Chinese New year celebrated at Nan Hua Temple
On the eve of 30 January 2014, local Chinese gathered at Nan Hua Temple to enter the new lunar year in traditional Chinese style.
Chinese New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday celebrated at the turn of the Chinese calendar. In China, it is also known as the Spring Festival, the literal translation of the modern Chinese name, Nian festival. The New Year is celebrated on the first new moon of the New Year. This year is the Year of the Horse according to Chinese customs.
The Abbot of Nan Hua Temple, Venerable Hui Fang, opened the doors at 23h30 and the celebrations started with a service that included paying homage to a thousand Buddhas. The traditional incense offering led to the chanting of the Heart Sutra after which the chant of the prayer to all Buddhas took place followed by the attendees taking Refuge in the Triple Gem and the Transference of Merit.
Venerable Hui Fang led the proceedings and read the prayer for the New Year written by the founder of Fo Guang Shan, Master Hsing Yun. Venerable Yi Chun shared a very inspiring message for the upcoming year and also recalled some past memories.
Our sincere apologies to those who did not receive the message that there would be no event on 31 December 2013 at the Temple due to the passing of Madiba. Chinese New Year will be celebrated as usual on 2 February 2014 from 9h30 to 15h00 with a cultural festival. Nan Hua Temple will celebrate New Year 2015 in its usual way on 31 December 2014.
The illuminating Light of the Buddha continues to shine even to areas situated quite far away from Nan Hua Temple. The blessings of the Buddha and its teachings of compassion and giving, has spearheaded life-changing experiences to people that not had the privilege of gaining skills such as the ability to use computers. The program, which was originally intended to assist the community around the Temple in Bronkhorstspruit, has now reached people 600 kilometres away and is still going strong.
The launch of new computer lab in Giyani on 13 December 2013 proved a very valuable early Christmas present for the Giyani community. This fully-furnished computer lab with well-trained computer skills facilitators and state-of-the-art computers is situated in the rural Makosha village. The classes are offered free of charge. 15 computers were handed over to the Vongani Skills Development Centre in order to provide much-needed computer training to the previously disadvantaged people of the Giyani community.
Venerable Hui Xing, Nan Hua Temple’s Manager, blessed the occasion with his heartfelt speech, when he reminded the community that, the hardship, lack of skills, poverty and their desire to develop and grow both financially and personally, is felt by the people at the Temple 600kms away. In answer to this, the 15 computers were installed and the first 30 beneficiaries were graduating. He continued saying that, through the Buddha’s compassion and the willpower of the people of Giyani to acquire knowledge in the future, more and more centres like this will be opened and more and more people will have a chance to gain the knowledge, enabling them to kick-start their life. The crowd applauded joyfully and celebrated loudly. Lastly, he reminded the graduates to be role models for those who will follow and to encourage others to make use of this great opportunity to enable them to also give back to the community.
Mrs Mathonsi, founder of the centre, shared the history of Vongani Skills Development Centre and its dealings with Nan Hua Temple. She recalled her request for 20 wheelchairs, which were delivered in 2009 and another 15 wheelchairs, which were delivered earlier this year by the Temple. Through this unconditional assistance from the Temple, she realised that religious boundaries are mere illusions, as we all strive to reach the same goal; hence, she has so much respect for the Buddhism and what it stands for. She encouraged the community of Giyani to see for themselves what Buddhism can do for their community.
She reminded the community about compassion shown by the Temple and said that they should ask themselves that if, for example, their neighbour’s child wants to come and learn to use the computer in their house, would they allow that without worrying ‘what if this or that would’ happen. “Now look at the Buddhist community from far away, who just presented us with gifts without ‘what ifs’, she concluded.
Lastly, Chief of Homu, the traditional leader, on behalf of the community of Giyani, thanked the Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) for the wonderful gift presented to their people. He assured the Temple that the computers were in good hands; that the community will look after and cherished it. He also said that the community will be encouraged to not only learn from the heart, but also apply what they learn to improve their life lives rapidly. He welcomed the graduates back to the community and reiterated that they must use the skills they gained to be more useful to themselves as well as the community of Giyani as a whole.
These were the words said by Mebby Sipopo, as she addressed her Pastel Payroll classmates at the graduation ceremony held at Nan Hua Temple’s gallery area on 8 November 2013. She continued by saying that their three-month marathon journey of classroom study, homework and learning almost daily, still made them anxious - especially at the beginning of their studies - about whether they will be able to make it or not. But through their own patience and hard work, and the effort of their facilitators, they knew soon knew they will make it. No matter what, the success is coming their way - and indeed today they were rewarded with their accomplishment and held with pride their PASTEL PAYROLL CERTIFICATES.
Representing the last intake from Limpopo, Miss Judith Mahlodi thanked the Buddha Light International Association (BLIA) for all three years of continually assisting the indigenous people, especially the youth of Monsterrus, Mpumalanga. Many of these youths could have been still without the vital computer skills, mainly because of lack of money, but the BLIA, with its dedicated staff made sure that this is not going to happen. It is up to them now to go out there and assist others and not only look for paid jobs, but also volunteering can help them to gain experience, as well as introduce them to the work environment. Well done BLIA!!!
Eddy Tshabalala, a former student from our computer centre in Zithobeni, used this occasion to pass the message of determination and faith to the graduates. He urged the graduates to be very determined in what they want to achieve, as well as have faith in what they believe is right. As these two phenomena are the source of courage and strength that we need, to propel our lives into greater career heights.
Venerable Hui Xing, delivering the keynote address, emphasised the need for acquiring experience and for using one’s experience to learn even greater things in life. He gave the graduates Buddha’s Blessings and invited them to come back to Nan Hua Temple and NHA as guests any time, to share their future progress and success.
The most memorable camp of the year
As expected, the Nan Hua Temple African Children’s Camp ran smoothly. The children arrived with their eyes filled with excitement, anticipation, curiosity and the determination to learn. The two-day camp was a whole new experience for these less fortunate children that came from informal settlements and orphanages. The volunteers for the camp arrived a day before just to make sure the activities were interesting, organised and that the children will have an amazing time on the camp.
Upon arrival, the children were greeted by a group of warm hearted volunteers that were ready and willing to spend their time and pour their hearts out to take care of them. The children were arranged into groups according to their ages, with the help of the volunteers; the children created their own war cries and group names for their individual group. Each war cry and group name was unique and original. The children sang and danced with glee, bonding amongst their fellow group members and participated in the whole activity energetically and happily. Even as a group, each member performed outstandingly.
During the opening ceremony, Venerable Hui Xing introduced the concept of the three good deeds to the children. Speak good words, do good deeds and to possess a good heart. The children listened intently, and nodded in agreement, to the words of the Master and took every word to heart. They were introduced to their camp president, Josephine, and vice camp president, Thabang, who both were very enthusiastic about the camp.
The children were taught meal etiquette and they adapted very quickly. The meals were delicious and after each meal, the children always carried a blissful and content smile on their face. The activities for the rest of the first day were fulfilling and fun packed. Activities on the first day tested and push them to use their ability to the fullest; they played games that required good communication and teamwork such as the three-legged race. During their art lesson, they had to tell a story through their drawings. They were creative, optimistic and cooperative with the challenges that they had to face. Each group’s work was exceptionally well presented and impressed the volunteers.
The following evening, they were given a life orientation lesson on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), rights and responsibilities, how to dial Child Help Line and how to make the right life choices. They listened and concentrated in the lesson that proved again that they were eager to learn. The life orientation lesson provided knowledge that the children can relate to and apply in real life situations. The life orientation was enriching for the children to enable them to grow and also to absorb more general knowledge, which they need in their respective communities.
The second and the last day of camp started at the break of dawn. The children went out and enjoyed a healthy, morning exercise session. They then had a wonderful and nutritious breakfast made by the volunteers. After breakfast, they had an interesting lesson of basic sign language, which they enjoyed a lot. The events for the day were more physical activities where the children played games outdoors with tennis balls and water. The treasure hunt, being more challenging and a very interactive activity, really got the children to think for themselves. Before starting the treasure hunt, the children were given an inspirational speech by Sizwe, one of the volunteers and a teacher during the camp. Sizwe told them to follow their dreams, the importance of hard work, to stay strong and determined and not to let any one’s words put them down. They were also taught that giving up is never an option; they just had to keep trying until they succeed.
After the treasure hunt, the camp slowly drew to an end. During the final event, Venerable Hui Xing delivered the closing speech, praising the children for behaving so well and following all the rules that they were taught during the course of the camp. All the children raised their hand high up in the air when Venerable Hui Xing asked who would come back for the African Children camp next year. It was a definite indication that this year’s camp really made an impact on and difference for the children. Each group sent up one representative to reflect on the past 2 days and what they enjoyed most of the camp. Most children said that they enjoyed the food; they thanked the volunteers and masters sincerely for making the camp happen and for making it fun. One of the kids said that he’ll definitely be at Nan Hua Temple for the next camp and said that he was looking forward to it.
The groups were also given prizes. The group with the highest points got to choose their prizes first. The points were awarded and deducted from the groups according to neatness, creativity, teamwork, manners and discipline. The children were delighted with their prizes that included bags filled with stationeries and other little things that they needed. Some of the children’s smiles were so wide that it stretched from one ear to the other. The smiles on the children’s faces helped ease the exhaustion of the volunteers and made all the long preparations worthwhile.
After saying the final goodbyes, the children left for home. The children didn’t want to leave but, unfortunately, had to as the end is always inevitable; when there’s a beginning there’ll always be an end.
The camp was a success thanks to the hardworking, dedicated and experienced volunteers that come year after year to help. The children managed to make new friends, learn a bit of Buddhism and they were also more knowledgeable compared to when they first arrived.
Throughout the camp, the children also became more aware of their own potential and were more confident about themselves with help of their peers and the volunteers. They’ve grown over the course of just two days. They became more mature, understanding of others and disciplined. The volunteers were proud that the children flourished under their care and also look forward to seeing these children for next year’s African Children’s camp, which will take place next year at the end of June.