A Beautiful Lotus in Malaysia
By Yeshe Dolma
On November 20, 2011, we witnessed the official opening and inauguration ceremony of Joyfully Together Mindfulness Practice Centre (JTMPC) in Shah Alam, Malaysia, in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village. The ceremony took place during a Wake Up retreat for young people and was led by Brother Phap Kham, who is in charge of guiding Plum Village in Asia, Sister Linh Nghiem, and eighteen other Plum Village monastics from Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
The Plum Village tradition in Malaysia started when Sister Linh Nghiem and a handful of other organisers led the first retreat at the Chempaka Buddhist Lodge in Petaling Jaya in 2006. Sister Linh Nghiem also gave a public talk at the Kota Kemuning Buddhist Centre. Two years later, in 2008, Brother Phap Kham and a few monastics held a four-day retreat at the Chin Loong temple in Rawang. Brother Phap Kham and others came again in 2009 to sponsor a family retreat, for the first time including children in the programme. That retreat took place at the Chin Swee temple in the Genting Highlands. Brother Phap Kham and other monastics also conducted the first Day of Mindfulness on November 21, 2009, in the Shah Alam Buddhist Society (SABS) Building. Since then, a small group of people from Kota Kemuning have organised a monthly Day of Mindfulness at the SABS.
In September of the following year, the Buddhist community in the Kota Kemuning region helped bring Thay and seventy monastics to Malaysia. The Zen Master’s visit was a big event made possible by many selfless people from eight different Buddhist organizations. Many people benefited from Thay’s teachings and some were inspired to build Sanghas in different parts of the country. Soon after his visit, the Joyfully Together Sangha was formed. Friends from all over the Klang Valley came to practice with us. Early in 2011, the Sangha acquired a two-story building in Kota Kemuning and turned it into the first permanent Plum Village practice centre in Malaysia.
We meet every Sunday at the Joyfully Together Mindfulness Practice Centre. On the first and third Sundays, we have family programmes, which include children. The Jataka tales are acted out by the children. On the second Sunday, we have Dharma study and read from Thay’s book, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. We have our Day of Mindfulness on the fourth Sunday. The fifth Sunday is a Lazy Day when we do housecleaning for the centre.
Thay’s visit also resulted in the formation of a second Sangha. In January 2011, the Gentle Waves Sangha started in Penang/Ipoh for people in the northern region of our peninsula. In the same year, our first Malaysian nun, Sister Nga Mi, was ordained a novice in the tradition of Plum Village.
Slowly and steadily, we are building our Fourfold Sangha in Malaysia. May each of us strive to remember to breathe mindfully, to take gentle steps on our Mother Earth, and to live mindfully in the present moment. May the teachings of the Buddha and Thay, together with the Sangha, benefit people from all walks of life throughout Malaysia.
Yeshe Dolma, Living Joy of the Heart, is a member of the Joyfully Together Sangha in Shah Alam, Malaysia. She has led and organised Days of Mindfulness for the Gentle Waves Sangha in Ipoh/Penang, Malaysia, since January of 2011.