Buddhist temple reaches out with Obon Festival

By Eleanor Yang Su, Sign on San Diego, July 26, 2009

VISTA, CA (USA) -- Members of the Vista Buddhist Temple rolled out the welcome mat at their annual Obon Festival yesterday with musical and dance performances, mushroom tastings and a discussion on Buddhist teachings.

The event, which continues today, is an annual celebration of ancestors and loved ones who have died. And that was very much on the minds of many, especially during the traditional Bon Odori dance.

The temple's aging membership has dwindled to about 80 people in the past decade, and organizers are using events like the festival and new classes to reach out to spiritual seekers.

They are not alone.

The Buddhist Temple of San Diego has witnessed a drop from roughly 350 members a decade ago to 250 now. Though not actively recruiting, temple president Joyce Teague said the temple has been offering introduction to Buddhism classes for the past several years, and planning social events for those interested in Japanese culture and religion.

The number of American Buddhists has remained relatively flat in the past several years at 1.2 million, according to a 2008 survey by Trinity College. Adults who were raised Buddhists have been leaving the faith, researchers say, likely the result of intermarriage, complex teachings and a tolerance of other faiths. New members tend to be converts.

Consider Rosalyn Dong. Raised in a fundamentalist Christian family, Dong joined the Vista Buddhist Temple two years ago after reading Buddhist books and attending the Obon Festival. Dong said Buddhist teachings of love, kindness and compassion appealed to her.

“From the first time I visited, it just felt so warm and so loving,” said Dong, a retired elementary school principal. “It's just felt like home.”

Dozens of people stopped by a Buddhist discussion at the temple yesterday, asking questions about the philosophy and the differences between the various Buddhist sects.

Jon Turner, a minister's assistant, talked about how all Buddhists believe that life is flowing and interdependent, but their processes and practices differ.

Several festival participants said afterward they don't plan to convert to Buddhism, but found the session informative.

“I really enjoyed it,” said Gloria Darovic, a registered nurse from Oceanside and a practicing Catholic. “I think it's important in life to be open to different ideas.”

Temple President Terri Omori said the point is to educate, not to convert people. In an effort to reach out, the temple will offer classes in August that explore the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, and examine the Buddhist philosophy in contemporary pop songs by The Beatles, U2 and others.

“People are coming at an older age and they want to learn about the religion,” Omori said.

By mid-afternoon, a few hundred people had visited the festival. They ate teriyaki chicken and sushi, listened to a performance of traditional Japanese musical instruments, and shopped for bonsai trees and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Obon Festival
When: Noon to 8 p.m. today
Where: Vista Buddhist Temple, 150 Cedar Road
Admission: Free
Fare: Dance and Taiko drum performances, food and beverage booths, and shopping

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