Temple event offers reflection, new beginnings

By Karen Rubin, Staff Writer, San Gabriel Valley Newspapers, Jan 8, 2005

HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. (USA) -- Pounding rainfall could not keep them away from the Hsi Lai Temple. Hundreds of guests from around the East San Gabriel Valley walked through the temple's gateway of Chinese characters to learn about Buddhism, and pray for world peace and the victims of the tsunami.

To date, the temple has raised $100,000 locally for relief efforts in those countries hit by one of the largest natural disasters in history, said Venerable Miao Hsi.

The temple opened its gates so others could learn the meaning of a Chinese tea ceremony, calligraphy, origami and a light offering ceremony. Teachers showed guests how to make a Chinese poster in brush and ink, craft a red-envelope lantern and calm the mind during meditation.

"You learn about Buddhism and its communication," said Milton Sklut of Hacienda Heights, who says he is Jewish. "It also increases understanding between ethnic groups. Look around. There are Latinos and Asians."

Sklut says he visits often because he finds it peaceful and non-intrusive.

"If (you) go to a synagogue or church, someone is always trying to convert you," he said.

The temple monks send out invitations to residents, teachers and other officials annually as a part of a cultural exchange.

On Saturday, hundreds filled a golden shrine of three Buddhas with flickering candles during the service. It was the height of the day before a communal meal.

"We can all get along," said Master Hsing Yun in Chinese. "Don't be mindful of past grudges. We have to let go of the past. This is a new year."

During the daylong event, many visitors took part in the Chinese tea ceremony. They drank hot tea made from full tea leaves steeped in miniature pots. Ching Chausse, whose delicate hands poured the tea, explained the ceremonial meaning to her guests sitting around a large table.

"Drink the tea as you close your eyes, and feel the tea going down," she said. "This is a time to calm yourself down. It is a form of meditation."