I’ve been so out of touch with what’s happening around the country (that’s what happens when you are cut off from the Internet — I don’t know how I managed to survive years ago), and didn’t know that the Venerable Dr K. Sri Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera had sadly passed away :( :( :(
The first time I met the Chief Reverend was back in 1996. He had stopped by Batu Pahat, probably at the invitation of the Kg. Merdeka temple, and delivered a talk in English which was translated to Mandarin for there were many non-English speaking people present. He was quite funny — cracked several jokes which was unfortunately lost upon those who couldn’t understand English. Luckily I could, and I thoroughly enjoyed his talk and his light-hearted mannerisms. Quite a nice change from some of the other monks we had listened to.
I didn’t know who he was then, until my seniors informed me that he was THE Chief Reverend for both Malaysia and Singapore. He sure didn’t act like it — you would expect someone of such significance to be serious and uptight and all. Well I was young, and thankfully that view of mine was proven wrong, not just by the Chief Reverend but also by a couple other monks I would later meet and get to know.
A few years later, the Chief Reverend’s pictorial autobiography was published. I bought a copy, and had the good fortune to have the Chief Reverend sign my book when we paid him a visit at the Brickfields temple. In the meantime I had read up about the Chief Reverend. From what I learnt, he was instrumental in preaching religious tolerance and harmony, especially in Malaysia when we faced so much troubles before (and still do, but a slightly different set of troubles now, I think).
The Chief Reverend himself wrote many books; I believe the most popular one is What Buddhists Believe‘. There are a couple of others that I also enjoyed, such as “Why Religious Tolerance?”, “The Buddhist Concept of Heaven and Hell” and “Life in Uncertain, Death is Certain”. You can download his free publications here.
I particularly like his logical approach to certain issues that I seek answers to, and his works were very helpful during the ‘finding-myself’ days. He was one of the reasons why I believe that Buddhism is the one religion I could most understand and relate to. I don’t claim to be a very good Buddhist; really I am far far far from it but imagine — if there wasn’t Buddhism, I could turn out worse?
Sad day for Malaysians and all of humanity indeed.
May the Chief Reverend attain parinirvana. If not this life, then surely the next.