BW Monastery in Singapore – City Harvest wannabe; indications that BW Monastery Singapore is preparing to severe ties with Bliss & Wisdom Taiwan
There is a short biography of Venerable Jing Yuan on the official BW Monastery website:
Born in Malaysia Kulai town in 1962 and subsequently moved to Singapore with his entire family in 1965.
In 1990, he left Singapore and went on to further his studies in Buddhism in Taiwan. In the following year, Venerable Jing Yuan made up his mind resolutely to enter into monkhood in order to repay his parents’ kindness for raising him. He then got ordained under the late Master Guang Hua.
In 1991, Master Jih-Chang established the sangha community , Venerable Jing Yuan assisted in the organization of many Dharma propagation events, pujas, seminars, as well as the many Buddhist activities overseas.
In 1994, he took on the role of Senior Venerable in the Sangha and went on to become the Abbot of Feng Shan Monastery in 2000.
In 2002, he actively pushed on the development of Buddhism education in Singapore and Malaysia over the years. Venerable Jing Yuan is currently BW Monastery’s Abbot.
Ven Jing Yuan is a senior monk at Fengshan Monastery, Taiwan. Sometimes he wears the dark maroon robes of Fengshan Monastery, but when he is representing BW Monastery Singapore, he wears different robes.
Here is some information on BW Monastery Singapore:
2014 – The society successfully bided [sic] for a piece of land in Woodlands to build a new Monastery. BW Monastery, an auspicious place where the Sangha congregates.
2015 – 7th April, the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the new Monastery took place. Guests of honor who were invited to preside over this event included the President of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Venerable Guang Pin and Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for National Development.
2017 – 11 Aug 2017 – It was the grand opening day of BW Monastery and together with Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, and Venerable Jing Yuan, they kicked off the opening of the monastery at the main gate.
The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) on Prince Edward Island in Canada also has a separate abbot from Fengshan Monastery in Taiwan, but is directly governed by the Fengshan Monastery sangha. There are sanghas in Mainland China under the umbrella of Bliss & Wisdom, but are not governed by Fengshan Monastery. Ven Jing Yuan is therefore the only monk from Fengshan Monastery who falls under both the Fengshan Monastery sangha and another sangha – BW Monastery Singapore. There are a few monks and nuns in BW Monastery Singapore, who were all ordained by Ven Jing Yuan. Typically, Fengshan Monastery’s strict regulations prohibit monks from setting up their own order, or gathering their own disciples.
Besides class monitors, one of BW Monastery’s innovations is to set up a lecturer system, quite similar in role to Christian pastors. The lecturers are selected from the pool of class monitors for additional training, and are dispatched to each class to hold special lessons, such as on guru devotion.
In Ven Ru De’s conversation with Ven Ziran, and in his comments at Keelung Center, he mentions that Bliss & Wisdom monks follow the vinaya strictly, and are prohibited from using Facebook or smartphones. However, there is a very special monk in BW – the incredibly capable Ven Jing Yuan! Ven Jing Yuan set up a Facebook fan page on 27 Aug, @venjingyuan.
On his Facebook page, Ven Jing Yuan posted many photographs of himself, together with Buddhist quotes in English and Chinese. In fact, after spending many years in Taiwan, Ven Jing Yuan only understands simple English phrases, and can barely speak any English. The English quotes and captions on his Facebook page are presumably written by someone else, or his media team. Ven Jing Yuan once expressed that he regrets not being able to speak English, rendering him unable to connect with young people (who predominantly communicate in English) the way Christian pastors in Singapore are able to. With his limited command of English, Ven Jing Yuan is relegated to giving dharma talks to the older, predominantly Chinese-speaking demographic. This is a huge problem for BW Monastery since most of its followers are older Chinese-speakers, and is unable to attract the mainly English-speaking working adults and young people.
Fortunately, Ven Jing Yuan knows the importance of nurturing young talents. In the photo below, Ven Jing Yuan, who has changed back into his maroon Fengshan robes, engages with Singaporean sangha in BW’s Hushan Campus in Taiwan. The caption reads, “Caring for a student as he is feeling unwell.” I wonder which student is feeling unwell? Perhaps they are facing some of the problems described by Ven Xing Rong in his (by now a classic) ten-thousand word letter.
These three under-performing students may need to work harder if they want to get admitted into the Marco organization and learn closely from guru Mary Jin. The photo below shows Huang Junwei, a young Singaporean who was brought directly to Prince Edward Island and admitted to the Marco organization by Ven Jing Yuan. Normally, only monastics may enter the Marco organization, and even then, only a few dozen out of hundreds of monks are admitted. The novice monk in the photo is Novice Qing Ning (a Taiwanese), who was particularly favored by senior Marco monk Ven Ru Lun. Despite only being a novice, he was selected by Ven Ru Lun to serve as his executive assistant. When Ven Ru Lun passed away, he was admitted into the Marco organization. In his ten-thousand word letter Ven Xing Rong writes:
Looking at the monks who entered via the adult intake, their main direction is to serve as executive monks [note: the child intake study scripture intensively so they may serve as teachers; the executive monks are placed in charge of projects and operations all over BW]. Right after their ordination, they start discussing who they should follow to rise up the hierarchy. Obviously, their motivation for becoming a monk has become distorted, their practice becomes distracted. From what they are doing now, we can foresee their future ~ the tragedy of the senior monks.
Training these young people will definitely help Ven Jing Yuan in his dharma propagation in Singapore. How will Ven Jing Yuan be affected by the scandals rocking Bliss & Wisdom? According to information from BW followers in Singapore, the bhikshunis ordained by Ven Jing Yuan have been going to each lamrim class to rebut the rumors, telling the followers that BW Monastery in Singapore is independent of Bliss & Wisdom in Taiwan, so any scandals happening in Taiwan have absolutely nothing to do with BW Monastery Singapore. Given that Ven Jing Yuan has his own monastery and his own disciples, while trying to cultivate a loyal following with his Facebook fan page, should things turn awry in Taiwan, Ven Jing Yuan can escape to Singapore and sever ties with Bliss & Wisdom in Taiwan.
In recent years, Ven Jing Yuan has been trying very hard push through reforms BW Monastery Singapore. From around 2014, he began to actively encourage the BW committee members in Singapore to emulate City Harvest Church (CHC), founded by Singaporean pastor Kong Hee.
Ven Jing Yuan expressed admiration for City Harvest Church’s wildly effective fund-raising techniques, and tactics to recruit and retain members, as well as their ability to attract young people with fun and vibrant activities. City Harvest followers, organized in cell groups, are under considerable peer pressure to remain in the organization and keep donating to the church, with many other cult-like practices. City Harvest’s fundamentalist and exclusivist doctrine already bear close resemblance to Bliss and Wisdom’s practices. According to information from Singaporean BW followers:
After seeing how wildly successful City Harvest Church is, Ven Jing Yuan kept telling the committee members to emulate CHC, even going to the extent of saying, “imitate everything they do wholesale, then we will become as huge as them one day!” So BW Monastery imitated many of their gimmicks, such as lucky draws after events and fund-raising tactics.
Many Singaporean Buddhists who attended BW Monastery’s events said that BW Singapore has a very Christian vibe to it.
Ever since Ven Jing Yuan pushed the committee to emulate CHC, for the past few years many senior followers of BW have been complaining that they learn and gain very little from BW Monastery’s events. Most of the dharma learning has been replaced with sales booths, auctions, fund-raisers and other “fun” activities.
At its peak, City Harvest Church had as many as 30,000 followers in Singapore, with many more in other Asian countries, including Taiwan. Its size classifies it as a megachurch. According to the Hong Kong press:
A megachurch refers to a church with a congregation of over 2,000 people. This concept originated from the US. The prosperity gospel states that, the larger the church the better, the more people the better. The larger the church, the more successful the church, and the more successful God is – this ideology has been deeply ingrained in many megachurch followers.
Indeed, Jesus gave us the mission of spreading the gospel everywhere. I believe there is little controversy over this. But religion is not a doctrine of fruition, but of motivation. If we are unscrupulous in attempting to achieve our aims, this is a problem too. Pastor Kong Hee once said in 2006, “The Bible says we must keep doing business and earning money until He comes.”
These two articles summarize City Harvest’s tactics very succinctly:
- 9 Reasons Why City Harvest Church Was the Devil To Me
- Ex-CHC pastor: What really goes on in Kong Hee’s City Harvest Church
5 people including Pastor Kong Hee and other committee members, were arrested for criminal breach of trust in 2012. Between 2007 and 2009, S$24 million (NT$540 million) was taken from church building funds and put into sham investment bonds in two firms Xtron Productions and The First National Glassware (Firna). S$13 million (NT$300 million) was used to fund Pastor Sun Ho’s (age 45; Kong Hee’s wife) music career. Also, Sharon Tan and three others were accused of misappropriating another S$26.6 million (NT$600 million) to purchase the bonds back, in an attempt to cover up the earlier misappropriation.
Pastor Kong Hee misappropriated funds in order to help his wife produce music videos, in an attempt to propagate Christianity. The funds were used to hire Hollywood stars to assist in the production, and push the music video up rankings. Bliss & Wisdom is no stranger to spending money to push CDs up rankings, a tactic they used in promoting Mary Jin’s Prajna music CDs.
According to Fengshan Monastery’s first abbot Ven Fan Yin, Ven Jing Yuan had broken his vows of celibacy to Mary Jin in northeast China, and is now a fake monk. Ven Fan Yin says:
Lord Tee told Master Jih-Chang that Mary Jin needed to be privately tutored by a senior monk, so that she could quickly regain the knowledge and powers she had in her previous life. Venerable Jing Yuan, who had just been serving as the third abbot of Fengshan Monastery for a few months, gave up the abbotship, and courageously went to northeast China to become Mary Jin’s tutor.
Mary Jin showered her attention on Ven Jing Yuan every night. This made Li Yanping very jealous. Eventually, Li Yanping complained to Master Jih-Chang that Ven Jing Yuan had raped Mary Jin. Master Jih-Chang believed Li Yanping.
By 2003, Ven Jing Yuan had clearly broken his root vows, automatically ceased to become a monk, and returned to Singapore.