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Jeffery Seow
Worked at Amateur Photo Stores (Penang) Sdn Bhd
Attended St. Xavier's Branch School Penang
Lives in Tropicana 47410 Petaling Jaya Selangor Malaysia
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THE VIVEKANANDA ASHRAM, BRICKFIELDS, AND WHY WE MUST SAVE IT.
THE VIVEKANANDA ASHRAM, BRICKFIELDS, AND WHY WE MUST SAVE IT. by Jeffery Seow The Vivekananda Ashram was built in 1904, an expansion of the Ramakrishna Mission established in Singapore in 1896.[1] Making an appeal through the New Straits Times in 2004, D. M...
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Affghan Relief Fund, Singapore & Penang, 1842
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835-1869), 7 July 1842, Page 3  Affghan Relief Fund.  To the Officers Commanding at Penang.  Sir,  I have the honor to forward to you Copy of the Proceedings of a Committee held this day at the Madras Clu...
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Pulau Tekong Fire Relief Fund, Singapore 1924
The Straits Times, 22 August 1924, Page 10  Pulau Tekong Fire Relief Fund.  The committee beg to acknowledge with thanks the following subscriptions:- Previously acknowledged $7,531  Eng Wah Kok Association     10  Tiang Choon Kok     10  Amateur Sporting A...
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THE VIVEKANANDA ASHRAM, BRICKFIELDS, AND WHY WE MUST SAVE IT.
THE VIVEKANANDA ASHRAM, BRICKFIELDS, AND WHY WE MUST SAVE IT. by Jeffery Seow The Vivekananda Ashram was built in 1904, an expansion of the Ramakrishna Mission established in Singapore in 1896.[1] Making an appeal through the New Straits Times in 2004, D. M...
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THE VIVEKANANDA ASHRAM, BRICKFIELDS, AND WHY WE MUST SAVE IT.
by Jeffery Seow

The Vivekananda Ashram was built in 1904, an expansion of the Ramakrishna Mission established in Singapore in 1896.[1] Making an appeal through the New Straits Times in 2004, D. M. Ponnusamy of Taiping wrote,[2] 

"I refer to the letter "Don't move ashram, consider other options" (NST, March 9) and agree with the writer that the Vivekanda Ashram should not be shifted.

Swami Vivekananda was a great spiritual leader of his time and he visited Malaya in June 1893.

He first dropped by in Penang and later in Singapore when he was on his way to Chicago to attend the Parliament of Religions.

As a result of his visit, the Ramakrishna Missions were established in Penang and Singapore. The Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, was built in 1904.

This ashram is now 100 years old. This is a heritage building and the Indian-Ceylonese community should join hands to preserve it.

The Indian-Ceylonese group lost one heritage site in Kuala Lumpur 25 years ago. 

This was the Tamil Physical and Cultural Association, popularly known as TPCA, near the Kuala Lumpur Hospital. This was the pioneering place where sports began in Malaya, in 1911. Today there is not TPCA building but the old-timers in Kuala Lumpur still reminisce about the activities of TPCA."

Who Was Sawmi Vivekananda?

Swami Vivekananda was born, Narendra Nath Datta, on the 12th of January 1863, to the Datta family of Simla, in  Calcutta, and was the grandson of Durga Charan Datta. Durga Charan Datta was literate in Persian and Sanskrit and inclined towards a legal career but gave everything up for the life of a monk after the birth of his son, Vishwanath. Durga Charan Datta was twenty-five years old, at that time. Vishwanath Datt grew up, gifted with the ease of learning. He mastered English and Persian and delighted in studying the Bible and the poems of Hafiz, the Persian poet. As was his father, he was inclined towards a legal career and this he did pursue, and became a successful lawyer practicing his profession at the High Court of Calcutta. Narenda Nath learnt his first English words from his mother under whom he mastered the Bengali alphabet. His mother was also his first source of knowledge about the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the first holding the greatest fascination for the young scholar.[3] 

He was sent to primary school at six years old. Shortly, after picking up the wrong sort of vocabulary from his primary schoolmates, he was removed, and tutored privately. His progress was fast. He was reading and writing whilst others his age were still struggling with their alphabets. He had a photographic memory, and learnt just by listening to his tutor. He had memorised almost all of the Sanskrit grammar, the Mugdhabodha, by seven years of age, which is also when he joined Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar's Metropolitan Institution, his intelligence immediately being recognised by his teachers and classmates there.[4] 

When he entered college, first at the Presidency College, Calcutta and then at the Scottish Missionary Board's General Assembly's Institution, he astounded his Indian and British professors with his intellect. Principal W. W. Hastie remarked, 'I have traveled far and wide, but I have never yet come across a lad of his talents and possibilities. He is bound to make his mark in life.' Narenda Nath, exceeding the limits of his curriculum, mastered Western logic and by his final year he had mastered Western philosophy, and ancient and modern European history.[5]

When the sage Sri Ramakrishna and Narenda Nath first met, it is said that the great sage broke into tears of joy, telling him that he had been waiting for him, for a very long time. While Narendra Nath first thought the sage a madman for his outburst, but soon came to realise that Sri Ramakrishna was not mad but touched by the divine.[6] 

In 1884 Sri Ramakrishna was seated, surrounded by his disciples in the middle of a discussion on compassion for living beings when he suddenly fell into a transcendental meditative state and from a translike state asserted that it was service to man, recognising him to be the manifestation of God, that was paramount rather than compassion for others. In those words a window opened in Narendra Nath as he saw how they reconciled devotion with non-dualism, Bhakti and Vedanta. He determined, then and there to make that realisation of the connection between Man and God, the common property of all.[7]  

Not long after, on 16 August 1886, Sri Ramakrishna succumbed to cancer, after leaving the rest of his students to the care and guidance of Narendra Nath. He remained at Barangore until 1888, when he left Calcutta for Varanasi, Ayodhya, Lucknow, Agra, Vrindaban, Hatras, and the Himalayas, and later to other places including Ghazipur. Eventually he broke away from the Barangore monastery in July 1890 and by February 1891 had become a solitary monk, wandering two years through India. He shared in the conditions of man, being considered a pariah one day, and a guest of Prime Ministers and Maharajas the next. In a demonstration using a photograph of the Maharaja, Prince Mangah Singh, as an analogy, he explained that devotees do not worship stone and metal images of gods and goddesses, but use those images to bring to provide a focus for their devotional, worship and meditations. 'They do not worship the stone or metal as such. Everyone, O Maharaja, is worshiping the same one God who is the Supreme Spirit, the Soul of Pure Knowledge. And God appears to all according to their understanding and their representation of Him.'[8]

He had become Swami Vivekananda. And the Swami saw the illness that was prevalent throughout the land. He noted, "We as a nation lave lost our individuallity, and that is the cause of all mischief in India. We have to give back to the nation its lost individuality and raise the masses. The Hindu, the Mohammedan, the Christian, all have trampled them underfoot. Again, the force to raise them must come from inside, that is, from the orthodox Hindus. In every country the evils exist not with, but against religion. Religion therefore is not to blame, but men.[9] 

On 31 May 1893 Swami Vivekananda departed Bombay and from there he journeyed to Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, Canton, Nagasaki, Yokohama, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo. Returning to Yokohama he sailed to Vancouver from where he traveled by rail to Chicago.[10] 

The first session of the Parliament of Religions opened in the great Hall of Columbus on Monday 11th September 1893. In his short address, he said, "If there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will have no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach, and whose sun will shine upon the followers of Krishna and Christ, on saint and sinners alike; which will not be Brahminic or Buddhistic, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development which in its catholicity will find a place for every human being, from the lowest grovelling savage not far removed from the brute to the highest man towering by the virtue of his head and heart almost above humanity. It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be centered in aiding humanity to realize its own true, divine nature. Offer such a religion, and all the nations will follow you? The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or a Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others and yet preserve his individuality and grow according to his own law of growth.'[11] 

The Vivekananda Ashram As A Symbol

Malaysia is a land of many cultures, many beliefs, many religions. And, because of all this diversity, while we should rejoice and celebrate in it, violence instead has come of it. There is no better time than now and no better place than here to celebrate all the good that can come from being different and for all of us to see how very similar we are to each other, because of, as much as, in spite of, all those differences. Swami Vivekananda preached for respect among each other and described a universal faith, side-by-side with whatever was the belief of the adherent. And he argued that we all worshiped and prayed to the same God, just not in the same way, and that that was okay. This is probably one of the most powerful and profound thoughts in all the world. And the Vivekananda Ashram in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is the symbol of that thought.

Notes
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[1] Rajendran 2014 p.30
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[2] NST 15 Mar 2004 p.13
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[3] Tejasananda 1995 pp.7-9
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[4] Tejasananda 1995 p.11
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[5] Tejasananda 1995 p.17
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[6] Tejasananda 1995 p.23
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[7] Tejasananda 1995 p.32
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[8] Tejasananda 1995 pp.37-42
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[9] Tejasananda 1995 p.46
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[10] Tejasananda 1995 p.49-50
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[11] Tejasananda 1995 pp.52, 56-57.
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References
.
New Straits Times [Kuala Lumpur] 15 March 2004.
.
Rajendran M., Sarjit S. Gill , Balakrishnan Muniapan, K.Silllalee and S. Manimaran 'A Critical Analysis Of Siddha Tradition In The Context Of Malaysian Hindu Culture.' Life Science Journal 2014;11(7). 27-32  <http://www.lifesciencesite.com/lsj/life1107/005_22971life110714_27_32.pdf>
.
Tejasananda (Swami). A Short Life of Swami Vivekananda (15th Impression). Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama Publication Department for Swami Mumukshananda. 1995.
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Jeffery Seow

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Cotton Operatives Relief Fund, Singapore, 1862
The Straits Times, 6 September 1862, Page 2 Saturday 6th September.  The following is the list of subscriptions made, up to date, towards the Relief Fund of the Cotton operatives:-  Messrs. Paterson, Simons & Co.          $200  "       Syme & Co.           ...
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Geylang Fire Relief Fund, Singapore, 1926
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 17 March 1926, Page 16 GAYLANG FIRE RELIEF FUND. The Hon. Treasurer begs to acknowledge with many thanks receipt of the following donations:- Previously Acknowledged $13,650  Hui Ann Associatio...
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Rangoon Road Fire Relief Fund, Singapore, 1924
Straits Times, 22 January 1924, Page 10  Rangoon Road Fire Relief Fund.  The Hon. Treasurer begs to acknowledge with many thanks receipt of the following donations : Previously acknowledged $10,672.95, Mr. and Mrs. Tan Yew Yiang 200, Collected by Mr. V. Jac...
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  • Amateur Photo Stores (Penang) Sdn Bhd
    Showroom Demonstrator, 1981 - 1982
  • Lim Kean Siew & Company (Advocates & Solicitors)
    Clerk-In-Chambers, 1982 - 1983
  • Relau Chemicals Sdn Bhd/Dyclo Sdn Bhd
    Marketing Co-ordinator/Executive/Manager, 1983 - 1986
  • AP: Foote, Cone & Belding Sdn Bhd
    Account Executive, Sr AE, Account Manager, SAM, Account Director, 1986 - 1993
  • Foote, Cone & Belding
    (Ditto Above), 1986 - 1993
  • LINTAS Worldwide Sdn Bhd
    Account Director, GAD/Business Director, 1993 - 1995
  • Saatchi & Saatchi (M) Sdn Bhd
  • Ogilvy & Mather
    1999 - 1993
  • WPP Group
    1999 - 1993
  • Ogilvy
    1999 - 1993
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Tropicana 47410 Petaling Jaya Selangor Malaysia
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Fettes Park, Jalan Evergreen Tanjong Bungah Penang Malaysia - Orchard Road Singapore
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  • St. Xavier's Branch School Penang
    1969 - 1974
  • St. Xavier's Institution Penang
    1975 - 1979
  • CYMA College Penang
    1980 - 1980
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