“Life at the AIAB – Building brotherhood sisterhood” is a web-bridge that connects the monastic and lay sangha with updates and sharings about the activities that happen at the AIAB. Life is always unfolding in a wonderful way at the AIAB as we learn to live, practice, study, work and play together. We hope to share the happiness, peace and brotherhood/sisterhood with everyone. Your practice and presence, near and far really nourishes us as we do our best to be here for you.
Song: Peace is the Way
of June, 2011 - Introduction
Dear Thầy and the beloved Hong Kong sangha!
For those who are new to our sangha, Lotus Pond Temple is just 'a hop and skip' from one of Hong Kong's most visited tourist sites, The Big Buddha of Po Lin Temple. It is nestled among the well preserved nature of Lantau Island, which is known as the spiritual root of Buddhism in Hong Kong as it has a number of very old monasteries and temples. Leaving the hectic tourist environment, and following a small trail left of the majestic stone entrance to the Big Buddha, one gets the impression of entering a very different world. It is immediately spacious, tranquil and serene. Like being able to leave behind the noise and pollution of city life, entering an oasis to drink and wash your face with cool fresh water.
Unexpectedly, Lotus Pond Temple has now become the ‘foundation stone’ of the Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism, AIAB. The Plum Village monastic sangha has recently moved into Lotus Pond Temple with brothers and sisters from different practicing centres all over the world, France, USA, Thailand, Vietnam and Australia. We have the four pioneering brothers (Br Pháp Khâm 法欽, Br Pháp Chung 法鐘, Br Pháp Chứng 法證 and Br Pháp Dũng 法勇) who began ‘cultivating the land' and sewing seeds for a monastic sangha to be possible. They had a humble beginning at the tiny down town apartment in Tsim Sha Tsui for the past two years. Now they have two new Vietnamese brothers, Br Pháp Hiên 法軒and Br Pháp Khoa 法跨 who have just come from the centre in Thailand to join them. The brothers are happily settling into Trúc Lâm (Bamboo Forest), which is just around the corner from the Lotus Pond Temple.
The Lotus Pond Temple, now the "foundation stone" of the AIAB
The sisters stay in the main temple building with Sr Quang Trung 光宗who had been here prior to our move into Lotus Pond. We are grateful for her help in looking after the temple and keeping it so beautiful. Before Thầy came to Hong Kong, there were three sisters, Sr Thuận Nghiêm 順嚴, Sr Nhẫn Nghiêm 忍嚴and Sr Tu Nghiêm 修嚴 who helped to prepare for Thầy's visit. After establishing the AIAB at the temple, there was an express recruitment of 3 new sisters from New Hamlet (Plum Village, France), Sr Hành Nghiêm 行嚴, Sr Sĩ Nghiêm 士嚴 and Sr Sinh Nghiêm 生嚴, followed by 2 other sisters from Vietnam, Sr Thần Nghiêm 神嚴 and Sr Thẩm Nghiêm 審嚴. Altogether we have a good monastic sangha of 14 members!
Brothers and sisters relaxing after a Day of Mindfulness at Trúc Lâm Bamboo Forest
Come! Allow us to share with you and take you into our daily lives at the AIAB.
A Special Lazy Week
On the 11th of May Thầy and the touring sangha left the AIAB to continue his journey to the EIAB (European Institute of Applied Buddhism) in Germany. Sr Thuận Nghiêm was anticipating some sadness, but was pleasantly surprised when we just continued on our daily activities as if Thầy was still around. This was because before they left, they made sure there was plenty of brotherhood/sisterhood energy to give us a good start. We enjoyed a beautiful walk and sunrise breakfast at the Kite Flying hill with Thầy, and together brothers and sisters sang songs of undertanding and love.
We had one week of ‘laziness’ for everyone to settle down, and the 3 newly arrived sisters from New Hamlet to settle in, Sr Hành Nghiêm, Sr Sĩ Nghiêm and Sr Sinh Nghiêm. We enjoy the practice of being ‘lazy’- not to do anything in particular, no projects and plans, but just to really enjoy being in the presence of our brothers and sisters while visiting different places for relaxation. For example, we visited Cheung Chau Island to enjoy a meal and had a swim at the beach. We walked around the streets and learnt a little about the Chinese culture.
Enjoying the streets of Cheung Chau Learning a little of Chinese culture
We were delighted that Sr Trăng Phương Nam’s mother and sister came to visit for a few days from Indonesia. On the first day her mother came with some sadness in her heart. But as we embraced her and her feelings, her kindheartedness and generosity bloomed. She cooked for us delicious Chinese and Indonesian meals with much ‘love spice’ added, just like a true mother!! And reciprocating the care Sr Nhẫn Nghiêm cooked up the special Vietnamese crêpe – bánh xèo for all to enjoy….hhhmmmm! Yenlis, Phương Nam’s sister took to the joyful collective energy and walking meditation in the tranquil morning like a fish in water. She looked so at home!
With so much love and joy among the serene mountain freshness, her mother and sister departed with smiles and moving tears, promising to return if Sr Phương Nam would come to stay at the Lotus Pond Temple.
Our “Joyfully Together Veggie Patch”
What a wonderful way to prepare for a rains retreat when we decided one day to start a vegetable garden. It must have been the direct transmission and continuation of our elder Sr Bảo Nghiêm coming through as we all warmed to the idea. For those who have visited New Hamlet, they would have tasted the lushes vegetables planted by Sr Bảo Nghiêm and other sisters in the green house. Clearing and cultivating the land was very enjoyable even if it was in the humid heat of summer and mosquito infested. It was as if we were clearing our body of tension, and cleared our mind so that we could have a fresh beginning. We looked into buying a small machine to cultivate the land, but it was way out of our budget!$$! So we decided to cultivate sisterhood as we turned the earth, and sowed seeds of togetherness and laughter. Our working mantra was, “享受, 不覺累” (“Enjoy, not tired! Ie. If we know how to enjoy our work, it will not be so tiring). Contemplating interbeing we savored and was energized by the yummy dishes that we would cook with the vegetables – gỏi cuốn, bún riêu, phở… Working joyfully together we already nourish our body and mind, and not have to wait for the harvest in order to benefit from the nutrition in the vegetables. Even the mosquitos enjoyed many meals on us!
Our elderly neighbour, Fon Cu 芳姑 was so inspired and tickled by our joyful presence that she joined in the fun every time we worked! Sr Thuận Nghiêm shared that when she first moved to Lotus Pond Temple, Fon Cu would rarely interact, much less laugh and talk with us. But now she joins us for walking meditation, and lively talks to us, speaking only Cantonese and helping us to learn the language! She is like an endearing grandma to us.
Maybe when you come to visit and practice with us, you might be able to taste the fresh, organic veggies from our garden!! It's such a luxury here in Hong Kong to be able to eat veggies straight from your own backyard! It nourishes our bodies as well as our spirits to see so clearly the inter-connectedness of our daily life to Mother Earth
The most special thing… By Br Pháp Dũng
Today really is my lazy day. I woke up at 11am and walked down to the yard in front of the building. I stood there, enjoying the singing of the birds. Everything seems to be gentle and quiet. Nobody was there, only me and the birds. I thought that the brothers had already gone out for hiking, but when I came upstairs, I figured out that they were doing their own work.
To live here in Bamboo Forest is a miracle. I have more than enough conditions to be happy. Coming up here I have a chance to be close to nature. There are mountains, hills, trees and so much space… Waking up in the morning, it is so quiet. I could hear the neighbouring temple’s fishdrum and chanting. But the most special thing is to have the sisters to live and practice with us. For the first few days when we just moved in, there was only Sr Thuận Nghiêm. We ate and worked together every day. I see her as a Dharma sister and also see her like my elder sister. I could feel the love from her. Every meal she tells us, “You should eat this. You should eat that”. I felt very touched by her care for us. Day by day, the number of sisters have increased. Now we have 8 sisters here. Everyone of them is a flower, I mean their spirit. They bring a lot of joy and happiness here. I wish you could come and experience it.
Now it is 12am. I have to go to sleep in order to wake up early tomorrow morning to see our beautiful sisters. Good night!