The Dharma Comes to Fruition in the West: 271 Buddhists Receive the Three Refuges and Five Precepts

Hsi Lai Temple joined Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan for the 2022 Triple Gem Refuge and Five Precepts Ceremony, held synchronously online on the evening of May 7, Pacific Time.

Fo Guang Shan Head Abbot Most Venerable Hsin Bau, Venerable Hui Zhao, and Venerable Hui Yi officiated the ceremony, Elder Venerable Tzu Jung gave an introduction and overview of the ceremony, and Hsi Lai Temple Abbot Venerable Hui Dong taught the precepts to participants in English. The ceremony was held in the Main Shrine, Auditorium, and online, with a total of 271 participants. Of them, 209 were college graduates, and 61 held graduate degrees. The oldest participant was 91-year-old Wenjuan Wu and the youngest was eight-year-old Changjing Zhang.

Hsi Lai Subchapter comes back strong

BLIA Hsi Lai Subchapter president Chris Richards is no stranger to the temple, having been an active member since 2016. Richards first received the Triple Gem Refuge and Five Precepts in 2017 and has regularly volunteered, attended classes, and participated in chanting at the temple.

Richards recalled the pandemic as a time when everything shut down. Despite continuing to read sutras at home, he missed in-person classes, chanting, and giving tours at the temple.

“Receiving the precepts was an opportunity to renew,” said Richards. “Not just my vows, but to renew my association with the temple and the larger community.”

Causes and conditions align

Local devotee Nicholas Davila first came to the temple with his father as a child, with his earliest memory being a volunteer showing him how to offer incense. The experience was impactful and inspired him to continue on the Buddhist path, eventually leading to his participation in this year’s refuge and precepts ceremony to become a full-fledged upāsaka.

Over the past decade, Davila explored other schools of Buddhism but was reluctant to receive precepts out of fear that he might not be able to fully observe them. Eventually, he settled on the Pure Land tradition and recognized the importance of observing precepts.

“I realized that the precepts are not there to restrict you or stop you from having fun,” Davila said. “They actually clear a lot of confusion in your life, and they provide a foundation for you to develop yourself as a person in general.”

Instructor receives refuge, precepts, teaches Three Acts of Goodness

Before coming to Hsi Lai Temple, Dr. Phyllis Lee engaged with Buddhism via reading books. Coming to the temple gave her structure and helped her integrate Buddhism into daily life, and seeking refuge allowed her to consistently turn to the teachings of the Buddha when facing challenges.

“I’m now officially going on the path,” said Lee.

Lee began by participating in the Temple Stay and now volunteers as a Three Acts of Goodness instructor. She primarily works with children aged 11 through 16 and sees her role as planting seeds in her students, teaching them to do good deeds, say good words, and think good thoughts.

“It summarizes all of Buddhism in a very easy way,” Lee said of the Three Acts of Goodness. “I’m just planting the seeds and just seeing how they grow in their own journey.”

Eight-year-old Changjing Zhang is the youngest participant to receive the five precepts this year.

“We are grateful for the merits and virtues of the Triple Gem as well as Venerable Master Hsing Yun and Hsi Lai Temple for introducing our children to Buddhism,” said Zhang’s mother Haiyan Lin. “Being among so many virtuous people is reassuring.”

To her father Jian Zhang, Buddhism has been a grounding force in the household, helping them resolve conflicts and continually improve themselves.

“It’s through Buddhism that we learn from each other and grow from our mistakes,” said Jian Zhang.

Changjing Zhang’s elder sister Yuqi Zhang first received the Triple Gem Refuge and Five Precepts in Mainland China as a young child and renewed her vows during the ceremony.

“I really like the classes here,” said Yuqi Zhang. “They’re fun and I come out with more knowledge on how to use Buddhism in other parts of my life.”

Aside from learning Buddhism, she’s also actively engaged in service at the temple as well.

“I enjoy volunteering here,” said Yuqi Zhang. “I get to help the venerables, and it feels good to have accomplished something.”