Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
The Venerable Hong Choon Memorial Hall of the temple
|Full name||Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery|
|Important associated figures||Hong Choon, Long Gen, Yan Pei, Sui Kim|
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The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (also the Bright Hill Pujue Ch'an Monastery) (simplified Chinese: 光明山普觉禅寺; traditional Chinese: 光明山普覺禪寺; pinyin: Guāngmíng Shān Pǔjué Chán Sì; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kong-bîng-san-phóo-kak-sī), is located at 88 Bright Hill Road at Bishan. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore, built by Zhuan Dao in the early 20th century as a place of practice to propagate the Dharma and to provide lodging for monks, as there were many Buddhist monks who came to Singapore without lodging back then.
Between 1920 and 1921, the building of Phor Kark See Monastery built was the first traditional Chinese forest monastery in Singapore, on the a plot of land in Thomson Road donated by a Chinese businessmen Tay Woo Seng in 1921. Since Phor Kark See Monastery is situated at Kong Meng San ("Bright Hill", formerly "Hai Nan Mountain"), it has come to be known as Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. The temple originally comprised a two-storey building, a shrine room, visitors' room and living quarters. Philanthropists like Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par later contributed to the building of a separate Dharma Hall, which had a height of over fifty feet. The Monastery grew steadily and Dharma propagation began in Singapore. Zhuan Dao in 1943.
In 1947, Hong Choon became the monastery's abbot. He was responsible for the temple's administration and served as its representative at social and Buddhist functions. Under his leadership, the monastery's complex expanded from two shrine halls to include the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas and prayer halls that are as large as ten football fields. He also progressively developed and expanded the monastery with his followers into the largest and most majestic place of practice in Singapore. Hong Choon also initiated the monthly Great Compassion Prayer and taught the Dharma to benefit many.
In 1980, the temple began to build Evergreen Bright Hill Home, which opened in 1983, with the donation of S$5.3 million from Hong Choon's followers, He Hui Zhong's family's company. In 1994, the then President of Singapore, Ong Teng Cheong visited the Home and praised its cleanliness, good service and well-equipped facilities.
On 5 June 2004, Kwang Sheng became the monastery's present abbot. Under Kwang Sheng's leadership, the Dharma Propagation Division was set up for Singaporeans to learn Buddhism and practice the Dharma in relevant ways. The Youth Ministry KMSPKS Youth, was set up to serve as a platform for Singaporean youths who want to know about Buddhism, learn Buddhism and serve the society via Buddhist teachings.
On 15 January 2002, the temple announced a Compassion Fund to provide financial assistance to retrenched workers with a last drawn pay of up to $2,500, and who do not qualify for other aid schemes.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery opened the Buddhist College of Singapore on 13 September 2006. As the country's first Buddhist college, it offers a four-year bachelor's degree in Buddhism. Lessons are held on temple grounds until a new $35 million five-storey building is completed.
In May 2007, Kwang Sheng released a musical album titled Buddha Smiles. In the same year in October 2007, the temple was one of seven religious groups ordered by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) to open their books to auditors. With an annual income of $14.95 million, it had one of the largest incomes among the charities under the COC's direct purview. Its main income sources were crematorium and columbarium services, prayer services and donations. Between November 2007 till June 2008, the monastery also reportedly gave free meals to about 200 daily, clarifying their prayer and meditation practices instead of relying on probable means of incomes such as exorcism.
On June 21, 2008, the temple raised over $1 million for the reconstruction of schools devastated in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, by organising the Great Compassion; Great Aspiration Charity Show.
In April 2009, the temple launched 'Gum', an English-language magazine, to bridge the gap between their older Hokkien-speaking devotees and English-speaking youth. The magazine title is a transliteration of a Hokkien term which means "to get along", and symbolises unity within the congregation. The temple partnered Chuan Pictures, a new production house set up in March 2009 by local filmmaker Royston Tan, for a 15-minute Mandarin short film, "Little Note". It premiered in September 2009 and focuses on a single mother who gives her son inspirational notes.
The modern day monastery premises comprise of stupas, prayer halls, crematorium and columbarium which houses over 200,000 niches, bell and drum towers, and an outdoor statue of Avalokitesvara stands between the Dharma Hall and the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas. The Hong Choon Memorial Hall of the temple was built in 2004. Another notable feature of the monastery is a Bodhi Tree which had its sapling brought from the sacred Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, which was itself brought as a sapling from the sacred Bodhi Tree of Bodh Gaya, India where Shakyamuni Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment.
There is a large bronze Buddha statue in the Hall of No Form on the top floor which is one of Asia's largest rising to a height of 13.8 metres and weighing 55 tons. Apart from a $12 million four-storey carpark with about 200 spaces that was added in 2014, the new and costly six-storey $35 million Buddhist college for monks is also nearing completion in 2015.
Practices, Charities and Events
The monastery celebrates Vesak Day annually with a variety of ceremonies such as "Bathing the Buddha", and "Three-Steps-One-Bow". Other major events include Ching Ming. As the East Asian traditional practice of burning incense and joss materials remain despite repeated pleas and discouragement, costlier alternatives appeared which include the installation of a new four-storey, $1 million eco-friendly burner in 2014.
In 2014, the Buddhist College of Singapore operated by the monastery announced intentions of accepting female monastics, with the new nunnery campus housed at Poh Ern Shih Temple, taking in 45 students every two years. The same year in December, KMSPKS Youth led their first overseas humanitarian mission into Chiang Mai, Thailand.
When Singapore founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away in 2015, the monastery also conducted the primary Buddhist prayer service on 26 March 2015 in conjunction with the Singapore Buddhist Federation. Mr Lee had notably consulted the late Venerable Hong Choon during the ongoing years of nation building.
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