Visit of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center
The Senior Group in Marpole and Oakridge Community Centre always look out for opportunities to broaden their interest and learn from different cultures. We were fortunate that Venerable Chang Wu of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center has agreed our group’s visit and arranged a day program for us on August 5.
Our seniors are from different ethnicities and had not been in a Buddhist temple before. With a total of 14 members, the oldest being 90 and youngest at 55, they all enjoyed their visits thoroughly having gotten a peek at the temple.
The visit began with a warm welcome by a dozen uniformed volunteers from the Dharma Drum Vancouver Center. They were in white polo shirts with the Dharma Drum Mountain logo and blue long pants, all tidy and clean with a friendly smile on their faces. Venerable Chang Wu greeted us at the door and the group was led by the volunteers to settle their belongings in the storeroom. We were led to the Chan Hall, the main hall of the center. A giant Buddha sat on the altar in the middle of the hall guarded by a large, brightly colored drum wrapped in beautiful satin. A huge wooden fish craved in luxurious red wood stood guard on the left side of the altar. The hall was clean, bright and spacious, providing a serene and peaceful feeling for each visitor.
Chairs lined at the right side of the alter facing a drop down screen for the video show we were about to watch. Nancy, our MC, invited us to sit. We watched a video about the history and the motto of the temple, words and teachings from Master Guo Dong, Abbot President of Dharma Drum Mountain organization, which focused on calming and relaxing the body for better health and happiness. This was followed by a welcome speech from venerable Chang Wu who talked about providing us with several activities with the focus on calming our minds. She practiced with us on calming ourselves through the Eight-form Moving Meditation. The forms were demonstrated by Venerable Chang Wu and Chris, a volunteer from the temple.
Due to time limitations our group was only able to learn four forms of the Moving Meditation. They were not difficult but we needed to really relax, be aware and use minimum effort to practice ourselves to achieve the maximum benefits for our body and mind. I found it challenging in letting go of my mind when I practiced these forms. It took a lot of practice to not think about our daily matters. Additional benefits from the forms were they helped circulate our blood and chi.
The highlight of the day was our visit to the center’s organic garden. It was located at the back of the temple with acres of farm land. Kales, tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, beans, basil, strawberry, cabbage, all categorized in huge wooden boxes. Blueberry, apple, peach trees lined up behind the vegetable garden. Those organic vegetable and fruits were used to feed members and visitors in the center. Our seniors were so excited to see the giant kales and huge peaches hanging from the trees. Another Venerable was very patient in explaining the growth cycles of each vegetable and fruit.
What followed was a delicious vegetarian lunch. We were led to a very clean dining hall with narrow tables all covered with clear plastic sheets. Trays of food were placed at the middle of the dining room like a buffet. There was a variety of dishes, all vegetarian with the ingredients from the organic garden - rice in 2 different types, carrots, tofu, string beans, zucchinis, mushroom and black fungus. The soup was cooked with white fungus and yellow yam. Dessert was green bean paste. We also had blueberries, pineapples and plums. Everything was very tasty and fresh.
Another memorable moment was the wishing board. It hung on the wall of the dining hall in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the member association of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center. It was full of best wishes and blessings from followers of the temple. Verna, our oldest senior in our group at age 90, wrote a message on the board wishing the best for the temple.
Once everyone felt full and satisfied after the delicious lunch, volunteer Lisa led us to do some light exercise to keep us active. “We put the right foot in, we put the right foot out, we put the right foot in and shake it all about...” Everyone felt energized and alert for the next activity.
The dining room now turned to an arts and craft room. The table at the middle row dividing the two sides were placed with cut out paper trees, flowers, real leaves from the garden and boxes of colour pencils and crayons. In front of each of us was a white piece of paper. We were asked to put on some background colour on the paper and choose the cut out paper trees and flowers to decorate our drawings. Everybody was very excited as they chose their favorite colours for the background in their drawings. We were not aware that many of us in the group were very creative artists. The drawings were admired by fellow members of the group. Each artist posed with their own work as volunteer Lisa took photos.
It was back to the Chan Hall after the arts and crafts session. This time volunteer Wendy was going to teach us walking meditation. Under her instruction, we were able to relax ourselves through walking slowly, freeing our minds by walking and not thinking. However, more practice would be needed if we were to truly free ourselves by not focusing too much on matters.
The Dharma Drum Vancouver Center has a small library. It was not a big room but it contains a large and valuable collection. There were several sets of Buddhist Bibles that were very rare. Our members were given free booklets on the mind, body and health as well as several introductory booklets on Buddhist religion.
At the end of the day, Venerable Chang Wu thanked everyone’s coming in her closing speech. She gave out each of us a beautiful souvenir to bring home and remember - a red packet made with linen and embossed with a logo of peace and happiness. Inside the packet was a leaflet on 108 Adages of Wisdom, a cell phone keychain and a temple card wishing peace and happiness.
It was such a meaningful day and memorable visit for our group. Everyone gained valuable insight from the Buddhist temple and a feel for their beliefs and teachings. The activities throughout the day were so carefully planned and were much enjoyed by the entire group. I already got positive feedback from members on our way home. Everyone felt and relaxed without feeling bored or tired. It was a fun and interesting trip. We were all impressed by the hospitality of the Venerables and the volunteers. Our seniors would like to express their heartfelt thanks. I am sure they will talk about this trip for a long time. Thank you once again Dharma Drum Vancouver Center, it was indeed a joyful and special day for everyone in our senior group.
(Composed by Loritza Lo, facilitator of 50+ group, Marpole Oakridge community Centre)