WHO IS BUDDHIST GEM FELLOWSHIP (BGF)?
Buddhist Gem Fellowship, or commonly known as BGF, started in the 1980’s with the aspiration to promote the growth of Buddhism and create a better world for all beings. We started as “Buddhist Graduate Fellowship” but changed the name to “Buddhist Gem Fellowship” to cater to the growing needs of our community.
WHAT IS BGF’S HISTORY & BACKGROUND?
Every year, thousands of young Buddhists graduate from universities and colleges, but their talents go untapped. This is a big loss to the Buddhist community. Without new ideas and involvement from this segment ~ graduates and young adults ~ Buddhist societies run the risk of organising activities based on stale/recycled ideas that are unable to attract bigger crowds, especially the younger generation.
BGF was formed to address this problem back then. Its purpose was to gather young graduates as well as working professionals for spiritual friendship as well as to enhance their knowledge and skills for Dhamma work. Since then, BGF has grown from strength to strength and embraces all various groups. Our roots are in the Pali tradition but we are non-sectarian in our approach towards the learning of Dhamma.
WHERE WE STARTED?
We started out in a single-storey house in Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya in 19xx and have moved 6 times since then. Our immediate previous location for 14 years was in Section 19, Petaling Jaya (bordering SS2). In May 2014, we moved for the 7th and final time to our permanent home – BGF @ Ara Damansara – just in time for Wesak that year. We are deeply grateful for and immensely proud of our new home and look forward to welcoming visitors as well as those who are seeking a ‘home’ for their Buddhist pursuits.
WHAT IS BGF’S MOTTO, MISSION AND ACTIVITIES?
BGF aspires to play a pivotal role to in bringing about the ’transformation of the Malaysian Buddhist community’. Our motto is “Growing People, Inspiring the Future”. For over a quarter century, BGF has been nurturing Buddhist leaders. It organises many programmes that impacts Buddhist communities within the country as well as internationally. BGF also organises camps for undergraduates, trains leaders and executives to speak effectively in public, runs courses on counselling skills, and conducts training courses for Dhamma speakers. It runs weekly meditation sessions and organises talks and public forums by local and international Dhamma speakers. Its innovative programmes and approaches are/have been adopted by other groups within as well as outside the country. Many of its early members have pioneered the formation of other Buddhist societies in the country.
HOW DOES BGF INTEND TO “TRANSFORM THE MALAYSIAN BUDDHIST COMMUNITY”?
We organise spiritual talks, sutra studies, Dhamma camps, conferences and seminars to meet the spiritual needs of members. The invited speakers comprise foreign as well as local, from the three major Buddhist traditions – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana.
We subscribe to the belief that as a society, we should not work in a silo but instead collaborate with other Buddhist groups. Over the years, we have been involved in organising programmes that enrich the Buddhist community such as Global Conferences on Buddhism, World Buddhist Conference 2010 and Wesak International Film Festival.
To encourage the cultivation of spiritual practice, we organise regular Dhamma study groups and meditation sessions. Every week, we devote one night to the meditation of Loving Kindness at our Centre. We also run the Day of Mindfulness as taught by the Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. Furthermore, we hold regular chanting sessions and organise meditation retreats.
We strongly believe in investing in the young as they will be the ones to protect and cultivate Buddhism in the years to come. In our activities, we provide the opportunity for youths to develop organisational and management skills while developing spiritual fellowship.
For more than 25 years, BGF has been organising programmes for campus students. The Inter College and Varsity Camps (INCOVAR) is the premiere English-speaking Buddhist camp organised in the areas of management, Dhamma and preparation of graduates for working life.
Thousands of undergraduates have benefited from these courses. Many have become prominent Buddhist leaders in their own community. Today INCOVAR has spread its reach to the international stage by sharing its approaches and techniques to the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youths in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Training & Leadership
Training is BGF’s specialty and is the key to the Buddhist community’s transformation. In the last 25 years, the Effective Speaking Course has benefitted many people through its professional programmes. It has a quarter-century of unbroken track record. The course is open to members of all Buddhist societies within the Central region. We have even had monks and nuns participate in these programmes to learn how to be better public speakers and communicators. We are also involved in running the Dhamma Speakers Training Programmes, creative writing workshops, management courses for young professionals and emcee training.
Counselling & Welfare
We run an active training programme on counselling, conducted by professional trainers, which dates back to 1992. The Counselling Unit provides free counselling service in the evening through the telephone as well as free tuition services to orphanages.
Gem Kids is a first-of-its-kind Dhamma class for children as young as 4 years old. Through activities, arts & craft, songs and stories, children are taught basic moral values of respect, gratitude, honesty and kindness. Children of age group 7 to 9 years old had acted in two movies produced by BGF based on the stories of Angulimala and the Swan. The film Angulimala was screened during the Wesak International Film Festival 2011.
Research and Publication
We publish books and undertake translations. Some of the books are original works by our own members. We also produce CDs of Dhamma talks for free distribution.
Creative and Performing Arts
Another of our strengths is in the performing arts. Our President, Datuk Dr. Victor Wee, had pioneered and composed English Dhamma songs since 1970s and had produced 5 albums with the Wayfarers, which he leads.
In 1988, BGF released a pioneering album of Chinese Buddhist songs called Yi Zhan Deng produced by Bro. Tan Huat Chye. This album set a new trend for Chinese Buddhist albums, not only in Malaysia but also in other Chinese speaking countries.
Due to the ample opportunity to showcase talent in BGF, its gifted younger members formed the I-Gemz which recorded two albums of their own compositions. BGF also provides the venue for other musical groups and composers such as Messengers of Dhamma (MOD), D2Y,and M.V. Nathan.