VEN CHUK MOR & BUDDHISM IN MALAYSIA
Any study on the modern development of Buddhism in Malaysia will be incomplete without the mentioning of two names: Ven. DR. K. Sri Dhammananda and Ven. Chuk Mor. (Other than Ven. Chuk Mor, all other Chinese names in this article are rendered in Hanyu Pinyin for uniformity. Ven. Chuk Mor is Ven. Zhu Mo in Hanyu Pinyin.)
Ven. Dhammananda is of course well-known among the English-educated Buddhists in this country. He came to Malaysia in the year 1952. Since then he has led hundreds of thousands of people into the fold of Buddhism. But most of the English-educated may have yet to hear of Ven. Chuk Mor. Ven. Chuk Mor arrived one year later in 1953. And his influence among the Chinese~ducated Buddhists is in no way smaller.
Ven. Chuk Mor was born in the Zhejiang Province of China in the year 1913. His real name is Chen De An. His parents were devoted Buddhists and so he was brought up in Buddhistic surroundings. At at the age of twelve, he became a novice and was fully ordained as a monk at the age of sixteen in 1928.
Ven. Chuk Mor received his formal Buddhist education at the Minnan Buddhist Institute founded by Master Tai Zu, the great reformer who initiated and led the transformation of the Chinese Mahayana Buddhism into a modern religion after the Chinese Revolution. Ven. Chuk Mor's course mates included Ven. Yin Shun and Ven. Dong Chu who both became very prominent Mahayana monks later on.
It was from this time that Ven. Chuk Mor began his life-long career as a prolific Buddhist writer and speaker. He was advocating much-needed reform in the then very conservative Chinese Buddhism in face of new challenges in the 20th century.
During the second world war Ven. Chuk Mor withdrew to Hongkong to involve himself in helping the war refugees. From Hongkong he went to Macau, where he met Gao Jian Fu, a modern master of Chinese brush painting and started to learn painting. Today Ven. Chuk Mor is himself acknowledged as a master of Chinese painting and calligraphy. He has held several successful exhibitions in various parts of the world and his works are eagerly sought after by collectors.
In the year 1953, Ven. Chuk Mor was invited to propagate the Dharma in Thailand. From Bangkok he proceeded to Penang, where he was invited to serve the Phoy Tay Institute, a well-known Buddhist organisation in Penang. He also taught Buddhism partime in the Phoy Tay High School, the only secondary school founded by Malaysian Buddhists. This was an important turning point in the life of Ven. Chuk Mor. Since then he settled down in Malaysia and made tremendous contribution to build up Malaysian Buddhism as it is today.
Ven. Chuk Mor's contribution towards the development of modern Buddhism in Malaysia is certainly great. He is both an influential writer and crowd-drawing speaker. His many writings published in newspapers, magazines and books have educated many people to practise the correct and real version of Buddhism and discard all incorrect and superstitious beliefs previously held by them. His Dharma talks have had the same effect. In his younger days he travelled widely to give talks everywhere. Besides his individual trips, in the year 1959, he led a Dharma Propagating Party to tour round 5 states in Peninsular Malaysia, stirring up interest in Buddhism wherever he went.
The setting up of the Triple Wisdom Hall in Penang is another contribution of Ven. Chuk Mor. The building of the new temple began in the year 1962 and was completed in 1965. It was extended in 1973. Today the Triple Wisdom Hall, has become an important centre of activities in Malaysia. Besides providing the usual temple activities, there are also Dharma Study Centre, Free Sunday School, Youth Group, etc. In actual fact, besides the Triple Wisdom Hall, Ven. Chuk Mor also headed a few other temples in Malaysia and Singapore which are run by his disciples.
Another significant contribution of Ven. Chuk Mor is the formation of the Malaysian Buddhist Association. When Ven. Chuk Mor first came to Malaysia, the Mahayana Buddhist community in Malaysia was not properly organised. Besides the temples, there were only a few regional Buddhist associations and societies. It was largely due to Ven. Chuk Mor's initiative and effort that the Malayan (later Malaysian) Buddhist Association was formed in 1959. It was the first attempt to unite all mandarin-speaking Mahayana temples, organisations, sangha and laymen into a national body. Ven. Chuk Mor served as its President until he stepped down voluntarily twelve years later. The huge MBA building which stands in Burmah Road, Penang was completed during his terms as the President. It was also Ven. Chuk Mor who founded the Malaysian Buddhist Institute, the only place to provide formal Buddhist education in Malaysia today. He is still the Principal of the Institute. He has also used part of his savings to set up a Buddhist Scholarship Fund for students of the Institute and others.
Ven. Chuk Mor also brought to Malaysia "Everlasting Light", the magazine he founded in Hong Kong. Today it is still being published regularly as the official organ of the Malaysian Buddhist Association.
Last but not least, Ven. Chuk Mor should always be known as being the motivating force behind the Buddhist youth movement in Malaysia. He is one of those few leading monks who have been giving their full support to the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia since its fromation in 1970. His advice has always been sought and followed in the organisation of all YBAM major projets. He is our source of guidance and inspiration.
In actual facts, Ven Zhu Mo's influence and contribution is not limited to Malaysia and Singapore alone. As one of the most senior and learned Chinese monks living in the world today, he is a household name internationally among the Chinese-educated. It is hoped that one day, his many writings which contain so much Buddhist insight and wisdom will be translated into English and other languages so that they can be shared by all.
(This article first appeared in BUDDHISM IN MALAYSIA Volume One published by YBAM in 1984. This is an abridged version for internet. The writer, Leong Kok Hing, is a prominent Buddhist worker in Malaysia. He led the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia in the Eighties first as its Secretary-General and then National President.)
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