Thay invited all of us out to the porch to sit at table so we could all be facing each other and could all talk. He began by explaining how we remove our shoes when entering the Temple as shoes are considered "contaminated," so we bring purity into the Temple. We greet each other with a "bow" with our hands folded and palms together. This symbolizes the "Lotus" flower and longevity, virtue, merit, and wisdom. We'll see the Vietnamese members doing prostrations to the Buddha. (Westerners do not do this, yet may learn it in time.) It is not to the Statue, but rather to the Buddha in ourselves that we bow, to humble ourselves. Most of the problems in life come from the ego. Ego causes us to feel superior and above others and this brings suffering. We say, "My house, my car, my spouse, my money, my religion, my country" - thinking things are "mine," when really we are simply using things. Most things someone gave us to use. Buddha renounced everything and advocated selflessness. This world is an illusion. We think things are all for "me." We put the "I" into everything. That's not really true. We need to look deeply to be in touch with the true nature of things. Become aware of how nature works and functions. This becomes easier with Meditation practice. Our human existence is suffering. Even on the societal level, humans suffer. Suffering is emotional suffering and physical suffering and mental suffering. We are most comfortable from birth to about 20 years old. Then we have to figure out how to "be" in society. We don't understand these principles or we cannot accept these principles. With Meditation practice we have more understanding and less suffering. BE CONSISTENT with your PRACTICE! Buddhism teaches that you have the choice in your own hands to continue to suffer or to be happy. It is your choice. It is up to you. In order to PROTECT your body and mind for happiness you can take refuge in the Three Jewels - The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. As part of our 5-Day Retreat Quan Am Monastery is offering a "TAKING REFUGE" Ceremony. "Taking Refuge" Ceremony, is how one becomes a Buddhist. The title "Taking Refuge" means we "take refuge" in the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. 2pm Sunday, May 31st will be our "Taking Refuge" Ceremony, in the Temple, for those who want to become a Buddhist. Please invite your friends, family, and Sangha members, who are your supports along your Buddhist path. After "Taking Refuge" and becoming a Buddhist, then you begin to practice the Five Precepts for your own self protection. It's for YOU! Avoid killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and consumption of toxins. Westerners are sometimes concerned with the avoidance of sexual misconduct. However, after marriage, if the family is happy, then everyone is happy and there are no problems. All of these "Precepts" apply to our "Practice." In the case of "Right Speech," sometimes even though what we say may be technically "correct," if it is presented in the wrong time and the wrong place then that brings suffering. Sometimes, not always, silence says a lot. One example might be that if the husband is in a business meeting and is in the middle of signing an important Contract, then the wife's phone call interrupts the business, then this can bring suffering. Use wisdom and intuition to determine the best time to talk. Buddhism advocates the "middle way." Moderation is the rule of thumb. Too much food can bring suffering, or too much medicine. Even too much affection and love can be a cause of suffering, at times. The "middle way" keeps the mind neutral and in balance. To achieve this balance we have to PRACTICE A LOT! This is not easy, as we are influenced by environmental inputs from inside us and from outside us. Know yourself. Sometimes we need protection. Like the three monkeys - hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil as the monkeys cover their eyes, ears, and mouth. Allow in only what you need from the outside environment. Stabilize yourself by practicing the "middle way."
Quan Am Monastery and Temple can be your spiritual home, your place for protection and growing in the Dharma. Many people seek meaning in life. Many people say that without developing spiritually, it is difficult to find meaning in life. Quan Am Monastery and Temple invites you to make this your spiritual home. We want you to feel comfortable here. Also, if you enjoy yourself here, then you will want to contribute in any small ways you can. If you see a mess somewhere, then be considerate and clean it up. If you see the floor is dirty, then be considerate and sweep it. We want to keep the Monastery and Temple clean and beautiful. We want you to take an interest in the upkeep of the Monastery and Temple. The Monastery and Temple belong to everyone in the community. That means not only to the Asian members, but rather to the Western members and everyone.
We invite you to study and practice Buddhism. We want you to feel comfortable in your study and practice here. We want you to enjoy a safe space to grow in your spiritual development among friends. We want you to enjoy a spiritual community of Western Dharma sisters and brothers, who support you in your spiritual growth in Buddhism. In such a setting, if one member has a need, then the Western Sangha group comes to their aid. Western Sangha friends can share a close support network. If one member suffers a loss, or has a death in the family, then the other Sangha members share in that loss and support that member through their grief process.
The Western Sangha group is slowly growing and gaining momentum. Once we have in place a committed group of about 10 or more people who will come to study on a regular basis, then we will study and practice the "basic foundations" of Buddhist practice. We will have designated times with lessons for study. Then we will have an organized group that will proceed in study. At the end of May (2015) we are having a Tibetan Buddhist Monk present a 5-Day Retreat at Quan Am Monastery. We are putting a lot of time, effort, and money into providing this Retreat for our Western Dharma friends. Do not worry about the money. Focus on the opportunity for spiritual growth that's available to you in this Retreat. If you can give a donation to contribute to expenses and to sustain the Monastery, then that's great! Buddhists consider generosity as good karma. If you give a donation of one cent ($.01), then that is the same as someone who gives a donation of one-thousand ($1,000.00) dollars. All donations mean the same, when you put your mind, right intention, and compassion into it. We welcome you to our organizing efforts, currently underway, to develop a formal Western Sangha. We need a helping hand to pull the Sangha together. We invite you to discuss and share ideas and to assist with organizing Sangha events. Once the Sangha grows to a considerable size, then we will slowly evolve into a more formal structure with committees, and officers. Until then we will continue under the current operating status offering events and inviting newcomers until we get a little stronger. Please stay after and offer to contribute your assistance to the current efforts and events that we have in place or are planning. Thank you for your time and we will meet again, soon. A lotus to you!