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Why Do I Like Going to Hoang Phap Pagoda on Tet Holiday?

Update: 22/02/2013
Going around districts of Ho Chi Minh City on the ten-pagoda trip on New Year days, we attained much of emotion; generally mixing with pleasure and sadness. Pleasure is that going to the temple is an opportunity for us to clear our body and mind, bathing in the peace and calmness of the meditation places, is an opportunity for us to pray for our wishes and mind with hearted incense; sadness is because we dissatisfied with some places we had visited.
 

Why Do I Like Going to Hoang Phap Pagoda on Tet Holiday?

 
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However, it is lucky for us that the joy overwhelmed the\r\nsadness, and the joy increased multifold when we arrived in Hoang Phap pagoda,\r\nlocated in Tan Hiep Commune, Hoc Mon District, Ho Chi Minh City. A temple has\r\nleft a deep impression on even friends and me at the first visit. If you come\r\nhere on Tet holiday, you will find hundreds of thousands of people visiting the\r\nBuddhist place.

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What attraction has created this impressive number? On this\r\narticle, I would like to share my true feelings and what I saw and heard on\r\nspring trip to Hoang Phap with a number of features following as:

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1. Hygiene

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As you come to the other’s house, things that most interest\r\nthing you observe must be a clean house, or how tidy is it to decorate the\r\nthings in the house? Thereby, you can also assess the host’s personality, going\r\nto the temple too. The scene of the temple expressed the abbot’s mind and\r\nvision, which is known as the Buddhist saying, "Mind shows\r\nappearance", and it means how the mind is the same as the appearance.

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My first feeling when entering Hoang Phap Pagoda is a\r\nwide-open space, clean, has little trash, without the mess of the landscape.\r\nEvery layout arrangement is neat and hygiene. When having a closer look, I saw\r\na group of Buddhists regularly cleaning around the precincts.

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After asking, we know that they come here to do the work and\r\nare undertaken sanitation work in shifts and hours are very specific by the\r\nmonks. A Buddhist woman named Lien Nhan told us more: "On the sanity here,\r\nwe are appointed and advised very carefully by monks.

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First, as it is on the New Year Day so we have to do\r\nsweeping very delicate. On Vietnamese traditional notion, people swept the\r\nbeginning of the year on the leg symbolizes very taboo and bad luck, so we had\r\nto clean by using a bamboo plug the iron tip for spam dirty, a small broom and\r\na small garbage to collect the garbage on the spot, not swept around.

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Second, there must be large trash boxes everywhere for\r\nvisitors to put garbage in the bins. Thirdly, after 23:00 hours each day we\r\nhave generally cleaning of all areas in the temple to leave the clean space for\r\nthe next day; otherwise, the yard junk would flood the yard. How unaware the\r\npeople are!

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The last sentence of the Buddhist "How unaware the\r\npeople are!" is a reality that we often see in public places, such as\r\nbuckets, pushing, disorder, littering, smoking, loud laughing.

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The way that people will limit this condition is pasted the\r\nbulletin board "No littering", "No smoking" and "No\r\nnoise" ... but it’s not work. It seems that the red background banner with\r\nyellow words make people feel disgusting and hate or do not know, but people\r\njust abuse. However, a strange thing I found in Hoang Phap Pagoda is also the\r\nsigns saying those words very lightly and very kute image of the monk. When\r\nreading it, people also feel embarrassed if violating. For example, to ban\r\nlittering recorded:

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Please love me a little.

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I will thank you if your garbage is into the trash.

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This is a cute reminder and contains an image of hard\r\nsuffering of novice when sweeping the yard. No one shows unsympathy or\r\nunintentionally littering?

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Alternatively, to avoid the noisy recorded:

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Have few speeches and little laugh

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Move soft and gemtle walking disengaged.

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Please speak softly

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Gently andt cutely

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As spreading lotus incense

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Pleasing people’ feeling.

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In addition, this is an advice telling you not to smoke in\r\nthe temple:

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…

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Smoking cigarette on the lips

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Will burn money and lungs; mouth and teeth with bad smell.

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In addition, many other gentle reminding messages in the\r\nprecincts that people also like to read.

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This is thought other temples should also learn, that the\r\npublic need to use banning posters ban bulletin board, which display these more\r\nsympathetic press; therefore, passers-by will pay attention and and show more\r\nseft-confidence.

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Though long queuing lines of the New Year incense\r\nworshipers, but temple was seen an extraordinarily fresh air, no stuffy, no\r\nincense smoke, or ashes from burned paper flying as all other temples.

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Because the temple is limited burn incense at the main\r\nBuddha Hall, Quan Am statue, but it is concentrated on an incense burner in\r\nfront of the main hall yard and absolutely is not allowed for burning votive\r\npapers. There is a group of Buddhists, who are to withdraw the incense sticks\r\nto fresh the air and ensure safety from the fire.

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Various Buddhist groups exchanging shift work from morning\r\nto night. They are on hand to remind travelers around not plugged incense\r\nsticks in flowerpots or places of irregulations. This deed is very trivial, but\r\nwe witness the organization at the temple quite carefully at the simplest\r\nstages. This is also, what the other temples should immitate to create a\r\nfeeling of comfort for people go to the temple.

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2. Safety and order

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Getting into the yard, I immediately heard a loudspeaker\r\nannounced:

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"Namo Sakya Muni Buddha!

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On behalf of the monks of Hoang Phap Pagoda, welcome all\r\nBuddhists and tourists from everywhere to visit Buddhist ceremony today.

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We wish you joy and happiness in The Lunar New Year.

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Because a large number of people visiting, which is unable\r\nfor evil-doers mingling and doing bad behavior, such as picking pockets,\r\nsplitting bags, snatching chains, stealing shoes or mobile....

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So please be alert to keep your property.

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Wishing you a happy new year."

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When listening to this announcement, I found shocked because\r\nthere were still criminal activities in the holy pagoda, however, thanks to\r\nthat usefulness announcement that many people avoided thieving.

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I had known rare pagodas that cared and announced the\r\nvisitors like this one.

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Another special thing was when getting inside the pagoda;\r\nvisitors would never see the hawkers, lottery ticket sellers or beggars who\r\nwere bothering them. Therefore, visitors felt very comfortable when coming to\r\nworship the Buddha.

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In addition, a powerful group of guards always presented all\r\nover the pagoda to remind visitors what to do and not to do here, ensured the\r\norders and guided visitors with gentle speech and Buddhist attitude.

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Moreover, I was under the impression that most of the guards\r\nhere were wearing Bodhi rosaries and fingering the beads while doing the task.\r\nProbably because of this, the kindness was always shown in their working style.\r\nThis also made people go to pagoda safer.

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I think this is an important point for abbots at the\r\nmonastery learning as well as guiding security guard to create the sacred land\r\nmore dignified and gentle.

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3- About the scene and decoration for the spring

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Actually, I do not believe things at sight because the\r\npagoda is away from the city many kilometers, which was unique way to welcome\r\nspring, decorated the same as Nguyen Hue Flower Street. Hoang Phap pagoda yard\r\nwas like a part of Nguyen Hue Flower Street. This decoration was in deep meaning\r\nas the orient culture and symbols of Tet. There are apricot blossoms, peach\r\nblossoms branches, Banh Chung and Banh Tet cakes; New Year’s tree; strings of\r\nfirecracker; hometown scene with stacks of straw; cows; boatmen; colorful\r\nflowerpots and lanterns, etc. Everywhere was brightly seen the spring.\r\nAdditionally, small cottages and calligraphy pictures shown had paid attention\r\nto the meaningfulness of the both deep and simple human life. Tourists coming\r\nhere for exciting gestures of filming, photoshooting in freshing smiles, they\r\nare like childhood joking and running in the open sky, freeing of thought,\r\nworries, removing the hardship of life. They mixed with the sincere people and\r\nthe spring. They felt relaxed with the bell sound. They were enlightened again.

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It says that going to the pagoda is the occasion to clear\r\nthe body and soul,  Hoang Phap pagoda masters have made the gallery and\r\npreach of Superior Ven. Thich Chan Tinh who cultivates solemnly because He\r\nunderstands the thinking of sientient beings. Viewers felt deposition and\r\ncontemplation of life through preach lessones and pictures of the master. Life\r\nis hardship and sufferings but if living in balance, bringing selfless heart,\r\nwe will feel happiness. The Abbot did send to people simple and sincere but\r\ntimid messages. Now, I understand that Buddhism and life are not different. If\r\nhome-leaving Buddhists bring the Buddha’s teachings in their life, it will be\r\nuseful; the Buddha’s dharma is not far-away and dry dogmas or obliged\r\ndisciplines. Good Master brings the deep dogmas of the Buddha into the life so\r\nthat people can receive them. It is at Hoang Phap pagoda I was seen and\r\nlistened to.

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I do not compare to or criticize on other pagodas, but in\r\nfact, some pagodas, on Tet holidays, are interested in sortilege, handing of\r\npetition messages, offering stars, freeing misfortune without mastering their\r\npsychology. Buddhists need the reak Tet air, which has a traditional, peaceful\r\nscene and a corner of the gentle spirit, where people feel the cozy and\r\nunsuperstitious air. Therefore, in order to impress the pagoda to be more\r\nconfident in pilgrims’ eyes, pagodas should be thought for reference of the Tet\r\ndecoration way of Hoang Phap pagoda.

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4. Wealth giving for pilgrim

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It’s very joyful and happy to receive wealth when visit\r\npagoda in the beginning of the Lunar New Year, isn’t it? In addition, if you\r\nvisited Hoang Phap pagoda on the last Tet Holiday, you would surely receive\r\nthose gifts. Gifts may be a flower, a red envelope, a VCD of Buddhist Dharma.\r\nSome luckily received full wealth, others who had less luck to receive at least\r\none of the gifts from the pagoda. Many people may think as I do. Tens of\r\nthousands of people come to Hoang Phap pagoda everyday on Tet Holiday but\r\neveryone receives wealth. This is an amazing thing. It itself excites me and\r\nI’m determined to learn about this issue. An old Buddhist who do charity work\r\nin the pagoda told me the following reason:

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The monks prepared Tet’s wealth for pilgrim carefully before\r\nTet Holidays. According to the Vietnamese custom, they beg wealth (young leaves\r\nor flower) from the pagoda and take back home for good luck at the beginning of\r\nthe Lunar New Year. In Vietnamese’s conception, they will grow fast vitality\r\nlike young buds. As a result, bonsais in the pagoda were denuded, stripped, and\r\nleaf-lost and devastated after a night because of many pilgrims’\r\nunconsciousness. To avoid that situation, at the end of the year, Hoang Phap\r\npagoda appointed people to beg flower from flower shops round the city to create\r\nwealth symbol for pilgrims. Flowers were cleaned and placed in locations round\r\nthe pagoda precinct on the New Year’s Eve, so all who came to the pagoda\r\nreceived wealth of fresh flowers without plucking branch like the other\r\npagodas. Therefore, you will see that the trees were still verdant and\r\nundamaged when you came to Hoang Phap pagoda. Because some pagodas do not have\r\nexperience in the offering flower to avoid plucking branch yet, they must\r\naccept the scenery of depraved plants and the pagoda was gloomy, looking very\r\nlugubrious.

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The next issue is the giving red envelopes to pilgrims.\r\nPeople like receiving red envelopes at the beginning of the Lunar New Year.\r\nEspecially, it’s very happy to receive red envelopes when coming to pagoda.\r\nBecause of this, Hoang Phap pagoda sent hundreds of thousands of red envelopes\r\nto pilgrims. Although the money value of a red envelope isn’t much, the moral\r\nvalue is great. Furthermore, I receive the meaningful message on the red\r\nenvelope when I took it from the Abbot:

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Spring flowers embellish the glamour of spring
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Flowers of mind embellish brightly body’s beauty.
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However simple lines of verse are, its meaning is very deep.\r\nThe more we think about it, the better we find it. In addition, I realized that\r\nit’s a clever work to send Buddha’s wisdom and fine meaning to the grassroots.\r\nIt’s not simple to explain morality to someone, because not anyone listens to\r\nthe dharma invitation with pleasure.

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However, it’s more clever in the giving VCDs of\r\nBuddha-Dharma. I think this work is very good. Normally, pagodas doing Buddhist\r\nAffairs must spend a lot of effort to bring religion to life. The monk must try\r\na lot to bring Buddhism’ image closer to the public, few pagodas pay attention\r\nthat people themselves come to pagoda on Tet Holiday, which needn’t to spend\r\nmuch effort to preach. However, monks skip it or few monks care about those\r\npilgrims. Few pagodas rely on this good occasion to deliver Buddhist Dharma to\r\nthem. Most of the pagodas only attach special importance to making ceremonial\r\nofferings, reading one’s horoscope, relieving somebody of his avoidance of bad\r\nluck or activities, which aren’t quite right with Buddha’s essence and the\r\nmonk’s position. To talk these, many people think that I generalize (say the\r\nsame for everybody). However, people who go for ten pagodas will realize that\r\nthose things are true.

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Besides, like Hoang Phap pagoda, many monks at other pagodas\r\nalso have the very meaningful activities as writing calligraphy; giving small\r\ncards printed the Buddha’s teachings on red envelopes; giving Buddha’s and\r\nBodhisattva’s pictures and prayer-book to pilgrims…This work is little, but it\r\nmakes a very meaningful effect. Because most of people don’t refuse a present.\r\nMoreover, that is a Tet present, which is the necessarily spiritual thing for\r\nlife. Therefore, giving Dharmaratna gift is an original way to bring religion\r\nto life lightly. People will not feel that they are forced to Dharma reception.\r\nTherefore, this is good deed that many pagodas should learn experience mutually\r\nto bring Buddhism’s image closer to the public.

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5. From “Brand Name” to “Logo”

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First, I would like to say clearly that if used of the word\r\n"brand" to refer to a monastery image, it is completely wrong. The\r\npagoda that is not a place of business should not be associated the temple to a\r\nlabel at all. However, more closely and easily being understood for temporary\r\nuse as an example to say that, Hoang Phap Pagoda has now become a very familiar\r\nname not only at the people of Ho Chi Minh City or the provinces, but also in\r\nthe country. Many foreigners, like a well-known brand that so many people have\r\never known, best know it.

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But it was inescapble that when a "brand" that has\r\nresonated, people will find out what the "name" is, who has made the\r\nbrand, where it is from, how they live? ...

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Microsoft was known as the company that invented the first\r\ncomputer, and launched products in the world, but besides that, the employer\r\nwho made a radiant for this company also knows it. That is Bill Gates, who is\r\nalways mentioned in the image of a man full of faith, courage, determination,\r\ncreativity, daring to think as to do and rich in charity. That is the reason\r\nwhy Microsoft is admired all over the world.

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Today, whether in the West or the East, customers gradually\r\nhave a clear point of view when using a certain product; they must consider\r\nwhether this product is created on humanity? Are the ones who made this product\r\ngood people or those who cheat? Even though a famous "brand" made by\r\nunhonesty manufacture, they will boycott that product.

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Accompanied with the above principles, the reason of Hoang\r\nPhap Pagoda has reputation and strong attraction and has been admired by many\r\npeople because the temple has a real "brand name" and\r\n"logo". This place is not only famous as the temple with many\r\ncreative, pioneering, popular preaching activities benefiting many cultivators,\r\nbut it is also a serious practice environment exactly with the spirit of\r\nBuddhism. Thanks to the harmonious and solid brandname and logo that when\r\ncoming to Hoang France means finding on a real spiritual landing.

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With my restricted view, I think the attraction of Hoang\r\nPhap pagoda as the main reason that a hundreds of thousands people appealed it\r\nduring the last Tet holiday.

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Closing this article, I repeatly hope that the Vietnamese\r\nBuddhist temples around the country will be back to its true position. Once\r\nupon the time, pagodas were the places of mentally activities for the\r\nVietnamese, including not only spiritual life but also cultural, educational\r\nand social activities. Therefore, pagodas serve as the cultural centers,\r\nschools and become a department closely with other social work. With the\r\nprogress rushing the fast development of the time, pagodas gradually have been\r\nlosing its position. Many temples are no longer places to gather for all past\r\nactivities, but now they become a place for petition worship, fortune ,\r\nblessing request; seriously, some become home for superstitious practices,\r\npagan, ect, which make people have a skewed view of the role, position and the\r\nmeaning of temple in life. Honestly, we cannot blame for the time or masses\r\nforgetting their traditional roots. We should have questions to the monks that\r\nthey have not shown their way with the flexible meaning whether they also like\r\nglorified spring in the temple by the traditional cultures but lack of\r\nexperience and funds or without the specific intructions of honorable\r\nvenerables. It can be said that there are plenty of reasons to mention. In my\r\nopinion, as other people who wish our country would have as many temples as\r\nHoang Phap Pagodas, so that the public can be rely on and sheltered. Their mind\r\nalways have the ideas:

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The roof of pagodas protected national soul

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As ancestors’ eternal living

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Translated into English by Tuyet Ngoc, Hoang Phuong, Bich\r\nHuyen, Le Van, Kim Phuong.

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