Buddhism as seen through Postage Stamps

By Ven. Joymony Tanchangya

On March 2 to 4, 2018, International Buddhist College (IBC) Sadao, Thailand hosted three Dhamma sharing seasons entitled as “Buddhism as Seen through Postage Stamps” presented by Mr. Leong Koh Hing.

We are very fortunate to have Mr. Leong with us at IBC, the former Assistant Rector of IBC and an enthusiastic Buddhist stamps collector, to share the Dhamma with IBC family.

It was a great opportunity for all students to join and enjoy lively and enthusiastic presentations of Mr. Leong, where he not only introduced us into a new world with Buddhist Stamps but also described many important skillful ways to present Buddha’s teaching to various cultures and audiences. The talks were headlines as The Tathāgata, Buddhist pantheon, and world cultural heritage sites, even though his vast stamp collection and presentations cover so many other areas of Buddhism.

Stamps have been representation of all the arts and cultures, religions, history, symbols, events and antiques; which convey specific messages with significant meanings and national values to people from one generation to its next. Mr. Leong's collection and spreading the Dhamma through it, is considered as the only of its kind in the world, even though he has already donated all of his philatelic collection to a particular museum in Malaysia. He has been collecting those stamps over 35 years to preserve and propagate the Dhamma. Furthermore various other Buddhist posters, postcards, images, souvenirs collection further enriches his collection and made the presentations attractive to the audiences. Those stamps can be divided mainly into five groups; Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, Tipitaka; and world history and cultural sites. Buddha’s biography, qualities, origin of Buddha statues and their history in different cultures and societies were the main focus of the first presentation. Secondly, Dhamma refers to the holly teachings found in various publications and their preservation for the good of the future generation. Thirdly, topic Sangha covered historical images, statues and great benefactors of Buddhism and their chronological contribution towards the Dhamma. The penultimate category of the presentation covered the Tipitaka publications and establishment of various societies and their contribution for human society and distribution of the Buddhist canonical, commentarial and general Buddhist texts. The final presentation was on the world history and cultural sites from various countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, China, Vietnam, Mongolia, Indonesia, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Macao, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and so on. One of the key features of the collection was Buddhist stamp publication from Non-Buddhist countries like Cuba, Uganda, Niger, Nigeria and so on. And Sri Lanka and Myanmar usually do not put Buddha images on stamp as a sign of great respect.

In modern days there are many ways to present the Dhamma. Buddhist Stamp collection and propagation of the Dhamma in various seminars, monasteries and educational institutions is one of the unique and skillful means to that path. As Lord Buddha said “Sabba dānaṃ dhamma dānaṃ jināti” the Dhamma is the noblest of all the gifts. Therefore it certainly can be said that this type of sharing will benefits not only common people but also young generation of our community and young persons will find inspiration from this kind of noble activities for the good of the many of Buddha sāsana.