Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) initiated
the custom of honoring seniors in the United States four years ago. On
November 4 of this year, the fourth annual Respecting Elders Day was
celebrated at its branch temples. On that day, many seniors attended
the festivities at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage
(in northern California), Gold Mountain Sagely Monastery in San
Francisco, the Sagely City of the Dharma Realm in Sacramento, Gold
Wheel Sagely Monastery and Long Beach Sagely Monastery in Los Angeles,
Gold Buddha Sagely Monastery in Vancouver, Canada, and other branch
temples of DRBA. The Venerable Master Hua promoted this celebration in
order to raise social consciousness and encourage people to care for
and show respect to the elderly.The celebration at the Sagely City was
organized by its affiliated schools.
The Sagely City of Ten Thousand
Instilling Goodness Elementary School and
Developing Virtue Secondary School. Dharma Master Heng Sure, who made
the Three Steps One Bow pilgrimage for world peace, recalled that the
first “Birthday Banquet for Respecting the Elderly, Revering the
Worthy, and Honoring the Virtuous” was held on December 20, 1992, in
Los Angeles. Afterwards, the Venerable Master instructed the various
branch temples to hold local celebrations for respecting the elderly
between fall and winter, so that old folks wouldn’t have to travel far
away to attend the celebration.
Dharma Master Heng Lyu, the Abbot of the Sagely
City, said that although the Venerable Master has passed into
stillness, his spirit lives on. As disciples, we should remember the
Venerable Master’s true intent in teaching us to respect elders.
Justin Hu, a student at Developing Virtue
Secondary School, said that in ancient times, people held the elders in
high esteem for their wealth of experience. With today’s advanced
science and technology, knowledge is transmitted through books,
computers, and television, and we are no longer as dependent on our
elders as in the old days. However, there are certain basic lessons of
life that we cannot learn from books, computers, or television—for
example, how to judge between right and wrong, how to be a virtuous
person, and other personal experiences. For these, we need the guidance
of our parents and teachers. Thus, our elders, with their knowledge and
experience, are still a most valuable treasure-trove in society.
Frank McMichael, former Director of the Mendocino
County Board of Supervisors, and Seiji Sugawara, the current Director,
were both struck by the joyful expressions on the faces of the seniors
who attended the celebration at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas. Tom Macmillan, a Baptist minister and Philosophy Professor at
Mendocino College, also attended the celebration.
Students from the City’s schools performed for the
guests. Han Lichin, an experienced choreographer who led a dance studio
in Taiwan for many years, directed the students of Developing Virtue
Girls’ Secondary School in a superb performance of Chinese folkdance. A
reporter from the Ukiah Daily Journal lamented that he had only black
and white film and could not record the event in color.
Gold Mountain Sagely Monastery
At Gold Mountain Sagely Monastery in San
Francisco’s Chinatown, psychologist Li Yihui and lecturer Ong Songan
were invited to speak on “The Psychological Wellbeing of the Elderly,”
and “The Way to Health,” respectively. The lectures were delivered in
Cantonese for the audience of more than two hundred. Since many seniors
recite the Buddha’s name in the hope of being reborn in the Western
Pure Land, Gold Mountain Monastery held the Pure Land Repentance in the
morning and led participants in bowing to Amitabha Buddha’s forty-eight
great vows in the afternoon. At noon, the elders enjoyed a delicious,
The Sagely City of the Dharma
In Sacramento, the Sagely City of the Dharma Realm
celebrated the occasion by reciting The Buddha Speaks the Sutra of the
Difficulty of Repaying Parents’ Kindness and The Sutra of Limitless
Life, bowing to the Buddhas, and reciting the Buddha’s name, dedicating
the merit to all the elderly people in the world.
Gold Buddha Sagely Monastery
Many elderly disciples of Gold Buddha Sagely
Monastery in Vancouver, Canada, had a merry festival on the same day.
Students from the Buddhist Society of the University of British
Columbia (UBC) gave performances of instrumental music, singing,
pantomime, and tongue twisters for the more than two hundred seniors.
Seventy-one-year-old Dharma Master Xiande, who is the Director of the
East Lotus EnlightMenment Academy in Vancouver, told stories on cause
and effect. Mr. Zhao Jintang, Director of the Vancouver Chinese
Association, feels that the elderly owe a responsibility to society.
Seeing the young and old gathered happily under the same roof, Mr. Chao
said the responsibility of elderly Chinese is to promote Chinese
culture and to teach people the principles of living a moral life,
managing the family, governing the country, and bringing peace to the
Gold Wheel Sagely Monastery
In Los Angeles, Gold Wheel Sagely Monastery
celebrated the occasion by reciting The Buddha Speaks the Sutra of the
Difficulty of Repaying Parents’ Kindness. The majority of the more than
one hundred seniors who attended were from Angel’s Home for Seniors.
After hearing Dharma Master Heng Jai and laymen Wei Kezhen and Huang
Wenyan describe the benefits of reciting the Buddha’s name and of
meditation, they enjoyed a nutritious, vegetarian lunch. A total of
fourteen tables of food were served. Students from the monastery’s
Chinese Sunday School sang and danced for the seniors, making them feel
respected and cared for.
The monastery’s laypeople presented the seniors
with scarves, oatmeal, and other gifts in the hope that they would have
a warm winter. One senior remarked that now that he knew there was a
temple here, he would come back to worship the Buddhas.
Long Beach Sagely Monastery
Long Beach Sagely Monastery in Long Beach,
California, held a joyous celebration attended by about two hundred
people. Among them were ninety members of the choir of the Langley
Senior Center in Monterrey Park. The average age of the choir members
was seventy-two, and the oldest was eighty-six years old. During the
celebration, they sang five popular old songs, including a dance tune
of youth and a song about a wandering son. One of the seniors put on a
magic show that won enthusiastic applause from the audience.
The celebration was organized by Professor Richard
Yang, formerly Chairman of the Department of East Asian Languages at
the University of Pittsburg. The seventy-eight-year-old Professor Yang
gave a humorous talk on the secrets of longevity:
It’s not difficult to enjoy long life; all you
have to do is remember two words. The first one is “patience”—if you
can be patient, you’ll have peace of mind. The second one, “temper,” is
a bit harder. Keeping your temper under control is no ordinary feat,
but it’s still pretty easy—just relax and don’t feel sorry for
yourself. If you can endure insults and keep silent, there were be
harmony and peace. Arrogance brings undue worry and affliction. If you
can constantly be patient and not lose your temper, I guarantee that
you’ll enjoy a long and healthy life as blissful as that of the gods.
Professor Yang recited the poem that the Venerable
Master had composed in 1992 on the theme of respecting the elderly and
honoring the worthy, and his matched poem, to the audience of about two
The teaching of Confucius and Mencius is to
respect the elderly and honor the worthy;
The disciples of Shakyamuni teach us to study from the Buddhas and
emulate the sages.
The teachings of the Patriarchs ensure long life;
At a very old age the heaven and earth seem vast.
The multitudes celebrate when one is complete in blessings and wisdom;
Even plants rejoice when the Way and virtue reach the ultimate point.
I’m ashamed of my unaccomplished resolve; I’m not up to the bamboo
and plum which endure the ice and snow.
May you enjoy good health like the evergreen pines and cypress trees.
Professor Yang’s matched poem is as follows,
Since ancient times, our ancestors set down
On filiality, fraternal respect, loyalty, and trustworthiness,
handing them down through the generations.
The ancients taught us to work with reverence and dwell in harmony with
One with vision and magnanimity has a clear conscience.
The nation rejoices in plentiful resources and commodities,
People enjoy good health, and families get along happily.
Looking down, think not of past ambitions;
Reverently pray that the gods and Buddhas will bestow peace and
Long Beach City Councilmember Douglas Drummond,
eighty-eight-year-old Liu Hanzhang of the Virtue Society of Manchuria
(China), and Taijiquan expert Michael Yang also attended the
celebration. Michael Yang introduced the benefits of Taijiquan to the
seniors. Honored guest Ratanasara Mahathera, a seventy-five-year-old
Theravada monk from Sri Lanka who left the home-life more than half a
century ago, mentioned that the concept of respecting the elderly can
be found in the Buddhist canon, for the Buddha also taught us to
respect and care for old people.
This fourth annual celebration of Respecting
Elderly Day brought spiritual consolation to many seniors; many of them
spent a memorable day in the company of their children and
grandchildren. However, every member of society should also remember to
respect and care for the elderly, especially those who did not have the
opportunity to join the celebration, during the remaining 364 days of
the year. We must aspire to make this a society in which everyone
regards all elders as his or her own elders.