In response to the request from the Central Guiding Board Committee of the US Vietnamese Buddhist Family on contributing opinion to the discussing agenda of the VII General Assembly of the Family, I’m humbly permitted to send in this essay on a topic that would still be a great concern to the authorities who always pay a higher esteem to our Organization, its rejuvenation! In other words, the issue should be things we should do and how to realize them so that our Org could meet needs of our modern society and at the same time adapt to the thinking, orientation of the Vietnamese Youth, born or grown up here in the States which would be, in present time as well as in future, objectives of our Org.
I have had a lucky cause to be close to the Grey Shirt organization since the days in our old country and even now to some of its local units. Therefore, in my contribution, I am very proud of not being an “outsider”. Moreover, my very feelings and aspirations expressed openly in my small book “Deep love to Grey Shirts” are my love and expectation totally reserved to the Org I very much cherish.
In addition, in my presentation of the topic, I must state upon my position of a monk so that I could hardly avoid prejudice in view and judgment through a monastic outlook. On the other hand, I am begging readers of this account grant me only, in the Buddhist spirit of “context not words”, a chance to divulge some sincere utterances.
The extent of the topic is too vast and dotted with complexities very hard to be shortened in a brief, and as a monk, I will present it under the light of Holy Teachings depending on Buddhist analysis of cause and logic and proposal of possible solution.
Rejuvenation of the Org is not a challenge in development process to our Organization only, but also to others in the modern era. I am wishing Seniors, female and male as well, not simply obsessed with statement of mere rejuvenation of manpower cadre, i.e. replacement of aged officials by new promotion of younger ones in their places! Once this purpose attained after the closure of the Assembly, we could continue to pull “blanket over and sleep” or to ignore it and let the Org progress and catch up with modernism by itself! It should not be so sure, my gentle brothers and sisters! There’s plenty of thirties of age and under but their stubbornness and conservativeness prevail over many elders’.
The purpose of the strategy of rejuvenation aims at establishing a common acknowledge that could satisfy new requirements in order to push up effectiveness of the Org and not to review age gap of those are taking responsibilities in the framework. Because social environment positively keeps changing and spiritual needs of the Youth have to change into much more complication along the common trend, it is strongly required that the Org should accordingly adopt change and reform, the strategy of rejuvenation emerges in order to meet modern Youth needs and so they become objective of our Org.
Therefore whenever this acknowledge takes root, while young bear their responsibilities of promoting activities of the Org, elders, at the same time, with their accumulated experiences can contribute to the common cause. To attain this, I would think we need to understand, to seize and to carry out the following points like a road map to facilitate activities of the Org through the Rejuvenation strategy as an effort which, to my understanding, will mean modernizing the Family, that is to advance the Org closer to actual society and the modern Youth.
Consolidation of trust from the Youth to the Org:
The objective of our Org is to guide and train the Youth, born or grown up in America. So, as an institution of education and training for the youngsters, and in order to obtain higher results, investigation into society, family and educational school, and also into thinking, feeling, direction in the future of the Vietnamese young elements should regarded thoroughly with high priority, before putting forward any proposal to solution.
Trust –not only from the Youth- would only be established and made progress in an environment suitable to development. Any organization dedicated to serve the Youth, typically like an educational institution of our Buddhist Family, must be regularly reformed such that it could meet the above needs. So understood, amelioration of the Org and our activities in the direction of Rejuvenation should be mainly necessary strive that would contribute to consolidating trust from the Youth to the Org they love to stick to.
Among those strives there’s one aiming at building up and maintaining trust from the Young to the Org is to nourish and expand feelings that link all members of the same Org. These feelings grow stronger in working place relationships or together activities. Proofs must be found in real life. Once I witnessed a cake baking training session of a women unit at a pagoda; I realized of a lovely sisterhood among participants through guides, advices from seniors to young, “please get some flour over there for me and pour down to the pan only some tens of spoons”. Oh! Such so sweet, lovely commands are there! They must be words from older sis to younger one, or a family mother. For me, so formed feelings of solidarity, to the younger ones, bear the catalyst yeast effect that could create an atmosphere full of zeal in activity or works. They are like glue biding them to their unit and to the Org.
So in order to build up trust from individual to the group, nothing could do more than to promote closeness, spirit of collective union and mutual support among elements of the Org like indispensable factors to the ever existence and growth of the community.
However, the above feelings could not be formed without decisive valuable contribution from the senior. I must remind of the spirit of service and the quality of sacrifice from all levels of seniors. It must be the same voluntarism of service as from the Scouts, so any senior of the Buddhist Family could be endowed with ready made spirit of sacrifice, of engagement to the common heritage. That must be a strong point of our Org. Proverb “eat our own food to carry ivory tusks for mandarins” won’t fully and exactly describe the meaning of service to the benefits of multitude of the senior. It does not truly talk about carrying a bunch of bamboo leaves on his or her shoulders, but a responsible contribution to cultivate, educate members of one or many assorted younger generations. With this understanding, we could trust in each other. We oblige to protect each other, love each other, in spite of any circumstance or living condition, we still have to encourage, give out mutual support in our way of learning and practicing holy teachings.
New concepts on studying and practicing under renewal view
In a so active society like American one, it must be a difficult onus to select an activity model effective for our Buddhist Family Organization, while not considering reform the Organization, suitable to needs and present movement in modern time and this vision would be always put in front of our eyes. On account of Youth needs, Our Organization has been put in existence, so its continuation of existence and expansion seems to depend on whether it could adapt to and satisfy their needs. Because learning looks like “an against current boat, if not in advance, it should be ceding” , by law of survival being obsolete or decaying without exception, if we are not adapted to modern requirements and could not speed up our pace to everybody advancement.
To cope with difficulties or challenges to the Org, we, as Buddha’s children, foremost have to recur to True Dharma or teachings for our thinking and action. The spirit of Rules-Tranquility-Clairvoyance of Buddhism would illuminate and help us to be awareness of true nature of the issue for possible measures necessary to solve it. Obtaining this, for us, it must result from a history of practice. Practice must be considered indispensable to the spiritual and inner life of everyone; but to gain good effects, it should be carried out regularly and diligently. Because social condition and activity environment would affect conception and consciousness of every individual, individual regular practice must be necessary and decisive steps for self correcting, maintaining and observing required qualification of a Buddha’s child. In efforts to practice, we have opportunity to review, re-examine our selves, and by this, we could recognize involved bad habits, weaknesses. Lie for example. Without practicing, this habit could have good circumstance and condition to infect. Talking about everything and irresponsibly, some time leads to quarrel, sows mistrust, discord among the collective. Who is practicing could prevent this bad habit since its birth in the mind.
In addition, the spirit of rejuvenation of the Org strictly requires, from us all, cutting out subjective individual assumption, prejudice, rooted fixed opinion in order to be ready and open to new point of view in tolerance and accord. These above requirements must be what an ardent practitioner should aspire to implement in life. So, in the eyes of a monk who is used to high regard practice, practicing regularly and gaining specific level for every element, regardless of plain membership or senior leadership, would mean a Primary and Decisive Step in the process of rejuvenating the Org.
From here, dear gentle women and men seniors, dare I to propose to you all, let’s proceed one more step in practicing efforts, please exert your mindfulness to receive Ten Good rules. It should be the ruler measuring practice ability and also an evidence of improved capability of a responsible senior in the Org.
Renewal of means and contents of activities: Means and contents of activities of a group or an organization must be precise tools to evaluate their capability and effectiveness. However, on account of its complexity, project writer would find very hard to immediately come to conclusion on the effectiveness of its proposed means and contents. Therefore, on this issue, we have to continue to learn, research, experiment appropriate models that include screening the results from models presently in use.
At present time, the directive to rejuvenate can be stressed upon regulating reforms of means and contents of activity in the Buddhist Family in two operations:
(1) To encourage more positive participation from every member into activities and working shops
(2) To promote mutual assistance and presently existing understanding from inside the Org.
Because these two points imply a great deal of complexity, examples should be put forward for my reasoning.
The first of all would be the weekly honoring the flag. In time custom becomes almost tradition; the part “story under the flag” of the unit would roll out impetuously in front of standstill formation of the unit and the speaker does his duty with great dignity. The host likes to look on this occasion to review discipline of the group and witness leadership talents of seniors, while overlooking the closeness among fellow members which should be encouraged to become factor that could necessitate voluntary discipline of the Org. I merely think that, in those gathering as such, in spite of an elder senior put out imposing commands as an unit commander “ Today I remind to all seniors, in incoming week, we have to carry out notice No… “, that would make all members blow out long weary sighs! Of course, list of to-does must be proclaimed but only to seniors section. It is merely appropriate in front of the whole unit for the aged senior to calmly tell the youngsters like such “dear young, this morning, it happened that I was out into the garden, not paying much attention, I was entangled with branches, my wrists had been hurt, by chance anyone of you is carrying green healing oil in your backpack (tiger brand), please give me a little. You should remember this. At home, when your parents aged as I am doing, fall down, and their hands or feet hurt, bring forward the oil to them”. As an elder in the family, the aged senior talks to the young and skillfully reminds them of the lesson of a good child. They would feel very closer to the aged senior, particularly in appellation politeness, he could be older brother of their father. They would feel like they entertain themselves together in a big family circle. The atmosphere of an activity session is for us to create and maintain.
To eat well, to sleep tight are wonderful things
Cannot eat, cannot sleep are wasteful and anxious
This achieved, we reach half way in the process of rejuvenation. It should not be boastful to say as such. For our heart is cheerful, happy, we could be fervent to advance our steps on our White Lotus Path. Should it be too extremely optimistic, when I am thinking of a special case of a member who had registered into the Family since his childhood and is keeping to wear his Grey Shirt, put on his lotus pin and come to the Org with loose teeth and white hair, that’s master Pho H. at present time. What we have to do to make my dream come true, and for succeeding decades, the Family would still be a reliable educational institution at which the Youth would approach and look up?
Secondly, what the rejuvenation does reveal would be that in reality, even in our Org, there is not so small number of minor age members, namely oriole chicks, who not fort at their mother tongue, would be patient enough to attend activities or ceremonies, some reserved only for them, and Vietnamese is solely spoken language! They could not, of course, understand what are expressed in speeches or talks and it would be funny enough when praise reserved for them, they could not get it. I think our concerns are still with them, but in this case, we had forgotten them completely. By this, once I had to show my wholesome emotion totally out in public, when witnessing an aged senior in the former Senior Group who was trying to exchange in English in an activity session, for he recognized many young members could not understand Vietnamese.
I knew he felt awfully hard with difficulties, common uneasiness, if anyone were thrown in similar situation, but he had tried his best for generations after him could reach his mindful heart and feelings totally dedicated to the Org for which the young should be true representatives. In my point of view, his deeds must bear the imprint meaning of trustful contribution; he had dug out all his forces and resources for the Org. It does mean more when recognizing that he had behaved in contacts with rear generations born rather long after him, in a spirit of being equal and open. He had conducted a sweet approach to younger with an attitude which, customarily, would not be an initiative or an approval from elders. So, it seems logical that he should be regarded a person of great willingness who had cleared way for the rejuvenation to start.
These above are some typical exemplars in a multitude of thousand of complex aspects from reform of means and contents in the process of rejuvenation. It should be too long to go into further details. I would postpone its deep development under another topic “Reform program and method or way of conducting activity and practice by learning” which I believe my “colleagues” such as Mr. Tam P. (Chanh Duc, Fremont) and Tam Giac T. (Huyen Quang) would develop in their writings (otherwise, I would bring my car to your premises for your “up street” ).
What do we really wish? I like to share with you a meditative saying I had learnt in a meditation station at Xom Ha, Lang Mai (Lesser hamlet, Mai Village) in1985, that is Duc An Đắc An (Cherish Peace Get Peace). It means if you want peace, you’ll get peace. The content of this saying is not wordy, but it’s total truth; because to Buddhist spirit, all feelings and concepts of an individual must take origin from his own Mind. Mind creates thousands of dharma, all forms and shapes. Therefore in order to obtain true conscious knowledge and true conscious feelings toward outside world, we have to clearly and thoroughly look at things and to be mindfully aware of things and what is truly happening. At this moment, by applying above principles before raising the issue that is, in the end, what we all really want from the Buddhist Family Organization? What an individual wants must bear individuality or privacy marks, but from all people of the same ideal, aspirations would reflect common wishes for a collective. What we want is not easy to obtain. It must result from a lingering patient process of practice by learning of an individual who takes our Family as a medium for his or her practices and training. I want to talk about the point of time when Clarity and Happiness come to everyone’s mind. No marks of anxiety, of prejudice left over, and mind will reach clairvoyance. Mind of peace is a reflection of peaceful shining moon. And mind enjoys of true happiness whenever a good deed benefits society and others. Good thing takes thousand forms and happiness find many occasions to begin. My happy thing is to collect trash after every Sunday afternoon activities or after an offering session at pagoda. It’s happier when walking around the pagoda with the trash bin, or getting help from a hand of heart in a school. It must be the spirit of great Compassion from colleagues. Working together side by side starts magnificent closeness feelings. Love does exist in everyday life, as Buddha taught: I am living in mundane life. In hatred, I am living without hate.
Works of rejuvenating our Buddhist Family Organization are designed when appear needs of modernizing indispensable to the survival and expansion of many agencies. The above works do not aim at and limit to rejuvenation of personnel, but stress upon starting a new process for conscious knowledge. This new process would attain expected results only by efforts made by individual in practicing with learning or in other word, individual practice by learning must be essence of the rejuvenation process of the Organization.
For suggestion of new ideas for discussion, I’ll pick up some following specific points revealed so far in my development of the topic:
1. For seniors rank, we should not be shy to advance in practicing Buddhist Teachings by studying them. Be determined to observe Ten Good Rules and beyond, we need at least 24 days of practice by learning every year to nurture altruist mind of Boddhicitta, to add up “body control for better life rules” concerning spiritual life. Further consideration of additional regulations for senior when promoted should be done and the practice by learning must be regarded as a strong weight in promotion review.
2. For members, let’s give them new equipment by inserting English language in activity and ceremony. We have many English documents from Deer Park Sangha or Buddhist clergy as well as from Buddhist meditation centers in America to select for our use. For example, after Regrets Sutra, we can read aloud English translation for the young to understand its deep meaning and content of the ceremony session and commitment.
The added English part and any amendment to the content or religious activity rituals, and adolescent education have only one purpose of helping young members, who are not fluent in Vietnamese, not to be confused and lost while participating in those events. This should not be considered as a violation of bylaws or are outside or beyond authorities of the Org. For example, in Luc Hoa meal to celebrate Grey Shirt Love reunion, not a complaint was made against rice from Thailand, cabbage from Costa Rica and bananas from remote Guatamala!
Above are merely thinking and proposals which would still be simple, rude and gross and should be presented in the Assembly like a flint stone for new suggestion of ideas. Any advice from gentle audience, from true good intelligentsia would be very welcomed and author is very obliged to thousand thanks.
Great success to the General Assembly and we wish we could always enjoy of peace and happiness under the light of Golden Path.