With Thanksgiving approaching, the president of the New Jersey Chapter of Buddha¡¦s Light International (NJBLIA), Yiwen Chiang and 6 other representatives from the Chapter visited the South Plainfield Department of Social Services on November 8, 2018 to donate almost 400 groceries to the South Plainfield Food Bank. The items were collected from the members of NJBLIA in the past month. The director of the Social Services, Ms. Heather Harry accepted the donations and expressed gratitude on behalf of the Township to the NJBLIA for its care and contribution to the community.
NJBLIA Promotes Vege Plan A
Holding the NJBLIA banner at the forefront were Daniel Alva, Ray Winnicki and John Neesan. Following the banner was the dazzling float transformed from the Outreach Subchapter member Max Wei¡¦s sporty car. The theme was a 5 feet tall Shami statue with joined palms surrounded by fruits and vegetable shaped balloons on top of car. The float attracted a lot of attention and applause from the parade goers along the way. NJBLIA members shook hands and chatted with the parade goers along the way to spread the affinity of Buddha¡¦s Light people.
The parade ended at the South Plainfield Middle School that was also the site for Community Fair. NJBLIA set up a tent to introduce and promote the " Vege Plan A¡¨. They displayed and distributed the ¡§Environmental and Spiritual Preservation¡¨ booklets to the public. They also displayed the poster for "The Buddha Biography" opera to be performed in the Hunter College of New York in November. Mayor Matthew Anesh and City Councilor Joseph Wolak visited NJBLIA booth and took photo with NJBLIA members. Leo Ho expressed that through organizing activities we can strengthen communication and understanding among members. He hopes that we have successfully promoted the Vege A Plan.
Starting May, Dharma Teacher Kenneth, Mrs. Holloway, and President Chiang started the search for backpacks of different colors and forms so that no kid would have the same design. The stationery included notepads, loose leaf paper, folders, pens, markers, coloring pencils, pencil sharpeners, erasers and ear buds.
In addition to donation to this event, BLIA NJ also included the proceeds of charity sales from various activities. President Chiang said that as a local community member, BLIA NJ donates twice a year to the Food Pantry including winter clothes. She thanked members for helping to stuff the stationery into the backpacks.
Mr. Tsai and Presdient Chiang said though their own children are no longer in schools, this donation reminded them of what they had to do when the kids were young. They were glad that they could help the children of South Plainfield to get ready for school.
Venerable Man Deng first introduced the diet of Buddhist monastics. Be it in the India when Buddha was around, Tibetan monastics, Japanese monastics, Theravada monastics, or Master Hui Neng of Zhan school, because of the environmental limitation, not all could be vegetarian. The vegetarian diet of Chinese monastics started with Emperor Liang. He considered vegetarian diets could cultivate compassion. There are five herbs considered not suitable for vegetarian diets because they will degrade chi in us.
Our health is not solely dependent on our diet. It also relies on our wisdom. For instance, we should choose the food of the season. We should pay attention to the cooking method and more importantly to our own condition. The practice of Buddhism starts with our body. Whether we are on vegetarian or vegan diet, the alignment of a healthy eating habit and a sound mind would boost the harmony in our lives.
Venerable Man Deng demonstrated the preparation of two drinks. The attendees also tasted rice with Chinese pickles and green papaya salad. Everyone enjoyed the dishes quite a bit. Eileen and Karen said they believe the health benefit of vegetarian diet. Though they are not ready to turn vegetarian just yet, they are willing to try. Irene was attracted by the subject of the Wisdom of Ancient Diet to the lecture. She would like to start with one vegetarian meal at a time. Don Finkel said he became vegetarian because of the care for animals.
President Yiwen Chiang of Buddha¡¦s Light International Association NJ chapter invited the participants to join and endorse Vege Plan A promoted by BLIA World Headquarters for the Earth Day of UN NGO. The QR code of Vege Plan A can be scanned by smartphones.
The Wisdom of Ancient Diet keeps the nutrients and flavors of vegetarian food. It breaks the misconception of vegetarian diet being bland. The care of health and earth closed the lecture with compassion.
The Venerable prepared carnations for the attendees to offer to their mothers. Lu Gao Rong presented one to his mother, Wang Qin Fen. Gao Qin along with her family came to the service. She did the same to her elderly parents who just came from China. She herself got a carnation from her daughter, Angelina. The participation in the Dharma service and the celebration of Mother¡¦s Day across three generations was a warm and touching moment.
The Venerable then invited the youngsters to offer flowers to the mothers at the service and wished them a happy Mother¡¦s Day. All participant at the service shared a memorable Mother¡¦s Day.
In the speech of Abbess Ru Yang, she explained the origin and significance of the tradition of Bathing the Buddha. She also reminded all to assure the connection with the Buddha. With the three ladles of water for bathing the Buddha, we should pledge that we speak the good words, do good deeds, and think good thoughts. Through the ceremony, our own mind will be cleansed so that the Buddha nature and wisdom within ourselves would become more clear and prominent. This would be the true meaning of bathing the Buddha. She also encouraged all that by practicing the three goodness with the intention to connect with the Buddha, our life will be more harmonious and affirmative.
The Mr. and Mrs. Peng from Pennsylvania partook in the offering ceremony along with their two daughters. This experience would be a special memory of their family. Many first-time attendees said they felt honored and blesse to be part of the event. In addition, Buddha¡¦s Light International Association held a yard sale. The proceed will be donated to charity. There were also vegetarian dishes for sale. The participants enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch after the Dharma service and headed home with joy.
BLIA President Yiwen Chiang said BLIA NJ Chapter will donate twice to the Food Pantry every year. She hoped the donation will support the local families that need help. Ms. Barry noticed that less than a year after she became of the Director of Social Services, the families need help have increased. She thanks all parties involved in the community including BLIA NJ Chapter for lending a helping hand.
The donation included cereals, peanut butter, jellies, spaghetti, canned vegetables, rice, crackers, laundry detergent, dish detergent, and a variety of toiletries. To maximize the effectiveness of the donation, Ms. Chiang will acquire the list of items needed from the Food Pantry one month ahead and shop for them while they are on sale.
It is worth noting that BLIA NJ Chapter will donate the proceed from the Spring Yard Sales scheduled on 5/6 to the charity fund.
While Earth Day is celebrated in April, residents and organizations of South Plainfield, New Jersey always take a Saturday in this month to clean up the community together. In response to Environmental and Spiritual Preservation, Buddha¡¦s Light International Association, NJ Chapter has not missed an opportunity like this for years. In the morning of April 21, BLIA member Tayu Chang, Lenny Ho, Chuzhi Yin, Yaqi Li, and Jason Chen joined the force of Sprint Cleaning. Twin brothers of the Jiang family and elementary schooler Marvin Zhu also attended the event.
This year BLIA was tasked to clean up Walnut Street Park where a little brook passes through. The volunteers picked up bottles, cans, plastic bag and other refuse. The litters were sorted into either recycling bags or garbage bags. After three hours of laborious work, BLIA members were happy to see the park returned to its pristine state. In this annual event, participants include boy scouts, high school clubs, business associations, charity organizations, religious organizations, and local residents. Everyone worked together to tidy up the public area, streets, and parks. The trash was arranged by categories and collected in front of the borough office for the Recycling department to process.
Mayor Matthew Anesh, Council President Robert Bengivenga, and Councilwoman Christine Faustini, Councilman Jon Dean, and Councilman Joseph Wolak all joined this event. They also invited the volunteers to the Borough Office to enjoy pizza and sandwiches sponsored by local businesses. This allowed everyone involved to have an opportunity for socializing.
Dr. Kenneth W Holloway of Buddha;s Light International Association, New Jersey Chapter along with former and current students and parents hosted a college application seminar at the South Plainfield Public Library on March 4th. The seminar included the preparation and planning of college applications and how parents can help the students. Over 30 locals attended the event. Councilman Derryck White of South Plainfield joined the seminar along with his daughter. He thanked BLIA for hosting this event.
Dr. Holloway went to Rutgers University and obtained his PhD degree from University of Pennsylvania. He teaches at the History department of Florida Atlantic University. He said there are three simple steps in a college application: 1. Think about what you would like to be doing in 5 years, 2. Participate in at least 1 activity that will help you understand more about what college will mean to you, 3. Start one page on your phone where you will save ideas, names and websites that relate to your college dream. He used Rutgers University as an example to explain the flow of the application and what happens in colleges. He then touched upon if graduation will bring on good jobs. This helped the prospective students and their parents understand what to expect in college applications.
Princeton graduate of 2011, Eric Chiang, who works in New York City shared his experience in applying for colleges and answered a great many questions. Jocelyn Wong-Castellano of Rutgers discussed how she transferred her credits from Hudson Community College to a four-year college, and how this method saved her a lot of tuition costs. Board member of BLIA, Karen Sun, told the story of her daughter¡¦s application process, covering school visits, essay preparation, and the actual application. BLIA Supervisor Hsingling Kong shared the experience of her daughter who graduated with a Master¡¦s degree from University of Pennsylvania. She encouraged youngsters to participate in different types of activities and she showed the portfolio of her daughters. Ms. Melody Lan said she suggested her son go to a large school for the wide range of majors to choose from when he didn¡¦t know what he wanted to do yet.
One mother at the seminar suggested having discussions sessions for parents and students separately in the future. This will allow the students to raise questions and talk more freely. Many attendees left their contact information for future seminars. They also expressed that this seminar helped them gain insights into college applications from different angles and form a basic understanding of the preparation process.
To uphold Master Venerable Hsing Yun¡¦s teaching of ¡§to Promote Buddhism with Culture¡¨ and ¡§to Reach Out¡¨, in addition to the performances, there were booths of cultural arts. Under the direction of Abbess Ru Yang, Venerable Chueh Chan, and BLIA president Yiwen, members of BLIA set up booths of Chinese paintings, calligraphy, free style paper cutting, wood block printing, flour dough molding, balloon sculpture, dog lantern DIY, and the World Candy Exhibit. Residents of the local communities were invited to celebrate Chinese New Year. There were also introduction and booklets in both Chinese and English of Buddhism for all.
President of Culture Arts Comission Suzanne Lepore, President of the Library Board Cheryl Smilley, Councilwoman Christine Faustini, and Councilman Joseph C. Wolak gave a few words and wished all a happy new year. South Plainfield Mayor Matthew Anesh, Council President Robert Bengivenga, and Councilman Derryck White also showed up at the event. This is the Year of Dog. Dogs are faithful friends of ours. Councilwoman Faustini said that we ought to get along and be happy with our friends. Mayor Anesh said that the Southside Dog Park opened last October was just in time for the Year of Dog.
Abbess Ru Yang thanked the officials of the Borough, praised BLIA president and its members for job well done, and thanked the attendees of the celebration for showing up. She said Venerable Master Hsing Yun often told us Fo Guang Shan promotes happiness. It was encouraged that we bring the happiness shared in this event back to our lives. The new year¡¦s greetings of 2018 ¡§A Family Legacy of Loyalty and Honor¡¨ is to bring benevolence, love, and loyalty to our families.
The renowned Taiwanese Opera artist, Hsu Yafeng, stopped by and performed two verses from Song Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. Her beautiful singing impressed the audience. Ms. Hsu said her Buddhism journey started ten years ago right before the performance of ¡§Water Repentance¡¨. She went for a short-term monastic retreat under Master Venerable Hsing Yun at the time.
Paper Cutting Master Chen Hou Tian and Mask Changing Master Zhao Nai Yi were the most popular amongst all the performers. Mid Jersey Chinese School provided lion dance and traditional Chinese dance. There were also Tibetan dance and Erhu performance.
Sasikala from India said the performances were wonderful and the booths were very attractive as well. Overall this was a very good culture exchange activity. Mike took his daughter Ella to the event. They were amazed by the wide range of tune of Erhu. President of the Library Board, Cheryl, said both the performances and the booths were brilliant and would like BLIA to work with the library and provide more Chinese culture