Since the start of this year, we have already visited the Fo Guang Shan Guang Ming Temple of Orlando twice. The first was on January 31, for the Lamp Offering Completion Dharma Service, the very first full Dharma service that I have ever attended. Until then, I had only accompanied Wify to these Dharma services but usually stayed in the library to catch up on my reading. However, since I have registered, I felt duty-bound to attend these Dharma services in person. And that I did on January 31 this year, participating in chanting (silently) and the prostration and circum-ambulation, which I thought would aggravate my knee problem (hence my preferred seating meditation, on a chair that is instead of cross-legged). But apparently my apprehension, and hence reluctance to exert any form of pressure on my knees, was ill-founded. And my knees actually felt pretty good. Perhaps it's because of the short-term periodic flexing of the knees, rather than the long period of sitting cross-legged, that did the trick on the mind, I rationalized.
Anyway, the Lamp Offering Completion, as the name suggests, is the completion of the Lamp Offering initiated early last year during the Lunar New Year of 2009 so as to bring light to every corner of the world by praying for world peace, blessings, and good fortune in the coming year.
The on Feb 28, we participated in the Lamp Offering Dharma Service for the Lunar Year of 2010, which constituted our second trip. By now this Orlando trip has become a yearly pilgrimage for us. This year, though, we stayed on in the afternoon and visited the Chinese Cultural Arts Exhibition held at the temple in the afternoon.
Of the many events that were hosted, we particularly enjoyed the Tea Ceremony and Chinese Calligraphy demonstration. The Tea Ceremony was conducted by Mr. Bao, who hailed from Hong Kong. The surprising thing is that he learned the trade purely out of personal interest, and perhaps as a way to cope with the stresses brought about by the hustle and bustle that we euphemistically call life, and he often indulges in discoursing on life's issues with his wife in the unhurried comfort of home over a pot of freshly-brewed tea.
The calligrapher is Roy, who hails from China, and is presently a visiting lecturer in a college in Orlando. He especially revers the late Venerable Hong-I, as reflected in the pseudonym, literally translated as Respect for Venerable Hong-I, that he uses. In our conversation, he has expressed his wish to propagate Chinese Buddhist Calligraphy, a unique style of Chinese Calligraphy as evidenced from the various great calligraphy pieces by the great Buddhist monks on display in the Temple, the late Venerable Hong-I included.
Here then is a pictorial account of the above activities, some appearing as a collage of images, and a sample of Buddhist Arts and Calligraphy that even a casual visitor to the Fo Guang Shan temple in Orlando will not miss and likely be held in awe, not only by the easy flow of Chinese Calligraphy, the simple and yet delightful statuettes, but more importantly, the various Buddhist themes on the simple joy of life, on living at the moment, and on mindfulness embodied in these great Buddhist Arts.
The facade of Buddhist architecture welcomes visitor to its compound (top) and main shrine (bottom), with enhanced gaiety afforded by the hanging red lanterns in celebration of the Lunar New Year.
The Lamp Offering Completion Dharma service held on Jan 31 ended with a Dharma delivery by venerable Chueh Fan (top) and the Lamp Offering Dharma service for the current Lunar Year (2010) in progress on Feb 28 (bottom).
The tea lounge setting for the tea ceremony (top) and Mr. Bao, the tea master for the day, demonstrating and explaining the intricate details of brewing tea of various hues with English translation provided by a Fo Guang Shan volunteer.
Mr. Bao demonstrating the art of tea tasting by keeping the sip of tea in the mouth, breath contained, letting the tea fragrance linger, and then gradually releasing the tea fragrance through the nostrils.
Roy engrossed in writing the Chinese character for Tiger, in commemoration of the Year of the Tiger that is 2010, creatively curving the last stroke to mimic the tiger's tail (top) and demonstrating the easy strokes to write the Chinese character for the Buddha, primarily for the benefit of westerners who may be alien to the Chinese calligraphy strokes. The completed calligraphy pieces on colored papers spread in front of him illustrate several scripting styles that amplify the richness of Chinese calligraphy (bottom).
Roy penning his fervent wish, Chinese calligraphy style, to propagate the Art of Chinese Buddhist calligraphy with his pseudonym assumed in deference to the late Venerable Master Hong-I appearing on the bottom left.
Four-character verses of prosperity, cultivation of compassion and wisdom, and doing virtuous deeds, usually written top down on red paper, make for a favorite display item during the Lunar New Year. The left is by Venerable Grand Master Wei Chueh of the Chung Tai Chan Monastery and the two to the right are by the late Venerable Grand Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain.
These are by Venerable Master Tsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan, written by him over the years. This collection and the one above now adorn the walls of our living room.
This is the Heart Sutra in Chinese, 260 characters in all, written on bamboo sheet by the late Venerable Master Hong-I.
These couplets of seven characters each, adorn the four walls of the dining hall in Fo Guang Shan Temple, all related to the theme of vegetarianism, plain cooking that is easy on our body but Dharma bliss for our mind.
Painting of Sramanera (Sanskrit meaning young Buddhist novice) holding various objects of learning (top) and a pair of Sramanera holding an alms bowl as piggybank sitting on top a shelf at our home. After the sojourn at our home, they will return to their rightful home at Fo Guang Shan Temple, in a brim-ful state, of loose change that is (bottom), twice a year, one on the Buddha's Birthday in May, and the other, the lunar year end. They are cute to look at, compassion-inspiring to fill up, and fulfilling to be parted with.
Chinese Buddhist calligraphy mixed with pictogram that exhorts giving, simple living, mindfulness, and ease of mind. The left two are the Chinese calligraphy works of Venerable Master Tsing Yun, the bottom epitomizing his wish to shine the Buddha Light (literal translation of Fo Guang) across the five continents to benefit all sentient beings. The bottom right, themed the fragrance of the tea, embodies the serene state of letting things flow and just enjoying the fragrant scent of tea lingering on the tongue.
Be joyous in all occasions (top), and free willing (bottom) as expressed through Buddhist cartoon drawings of the famous fabric bag (literal translation from Chinese) monk and a Sramanera riding the baby whale. The legendary monk got its nickname from the big fabric bag that was slung over his shoulder and was purported to contain all he ever needed. Armed with his trademarked open-mouthed hearty laughs and his rotund pot belly, he sleeps wherever he is, often dispensing enlightened exhortations to listeners who, out of ignorance, often treat them as wise cracks. He is said to be the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha (translated loosely from the Chinese Baidu encyclopedia website).
These are the statuettes of Sramanera in various depictions of practicing simple life, leading life in the moment by focusing on the task at hand, and cultivating mindfulness that dot the compound of the Fo Guang Shan temple in Orlando, a constant and vivid reminder to visitors and lay Buddhist practitioners to follow such observance.
Many more of the above, indicating that life can indeed be that simple if only we rid ourselves of cravings and delusions.