On Saturday, November 18, 2006, over 350 people—seniors and their families, as well as CTTB residents, students of Instilling Goodness and Developing Virtue Schools and their families, celebrated Honoring Elders Day at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Here are some highlights of the very packed program which lasted from 9:15 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. The girls in the After School Program did a skit in which they chanted the “Song of Enlightenment” and turned into little Guanyin Bodhisattvas. Chinese doctor Yumei Xiang performed a Tai Chi called Guanyin’s Pure Water Vase. Gymnast Samantha Acevedo thrilled the audience with amazing flips. Wendy Rowe played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipe. The World Religions class recited “The Great Learning” in both Chinese and English. Tom and Madge Strong led the elders in singing many oldies accompanied by guitar. The Chinese Dances this year included a dance called “Springtime”, where dancers wore the rainbow colored traditional dress of the Uyghur ethnic group of China and carried bells, and another dance with parasols and handkerchiefs, all choreographed and taught by student leaders in Chinese dance class.
As student ushers served delicious vegetarian dishes prepared by the hardworking kitchen staff and volunteers, everyone’s eyes were riveted on the stunning Lion Dance. They were then treated to uplifting music by the boys’ and girls’ Chinese orchestras, dances by the Bahai youth group Set Ablaze, a classical Japanese dance by the elder Ms. Shimada, flute music by Lakota Indian Thane Hake, and the spectacular Dragon Dance, among others.
Prof. Henry Rosemont, a Confucian scholar, told the audience that to cherish our children and ensure that our elders are at peace, is the most meaningful thing in life. He was delighted to see such an culturally diverse group of people of many generations gathered together for this meaningful celebration.
Although there were a few scheduling glitches, many guests said it was the best celebration they had ever attended. Each senior received a paper lotus, a handbag, and a card with the words:
Venerable Master Hua, the Founder of the City of 10,000 Buddhas, addressed some senior citizens as follows:
If your heart is young, age will depart because it cannot affect you. Buddhism teaches that, “Everything is made from the heart alone.” I hope that each of you will resolve to make your heart young. Your mind has no youth or age, no beginning or end. It can always work, and so now I am going to give you a job. This job requires no effort, no exertion, and no particular religious affiliation: according to the teachings of your own religion, PRAY FOR WORLD PEACE. You of long life are well able to do this work. Pray for a world of peace, a world without murder or war. This is the most important work there is. The work I have given you to do is the highest work, the work of sages.
Our annual celebration of Respecting the Elderly was held at Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery, which recently had its grand opening, thus allowing guests to constantly see the adorned statues of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When we observed the seniors bowing and paying respect to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we couldn’t help but sense the great intention of the Venerable Master in promoting “respecting the elders and cherishing the youth.” In addition to receiving caring attention from people, they also had the opportunity to pay obeisance to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
With enthusiasm, we all worked together to decorate our monastery in a festive way. An arch made of multi-colored balloons stood in front of the Mountain Gate. Golden canopies draped with red satin graced the entrance to the Buddha Hall, which served as the main dining area for the day. The other dining area was at the canteen. Two stages were built for the occasion – one in each dining area. The performances alternated smoothly between the two places.
Other than the regular registration of seniors, we also extended our invitation to the residents of various senior homes in and around the Klang Valley for the first time. Consequently, the number of participants rose to nearly a thousand; more than double that of previous years.
We had to arrange transportation for both groups, including the individual registrants who didn’t have rides. Consequently, early on the big day, Sunday, huge tour coaches traversed the Klang Valley to pick up the seniors at the designated spots. We were told that the seniors started waiting early in the morning in order not to miss the transport teams, and they were all looking forward to the great day ahead.
Upon arrival, our Sunday Dharma Class Youths were all at hand to receive them and usher them to their seats. As they streamed in, it was really heartwarming to see the elders’ family members hover protectively around their grandparents or parents before moving to their designated places outside.
There was a group of senior citizens strolling in with smiles, all hale and hearty, smartly dressed in T-shirts that proudly proclaimed “Champions of the Elderly!” This group later presented our Dharma Master with a pennant as a souvenir.
Our volunteers did a great job serving them and attending to their needs throughout the luncheon. DM Jang opened the program with a talk in the Buddha Hall, while DM Tai gave her talk at the canteen. Then representatives from the laity also gave speeches.
The children of Dharma Realm Young Learners’ Meadow recited and sang songs, waving their little hands and singing, “You be a good kid, and I’ll be a good kid; Let’s not fight with each other,” to the tune of “Two Tigers”. Their innocent and lively performance delighted the seniors.
The clash of cymbals and the beating of drums announced the arrival of a pair of golden lions. Two pairs bowed to the Buddhas in the main hall. The participants were thrilled to be up close to the lions. Many reached out to stroke the lions as they wove between the tables.
Next, the two eldest women were invited to a special tea and cake cutting ceremony in front of the stage in the canteen. Two kindergarten girls from Dharma Realm Young Learners’ Meadow offered them tea. A similar ceremony was held simultaneously in the Buddha Hall for the two eldest men. It was a meaningful and touching scene.
After the meal offering, the luncheon began in earnest. As dish after scrumptious dish was served, performances by the various artists entertained the senior citizens. A young girl sang some old folk songs and brought back fond memories for some, who tapped their feet as she sang. The Chinese orchestra filled the dining areas with strains of yesteryear. Even the Dharma class students who had just learnt to play the erhu [Chinese fiddle] gave a commendable performance.
The celebration concluded after a solo by our erhu instructor and a dance and songs by our Sunday Dharma Class students, with Dharma Masters leading the ceremony to end the meal. Holding gifts and some carnations from the table centre piece, the participants moved slowly to the exits, while the lions pranced around to see them off.