I supposed the warning signs were there, the extensions to his visa getting shorter from 3 months to 2 months then 1 month. He has tried applying for a religous teacher's visa but since he's not attached to any known temple, the move was a non-goer!!
By Chuen Tick Teo
"John Doe", a British Buddhist monk (he goes by the same Buddhist address, Bhante -teacher) has been a regular feature at the Super Tanker and Lip Seng wet market in Penang on Sundays the last 6/7 years; that is, unless he has to go over to Thailand every 3 months or so to have his tourist visa renewed.
One will find him standing by his favourite spots, barefooted, alms bowl in hand by about 7am.
The regulars will be offering him via the vendors, vegetables, eggs, fruits, dry foodstuff and consumables. Other market goers will offer likewise whatever food item they like.
And, he is very particular about this aspect of Buddhist practice. He does not accept cash on these alms rounds at the 2 markets. Those not conversant with this aspect are politely requested to buy some food item to donate.
Yes, Bhante has a racket going on there on Sundays and many ordinary men and women on the street are happy to be part of it. By about 9am, all the items have been consolidated and Chee Ying*, his regular helper will have sorted them out.
One portion is for his personal consumption; one portion goes to the Shan's Children Home at Mt. Erskine, Penang; one portion goes to another regular Mr Chan* who distributes them to 6 destitute families and there's always some for the young lad's family that helps him on these alms rounds. (The current distribution model as it is is fluid and was changed over the years.)
He makes no distinction between race nor creed and in the years I've known him, I know of a Malay family, 2 Hindu families and a Christian voluntary organisation who have accepted the items Bhante had collected.
Bhante will take a puff before setting off in faithful Mr Lim's* car for the journey home to Hong Seng estate. No, he makes no pretense about this worldly habit he has been unable to kick. What you see, is what you get.
And, yes, he stays in no regular temple. A supporter rented this place for him so that Bhante can carry out this racket, this sort of providing the channel for ordinary people to do some good that makes an important and immediate impact on someone's life.
I supposed the warning signs were there, the extensions to his visa getting shorter from 3 months to 2 months then 1 month. He knows it, his supporters in the know also knows it - that he's flouting immigration rules but the Malaysian government's immigration rules against non-Islamic foreign religous teachers are very rigid. He has tried applying for a religous teacher's visa but since he's not attached to any known temple, the move was a non-goer!!
Then, it happened - on 30.12.2011 he was denied entry into Thailand. Bhante has no idea why Thailand is part of the action taken and that he's on the Malaysian Immigration Entry blacklist. Since his visa expires on 31.12.2011, he has been told to leave Malaysia by midnight today.
I'm writing this as way to put forward the idea that certain immigration rules pertaining to non-Islamic religous teachers needs to be amended. Yes, I also know there are many bogus monks/nuns/religous teachers around but there must be ways for genuine practitioners to be issued proper/legal visas.
I'm writing this to bid farewell and Bon Voyage to this unorthodox Buddhist monk, who in his own way has taught one important aspect of dana, giving in Buddhist practice to many lay people. He harbours hopes of returning but as matters stand now, I don't see it happening any time soon.