The Venerable Dhammasukha (1900-1966)

Founder, The Buddhist Union , Singapore

Early Life

The Venerable Dhammasukha was born on 6th October 1900 as Tan Keng Lock, of a respectable and devout Buddhist family in Malacca, one of the States of Malaysia and later acquired Singapore Citizenship. Like sons of other such parents, he received the best care, education and training that could then be given him. He was educated in an English School run by a Christian Mission in Singapore known as ‘The Anglo-Chinese School.’ In his youth, he frequented many Buddhist Temples with his parents. He showed keen interest in the observation of Buddhist Precepts on festival days.

Young Man

As an ambitious young man, he had a very successful commercial career. He married at the age of 24 and had seven sons and one daughter. He had been for several years detached from his wife and family.

But educational success, family success, commercial success, and social success – all these had not given him the kind of happiness he was seeking for. There was something missing – he knew and yet did not know what that was; – ever since in school, he had been in quest of that something.

Being extra-ordinarily keen in Buddhism and in spite of his busy career in his commercial life, he spent many of his leisure hours in a public library in search of the Noble Teachings of the Buddha. In those days Buddhist books were very few in circulation and not so easily obtainable in public bookshops.

At that time, the only source of information obtainable for his research work was at the Raffles Library. Buddhist organisations were very few in existence. Perhaps only two were well known and they were ‘The International Buddhist Union’ and ‘The Singapore Buddhist Association ‘. He was then very closely associated with The Singapore Buddhist Association and it could be said that much of his knowledge and experience derived from his association with that Organisation. He had always been seen in the company of learned Monks and Buddhist laymen. Much of his time, money and energy had been spent just for one purpose and that was to spread the Dharma far and wide to as many people as possible. His close ties with the Buddhist Monks inspired him further in his dedication of his life towards the course of serving humanity. He worked very hard, until one day in the year 1938, he met Venerable Narada Thera who was in Singapore.

The Founding

With the encouragement and valuable advice of this Bhikkhu, he redoubled his efforts and energy and got down to the formation of an English-speaking Buddhist Organisation. This bore fruit and on the 19th day of November 1938, with a small group of ardent Buddhists, he founded ‘The Buddhist Union’. He was then the President of the Union and had been holding the post for many years until his ordination as a monk.

As a leader of this newly formed Organisation, he was faced with many obstacles and with the support of some of the loyal dedicated members, he was able to overcome all the trials and tribulations and made some headway and progress until the interruption of the Japanese occupation in Singapore in 1942.

During the occupation – 1942/1945, much of the activities of the Union were curtailed. In spite of the restricted movements, he was never discouraged. He managed to gather a small group of members and congregated in private homes.

Post War

Soon after the war, he got down to re-organise The Buddhist Union and this time with much vigour. His untiring efforts and energy were finally rewarded and for the first time since the inception of the Union, a Sacred Shrine was built at Jalan Senyum in 1954.

Another building was soon purchased by the Union, just opposite the Shrine. This building is now being used as a Repository Hall. Memberships had begun to increase in numbers with many dedicated members to rally round giving as much help as possible towards the progress of the Union.

He was then a Bramachariya, a Spiritual life he had undertaken since the Japanese occupation. He took serious studies in meditation and spiritual work. In 1958, he was initiated as Rishi Tan by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who was in Singapore on his world tour.

As Rishi Tan, he was getting nearer to his goal. It was a stepping-stone to the accomplishment of his long search for the missing link. An opportunity arose soon after, and he was invited to attend the Fifth Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Bangkok. He went there specially to attend the Conference on an invitation from the Thai Buddhist Association, but came back fully ordained as a Bhikkhu – the Venerable Dhammasukha of the Theravada Order. Though ordained as a Theravada Monk, he held no discriminatory views between the two Schools of thoughts – the ‘Theravada’ and the ‘Mahayana’. To him ‘Buddhayana’ was the Order he belonged.

His Ordination

His ordination took place in Chumpon, Thailand. His Preceptor was the Chief Monk of Chumpon, assisted by the Venerable Pakasit of the Thai Buddhist Temple and eight other High Monks from the various Wats in Thailand. The Supporter of the ordination was the Governor of Chumpon, His Excellency Nai Song Meenuda, assisted by the Education Officer of Chumpon and the Police Major Vichien Sangkarevet. Also present at the ordination ceremony were other Government Officials, prominent citizens and many people of the district.

Upon his return from Bangkok, the local press gave much prominence to his ordination in Thailand, because he was the first Straits-Born Chinese to be ordained a Monk in a Noble Yellow Robe.

An owner of a Chinese Temple read the news with great interest and came forward to offer her Temple to the Venerable. Though the generous gift was meant to be a personal one, he only accepted it in the name of ‘The Buddhist Union’. The temple is situated at Lowland Road and is now a Branch of The Buddhist Union. Many more such gifts were offered personally to him but he had kindly turned them down because he would only accept such gifts in the name of The Buddhist Union. That was indeed a very noble gesture on his part.

His Contributions

In 1959 he attended the ‘Buddha’s Jayanti Celebration’ in Japan as a Resident Monk of The Buddhist Union.

Under the able guidance and advice of the Venerable, many activities had been organised, from the Youth Section, to the study of the Dharma, the chanting of Sutras in Pali and Chinese, meditation and Yoga asanas. His close association with the Public and Government Bodies led The Buddhist Union to the participation of many civic and public functions.

The Venerable, until his ordination, took a very active part in the Cheshire Home, an organisation dedicated to the helping of the incurables. He was also a member of the Health Education Council in Singapore. He was a Council Member of the Singapore Inter-Religious Organisation, the only Organisation of its kind in Singapore. The Organisation consists of all leaders of various denominations of Religions. The Venerable was representing the Buddhist denomination in the Organisation.

For many years, the Venerable delivered his Vesak Message in a Broadcast over Radio Singapore.

In April, 1965, the Venerable accompanied by the Hon. Gen. Secretary, the Bro. Willie Tay, went on a Religious Tour to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan for a period of one month. During his tour, he visited many Buddhist Temples and Colleges and met many learned Monks and prominent leaders.

To the Venerable, the search for a greater knowledge of the Dharma was never ending. The propagation of this Noble Teaching must be spread far and wide. His sole aim and purpose in life was to dedicate himself unto the Lord and to be of service to mankind.

Early in 1966, the Venerable Dhammasukha and a group of other learned Bhikkhus from the two major Buddhist sects of the Noble Orders of Mahayana and Theravada got together with the noble idea of unifying the Singapore Buddhist Sangha into one supreme body.

In February, 1966, the Venerable became the pro-tem Secretary of the Singapore Buddhist Sangha Organisation. It aims at propagating the sublime doctrine of the Buddha by promoting unity, solidarity and brother-hood among members of the Sangha and laity as a whole. Its membership is open only to Buddhist Monks of recognised Buddhist Temples and Buddhist Organisations in the Republic.

His Demise

On Sunday, 3rd July 1966 (Fifteenth Day of the Fifth Moon), the Council of The Buddhist Union announced with profound sorrow the demise of its Founder and Religious Leader, the Venerable Dhammasukha and the cremation took place on Saturday, 9th July, 1966.

May he attain the Bliss of Nirvana.

The Venerable Seck Kong Poh

The Venerable Seck Kong Poh (1914 – 1986) was closely associated with The Buddhist Union since its inception. As Brahmacari Dhammarakshita and President of the Buddhist Union, it was natural for him to have been admired for his guidance when founder and leader Venerable Dhammasukha passed away on July 3, 1966. Supported by dedicated members and devotees, he worked diligently to build up and promote the aims and objectives of the Union.

His Ordination

In 1971, the Mr Tan Kim Teck, the Union’s president, was ordained as a Mahayana monk, Venerable Seck Kong Poh at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. Venerable Seck Kong Poh went about fulfilling the wish of the Union’s Founder, the Venerable Dhammasukha, to build a new two-storey building with a shrine hall for the Union. The building was officially declared open and blessed by Venerable Seck Hong Choon, Abbot of Kong Meng San Kark See Monastery and other high monks.

His Contributions

Like the Venerable Dhammasukha before him, the Venerable Seck Kong Poh was a dedicated disciple of the Buddha. He was also respected among his brotherhood of monks of the Mahayana and Theravada Orders.

In spite of the heavy religious duties he performed, he never lacked the energy to serve the community in other ways. He was a Member of the Board of Visitors, a Government body. He was the Secretary of the Singapore Buddhist Sangha Organisation and as a Committee Member of the Singapore Buddhist Free Clinic. He was a Council Member of the Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore.

It is with great respect that this tribute is paid to his memory for his contribution and role during the past twenty years from 1966 to 1986.

The Venerable Sek Bao Shi 


The Venerable Sek Bao Shi was born on 30 May 1941 as Amy Khoo Chwee Neo. She was a Peranakan Hokkien Buddhist who went to a Catholic school and quit the civil service after 17 years. The Venerable then took refuge in the Triple Gem under Venerable Seck Kong Poh, abbot of The Buddhist Union. She was also the disciple of Venerable Sek Tat Jin of Leng Jin Vihara. On January 13, 1981, the Venerable was ordained as a Buddhist nun by the Venerable Seck Hong Choon, abbot of the Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery. In 1988, she received the Triple Platform Ordination from Venerable Master Hsing Yun at the Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, USA.

Since 2000, Venerable Sek Bao Shi was the President and Trustee of The Buddhist Union. The Venerable was also the Founder and President of Sakyadhita (Daughters of the Buddha) since 1994. She was instrumental in the founding of the Sakyadhita-NKF Dialysis Centre in 1997.

The Venerable Sek Bao Shi had also served in various capacities in the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Maha Bodhi School, Manjusri Secondary School, and as Vice President of Meow Im Kok Yuen Temple. A strong believer in inter religious harmony, the Venerable was also a life member of the Inter-Religious Organisation Singapore. On 19 April 2021, she passed on at the age of 80.

Venerable Sek Bao Shi 

Venerable Sek Bao Tong, born to a Cantonese family was educated at the Cedar Girls Sec School. Worked in Government & Semi – Government Departments before being ordained in 1985.

Took the Triple Platform Ordination in 1988 at Hsi Lai Temple, Los Angeles under Master Hsing Yun. Co-founder of Sakyadhita – NKF Dialysis Centre. Vice-President of The Buddhist Union & Sakyadhita.


We are grateful to the Buddhist Union benefactors.

Sister Wee Beng Kim

Donor of Jalan Senyum Land (partial) on 31st August 1952

Sister Cho Joon Moey

Donor of Fee Liong Kiong at 43 Lowland Road, Singapore on 10th April 1960

Sister Liauw Moy Lian

Donor of Ang Lian See 7 Robey Crescent, Singapore on 25th September 1970