30th Anniversary - Introduction by Hung-I's
The Texas Buddhist Association is now thirty years old. We are celebrating this major anniversary by reflecting on past achievements and looking forward to the challenges ahead. One of the temple’s achievements during these past two decades is the English Sunday Group, at the same time; it challenges to build on what we have.
When Jade Buddha Temple first started the English Sunday Group, our vision was to make our temple a place where Buddhist teachings are available not only to immigrants from the Far East but also to local non-Chinese speaking friends. The temple was designed to be a place for seekers of truth, for beginners to learn, and for seasoned practitioners to share. We sought to create an environment in which free flow of thoughts and suggestions are possible and doubts and disagreements can be discussed frankly and openly. That is still our vision today.
Since the beginning, our objective for sharing the Dharma has been the teaching of Buddhism as a way of life- practical and beneficial, without being doctrinal in approach. Central to this philosophy has been the teaching of the core that is Buddhism in its original form. When Buddhism went to China and Japan, for example, it did not become just Buddhism in China and Japan but Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, instead. It picked up local personalities and traditions. We think it is important to discern Buddhist essence from culture so that Buddhism can be learned and transmitted without unnecessary cultural conflicts.
Historically, Jade Buddha Temple has always attracted westerners. Some come because of cultural and architectural interests while others because of Dharma pursuit. Buddha Light Temple was established ten years prior to Jade Buddha Temple, during which time no English program was in place. Only after the completion of Jade Buddha Temple was the English- language program created. It started out with 7-8 westerners attending each Sunday. At the beginning we did not know what to expect or how far we could go. By trials and errors, we adjusted our program, developed new concepts, and implemented them as we go. One of the recent implementations has been a brief Dharma talk given right after the meditation, which we believe benefits members who have to leave soon after the meditation session. More importantly, it benefits all because immediately after meditation our mind and body are generally calm; they are like rich and fertile soil ready for new seeds.
Our friends come to our temple with varying degree of Buddhist knowledge and thirst. Providing the proper level of teachings to serve their need has been a challenge. We strive to find a balance and often are not successfully. As a result, occasional 6-8 week courses have been offered in addition to our regular Sunday Dharma talks. The subjects of interest have been in the area of principle teachings of the Buddha- the Four Noble Truths, the Heart Sutra, and the Abhidharma. At present, our Buddhist College offers two semesters per year of Buddhist classes in Chinese. We are hoping to establish a similar curriculum in English in the future, so that in-dept Buddhist classes would also be available to our English-speaking friends.
Further in the future we plan to establish a retreat and meditation center, perhaps nestled quietly among trees away from the city. It would have separate facilities for English- and Chinese-speaking members. We would like the facilities for English-speakers to be supervised and managed by English-speaking members. The teaching of tradition and Buddhist education to American-born children and young people would be one of several tasks assigned to and aided by our English-speaking members. We hope the center would become a place of learning, research, study, reflection, meditation, and dialogue. The atmosphere would be one of respect and support.
In closing, I wish to express my gratitude to members of the English Group History Project Committee for undertaking this meaningful task. I also want to thank all members whose contribution to this collection makes the 30th anniversary celebration a memorable one. May Buddha bless you all!