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Dharma Education and Propagation at Persatuan Buddhist Hilir Perak

Written by  Oh Teik Bin, Vice President of Persatuan Buddhist Hilir Perak Thursday, 17 October 2013 14:29

In the 1980’s, a few Dharma friends and I started the Persatuan Buddhist Hilir Perak (PBHP) with the realisation of the need to set up a Dharma Centre to promote the Dharma in the region. We used various strategies and approaches in order to introduce the Dharma to people from various backgrounds:

•Non-Sectarian

The emphasis was the Buddha-Dharma rather than rigid demarcation of the traditions. Thus for Dharma education and propagation, we invited Dharma speakers from all the three traditions of Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

•Bilingual Approach

Both Chinese and English were used in the various programmes and activities to teach, learn and share the Dharma. Dharma Talks in Chinese and English were held regularly.

•Diverse Skilful Means

To realise the objective of teaching, learning, and practicing the Dharma for realisation, diverse skilful means were used to cater to Buddhists of all ages, from pre-school children, students and youths to adults.

•Reaching Out and Looking In – ‘Serve To Be Perfect, Be Perfect To Serve’

The Dharma Education and Promotion programmes focused on a balance between outreach and welfare work on one hand and self-cultivation on the other.

Throughout the years we served the community through various activities, programmes and projects including Dharma talks, discussions, Sutra study classes, Dharma library, puja and chanting sessions, meditation and retreats, Fellowships, Excursions and Tours. From these activities, we not only introduced the Dharma to the local community, but also helped to train the future Buddhist Leaders.

In addition to that, since 1989, we started to have the Buddhist Sunday School, and various Dharma classes were then also established following the successful model of the Sunday school. Among the Dharma classes we started were English and Dharma Class (for secondary school students), Chinese Dharma Class (for secondary school students) and both Chinese and English Sutra Classes for Adults. The response from the members was encouraging and today, these classes are still running, benefiting individuals of different backgrounds and with different needs.

Personally, I would think that the success of the PBHP in attracting people to participate in the activities is perhaps due to the interesting programs that we organise for them, which, to name a few include tours and excursions, youth recreational activities, youth and children’s camps, singing & choir groups, and academic guidance classes. These activities are pitched at the right level to suit the needs of the community, and they feel that their needs are addressed well through the activities.

However, there are still challenges and difficulties we are facing in running the PBHP. A lack of manpower is the main issue we are facing now. Youths are migrating out from the town for their career in the big cities and this leaves us with problems and difficulties in looking for committed, innovative, creative people or Dharma-based young professionals to be the teaching staff or volunteers for the Association. In addition to this, sensual attractions of the outside world lure Dharma Students away. The impact of the mobile phone, cyber games (at Cyber Cafes, over the Internet, Mobile phone), social networking (Friendster, Facebook, MySpace etc), Entertainment over the Internet, Supermarkets, etc is very strong indeed. Hence we need to think hard in getting them to join the various activities of PBHP. We need also to make the youths feel that the programs of PBHP can benefit them a lot in terms of their education or working life apart from enhancing their social circles. We are also hoping to have more participation from the parents of Dharma students. If the parents’ involvement is minimal, then it would be really hard to influence the next generation to attend the activities.

Realising the problems that we are facing, we work strategically to tackle the problems, including having dialogues with parents and encouraging more engagement of parents. Special programs and activities are drawn up where parents are involved, for example, Adult Dharma Classes, Family Day, housekeeping and kitchen work, Fellowships, Celebration of certain cultural festivals etc. In addition, we organise more outreach work, for example, “Gotong Royong”, “Welfare and Metta Visits”, and Recycling Projects so as to involve the youths in the activities. For Dharma classes, now the Dharma teachers use multimedia in their teaching instead of mere ‘Talk & Chalk’. We also have greater promotion of the English language and more campaigns to promote reading among the young.

Being a part of PBHP, I do think that in order to realise the vision of PBHP, which is spreading the Dharma for the happiness and peace of all, we need to strive to learn and understand the Dharma more, practice well and realise the Dharma so that we can grow in compassion and wisdom. In addition to this, we also need to know the Dharma well and make Dharma known by others too, and serve as more committed Dharmaduta workers in PBHP, or anywhere in the world.