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Malaysian Buddhist Temples double as relief centres

The Buddhist Channel, Jan 4, 2005

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- Sarath Surendre, President of the Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society never thought that this day would come. Just 2 days after the giant tsunami waves struck Asia, the temple galvanized a shocked public to donate to the affected victims. As he walked into the Asoka Hall - the largest block within the Buddhist Maha Vihara complex - he was stunned to see the amount of materials donated: bags of clothes, boxes of food and drinks and other stuff stacked right up to the ceiling of the three storey building.

<< Goods collected at the Buddhist Maha Vihara were stacked three stories high

What struck him even more was the throng of volunteers who seemingly have come out of nowhere to help out. From un-packing to sorting out materials and then re-packing, and the forming of human chains to down load goods from containers, he witnessed the raw nature of compassion at work.

"We knew Malaysians in general can be generous, but this is by far the greatest demonstration of empathy and compassion. We are talking about people of all races, young and old, doing all they can to relief pain suffered elsewhere. There is no word to describe the type of unity going on here," said the disbelieving Sarath.

But the task of organizing the distribution and delivery of the donated materials remain an immense challenge.

According to Goh Seng Chai, a committee member of the Buddhist Missionary Society of Malaysia, the problem lies with the lack of man powers, especially during the weekdays. "Donors have kept coming with their contributions, but the pace is not matched by the number of volunteer workers," the veteran Dhamma worker said. He has appealed to the Buddhist public to come forward and help with the packing and loading onto the containers.

Another point of concern however, is the quality of materials forwarded by the donors. Some relief helpers were heard complaining that stained and torn clothes, high heel shoes and foodstuff that could not stay the expiry date were donated. "We hope that the public will temper their compassion with wisdom. Please do not take this opportunity to turn the temple into a dumping ground," Seng Chai lamented.

Scene of the main shrine at the    >>
Subang Jaya Buddhist Association

Similar scenes like that of the Maha Vihara were noted in other major Buddhist centres, namely the Subang Jaya Buddhist Association, the Sri Jayanti temple in Sentul, Chempaka Buddhist Lodge, Mahindarama Temple in Penang and elsewhere.

At the Mahindarama Temple, despite the intense heat, no one complained about working under the sun, observed Kung Kok Chye. "The team spirit displayed was most excellent, even the Indonesians were a happy lot," he added.

As at January 2, 2004, about 5 containers and 40 lorry trips carrying goods collected at the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Kuala Lumpur were sent to Port Klang and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  Lanka Air and Transmile Air each sponsored the delivery of 40ft containers to Sri Lanka.

While relief effort is still on-going, all the main centres have requested the public not to send any more clothings. What is needed now are a) bottled water, b) medicine [for further information, please check with the respective temples and c) cash donation.

Members of the public who wish to make cash donation to the Buddhist Maha Vihara, they can do so by making their cheques to:

EON Bank (Tun Sambanthan Branch)
A/C No. 0061-10-002890-3
c/o Buddhist Maha Vihara
123 Jalan Berhala, Brickfields 50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2274 1141, Fax: 03-2273 2570

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