Malaysian Buddhists concerned over shortage of priests

May 20th, 2008 - 2:16 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, May 20 (IANS) Concerns over the shortage of Buddhist monks to lead prayers and perform rituals in shrines across Malaysia were voiced as the country observed the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. “Followers could not shake off concerns that there are today fewer qualified Buddhist monks and nuns to lead the community in temples and centres around Malaysia,” The Sun said Tuesday.

“Leaders of various Buddhist organisations are anxious that immigration restrictions, government red tape and increasing apathy among youngsters have caused a situation where not enough monks are available to pass on the religion’s values and ceremonies among followers,” the newspaper said.

According to head of the Mahindarama Buddhist Temple, Kung Kok Chye, there are only 600-700 Buddhist monks for both the Theravada and Mahayana sects.

“The government should not impose excessively strict rules on visas for foreign monks coming to Malaysia,” he said in an interview. “It is our hope on this holy day that the authorities will seriously look into this matter.”

“These monks teach our children the important values preached by our religion such as to be good, to cease all evil and to purify the mind.”

Surya Gidwani, principal of the Sunday Pali School, stressed the need for foreign monks as not many locals were inclined to be monks.

“The locals should not look at monkhood as a career, but as a decision made. But they should take up the call only if they are fully ready,” she added.

A senior member of Malaysia’s Siamese people said the community had been particularly hit as there was a critical dearth of genuine teachers.

There are about 70,000 Siamese, mostly in Kedah, Kelantan and Penang, who practise Buddhism. Most of the temples run by the community lack qualified monks, he said.

A similar crisis faces the Hindu community, who form bulk of the 2.6 million ethnic Indian community, about eight percent of the country’s population.

The government recently allowed some priests and extended the stay of a few more after appeals from community leaders.

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