Dancing, smiles, unity at 63rd Obon Fest

By CODY GLENN, The Daily Journal, July 28, 2008

UPPER DEERFIELD, NJ (USA) -- Late in the evening, the lines between performers and onlookers vanished at the 63rd annual Obon Memorial Folk Dance Festival as the always-popular audience participation dance got under way.

<< Members of the Hoh Daiko drum troupe perform on their drums during the festival

More than 300 audience members, wearing T-shirts and shorts, left the safety of their lawn chairs Saturday evening to join performers in flowing yakutas, or summer kimonos, on the matted-down grass and dance as one.

"At least for one day everyone comes together and smiles," said Seabrook Buddhist Temple Assistant Minister Linda Shinchi Engstrom. "The energy is different out here for the entire day. It's hard to put into words."

Obon is a time to give thanks to generations past while remaining focused on the present.

"We're here to express gratitude to our ancestors," Engstrom said. "I don't know all the people who built this temple, but because they did, I can attend and lead services now."

For 62-year-old Shizu Grieve, the annual festival on the Seabrook Buddhist Temple grounds was a coming of age of sorts.

"I've been coming since I was 3 or 4," Grieve said. "It has changed a lot. There used to be a much larger Japanese community, but as they grew, a lot go wherever a job will take them."

Like many in her generation, Grieve grew up in Seabrook moving to Delaware for work, but said she never forgets her roots in the hamlet. On Saturday, she rejoined the Seabrook-based Hoh Daiko drumming troupe, keeping some of the younger members energized and in time.

"It feels great to be out there," Grieve said. "There are some nerves, but once you start playing it all goes away. We stay traditional, but also incorporate some of the Japanese-American songs, too."

The event also included the nationally recognized Soh Daiko drummers from New York City and Nen Daiko, based out of Washington, D.C.

"The drumming is number one," said Engstrom. "We have incredible drummers."

Engstrom could be found inside the temple, leading a lecture on Buddhism alongside the Rev. Naoki Kono, or hopping in on the large traditional group folk dance.

"People want to hear a little bit about Buddhism," Engstrom said. "It's a simple way to live your life. Buddhism speaks to my heart -- it makes sense. I hope people come away with the desire to come back and learn more."

As a transition between the lively evening performances, attendees could steal away to the temple's meditation garden and take a moment to reflect.

There, Chris Brunner of Hoboken, who came on a bus with members of the New York Buddhist Church, enjoyed the tranquil setting around the fish pond before he joined in the group folk dance.

"I try to catch as many Japanese festivals as possible," Brunner said. "These occasions are always twofold: the serious and joyful. It's mainly about having fun, but behind that there are the Buddhist observances."

Also in the meditation garden, a younger generation of Japanese performers -- 14-year-old Danielle Pierce and friends from Deerfield with the Seabrook Minyo Dancers -- spent time relaxing before the big show.

"Since I was born, I've been coming," Pierce said. "It's lively and bright. I'm just excited to dance."

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv