19 November 1938
The English Section of The Singapore Buddhist Association (later to be known as The Buddhist Union) was born.
At the time, the late Venerable Narada Thera, one of the Union’s first patrons, was in Singapore on his way to Cambodia. Acting on the Venerable’s suggestion, a few ardent Buddhists met and formed themselves into a body to propagate the Buddha-Dhamma among the English-speaking section of the Chinese community.
Besides the late Venerable Narada Thera, the Union’s first patrons were the Venerable K Gunaratana Maha Nayaka Thera, late Venerable Seck Chuan Toh, Venerable M M Mahaweera Thera and the late Luang Vudhisara Netinati (Consul-General for Thailand).
Since the inception of the Buddhist Union, large sums of money have been usefully spent on printing Buddhist Books, Sutras, Brochures, Newsletters etc. These are circulated and given free to members and the general public.
First Vesak Celebration on 2 May 1939
The first Vesak Celebration was held on 2 May 1939, at the Ramakrishna Mission Hall, Singapore. It was a symbolical gathering of several races, including monks and nuns. The Chairman was the late Dr Lim Boon Keng, O.B.E. and many speakers spoke in several dialects. The local papers gave good prominence to this gathering. Even during the Japanese Occupation, Vesak was celebrated as usual, though not on so grand a scale.
On 4 June 1939 the Buddhist Union (had no fixed premises then)formally moved into a two-storey terrace house at 731 Geylang Road. From then onwards the Buddhist Union did not look back, although its activities were greatly hampered during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.
First Vesak Message 1940
The first Vesak Message ever to be broadcast over Radio Malaya was by the Buddhist Union in 1940.
Official Title in May 1941
In May 1941 it took on the official title – The Buddhist Union.
Soon after Singapore was attacked by the Japanese and during their regime the Buddhist Union lost the tenancy of its premises. It suffered yet another loss when a number of its staunch members were killed in the bombings of Singapore and so its activities had to be curtailed. The holding of services and chanting has once again to be carried out in the residences of members, late Bro Pang Choon Jin had been very kind to allow the Union to occupy his house (41 Scotts Road) during and after the Japanese occupation, and after that the Union moved to 85A Marine Parade. Despite these difficulties the Union carried on undaunted the work that it had pledged to do.
Post War 1947 – 1956
From 1947 until 1956 the Buddhist Union, with the support of other Buddhist Organisations, appealed to the local Government for the grant of a Public Holiday on Vesak Day. This continued effort bore fruit, and since 1956 Vesak Day has been gazetted a Public Holiday.
In the earlier days, the members visited the Leper Settlements both in Singapore and Johore, York Hill Girls’ Homecraft Centre, Home for the Blind, St Andrew’s Mission Hospital, Ramakrishna Mission Boys’ Home, the British Red Cross Society Children’s Home, Cheshire Home, and other social welfare homes and charitable institutions yearly during Vesak Week and gifts in kind and cash were distributed. This, of course, has been made possible solely by the generous response and support of our members, their families, friends and other donors.
Donation of Land for Shrine
Soon after World War II, great efforts were made to expand its activities. The year 1952 was a memorable one for the Union. On 31 August the late Sister Wee Beng Kim, a kind and generous lady member, presented to The Buddhist Union, the piece of land on which the Shrine now stands.
And on the same day the late Bro Tan Kim Teck on behalf of an anonymous donor presented The Buddhist Union with a cheque of $5,000/- for the building fund. A drive for funds to erect a shrine was immediately launched, and on 15 November 1953, the foundation stone was laid by the Ven Mahaweera Thera in a simple ceremony. Thanks to the ready and generous support of members, friends and well-wishers the Union was able to carry out this project by the end of March 1954, the shrine was completed and was occupied on 29 March 1954.
The Official Opening
The official opening and blessing ceremony was performed by the Ven Seck Kong Hiap on 10 May 1954. A large congregation of members, friends and relatives witnessed the solemn and historic ceremony.
Consequent upon the sole efforts of the Buddhist Union, the City Council in 1955 granted for the use as a cemetery for all Buddhists, twenty (20) acres of land for burial of ashes after cremation, and thirty (30) acres adjoining this piece of land for the burial of deceased bodies at Chua Choa Kang.
From the small nucleus of members who worked unstintedly, sacrificing much of their time and money, The Buddhist Union has grown into what it is today. It is not resting on its past laurels, for it is ever conscious of its responsibilities and duties which must be done and will be done.
History and Milestones
19 Nov 1938
2 May 1939
4 Jun 1939
31 Aug 1952
15 Nov 1953
29 Mar 1954
10 May 1954
10 Apr 1960
25 Sep 1970
24 Apr 1977