With Gratitude – 1st English Dharma Class

Alan Koh (福定)  

Time really flies. Upon reflection of the time spent at The Mahaprajna Buddhist Society, I could really say that it has been a ‘sanctuary’ for me to do my ‘training’ of all sorts – interaction with people from all walks of life, oral presentation of the Dharma, planning, co-ordinating and organizing work. Most important of all – The Mahaprajna Buddhist Society is my ‘alma mater’ of the Buddha’s teachings.

I recalled that since young I have always been interested in Buddhism as my father shared with the family, the law of karma and historical account of Shakyamuni Buddha and stories of Buddhist Masters. Hence, once I started working after my ‘A’ level education, I started to ‘look’ for a place whereby I can really ‘settle down’ to learn more about Buddhism. I attended Pali chanting, sutta studies, meditation courses in various English-speaking Buddhist organizations and temples. Even though I am supposedly to be bilingual, I am comparatively more confident in the English Language.

I was very fortunate when my colleague at that time introduced me to the English Dharma course conducted at The Mahaprajna Buddhist Society. I started attending the class. At that time, it was the first intake of English Dharma class. It was in the 1980s that this Dharma course was first started.

I felt very much at home as I studied the 4 years course – Introductory, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced level. I am very grateful to Venerable Hou Zhong and the Society for giving me the opportunity to attend the courses as they laid a good foundation for my subsequent and life-long learning of the Buddha’s teachings.

It was indeed rare in the 1980s to have such an organized and systematic course that gives a comprehensive coverage of the Buddha’s teachings – Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism; ranging from simple to profound concepts – Dharma for Five Vehicles, Three Vehicles and One Vehicle. But most of all it was conducted in English which was more commonly used when giving teachings of Theravada Buddhism. The fact that now I can continue and learn more of the Buddha’s teachings is due to the knowledge I received and whatever understanding I could grasp when I attended the Dharma courses at the Society.

I am also very grateful for the numerous opportunities given to me at that time to do volunteering work. I used to be a very shy and introverted person. It was due to the great exposure that I received when I started to do volunteering work at the Society that I gradually began to grow in confidence and learn many new things. I was given the chance to give tuition to teenagers, to be committee member, to give presentation in the class, to organize outings for the students, etc. What I am today – the positive aspects – is to a large part due to the past ‘moulding’ , ‘education’ that I receive from the Society. One of the most impactful learnings that I had and now still with me is to have the right understanding. This has greatly benefited me whenever I try to apply the dharma in my life.

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