The Buddhist Library (Chinese: 佛教图书馆) is Singapore's first dedicated Buddhist library. The library, which is located in a shophouse in Geylang, aims to meet the needs of the Buddhist community and anyone interested in Buddhism. It is unique in that it is not a voluntary association or a temple and because it takes a non-sectarian approach to Buddhism. Besides functioning as a lending library, it also organises Dhamma talks, accredited Buddhist courses, public art exhibitions and welfare work locally and abroad.
In 1981, Venerable Dhammaratana, a Sri Lankan Theravadin monk, founded the Buddhist Research Society (BRS) in Singapore. One of the aims of the BRS was to set up a Buddhist library. The Library was started in 1982 in a rented unit of Tanjong Katong Complex. Its initial setup was backed financially by the late George Chia Soon Seng, who was a businessman and a devout Buddhist.
The Library shifted to Katong Shopping Centre in 1984 and moved again to another rented unit in Hoa Nam Building in 1985. The Library finally bought its own premises at Lorong 29, Geylang Road in 1991 and it was officially opened on 15 March 1992. Due to the growing needs of its expanding membership and the Buddhist community, the Library relocated to nearby Lorong 24A in 1998, occupying 2 units of a row of pre-war shophouses that are located within the Geylang Conservation Area, where it stands today.
Venerable Dhammaratana, or more commonly addressed as Bhante by his devotees (Pali for "Venerable sir"; often used when addressing a Buddhist monk), is the founding and pivotal figure of The Buddhist Library. Bhante was born in Sri Lanka and received his Buddhist ordination at the age of 13. He is the senior pupil of the late Venerable Bellanwila Sri Somaratana Nayaka Thera and a graduate of Vidyalankara University. After graduation, Bhante served as the Deputy Principal and Principal at two prestigious Buddhist schools, Sunethradevi Pirivena and Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena respectively.
In 1973, he gave up a ready-made life of an abbot in the well-established Bellanwila Temple located near Colombo in Sri Lanka in order to propagate the Buddha's teachings in Singapore at the invitation of Venerable M. Mahavihara. In 1978, Bhante started his Buddhist education service in Singapore in a garage at 85A Marine Parade Road. He founded the Buddhist Research Society (BRS) in 1981 and The Buddhist Library in 1982. On his inspiration on starting a non-profit library, Bhante said: