Update: 11/10/2018
It is probably due to various favorable conditions we had sown in our previous incarnations that we had the opportunity to become your disciples. How blissful! To be born as human beings is not easy, and to hear about Dharma and practice Buddha’s doctrines is even harder, so it is extraordinarily rare to be able to kneel before the teacher, who agreed to shave our hair and turned us into Sramana. Teacher is a lovely title that we always address the Abbot of Hoang Phap Monastery with all great respects.



Looking back on the first days coming to Hoang Phap Monastery to help with its chores, then registering to become a monk trainee who is supposed to study and live as a real monk. During the course of six months of apprenticeship, we had to learn how to maintain our daily dignity, involved in solemnly walking, standing, sitting and lying as well as cordially speaking, expressing good wills to achievement knowledge and enlightenment. We were so anxious and elated as to be agreed upon by the teacher and other ordained monks to join Hoang Phap Monastery’s Sangha. We will always bear in mind the memories of that day, that moment for the rest of our life.

Tam Hoat is the Buddhist name given by the abbot, who later explained, “Hoat” means “life”, existence of all living creatures; non-“Hoat” refers to end of life or “death”. Perhaps every Buddhist name Sifu has addressed each of us has its own meanings and is profoundly associated with our missions and his expectation when shaving our hair. Tam Hoc, Tam Lap, Tam Thien, Tam Thieu and Tam Qua are the other monk trainees’ Buddhist names given on the same day of ordination. Sifu always encourages the Sangha to keep making our greatest efforts in our path of study and cultivation. He is also so concerned about us that he has tried his best to provide us with multiple favorable conditions; therefore, young generations of monks will be able to follow his steps in bringing joy and happiness to first ourselves and then mankind. As suggested through its name, Hoang Phap Monastery has always strived to complete its sacred and noble missions to introduce Dharma to people and teach them Buddha’s doctrines; hence, benefiting a great number of humans. This explains why we monks, besides our daily routine of study and self-cultivation, have to throw ourselves, heart and soul, in organizing and facilitating the pagoda’s Buddhist events as well as cultivation retreats such as One-day Cultivation Retreat, Students’ Cultivation Retreat, Seven-day Cultivation Retreat Courses and lately One-day Cultivation Retreat Courses for young children with such a lovely familiar theme as “Come close to Buddha”.

When summer has come every year, many young adults and students aged 18-25 from all over the country gather here for the Summer Cultivation Retreat Course. The abbot’s wish is mostly involved in the vast propagation of Buddhism among ordinary people, especially youth. Thanks to these retreats, youngsters are widely introduced to the fundamental teachings of Buddhism as pagodas also serve as Buddhist schools where every class in the society can go to and be taught us Buddha’s doctrines, basically engaged in Karma, before being instructed to apply these teachings into real life in order to cherish spiritual values like happiness of unconditional giving and appeasing sentient beings’ sufferings, the sense of happiness achieved neither by money nor by reputations alone. One cheerful fact is today more and more youngsters visit pagodas, which has established a wholesome trend in the community; as a fesult, the proverb “Only the elderly find joy in pagodas” has probably been proven no longer appropriate.

In this era, when societies have increasingly gained striking development and when humans can create everything to meet their demands and even get to know whatever is happening on Earth just by a “click”, but they fail to extract any kind of chemical that can possible refine their so-called “inner world” or the mind. While the diseases of greed, ignorance and ego-grasping remain incurable among advanced science and humans, Buddha’s “Dharma-Antidote” is surprisingly capable of curing these sufferings because He is considered “The Great Doctor”.

The abbot once taught us,

“It goes nowhere what you have given somsthing,

It is you who will harvest any seeds sown.”

With the holy intentions of sacrificing for the sake of sentient beings, Our teacher has sown good seeds in people all the way from the North to the South, from the countryside to the urban areas, even in Vietnamese people living abroad in such countries as Cambodia, South Korea, Taiwan, further away countries as the UK, the US, Australia, etc. He is available almost anywhere loving-kindness and a “spiritual shoulder” is needed.

We remember one typical example of His gracious loving-kindness: One day, a group of Buddhist followers from Soc Trang took a pilgrimage to our pagoda. Hardly had they arrived at the pagoda when the night started to fall. Having paid homage to Buddha’s statue, they asked for permission to pay homage to the Abbot. We instantly refused in courtesy and cleverness way, explaining that it was getting late and he should be left alone resting and meditating. They had better not meet him that day. The group of pilgrims asked that they stay the night at the pagoda so they could go visit some other pagodas the next morning. We then treated them to dinner and arranged places for them to sleep over.

The next morning, after breakfast, The teacher called for me and asked:

-         Did you treat the group of Buddhist followers coming over last night well?

-         Amitabha, yes!

-         Were they treated for a nice meal this morning?

-         We are sorry, Sir! As they said they were heading for some other pagodas today, I didn’t invite them to  have breakfast. They sent their best regards to you!

-         Why didn’t you let them meet “here”? (“here” is what the teacher sometimes refers to himself when talking to people.)

He continued: 

-         They came over to our pagoda from afar, so they essentially meant to see the Abbot, so it is actually bad that we couldn’t make it unless “here” he was away.

-         Yes, Sir! I repent! 

I was lately struck by surprise. How did He know about the pilgrims?

I had found myself clever to be able to provide them with such a polite refusal out of my profound respect and concern for his restful time before being awaken up by his loving reminders to recognize how deep his love for everybody is. He shows great compassion for Buddhist followers, regardless of where they live, from which class they come from or which one is more important than the others. 

There was once a Buddhist follower entering the office and confiding, “I occasionally visit the pagoda with the mere eagerness to be able to see the abbot and show my respect to him, but I haven’t dared to ever, fearing I might bother him.”

The truth is that he pays close and dear attention to every person, whether they are willing to come over and help with the pagoda’s errands or events as well as retreats for one day, a couple of days or for months, and tries to get all of them to come see him, letting him know about their visits, and so he can send his dearest regards to all of their relatives and beloved and later give presents for them to bring home as an ideal expression of teacher-student love.

We love and respect you immensely, dear “Sir”! Nevertheless, we inevitably remain reckless, clumsy and shy before you respectful and admiring composed and dignity even though we ourselves know for sure that whatever you have done or said is out of your true loving-kindness and friendliness, which is expected to help bridge the gap between the teacher and his disciples. Not only have we learnt a lot from your verbal teachings but we also benefited vastly from all you have done. With our ultimately sincere respects and gratitude, we promise to follow in your dignified steps and for the sake of all sentient beings show our compassion as vast as the ocean.

“To all beings we show our love,

To ignorant beings we pass on enlightening Dharma.

As long as sufferings are still reigning,

So restless is my mind.”

(Extracted from a poem by Thich Chan Tinh) 

Sāmaṇera Tam Hoat

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