Located in a bustling corner of downtown Georgetown, Penang Island, Malaysia, is a haven of tranquility, reflection and prayer. The building is European, the gardens are immaculately maintained and the theme is Buddhist. Around the sizable shrine hall, which is paved with well mopped English styled tiles and graced by furniture inlaid with mother of pearl, are walkways, flora of various sorts and the feeling of space. Across the road is an open ground named after a colonial, Brown Gardens. I had the occasion of visiting this Penang Buddhist Association recently for the Lunar New Year. This venue is a childhood favourite of mine and always holds dear memories.
I always take my time to look in amazement at the Bodhi tree on the outer grounds of this association. (picture above) This banyan fig giant was planted here to commemorate the Enlightenment of the Buddha over 25 centuries ago. The tree is also sacred to religious followers of Janaism and Hinduism, which share roots with Buddhism back on the Indian sub-continent. The Bodhi is native to Indo-China, southwest China and South Asia.
The Association has added new water features at the back of the property (image below), complete with a Japanese-styled bridge, carp and rock formations. On the morning of my visit with the immediate family, little but brightly coloured butterflies were observed frolicking amongst the blooms and leaves of the plants on the nearby garden bed.
The cast iron staircases (above) and the tropical fashioned windows or doors with slanting wooden slats (below) hark back more to the Victorian era of design than to any Buddhist or locally inspired patterns. The Association grounds now host accommodation for senior folks, kindergartens, a library and meeting facilities, also providing other enablers to support community requirements, but all within and accessible to in a complex. Even if temperatures are uncomfortably hot and humid outside, the high ceilings of its main hall always provide instant relief. A dainty pagoda welcomes you at the entrance, accompanied by a man made pool.