Venerable Seck’s passing leaves void in Penang’s Buddhist community

by T. C. Khor, The Sun (Malaysia), 20 Nov 2023

Georgetown, Penang (Malaysia) -- Venerable Seck Chin Sooi, formerly known as Loh Choon Chooi, lived an exceptional life and had been spiritually inclined since young. Born on March 29, 1953, he was the sixth child among 13 siblings.

<< Venerable Seck Chin Sooi (1953 -2023)

His fascination with understanding the root cause of suffering guided him towards Buddhism. Even as a boy, he memorised the chanting of Sutras, engaged actively in numerous temple activities and contributed to charitable causes.

Driven by a deep commitment to Buddhist practices and an unwavering dedication to altruism, he harboured aspirations of becoming a monk. However, his plans encountered resistance from his parents, who urged him to delay his pursuit until their passing.

When he reached 39, his father passed away, followed by his mother seven months later. His aunty then recommended him to Venerable Seck Cheng Liang, better known as Master Cheng Liang from Wah Giam See Temple at Dato Keramat Road and he was then ordained as a monk at 40 years old. Master Cheng Liang taught and passed him all the Sutras.

Seck had served as an assistant chef at Motorola following the completion of his education. Cooking appeared to be one of his passions, clearly demonstrated through his ability to craft delicious vegetarian dishes and bake cakes with finesse.

The chanting group Heong Hoon Liam Hood Hoay situated at Paya Terubong was established by him and remains active to this day, having grown into a temple. Ever since the inception of this group, he regularly held chanting classes and offered dharma talks.

He expanded his reach by preaching at the Penang Buddhist Association and Malaysian Buddhist Association. Motivated by a deep desire to disseminate the Buddha’s message of peace, compassion and love, he propagated the teachings of Buddhism, filling his time with spiritual growth.

His brother, Loh Choon Teik, who is also a member of the congregation, said: “Dharma preaching had always been his forte. He infused his sermons with humour which resonated with his followers.

“He usually conducted dharma talks in Hokkien and organised offerings of alms and robes to the Sangha community at least six to seven times a year.”

Sanghika Dana is the act of providing offerings to the Bhikkhus (male monastics) and Bhikkhunis (female monastics).

As Loh reflected on Seck’s position within the Penang Buddhist community, he noted the substantial gathering at his brother’s wake. “He was among the prominent monks in Penang, having dedicated 31 years to monkhood and mentoring 10 disciples in his lifetime.”

These 10 disciples bear the honorific title “Venerable Seck,“ signifying their connection to his lineage. According to Loh, Seck played a pivotal role in extending financial aid to the Juru Buddhist Association, which was registered in 1996, assisting in acquiring a corner single-storey terrace house.

“In recognition of his invaluable assistance and dedication to the Buddhist community, he was honoured with the position of permanent adviser of the Juru Buddhist Association,” he said.

Apart from his financial support during the association’s initial stage, Seck actively participated in various events, including the Yu Lan Fa Hui, Chinese New Year religious ceremonies, and the annual Wesak float procession.

“An opportunity came when a devotee recommended a piece of land at Juru Estate to build his own temple,“ Loh said. “With the help and support of his devotees and well-wishers, the temple, named Mi Tor Chan Si, was completed in 2004, and we held the official opening ceremony in 2005.”

Describing Seck’s early days as a monk, Loh said: “He purchased a piece of vacant land on the hilltop of Junjung, Kedah, intending to construct the ‘Fo San’ monastery for the Sangha members to meditate.”

However, the lack of road access posed significant challenges. “Things began to materialise in the last two years when a generous landowner offered to fund the temple’s construction. His initial contribution sparked subsequent donations.

“As of today, the temple is nearly completed, and we’ve just received a 12ft-long sleeping Buddha statue imported from China. We’re currently awaiting the arrival of eight units of ‘koti’ (shelters) from Thailand,” he said, adding that the ‘kotis’ were meant for the Sangha members to meditate in. Koti refers to a simple shelter often used by monastics or practitioners for meditation, retreat or dwelling purposes.

Loh conveyed the deep sense of grief experienced by all. “He will be greatly missed, as he holds a special place in all of our hearts. He always helped the less fortunate irrespective of race and religion, and he always made sure that his pockets had sufficient ‘ang pows’ to distribute wherever he went.”

Seck’s legacy of selflessness, empathy, and unbridled enthusiasm has left an indelible mark.

As Loh reflected on his memory, tears welled in his eyes, revealing the depth of affection and respect he held for his revered brother and monk. Seck’s wake was held at the Sian Chye Tong Temple at 395 Hye Keat Estate, Air Itam. His funeral was held yesterday.
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