissara, Yankin Forest Monastery, Pyinmanah Township (over 1 year)

  • Yankin Forest Hermitage, Myinbhu-Saku Township (7 years alone)

  • Sayadaw U Acinna, Pa Auk Forest Monastery, Mawlamyine Township (5 months)

  • Sayadaw U Pandita, Panditarama, Yangon (1 year).

Ven. Aggacitta returned to Malaysia at end of 1994 and went straight to Sarawak. He was on solitary meditation retreat there for nearly 4 years. He then returned to Penang at end of 1998 to see his bed-ridden mother who passed away a month later.

He stayed in Balik Pulau, Penang, for about six months during which he organised and supervised the removal of possible old simas at the proposed sites for 2 new simas and supervised the formal demarcation and declaration of the first (new) sima in Daerah Barat Daya (10 –14 Nov 1998).

Then, with the support of members and friends of Taiping Insight Meditation Society (TIMS), he founded Khemarama, a hermitage at Cangkat Cempaka, near Air Kuning, Perak. He stayed his 20th and 21st vassa (1999-2000) there.

On 28–31 Oct 1999, he helped to supervise the removal of possible old simas at the proposed site for a new sima in Bodhirama Estate, Kuala Kubu Bahru, Selangor, as well as the formal demarcation and declaration of the first (new) sima in that area. He conducted a month-long intensive vipassana meditation retreat at TIMS centre, from 21 Nov to 19 Dec 1999.

In late 1999, after much persuasion — by other monks as well as the laity — and after much consideration, Venerable Aggacitta Bhikkhu decided to carry the responsibility of setting up Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary, the first Theravada Buddhist monk training centre in Malaysia. On 28 Jan 2000, he convened a meeting at Buddhist Wisdom Centre, Petaling Jaya, with active Buddhists to discuss the SBS project.

He has been rather busy with the project since then. Presently, besides other things, he is very occupied managing the construction at the site of the up-coming Sanctuary near Taiping.



Languages that he is skilled in are English, Bahasa Malaysia, Hokkien, Myanmar, Thai and Pali. Among his major literary contributions are:

  • Dying to Live: the Role of Kamma in Dying and Rebirth (authored, 1999)

  • Cessation Experiences and the Notion of Enlightenment (authored, 1996)

  • Raindrops in Hot Summer (edited, 1995)

  • In this Very Life (translated, 1993)

  • Dhamma Therapy (translated, 1984)

  • The Importance of Keeping the Five Precepts (authored, 1982)

How to be a resident bhikkhu/samanera

Requirements


  • You must be a bhikkhu/samanera ordained in accordance with the Vinaya in the Theravada tradition.

  • You must be resolute in making a life-long commitment to the monastic life.

  • You must be a bhikkhu/samanera who tries to strictly follow the Vinaya, according to the scriptural tradition enshrined in the Pali Canon and its commentaries and sub-commentaries.

  • You must have at least completed secondary school (Form 5) education. [It is possible to waive this condition under special circumstances.]

  • As monks here hike down and up a hill for a considerable distance for pindapata (alms gathering) almost daily, you must be fit enough it.

  • You must be willing to follow the curriculum for training and the Sanctuary schedule and routines (katikavatta).

  • You must have read the relevant parts of this prospectus and find that you can fit into the way of life, training programme, and other aspects of SBS.

What should be done


  1. Read the relevant parts of this prospectus and evaluate the suitability between the Sanctuary and you as its resident. (Should you have any uncertainty, do contact us for further information.)

  2. If you believe that you can fit in, please

  • complete the ‘Residency Application Form’,

  • have a guarantor complete the letterform ‘Letter of Guarantee’, and

  • have a referee complete the letterform ‘Letter of Reference’.

Note: The guarantor and the referee may be the same party. The referee must be an individual or organisation deemed reliable by SBS Management Committee. The guarantor need not be so. (We have to insist on such screening measures to avoid having unsuitable residents who may disrupt the harmony of the Sanctuary. Do explain this to your guarantor and referee.)

  1. Submit the completed forms to the Administrator. (NB: Applications can only be submitted by hand or postal mail, not by telephone, facsimile or electronic mail. You can refer to the end of this prospectus for our correspondence address.)

  2. Wait for our response. (Besides suitability of candidate, we also have to look into our capacity to accommodate you. Lodging and other resources are limited here.) If all conditions are met with, we shall arrange an interview between you and the Abbot.

  3. Upon a successful application, SBS Management Committee shall formally invite you to reside in the Sanctuary for a mutually agreed period.

  4. When you are here, you shall have to undergo observation for a period of time before you can be given tutelage (nissaya) by the Abbot (as according to a Vinaya rule the Buddha set down.)

What to bring


  • a good heart nourished by humility, compassionate loving-kindness, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn

  • a set of three robes (ticivara)

  • alms bowl

  • some extra under robes and allowable amsas

  • any other suitable requisites

What not to bring


  • money

  • all other nissaggiya vatthus [articles to be forfeited because they are illegal (such as gold, silver and rubies) or wrongfully obtained (i.e., through purchase with money you accepted, trading, or wrong livelihood)]

If you have any of such things, please relinquish all of them accordingly.

How to be a resident postulant

Requirements


  • You must be a male who tries to be morally upright.

  • You must be willing to observe the eight precepts, plus abstaining from smoking, gambling, and other unseemly activities, when you are here.

  • You must have at least completed secondary school (Form 5) education. [It is possible to waive this condition under special circumstances.]

  • You must aspire to be ordained a monk in SBS.

  • You must be willing to undergo probation for at least one year as a postulant before you can be ordained.

  • As monks here hike down and up a hill for a considerable distance for pindapata (alms gathering) almost daily, you must be fit enough to accompany them.

  • You must aspire to live the rest of your life as a conscientious monk if you are ordained here.

  • You must be willing to follow the curriculum for training and the Sanctuary schedule and routines (katikavatta).

  • You must be willing to take greater responsibility for the daily chores (such as working in the kitchen, helping in the orchard, taking care of the library, running errands in town, etc.) suitable to your individual capacity and inclinations.

  • You must have read the relevant parts of this prospectus and find that you can fit into the way of life, training programme, and other aspects of SBS.

What should be done


  1. Read the relevant parts of this prospectus and evaluate the suitability between the Sanctuary and you as its resident. (Should you have any uncertainty, do contact us for further information.)

  2. If you believe that you can fit in, please

  • complete the ‘Residency Application Form’, and

  • have a referee complete the letterform ‘Letter of Reference’.

Note: The referee must be an individual or organisation deemed reliable by SBS Management Committee. (We have to insist on such screening measures to avoid having unsuitable residents who may disrupt the harmony of the Sanctuary. Do explain this to your guarantor and referee.)

  1. Submit the completed application form to the Administrator. (NB: Applications can only be submitted by hand or postal mail, not by telephone, facsimile or electronic mail. You can refer to the end of this prospectus for our correspondence address.)

  2. Wait for our response. (Besides suitability of candidate, we also have to look into our capacity to accommodate you. Lodging and other resources are limited here.) If all conditions are met with, we shall arrange an interview between you and the Abbot.

  3. Upon a successful application, SBS Management Committee shall formally invite you to reside in the Sanctuary for a mutually agreed period.

What to bring


  • a good heart nourished by humility, compassionate loving-kindness, open-mindedness, and a willingness to learn

  • adequate plain clothing

  • other necessities, such as basic toiletries

What not to bring


  • objects of entertainment (TV, radio, musical instruments, comics, etc.)

  • objects of vanity (cologne, fancy clothing, etc.)

  • any other objects unsuitable to a monastic setting

Terms and conditions of residency


  1. SBS reserves the absolute right, any other communication notwithstanding, to reject an application without explanation.

  2. All residents of SBS must abide by the statement of Objects and By-laws of the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary Management Committee. Anyone who does not maintain the standard of conduct required of him would have no right of further residence at the Sanctuary and the Management Committee’s invitation to him to reside in the Sanctuary is henceforth terminated.

  3. SBS reserves the absolute right, in exceptional circumstances, to require a resident to leave the Sanctuary (at a minimum of 24 hours notice), if in the opinion of the Abbot his or her continuing residency will not be in the best interests of the other residents or the Sanctuary.

  4. We cannot guarantee that any dietary or other special requirements will be met. Nonetheless, if they are reasonably important and within our capacity, we may try to accommodate.

Contact information

Correspondence address


Ng Kian Chong (Development Manager)
Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary
c/o 28 & 30 (first floor)
Jalan Medan Taiping 4
Medan Taiping
34000 Taiping, Perak

Telephone


Tel: 05-8076388 (off.), 012-5384026 (h/p)

Fax


05-8060281

Email


sbsmail@maxis.net.my

(Remember: Applications can only be submitted by hand or postal mail, not by telephone, facsimile or electronic mail.)



Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary is run by the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary Management Committee, a subcommittee of Taiping Insight Meditation Society (TIMS), under the guidance of the Sanctuary’s Abbot.

# “Sasanarakkha” means ‘Guardian of the Sasana (Buddha’s Teachings)’.


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