The annual "Celebration in Honor of the Elders was held on November 3 at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Northern California; Gold Wheel Monastery in Los Angeles; Gold Sage Monastery in San Jose; Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco; Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle; the City of the Dharma Realm in Sacramento; and Gold Buddha Monastery in Vancouver, Canada. This special day for elders was also celebrated around that date at Avatamsaka Monastery in Calgary, Canada; Amitabha Monastery in Hualien, Taiwan; and Perfect Penetration Hermitage in Taichung, Taiwan.
The Venerable Master Hua began this special activity for honoring elders and worthies back in 1992. Throughout his life the Master had been extremely filial to his parents. In his childhood days in Manchuria, China, after his mother passed away he built a small hut by her graveside and lived there for three years in filial respect, thus earning the name "Filial Son Bai." But the Master still felt that he had not done enough for his parents, so he treated elders with special kindness. He said, "I want to treat all elders as my parents; all men are my fathers and all women are my mothers." He advocated the celebration in honor of elders and worthies in order to promote the values of filiality and fraternal respect.
The first branch temple of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association to hold the "Celebration in Honor of the Elders" this year was Avatamsaka Monastery in Calgary, Canada. On October 27, 1996, the Monastery held its celebration in conjunction with the "Celebration of Guanyin Bodhisattva's Leaving Home" at its new home.
It was an exceptionally warm, sunny day by Calgary's fall weather standards, and people arrived early. The celebration started at 8:00 a.m. with the ceremonies of: Great Compassion Repentance, Universal Bowing, Ceremony for Liberating the Living, Transference for Lengthening Life, and Meal Offering, followed by a group photo session. By the time everybody was settled down in the dining hall, an attendance of over 360 people was counted, among them 130 elders.
The elders were welcomed and praised in the opening remarks by Mr. Joe Chan. During the luncheon, Dharma talks were given by a visiting monk Fa Xing Shr, and our resident monks Heng Xing Shr and Heng Tso Shr. These were followed by other performances: "Guanyin Bodhisattva Praise" sung by the Sunday School Choir, "Guanyin Praise" with keyboard, flute, and handbell played by three students, and a Tai Chi Chuan demonstration.
Prizes were drawn in between performances, and a special grand prize was presented to the most senior (88-year-old) of all the elders by Heng Tso Shr. Also, each elder received a take-home gift on leaving.
Those who stayed were able to listen to Heng Xing Shr's serial commentary on the Bodhisattva Precepts. Finally, at 3:00 p.m., the celebration was adjourned with the Ceremony of Transference of Merit, and everyone was filled with Dharma joy.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
The "Celebration in Honor of the Elders" at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas was as usual sponsored jointly by Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools. The students of the Boys' and Girls' Schools performed Chinese classical music, piano solos, flute, choral singing, a Chinese fan dance called "Happy World," recitations of "Standards for Students" in Chinese and English, and various other programs. One student from the Boys' School gave an expert performance of Chinese yo-yo that drew many cheers from the audience. Students from the Buddhist society at the University of California at Berkeley also made a special trip to the City for the occasion and performed a skit called "The Wisdom of the Elders."
Heng Lyu Shr, the Abbot of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, welcomed all the guests and spoke about the purpose of holding the "Celebration in Honor of the Elders." Charles Peterson, Director of the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, spoke next, saying that since every person will one day grow old, the celebration brings a special feeling of warmth and reassurance. With a hopeful tone of voice, he said, "I'm forty-nine this year, so next year I get to be a guest at this celebration, too!" Richard Shumacher, the incoming Director of the Board of Supervisors, wished that his parents could have been there too. He hoped that the spirit of the celebration would be remembered all 365 days of the year.
Pole and Lila Laustrup, a couple in their seventies who have been together for half a century, were happy to participate in the celebration: "Happiness makes us live long and healthy."
Seeing all the Chinese and Western elders gathered in the hall, seventy-six year old Bhikshuni Heng Jin Shr remarked, "There are so many old folks in the United States who live alone, without family. We ought to do our best to promote this celebration, to remind everyone to show concern and respect for elders."
This was the first time Avatamsaka Hermitage in Potomac, Maryland, held a Celebration in Honor of Elders. More than forty seniors over the age of sixty-five, including one ninety-one-year-old, came in an earnest and happy spirit from sixty miles around to gather together in the Buddha hall of the Hermitage.
The celebration began at 8:30 in the morning. Led by the Dharma Masters, the elders, with red flowers pinned on their chests, recited the name of Amitabha Buddha in the adorned and joy-filled atmosphere of the Buddha hall. This occasion gave them a chance to absorb the truths of Buddhism.
The Meal Offering Ceremony at 10:30 was followed by an eight course vegetarian luncheon specially prepared by the Hermitage, which included assorted appetizers, black mushrooms and cabbage, fried tofu wrapper rolls, and vegetable dumplings. There were also exquisitely wrapped, aromatic rice dumplings with red bean filling. Reciting the Buddha’s name, the elders took their seats and savored the experience of participating in such a celebration, which not only promotes the teachings of Buddha, but also perpetuates the tradition of honoring our elders and worthies. Thus they found the celebration very meaningful.
Various performances were held in the afternoon. The Chinese school students performed skits and played the flute, guitar, and Dharma instruments. Some laypeople performed the Chinese harp, calligraphy, and Chinese opera. Tianxin Zhang gave a Chinese classical music concert. The fine performances inspired several elders to give impromptu demonstrations of taijiquan and qigong, making it a very happy celebration. The elders all said they had a wonderful time, and that it was truly a memorable day. They attributed the success of the celebration to the Venerable Master’s kind and invisible blessing. The celebration concluded at 3:00 in the afternoon, and the elders went home with gifts from the Dharma Masters and happy smiles on their faces.
Sutra of the Difficulty of Repaying Parents' Kindness
Both Gold Summit Monastery in Seattle and the City of the Dharma Realm in Sacramento celebrated the "Day in Honor of the Elders" by reciting the Sutra of the Difficulty of Repaying Parents' Kindness, wishing that every elder will live to a ripe, old age and will enjoy both blessings and wisdom.
Situated on a hilltop in north San Jose, Gold Sage Monastery, which was founded a little over a year ago, overlooks the heart of the American electronic industry--Silicon Valley. Gold Sage Monastery began its first-time "Celebration in Honor of the Elders" with the recitation of the Sutra of the Difficulty of Repaying Parents' Kindness. Over eighty honored guests attended. Dharma Master Heng Sure, whose lecture on the Lotus Sutra coincided with the event, explained the history of the celebration. The students of Gold Sage Monastery's Sunday school performed the lion dance and gave other fine performances. About ten members of the T'zu Chi Foundation performed a pantomime for the elders, and the Compassionate Heart Choir sang Buddhist songs. The Dharma-protecting laity of Gold Sage Monastery prepared gloves, hats, and other gifts for the honored elders, making them feel warm in body and heart.
Gold Buddha Monastery, located near Chinatown in Vancouver, also opened its "Celebration in Honor of the Elders" by reciting the Sutra of the Difficulty of Repaying Parents' Kindness. The weatherman had forecasted rain for November 3, but it turned out to be a mild day with clear blue skies. About 150 elders, some coming together, others accompanied by their children or grandchildren--a total of nearly 200 people--joyfully took part in the festivities at Gold Buddha Monastery. After the recitation of the Sutra, Bhikshuni Heng Jen Shr spoke to the guests about the profound significance of the occasion. The Monastery's Chinese Sunday School students sang the Triple Jewel Song, recited the Heart Sutra and the Standards for Students, and told the story of the young novice monk who saved the ants. The elders received gifts of recitation beads and personal care articles.
After reciting the Sutra again and dedicating the merit in the afternoon, the celebration adjourned. Only then, at two o'clock, did the first drops of rain start to fall. The weather forecast had not been wrong after all. Someone said, "Even the Lord in Heaven is helping to celebrate in honor of the elders!"