Youth Explore & Discover Inner Peace at Hsi Lai Winter Retreat

A Self-Discovery Winter Youth Retreat had 30 English-speaking participants—ages 13 to 25–engaged in lectures with teachers that helped cultivate mindfulness and tranquility. Hsi Lai Temple organized it, and the Los Angeles Young Adult Division I (YAD I) of the Buddha’s Light International Association Los Angeles Chapter (BLIA LA) hosted the inspirational retreat from Jan. 5th to 7th. Students forged meaningful, long-lasting connections through fun, all-inclusive group activities, mind-altering challenges, thought-provoking dialogues, and a communal “hotpot” experience—allowing everyone to congregate around a hot pot to cook and chat. They discovered inner calmness, clarity, and compassion for their journey throughout the New Year and their lives.

The opening remarks by Abbot Ven. Hui Dong encouraged participants to ‘let go’ of their comparisons and personal feelings, tastes, or opinions of the temple's routine and activities. He urged them to experience ‘simplicity’ and to embark on their journeys from their hearts—wishing them growth and fulfillment in each moment!

Guiding Venerable of BLIA LA YAD I, Ven. Zhi San led "Problem-Solving Skills 101," teaching all the students how to apply the Four Noble Truths to unravel life's complexities. By understanding "suffering," "cause," "cessation," and "path," they learned methods to address daily challenges encountered. They were encouraged to face their habits with wisdom, compassion for self and others, and unwavering focus and determination to make strides in self-improvement successfully.

Ven. Hui Ze taught "Interpersonal Relationships—Dancing with Oneself and Others," drawing insights from Venerable Master Hsing Yun's work Where Is the Way? By emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings and the impermanence of the five aggregates, participants learned to let go of self-clinging and practice the "Six Harmonies and Reverences," fostering a harmonious world through virtuous relationships.

Ven. Hui Cheng guided mindfulness meditation to cultivate awareness and compassion, while the elder advisor of BLIA LA Rowland Height Subchapter I, Richard Chen, led students in practicing Yi Jin Jing, an ancient Chinese series of exercises coordinated with breathing for physical well-being. During the Q&A, Ven. Zhi Xing and Ven. Zhi San addressed questions such as overcoming procrastination, Buddhist perspectives on rebirth, the lifestyle of monastics, and the path to enlightenment.

Other creative and stimulating activities included an energetic treasure hunt, bonding team-building games, a large-scale immersive group board game, the “Wheel of Inspiration,” where individuals handcrafted their personalized design, brainstorming, a Light-offering Dharma Service, morning and evening chanting, and, of course, the warming communal “hotpot” dinner.

First-time participant Brandon Hsu expressed a deeper understanding of "Humanistic Buddhism" through the activities and pledged to practice the "Four Givings" and "Four Noble Truths." Jessy Chen, also a first-time attendee, found the chanting of the Heart Sutra during the evening session, the Light-offering Dharma Service and the Yi Jin Jing practice particularly memorable and calming. Harrison Kwok acknowledged the physical challenge of the treasure hunt, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy physique. Megan Lee enjoyed crafting the "Wheel of Inspiration," finding it a challenging and meaningful activity to display photos with family and friends.

The Winter Retreat concluded with a reflection on the most memorable moments. Hsi Lai Temple gave each participant a copy of Venerable Master Hsing Yun's The Core Teaching: Essays in Basic Buddhism and a New Year’s calligraphy blessing.