14 September 2006
Tribute to “The Chief”
I was very impressed by the actions of our bishops who took their invaluable time off from the PMPCIII to pay their last respects to the late the late Most Venerable Dr K Dhammananda Nayaka Maha Thera J.S.M. who passed away on Thursday, August 31, 2006.( Bishops pay last respects to Buddhist Chief of Malaysia,Herald,September 10).
It was indeed a proud moment for us Catholics to see our bishops’ enthusiasm in reaching out the Buddhist community in the spirit of mutual cooperation and love which was reciprocated by a similar gesture by the members of the community present there. This is especially meaningful at a time when members of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu faiths are undergoing a real period of trial and tribulation in our country.
The demise of Ven Dhammananda, fondly called “The Chief”, is a great loss to us as he was one of the founder members and the current president of the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBCHS).
His name means "one who experiences happiness through the Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha)".
In his tribute to this great man of God, journalist Azlan Ramli, summed up by saying “Ven Dhammananda was a great Buddhist but more importantly, a great human being”. He described him as a very humble person. He continues “My brief encounter with him changed my perception and understanding of other peoples’ faith and drastically changed me for the better” (NST, September 4, 2006).
A statement like this about a Buddhist priest, coming from a Muslim today, is something extra-ordinary and it speaks a great deal for this great man.
Ven Dhammananda had the humility and love, in dealing with those from other faiths. As Christians we too need to have that love and humility not to convert but change others for the better. These are the virtues we should pray God to bestow us.
At a critical time as at present, unity with other religious groups is very important so that we are not alone in our struggle against injustice, racial and religious prejudice. We must be open to the concept of the Universality of God, where every faith leads to the same God along different paths. There is no one religion that is above the others, all are equal in the eyes of God.
Interfaith harmony appears to be limited to the highest level of our hierarchy and is sadly lacking at the level of grassroots and the masses. Unless interfaith dialogue and tolerance is transmitted down to the masses it is of no use and meaningless.
As Christians we must follow the example shown by our bishops to extend our hands of friendship and love to those of other faiths in our own communities at BEC and parish levels. We must become the catalysts for the promotion of inter-faith harmony and goodwill.
We should be free to attend their functions and ceremonies with an open mind as children of one God. In order to facilitate and enhance this interfaith interactions we as Christians must remove all barriers that we may have put up to shield ourselves from the “assault” by those of other faiths.
We should ponder over a number of issues before we can proceed on to promote true inter-faith harmony. Are we prepared to accept and recognize the practices of fellow Christians of other denominations? Do we accept that all religions are equal and will lead their respective followers to God? Do we accept that it is more important to be a good human than a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or of some other faith?
Ven Dhammananda may have a devout Buddhist but what was more relevant to man was that he was a great human. He may have left us but the following thoughts of his should remain as a stimulus to the continual promotion of inter-faith goodwill and brotherhood among us.
“Happy is he who has lofty and noble aspirations. Happy is he who enriches the lives of others. Happy is he who allows others to live in peace. Happy is he makes this world a better place to live in. Happy is he whose work,chores and daily tasks are labours of love. Happy is he who loves love”
-- Ven K.Sri.Dhammananda--
From the above words of Ven Sri Dhammananda,we notice he emphasizes that happiness comes with the little things we do out of love to others. This reinforces by firm believe that if we care for those around us, God will give us what we deserve.
Dr Chris Anthony