Friday, March 27, 2009


Sometime in the early 80s I was asked to go with our senior reporter Anna Cheah to do a story on Venerable Chuk Mor in Penang. I will be the photographer and translator because Anna cannot speak Mandarin.

After the interview Anna asked me to ask Venerable if he can write her a scroll, (Chuk Mor's calligraphic skills were well known and highly sought after); the wise old man looked at Anna and asked me to inform her that he only write for people that he feel an affinity (yuan) to and he cannot feel that with Anna!

Disappointed, we packed our gear and prepared to leave the Hall of Three Wisdom when the Venerable called out to me and proclaimed that I, an atheist; had that "affinity" with him!

Stunned and shocked (understatement, more like "Oh my God! I CANNOT believe this!") our wise old man proceed to write me a scroll in his famous style!

The scroll (with my NAME on it!!), translated; read: 

" Only when your HEART is CALM, then your straw shed (you stay in) is stable and when your MIND is STEADY only then you will smell the fragrance of the flower".

Needless to say when we were back at our office there were a lot of envy, especially one of our photog who claimed that he has been asking Venerable for more than 10 years without success!

The scroll (framed) become the centre piece on our living room wall.

What about the dragon fly? Oh.... it was shot on film with a Canon EOS1 and a 70-200 zoom when we were visiting Singapore Zoo in 1995.

I have never seen a dragonfly that got strips like a tiger, have you?

Funny thing, never gave much thought to it until today... the writing on the scroll was shot with a Canon digi SLR and superimposed on the dragonfly scan in Photoshop... I think they gel together beautifully.

What do you think?

Thank you again Venerable Chuk Mor and may you rest in peace.

Footnote: The Malaysian Buddhist Association was formed on April 19, 1959. Its first President was Venerable Chuk Mor.

Venerable Chuk Mor, a well-known scholar monk of the Mahayana tradition, was born on August 13,1913 in China. He was ordained a monk at age 12 in 1924 and came to Penang on May 4,1954.

In July 1962, Venerable Chuk Mor founded the Triple Wisdom Hall to teach Ch'an (Chinese Zen) meditation to devotees. This became the first Chinese Buddhist temple in Malaysia where systematic Ch'an meditation was taught. He was a prime mover in establishing the Malaysian Buddhist Institute in 1969 to provide a more comprehensive training to Chinese Mahayana monks and nuns.

For his contribution to Buddhism, Venerable Chuk Mor was conferred one of the highest awards of the State of Penang, the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri (DSPN). The award carries the title of Datuk, the nearest English equivalent to which might be the title of Sir. He is the first Buddhist monk to be conferred this prestigious award.

This is a screen grab from a video about Venerable Chuk Mor, the producer filmed the 8x10 print from The Star photo archive, it is obvious that I shot this picture while Venerable was writing the scroll for me! Small world indeed!


heather said...

Very interesting. I`ve never met a Bhuddist before.You are fortunate he felt an affinity towards you.You must have been like the cat who got the cream when he wrote something for you

Lynda Sim said...

A very interesting read. I think it's is very rare to have an affinity with someone upon first meeting. Perhaps it is something in our souls that recognises compatibility in another soul. I have often felt that with things like lyrics,art,music and prose where it seems to resonate with me. Much of your lovely photography resonates on me.