The 4th Annual Buddhist Retreat:Starting from the 1st of December to the 5th of January 2005
A rewarding success!
Written by Chuc Kham & Pho Tri
Edited, translated and compiled into English by Tam Lac
Once again, following the spirit of selflessly propagating the Buddha Dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings, the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia and New Zealand (UVBCANZ) had kept its word to hold a 4th Annual Buddhist Retreat as the past 3 years have proven to be a success. This year, the location of the much long awaited retreat was agreed to be held at Quang Duc Monastery, Victoria Melbourne.
Although the surroundings of this year’s retreat at Quang Duc Monastery were rather compacted in comparison to the past 3 retreats- in which the atmosphere were amongst Mother Nature, up high in the lovely forest mountains. Instead to substitute for the loss, the Monastery grounds offered a more peaceful atmosphere, all the better at maintaining the essence of Bodhi nature. Because Monasteries tend to always leave deep imprints into the hearts of devout Buddhists, especially Monasteries baring the unique and distinctive Vietnamese cultural design, which are unfortunately rare beyond the homeland of Vietnam, so goes the poem:
“The pagoda roof covers and protects the spirit of our culture and our way of life, that has been handed down by the ancestors”- Poem of Huyen Khong
This year, the number of Venerable Monks and Nuns attending the retreat totaled at 25 while the number of Lay Buddhists came at 130 people. Despite the amount of attendees decreasing in comparison to the 3 previous years, the diligence and sincerity of everybody who came remained the same as it was obviously revealed on everyone’s bright, happy, and excited faces with faith upon Dharma.
The day before the official opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Buddhist Retreat, Quang Duc Monastery reverentially held a respectful ceremony to prayer and hope for the victims of the Tsunami disaster 26/12/04 and ending with a different atmosphere of a happy New Years celebration, completed with fireworks and musical performances.
The ceremony for the victims of the Tsunami disaster opened with Venerable masters guiding the audience to chant along sincerely, truly hoping that the souls of the victims of the Tsunami disaster would soon be at peace. May the depressed spirits, injured bodies, and wrecked homes of the devastated survivors hopefully recover. May lives be mended, and everything would soon get better.
And although the ceremony was a short and simple one, nonetheless, it was truly a heart touching reason to make everyone there no longer seeing a differentiation between the Tsunami victims and their very own relatives or loved ones.
After the ceremony respectfully ended, the giant pagoda drums began to signal the opening of the joyful New Years ceremony, which called in the popular piece of the Vietnamese Dragon dance, performed by the Quang Duc Monastery Buddhist youth group.
The next day, 1/1/2005 which was the first day of the Western Calendar, Venerable monks and nuns from near and far gathered together entirely, to finally commence the Official Opening Ceremony of the 4th Annual Buddhist Retreat, held at the stunning Buddha Altar of the Quang Duc Monastery as intended at 10am sharp. The total of people then tallied to 150 attendees.
To assist organize and manage the retreat program was Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang who had cleverly made accessible to everyone all the retreat details at the opening ceremony, reminding everyone of the important things to prepare for the retreat which was about the start. The partial list of the Venerable Monks and Nuns who attended the retreat were as follows:
The Most Ven.Thích Huyền Tôn The Central Sangha Council of the UVBCANZ, Most Ven Thích Như Huệ President of the UVBCANZ,
Most Ven. Thích Bảo Lạc Deputy-president of the UVBCANZ Commissioner for Dhamma Propagation Affairs
Very Ven. Thích Như Điển Chief secretary of the Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Europe (Germany),
Very Ven. Thích Quảng Ba, Deputy-President of the UVBCANZ, Deputy Commissioner. for Social & Charity Affairs
Very Ven. Thích Phước Nhơn: Deputy Chairperson, Commissioner for Youth-Scouting Affairs,
Very Ven. Thích Trường Sanh, Commissioner for Educational-Cultural Affairs
Very Ven. Thích Minh Hiếu Abbot of Minh Quang Vihara,
Very Ven. Thích Thiền Hiền, the Vice-Abbot of Huyền Quang temple,
Ven. Thích Đồng Văn from Germany,
Very Ven. Thich Tam Phuong, Abbot of Quang Duc Monastery and Deputy Comm. for Dhamma Propagation Affairs
Ven. Thích Phổ Hương Commissioner & Deputy Comm. for Ritual/Protocol Affairs and management of general affairs at Huyền Quang Temple,
Ven. Thich Nguyen Tang, Vice-Abbot of Quang Duc Monastery. General Secretary, Deputy Comm. for Youth-Scouting Affairs
Ven. Thích Phổ Huân Deputies Secretary and management of general affairs at Pháp Bảo pagoda,
Ven. Thích Viên Trí Abbot of Pháp Hoa Temple,
Ven. Thích Viên Tịnh Vice-Abbot Pháp Hoa Temple,
Ven. Thích Viên Thành Head secretary Pháp Hoa Temple,
Very Ven. Nun TN. Hành Đạo, from Vietnam, Hoa Quang Temple
Ven. Nun TN Đồng Liễu from Phap Hoa temple SA
Ven. Nun TN. Như Lan Abbess of Phước Trí Temple,
Ven. Nun. TN Như Tuyết, from Buddha Recitation centre An Lạc Hạnh
Ven. Nun. TN Nguyên Khai, Abbess of Buddha Recitation centre An Lạc Hạnh and Commissioner for Laity Affairs,
Ven. Nun. TN Trí Anh from France
… and from the distinguished guests list, there was Dr. Ph.D Lâm Như Tạng Deputy Comm. for Educational-Cultural Affairs
The opening speech of the Opening Ceremony was of the Very Venerable Abbot of Quang Duc Monastery who was also the head organizer of the retreat: Venerable Thich Tam Phuong. His words where to convey the obstacles and difficulties of organizing and preparing such a large event, to really appreciate the warmth of the Opening Ceremony which had at long last arrived.
“In order to repay the Buddha’s deep kindness, along with the love, hardship, and care of our Teachers and Masters, every Buddhist disciple has vowed: “Even if to endure thousandfold suffering, my heart is determined for the sake of the Buddha Path to sacrifice. Sacrifice, endure, and overcome every rocky obstacle that approaches, without considering the difficulties and countless of tests that is to come; I am prepared to travel the path with tolerance and selflessness in order to serve the Buddha path, the Dharma and preserve the culture of both the monastic and the laity.” Truly so! In the time when the Buddha Gautama was still in world, He had assured and determined with adamancy that in the future, in order for Buddhadharma to stay everlastingly and continue to bring benefit greatly amongst beings, the 2 kinds of disciples: both Monastic and Laity must harmonize respectfully and lovingly towards one another. Both kinds must often interact and share learning with one another in order to hope for the survival of Correct Faith and bring back happiness and benefit to all beings.”
Even if to endure thousandfold suffering, my heart is determined for the sake of the Buddha Path to sacrifice”; these words have shown that Master Tam Phuong had given it all his best toward creating exactly what the congregation expects, or the least, he had tried his best to manage the first Buddhist retreat in Victoria of the sort.
After that, there were the enlightening and sincere words of The Most Ven.Thích Huyền Tôn, the Central Sangha Council of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia-New Zealand, who was concerned with the teaching of Buddha Dharma; how to achieve the ultimate quality that Dharma is always offering in order to produce a positive outcome for those who have not studied Buddhism or are currently learning. Despite the seriousness of the current matter, the Venerable still managed to entertain the audience with his happy, cheerful and humble nature.
Next were the blessed words of the greatly revered Most Ven. Thích Như Huệ, President of the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia-New Zealand. The Venerable iterated firmly thus:Knowledge and understandings about the Buddha Dharma are merely expedient tools, nevertheless incredibly important and essential for those who practice Buddhism. However, in reality, it shall not benefit any practitioner if he does not take it into diligent action and apply the teachings of Liberation into his everyday life. The truth has proven that in the past, the most accomplishing Buddhist endeavours ever transpired were from beings that were the most diligent and determined towards cultivation and practice. And so with enough strength of Samadhi, strength of mind, and strength of vow, those beings voyage into life, using whatever expedience needed in order to transform and enhance the lives of all sentient beings using all their might and capacity. The unforgettable image of Bodhisattva Thich Quang Duc has told of the spirit of compassion and valiant wisdom belonging to a Buddhist practitioner who has awakened to the Buddhist path and unified it into life. Presently in the world, there still remain in various places highly advanced Venerable monks, nuns and lay Buddhists who continue to nurse a heart of selflessness, living a life solely for the purpose of service to the Buddha Way and the liberation of others. All the genuineness attained from the Doctrine of Liberation that has clearly been proven by such brave role models deserve to be noticed and imprinted deep into our hearts and may it become the guiding essentials needed on our spiritual pathway of cultivation.
After these compassionate words, the ceremony proceeded into the customary offering of incense and prayer for the protection and guidance of the Buddhas; thus the year’s 4th Annual Buddhist Retreat officially commenced.
Although in fact the retreat only consisted of 4 short days, the hearts of the Venerables, both younger and older remained bright and unmoving. The classes taught such titles such as “For what reasons should Buddhists become Vegetarians?”, “Applying the Buddhist precepts into daily life” and “ Does taking refuge in the triple gems mean we must renounce the world and live in Monasticism?” Although these issues are the most fundamental and simplest of them all, nevertheless they are most important.
Once again, just as popular and special as every year, the periods reserved for questions and answers were the most alive, exciting and energetic of the whole retreat. Besides the many great questions that were given out by the retreatants at the monastery, there were also many good questions contributed by online listeners from two Online Paltalk chat rooms SHPP & TLPP. Because of this unique merging of students from across the globe, the event received some very outrageously humorous questions and extremely amusing curiosities which created a laid back, harmonious and happy atmosphere, leaving an even more a stronger, everlasting faith in every student towards the Dharma.
Another thing we must accredit and praise was the class for children who followed their parents to the retreat to learn about Buddhism for 5 days. The number of children who attended this year climbed up to almost 40, nearly double of last year’s total. Since the number of children attending became so crowed that it became without a doubt that a class for young students hasdto be organised properly. In result, Venerable Nun Thich Nu Tri Anh, Venerable Sramanera Thich Hanh Duc, Dharma Friend Steven Lowe and Venerable Thich Hanh Tri all contributed into the lesson program as they help teach and guide the children through concepts of Buddhism while at the same time maintaining a happy and cheerful climate.
Within the heart of a true Buddhist who is truly and correctly practising-observing, the motivation to continue battling obstacles and travelling the Buddha path should always stay alight even beyond the settings between an Opening and Closing ceremony of a retreat. We should take this illustration and remember it always, not limiting our practice within compressed time, space or location. Having said that, we'll know that as the retreatants, both Monastic and Laity, return back to their ordinary lives again, they will definitely still be able the feel the joy and happiness of having studying the Dharma.
Finally, we have been informed that the next retreat to come, the 5th Annual Buddhist Retreat of Australia, is to be held in the capital of Canberra next year from the 31st of December 2005 to the 4th of January 2006. Please contact any of your local Buddhist pagodas belonging to the Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia and New Zealand in order to sign up for the next exciting Annual Buddhist Retreat. Otherwise you could also directly contact the location the retreat is to be held, at Van Hanh Monastery Canberra on +61. 02. 6257 5517 or visit the website: www.quangduc.com to find out in more detail about the next retreat that is to come. Namo Amitabha Buddha.
Written by Chuc Kham & Pho Tri
Edited, translated and compiled into English by Tam Lac
21 January 2005 www.buddhamind.tk
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