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Singapore Celebrates Centennial of its Oldest Theravada Temple

A silent prayer from 10 interfaith representatives at Wat Ananda Metyarama’s centennial celebration. From facebook.com

By  Shyamal Sinha

A silent prayer from 10 interfaith representatives at Wat Ananda Metyarama’s centennial celebration. From facebook.com

Wat Ananda Youth (WAY) is an organisation founded in 1966 by Venerable Phraku Bisaldhammanides. It was formerly known as the Ananda Metyarama Buddhist Youth Circle. After Phraku Bisaldhammanides left for Bangkok in 1974, WAY continued holding most of its activities in Wat Ananda Metyarama Buddhist Temple,

Wat Ananda Metyarama in Singapore celebrated its 100th anniversary, on Sunday. The wat is the oldest Theravada Buddhist temple in Singapore and the first Thai temple established outside the Southeast Asian kingdom and formally recognized by Thailand’s royal family.

“The temple is older than [the Republic] of Singapore,” said the temple’s honorary secretary. “So it is a big milestone for us to celebrate this occasion. I’m very proud.” (The Straits Times)

The anniversary celebrations began with a one-minute silent prayer led by representatives from 10 religions from the Inter-Religious Organization of Singapore. The ceremony was attended by some 1,500 participants, including Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Indranee Rajah, minister to the prime minister’s office and second minister for finance, education, and law, and 634 Buddhist monks from Asia, Europe, and North America who had gathered in Singapore for the anniversary celebration and a Buddhist conference.

In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee commented: “We may come from different faiths, but the desire to help others and live in harmony with all Singaporeans is the common belief that binds us together.” (The Straits Times)

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaking to abbot of Wat Ananda Metyarama before the celebration. From facebook.com

The temple was founded in 1918 by Venerable Luang Phor Hong Dhammaratano (Phra Dhammaratano Bandi), and construction was completed in 1923. Since its founding, the temple has undergone several renovations and new buildings have been added. Most notably, the addition of a new five-story building in 2014.

The new building houses the temple’s cultural centre and shrine, and features a Dhamma hall, a mediation hall, a conference room, s dining hall, a rest area, a Sunday classroom, and monastic residences. The modern V-shaped design of the building, designed by Czarl Architects, is intended to appeal to younger followers, and has been shortlisted for several architectural awards. To commemorate the centennial, the temple also added a 100-year anniversary pavilion, which features a rose quartz statue of the bodhisattva Guan Yin.

“When I started going to the temple, it was a simple place surrounded by attap huts. It is now very modern and impressive,” said Lim Keng Boon, who has spent 54 years volunteering and organising events for the temple. During the centennial ceremony, Lim received an award for his service from Prime Minister Lee. (The Straits Times)

The latest addition to Wat Ananda Metyarama. From aasarchitecture.com

In 1966, the temple started a youth group named the Wat Ananda Youth (WAY), formerly known as the Ananda Metyarama Buddhist Youth Circle, and the first registered Buddhist youth circle in Singapore. WAY has undertaken many initiatives with Singaporean youth for the propagation of Theravada Buddhism. Some of the temple’s other regular activities at the temple include a novice ordination program, Sunday Buddhist classes for children, Thai language classes for children, and yoga classes.

Asked whether the temple had succeeded in reaching out to young Singaporeans, Lim noted that the majority of the 200 volunteers were young, while he is the eldest of the group.

Even during the anniversary proceedings, the temple made an effort to help the youth in Singapore. It donated S$100,000 (US$75,000) in scholarship funding to 10 primary and secondary schools, and donated 20 wheelchairs to Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital.

On Monday, Wat Ananda Metyarama also celebrated the 90th birthday of the temple’s abbot, Ven. Siddhivides.