Two student members, comprising Brother Hing Seng Huat of the Mandarin class and I from the English class, together with three devotees turned day trippers on Saturday, 25th February, to check out a centre for residential meditation retreat in Malacca. We roped in Bhante Raja, religious advisor of MV Dhamma Fellowship, who graciously accepted our invitation to evaluate Alokarama to be used for a Retreat venue.
We set off from Mangala Vihara at 7:00 am heading North in a 7-seater sedan. The journey took about 4 hours with short breaks in between to freshen up and for the driver to take a rest.
Alokarama is an eco-holistic retreat centre located on a 22-acre orchard near Asahan in Tampin District at the South-Eastern corner of Negeri Sembilan and bordering the States of Johor and Malacca. Alokarama has been the host venue for healthy mind and body retreats and workshops. The centre is sponsored by a Philanthropist and the Aloka Foundation was completed in 2008 at the cost of 5 million Malaysian Ringgit. Venerable Mahinda and Sister Sumitra are the religious advisors to Alokarama who conducted many weekend short retreats and workshops there.
The centre can accommodate about 150 participants with dormitory for 80 ladies with common sanitary amenities. The dormitory for the men (Longhouse) is a distant away separated by footpath.
The Stupa is unique with spiral footpath leading to the summit dedicated for walking meditation and a shrine atop is another spot for standing or sitting meditation. A clear view of the misty peaks of Mount Ophir (Gunung Ledang) at the summit is enthralling.
A big dining hall with attached kitchen at the back of the main office. There is an octagonal shape Shrine Hall depicting the Noble Eight Fold Path. Other attractions and features are Naga Pond with a gazebo, Herb Garden, Eco Farm, Bodhi Trees and of course the orchard with tropical fruit trees like durian, papaya, dragon fruits, duku, sour sop, and others.
The cultivation of herbal plants with medicinal properties for prevention or cure for diabetes and cancer and edible plants for promoting health and well-being are holistic features and educational to visitors.
The centre with luxuriant greenery and the various amenities is suitable for youth camp activities. MVBT Youth Group could consider the venue at their next camp activities. It will be good to go during fruiting seasons to enjoy the fruits, especially the king of the fruits. “They always take delight in food, both devas and human beings. So what sort of spirit could be, that does not take delight in food?” (Saṃyutta Nikăya – Sutta 1 Devatăsamyutta – Connected Discourses with Devatăs). Yeah, to be taken with a pinch of salt, of course.
Seck Kia Eenh Temple
Since we were in Malacca we made a detour to visit Seck Kia Eehn Temple at 57 Jalan Gajah Bernang to rekindle the historical ties it had with Mangala Vihara in the early years. Our late Bhante Mahaweera visited the temple and planted a Bodhi Tree sapling, taken from the tree at Mangala Vihara on 5th September 1956.
The 56 years old Bodhi Tree is nested in a compound with a shrine and footpath for devotees to circumambulate while doing walking mediation or performing any devotional ceremony.
Bhante Raja presented a copy of MBVT 50th Anniversary book to Rev Amugoda Seelalankara, resident monk from Sri Lanka. The historical Bodhi Tree sapling planting event is chronicled on page 147.
The temple has grown and expanded to include a six storey build across the road, the Wisma Seck Kia Eehn. It has an auditorium and classrooms to conduct courses and promote activities.
The majestic Bodhi Tree was housed in an enclosed compound facing the gate. There is a Stupa and a Shrine at the spot flanked by two Sal Trees.
Visiting the temple and seeing how big the Bodhi Tree has grown in sync with the expansion of the temple was nostalgic and gave us a feel of the legacy and reach of Mangala Vihara in faraway Malacca more than half a century ago.
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou