Dedicated to ‘elevating humanity’

Counting their blessings: Kittisobhano (second, left), and Thitaviriyo receiving food from Ooi in Balik Pulau. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

BALIK PULAU: He gave up a career in engineering 20 years ago, preferring to embrace a life dedicated to spiritual growth.

“It is a way of life that transcends material gain, focusing instead on mental development and elevating humanity to a higher mental state,” said Buddhist monk Phra Ajahn Kittisobhano.

Kittisobhano, who has spent the past two decades at a hilltop monastery in Balik Pulau, said a monk is bound by 227 precepts.

“After having spent 12 years with the hill tribes in Thailand, where food was scarce, I’ve come to see challenges as opportunities for learning.”

The Penang-born Kittisobhano is an abbot of the United Buddhist Order of Penang (UBOP).

At the break of dawn each day, dressed in a saffron robe and holding a bowl in his hand, he would leave the monastery to go to Balik Pulau town to make his rounds.Townspeople would often approach monks from the hilltop monasteries, kneeling before them and offering packets of food.In an interview to mark Wesak yesterday, Kittisobhano said the monastery is about 2.5km from the town.

“It usually takes just an hour to gather enough food, after which I return. We only collect once a day, as we are not allowed to receive food after 12 noon,” he said.

Kittisobhano, 54, said there are nearly 10 monasteries in the hills, adding that he is often accompanied by another monk when making their rounds.

“Not all monks go out to seek alms every day. Some may collect on behalf of others. We do not want to overwhelm the people with too many of us making the rounds,” he added.

He said that there would be times when people wanted to offer them money, but “while we appreciate the thought, we do not accept money.”

Yesterday, devotees came up to Kittisobhano and another monk, Phra Ajahn Thitaviriyo, 49, to offer alms. To accommodate the local community, UBOP had set up a canopy for devotees wanting to be part of the celebrations and rituals.

Malaysian Buddhist Association honorary life president and Kek Lok Si Temple retired former trustee Datuk Seri Steven Ooi thanked UBOP volunteers for their work.

“This celebration ensures that the devotees are not left out. It also promotes the United Buddhist Order of Malaysia as a platform to encourage collaboration with other Buddhist organisations,” he said.

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