Initiative Jul11

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Initiative


INITIATIVE: In 1997, without seeing any job vacancy ad, I wrote in to 11 Buddhist organisations asking for full-time Dharma work. I joined the biggest, which was one of the only two that replied. (The other only needed a part-time librarian.) There was no clear jobscope for me at all. I remember crawling around ancestral tablets to mark their positions. It was clearly not the Dharma work I was looking for. 

Without anyone’s instruction, during other working hours and beyond, where I could, I helped to carve out the essential expressions of Dharma education that were missing, also writing the earliest vision and mission statement for the Dharma Propagation Department which I named when more staff joined. 

When I left 13 years later, it had become the Dharma Propagation Division, with various departments within, some of which I shaped directly and worked closely with over the years. There are now new generations of full-timers in it. 

No one told me there was such a thing as Dharma work in 1997. I was even discouraged from looking for such work. But it has been 20 years and I’m still doing it full-time, now independently, with so much more to do. In some ways, I was a fool in the eyes of the conventional, but with the blessings of the Triple Gem, at least a fortunate fool, with enough Dharma work (mis)adventures to write in several books (which I eventually will).

This is why I agree entirely with Banksy’s quote. It simply takes initiative to take initiative, to not follow the crowd of naysayers (who might not know any better than you, even if with good intentions but short-sighted perceptions), to see the essential gaps, and to fill them meaningfully. 

I sincerely hope all Buddhist volunteers, part-timers and full-timers will continue to take small and great initiatives in Dharma work. (Especially as paid staff, as your pay comes from donations of the ten directions, with the potential burden of negative karma if slack in work.) May this post inspire everyone else to create meaningful initiatives too. Namo Amituofo! (Below is only for those curious on some of the Dharma work done so far. Truly, much more could have been done and remains to be done!) 
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About Shen Shi’an: Shen Shi’an (沈时安) is an independent Buddhist teacher, author, researcher, translator, editor and publisher. He was a founding member of the Dharma Propagation Division of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (Bright Hill Temple) in 1997. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Buddhist Studies that covered all major Buddhist traditions, he served as the Dharma Trainer & Project Coordinator in its Community Development & Training Department until 2011, focusing on research-writing, teaching and answering of media queries on Buddhism. He was the founder of the temple’s Youth Mission, book purchaser for its Awareness Place project, and the Chief Editor of the Web & Library Department, that supported Buddhanet.

He is the founder and editor of TheDailyEnlightenment.com since 1997, one of the largest independent Buddhist inspirational e-newsletters with over 33,500 members, editor of ‘Be a Lamp Upon Yourself’, ‘The Stonepeace Book (Volume 1-2)’, ‘Awaken: Gateway to Buddhism (CD-ROM)’, author-editor of ‘The Daily Enlightenment: Reflections For Practising Buddhists (Book 1-7)’ and the bestselling graphic novel, ‘The Amazing & Amusing Adventures of Sam & Sara: The Zen of All Kinds of Stuff!’ (He is the author-editor-translator of 15 books.) He also contributes occasionally to magazines such as ‘Nanyang Buddhist’, ‘Awaken’ (for which he was Contributing Editor), ‘For You (Information)’ (for which he was invited to be an editorial board member) and ‘Eastern Horizon’. He served with the film selection team of a Buddhist film festival, writes movie reviews for BuddhistChannel, a Buddhist news network, and created Dharma@Cinema, which shares the Dharma through detailed film reviews.

With retranslated sutras and treatises, he has taught on the Pure Land teachings at Singapore Buddhist Federation, Kong Meng San, Pu Ji Si Buddhist Research Centre and Poh Ming Tse. He also leads the Pureland Practice Fellowship, which he founded in 2008. He was also invited to be a group counsellor for the ‘Theory And Practice Of Pure Land Buddhism’ course at Singapore Buddhist Lodge, and to be its commemorative magazine’s chief editor. He was also invited to teach Sunday School teachers on how to discern controversial ‘Buddhist’ groups. He is also occasionally invited to conduct Dharma discussions for youths of tertiary institutions’ Buddhist societies (NTUBS, NUSBS, SIMBB, NPBS, NYPBS, SPBS) on various subjects, and to introduce Buddhist perspectives at Secondary Schools (St. Patrick’s School, Manjusri School and its Buddhist Interact Club), Junior Colleges (Catholic Junior College) and International Schools (UWCSEA, SJII). He was also invited to share on Buddhism by Dharma Drum Mountain (Singapore), Fo Guang Shan (Singapore), Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Singapore Buddhist Mission Youth, Singapore Buddhist Youth Mission, Wat Ananda Youth, Buddha Of Medicine Welfare Society, The Buddhist Union Dharma Centre, Buddhist Fellowship, Dot Connections Growth Centre and Kampung Senang. He has also been invited to Indonesia (Ekayana Buddhist Centre) and Malaysia (Than Hsiang Temple) to teach.

He was a committee member of the Inter-Religious Organisation, through which he served in interfaith harmony projects by writing and giving of talks, having represented Buddhist points of view at national events held by NACLI, NHB, NHG, SAF, SPF, MHA, ACM, SPM, STB, OnePeople.sg, IRCC and MCYS. He was also chosen to be a volunteer member of the Publications Consultative Panel under Singapore’s Ministry Of Communications And Information’s (MCI) Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for 2 years, and invited to extend his stint. He also co-runs Moonpointer.com, a blog that promotes creative-writing, and Purelanders.com, which archives hundreds of English articles on the Chinese Pure Land teachings. He is also the founder of Facebook pages such as Buddhist Confessions & Resolutions, Cinema Dharma and Buddhist Vegan Fellowship.

He has a ‘Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate, completed (Feb 2017), T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell’ (a subsidiary of Cornell University), with which he uses to promote Maha-Veganism, as taught by the Buddha. He can be reached at tde<at>thedailyenlightenment.com for invitations to share the Dharma via articles and talks.

Published Works (Books and articles written, translated, edited):

[01] The Daily Enlightenment 1: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[02] The Daily Enlightenment 2: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[03] The Daily Enlightenment 3: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[04] The Daily Enlightenment 4: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[05] The Daily Enlightenment 5: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[06] The Daily Enlightenment 6: Reflections For Practising Buddhists
[07] The Daily Enlightenment 7: Reflections For Practising Buddhists 
[08] Amitabha Sutra: The Sutra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Amita Buddha
[09] The Sutra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of Immeasurable Life: Section On Amitabha Buddha’s Forty-Eight Great Vows
[10] The Great Buddha Crown’s Surangama Sutra’s Section On Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration With Mindfulness Of Buddha
[11] Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Universal Door Chapter
[12] The Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra
[13] The Pure Land Passport: The Three Great Essentials When Approaching Death
[14] The Faith Factor: The Treatise On Ten Doubts About Pure Land 
[15] The Stonepeace Book Volume 1: One Hundred Illuminating Inspirational Sayings
[16] The Stonepeace Book Volume 2: One Hundred Enlightening Inspirational Sayings
[17] The Amazing & Amusing Adventures Of Sam & Sara: The Zen Of All Kinds Of Stuff
[18] Be A Lamp Upon Yourself (Editor)
[19] Awaken: Gateway To Buddhism (CD-ROM) (Editor)
[20] With Same Vow And Practice (Editor)
[21] Various Articles in ‘For You Information’ magazine
[22] Various Articles in ‘Nanyang Buddhist’ magazine
[23] Various Articles in ‘Awaken’ magazine
[24] Various Articles in ‘Shi Cheng Chao Yin: Singapore Buddhist Lodge Newsletter’
[25] Article in ‘Eastern Horizon’
[26] Various Articles in ‘Buddhist Channel’ website
[27] Various Articles in Singapore’s Inter-Religious Organisation’s 2009 Commemorative Magazine for the China-Singapore Religious and Cultural Exhibition