Feeling about the Peace Ceremony at Hoang Phap Pagoda in the Year of the Tiger

Update: 22/02/2022
The ceremony of praying for peace at the beginning of the year is a long-standing Vietnamese cultural custom.
 

Feeling about the Peace Ceremony at Hoang Phap Pagoda in the Year of the Tiger

 

According to ancient customs, the full moon day of January is known as Thuong Nguyen - The first largest full moon festival in the lunar calendar. This is a Tet full moon festival in the First-Middle-Last system. Thuong Nguyen New Year is the full moon of January (Lunar calendar), Trung Nguyen New Year is the full moon of July, and Ha Nguyen New Year is the full moon of October.

In Vietnamese people' s minds, the full moon of the January lunar calendar has an important meaning because it is the first full moon day of the new year. According to folk beliefs, the full moon day of the first month in spring symbolises growth and reproduction. That's why this day is respected, and people put many wishes on it for a year of peace and prosperity.

On February 15, 2022 (January 15, Lunar New Year), this precious sacred day is the time for the Sangha of Hoang Phap Pagoda, Hoc Mon, Ho Chi Minh City to gather together to welcome the new year with a ritual of praying in line with the Buddhist tradition.

After an incense clock of prayer, the Sangha and Buddhists solemnly read and chanted sutras to pray for a peaceful world. Praying for peace in Hoang Phap temple encourages people to do many good deeds, including releasing living beings, making offerings to Buddhas, and chanting sutras. Sutras are the good words of the Buddha. Therefore, when we chant sutras, our minds will settle down in peace. That peace creates a healthy magnetic field. That wave of peace will communicate with other waves of peace so that we can overcome the accidents in a year. Practise prayer daily. As long as you keep your heart calm and peaceful and don't create suffering or trouble for others, that means you've joined the peaceful wave of the Buddhas.

In that sacred moment immersed in silence, purity, and holiness, Most Venerable Thich Chan Tinh wished everyone a happy and joyful Maitreya Spring with family and loved ones. We listened to his first words of the year and wished him a happy new year.

Today we were able to attend the New Year's peace ceremony, which we were so grateful for because we have overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. We must cherish the time we have in this life, make efforts to practise to purify our body and mind, reduce greed, hatred, and delusion, and contribute our efforts to the Buddha’s dharma and to everyone. If you do that, life is meaningful.

According to Buddhism, there are no "bad stars.” If you think that this year you are affected by the Venus star (Thai Bach), the Rahu star (La Hau), or the Ketu star (Ke Do), which are bad stars, your mind will be restless and it will stop you from thinking and acting wisely. According to Buddhist teachings, going to a ceremony to pray for peace at the beginning of the year helps people understand this problem.

Going to the pagoda at the beginning of the year has become an indispensable tradition for Vietnamese people. Everyone carries with them a wish for a year of health, peace, and happiness when going to the temple. Praying for peace is the desire to have a happy and peaceful life that is free from disease, suffering, risk, and uncertainty...

“Peacefulness" in each person is peace of physical body (healthy, long life, no disease, no accident, no risk...); peace of mind (a state of serenity, comfort, no worries, no distress, no fear, no crisis, no tension, no tightness, etc.); peaceful circumstances (happy family, good living conditions, living standards, good relationships, and lucky in life...).

Spring is the season of love, of hope, of yearning and dreaming, of green buds, and of blooming. In the spring, wishes will easily come true. Spring weather makes people more sociable and comfortable, and people's hearts are also more altruistic. Indeed, there is no time when people's hearts are as deep and gentle as the first days of the year. At that moment, each person around us, from thinking to acting, always tries to keep from creating evil in those sacred days to have a satisfactory new year with everything going well.

In the early days of spring, the monks hold a ceremony to pray for peace with the thought of wishing for peace, luck, and happiness for everyone in the new year. Understanding the law of cause and effect, each of us was born in this world because of the karma that we created. If it is good karma, then that person is born with an intact body in this life, a relatively abundant material life, a comfortable mind, and happiness. If that person has a lot of bad karma, he is born with an imperfect physical body, struggles to make ends meet, has an unstable mind, and  has less happiness.

The meaning of holding a ceremony to pray for peace at the beginning of the year is an opportunity for everyone to sincerely repent, give up evil, do good, and in that moment of peace, earnestly pray for the blessings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, as well as taking vows to do many good things for the world and for the religion, such as releasing life, chanting, reciting the Buddha's name, giving alms, making offerings to the Three Jewels, etc., and taking vows to return the merits from these good deeds towards ourselves, our family, society, and the dharma world of sentient beings, all things are peaceful and auspicious.

Anyone who participates in the peace ceremony will live in moments of mindfulness and visualisation, and they will follow the teachings of the Buddha. All the merits and virtues of this life have been cultivated and taken care of in many previous lives. When you know how to speak lovingly, do good deeds, and have compassion to help others, life will be blessed and peaceful in the present moment.

At Hoang Phap Pagoda, there is no jostling to have monks “worship and request the stars to relieve someone’s bad luck,” because through the basic catechism class, one-day, and seven- day retreats, the Buddhist monks taught:

“If you want peace, share peace with everyone.

If you want to be happy, share your happiness with others.

Don't just think about your own peace and happiness.

That is the most positive and beneficial way to pray for peace.”

The Buddha never taught how to worship stars but only prayed for peace and benefit for the world and for all sentient beings. All the misfortunes and blessings that people have were created by themselves.

The focus of the full moon festival in January at Hoang Phap Pagoda, Hoc Mon, Vietnam, is the ceremony to pray for national peace, good health, fullness, prosperity, a bright and good soul, opening one’s mind to learn about religion, having faith in religion, enlightenment, and faith in Buddhism. Then vow to dedicate merit to the Dharma Realm of sentient beings. Those who are already deceased could go to heaven; those who are alive could still be happy; yin and yang are in harmony; and all sentient beings in the Dharma Realm will all attain Buddhahood.

We go to the temple to be liberated. Liberation is attaining freedom after letting go of all

attachments in life. Venerable Shantideva once wrote in the book "The Bodhisattva Study" that:

“All joy in this world comes from selflessness,

All suffering in this world is born of selfishness.”

Altruism is the essence of Buddhism, and liberation is the core of Buddhism. Therefore, when we go to the temple, we bring a pure mind to the Buddha with all our hearts. As a result, more and more people go to pagodas, worship Buddha, and pray during the full moon festival in January, which is a good sign, clearly showing the spirit of "Dharma and Nation".

A new spring has brought with it many hopes for good things. During the ceremony, the monks and the public prayed together for peace in the world, in people, and for the COVID-19 epidemic to be eliminated soon.

Praying for peacefulness on the first days of the year is a legitimate activity and is suitable for the spiritual needs in the daily lives of Buddhists. The purposes of Buddhists are to become lifelong learners and cultivate wisdom. The meaning of praying for peace aims to dignify the spirits by benefiting others, and all forms of praying must always come from compassion. All of these stem from the Buddhist philosophy of cause and effect and have been deeply rooted in the thought, point of view, and lifestyle of the Vietnamese people for generations.

If everyone knows how to speak kind words, do good deeds, be kind, and help people, life will be blessed and peaceful in the present moment.

Since then, the ritual of praying for peace at the beginning of the year has helped people understand and practise innately the law of cause and effect, the cause of karma, which prevents people from thinking and acting badly so that a new year can bring sweet fruits and good deeds.

Participating in the peace ceremony with a sincere heart, everyone will live in moments of mindfulness, visualisation and following the teachings of the Buddha.

Hoa Đạo

Translated into English by Thai Nhuoc Don

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