October 11 was Honoring Elders Day at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. In the early morning, a busy day started for teachers and students of Instilling Goodness Elementary and Developing Virtue Secondary Schools. Guests gathered at the City, filled with anticipation. Some came from Ukiah, others from more distant places, such as.San Francisco and San Jose. No matter where they came from, they all shared the wish to support and joyfully take part in activities for “honoring elders and respecting the worthy.”
“Honoring elders and respecting the worthy” is a hallmark of Chinese culture. In traditional Chinese education, children are taught filial piety at home at a young age. Having learned to be respectful and sincere, they grow up and devote themselves to their country. With what they have learned from firm fathers and kind mothers, they can educate and inspire people all over the nation. “Honoring elders and respecting the worthy” is a quality of the ideal society envisioned by many ancient Chinese sages. In the ideal society, “Worthy and capable people are selected to serve the country; trustworthiness and harmony are valued.” “People not only respect their own parents and love their own children, but do the same with the parents and children of others as well.”
Unfortunately, in modern times dramatic social changes and the development of scientific technology have led many people to indulge in sensory pleasures. They totally ignore the matter of “honoring elders and respecting the worthy.” They even forget that they should be filial to their own roots— their parents. This upside-down situation can never bring any lasting happiness to them. An ancient saying goes, “Heaven is our origin; our parents are our roots. In times of hardship and extreme suffering, people always pray to Heaven; in times of sickness and pain, people always cry for their parents.” If we ignore our spiritual life and only think of repaying our parents' kindness after we find ourselves in extreme difficulty, by then we may be too caught up in our own affairs to help them, and all we can do is feel endless shame and regret.
In today’s world, people are not as kind-hearted as in ancient times. People not only fail to be compassionate with each other, but they engage in endless strife. Some even do evil in the name of kindness and justice, which makes people in many nations begin to doubt the value of virtue. Where is the crux of the problem? The answer is easy to find in Buddhism. According to a Buddhist Sutra, “Because desire is regarded as the basis of human life, the mother fights with her son; the son fights with his mother; fathers and sons, brothers, and relatives all fight with one another. Because desire is regarded as the basis of human life, kings fight with each other; citizens fight with each other; and nations fight with each other.” (Madhyamagama—Sutra of Suffering and the Aggregates) It is clear that to save the world; the most fundamental method is to follow the path of Buddhist cultivation, to subdue and to wipe out the three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. In real life, we must start from the most basic issue in order to achieve a great goal. Without a solid foundation in worldly practices, there is no way for us to approach transcendental Dharma. The ideas of filial piety and “honoring elders and respecting the worthy” are good medicines for the ills of our present society. If we can faithfully abide by these virtues even in the face of great difficulty and vexation, then we are behaving as a person of perfect virtue should, “subduing our desires and returning to propriety.” If in addition to subduing our afflictions, we can reflect upon ourselves and use wisdom to recognize our attachments and wipe them out, we will have earned some merit for transcending the world. This shows why, “When the roots are established, the course of the Way comes forth naturally.”
The Venerable Master initiated the Day for Honoring Elders. This celebration reminds us to feel grateful to our elders and appreciate their contributions to society and their kindness to us. In this way, we remind people not to forget their roots.
This year’s celebration began at 9:00 am in Daoyuan Hall. The boys and girls of Developing Virtue Secondary and Instilling Goodness Elementary Schools presented their carefully prepared performances. They expressed their gratitude to elders through songs, skits, and greeting cards. Their performances may not have been perfect, but they expressed genuine sincerity and respect, and will be remembered for a long time, becoming the seeds of boundless merit and virtue—both worldly and transcendental—in the hearts of those who attended in the celebration.